Winlink RMS Gateway AD6DM-10 is up, and serving the ham community.
After collecting parts of this system for a few weeks, it is operational on 145.630 MHz in CM98hj. It is comprised of:
- An Alinco DR-135T VHF 2 meter transceiver set to 20 watts power
- An Arrow OSJ J-Pole up 21 ft at the home QTH
- A Masters Communications DRA-50 radio sound card interface with an Alinco-6 Mini DIN 6 adapter
- And a mini PC (Windows 10) and running on 12 volt power.
- Solar charged offgrid LiFePO4 battery power, for uninterrupted uptime (same system the shack rig uses).
Software running the gateway are:
- UZ7HO Soundmodem, software TNC that provides PTT and AGWPE connectivity to other software
- RMS Packet from Winlink.org
- RMS Relay for CMS forwarding
- VARA FM (registered) to provide faster communications than traditional packet.
This endeavor was started at Pacificon when I attended the Walnut Creek CERT demo of “Building Blocks of Winlink Gateways” on Saturday 10/16/2021. It lit a fire in my mind that needed to be implemented. I followed the configuration that WC CERT uses, and began researching the other aspects of gateway configuration.
Unfortunately, the documentation is not very clear or easily accessible. I had to go to many different sources, and asked people directly via email how things should work. After a few conversations and lots of YouTube videos, I finally came up with a general understanding of how to get a gateway going. From frequency coordination, to sound card audio level adjustments, to applying to be a Winlink RMS Sysop, to configuring the several different applications, it was an interesting ride.
Most of that time was spent waiting for the right Windows PC to arrive. I spent most of the effort trying to get a Stick PC to work, but its USB ports (only one needed for the external sound card) would not work properly. Even adding a powered USB Hub, I was unable to get the OS to communicate with the sound card. So I went with a “tiny cube” PC and that worked a lot better. But it involved a week and a half of waiting around and just reading articles on Winlink.
Now my station is up and beaconing its presence to the surrounding network. I was not able to connect to other VARA FM stations during the waiting weeks, so that made me think perhaps others in my area are also unsuccessful at using this very efficient and speedy mode. I received a lot of advice to put a Raspberry Pi station up, but Pi does not support VARA, and I wanted to move forward from traditional packet and support the much faster speeds capable in VHF digital radio. By having this station up, I hope to fill a gap in coverage for the valley area where I live.
To my delight, I found that despite my faster baud focus, traditional packet signals are copied and transmitted just as good. So my station is backwards compatible to those who wish to stay on trad 1200bps packet.
Now to wait for people to use it. I find it a bit of cheating to use my WoAD Android tablet with D74 connecting to my own gateway 20 ft away just to check Winlink mail (don’t we hams make comms more complicated? Just mention hotspots to the muggles haha).
It was a fun journey to get this station up. Now to harden it, clean up the cable clutter, and give it a permanent home in my shack.
Send me Winlink email!