Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thursday Night Net Operations - Listening In......

The "other" radio club I'm in has been running a Thursday night Net since way before I got back into Ham Radio in 1995, and for about 10 of the last 21 years, I've been the Net Control station.

The functions of the Net Control are varied, depending on the type of net run, what frequencies it uses, and a whole lot of other things. Our club net was generally an informal on-the-air gathering where roll was called, people checked in, net control made some general announcements, and then turned the net over to the club president who polled each club officer, told us what specific events were coming up, and then opened the net up to club members for questions, comments, tall tales, etc. Pretty informal stuff, and not nearly as structured as an EMCOMM or traffic handling net would be, where you basically check-in, and then maintain radio silence until asked to respond.

WELL.....some years ago the owner of the repeater we used decided to connect the repeater as an Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) node. IRLP is an interesting technology, which requires the users to access the node using a radio, and then the node converts to voice to VOIP, and sends it into the Internet, where it pops out on another node, and goes back out over-the-air. While a Ham can make a direct connection from their PC to the node, it's generally NOT allowed, somewhat ensuring that actual radios are used by the participants.

This is different than Echolink, which may or may not require a radio to access a node, or may be accessed directly from your computer.

Echolink has been (sometimes unfairly) compared to being a "glorified chat-room", as Hams can make "contacts" computer-to-computer, with NO RF involved at all. The only thing that makes it "Ham Only" is that in order to get registered as a node and have access to the system, you have to submit a copy of your Amateur Radio license.

These systems generally work quite well, and usually allow "arm chair copy" of the stations you're talking to, as long as you have a good (full quieting) signal into the repeater/node.

HOWEVER.....since you're dealing with interconnected machines over long distances, your operating procedure has to be different than if you're using a "normal" repeater, or operating simplex, namely that you must add a significant pause after the repeater stops transmitting, and another pause after you start your transmission, but before you speak.

This is because each of the linked repeaters has to stop transmitting, sit idle for a bit, and then accept your transmission. The pause before you speak is required to allow things to "settle" into their new state, and if you don't pause before speaking, you're likely to have the first few syllables, or even complete words, chopped off.

All this is quite variable, and depends on how each node/link is configured, and can vary from "pretty quick" to "almost useless".

Unfortunately the repeater the club was using falls into the latter category.....

I got very tired of explaining the same thing, to the same people, over and over and over again, week after week after week.

One particularly bad night I decided I'd had it, and sent an email to the club that effective immediately, I was no longer going to be the Net Control Station. A few guys jumped in to do it on a week-to-week basis, but it took a couple of months before somebody volunteered to take it over.

A few weeks ago the club decided to abandon the repeater, and go to a simplex net. We have a couple of guys who live on the Palos Verdes peninsula, and have enough elevation to overlook the entire L.A. Basin, so they can act as relays for those times when the Net Control Station can't hear someone clearly.

Some club members were unhappy with this, with reasons ranging from "All I have is an HT, and I won't be heard" (valid reason, but get an outside antenna and it'll help a lot. This guy lives where outside antennas are allowed, and his family is very well off), to "I'll have to reprogram my radio" (bogus - if you can't program ONE new, SIMPLEX frequency you probably don't deserve a Ham license), along with the usual complainers who gripe about EVERYTHING.

So, tonight I listened in, and as expected, the guys on Palos Verdes come booming in, and the other stations ranged from readable, to pure noise. I know I have an antenna issue with the 2M/70cm rig I'm using in the shack, and I have the parts to fix it. I suppose I should do that tomorrow, take a few pix, and have another post about "Don't Do This!", but that's for a later date.

The guy who took over the net has come a long ways, with a significant amount of "Elmering" by myself and the other experienced operators, but that's also another story for another day........


  1. Back in the days when CB radio was the height of low-budget tech, I thought ham radio involved radios, electricity and sorcery of some sort. Sounds like that hasn't changed. :)

  2. And the ones that can't hear you and ask for half dozen repeats will still give you a 59.
    Looking forward to the follow up posts.

    1. Oh, did you ever hit a nerve!

      Why even bother to give a "signal report" if they're not somewhat accurate?

      Or the people who tell somebody on the repeater that they're "59" when what they really mean is the other station is full quieting INTO the repeater....

  3. I haven't messed with IRLP, other than listening to the Friday Night Fun Net a few times. I might've listend to the "Good Morning" net once or twice. Now we have Fusion and Allstar here too. And D-Star.

    I've noticed the same problem with linked repeaters. The Colorado Connection has a bunch of those - not IRLP or Echolink, just linked machines - I think they're using 2GHz microwave, but I'm probably wrong about at least some of that. I've tried to listen nets on that system, and it's hard for me. I guess it's hard for other people too. I know some operators who are awful quick on the mike key.

    1. I've used the Condor Net (linked by various methods) on 220 out here, and it's not nearly as bad as the IRLP node we were using.

      I don't know if IRLP in general is that finicky, or if this node isn't configured correctly, but that repeater is basically useless for local communications.

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  5. Hmm, the winsystem almost always sounds great. Nets and conversations sound just like they are happening on our local repeater, here in Houston.

    I listen to and sometimes participate in several 'internet linked' nets, primarily through our local repeater, tied to the western conference reflector. It works flawlessly and without noticeable delay.

    Our TX wide system (saltgrass) of linked repeaters sounds good too.

    I guess it depends on your local infrastructure.


    BTW, I like the radio resto articles, and any refurb and refit articles. I'm using a bunch of older gear for budget reasons, and thru general thriftiness. It all needs some work, so I like seeing what others have done.

    For example a yardsale yaesu FT-847 into a homemade dipole, a refurbed multiband vertical, and a refurbed ringo from estate sales(ringo still needs to be connected.) One mobile came from a yard sale, and one from a pawn shop. The HTs were new, but I've added some repurposed public service HTs to the mix now too.

    Anything you do with digital modes would be interesting too!

    (sorry for the delete and repost, there wasn't any way to edit, and I crossed some personally identifiable info in there.)

  6. Go back through the archives here. I did a bunch of stuff with digital modes and dongles a year or so ago.

    One of these days I'll take the time to tag all the posts so they'll be searchable!


Keep it civil, please....

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