CMS Changes to AWS Cluster. Bye-Bye Wien, Perth, Halifax, SanDiego.

The Winlink Team (WDT) migrated the old familiar CMS servers to the new AWS 'Cloud' CMS on Tuesday, October 31, at 1600 UTC (Noon EDT).

By the look of our logs, 99.9 percent of users are using the system without issues. All changes have proven to be invisible (totally transparent) and present no problems for most users. There are always exceptions, however. Here are the issues affecting selected users that we've seen so far:

1) You will not be able to connect using telnet with a third-party program set to use an IP-numbered CMS address. You must use a fully qualified domain name in telnet settings. Now that we're post-change, we recommend 'cms.winlink.org' as a setting that will work into the future. Old CMS names will also work for at least one year after the transition, and will be phased out slowly as we detect their lack of use. These include 'server.winlink.org', 'perth.winlink.org', 'halifax.winlink.org', 'wien.winlink.org', 'sandiego.winlink.org', and a few others.

2) Although the change is totally transparent, this does not fool intelligent humans. Knowing about a change, we expect to see the change appearing in our program logs and displays! But unless you're using an updated client or gateway program or have already made changes as suggested above to a third party program, you will continue to make connections labeled by your program with the old names. You're really connecting to the new CMS cluster, but your old program is masking that (lying). Don't be confused! Just watch for a program update, and get it, or change your configuration if the program leaves it up to you. This goes for all programs until they are updated, including utilities like RMS Link Test.exe.

3) Also, the new CMS cluster is sensitive to both upper- and lower-case passwords for accounts. The old CMS was not. Your account, if already established on the old CMS, will always use upper case alpha characters in usernames (call signs) and passwords. Applications that connect to the old CMS, including this web site, often eased the user experience by accepting either, and then converted your input to upper case before submitting to the CMS. Accordingly, if your account is already established on the old CMS and was transitioned, be sure to use UPPER CASE alpha characters if you find your application is getting rejected when you try inputting lower case characters. This includes our new webmail app. If you can't make it work after trying the possibilities, contact a Winlink administrator, or post on the support reflector. This has nothing to do with the common Telnet 'password' CMSTELNET, used in manual Telnet configurations in Airmail and other programs.

4) We have discovered a bug in our new CMS code that caused a disconnect when resuming partial message transfers. The CMS would send the following during a connection:

FS YNY!500 [or similar]
*** Rejected 1 messages as duplicates.
*** Receiving 1VKOPWJODQ0T
*** Disconnected at 2017/11/02 18:45:21

*** Disconnect reported.

There is a CMS fix in place, being tested now. Reports requested.

5) We found a bug, fixed in the next version of Paclink, that caused telnet connections on the new CMS to fail with "***Telnet access code does not match - Disconnecting" when a MARS service code was used in the program. The workaround until the new version is released is to use a different service code, i.e. PUBLIC.

6) If you saved mail in folders on the old webmail app, it was not migrated to the new webmail app on the new system, nor will it be. We found that users did not manage their saved mail and generally never accessed it. It has not been destroyed. If you have something very important to recover, please contact us and we will locate it and send it to you.

7) Iridium GO users with RMS Express will need to update to Express version 1.5.9.4 and Iridium GO firmware version 1.5.2 to use a fix for a problem making Telnet connections to the new servers through our load balancer.

8) Users who have embedded Winlink maps or data in their own web pages will generally continue to pull from our servers without a problem because we have set redirects on the old servers. In embedded position reports that use the query string '?callsign=xxxx', the query string is not supplied to the new servers. For long-term reliability and complete compatibility, all users of embedded Winlink maps or data must update their web code to use new URLs. See the new URLs on the position reports page. Application developers using the Winlink API should contact your WDT contact for in-depth information about changes.

9) The web app called Sysop's Message Monitor returned the message "Unable to validate access to this application". This was a bug in the web site code that is now fixed.

Although the new servers have been under Beta test for a very long time, and a full-scale test was successful last summer, it's impossible to anticipate all issues with a complex system like Winlink. We will appreciate your reporting odd behavior to the Winlink-programs-group at google groups if you see anything questionable. You can navigate there with a click.

--The Winlink Development Team

FCC Grants Waiver to Permit Higher Symbol Rate Data for Hurricane Relief

FCC Logo

10/05/2017
The FCC has granted an ARRL request to waive current Amateur Radio rules to permit data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than currently permitted, in order to facilitate hurricane relief communications between the continental US and Puerto Rico. The temporary waiver is limited to Amateur Radio operators in Puerto Rico using PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 emissions, and to those radio amateurs in the continental US who are directly involved with HF hurricane relief communications involving Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, the Commission said.

“We conclude that granting the requested waiver is in the public interest,” the FCC said in its October 5 Order. “Hurricane Maria caused massive destruction in Puerto Rico, and communication services continue to be disrupted. Thus, to accommodate Amateur Radio operators assisting in the recovery efforts, we grant the ARRL’s waiver request for the period of 60 days from the date of this Order.”

ARRL explained in its waiver petition that it’s shipping five PACTOR radio modems to Puerto Rico for use in connection with Hurricane Maria disaster relief communications. The League asked the FCC to temporarily allow PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 transmissions that exceed the current symbol rate limitations under § 97.307(f) of the Amateur Service rules.

Under the current rules, “specified digital codes” in Part 97 may be used with a symbol rate that does not exceed 300 baud for frequencies below 28 MHz, with the exception of 60 meters, and 1200 baud in the 10 meter band. The baud rate limits were adopted in 1980, when the FCC amended Part 97 to specify ASCII as a permissible digital code.

Copyright ARRL. Used with permission.

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

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