Category Archives: K9ZW

Double Hamshack Hotline

 

With the help of the folk at HamShack HotLine I’ve added a “Second Endpoint” to my 610-000-0781 HamShack HotLine number.

A “Second Endpoint” uses same number (rings at the same time, only one directory listing, shows the same message waiting (I think) and so on) but is a separate physical phone that can be somewhere else on the internet.

My Second Endpoint will go to the Washington Island QTH.  As I power down my shack area when I am not there, it too will be powered up only when I have the shack on.

When I reclaim my main house office from family remote workers, I will likely add another “Second Endpoint” to keep in that workspace.

Dale N6JSX did a bit of research and it seems that several “Second Endpoints” on the same number are possible, limited to either 4 or 5 (he knows, but I forgot what he told me).  Apparently you can leave messages for self, and do a form of intercom between your endpoints as well.

Again HamShack HotLine is a nice addition to a ham shack, while not being a “must have.”  I’ve only spoken to small number of hams over it, though I have had messages left for me by a larger group.

Links and directions (you use the same HelpDesk Ticket system with a picture of your phone’s MAC address label for a “Second Endpoint” as you do for the initial line) are at:  https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2022/04/26/hamshack-hotline-voip-for-hams/

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Over Imagining Our Capabilities

For some time I had been followed a fellow who is doing a rather extensive gunsmithing theory course (online, dvds, books and exams).

It has been interesting watching as he pumped himself up how when he is done with the program, he will be a “gunsmith.”

Not very certain he has much, if any, experience in the hands-on skill levels specific to gunsmithing, though to his credit he is tool savvy though it may be in an academic sort of way.

He doesn’t seem to realize that gunsmithing is all about the hands on performing the tasks of the trade to trade level proficiency, and doesn’t dwell on book learning except as the basis for practical skill development.

I also know someone who sat their Technician, General and Extra exams in a single session, but literally doesn’t seem to know how to get on the air or actually know very much about electronics.

During the pandemic I had this idea that since my usual music groups went on hiatus, and playing saxophone by yourself is somewhat a bore, that I would try some other musical pursuits. So my old dulcimer came out and another one was added with books, I bought a Roland Aerophone and got that all set up, and I bought a couple Hurdy-Gurdies. I also pulled out of storage my krumhorns and a suitable microphone.

Well I got the basics down on the Hurdy-Gurdy, put the dulcimers away for now, also the crumhorns got put away, and other than making some Sci-Fi grade scary noises with the Aerophone, nothing has happened there either.

All these are cases of over-imagining our capabilities, including myself dreaming that my trained skill set could be easily extended.

Professionally one runs into this daydreaming oneself into a sort of superman issue as well.

And you also run into those folks who are truly wise, and know their limits.  These are the folks who tell you that they won’t take that long shot hunting because in their practicing they learned they were not a great shot that far out.  Or the ones who at track day only drive up to their personal limit rather than the top speed of the car.  Or the ones pull off to rest travelling after their personal limit of hours, rather than pushing on that last two hours growing ever more tired and presumably less safe.

This is all food for thought, as the humility to know one’s personal limits can seem to stand in the way of learning, and the “I think I can” attitude we learned as small child.

Perhaps the real goal is finding balance between striving and knowing?

73

Steve
K9ZW

Crimp Connectors – Setup from DavisRF

Order arrived (I installed the dies for the picture)

When I pulled the LMR-400 for my Island QTH’s ZeroFive Flagpole vertical antenna, Tom K0TTC brought over his DX Engineering crimp connector setup to put the ends on (UHF connectors).

I rather admired his setup, and when I was ordering cables from DavisRF asked them about crimp connectors, and they said that I could add the tools and connectors to my cable order, no problem.

The crimp dies come separate and are easy to install. I could have bought just the dies, as I have standard sized crimp tools in each QTH’s PowerPole install tool kit, but I elected to get the whole tool to avoid the likelihood of ending up losing something later.

Bought 24 each of N-connector male and UHF-connector male crimp assemblies.

When I have done these in the past, and when K0TTC and I installed my last run, the center pins were also soldered.

Technically the industry makes a distinction between Crimp, Clamp and Solder styles of amateur radio connectors, with Crimp further dividing into soldered-center-pin and crimped-center-pin versions.

“Clamp” refers to a connector which utilizes a threaded sleeve to secure the connector to the cable. The center pin is soldered. “Crimp” refers to a connector for which the body (shell) is crimped onto the cable (with a crimp tool), making shield contact, and the center pin can be either soldered (preferably) or crimped. “Solder” refers to a solder on design, requiring soldering of both the center pin and the body to the cable shield braid.

So again I am doing Crimped soldered-center-pin.

Nothing against DX Engineering, as the DavisRF setup and supplies was about 2/3rd the spend, though I don’t get the swish DX Engineering branding going with pro-level commercial grade kit and supplies.

Links: https://www.davisrf.com/amateur.php

https://www.dxengineering.com/

An example video (there are many): https://youtu.be/yrefqZlIUkA

73

Steve
K9ZW

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SmartLink plays Dumb – Multiday Outage

Where did my SmartLink go?

I discovered early AM Monday September 26th that my radios were not working remotely.

They may have dropped off SmartLink over the weekend, as I had been travelling.

Head scratcher, hmm…

Did my usual checks – pings, reboots, cold reboots, router reboots, trying my backup SmartLink account and so on.

Radios could be seen on their respective LANs but remained mostly invisible to SmartLink.

All the radios claimed they were not configured for SmartLink anymore, and refused to be reregistered.

Interestingly the 6600M would sometime show up on a remote SmartSDR for Mac or SmartSDR for iPhone client, but could not be accessed.

So I opened a Help Desk ticket and was greeted with the usual script of new user orientated suggestions, which could have been helpful because like everyone I will forget stuff.

After comparing checklists, and allow FlexRadio access to my SmartLink account, we came to mutually agree something was hard broken.

Monday ended up without much suggestion of what the problem was, and the day basically faded to an end.

Tuesday the Help Desk ticket was escalated and I was told “Engineering is working on the [unnamed] problem.”

During the day Tuesday I found that my iPhone could no longer access SmartLink either.

On the third day I asked via the Help Desk Ticket “Any insight, updates or ETA to resolution?” and was told “We expect to have a status update later today. I’ll update the ticket once we know more.

The issue will get resolved, but until it is my remote stations are only available from clients that [appear] local to the radio.

Hence time to brush off my Plan-B gear.

About six years ago I set up a pair of Raspberry Pi’s to act as a VPN Server and a Bridge.  https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/tunneling-a-vpn-for-maestro/

Thinking I should repurpose these Raspberry Pi’s for a  portable Plan-B option.

Remote Access software has also come a long ways, and I should revisit that for the stations that have a shack-pc at them.  Might be prudent to add a shack pc at the one K9ZW station that doesn’t have it now.

I am thinking the fancy router at the main QTH has VPN capabilities, so it is time to read the manual and get that feature configured.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Elgato Stream Deck XL – Usage Details

Speaking of my Eglato Stream Deck XL in an earlier post ( https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2022/09/14/controlling-the-ham-computer-elgato-stream-deck-xl/ ) several comments, emails and a phone call came in asking for more detail on what I am doing with the unit.

Please remember that a Stream Deck is configurable on many axis. So what I have done is at best a tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do with your own Stream Deck after a bit of scripting.

On your desktop the Stream Deck App looks like this:

Stream Deck App (Win10) showing the graphics side of my default configuration

 

Which ends up looking like this on your unit:

 

My Stream Deck then displays a really creditable representation of the configuration

 

I have this particular configuration setup to somewhat mimic the Icons used to:

  • Start My Radio/Amp/Tuner
  • Select Loggers/Digital Mode Programs
  • Setup my Remote Work Process
  • Setup Remote Access on this Machine
  • Kick Off my Programing Environment
  • Testing a Keyer/Macro Experiment (the one with the big “T” in the Icon behind K9ZW 73) which works but needs polishing
  • Do some Audio Programs
  • Do some Basic PC-level Tasks

I’d experimented with controlling the radio, working in NodeRed, and some advanced Audio Functions in additional configuration files.  Some worked fine and some I didn’t quite get sorted out.

Tom K0TTC is working on GIF-based Icons for some of the common FlexRadio Flex-6000 functions.  I’ve not taken the time to animate any of mine.

The empty four lower buttons often are configured to start the latest test version of SmartSDR or other FlexRadio software.  Version number that show on the regular buttons have been obscured, basically because I lost track if the version displayed is General Release or just a stable test version from my Alpha-Team participation.

To date I have not gotten much joy out of cascading profiles, mostly because remembering where command sets are – much less the separate commands – would require a lot more time in front of the Stream Deck equipped PC.  I can see where a operator is solidly using the same PC how the cascade and context aware configuration sets would really work out.  Because I work my station remotely so much from several other devices, including iOS devices, I’m only experimenting with the deeper features.

For some program/application calls it is possible to include Stream Deck set parameters, which can be useful.  Some programs/apps ignore what your have scripted in though.

There is a lot more one could do with a Stream Deck than what I have done, for sure!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Online Privacy/Security

If you type online it is not private.  Simple reality.

Obscurity adds comfort, but no real protection.

I would expect 99% of traffic, including non-html protocols, that travels on the TCP/IP backbone to be well observed.

The last 1% is most likely scanned real-time.

If you type at your device, while not overtly using online services, a continued observation remains, but we will save that for another post.

Some consideration of who watches your traffic is in order.

Unless you are a bad guy, your typing wouldn’t be of much interest to the security folks, right?

Hmm, maybe not as uninteresting as you might think, as the use of bulk-collection and offshore bulk collection casting a very wide net to gather traffic will dredge up your traffic in the mix.

Most likely unless your particular traffic rises to attention, it may be collected and stored.  Yup, a great portion of traffic is archived for possible retrospective analysis.

As where laws limit the legal ability to directly collect certain traffic domestically, much traffic is routed to where contractors and other intel agencies can legally collect the traffic.  So we can’t legislate away collections.

Most major governments do the same level of heavy collection, or are part of consortiums that collect traffic.  USA, UK, EU, Russia, China, Arab States… all collect traffic, including traffic that you are part of.

The likelihood of our traffic being collected is high, whether we used html, gopher, ssh, telnet or whatever protocol.

So what does one do about it?

First always remember some guidelines:

  • Typing online is forever (as it will likely be collected)
  • Keep your typing precise with what you wanted to say and stand for
  • Collected data becomes context-removed, so explain yourself well to maintain archival grade clarity
  • Never presume anything online is truly private
  • Obscurity is no protection from collection

We really shouldn’t treat information typed online different than what we put on the radio.  Once released it is open book time.

There are some techniques to make extracting anything useful from our online typing harder, mostly by raising the overhead at sending and receiving through  encryption.  Except when encryption is being used to facilitate a crime, encryption is generally legal for usage domestically.

With enough traffic and with the accumulated small lapses in security we all have, eventually encrypted traffic can be read.  Just the costs to do so went up.

As your unencrypted message is typed “in the clear” unless you do off-line encryption/decryption, that raw message may be gathered and sent separate from your actual email or text.  Apps that offer end-to-end encryption still gather and later distribute an unencrypted raw message, which is a vulnerability.

As the days where only a percentage of internet traffic was collected have now changed to where all traffic can be collected (and likely is), retroactive-investigations and surveillance developed from the data mining of this massive amount of collected traffic.

The data set allows deep inspection of your online typing afterwards, in some cases years afterwards.

So if you become a “person of interest” your online information that was stored away, will be analyzed.

Brave New World, I guess.

73

Steve
K9ZW