Hello Santa Cruz County ARES,
This is a follow-up on my Packet Radio videos posted by Nate KM6THA on XCZCOMM.COM (http://184.108.40.206/plesk-site-preview/xczcomm.com/https/220.127.116.11/index.php/winlink-videos/).
My brief Packet Radio history.
At the time I looked into Packet Radio, I had a Yaesu FT-60R and 2 BaoFeng UV-5Rs.
Since SignaLink USB supported my FT-60R, it made sense for me to purchased it for Winlink Packet (also called formerly as RMS Express) having watched quite a few youTube videos on the subject. I thought when deployed, I could always use the other HTs for voice and the FT-60R for packet. But thinking it now, I may still use the FT-60R for voice. When I need to send/receive a served agency messages, I can switch frequencies and connect to my packet system, then return the FT-60R back to voice operations.
Having the additional HT helped me in listening to the transmissions of the packet radio for troubleshooting.
I later purchased a BTech UV-25X2 (25 Watt mobile dual-band able to display 4-channels). I think this is possible to use for Packet Radio, but it’s 4 channel display makes it convenient for switching among repeaters and TAC channels. I did try this a couple of times, but the audio transmission seemed low no matter what I did to boost the level. So at the moment I am not pursuing packet with the UV-25X2.
The SignalLink can also work with a UV-5R, and so at the end of 2020 I did order the additional parts (radio cable and jumper module) to try this out. I have tried this and it works.
After getting my General License, I have been on various voice nets on HF using my FT-891. So again the next step there is to order the radio cable and jumper module to try out HF Winlink Packet and other digital modes.
My most recent purchase is a FTM-7250DR 50Watt dual-band. This too, I plan on having it capable for Packet Radio.
In our Santa Cruz County, almost all Winlink gateways run at 1200 baud on 2M. There is one gateway that runs 9600 baud. The Sound Modem software used can run either 1200 or 9600, but I haven’t tried it 9600. Yet another experiment for me to try in the future.
As I mentioned above , my setup evolved from what minimal resources I could acquire to perform Packet Radio/Winlink, with a slant towards portability in the field. So with my FT-60R HT already in hand and a spare old laptop, I only need to acquire the Signalink USB device. The laptop needed 3 pieces of software (freeware – donations always accepted). I had watched a lot of Youtube videos to narrow down my decision to this method.
Some warning, the initial setup is not as easy as “plug and play”. But once you have your initial setup, it does get quicker and easier. This is especially true if perform packet radio often. When I take a month or two off, I have to review my notes again as to where levels and knobs need to be.
I reviewed the 3 videos in the next section and felt it was do-able for me. As I have a technical background, It is hard for me to say how hard or easy this system would be for those with limited computer/electrical background. I suggest watching the 3 videos below to see how you feel about going this route. The Signalink USB requires opening up the case and setting up configuration jumpers on its PCBA board to match your radio. You can also buy the ready make jumper pack instead of doing your own jumpers, and just push the jumper board in place.
I plan on being able to use my Signalink USB on my various radios. So changing the jumpers and radio interface cables will be common exercise for me if I decide to switch to various radios.
Because this is the only method of Packet Radio I am famliar with, I do not know of any other systems and their friendliness of use.
Below are the 3 YouTube videos I have used to acquire the knowledge for my setup.
After watching the Signalink USB video, I used the K4REF YouTube videos to learn about setting up the software and sound levels.
K4REF has more videos posted in Winlink and YouTube. He has a useful video titled: Winlink – “How To Use Forms” which covers how to use and fill out html ICS213 and ICS214 forms and send them out on Winlink. I have done this method on occasion on activation deployments and events.
TITLE: Signalink USB by Commsprepper
Note: This is a great overall intro on the system I use. Ordering Signalink USB, you will need to specify the radio it will hook up to. Your order include the correct cable to use with your radio. Inside the SignaLink USB box is a jumper configuration that will need to be set to match your radio. You can either do the jumpering yourself as shown in the video, or you can buy their jumper pack that you press on top of the jumper socket area. The FT-60R requires adding a resistor and a capacitor in the jumper area, and being somewhat electronics capable, I did this myself.
TITLE: “Sound Modem TNC for VHF Packet in Winlink Express” by K4REF
TITLE: Setting Up SignaLink USB Sound Levels
Below are the links to websites for the 3 pieces of software I used.
As I wrote this July 2020, be sure to grab the latest version available.
Winlink Express (Winlink_Express_install_1-5-30-0.zip)
Go to Downloads > User Programs > Winlink_Express_install_1-5-30-0.zip
Sound Modem (soundmodem105.zip)
Digital Level Meter Version 1.90 installer (SetupDigitalLevelMeter190.zip)
Below are other links to websites I used to gain further knowledge.
Link below you can view among other information:
– Watch the K4REF video tutorials.
– View the Winlink Express video series. By Rob K6RJF SDG ARES.
Downloadable Presentation and good overview of Packet Radio:
The Winlink 2000 Radio e-Mail Network E-mail with or without the Internet
Developed by The Winlink Development Team
The Northern Amateur Relay Council of California (NARCC)
Northern California 70 cm Band Plan
Northern California 2 M Band Plan
Note: I use the above band plans to make sure I can do a packet test transmission that is not on Packet Channel (aka Gateway) but still in the proper digital band range. I do this so I can hear the transmission quality using a 2nd HT. I will call out my callsign with the 2nd HT then listen to the packet transmission.
This same method is used when calibrating the Tx output levels from SoundModem/Signalink USB.
Packet Channels and Frequencies are listed in the Winlink program:
Winlink Express > Open Session (Packet Winlink) > Channel Selection
Packet Frequency also listed here:
Please let me know what questions or information may be lacking in this introductory presentation.