Packet Radio

Yes I know with the Internet speeds you can get hooking your computer up to your cell phone why would you want to do 1200 bps or 9600 bps over radio?  Well I tell you why, because it just sounds cool and is something I haven’t done before.  This could also come in very handy in an emergency situation where all the cell towers could be down.  I can always rely on my HAM radio equipment.

I am using, "The Ultimate Linking Interface" to connect my computer to my radio.  The ULI, is a nice little device with all the inputs and outputs you could want.  I also just purchased a FT-7800R so I could dedicate a radio to this effort.  Like all my other equipment I purchased this from www.hamcity.com

.packetradio

After a little trial and error I was able to get it up and running using the RJ-45 connector on the ULI and the 6 PIN DIN on the FT-7800R.  Here is the wiring layout that I used to connect the ULI to the FT-7800R.

Wiring Layout
FT-7800R to ULI
FT-7800R   ULI
PIN Description   PIN Description
1 PKD (Data in)   6 MIC Input
2 GND   5 MIC GND
3 PTT   4 PTT
4 RX9600   3 AF Output
5 RX1200   3 AF Output
6 PKS (SQL)   8 SQL Switch

Depending on the speed of the packets you want to send you would connect PIN 4 or 5 from the FT-7800R to PIN 3 on the ULI.  The ULI uses a standard RJ-45 connection and the PIN layout starts from the left.

I am running this on the same computer as my WiRES-II system.  I installed a second sound card, and to not cause any conflicts I am running VMWare Workstation 6 and Windows XP Pro inside the VM.  VMWare allows me to chose which sound card the Virtual Machine will use and this doesn’t cause any MIC or Speaker conflicts on the sound cards and each can be configured independently.

packetradio2

I am currently using AGWPE as my packet engine and I am using WinPak as the packet radio program.  It rides on top of AGWPE.  I haven’t done much with this yet, but I am hoping to get more involved with some people here locally that are doing this type of stuff.

Last weekend I also finally mounted my antenna a Diamond CR8900A 29/50/144/440 antenna on the roof this weekend.  It has been sitting just outside my basement door.  I know this probably isn’t the best base antenna, but for now it is working.  I don’t know much about antennas so any suggestions would be great.

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My antenna is up on the same tripod as my Davis Vantage Pro2 system.  It is the tallest point I have right now.

Redfield Weather

I have become a real big weather buff over the last couple of years.  I have a Davis Vantage Pro2 station on the roof.  All of my data is live on the Internet at www.redfieldweather.com and the Weather Underground at, http://www.wunderground.com/weatherstation/WXDailyHistory.asp?ID=KMINILES3.

I bought the Davis Vantage Pro2 a couple years ago now, and last year I added a Boltek Lightning detector.  That data is also pushed to my web site and to StrikeStarUS.

redfieldweather1

This picture is of my weather station computer and you can also see my FT-8900R radio along with the HRI-100 that connects it to WiRES-II.

The top monitor shows my lightening data and WASP2.  WASP2 is an application that displays data from StrikeStarUS and also display Doppler RADAR images.  WASP2 creates the main image on the top of my web page at www.redfieldweather.com.

The bottom monitor displays all the data collected from the Davis Vantage Pro2.  The software is Virtual Weather Station, not the coolest looking software but it does give me a lot of data and a lot of images that can be used on my web site.

Here is a very cold picture of the weather station in the ice we had earlier this year on 1-15-2007.

redfieldweather2

I also have a weather radio on my desk that is streaming the local NOAA weather radio to the weather underground.  You can listen to the stream here.  The weather radio also has an LED strobe attached to it, so when there is a weather alert the LED will flash.

My wife makes fun of me, but I think all this is cool.  I love computers and stuff that can connect to them.  Not a cheap hobby but a fun one none the less.

WiRES-II Setup and Running

Well I finally got everything setup and running.  My server ID is 1468, and it is running in simplex mode on frequency of 433.125 MHz and a tone of 94.8.  It is running from a tower on my roof, so not the greatest footprint, but it is a start.  To get a list of active WiRES-II stations click here, http://www.vxstd.com/en/wiresinfo-en/activelist.html.

wiresii

There were some problems along the way and getting information from Yaesu was like getting your teeth pulled.  I would also like to thank WD7F John from Arizona for helping me fix some problems in my configuration and tolerating me tying up his repeaters.

One of my problem was trying to figure out how to connect the HRI-100 to the FT-8900R.  Every diagram I have seen on how to setup WiRES-II shows the configuration I have, so you would think it would include everything you would need to connect these 2 devices.  However when you get the HRI-100 it doesn’t include the expected cable.  It does include a 8 pin DIN connector with about 2′ of wire, so I ended up having to order the CT-39 packet connector for the FT-8900R.  This is a 6 pin DIN connector with again about a 2′ of wire.  You would think that after getting all this hardware that it should go together in a snap.  Well you would be wrong.  I couldn’t find anywhere online where there was a wiring diagram on how to connect the HRI-100 to the FT-8900R.  I just couldn’t believe that the configuration they display doesn’t have a wiring diagram.  Well I emailed the support email on the WiRES-II web site, and would you believe the email address they have for the US is a bad address, so that was no help.

After about a week of emails to any address I could find I finally emailed the main customer service email on the Yaesu site complaining about the lack of support, and would you believe the next day I got an answer to my email.  I finally got my wiring diagram got everything connected together and it wasn’t working.  The system wasn’t transmitting, so I rechecked my connections and I did everything that they showed.  I reviewed the packaging of of the CT-39A and I noticed that the PTT line wasn’t connected in their diagram.  I thought that was strange so I decided to wire the PTTs together and see what happened, and would you believe it worked.  I finally had WiRES-II transmitting and receiving on the Internet and on my local radio.

So nobody else has to go through the headache that I did wiring this up here is the correct wiring diagram (pin outs) that you would need to connect your HRI-100 to a FT-8900R

Wiring Layout
FT-8900R to HRI-100
FT-8900R   HRI-100
PIN Description   PIN Description
1 PKD (Data in)   3 Audio Out
2 GND   5 GND
3 PTT   6 PTT
4 RX9600   8 N/C
5 RX1200   7 AF Input
6 PKS (SQL)   1 Busy/COR

Well I hope that can help someone out there.  Where my headache can be someone else’s joy and easy setup.

You would think that this would be the worst of it, but you would be wrong.  I can’t believe in this day and age that to sign up for an Internet based service you have to snail mail in your application.  I don’t understand why I can’t fill out this application online and then within a few hours I should get my server ID.  I sent in my application and about 10 days later I got an email with my server ID.  The software I had was older so I went to the web site to download the newer version.  To access the download site you need your server ID and the serial number of your HRI-100.  Well my login wouldn’t work, I couldn’t login to the download site or sign-in to the older software that I already had.  The serial number that they had was wrong.  Several emails and many hours later they fixed my serial number on their servers and everything was working.

All that said I am pretty happy with the setup, it is nice to see a manufacture make a full Internet solution.  I do have a couple suggestions that I would like to see.  First I would like to see them put user forums on their WiRES-II web site.  Their email support is so slow and user forums could really help.  I would also like to see them make the software compatible with EchoLink.  There should be no reason they couldn’t do this and it would really widen the reach of a WiRES-II system.

WiRES-II isn’t very popular in the US, so I may have to switch to EchoLink down the road.  I may see if I can cross connect them myself on the same radio and computer, but I am not sure if all this will run on one computer with multiple sound cards.

Got My License

Well I just got my HAM radio license KD8FWV. This is something I have wanted to do for years. My dad WA8MNF has been a ham for as long as I can remember. Since they have removed the Morse code requirement from all the levels I figured it was about time. I only have my Technician right now, but I am thinking I want to go all the way to Extra. Not sure what else I will do with it but I am looking forward to learning new stuff. I am really excited to see what I can do with my computer and my radio.

For my first radio I purchased a Yaesu VX-7RB. I purchased it from www.hamcity.com, and I would have to say I would high recommend them. When I purchased my radio I accidently ordered an extra belt clip. They emailed me before they shipped the order and told me about the problem and credited my credit card the money for the extra belt clip.

I have on order everything to setup a WIRES-II (Wide-coverage Internet Repeater Enhancement System). I purchased a FT-8900R and a HRI-100 to get my radio on the Internet. I haven’t gotten them yet; the FT-8900R is on back order. I should get them this week and I am pretty excited to get this up and running.

I will get pictures and more information about my WIRES-II site up when everything is up and running.

ASP.NET SQL Session State in a Web Farm

I found out the hard way that storing session in a SQL server takes a little more work then most of the books that I have read talk about.  Most articles don?t talk about what settings you should have when you are in a web farm.  This article will hopefully point you in the right directions and keep you from the headaches that I had.

One of the first things to check is the easiest to fix.  You will need to make sure you have a constant machine key between servers.  The machine key is used for encryption and decryption of cookie data.  Unless you set the machine key to a specific code on each machine they will use their own unique key, so when your connection switches from one server to the other server it can?t decrypt the data and you lose your session.

Microsoft has a couple articles on their site on how to create the machine keys and where to place them.  You can place this machine key in your machine.config or web.config files.

  • 312906 HOW TO: Create Keys by Using Visual C# .NET for Use in Forms Authentication
  • 313091 HOW TO: Create Keys by Using Visual Basic .NET for Use in Forms Authentication

The other fix is a little more complicated to change and is less likely to be a problem for everyone.  This problem happens when you add more web sites to one server then to the other server then you try to load balance two web sites.  What happens is that the application path for the web sites is different on each server.  For example on one server you have a web with an application path of \LMW3SVC2 and on the other server it has an application path of \LMW3SVC4.  The problem is IIS uses the application path to store the data, and if they don?t match you will lose your session.  You will have to synchronize the application path for the web sites on all your web servers in the web farm.

Microsoft has an article on this problem and how to fix it.  If you think this is your problem please check out this article.

  • 325056 PRB: Session State Is Lost in Web Farm If You Use SqlServer or StateServer Session Mode

When I was going through this we had both of these problems, and after running though these steps we are now using SQL session state on our web site, on a three server web farm.