VK5RWN D-Star update

For information of all VK5RWN D-Star users, remote connectivity has been re-established late Wednesday evening, 21 October.

So users of Hot Spots, Dongles, DVAPs, you can again log onto the VK5RWN C or B modules.

If you have connection problems, you may need to update your hot spot Host Files. If the problem persists, email Ben VK5BB, and he will see what he can do to provide help.

You can also check the VK5RWN dash board to see connections and the Last Heard list,

vk5rwn.areg.org.au

For those interested in the technicalities, the problem was that when we reconfigured the local router that serves the VK5RWN D-Star computer, we missed setting some ports within the router to allow throughput.

The missing port numbers were not listed within the Icom manual for the setting up the D-Star system. However with some advice from a couple D-Star administrators, we identified the missing port numbers and I also then found them in older set up documents that were not checked in our search for answers. Isn’t that always the way of it?

It turns out that these ports are not needed by the main Icom D-Star system, which was working well without them, but are used by third party software that has been added to the D-Star operating system that allows additional services within the D-Star networks.

Have fun exploring and playing with D-Star.

VK5RWN DSTAR – We’re Back!

We are pleased to report that thanks to the hard work of our dedicated volunteers, in this case Matt VK5ZM, Ben VK5BB and Bob VK5FO, we have completed the cut-over to our new Internet link!

The VK5RWN D*STAR repeater has been reconnected to the internet as has the Weather Sonde receive station. The VK5RWN D*STAR Gateway is active and hotspot users should also be able to connect again to our host server.

(Note: Hot spot users may have to wait a few days to allow the Host Files to update VK5RWN’s IP address. It is also recommended that hot spot users log into their hot spots and force an update to the Host Files).

AREG has now moved to a new internet provider. We would like to thank Phil and Christine at Kern Internet for their help in re-configuring the on site router!

Other Dash Boards associated with VK5RWN are also back online, including the registration page and user access to their accounts.

(You may need to allow a security exception to access the pages the first time you log in via the vk5rwn.areg.org.au.)

Adelaide D*STAR users who are not already members of AREG are encouraged to join our group or make a yearly donation to our running costs, to support the D*STAR system here in Adelaide.

We hope you enjoy our return to service!

  • VK5RWN 2m 147.0375 +600kHz
  • VK5RWN 70cm 438.400 -5.4MHz

Note if there are users in Adelaide that want to experiment with the 1.2GHz ports, please contact us and AREG can look at re-activating them. They were disabled originally after they sat idle for 2 years consuming power for no reason. If interest in D*STAR on 1.2GHz returns we can turn them on again.

VK5RWN D-STAR Update – Progress!

As D-Star users in Adelaide will be aware, the club’s VK5RWN repeater has been disconnected from the Internet for several weeks now. This is due to AREG needing to change internet provider, coupled with installing a new microwave link to the site. This also created downstream problems with the LAN design and router configs at VK5RWN. We are happy to report that we have now made some good progress, with the link to our new provider Kern-WiFi successfully commissioned.

We are not out of the woods yet however. Running multiple 24×7 services on the live internet while making sure the site is not open to hostile online attacks is not a trivial exercise. It is taking us longer than originally hoped, to secure the new connection and re-open all of the services from VK5RWN (including the BOM Balloon tracking station and the DSTAR repeater).  With luck, that should be done in the next 7 to 10 days (after the Oceania DX Contest is complete this weekend).

Stay tuned for further updates! Meanwhile, local D-STAR contacts are still possible via the VK5RWN over the air on 147.0375MHz (+600kHz) and 438.4MHz (-5.4MHz).

VK5RWN D-Star repeater Network Link off line!

AREG has, for a number of years now, operated the internet link for VK5RWN via a number of free member provided services. Alas, our last member in 5.8GHz range of VK5RWN (who doesn’t have trees in the way) has left the area.

As a result, AREG is now moving the DSTAR internet service to a paid internet service (Kern WiFi) so the VK5RWN D*STAR gateway can continue. The new service was installed on Friday the 4th of September. We hope to complete the remaining network reconfiguration work over the next 2-3 days. As soon as thats done, D*STAR network services will be restored.

Meanwhile, the VK5RWN D-Star repeater is still fully operational as a local (2m & 70cm) DV repeater. However, as there is no Internet network connectivity at the VK5RWN site, remote linking of repeaters, reflectors and hot spot connectivity is not available.

AREG is sorry for any inconvenience that may be experienced, however please bear with us while we work to restore service within the next few days.

Can you help Us?

With the substantial increase in operating costs, AREG would encourage any and all D*STAR operators in the Adelaide area to consider becoming members of AREG or at least consider a yearly donation to the club. This will help cover the now more than $1000+ per year running costs for power and Internet.

Your support of the Adelaide VK5RWN DSTAR node is greatly appreciated!

VK5RSB 70cm Repeater Service

14 May 2020

Note: VK5RSB is still on air – but its tail is now VERY short. We will rectify the problem with the tail as soon as we can.

5 May 2020

Further update regarding the VK5RSB operations.

In the exuberance of the repeater service crew to see VK5RSB running with the AREG repeater controller, the repeater’s operations in conjunction with access to the IRLP network was overlooked.

IRLP node 6214, is accessed via the VK5RSB 70cm repeater.

The IRLP network managers do not like local repeaters sending “Roger Beeps” and repeater idents out into the IRLP system. This is because such idents etc will be transmitted elsewhere in the world, which is certainly not appropriate!

Under the previous setup of the VK5RSB 70cm repeater, the CW ID was generated within the Motorola Quantar but was transmitted without CTCSS, therefore not keying the IRLP unit and not being transmitted over the IRLP system, which needs CTCSS to be keyed for operation.

Therefore, with this in consideration, the “Roger Beep” has been turned off and the repeater “Tail” has been shortened to 1 second.

The Voice indent will remain for the short term, as any ident generated by the AREG repeater controller will still be transmitted with CTCSS.

The current final solution to this oversight, is to remove the AREG repeater controller and reset the Quantar code plug as had been previously.

The repeater service crew are sorry for any issues that came about from this exuberance.

We trust that all will continue to enjoy and take advantage of the VK5RSB repeaters.

4 May 2020

Just a quick update on the VK5RSB 70cm repeater.

This morning Paul VK5BX, myself Ben VK5BB and the Covid 19 Supervisor, Alesia (harmonic) attended at the VK5RSB site.

Purpose of the visit was to,

  • change over the VK5RSB 70cm repeater Motorola Quantar,
  • one out, one in, setup for operation with the AREG repeater controller,
  • re-fit the AREG repeater controller for the 70cm repeater,
  • check the site installation operation.

The equipment change over was without issue and the operation is successful with the new configuration of the repeater working well.

Noticeable operational changes,

  • 5 second long tail
  • a “Roger beep”,
  • the time out timer resets on the “Roger beep” (so no need to wait for the tail to drop)
  • voice ID
  • on long overs, a low level CW ID will play over top of the QSO.

Many thanks must go to Paul for his perseverance and time in setting up the replacement Quantar and mating it with the AREG repeater controller.

Reports and feedback would be much appreciated please.

Automatic Radiosonde Reception – AREG Style!

Thanks to Mark VK5QI, AREG is pleased to announce a new service has been added to the VK5RWN Repeater site. Mark has been developing a RadioSonde automated receive system which allows all of the Bureau of Meteorology weather balloon data to be collected and be made available on the internet. The data is available via the SondeHub instance of the HabHub High Altitude Balloon Habitat platform. You can access it here:

What can you see? Where all the active weather balloons are right now!

If you’re located in South Australia and are considering going out to recover a sonde, or have recovered one, please use the Facebook Group or the mailing list to announce your intentions! This helps avoid disappointment if others are intending to recover the same sonde.

Want to learn more? Read on…..


For quite a while now I’ve been interested in tracking and recovering radiosondes. These are meteorological instruments regularly launched by weather balloon from many locations around the world. Here in South Australia the Bureau of Meteorology launches them from Adelaide Airport twice daily (2315 and 1115Z), along with a few other locations around the state.

A Vaisala RS41 radiosonde found with the help of the radiosonde_auto_rx tracking network!

Radiosondes transmit in the 400-403 MHz band (usually on either 400.5/401.5/402.5 MHz), and there is a range of software, both closed and open source available to decode their telemetry. Not being entirely happy with the existing offerings, I started work on my own software, which became radiosonde_auto_rx (or ‘auto_rx’ for short).

auto_rx runs on a Raspberry Pi (or any other Linux machine) and automatically scans for and decodes radiosonde signals. Telemetry is uploaded to APRS-IS and the Habhub tracker for mapping purposes, and can also be viewed locally via a web interface. Most of the common radiosonde models are supported, including the Vaisala RS41 which is launched here in Adelaide. There are currently 147 auto_rx stations in operation worldwide (16 here in VK5), and so far (as of 2019-05-25 10Z) 19415 individual radiosondes have been logged.

So why do I bother doing this? Many radiosondes are (in part..) highly recyclable! The Vaisala RS41 contains a good quality GPS receiver, a micro-controller, and a radio transmitter – perfect for re-programming for use as a high-altitude balloon payload, as we have been doing on many recent Project Horus flights. In fact, the RS41 is the ‘reference platform’ for the new high-performance balloon telemetry system developed by David Rowe and I.

Chasing and recovering radiosondes is also great practice for Project Horus launches, with a few of the new Horus regulars starting out tracking radiosondes, and many others around VK5 regularly out chasing the BOM’s radiosonde launches. We use the same mapping software for both radiosonde and Horus chases.

To help improve tracking coverage, I proposed to install an auto_rx receiver station at one of AREG’s premier repeater sites, overlooking the Adelaide plains. Thanks to the generosity of AREG members in approving this proposal, the receiver was installed over the easter break. A big thanks to Ben VK5BB for assistance in fabricating an antenna bracket, and helping with the installation!

Hardware Details

The auto_rx receiver station installed in a rack at the site.

The auto_rx receiver hardware consists of a Raspberry Pi 3, with two RTLSDR v3 dongles attached, allowing simultaneous reception of 2 sondes. The incoming RF from the antenna is filtered through an interdigital filter (passband 400-403 MHz, stop-band attenuation > 90 dB) before being going through a preamplifier and splitter to the two dongles. The estimated system noise figure is about 5dB, mostly from the insertion loss of the filter. Given this is a very RF-noisy site (co-located DSTAR repeaters, and many commercial services on a tower a few hundred metres away), the higher noise figure is an acceptable tradeoff – without the filter the receivers would immediately overload!

All the equipment is mounted within a 2RU rack-mount chassis, with all power and network inputs heavily filtered to avoid coupling in unwanted RF. The total power draw of the unit is ~10W.

View from the antenna!

The antenna is an AEA co-linear (kindly donated to the project by Ivan VK5HS) mounted to the side of the repeater hut. Being ~450m above sea level, the antenna has direct line-of-sight to the Adelaide airport, and essentially anywhere to the west of Adelaide.

Receiver Performance

Receiving a radiosonde on the ground at Adelaide Airport

With such excellent line-of-sight, the station regularly receives signals from the Adelaide Airport radiosondes before they launch, and often even during the ground-test and calibration activities performed on the radiosonde within the Bureau of Meteorology building at the airport.

Also often visible are radiosonde launches from the Ceduna and Woomera receiving stations, which typically rise above the horizon when they reach ~10km altitude. Coverage to the east is not quite as good, being blocked by the Adelaide Hills, however radiosondes are regularly tracked down to ~1 degree elevation.

Would you like to know more?

  • More information on the radiosonde reception software is available on github at https://github.com/projecthorus/radiosonde_auto_rx .
  • A conference presentation delivered by myself and Michael Wheeler (VK3FUR) where we discuss the re-use of the Vaisala RS41 radiosondes is also available (see below)
  • You can track radiosondes launched from Adelaide Airport (and many other launch sites around the globe!) by visiting the Habitat Tracker at this link.

Thanks again to all those who helped make this possible!

73 Mark VK5QI

 

VK5RWN D-Star system upgraded to allow linking to XRF & DCS reflectors

For those who came in late………….

The VK5RWN D-Star gateway and repeater system was upgraded in May June 2018 with a new computer running 64 bit CentOS 7 and the new Icom G3 gateway software.

Between then and March 2019, the system has proven to be relatively stable with only a couple of minor hiccups where the computer has shut itself down? We believe this may have been due to the CPU over heating or something similar? This is still being addressed.

VK5RWN is a D-Star gateway system, registered on the US Root Trust database and primarily runs an application called Dplus which manages the linking and routing functions on the D-Star Internet network between other D-Star gateways/repeaters/reflectors.

As such, users are able to connect to other repeater/gateways and Dplus based Reflectors anywhere around the World, or even to other registered D-Star users via Call Sign Routing, a bit like a “private” call in the commercial PMR world.

In principle, within the D-Star world, there are two D-Star Internet networks, the Dplus/US Root Trust network and the ircDDB D-Star open network. Again in principle, the two are mutually exclusive networks and are not interconnected.

This creates an issue where D-Star users accessing the “D-Star World” via a Dplus connection cannot connect to other gateways and reflectors that are using the ircDDB network and vice versa and are therefore limited to accessing the Dplus REFxxxX reflectors. (eg REF023C)

Hams being hams, they just cannot help themselves, the challenge was there and so software was developed that when installed on the Dplus Icom based gateways, allowed interconnectivity into the ircDDB networks and allow access to the XRFxxxX and DCSxxxX based reflectors. One version of this software is called “g2_link” and is designed to be added to existing Icom based D-Star gateway systems on the US Root Trust network.

Early March 2019, Michael VK5ZEA, who is custodian of the VK5REX D-Star system on lower Eyre Peninsular, advised me that he has rebuilt the VK5REX system and had successfully installed the “g2_link” software with the help of Terry, KA8SCP. Michael also passed on Terry’s contact details, whereupon I made contact and asked Terry if he would mind assisting with installing the “g2_link” software on VK5RWN.

Terry most kindly agreed to assist and arrangements were made that allowed Terry to install the software and set up the necessary configuration and interlocks so that both the Dplus and the ‘g2_link’ accessed networks could be worked via VK5RWN.

This now allows for D-Star users to access VK5RWN via a RF input from their D-Star radios and they may now access both the REFxxxX, XRFxxxX and DCSxxxX reflectors and gateways.

A bonus as part of this new configuration, new Dashboards were part of the set-up and now show the connection status and ‘Last Heard’ lists of the VK5RWN system.

Have a look at

For D-star users, please read the instructions at the bottom of the XRF/DCS Dashboard. This is important as there are two distinctly different “linking” or “unlinking” commands to connect or disconnect to and from REF reflectors and the XRF/DCS reflectors. This is so that the system can differentiate between a request via Dplus or the ‘g2_link’ and allow the respective link request to be actioned or disconnected.

It is recommended for D-Star users to use VK5RWN Port C, the two metre port, for connecting to any of the reflectors as VK5RWN Port B, the 70cm port, is normally permanently connected to the REF023C Australasian/Oceania reflector. Before connecting to a reflector, please ensure that the Port is not currently connected to anywhere else. The VK5RWN B 70cm port may be used, but it must be disconnected from REF023C first.

I wish to thank Michael VK5ZEA for his support and advice and especially Terry, KA8SCP, for his help, patience and advice where I needed to do some house keeping that allows VK5RWN to function as a flexible D-Star gateway, allowing D-Star users access to the big wide world via both the Dplus and ircDDB D-Star networks.

73 Ben VK5BB

VK5RSB Repeater Maintenance – New 70cm Antenna

AREG is pleased to report that its VK5RSB 70cm service is now back to full working order after suffering from an intermittent receive fault for many months now.

The problem was tracked down to a faulty antenna allowing water ingress into the feed line. A new dipole array antenna has now been installed and the feed line has been re-terminated. Early feedback suggests the repeater’s coverage has been restored to normal. Further reports would be most welcome!

The long and short of the story is,

  • The LDF5-50 coax termination connector at the top of the coax was removed and internals examined. Plenty of corrosion was found – all green!
  • The new antenna checked was then checked on the ground with network analyser and was given a clean bill of health before being installed at the top of the tower
  • The coax end at the top of the tower was then cleaned and a new connector was fitted and sealed

Meanwhile,  down in the hut, Paul VK5BX could not help himself. He pulled the rack installation apart and refitted all of the equipment and created additional rack space, helped by Peter VK5APR.

Once the VK5RSB repeater was all connected back up, the system was tested. The team measured 75 watts up the “stick”, with 1 watt returned, an excellent outcome!

AREG wishes to thank all crew on site for their help and participation. The crew were,

  • Ben VK5BB, lead, 1st rigger,
  • Colin VK5ACE, 2nd rigger,
  • David VK5MDF, “gofer” ground member
  • Hank VK5XB, “gofer” ground member,
  • Paul VK5BX, ground technician and antenna tester,
  • Peter VK5APR, ground technician assistant

On return from the site there were a number of QSOs with a number of different people, all gave good signal reports and all QSOs were free from that intermittent receive/transmit noise, including the hourly AREG announcement! Further reports are welcome to secretary (at) areg.org.au