Some Useful Ham Radio Resources
Analogue Voice Repeater Lists
Packet Radio (AX25) Nodes & Mailboxes Lists
SOTA (Summits on the Air)
- SOTA UK – The main SOTA website.
- The SOTA Database – This is where participants upload their activator and chasers logs.
- SOTAwatch – This is where all the live, real time action happens. See who is activating which summit right now and what is planned for the next few days.
- SOTA Reflector – This forum is where SOTA meets to discuss everything from mountains to antennas including reports from Activators.
- SOTA Mapping Project – The SOTA Mapping Project provides activators and chasers with various mapping resources and utilities including a real time display of activations.
Elevation & Propagation
- Ground heights map – Good for finding big hills!
- Google Maps – Useful for finding roads, paths and checking ground types.
- Line-of-sight tool – For helping to estimate propagation.
Location & Co-ordinates Tools
Other Packet Radio Info
The user guide for the Pakratt PK-232 (pdf) also serves as a very good introduction to packet radio!
Required Equipment for VHF
Antenna – Radio – TNC – Computer
- Antenna. Ideally, high in the sky.
- 2 metre radio. A transceiver is required to transmit and receive. Alternatively, to just monitor, a receiver/scanner capable of receiving would do. The main packet frequency in the UK is 144.800MHz (FM), but bear in mind there is also packet activity on other frequencies (see section, above) including the 70cm band.
- Computer. When using a TNC, the computer’s role is to enable you to type/send commands and messages to the TNC/radio, and to display responses and messages from the TNC/radio. Because the computer is effectively a dumb terminal for the TNC, the computer does not need to be connected or switched on all the time.
- Terminal node controller (TNC). A TNC is a piece of hardware that handles the incoming and outgoing packets of data. It connects the radio to the computer, and can essentially be thought of as a modem for packet radio. A popular TNC is the Pakratt PK-232. Also, Kantronics have a few models. Both pop up on eBay from time to time. (Incidentally, an alternative to a TNC is to use software-based TNC-equivalent but, in that case, your packet station would be down whenever your computer wasn’t connected and running.)
- Computer to TNC connection. You need to connect the serial port of your TNC to your computer. Unless you are using a very old computer, it’s unlikely to have a serial port, so that is where a USB-to-serial converter saves the day, as it effectively turns one of your computer’s USB ports into a COM port. You may need to install a driver for the USB-to-serial converter. After that, connect the converter and make a note of the COM port number that has been created. (Alternatively, just look in your computer’s Device Manager to find the COM port number.)
- Computer software. A popular software solution to enable your computer and TNC to communicate is PuTTy, which is compatible with most/all modern computers. It’s easy to set up. I recommend these PuTTy settings for packet radio:
- Serial line: COM11 (replace this with whatever your COM port was, from the previous step)
- Speed: 9600
- Connection type: Serial.
- (You can then Save these settings in a session, so you can conveniently Load them in future.)
- Radio to TNC connection. This is the final part of the jigsaw, and perhaps the trickiest. You will need to look up the pin-out diagram for the VHF port of the your TNC, along with the mic connector diagram for your transceiver. With those two diagrams, you should be able to work out which pin on the TNC connects to which pin on the radio’s mic socket and external speaker socket. As well as the cable, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate connector for the TNC and the appropriate connector for the radio’s mic input. You will need a mono audio connector and cable, too, for the radio’s speaker socket. Help is always available, but if you don’t fancy making your own leads, there are sellers on eBay (e.g., this one) who sell transceiver mic leads but can also make custom leads.
If buying a second hand TNC, be wary of buying one without leads as it may be less likely to work than a complete package. From my own experience, there’s more chance of receiving a working TNC if it came from a genuine shack clearance, for example, than an old unit that’s been dragged out of someone’s garage/attic.
Standard Packet Radio SSIDs
There are sixteen SSIDs (Secondary Station IDentifiers), ranging from 0 to 15, that can be appended to callsigns (e.g., G7MKK-1).
Here are the SSIDs as recommended by the Working Group for Operational Standards:
- None (0) – For home stations. The zero is implied and should not be appended – e.g., G7MKK rather than G7MKK-0.
- 1 – Home station personnal mailboxes (usually a TNC-based PBBS) – e.g., G7MKK-1.
- 2 – Gateways.
- 3 – Full-service BBSs (Bulletin Board Services). Those that forward mail/bulletins.
- 4 – Network nodes. Having two or more radio ports that perform routing functions via TCP/IP, NetROM, etc. Can be combined with BBS’s that also perform routing.
- 5 – Console/keyboard or printer.
- 6 – Conference bridges.
- 7 – NetROM/X1J/Knet/BPQ nodes.
- 8 – Cross-band digipeaters.
- 9 – Mobile / modats.
- 10 – WL2K.
- 11 – Unassigned.
- 12 – Unassigned.
- 13 – Unassigned.
- 14 – Unassigned.
- 15 – Often used as a downlink address when exiting the far end of a network connection.