September 2017 status report

2m prototype up and running

The 2m system, in prototype form, is up and running at a home in Opal, Virginia. Locals can give it a try on 145.030 MHz at 1200 bps. Several months of testing confirm it works quite well. We’ve experimented with both 1200 and 9600 using the SCS Tracker DSP TNC with success. The transceiver is an Icom ID-880H dual-band D-Star model. We use no D-Star features, but are benefiting from a radio design with the frequent TX/RX switching of typical D-Star operations. The TX/RX switching is entirely solid state with no relays. The MiniDIN analog port makes for an easy connection to the SCS Tracker. Both inbound and outbound signals use the “9600” paths for both 1200 and 9600 use. This system needs no hardware changes to switch between 1200 and 9600 as the SCS Tracker is completely in charge of this choice. As BPQ32 conveys TNC settings to the Tracker TNC, the bpq.cfg contains the speed parameter. We’re quite pleased this works as simply and reliably as it does.

Primary location negotiations continue

We are in negotiations with the authorities of our primary target location for the VAPN equipment. Bureaucracies are what they are and amateur radio initiatives barely resonate with most of those in charge. Adding to delays are a myriad other problems unrelated to anything amateur radio. Let’s just say the key folks are busy juggling many details. They have heard our request, don’t really have a problem with the idea since it replaces previous capabilities, and want to keep the dialog moving along. We just have to wait our turn as our letter of intent slogs its way through molasses. Patience is a virtue and beggars can’t be choosers.

HF option for prototype

If we have to wait for a while, we will likely move ahead with our build with the addition of an HF port on the Opal, VA prototype. Without some elevation the 2m is very local, but a good HF port will expand service considerably. Antennas are already available and ready for service. Candidate bands include 30m or maybe band hopping from 80 to 15 or thereabouts. Just getting something up on HF will help us understand where the user base is. In keeping with our plan, any HF option will likely be Robust Packet alone or in combination with RF Packet. We’ve been canvassing the HF radio makes and models in the search for the best value with decent reliability for digital use. Stay tuned for news on this HF portion of the VAPN project.