San Diego Winlink Net Marks Five Years

For the past five years I have been conducting the San Diego Winlink EmComm Weekly Drill and News. Here's how it works: A drill message goes out every Thursday, and San Diego and upper Baja, Mexico area radio amateurs can keep their operating skills sharp and their equipment readiness verified by just hitting "reply" to the message.

A drill message last month went out celebrating five years of the San Diego Winlink EmComm Weekly Drill and News being in continuous operation. In total for the five year period, 259 weekly messages were sent and received with more than 3500 check-ins during that period. In another drill message recently, I gave my view of some of the highlights (and a couple of the lowlights) of our experiences with emergency communications in San Diego County during this period. -- Ed Sack, W3NRG, Coronado, California

A New Open Protocol is Coming

A new, open radio protocol is in the future for Winlink users, and for amateurs everywhere. ARDOP (Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol) is a new cooperative radio protocol project in which the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation and Rick Muething, KN6KB, of the Winlink Development Team is proud to have a major role. ARDOP will ultimately replace WINMOR in the Winlink system because of it's superior features and multiple platform (OS) support.

The protocol design is open, and the software implementations will be open-sourced. This means you can expect the protocol to take different forms, like a virtual TNC using sound-card software on Windows, Linux, Apple OS X, iOS, and Android, or in hardware, like a USB plug-in or 'add-on box' using today's low-cost DSP CPU chips.

What can you expect of this new protocol? Features like bandwidth negotiation, received signal quality feedback in ACK and NAK, auto-timing, more bandwidth options and a wider range of performance. It will be optimizable for both HF and VHF/UHF radio channels (SSB or FM modes), offer VHF/UHF repeater support, and use both ARQ for connected communications and FEC (forward error correction) for broadcasts. It will allow multi-language messages with full binary support for UTF-8 character set. And you can expect advances in speed and efficiency in noisy, multi-path propagating channels, and effective busy-channel detection to minimize the chance of interference with other communications.

Rick said, "Another goal in this effort is to put something out there in several OS and languages that has a chance (maybe just a slight chance!) of getting some other developers interested in learning about and promoting DSP digital modes. It will be easy to add/test additional modes and extend the protocol. For instance, this morning I did the initial integration and testing of a special super robust data mode (16FSK) that should perform very well in very poor multipath and aurora only took a few hours to add the data mode and start testing it. I think if the code is open, yet with compatibility controls to insure conformance so versions are compatible, it just may help some of those not so versed in DSP to learn and eventually contribute."

Since April, Rick has been making satisfying progress wringing out bugs and tuning the protocol with the help of a team of alpha testers, Neil Hughes of the Winlink Development Team conducting endless tests. John Wiseman, G8BPQ, along with Matthew Pitts, N8OHU, have contributed to the specification and open source planning. John has been testing and integrating the virtual TNC into the BPQ client/server. Soon, beta testing will be announced and if interested--and for your promise to assist and make accurate reports--you can get involved in the testing, probably early this Fall.

We've put together an overview page that should answer any questions you might have, and send you to the right places for information. Exciting times! The Radio Art improves!

Planning to Operate Winlink on Field Day?

June 8, 2015--Winlink operators are planning now for Field Day. It's worth points (in several ways), and an excellent way to show off the system to those unfamiliar.

The Yahoo group guys at WL2KEmComm make it a little easier by using a database of participating stations willing to exchange Field Day messages. Add your callsign to the database, and copy it just before the event to have a list of callsigns to exchange messages with. Find the database in the 'Database' area. Look for the 2015 database.

North American (ARRL) Field Day is on June 27-28 this year.

--The Winlink Development Team


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