Amateur Radio

Amateur Radio

I could say a lot about Amateur Radio, but I’ll keep it simple here.Rick’s call sign is N0NJY – Amateur Extra Class

JoAnne’s call sign is KB0IRW – Technician

We’ve been hams for… a long time, probably close to twenty years now and both have kept our original call signs and probably will for good. I am a member of the American Radio Relay League though it is one more thing to pay money for and while it certainly IS a good organization, no doubt, it’s money that should be going into the cruising kitty!

(See… I’m getting cheaper as I get older and now I know why Scrooge was the way he was, he wanted to go on a cruise and couldn’t!)

A few more things. I’ll be posting a few things here in regards to ham radio specifically for keeping contact with family members, ways to do so, and things like the National Traffic System (NTS). While you don’t have to be a ham to go to sea, it doesn’t hurt.

Things Amateurs frown upon:

Mariner’s who use ham radio’s without a license.

Bad radio practices.

Noisy radios.

“Myths” about things like “capacitive coupling your antenna’s ground to the sea”

Oh, I could go on, but I won’t. Opinions are opinions. My opinion of many things, especially radios, radio practices and “myths” are better than most because I am INFORMED and you should be as well.

Anyway, if you’re truly interested in becoming an Amateur radio operator and getting your license, it’s not difficult and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. Get me on the contact page and I’ll help when I can. Otherwise, contact the ARRL and tell them N0NJY sent you!


Wifi Stuff

originally posted Mar 8, 2013, 12:34 PM by Rick Donaldson

Awhile back I spend some time looking into wifi on a boat. Over time I’ve come to realize that we’ll be using wifi in many places. So, I worked out how to get wifi on the boat down below. I have set up a “bullet” and a homebrew antenna for the device, along with a router, an an open wifi connection (or even one that I have to pay for) I should be able to provide on-board wifi when in reach of a wifi hotspot. I’ve tested it with a netbook, laptop and so forth. When I disconnect all the network in the house soon I will test the whole system at once, and if we get our camper trailer, I’ll set it all up on the trailer so we can use our tablets etc.I’ll put more information in here in the future.


Email over HF

posted Sep 21, 2010, 8:31 AM by Rick Donaldson

I haven’t written in some time because I’ve been busy with life, and such. We did our BVI trip and I wish we could have just stayed.Anyway, over the course of the past few months I’ve been looking into some stuff. I posted I have an issue with Pactor III being a proprietary mode of communications designed by a German company. I have no intention of giving money to the Germans at this point, or anyone else in EU.

Maybe for a sailor that’s something over the top – but, I don’t really care. I’m tired of everyone telling me what I HAVE to do, and how I HAVE to do it or how I HAVE to spend a great deal of cash or my boat will sink or something. Call me a rebel – I am.

But back to the point at hand. Pactor III is fast, the throughput is high and several sites are disallowing anything less than Pactor III now.

Fortunately, a LOT of Amateur Radio Operators and a whole lot of sailors are starting to reconsider this nonsense and are going with the new, virtual modem, Winmor.

Over the course of the last two weeks I have successfully used it to pass traffic (using RMS Express as my software) via HF, VHF, and through telnet.

Last night I finished putting together a large screen laptop and getting wifi working on it. I wired in my new little Tigertronics Signalink USB device, my Icom IC-735 and a couple of antennas and without much trouble at all, I was able to send out message traffic in all three modes previously mentioned, through both local and distantly remote stations.

Unfortunately, the 20m band died before I was finished testing last night so I had to switch to 40m. I had a difficult time getting a connection too due to SWL interference on that band around 7077.5 khz.

As far as I can tell though, depending on your location on the planet, there are plenty of stations running RMS on HF now for Winmor. The list was pretty extensive for stations running Winmor. The more hams that do it, the better the chance email can get get in and out of remote locations.

There’s also a few sailors running it from what I am hearing. I guess we will wait and see?

I did notice that one of the CA yacht clubs has upgraded some gear, and running winmor too! Cool


Something’s been bugging me…

posted Feb 25, 2010, 11:14 AM by Rick Donaldson

I have a real problem with the Amateur Radio Community lately… the very idea that a commercialized, for profit industry is becoming the de facto standard for speedy HF Data traffic is really bothering me.The Amateur Radio Community has always prided itself in its ability to do pretty much anything with nothing. With a simply built oscillator and an antenna and two wires to key the emitter of a vacuum tube they are able to send an emergency signal calling for help over the air.

Today, if you are in the remote jungles of Brazil and happen to be a missionary, or you’re a yachtsman or yachtswoman in a remote region of the planet afloat somewhere and you want to get a message out, you can certainly pick up the microphone of any high frequency radio and call for help on single sideband. Ham radio operators can do the same thing on their own frequencies.

But, if you want to send a digital signal, in the form of an email, you practically have to spend what would otherwise be a months worth of money for food and fuel to purchase a “Pactor III” modem from some, I’m sure, very fine fellows in Germany.

My question is… what? Why?

Why is the radio community LIMITING itself to this mode? Pactor I is out. The ham radio community won’t even let you be an HF station unless you HAVE a 24/7/365 station on the air, with an expensive (1200-1900 USD) Pactor modem from these guys in Germany.

What happened to American ingenuity? Why are we counting on a proprietary protocol? Sure, it’s a bit quicker, and certainly the WINMOR program is a small answer, a way around proprietary licensing agreements, but it’s not the whole answer.

What happened to regular old packet protocols? I’m saddened to think that the Amateur Radio community (not just the Americans) are getting away from the fierce independence they used to have, like when the discussions about ‘canceling Morse Code requirements’ arguments used to rage. I’m in the middle on CW – and I think it’s a great, in fact probably necessary knowlege skill, but I don’t think it should be required either. On the other hand, I know Code but don’t use it so it’s rusty. Sending code is easy. Copying it is hard.

Sending packet with a simple KPC-3 is easy. Getting set up to use Airmail/Sailmail and pactor is difficult and damned expensive!

A good radio (one that will work on both Amateur and Marine frequencies) is going go cost from $1200-$2000 US dollars. The pactor III modem alone is at least $1000 USD. Of course, you need a computer (a netbook works, I’ve tested it, but it also isn’t very easy to set up for someone who is not a Geek like Me) and that’s another $300 – $2000 bucks. Lots of money just to be able to send email from some remote location, huh?

Guess I don’t need it. But it’s something I want to have for my children and grandchildren to write to me while I’m out.

I’ll be spending the big bucks to make sure the boat has the power requirements, and email capabilities I need. But – I’m disappointed in the Amateur Community these days.

Simple, my friends, has always been cheaper, easier and most importantly most reliable of all.


Rick, N0NJY



Linux Onboard

posted Feb 17, 2010, 7:12 AM by Rick Donaldson

I run Ubuntu. Over the weekend (a three dayer for me) I spent most of my free time running back and forth to my laptop computer upgrading from Ubuntu 8.04 to 9.10. It took all three days to complete the process, doing three full upgrades and having to fight during one of them to correct a video driver issue that essentially rendered the computer useless until I killed some proprietary driver that was resetting X-windows to an incorrect resolution. Yuk, what a pain that was.In other news though – I think I have decided that because of the robustness of Linux as an OS I’ll most likely use that on the boat as my computer OS.

I have used several programs under Linux and Windows and they both work, Linux just seems quicker and cleaner to use. Unfortunately, it’s also more Geeky than most people want to be. I’m a Geek from way back (my first computer was a slide rule and my second one was a single board computer I built myself with 4K of RAM and switches and LEDs for programming). So, personally, I have little problem with using it as an OS. I have a feeling I’m going to have to convince the First Mate though…. I’ll work it out, flowers and chocolate usually help.



posted Feb 17, 2010, 7:01 AM by Rick Donaldson

Winlink is a project to create a digital communication network through ham radio and the internet. The project uses several programs to make connections work. I am currently set up with a local VHF radio on 144.930 using a packet modem as a Radio Messaging Station (RMS).My netbook is connected to the terminal node controller (TNC), an old Kantronics KPC-3 and to the internet via my comcast cable connection. So far, it’s working.

I have Airmail set up and working at this point ( and email works there as well. So far, so good.

Eventually, I’ll try this over HF to send and receive email – which is my real goal. Being able to collect email from the family while we’re in remote parts of the world will be very helpful.


Email over HF

posted Feb 9, 2010, 8:00 AM by Rick Donaldson

I’ve been involved with ham radio for a long time and loved playing with digital formats, everything from Morse Code to packet radio. Packet radio included doing “TNOS” or “WNOS” which was an implementation of a AX25 via TCP/IP and then over the air.

I ran a local BBS on the air for a time and of course did a lot of packet radio, radio teletype (RTTY) and in general experimented with many of the modes. I continued to play with packet until about four or five years ago when APRS was big.

For some reason packet sort of died out in our local area and I stopped getting email and data via the radio (and in fact have stopped doing much with ham radio of late due to time constraints).

Now, the reason for this article. Over the past two years we’ve been doing a lot of sailing, and a lot of thinking about retirement. When we head out, we will likely give up cellular phones and stick to Amateur Radio and Marine radios for communications since, in most cases we simply won’t be in range of US cell services.

So, that begs the question, without using the US Postal Service or cell phones, how do we get messages out?

A lot of people use the Internet when they hit a port, have wifi capability available and some use email over HF. This is where I get to the meat of the problem.

Right now, there are radio sites, both in the Amateur Spectrum and in the Marine spectrum using Pactor III protocols.

Pactor III is a proprietary protocol created by some German guys, and they want to keep it that way. Profit. Sailmail is a PAY system.

Airmail (the ham side) isn’t pay, BUT you have to use Pactor III or II protocols. Again, you pay a kilobuck for a modem.

Too much money in my estimation.

I’ll be looking more deeply into this problem in the future and let you know what kind of solutions I come up with. Being an engineer, ham radio operator, and having been a communicator for the Air Force and the White House all those years gives me a bit of advantage over others in this respect. At least, for once I know something about what I am talking about.




6 thoughts on “Amateur Radio

  1. Rick: What you have is pretty much what you need. Use your SignaLink USB and a terminal program from UZ7HO. Go to his website and download, and
    Use both of those programs to get on HF packet and communicate with several of us here on
    14.105 LSB +/- for tone offset. With his programs, you can pretty much ‘home in’ on any tone pair
    you’re needing, and really don’t have to be locked in to a set of tones proprietary to a KAM,
    MFJ, or AEA. It’s an easy terminal program to use and you shouldn’t have any problem with it.
    73 – Rick H

    • Thanks Rick, I’ll take a look when I have reliable Internet connections again. Probably in a day or so. I’ll check it out. I need to find something better than psk31. I want to be able to pick up and drop messages too from mailboxes if that’s possible. I DO have winlink2000 set up (airmail I think, and other stuff)but haven’t had a reliable connection for anything of late.

  2. After looking again, looks like i need a tnc? I think i kept my tnc3 but nothing else. Have a signalink usb sound card. Any other ideas?

  3. Nah, just the SignaLink. In fact, UZ7HO’s software package has been widely accepted all across
    the world. If you are running Linux with a KPC-3, tho just use a simple terminal program like
    minicom. It took me about 15 min. to figure out *again* how to use minicom as it’s pretty
    much designed for telephone modems, but works just fine with a TNC as well, just have to get
    the baud rate right. Remember, Alt-A, then Z to get the menu. If you have a Windows machine,
    tho, UZ7HO is the way to go.

    Here at home, I quit running TNOS (what I was using when we last “packeted” each other). I
    gave up on it as there are very few people and very little, if any, support. I have since switched
    over to a program suite by G8BPQ called BPQ32. I run the Linux version called LinBPQ on
    a Raspberry Pi-3. Quite a little powerhouse in the size of a credit card. This suite of software
    runs my Node (COSCO:KE0GB-7), BBS (COSBBS:KE0GB-1), WinLInk RMS (COSRMS:KE0GB-10), and Chat Server (COSCHT:KE0GB-11). I have full store and forward capability with other
    BBS’s across the country, and have direct access to several nodes throughout the globe.
    I can, no scratch that, have, set you up as a telnet user. Telnet to: Information redacted…. A very powerful suite of programs if I may say so indeed!
    You can also leave packet mail in my BBS to whomever hams you want, and the same with
    your winlink needs via ke0gb-10. I myself just connect to and use the web mailer
    as it’s much faster and doesn’t take up a bunch of hard drive space. So, there ya have it,
    Ricky D. If you decide to take the dive into HF packet, we’re all here on 14.105 LSB, but my
    display on my brand new Yaesu FT-450d says 14.104.97. As far as packet programs for
    Linux, try googling “packet radio linux” and you’ll get gobs of websites for that. Have fun out
    there but be careful! 73 – Rick

    • Thanks, Rick! I’m at a dock tonight. Got a shower, and beer. And right now, too tired to deal with anything much more than catching up on Facebook and reading emails. I’ll be doing laundry tomorrow and we’ll be looking over charts and things, but at some point, I’ll dig into my junk and see if I have the TNC available and I can get it hooked up. Chances are pretty slim though, as it’s set up for a serial port and I have only USB on these two laptops.

      So, that means I’m going to have to come up with a way to get the winlink working on the linux machine. For the record, I DO have a windows machine sitting under this lap top and it’s set up to work with winlink etc. The linux machine CAN do it, if I can remember HOW to do it, LOL.

      I’ll work on it, because I SERIOUSLY want to get back up on packet.



  4. Great! If you want to snoop around, cheatin’ style, you can telnet into my system and have a look-
    see. I even left you a message in your mail slot! hi hi Just telnet in like I described before, you’ll
    be in the node then, and follow the prompts to feel your way around. Loads better than the NOS
    programs we used to run back in the day…

    73 – RH

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