Monday, January 31, 2011

Packet lives!

I thought packet radio was all but dead. Yesterday I heard Richard MM1BHO mention that there was a packet node in Scotland on 70cm at the same location as the GB3LA repeater which is a monstrous signal here. I asked Richard to tell me the frequency so I could have a listen. I wasn't optimistic about hearing anything as 70cm has always seemed a bit of a dead loss for me. I had to wait a while to hear anything, and when I did, I found the packet signal was 20dB over S9 which is the strongest signal I've ever heard on 70!

I then spent a couple of hours trying to sort out a way of receiving the packet. TrueTTY seemed like a good choice. It decoded the packets and displayed them on its screen. But I couldn't find any software that would work with its virtual TNC.

I also tried AGW Packet Engine in sound card mode. That, too, decoded packets, so I got the AGW Terminal software as well. But I could not transmit. The software keyed the PTT when it was supposed to, but there was no audio modulation.

Finally I bit the bullet, shut down the APRS gateway and put the Kenwood D710 into packet mode. I then set up AGWPE to talk with the Kenwood's TNC. That worked, and I was able to connect to the node whose call is GB7WD. I was wondering what to do next when Clive GM4FZH connected to me and I had my first chat over packet radio since the mid-1980s!

I'm afraid after all that time I have forgotten just about anything I knew about packet radio so I'm still pretty clueless as to what to do. I don't know how to set up a mailbox, or even where to set one up. There seems to be a shortage of material on the interweb aimed at packet newbies (or oldies like me where the onset of Alzheimer's has erased any memory of what we once knew!)

I think packet radio is something I will enjoy playing with again. I went back to AGWPE soundcard mode and found that the reason I was not getting any audio was because although the software says it uses the left channel which online references claim is the tip of the stereo jack, it was actually present on the ring. After resoldering the connector on the audio cable I was able to transmit packets as well as receive them, and G4ILO is now listening on the GB7WD frequency on the A side of my TM-D710 while my 2m APRS gateway is using the B side. There are just so many things to do in this hobby!
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