Author Topic: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms  (Read 1312 times)

Offline Smurf Hunter

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some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« on: June 15, 2017, 02:56:14 PM »
A couple weeks back I got SoundModem and RMS playing together, so I was able to send packet email via Winlink using a TigerTronics signalink, but without the traditional TNC (modem).
This seemed like a cool trick, especially as the local ARES group(s) use Winlink as part of their comms plan.

From my vehicle, parked in my home driveway, there is only one RMS gateway I can reliably connect to.  It is only 2 miles away...
If I try from my upstairs, using "Big Stick" mounted in my attic (~30 feet above driveway elevation) I can reach 3 stations, all inside of 10 miles.

Here's my point and concern. During an "off-grid" emergency where internet/cell phone service is interrupted, there's an extremely high chance these nearby packet stations will be offline as well.
None are advertised as having backup power, but I suspect some do.

Really the only tactical value of an RMS gateway without the internet might be to relay message traffic between stations.
e.g. station A sends email to station B, but it's stuck sitting on the RMS gateway as there's no internet.
Station B connects and downloads his messages.

However, unless there's a mutual elevation gain for each station talking to the RMS gateway, A and B may as well try peer-to-peer packet.

I think having packet capability could be important, but I'm not sure if it will be a difference maker during an emergency.

Offline armymars

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2017, 04:06:13 PM »
  MARS use too be heavy in HF Winlink. The idea was to allow stations to find a link that could connect to the Internet somewhere in the US. We have gotten away from that as our mission has changed. 

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2017, 06:18:40 PM »
  MARS use too be heavy in HF Winlink. The idea was to allow stations to find a link that could connect to the Internet somewhere in the US. We have gotten away from that as our mission has changed.
HF using winmor or pactor in theory gets your traffic outside of the affected area. 

E.g. a big seattle earthquake takes out grid comms for 100 miles.  I might reach northern CA via winmor and get an email onto the Internet that way. 

Though that's more for personal welfare traffic, and less about emergency agency comms.

Offline iam4liberty

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 06:28:40 PM »
Here's my point and concern. During an "off-grid" emergency where internet/cell phone service is interrupted, there's an extremely high chance these nearby packet stations will be offline as well...

I think having packet capability could be important, but I'm not sure if it will be a difference maker during an emergency.

The APRS network may be more robust for text messaging. The Wide Area repeaters generally have backup power.  And many fill in digipeaters and igates do too. This is partly because one of the main uses of APRS is weather station monitoring so users are concerned about power outages from storms.  Also with satallite relay hams are able to send emergency messages from anywhere in the world using HTs.  And, of course, APRS is fully integrated with SMS messaging and email allowing the sending of messages to non-hams.

A couple years ago my area got hit with a windstorm (localized macroburst) and cellular was knocked out for about 2 hours.  But APRS and voice repeaters remained operational.  So plan B did work.

From the above you might find learning to work the satellites fun. You have all the hardware already.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2017, 07:29:50 AM »
From the above you might find learning to work the satellites fun. You have all the hardware already.

when I first got my ticket, I did setup connect to SO-50 briefly. I used a mono band FT-2900 VHF mobile to TX using a big copper j-pole (not directional, I know), and using headphones was listening to the downlink UHF frequencies using an old Uniden scanner. A crude sloppy setup, no QSO, but my kids and I could hear my on the downlink. 

While a novelty, without the smart phone app showing the windows of the when the birds are overhead, it'd be difficult to coordinate the communication windows needed for orbiting satellites.

Offline Carl

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2017, 09:06:08 AM »
when I first got my ticket, I did setup connect to SO-50 briefly. I used a mono band FT-2900 VHF mobile to TX using a big copper j-pole (not directional, I know), and using headphones was listening to the downlink UHF frequencies using an old Uniden scanner. A crude sloppy setup, no QSO, but my kids and I could hear my on the downlink. 

While a novelty, without the smart phone app showing the windows of the when the birds are overhead, it'd be difficult to coordinate the communication windows needed for orbiting satellites.

Success depends a lot on organized communications plan so someone is at the other end of the string. Digital advantages are great,but can get 'lost' without a well organized group of participants.
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Offline SCWolverine

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2017, 03:32:28 PM »
Well...I have Winlink VHF P2P Packet working in the shack over RF 2 rigs on opposing benches  ;)

this is how I celebrated something working!
https://www.instagram.com/p/BVc5qI7gcyJ/

From there I'm running into the wall.  For whatever reason I'm not able to connect to a local Winlink node and push an email?
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Offline LodeRunner

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2017, 01:25:19 PM »
A couple weeks back I got SoundModem and RMS playing together, so I was able to send packet email via Winlink using a TigerTronics signalink, but without the traditional TNC (modem).
This seemed like a cool trick, especially as the local ARES group(s) use Winlink as part of their comms plan.

From my vehicle, parked in my home driveway, there is only one RMS gateway I can reliably connect to.  It is only 2 miles away...
If I try from my upstairs, using "Big Stick" mounted in my attic (~30 feet above driveway elevation) I can reach 3 stations, all inside of 10 miles.

Here's my point and concern. During an "off-grid" emergency where internet/cell phone service is interrupted, there's an extremely high chance these nearby packet stations will be offline as well.
...

Smurf,

WinLink was originally *just* an HF system (back in the '90s), and HF is still the backbone of the system.  The purpose of the Packet side of WinLink is to deliver messages distributed on the HF network and to submit messages to the HF network for distribution; not to create or provide a stand-alone network.  That's the specification.  Period. 

When the new WinLink architecture was being developed (2003~2006) there was a lot of discussion  about where to allow dependencies, and how to control them -- some of that 'discussion' was pretty heated, I know because I was [peripherally] on the development team -- and the key dependencies being argued over were HF and Internet connectivity, and how to manage each of them.  At that time, there was no "good" VHF/UHF packet network anywhere in North America.  Most of the development team agreed that "packet is dead" except as a local distribution network for the HF-based WinLink system.  The opinion that "packet is dead" became a design assumption in the current WinLink2000 architecture, and so there really isn't much built-in capability for "networking" Packet in Winlink today --- their Packet implementation is just a "last mile" solution whittled down to it's simplest and barest form.

I disagreed with the majority of the WinLink dev team regarding Packet back then -- and although it took nearly a decade, I'm being proven correct, as packet is enjoying a renaissance  in several areas of CONUS.

Now, with good mesh-networking (P2P) with battery backed-up nodes, you can stretch a "local" Packet network pretty far.   
What do I mean by "a good mesh network"?  Take a look at this (running in my area) -
http://tarpn.net/t/network.html

And this, using a totally different architecture, running in Florida -
http://www.fla-sedan.com/sedaninfo.html

If you want more bandwidth, then getting a group together to do something like this makes sense -
http://ve2zaz.net/Presentations/Downloads/VE2ZAZ_BBHN_Mesh_presentation.pdf

We tried an "HSMM" network in my area back in the early 2000s and didn't have a lot of success, but times (and technology) have changed, and I think it's time to give it another try - bridging the 'gaps' in the HSMM/BBHN network with lower speed packet connections to maintain a good redundant mesh topology.

But for any Packet/HSMM network to grow, there has to be active participation.  So the primary challenge is not technology, but people.
If you want a good network in your area, the best approach is to be one of the folks out there recruiting new participants, building nodes, and generally making it happen.

If you have questions, ask away.  I'm happy to share what I know.

Cheers





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Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2017, 02:52:18 PM »
Smurf,

WinLink was originally *just* an HF system (back in the '90s), and HF is still the backbone of the system.  The purpose of the Packet side of WinLink is to deliver messages distributed on the HF network and to submit messages to the HF network for distribution; not to create or provide a stand-alone network.  That's the specification.  Period. 

When the new WinLink architecture was being developed (2003~2006) there was a lot of discussion  about where to allow dependencies, and how to control them -- some of that 'discussion' was pretty heated, I know because I was [peripherally] on the development team -- and the key dependencies being argued over were HF and Internet connectivity, and how to manage each of them.  At that time, there was no "good" VHF/UHF packet network anywhere in North America.  Most of the development team agreed that "packet is dead" except as a local distribution network for the HF-based WinLink system.  The opinion that "packet is dead" became a design assumption in the current WinLink2000 architecture, and so there really isn't much built-in capability for "networking" Packet in Winlink today --- their Packet implementation is just a "last mile" solution whittled down to it's simplest and barest form.

I disagreed with the majority of the WinLink dev team regarding Packet back then -- and although it took nearly a decade, I'm being proven correct, as packet is enjoying a renaissance  in several areas of CONUS.

Now, with good mesh-networking (P2P) with battery backed-up nodes, you can stretch a "local" Packet network pretty far.   
What do I mean by "a good mesh network"?  Take a look at this (running in my area) -
http://tarpn.net/t/network.html

And this, using a totally different architecture, running in Florida -
http://www.fla-sedan.com/sedaninfo.html

If you want more bandwidth, then getting a group together to do something like this makes sense -
http://ve2zaz.net/Presentations/Downloads/VE2ZAZ_BBHN_Mesh_presentation.pdf

We tried an "HSMM" network in my area back in the early 2000s and didn't have a lot of success, but times (and technology) have changed, and I think it's time to give it another try - bridging the 'gaps' in the HSMM/BBHN network with lower speed packet connections to maintain a good redundant mesh topology.

But for any Packet/HSMM network to grow, there has to be active participation.  So the primary challenge is not technology, but people.
If you want a good network in your area, the best approach is to be one of the folks out there recruiting new participants, building nodes, and generally making it happen.

If you have questions, ask away.  I'm happy to share what I know.

Cheers

Admittedly during an acute emergency response, we won't be using a packet "network"  but instead a lot of peer-to-peer. 

For FEMA/ICS work there are many situations where transmitting a digital form is preferred to spoken word.
Similar to sending a fax vs phone call.

If my local city EOC needs some resources from the county EOC, we will use VHF radio to verbally tell them to prepare to receive a packet winlink p2p message, frequencies etc. Then send the message.
Once that other party gets the message, potentially they can forward that on via numerous protocols, including TCP/IP telnet over the internet.

Offline LodeRunner

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2017, 03:54:51 PM »
Admittedly during an acute emergency response, we won't be using a packet "network"  but instead a lot of peer-to-peer. 

You're most probably correct.  Things will be very ad-hoc; they always are when disaster strikes. 

While I spent many years focused on Emergency Communications, i.e. ARES/EMCOMM, etc., I don't any more.  Now I'm much more interested in prepper/SHTF comms *outside* the government circus tent.  That's why things like TARPN - http://tarpn.net/t/network.html - are interesting to me.  That's why low-power NVIS digital comms are interesting to me. 

VHF/UHF Packet is a unique and very flexible means of creating ad-hoc communications systems that work well under disaster/grid-down conditions, and the truth is that there is a lot of unexplored opportunity to improve on that.  TARPN is one of several projects I'm aware of, which is exploring/developing that opportunity into a very viable grid-down comms resource for local and even regional use.

Let me qualify the "I don't any more" statement with regards to ARES/EMCOMM - I'm not speaking negatively about ARES/EMCOMM - but I don't spend the ongoing, focused time and effort to be a super-prepared "leader" in that sphere like I used to.  There are plenty of younger, motivated folks seeking that kind of 'excitement' and I'm happy to have them.  If called, I can and will roll with my kit to do what needs doing - and the State EM folks know how to get ahold of me.  I just don't need the constant 'excitement' and participation in the recognition-seeking loop any more.

Cheers

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I have it every time I drive past VOA.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2017, 10:47:52 AM »
I have yet to get any recognition, but then again I'm not in it for that, and mostly support marathons and parades.

Between FEMA/ICS training and CERT, I have learned a great deal how the government works, or at least how they intend to work. My preps have shifted to address the gaps I've identified.
Knowing what to expect following a major regional emergency is pretty important. 

There are scenarios where we could be on our own indefinitely, there are many more scenarios where things area really bad, but in a limited proximity, and we need to hold things together until reinforcements arrive.

If there's a 9.0 earthquake in Western Washington (where I live) and 20,000+ casualties, I'll likely be put to work doing something mundane like inventorying supplies at a shelter - because I'm a vetted volunteer with credentials.
I might possibly pass some radio traffic too.  What I won't do is go on a self-supported backpacking trip into the woods with an AR-15, MREs and a QRP rig while my community sifts through rubble and triages injured loved ones.

Almost any natural disaster will be local or at most regional.  My earthquake won't bother Texas, and a Florida hurricane won't bother me.  The unaffected regions will support the affected.  So in my mind ARES/EMCOMM is a bit like first aid, where we do our best until professionals arrive.

Offline idelphic

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Re: some thoughts on packet winlink email for emergency comms
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2017, 03:23:24 PM »
I'd like to do more packet,.. I started out on packet on VHF, nearly had a confirmed connection to MIR, and have linked around the world (litterally) to send a email across town...

In my area, there isnt much VHF or UHF 'desire' yet.  ...  I have been looking at JT65 and PSK31, but these modes are not the same as the WINLINK system....

I have two TNCs, and have been planning on a dedicated VHF node with a Kenwood Mobile.  I just haven't found the time - well really haven't had the money due to '.... issues'
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