January 2020 status report

2m port

The PTT pin on the mini-din connector of the Icom 880H stopped responding to transmit requests from the SCS Tracker. After some gear swapping, it does appear the Icom is the problem. The radio microphone PTT side works just fine. A spare is on its way.

2m duplex

A four cavity BpBr set along with a single bandpass cavity waits for the arrival of a three cavity bandpass to compete a duplexer for 2m. This is in support of give the CSMA system built into AX.25 a fighting chance to actually work as designed.

A potential home for VAPN

With hopes held high, we may well have access to a great hilltop site with good coverage over much of the Virginia Piedmont. There are some technical hurdles (HF noise, etc.) to overcome, but discussions continue.

80m port access sporadic

I’ve been using the 80m radio to do my part proving that Winlink (and NTS) can, indeed, by copied over the air for meaning by a third party. My current efforts use a Dragon modem, its built-in PMON utility meant for precisely this task, a TS-480 and a terminal window that stores the text to a file. I then process this file on a Linux system using traditional shell tools to retrieve and uncompress the messages. Results are mixed since if you do lose a modem frame while monitoring, the compression fails after that point for that particular message. It’s been hit or miss, but certainly not impossible or even improbable as suggested by some. View the details here…


Winlink vs. the world

An ultimate nerd fight continues in the amateur radio ranks as ARFSI (Winlink), the ARRL, Ted Rappaport (and NYU?!?), the FCC and many many other smaller players duke it out in the ECFS filings. The play by play on Zed Threads has its share of drama as well. Ted Rappaport has thrown his support to killing commercial modems (via his open-source endorsement) in amateur radio via the language in his various writings. None other than Phil Karn has emerged from retirement to counter some of the extreme language including the nonsensical term “effectively encrypted” that is analogous to “effectively pregnant” – see here and here. There’s no shortage of guffaws in the communications biz concerning the attempt to dilute the meaning of encryption. Meanwhile, ARFSI hasn’t argued very well either choosing a “what’s the big deal” response. The ARRL is waffling a bit on just what to do next.

To be clear, Rappaport/NYU considers the use of message-wide compression sent via a modem system that breaks the message into manageable parts for relay are effectively encrypted or from their recent filing

[. . .] generally cannot be monitored over the air for meaning by others in typical propagation conditions [. . .]

What Rappaport/NYU thinks is "effectively" encrypted.
What Rappaport/NYU thinks is “effectively” encryption.

This despite my demonstration otherwise for Pactor/Winlink and Pactor/NTS.

What is actually effectively encrypted - nothing.
What is actually effectively encrypted – nothing.


Where the problem actually is.
Where the problem actually is.

KYPN discuss the finer points of this mess…


Why this matters to all digital users

VAPN uses commercial SCS RPR modems. DTN (NTSd) uses commercial SCS Pactor modems. Many modem techniques may well not pass muster with a new ruling by the FCC. The debate between ARFSI/Winlink and Rappaport/NYU has generated a big mess that may well have profound and unintended consequences for otherwise completely innocent bystanders in the digital hamscape. Many dramas play out in Zed Threads and the like. I’m doing my part by refuting by demonstration the absurd “effective encryption” mantra from Rappaport, his employer and his friends.

Hopefully logic will prevail with small, meaningful changes and jettisoning of the HF 300 baud limit from digital ham radio antiquity that makes American hams the laughing stock of the rest of the digital ham world. The Winlink-ARFSI folks win on the technical, but seem to not really care much about gobbling up band real-estate given where folks plop down their RMS stations. This brazen attitude goes up against the well connected Ted Rappaport of 5G fame who has the ear of power players including Commissioner Ajit Pai. Ted quite clearly knows how to present opinion to these important people as made obvious by his writing style.

All this plays into the VAPN and its future. Frankly I’m waiting for the outcome of this kerfuffle before I role out more of VAPN. Making a once legal system comply with new directives isn’t my idea of fun and not in my plan. It’s a waiting game at this point.


Big institution players are brandishing lots of money in this particular anti-commercial-modem debate. How the FCC handles this will be interesting. Frankly, it’s a test of their ability to cut through the nonsensical spin and PR cruft. We will see what they are made of. Then again they may do nothing and the status quo will continue… and that’s not going to work out too well.

Rappaport heads to lobby congress then lunch with Pai.
NYU sends their champion to the FCC