VK5RWN Internet Gateway Failure – Local Mode Only

Dateline: August 18th 2018 – The VK5RWN D-STAR gateway computer and therefore the D-STAR repeater networking is off line due to a failure of the current computer’s SSHD storage.

Both the 2m and 70cm D-STAR DV repeaters are still on and available for use providing local coverage as D-STAR DV repeaters, however there will not be any access via the VK5RWN gateway to the D-STAR global network until further notice. It will only support local operation for the next few weeks.

The current gateway was very shortly due for an upgrade anyway, so the existing failed unit will not be repaired. The new VK5RWN D-STAR gateway computer will be installed on site, pending some minor works, ie, a new shelf, and the final installation and configuration of the new G3 gateway software. This software has to be installed and configured on site as it needs to see both the D-STAR repeater controller and the respective Ethernet ports during the final configuration.

So sorry folks, the D-STAR gateway system will be down until the new computer has been installed, over the next couple of weeks, pending time available.

If you wish to work outside of the Adelaide area on D-STAR, you will need access to a DV Hot Spot, a SharkRF OpenSpot or JumboSpot, DVAP, Dongle etc.

Please pass this information on to any others who you may hear trying to use the VK5RWN D-STAR system

VK5RWN D-Star repeater site antenna tower replacement.

Back in mid August 2017, the tower supporting the antennas for the VK5RWN D-Star repeater system was damaged during the big blow that accompanied the storms. The tower, which was a section of a Hills Telemast bolted at the roof line of the communications hut, has been in service for about 27 years and was in good order. It appears that the wind loading had been exceeded during the August storms and the tower was bent just above the roof line of the building and the top section with the antennas was approximately 30 degrees off the vertical.

Well, no option, it had to be replaced!

The working bee at the VK5RWN site was scheduled for Tuesday 19 December 2017.

Ben VK5BB was at the site around 0845 hrs local time and the other members of the work crew arrived shortly afterwards.

Apart from initial preparations, and the OH&S site survey, the first job of the day was to erect the scaffolding, on the roof of the building! Gave us very easy access to all antennas for disassembly. The scaffolding was also used for the reassembly, thereby minimising the need to actually climb the tower, though Colin VK5ACE later did, to re-mount the 2m antenna at the top.

From there the antenna equipment was easily removed and the bent tower was cut off just above the bend in the tower (just above the roof line) and the tower easily removed. The coaxes were laid out to one side so as not to be damaged and ready for re-installation.

Whilst the old tower was being removed, other members bolted the new tower sections together ready for erecting. The new tower is two sections of Hills 330mm Butt Section mast, with additional plates fitted at the join of the two sections to provide some additional strength at the join.

The top end of the new tower was lifted (man-handled with ropes) above the adjacent hut and then the base lifted into position near where it was to be mounted. Using the ropes, the tower was then pulled upright, across the gap between the two buildings to its mounting position, loosely bolted in place whilst we marked out where the base bolts were to go, drilled and fitted the Dyna bolts and the tower was firmly bolted in place. Actually went in place quite well with a minimum of jiggling etc!

Lunch time! (about 1300 hrs local)

After lunch, the antenna cross arm and antennas were refitted, thanks to Colin VK5ACE, the main climber/rigger for the day. As the Wi-Fi dishes were refitted, the day started to get a bit blowy but the dishes were pointed approximately in the right directions. The 2m 7 element Yagi for the Broadcast Source transmitter was re-installed as a 3 element Yagi and pointed at Crafers. All coaxes were resealed, dressed and cable tied to the tower.

All antennas are back in their old positions, determined by the lengths of the various coax feeds. The tower, now 9m high, carries a 2m, a 70cm and a 23cm vertical “white stick” collinears, two 200mm Wi-Fi dishes and a 3 element 2m vertical Yagi.

Job done!

All equipment was turned on again and the various systems tested, we even had the Internet back on at the site, so we did get the dish right, either that or it has strong side lobes. (The Internet connection was previously still working even though the dish was pointed at the sky? A relay from the ISS??)

Clean up, and we were gone by 1700 hrs local.

The D-Star operations were checked at the site and later again from Ben’s QTH and all was good, including remote access to both the D-Star and the Broadcast computers.

Crew on site;

  • Trevor, VK5ATQ, roustabout and also supplied the scaffolding, (NERC member)
  • Rod, VK5ZRK, roustabout, (NERC member)
  • David, VK5MDF, roustabout, (NERC member)
  • Colin, VK5ACE, rigger, (AREG member)
  • Jeff, VK5IU, “supervisor” and roustabout, (AREG member)
  • Ben, VK5BB, project manager, 2nd climber/rigger, (AREG member)

Many thanks to the crew who helped during the day and especially Olga VK5FOLG, as she supplied a fresh cut lunch for all and delivered on site about 10 minutes before the lunch break.

Reports from the D-STAR users have reported a significant improvement of signal strengths at Balaclava and Mt Barker on 2m and from Hallet Cove on 70cm, so all appears to be good again.

Next task for the VK5RWN D-STAR system is the upgrade of the computer to a new 64bit system running CentOS 7 64 bit and the new G3 gateway software. This is scheduled for early in 2018.

VK5RWN DSTAR Repeater Damaged – Repairs Pending

In the wild weather over the past few weeks the VK5RWN repeater system has sustained some structural damage.  The original tower section is currently bent at a rather alarming angle and will require replacement.

In the past few days we have had our repair crew up there to shore up the tower section and make temporary repairs until a more permanent solution can be found.

There is still internet connectivity to the site and the D-Star repeater is still operational for the time being.   Users may find that the coverage of the repeater is somewhat disturbed however.

In the coming weeks the antenna system will need to be upgraded, so there will most likely be a prolonged period where the system will be off air while repairs are being made.

VK5RWN Internet connectivity re-established.

wncdstar_logoFollowing up from the previous report that VK5RWN D-STAR system was off line due to site mains power failure.

Well the power came back on last night, 13 July 2016, but the internet connectivity did not?

A site visit this morning, 14 July 2016, identified that the POE power supply had died.

This is one of those little Blue QSKJ inverter modules that lifted the 12 volts to 16 volts to feed the router switch and the Ubiquiti WiFi unit up the tower. The faulty unit was replaced with a loan unit.

With the POE PS restored, connectivity was re-established and all is now good. Confirmed that the VK5RWN D-STAR system was fully operational and reporting to the respective D-STAR reporting sites.

Feedback on VK5RWN’s performance and operation may be sent to AREG, vk5arg@wia.org.au or the D-STAR Systems Administrator, Ben VK5BB, vk5bb@wia.org.au

VK5RWN D*STAR Repeaters OFFLINE – Mains Failure

During the wild weather in Adelaide over wncdstar_logothe past 48hrs, VK5RWN’s mains power was lost. Batteries held the site up for a while, but due to the extended nature of the outage these have now been exhausted.

AREG is monitoring for the mains power to be restored and will bring the system back online as soon as we can.

VK5RWN D*STAR 23cm 128kbit Data port in hibernation

wncdstar_logoThe Amateur Radio Experimenter’s Group wishes to advise that the 1299.700MHz 128kbit/s port of the VK5RWN D*STAR node has been placed into “hibernation”. In the entire life of the repeater this port has been accessed 3 times, and so rather than continuing to pay to keep it active it has been switched off. The equipment remains installed however so if you do desire to experiment with this aspect of D*STAR it will be a simple matter of contacting the club, and we can go and re-enable it for you. (This is to help further combat the $1000+ power bill the club foots to run this site each year).

Regards – The AREG Committee

16th October Meeting: D*STAR for Beginners

wncdstar_logoHave you ever wondered how to navigate the myriad of ways to access a D*STAR repeater and make contacts either locally or via the gateways? The come along to the next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters’ Group on Friday October 16th where Ben, VK5BB,  will take you through how to get the most from your D*STAR radio when using VK5RWN. He will include information on how to access gateways, reflectors etc and will give you clues on how to set up your D*STAR radio to make the best use of the available network that sits behind the AREG D*STAR repeater.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Zuzu

ICOM IC-91AD D-STAR handheld (CC BY-SA 3.0)

So if you are new to D-STAR or would like to know a bit more about how to use D-STAR, here is an opportunity to find out and meet with some D-STAR users.

The meeting will be held at AREG’s club rooms at the Reedbeds Community Hall, Fitch Road, Fulham. The doors will be open at 1930 hours for a meeting start at 2000 hours local summer time.

As well as the formal presentation there will be ample time to meet with AREG members and talk about any and all things Amateur Radio. Visitors are most welcome, so please come along all and say hello! If you need help finding the hall, call on the 439.900 repeater (91.5Hz CTCSS).

Coffee, tea and cake will be on for a light supper, over which guests and members may ragchew on topics of the evening. Put it in your diary, AREG meeting this Friday the 16th October, 7:30 pm!

 

VK5RWN DSTAR – Operational Future secure until June 2016

VK5RWN D*STAR Repeater’s FUTURE without the WIA?

In November 2014, the AREG took over VK5RWN2Mover the full maintenance and financial support the VK5RWN D-Star repeater system in Adelaide after it was originally co-sponsored by the WIA. Since then, AREG has been working to reduce the operating costs of providing this service to the Adelaide amateur radio community.

Currently VK5RWN is the single largest operating cost the AREG currently has on its budget (the power bill alone is ~$600/year). Insurance, license fees, maintenance and rent nudge this figure closer to $1000/year.

At this stage, the AREG committee has agreed that the club has sufficient reserves to be able to support the system until the end of June 2016, at which time the system will again be reviewed. In order to maintain it beyond this time, the AREG really needs the registered DSTAR users to offer their ongoing financial support. As such, the club is now actively seeking yearly donations or preferably more of the D*STAR user community to become members of AREG.

If you are a registered user of this system then please consider joining AREG and throwing your support behind it’s continued operation. Alternatively, you can also consider making a yearly donation.

What is AREG doing to try and secure the systems future?

DStar_Radios_2014102402AREG has not been sitting idle in trying to find ways to keep the system running. So far, the following strategies have been implemented:

  • The ADSL Internet link and associated phone line have been replaced with a microwave system and donated internet bandwidth from a club member (This was the single biggest expense to running the system).
  • The system power supplies were replaced with more efficient switchmode ones

These changes yielded an operating cost reduction of around $1000/year.

The next areas being tackled include:

  • likely closure of the 1299.7MHz 128kbit/s data port (which records show hasn’t been accessed since being commissioned)
  • review whether the 1273.7MHz port remains on air considering it’s very low utilization.
  • replace the current PC with one that consumes a LOT less power

These changes will occur over the next 6 months, and will go someway to overcoming the operational costs of the site. None the less, it will still remain the most expensive to run site on AREG’s books.