Welcome to the Sarasota Digital Group
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Calendar

IRMA kind of took over our lives for a couple of weeks. Let’s get back on sked:

  • 9/26 Work Day….
  • 10/3 TBD
  • Next Practice (date TBD)
    • No details….
    • interested in running this practice? See Den.
    • Net Control:
      • Digital: Micky
      • Voice: Paul

All above subject to change.

SDG Now has a Repeater!
442.400 MHz+ 100HzCall: W2DENSAR-22For all FM compatible modes


New Assessment Database*

Check it out

About the SDG

The Sarasota Digital Group (SDG) is an unaffiliated group of amateur radio operators who’s collective goal is to develop and deploy digital capability for use in emergency communication (emcomm).

SDG has no organization, no rules, no borders

There are some SOPs that deal with hardware and procedure that are mainly to keep everyone in the same universe. Individual preferences may vary from established SOPs

SDG will assist any organization or person(s) in developing, deploying and maintaining any form of digital data communication in the amateur radio bands

What do we do: The SDG concentrates on the following:

  • Packet Radio: The main emphasis is on the amateur e-mail system called Winlink ( Winlink.org ) mainly in the VHF band.
  • Pactor: Utilized on HF as part of the Winlink network to transfer messages out of the immediate area.
  • Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software (NBEMS): This includes FLDIGI ( link ) and EasyPal ( link ) on V/UHF and HF.
  • Microwave:
    • The SDG is developing an AREDN ( link ) microwave network in the 2.4 GHz band that is planned to connect all relevant sites in the county. Currently the American Red Cross (ARC) and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) are connected. This allows both VOIP phone communications as well has high speed Winlink connections.
    • The future will include HAMWAN ( link ) high speed data link into Tampa and St. Petersburg.
  • Radio Only: The SDG’s concentration is on radio only communications, “if all else fails”. The systems developed by the group will be useful long before we reach the critical point but that possibility must be considered at all times.

Where’s this happening:

  • All over Sarasota county and now includes amateurs from Manatee and Charlotte counties.
  • We meet regularly on Tuesday, usually for lunch at Miller’s Ale House ( link ) around 11 AM for lunch then by 12:30 we move to the ARC ( link ). Be sure to check first as our schedule may vary.

How to participate:

  • Show up on Tuesday. Be willing to participate. An amateur radio license is not required. If you have an interest in digital communications and want to help in emergencies then come see what we are all about.
  • Contact any of the individuals listed at the end of this page or e-mail SERC@n4ser.org

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Fund:

The SDG is self funded. We have recieved some monies from the EOC and Department of Health and are seeking grants from a number of places.

Individual donations are collected at various SDG events. These funds are carefully tracked by a non-SDG member. A full accounting is available.

SDG does not own any assets. All purchase belong to the funding entity (e.g. County) or given to a responsible club such as SERC.

$85 collected in the last 2 weeks………

What do we need:

  • Dual Band (V/UHF) FM radio for ARC second voice net. Can be used. Digital capability not required.
  • ARC WX station
  • ARC remote (outdoor) camera
  • Digital Rotor Control Box
  • 3 Headsets
  • Triplexer ($399):
    • 20M, 15M 40M
    • with 3 BPFs
  • Band Pass Filters ($73 each)
    • ( 40, 80M)
SERC Radio Room Refurbish Fund

Contributors: The SDG Lunch Crew, WA1YZN, WB9AYD, W8XG, KI4LAL, Uno
Recent purchases:

  • Antenna Distribution Boxes (HF, V/UHF) (purchased, thanks Brent)
  • Two UHF Lightning Arrestors and Signalink for Icom IC-781 $267.85 (installed)
  • Client computer (installed)( $250)
  • 3 audio distribution boxes ($100) < donated (WIP)
  • UV resistant rope ($115.91 Rcv’d 4/26)*
  • ~30″ TV with HD tuner< Done
  • 75 ohm coax for the TV<donated
  • HD TV antenna <donated

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sdn2-0

Mesh Net Click to enlarge

News (09/25/17):

*Assessment Database: Bob, KJ4SV put a huge effort into two Excel Workbooks to track the capabilities of SDG participants. The system is complex, has limited access, and when open there are no constraints on editing. A search was conducted to find a ‘better’ solution. It wasn’t easy as this type of data lends itself very nicely to a database. Most databases are local, or networked, and like those available on-line, not in our price range ($0.00). All the time the solution was right under our nose; a Word Press Plugin called Participation Database ( Link ). A prototype is now running on this server accessible from the link at the top of this page. Click on any call sign to see the participants complete Assessment Record. You can edit your data by asking for your ‘private link’ at the bottom of your Assessment Record.

This is only a test ……. the schema is far from complete and changes will be appearing without notice. At some point a revision history will be started.

Comments on this possible replacement for the Assessment workbook are requested……


SDG now has a repeater. The W2DEN UHF repeater is on the air on 442.400 MHz+ 100 and has preliminary FRC approval. At this time it is on the same tower as SAR-1 on Fruitville but wil be moving to the Laurel site.

Digital blitz 1 practice is now history with a pretty imnpressive ‘punch’ list of things we need to correct. A great sessions with lots of participation.

We’ll take a few weeks off from praticie and run a couple of raining sessions and do a bit of work on the ARC Radio room now called REDCOM


  • The SDG webpage is undergoing some updates, information removed from SERC’s front page.
  • AJ4FW has taken the lead on Tutorial for the group. A schedule will be pblished at the top of thei page.
  • Couldn’t have been better Uno practice is in the books. Thanks to all who have contributed.
  • 40 / 80M dipole is now doing pactor duties. Details are WIP.
  • Cushcraft R7 is on Station 3 for HF NBEMS
  • The radio room has been completely upgraded. “Can you hear us now?” Pictures????
  • 2.4 GHz AREDN now connects the EOC and ARC and K4JBV ( 3 cameras) on the air and a bunch of us via internet tunneling.
  • Sarasota Digital Network Map: ( Link )
  • Work is beginning on installing HAMWAN in Sarasota.
  • Want to get started with Winlink? Here’s how ( Link )

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Tutorials

Getting Started

Star BurstWhere to start? Right here….

Install Winlink. You can send an receive Winlink e-mails without a radio or TNC using a Telnet Packet session. This will get you familiar with the software and see what the basis of the SDG is all about with no commitment.

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Hardware

Here are some of the hardware options that are supported by the SDG with some notes on just how to use them

  • Sound-card Modem

    • The easiest, and cheapest way to get into packet radio is using your computer’s sound-card and a sound-card interface such as a SignaLink or the home-brew interface described in the ‘Your Elmer’ section of this website ( link ).
      • Besides packet, a Sound-card modem can be used for any computer to radio software such as FLDIGI, and EasyPal.
    • To make this work you will need a software packet modem. Two are very popular and are described in greater detail in the software section:
      • UZ7HO
      • AGWPE
  • Radios with Built in TNCs

    • Various manufactures make radios with built in TNCs. The most popular portable radio is the Kenwood TM-D710 GA. This combines a V/UHF radio and a TNC. While built to handle APRS the built in TNC can be used for WinLink Express. There is an SDG SOP # 9 that deals with the proper settings to utilize the radio with Winlink.
    • Other radios are available with built in TNCs. They are not supported by the SDG at this time but could be in the future.
  • TNCs

    • A hardware TNC is the classic way of accessing packet radio.
    • Kantronics KPC3+

      • This is by far the most popular amateur radio TNC.
      • It is small, light weight and very efficient. 
      • It can be used between the radio and computer for Winlink or without the computer to act as a local BBS and/or digipeater.
      • Its predecessor, the KPC3, is also very popular but can not be used for APRS due to the changes made in the APRS ‘via’ field. It is perfectly fine for a BBS, non-ASPRS digipeater or with computer apps such as Winlink.
    • Kantronics 9612+

      • Similar to the KPC3+ except this TNC is dual mode (9600 / 1200) and dual port.
      • Use it if you got it but not worth the extra money if you are getting into VHF packet
      • The N4SER-10 gateway is running on a 9612+. Why? SERC owned one and it was cheaper than buying a KPC3+
    • KPC-2

      • The Kantronics KPC-2 comes from the same era as the PK-88. It is a sturdy, well built TNC that will run forever. many show up at hamfests and on line.
      • Even though RMS Express will not directly supprt a KPC-2 one can still be used for WinLink’s RMS Express with the AGW  Express interface program. Details can be found on the N4SER’s Elmer Pages ( Link )
    • PK-88

      • A rather old TNC listed in RMS Express as acceptable. Can be found for ~$50.
      • Various versions of the PK-88 exist and some research will be needed to work through which versions work in KISS mode and which do not.
      • KISS mode: cmd: KISS 01. To exit KISS mode [ctrl][c] at least 3 times
      • RMS Express resets this TNC restoring all factory defaults such as MYA to empty. This excludes using the PK-88 for an RMS Express client and a digipeater at the same time. Individually the TNC can handle either very well.
  • PiGate

    • The latest WinLink Gaget is the PiGate ( PiGate.net ). A Raspberry Pi based WinLink WiFi hot spot. These will come in handy for field or shelter work. Could even work as a home WinLink base station.

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Software

Winlink Express

  • Winlink Express (formerly RMS Express) is the foundation of the SDG’s digital communications. There is a wealth of information on the Winlink site ( Winlink.org ).
  • Winlink will work with most TNC.s attached to almost any VHF radio.
  • 144.950 MHz is the Winlink frequency for the Sarasota area.
  • Winlink can use telnet to communicate with the CMS servers via the internet allowing anyone with a ham license, a computer and an internet connection to get involved. This is a good way to get started.

Soundcard WinLink Express

  • For many years Winlink Express did not support the TNC KISS mode ( Info ). The sound-card modem software AGWPE could be set up to work with Winlink Express but it was a tedious and often unsuccessful marriage.
    • W2YG wrote a program called AGW Express to handle this connection making sound-card Winlink easier to install and run.
    • AGW Express is no longer available due to the fact that Winlink Express began to support KISS mode allowing direct connection to the AGW PE software.
      • A copy of AGW Express is avaialable on this site ( link ) if you would still like to use it.
      • AGW Express is not supported by the SDG
  • UZ7HO ( Link ) is now the preferred / supported Winlink Express sound-card software. Details below.
  • AGW PE ( Link ) is reported to also work directly with Winlink Express but is not supported by the SDG at this time.

Sound-card software AGW PE / UZ7HO / Dire Wolf

There are three software packet engines, or TNC replacement, applications available to the ham wanting to participate in packet radio without a TNC. It may be for budget reasons, a new TNC can cost $200 or for simplicity, most of us already have a sound card to rig interface. Why buy another piece of hardware? Here is a brief explanation of the three most popular software packet engines:

  • UZ7HO ( Link ) The U7HO is a sound-card only PE. It can not communicate with a TNC. Based on the AGW PE API. It can act as an AGWPE or KISS server at the same time. This makes it a perfect mate for Winlink Express and a sound-card modem.UZ7HO is well supported by the SADG. If you are using a sound-card it is worth giving it a try.
  • AGW PE ( Link )This is the ‘gold standard’ of software packet engines (PE). What sets it apart from the other two PEs is that AGW PE can communicate with TNCs as well as soundcards.This is the PE supported by the SDN. AGW PE is currently used for soundcard only setups as well as a TNC front end to allow multiple applications (RMS E, UISS, Digiplex etc.) to access a single TNC or soundcard. No longer well supported here.
  • Dire Wolf ( Link )The newest PE to show up. Sound card only, no TNC control. Originally Linux based, very popular with Raspberry Pi developers. A Windows version is available. Claims to be much better at decoding than AGW PE or UZ7HO. Worth giving it a try if you are using a soundcard.

AGW Express

  • No longer supported by the SDG.

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Plans

What’s on the horizon:

Microwave:

The idea of connecting all of the vital emergency related locations in Sarasota County with radio-only digital data links, utilizing amateur radio was, not long ago, an expensive and shaky, at best, ordeal. Thanks to the availability of reasonably priced microwave equipment, that can operate in various amateur radio microwave bands, wide coverage  it is now not only possible but economically feasible.

Lead by Brent, the microwave guru, we’re mapping out the county. Looking at buildings, towers and mountains (ok not mountains) to map out just how to cover the county in a 2.5 GHz AREDN network.

Recruitment:

The SDG could use all the help it can get. More hams willing to at least give this a try, it only takes a computer, a license, heck we mentioned that, a license is not required . . .

Funding

SDG is member funded, this includes a very expensive Pactor modem. Micky, KM4BHF, has been working tirelessly to try and get a grant to help finance the microwave expansion. So far no luck. We are also working on the EOC for county funding and locations.
SDG has no assests;  all equipment purchased so far has been donated to SERC. Future donations will be placed accordingly.

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Reference

SDG-Digital-Net-Script

What to say if you run the SDG digital net (tnx Rick).

Sarasota’s Packet Stations

A listing of the known Winlink stations in Sarasota county. To be added to the list contact SERC@N4SER.org

Map of Sarasota’s packet Stations

A Google ‘My Map’ showing where known WinLink / Packet stations are in Sarasota County. This is a WIP.

SDG’s SOPs <<< WIP

A link to the SDG SOP DropBox folder with read only access to our SOPs.

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Charter

Sarasota Digital Group

The Sarasota Digital Group (SDG) mission is to promote and support the use of amateur radio digital communications during emergencies. The SDG is an independent organization with no ties to any other group, club or organization. There is to be no defined organizational structure to the SDG. A single person may be asked to ‘head’ the SDG but that position is strictly advisory with no authority.

The SDG

is open to all, those with and without an amateur operator’s license. The only requirement is a desire to promote amateur radio digital communications, particularly in times of an emergency

operates primarily in, but in no way limited to, Sarasota county.

is responsible for creating and maintaining the Sarasota Digital Network.

This charter may be altered by the chosen ‘head’ as needed to keep the original charter intact.

Note: This is a copy of the preliminary charter. The original resides off-line in the SDG dropbox.

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The Group

Current SDG roster, in alpha order:

Bill Franklin (K4FLV)

Bill Martin (K4JBV)

Bill Mc Connell (N9US)

Bob Furman (AJ4AN)

Bob Morgan (KJ4SV)

Brent Parker (W8XG)

Den Spiess (W2DEN)

Dick Hullfish (KJ4EFJ)

Gary Wells (WB9AYD)

Harvey Scheingold (KK6KQZ)

Jim Briggs (WA9TIR)

Joel Berger (W6BQD)

John Boutcher (KM4EJE)

John Snow (W3ATR)

Les Keegan (N4LPK)

Micky Taylor (KM4BHF)

Rick Brown (AJ4FW)

Advisors:

Bob Davisson (KA4BOB)

Ed Gansen (K8DSS)

This list may not be complete as it is hard to ‘herd cats’. If you want to be added or removed Contact Den

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Archive….. a place to put old stuff……

Calendar

  • August 15th Digital Blitz Practice: 10 AM lunch to follow ~ noon
    • Nice job ALL. Well done!
  • August 22nd PiGate Setup, Use, and Demonstration: Normal time
  • August 29th Setup, use, and Demonstration of the BBHN Routers and Grandstream IP Phones

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