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AllStar: Summary of What I've Learned
Pulling the last few weeks together into one summary post
From oldest to newest:
October 5: ClearNode appliance arrived. I powered it up on October 6 and after correcting the misconfigured wifi settings I had given to the vendor, it worked very well. I had some trouble setting the tones on my Yaesu FT5DR but the ClearNode vendor helped me with resolving that problem. TIL (today I learned): read the documentation and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
October 13: I installed the DVSwitch Mobile app on my Android smartphone. Again, I had some trouble getting the right settings in place but after some trial and error, I did get there. DVSwitch allows me to transceive via my smartphone which is connected to my local network, as is my ClearNode appliance. TIL: ask for help before driving myself nuts!
October 15: I got an AllStar node running in the cloud on a Vultr.com server instance. I spent hours looking for guidance on how best to do this and finally landed on a guide published on the AllStar wiki. Then I had trouble getting DVSwitch to connect to the node-in-the-cloud until I got some help from another AllStar user. TIL: read the documentation and don’t be afraid to try different settings.
October 18: I went on a road trip for work and brought the ClearNode device with me. Unfortunately, I lost the antenna for it while schlepping luggage and things around from hotel to hotel. Fortunately, I discovered that I could connect to my node-in-the-cloud with DVSwitch and then connect to the node I wanted to listen to using DTMF commands passed through the DVSwitch app. TIL: discovered that I can “do” AllStar without being near my ClearNode device.
October 23: When listening to nets through DVSwitch and my node-in-the-cloud, AllStarLink would announce every connection and every disconnect. I fiddled with settings in the rpt.conf file until I found the ones that would stop that disruptive behavior. TIL: reboot the server every time I change a configuration setting!
Today is the 23rd and I’m beginning to delve into things like extra node numbers with NNX, running two nodes on one virtual server, and how to have a private node or otherwise restrict people from keeping me from using my node-in-the-cloud. I learned that I can connect to my node-in-the-cloud with my smartphone while driving and that checks off one of my desired outcomes: to be able to participate in AllStar nets while traveling with a minimum of equipment.
I’ve listened to nets all over the world but keep coming back to the WW7PSR nets because I identify more with that part of the United States and I enjoy the diversity of the participants. If you need a starting point for some high-quality nets, try AllStarNets.org.
Here’s what the WW7PSR 9 O’Clock net looked like at 9:05 pm:
Remote connection to my home node
I’m thinking that I should be able to run Tailscale on the ClearNode device so that I can easily and securely connect to it from outside my home network. Tailscale is available for the Raspberry Pi. I frequently use Tailscale to secure remote sessions with my home and work computers, and since it runs on Android, it seems like I could run a DVSwitch connection to my home ClearNode device over a Tailscale pipe.
Retevis RT22 radios
I have some Retevis RT22 radios that I programmed for various frequencies. These UHF radios are very small and thin, perfect for stuffing in a pocket. The audio quality is good, or at least good enough for clear conversations. Battery life is good on these little devices.
I think I remember that I can set both send and receive tone codes when programming the radios so I pulled a few of them out of storage. I couldn’t find my programming cable but a new one is not expensive, so that has been ordered and should arrive in the next few days.
My plan is to program one of the radios as my in-the-house transceiver for my ClearNode device. Being able to put the radio in a shirt pocket will make it much more friendly than clipping a heavier handie talkie to my belt. One thing I’ll need to remember to do is to label the RT22 radio that goes with my ClearNode!
A traveling box
To keep the ClearNode device and handheld transceiver together, I bought a small protective case from Harbor Freight. I should be able to fit the ClearNode with antenna and the Raspberry Pi power supply, and the RT22 radio and charger, into the case for grab-and-go travel. Packaging these items into one case means they will be available when I want to use them.
Amateur radio is, to me, more about communication than it is about whether said communication is happening over amateur radio bands or not. I see radio as a big tent that houses a multitude of ways to communicate. To that end, I’ve ordered a refurbished Cisco SPA303 IP phone so that I can give Hamshack Hotline a try. The power adapter for the phone has already arrived so I expect that the phone will arrive in a matter of days.
I expect to like the Hamshack Hotline service which translates to: I’ll probably upgrade to a better IP phone in the future. That thought gave me the excuse I needed to get a small power-over-ethernet (PoE) switch to put on my home network. When I first got the ClearNode device, I discovered that I didn’t have any open ethernet ports on my router. The PoE switch will resolve that problem for a while. I also picked up some different colors of CAT6 ethernet cable so that I can color-code my cable runs.