Next Meeting: AGM + IT Security in the Shack – do you know who’s watching?

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held on Friday July 20th 2018, at the Fulham Community Centre, Phelps Court, Fulham. Doors open at 7.45pm for an 8.00pm start.

This will be the clubs Annual General Meeting. More importantly, it marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group! Cake and refreshments will be served befitting our 20 year history!

At the meeting all positions will be declared vacant and the elections for 2018/19 will be held. Come along and join us in celebrating this milestone achievement for the club!


“IT Security in the Shack – do you know who’s watching?”

Our special guest presenter for the evening is Derek VK5TCP who will be talking with us about  IT security and what the risks really are!

Derek is a director of  a specialist cyber security group called CyberOps and has greater than 30 years expereince in IT and business risk.

He will cover:

  • How The Cyber Security Landscape Is Changing?
  • What the criminals are getting up to?
  • What are your risks at home?
  • Hardware hacking tools, techniques and devices.
  • What does a penetration test involve and what does it find?
  • How can I protect my own Internet connected devices?
  • Where can I find the best practice guides?

In this modern era where everyone has more IT infrastructure around them than they perhaps even realize, the importance of IT security can not be under estimated. This fascinating talk will at the very least arm you with knowledge and tools you can use to safeguard your own online activities.


Where to find us?

Everyone is most welcome to attend! You can find us at 1 Phelps Court, Fulham in the Fulham Community Centre (formerly known as the Reedbeds Community Centre).

 

Horus 49 – Anstey in Space v2.0 – Success!

On Sunday the 8th July, the Tea Tree Gully Library’s echidna mascot, Anstey, rose into the sky to an altitude of 36,374 metres under a High-Altitude Balloon. This was Anstey’s second flight into the stratosphere, and Project Horus’s 49th balloon launch.

Originally planned for the 30th of June, Horus 49 had to be delayed a week due to very poor weather conditions. Even still, this flight was a a long one for the chase teams! Fortunately we had the assistance of a team from the Riverland Radio Club who mobilized from their home base (much closer to the LZ) and who then played a big part in tracking and retrieving Anstey at the end of his flight. You can read about their adventure on the RRC Blog.

Launch Activities

As usual, the launch was from the Mt Barker High School oval – thanks must go to the school for allow us to use their oval for so many launches! A good number of AREG club members came along to help out with the launch. Also present at the launch were members of Anstey’s Space Club, there to watch the launch and see Anstey off into the stratosphere!

Filling the balloon.

Payloads were laid out, turned on and tested, and the balloon was filled with somewhat more gas than usual. The flight path predictions had a possible risk of landing close to Loxton, so additional gas was used to give a higher ascent rate (as it turned out, a *very* high ascent rate). Wind gusts made filling the balloon a bit of a challenge, but there were no lack of hands to help keep things from getting out of control.

At just after 10AM, the wind died down and we had a perfect launch!

Launch of Horus 49

The Flight

On board Anstey had two cameras recording things. The first was a GoPro miniature video camera! The second was a still camera that was sending photos live to ground as the flight progressed.

Chase & Recovery

Right after the launch, Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV quickly headed off towards the expected landing area to the South-West of Loxton – a long drive away! Marcus VK5WTF and partner were also following not far behind.

The ascent rate ended up being much higher than intended – ascent rates as high as 9m/s were observed at some points in the flight, resulting in a shorter than expected flight. Even still, the Hwoyee 1600g balloon used made it to a very respectable 36374 metres altitude before bursting.

With the original flight path prediction due to land near Loxton, it was looking pretty unlikely that the chase teams departing from Mt Barker would make it there before landing. Luckily, a group of Riverland Radio Club members were on the case! Ivan VK5HS, Peter VK5PE, Danny VK5DW and Andy VK5LA also headed out to chase, starting from the Loxton area. Rob VK5TRM was also out for the chase. Ivan & co had been practicing by hunting the Bureau of Meteorology radiosondes, so were well experienced in chasing balloons – so much so that they were able to get into position to watch the balloon land in an area of scrubland near the locality of Mantung (40km SW of Loxton).

Mark and Will were not far behind, arriving at the landing site a few minutes later. A short walk later and Anstey was sighted… about 8 metres up a gum tree!

With some persuasion from a SpiderBeam pole, Anstey was recovered. Many thanks to all those who came along for the chase!

Horus 49 Recovery Team

Live Wenet Imagery

Throughout the flight Anstey was imaged via a version of Project Horus’s ‘Wenet’ imagery payload, which transmits images down to the ground via a 115kbps 70cm transmitter. As expected the images of Anstey were amazing, and were viewable live via HabHub’s SSDV webpage.

This live imagery is only possible through volunteers running ground-stations. Thanks go to VK5APR, VK5EU, and VK5KX who ran stationary receivers. Mark VK5QI was also running a mobile Wenet receiver in his chase car.

CallsignPackets ReceivedTotal Data Received (MB)
VK5KX23846058.22
VK5QI (Mobile)21801253.23
VK5APR21304552.01
VK5EU15317537.40

Telemetry – RTTY & Horus Binary

As with all previous Project Hours flights, a RTTY payload was flown. Many listeners contributed to tracking this payload:

CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5EI103393.4%3962695
VK5EU101792.0%7012780
VK5FAAP98288.8%16373203
VK5FJGM73966.8%11229329
VK5FLJG62656.6%22117751
VK5KX95586.3%1680193
VK5NEX91282.5%26335108
VK5ST83375.3%28783897
VK5ZAR79371.7%12055551

New to this flight was an experimental ‘Horus Binary’ payload, which was transmitting a MFSK telemetry mode developed by David Rowe VK5DGR and Mark Jessop VK5QI. This new mode has significant performance advantages over RTTY, and will hopefully become the new default telemetry system for Project Horus flights. David VK5DGR also has an overview of the payload and how it performed on the flight on his blog. Many stations were able to run the new decoding software and track the flight using this mode:

CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5AKH/KX/ZM (Portable)151182.4%6970101
VK5APR154184.0%26314850
VK5FJGM123467.3%76925875
VK5FLJG157786.0%6755217
VK5FTAZ83245.4%91466484
VK5IX149181.3%818661
VK5KJP147180.2%27484404
VK5RR28815.7%33826400
VK5ST166390.7%24351286
VK5TRM171993.7%1854139
VK5QI (Mobile)156085.1%34364
VK5WTF (Mobile)103956.7%2776139

The new mode provides position updates twice as fast as the 100 baud RTTY payload, and with 6dB better decoding performance (meaning double the range!). The update rate may have been too fast it seems – while about 2600 packets were transmitted during the flight (confirmed as received on VK5QI’s mobile station), only ~1800 of these made it into the Habitat tracking database! This is likely a result of upload timeouts – some changes will be made to the software prior to the next Horus Binary flight so this issue can be further debugged. Still, the new mode performed incredibly well in the chase cars, providing  rapid and regular updates to the chase car mapping systems.

Thanks again to all who helped track the flight using both Wenet, RTTY, and the new modem. Expect the Horus Binary mode to make appearances on more flights in the future!

Upcoming Launches

To give more listeners an opportunity to decode the new Horus Binary mode (and to use up some leftover gas from Horus 49!), a small balloon launch will take place sometime in Late July. This will be a ‘small’ balloon launch (as per the CASR Part 101.E definition), flying a re-purposed RS41 radiosonde clocking in at just over 40 grams. A new version of the Horus Binary decoder will be released prior to this launch to allow better analysis of the upload issue encountered on Horus 49.

Also coming up is the 20th anniversary of AREG – as part of the celebrations, we will be performing Project Horus’s 50th launch! On this flight we expect to fly:

  • A 2m/70cm Cross-Band repeater, similar to what was flown at the WIA AGM launch.
  • A SSTV transmitter, sending images in the PD120 SSTV mode.
  • An APRS beacon (depending on weight budget)

.. along with the usual telemetry and cutdown payloads. Stay tuned!

Horus 49 – Anstey in Space – NEW DATE CONFIRMED

UPDATE: Anstey was successfully launched to a height of 36374 metres, followed by a landing in the Murray Mallee and a recovery by AREG and Riverland Radio Club members. A full write-up of the launch will be posted in the next few days.

Anstey at 36km Altitude on Horus 49!

Back in 2016, AREG & Project Horus helped Anstey the Echidna, the Tea Tree Gully Library’s mascot, explore near-space. Anstey didn’t have enough fun on the previous launch, and so on the 8th of July 2018, we will be re-launching Anstey back into near-space on a high-altitude balloon launch!

Anstey in near-space on Horus 39

The launch is currently scheduled for 10AM CST on Sunday the 8th July, however as usual, weather conditions may cause this to be re-scheduled. The launch will be from the Mt Barker High School Oval, and spectators are welcome. Launch crew should be on-site from approximately 9AM.

Tracking of the flight will be available via the HabHub tracker.

Telemetry Information

The telemetry frequencies for the flight are as follows:

  • RTTY Telemetry – ‘HORUS’ – 434.650 MHz  (100 baud, 425 Hz Shift, 7N2)
  • Wenet Imagery – 441.200 MHz (Wenet 115kbps FSK)
  • Experimental Horus Binary Payload – 434.640 MHz (100 baud 4FSK)

As usual, the RTTY telemetry can be decoded using dl-fldigi.


Note: Recent testing of dl-fldigi’s decode performance has found that the auto-configured RTTY receive bandwidth is too narrow, and can detrimentally impact decode performance (by up to 3dB!).

To fix this, open dl-fldigi, and in the Configure menu, select Modems, and then go to the ‘RTTY’ tab. Drag the ‘Receive filter bandwidth’ slider to 200, then click ‘Save’. Note that this setting will be reset whenever you hit the ‘Auto-Configure’ button!


Wenet Imagery

As with most Project Horus launches, this flight will feature live imagery via the Wenet high-speed imagery downlink. Images will be available throughout the flight at this link:

http://ssdv.habhub.org/HORUS

Reception of the Wenet signal requires a RTLSDR and a Linux PC/Laptop. Instructions on how to set up the required software are available here.

Experimental 4FSK Telemetry

This launch will include the use of a re-purposed Vaisala RS41 radiosonde, programmed to transmit a new binary 4FSK telemetry mode, developed by David VK5DGR and Mark VK5QI. This new mode is intended to eventually (read: probably a year away) replace RTTY telemetry on Horus flights. It runs at 100 baud, is approximately 850 Hz in bandwidth, and has an almost 6dB performance improvement over the current RTTY telemetry! 

Decoding this telemetry requires installation of a new decoder application (an updated version of FreeDV), and some helper scripts to upload the data to the online tracker. A guide on how to install and operate this new decoder is available here.

Conclusion

More information will be available closer to the flight!

AREG June Meeting tomorrow night!

The June meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held Friday June 15th, starting at 7.45pm. There will be no formal presentation this month. Instead, after the business meeting to be held at 8.00pm there will be an opportunity for a members show and tell.

Bring along your latest gadget and give people a chance to look and see!

The meeting will be held at the Fulham Community Centre, off Phelps Court, Fulham. Hope to see you there!

New FreeDV 700D HF Digital Voice Mode

Many amateurs are experimenting with various digital voice modes, such as Yaesu System Fusion C4FM, D-STAR and DMR etc, mostly on the VHF and UHF bands. Did you know, however that there is also a digital voice mode for HF radio operation that was specifically designed by amateur radio experimenters?

FreeDV, based on a fully open source codec known as Codec2, has been created by David Rowe VK5DGR in collaboration with a team spread across the globe.

FreeDV is enabling amateur radio enthusiasts to experiment with new open source digital based voice transmission techniques on the High Frequency (HF) bands.  While text based HF digital modes are common, FreeDV is the first new VOICE mode for HF since SSB was introduced in the 1950s and 60s.

New version of FreeDV – 700D announced

Over the past 18 months or more, David and his team have been busy working to improve the lower bit rate versions of FreeDV. The original system, released as FreeDV 1600, was based on a 1600bits/sec data stream, but was a few dB off being equal with SSB. Now, David is pleased to announce that the new FreeDV 700D mode is ready for wider trials.This new version uses a 700 bit/s speech voice codec, powerful forward error correction, and a new modem to send digital speech over HF radios.

What is really exciting however is that testing of FreeDV 700D has demonstrated that it is outperforming SSB on poor channels! Here is a demo of SSB, followed by FreeDV 700D, on a poor quality 3,200 km path between Adelaide and the Bay of Islands, in New Zealand.

Where can I get it?

You can run FreeDV using any PC set up for digital modes, using the FreeDV 1.3 GUI program, which you can download from freedv.org.

Where can I find FreeDV activity?

Australian FreeDV activity is typically on 7.177 and 14.236 MHz. You can also coordinate FreeDV QSOs using the FreeDV QSO finder at qso.freedv.org

So why not try the new FreeDV 700D mode, and join us in experimenting with it on the HF bands!

Next AREG Meeting Friday May 18th – RF Connector Myths Dispelled

Like most Amateur Radio operators your shack probably contains a plethora of different RF connectors linking radios to tuners, antennas, amplifiers, receivers etc. Have you ever wondered why there are so many varieties? Have you ever wondered which ones are the right ones to use in a given situation? Do you run high power and have you considered whether your connectors are up to the task, especially if you are dealing with high VSWR leading towards your tuner?

Our guest speaker this month is Matt VK5ZM, who will take you through the different types of connector and provide an insight into their design and the criteria to consider when choosing them for your installation.


The meeting will start at 7.45pm at the Fulham Community Centre, off Phelps Court in Fulham (formerly known as the Reedbeds hall) with the presentation starting at 8.00pm. Following the meeting, tea coffee and cake will be served followed by a club business meeting.

Visitors are most welcome to come along – the meeting is open to everyone. We would love to see you down at the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group!

River Paddling Marathon 200: Practice Day This Saturday!

In preparation for the RPM200 there will be an opportunity to run through the practice for checkpoints at Murray Bridge this Saturday the 5th May.

Why are we getting together? We are honing our skill at spotting paddlers on the river for their back to back event, which in turn is a practice for the RPM. Getting the opportunity to practice scribing the paddlers numbers while they are on the far side of the river will help prepare us for tracking at checkpoints. This event will also help us understand what equipment we will need for the RPM. An afternoon sitting  beside the river isn’t a bad thing either, with a sausage or two sizzling on the BBQ.

What time: Arrive at the reserve at 12:00pm for the BBQ, with the first paddlers arriving around 1:00pm, through until around 4pm.

What to bring;

  • Lunch, offerings to the BBQ, drinks etc.
  • Hat, sun screen, jumper
  • Table and Chair
  • Optical amplification, ie binoculars
  • Pen & paper
  • Hand held radio

Where will you find us? Under the shelter at the Murray Bridge Foreshore Reserve;

Liaison on 439.025MHz FM Simplex.

If you are coming to participate, please let us know; kimhawtin@gmail.com

IRLP Node 6214 back on air!

The AREG IRLP node 6214 via VK5RSB 70cm is now back on air and available for general use.

The IRLP nodes “new” computer is now a Raspberry Pi 2, with modifications to the IRLP board to allow for operation on 3 volts as is used by the Raspberry Pi.

During both the morning and afternoon drive times, Monday to Friday, the node 6214 will be off line. It is available all the time Saturday and Sundays.

Weekday morning:

  • off at 07:00am
  • on at 09:30am

Weekday afternoon:

  • off at 3:00pm
  • on at 7:00pm

Access for IRLP operation still requires the current issued access code.

(details may be found at  http://www.areg.org.au/activities/irlp-node-6214)

DTMF “0” is the only “free” access to advise the status of the IRLP linking.

I will write up a blog report with photos for the AREG web pages in due course.

Feedback on the IRLP operations is most welcome, might need to make some level adjustments???

Ben VK5BB

AREG IRLP Node 6214 Administrator