147.12 and 449.60 On EchoLink

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Superstition Repeaters On EchoLink

The Superstition ARC has voted to connect its 147.12 and linked 449.60 repeater system to EchoLink full time.

The KB7KWK-L EchoLink node, normally on 146.44 MHz simplex, is now stationed on the 147.12 repeater full time.  Steve maintains a dedicated computer running the EchoLink software, together with a dedicated radio transceiver and antenna for the EchoLink node.

Walt, N3BFO, is slated to put up an EchoLink node as well, with the intent of providing full-time service with the eventual departure of Steve in coming years with his planned move to Colorado.  Originally, Walt's son Eric was going to provide this service, but he moved to Avondale in the meantime.

Operation on the KB7KWK Link

The repeater has a timeout timer of 180 seconds, or three minutes, except during the Wednesday night Net, which permits the uninterrupted play of Amateur Radio Newsline.

In your EchoLink setup you should set your outgoing timeout to 175 seconds or less, to avoid the repeater timing out.  You should set your incoming timeout to 0, which disables this timer.  This will keep us from timing you out.

We cannot go through the repeater and pass tones to KB7KWK Link using a radio.  The repeater blocks telephone-dialing tones.  Therefore, no one can dial up a remote connection from the radio.  No one can check the availability of the KB7KWK service from the repeater.

EchoLink and what it is, what it does

Introduction

What is EchoLink?  EchoLink is a Windows-based VOIP software that allows users to access the EchoLink network to communicate with other radio amateurs from around the world.  Operation involves both computer-to-computer-only, computer-to radio node, and radio node-to radio node communications.  An amateur radio license is required.

In addition to Microsoft Windows, the software can run under Wine, a Windows emulator in Linux, and there are some mobile-phone EchoLink network-compatible software apps available.

To download the software, and to register with EchoLink to become a user, you must visit http://www.echolink.org/ or Google EchoLink.  Download and run the software, then enter your callsign and password.  Create a password if this is your first time using EchoLink.  You next need to validate yourself by sending in the copy of your license.

You need to provide a copy of your amateur radio license sent to you by the FCC.  On that note, there are reference copies of your license found on the Internet, but sending a copy of that won't cut it, because they can be retrieved and submitted by anybody claiming to be you.  a scanned or faxed copy of your original will usually contain FCC paper watermarks, and should include your signature.


Installation and Firewall considerations

I am running DSL, using an Actiontec modem, and use my own router.  In order for EchoLink to work properly, I have to route certain ports from the Internet specifically to the computer on my network that is running EchoLink.  For a detailed report on how I once solved the issue, please see:  EchoLink Firewall issue solution

That page has been up for some number of years, but I see a couple of errors in my typing!  The local network IP address is always 192.168.x.y, NEVER 192.158.x.y.  That was in the yellow box, and one other error below the yellow box, where I contradicted myself:

  • "The router still assigns DOES NOT ASSIGN IP addresses to the EchoLink computer within the DHCP client list, but it will assign IP addresses to any other connecting computers. While the router assigns IP addresses, they are not used by the static-IP computer running EchoLink."

Replaced my router

The Dynex router has bitten the dust, and it was replaced with a newer model, now called Belkin, but the new router has the same look and feel with regard to the router instructions given for the Dynex in the firewall article.

Operation from your computer

You can connect to the KB7KWK-L node and in turn make yourself heard on the repeater from your computer desk with a microphone on the sound card and the computer spe3akers.  Listen first to determine that the frequency is clear before initiating a transmission from the computer.

Audio considerations

Keep your audio levels within the upper third of the audio meter, with occasional yellows acceptable, for best results. Check your audio using the ECHOTEST server to ensure the quality of your audio prior to connecting to another station. 

You probably want to stay within six inches of the computer mic, but avoid having wind from your speech blowing on the microphone to avoid popping noises.  This pertains to the cheap all-plastic electret mics in particular.

I have a Sony Dynamic Microphone that I use.  I curl my thumb and finger around the tip and speak directly into the microphone, oh, about half an inch away from it.  It does not seem to be affected by the wind from my mouth at such close range as do the electret mics.  Further, the wrapping of the finger and thumb around it reduces the low-frequency response to give it better sound over a radio station speaker.

Another microphone setup involves my Astatic D-104, an unamplified high-Z microphone I have owned since 1971.  It would tend to be low-level and very tinny if connected directly to the low-Z sound card input.  My solution is to connect it to the phono (turntable) input of an amplifier and connect the line output of the amplifier to my sound card input.

In order to record a phonograph record, the industry set a bass-cut curve into its audio channels driving the recording stylus.  This was to allow for narrower grooves and fit more grooves into the recording surface, and thus gain more recording time.  The Recording Industry Association of America set the bass-cut curve standard, and that required a reverse curve to boost the bass to natural levels in the playback equipment purchased by the end user.  It is this "RIAA curve" bass boost feature of the phono input that brings up the bass nicely on my microphone.

On some systems you may need to reset the microphone gain level each time before you use EchoLink, especially if you restart the computer.  I will look into writing a shell script for my system, similar to a Windows batch file, that can automatically set my audio levels upon EchoLink launch if that is an issue.

Buffer considerations

In the EchoLink software, in the Tools menu, under Setup, on the Performance tab, you may want to slam the buffering sliders all the way left to minimize the delay in accessing the repeater.  If this does not cause excessive audio dropouts or other performance issues, and you are on a reasonably fast Internet connection, this will place you in near real-time with your appearance on the radio.

Eventual plans

It would be nice if we added a separate link radio to the repeater into which the EchoLink can be piped, such that one does not get covered by doubling with an attempted input from EchoLink, or its identifier.

Current plans are to not go for a WB7TJD-R node and instead just use either one of N3BFO-L or KB7KWK-L as dedicated links to the repeater.


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