Winlink Express

New CMS Cluster Goes Live October 31

The Winlink Development Team has scheduled the switch between the current production CMS cluster (Wien, Perth, Halifax, San Diego) to the new 'cloud' CMS cluster hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS). the switch will take place on October 31, 2017 at 1600 UT.

The new server cluster is geographically diverse and sits within the AWS management environment. This provides the Winlink team better management tools, better analytics and monitoring, better backup, automated recovery from common problems, and will mean for users even more dependability and faster performance. Just in case, we have an independent live backup CMS system in San Diego that can be put online in minutes should the whole Amazon infrastructure collapse--and that's not likely. And even if that fails, the Hybrid RMS gateway radio-only network will function to keep message routing and delivery moving.

The AWS CMS server cluster has been in continuous beta testing for almost two years. We successfully tested it under full load of the network for four hours on June 16th. We are confident that users will notice no troubles with this change. But we're always on guard: There is nothing users need to do before or after the change, but we would like any issues you come upon to be promptly reported to the Winlink_Programs_Group support group. Just click the 'Support' item in the web site menu for access to it.

Current versions of Winlink Express have a checkbox that allows users to test the beta AWS cluster. After the 'go-live' date, this setting simply becomes inoperative, and a later version of the software will see the control disappear. Users of Airmail and other third party clients should also see no effect as long as they do not use IP addresses in settings to refer to CMS sites. Make sure your settings use 'server.winlink.org' wherever your program asks for the address of a Winlink CMS. All other settings remain the same.

The outgoing CMS servers are managed by volunteer sysops Neil Hughes, VE1YZ and Don Trotter, VE1DTR (Halifax); Phil Sutherland, VK6KPS (Perth), Gerhard Kmet, OE1ZK and Michael Kastelic, OE1MCU (Wien) and Tom Lafleur, KA6IQA and Scott Miller, K6SKM (San Diego). Each CMS was hosted at facilities donated to the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation. These individuals and host facilities have served Winlink for many years with stellar performance, permitting Winlink's 99.99% uptime record since 2000. Our gratitude for their dedication and services can't be expressed well enough in words. We invite our users to send them their individual thanks, and perhaps a short story about how you found their work behind the scenes useful, even life-saving, in the past. They can be reached at [email protected].

The good news is that these valuable members of the Winlink team will continue to operate RMS gateways, and contribute their knowledge and skills to the system as WDT members.

--Winlink Development Team

A Note of Approval from Oregon

I have enjoyed the privilege of working with n6kzb in developing the HTML forms adopted by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management for all County EOC to State level communications when phone and internet are down. We had some specific and somewhat unusual requirements so that the new forms would generate a plain text version that exactly duplicated the templates used previously.

The new designs have been enthusiastically received, and will be the centerpiece of a large State-wide Simulated Emergency Test soon. Any other so drastic a change would probably require a long period of extensive training. These HTML Forms, with the built-in "Mouse Hover Hinting" have made training nearly unnecessary.

The other really valuable feature is the ease of keeping everyone on the same level as far as version. Mike and I were able to edit and release new versions, and the auto-update feature ensured that the changes were immediately rolled out to all the operators with the application version updates. The ease of doing manual updates to catch new features, or to repair a folder of templates damaged by inadvertent file editing or deletion is just icing on the cake.

Want to see a little feature that makes life simpler? Look at one of the several versions of "Winlink Check-in " forms. Note the odd line of text at the very bottom of the plaintext Winlink message after the Browser input form is submitted and closed. First it says "For Spreadsheet Use", and then below that is a line with all the relevant data in a single line "comma separated value" or CSV format. If you desire to collate the data during or after a drill or event, you can cut and paste this single line from each check-in form received into a NotePad text document. When all are received, you can import the plaintext CSV data into Excel and have a spreadsheet of who checked in, where, when, and what comms were used to do so. Pretty neat!

This is just a first use of the ability to pull data in from other sources such as Help files, or to collect and export data from a Form. I'm sure there will be many more.

Thomas Noel
KF7RSF

Winlink Express HTML Forms Are Going Statewide in Oregon

We received this news from Oregon:

“I am pleased to announce that, through the hard work of Mike Burton and the WDT, the State of Oregon is transitioning to all HTML Template Forms for traffic from County EOCs to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. The forms will also find frequent use from one served agency to another, and from agencies to the County EOC.

The new forms closely follow the design of plain text templates previously used by the State OEM, but avoids the issues of installation and updating, and are self-hinting to lessen the need for extensive training. The forms are now included as part of the standard forms now distributed as part of Winlink Express.”

Thomas W Noel
KF7RSF

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