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AllStarLink: Status and To Do
Where I'm at after having the ClearNode for ten days
October 5, 2022: First start
I had received the ClearNode device from Node-Ventures a few days earlier but didn’t have a chance to fire it up until the 5th of October. And while I struggled for a bit to get it running on my home network, the fault was mine: I had accidentally mangled the network SSID and password that Node-Ventures programmed into the device.
Fortunately, the ClearNode has a great “wifi by light” feature that lets you program your wifi authentication information into the device using the flash LED in our smartphone. Later, I discovered that I probably should have had my radio programmed to receive on the correct frequency and tone code for the ClearNode. That would have made it easier to figure out the IP address (but I’m getting ahead of myself in this chronology).
October 6, 2022: First post
I posted my first Random Wire post about the ClearNode:
That day, I also received help that, in my mind, went over and above what to expect from a vendor: he guided me to the exact page in the advanced manual for my HT in order to program the tone code for receiving.
October 9 and 10, 2022: Broken reception
I hang my hat in several places. This is actually one of the reasons I wanted to travel the AllStarLink road. The ClearNode device is so easily portable that I can power it down and have it in my travel bag in just a few minutes, and bringing it back up at my destination is just about as easy. My primary end goal is to be able to communicate with hams in my “home” club county when I’m traveling.
But as I was listening to a Seattle group on the 9th of October in my home county, it kept cutting out. By cutting out, I mean the signal kept dropping and then the ClearNode would disconnect from the node. Wondering if it was the ClearNode, I contacted the vendor and we puzzled over it.
The next day I traveled to another state and, after turning on the ClearNode and connecting to the same Seattle group, enjoyed more than an hour of uninterrupted audio stream through the ClearNode and my handheld radio. I never found a cause for the signal being dropped but I posit one of two things: (1) the handheld radio was too close to the ClearNode (about six inches apart), or (2) the internet connection at the time was poor. I have had difficulty maintaining a solid connection to high-speed internet at the very rural location of my place in my home county.
The upshot of all this is simply that I haven’t seen a repeat of this behavior since I first experienced it. I’ve separated the ClearNode from my handheld radio by several feet, and I’ve moved the ClearNode to sit a bit closer to my wifi router. I’ve also switched the antenna on the ClearNode to a Comet SMA503 dual-band antenna.
October 13, 2022: Second post
I posted my second note about the ClearNode and AllStarLink on the 13th of October:
October 15, 2022: New cloud-based node
AllStarLink installed on cloud server
I spent much of the day on the 15th (yesterday, as I write this) provisioning a cloud server through Vultr.com. Installed on it is the ASL ISO image on Debian 10. Uploading the ISO to Vultr and then running the install from that ISO proved to be very simple.
The cost is low. I think my instance will run about $7/month but we’ll see how that goes. Vultr provided a significant credit when I signed up but I don’t know how that really works.
If you choose to try Vultr, please consider using my referral code. It won’t cost you anything extra and it might help me. Here’s the link:
Where I fumbled around was in all the other settings Vultr asks for a new instance. I’ve installed Linux servers on bare metal platforms before but struggled with the Vultr process. They have simplified it a great deal, so much so that I was having trouble translating their very cryptic descriptors into the more detailed experience I’ve had. Mark this down to user confusion as it’s certainly not Vultr’s fault.
New node number
One of the hangups was that I had not requested a new node number before I started to provision the “node in the cloud.” That gave me time to read and to fiddle. The actual installation went well overall despite my fumbling around. I spent the time waiting for a new node number in Googling for how to setup ASL when installing from the ISO image.
Once I had the new node number (57945), setting up ASL went smoothly. I could connect to it from my ClearNode device and it was reported as registered by AllStarLink:
The 57849 node (ClearNode) is my home/traveling node. The 57945 node (TomHub) will be used as a hub node. I set the location of node 57945 to Seattle as that is where the Vultr datacenter I selected is located.
I also installed the UFW firewall on the server, following the instructions at Linux Shout and Digital Ocean. The firewall is set to deny all incoming requests except those on port 4569. Since I didn’t specify TCP or UDP with the port, it should pass traffic coming in on both TCP and UDP.
How does one connect to an AllStarLink node that is running on a cloud server located a few hundred miles away? Not by handheld radio! Instead, I chose to use the DVSwitch Mobile app on my Android smartphone to connect to node 57945 without using node 57849 (the ClearNode device) as an intermediary. And that proved problematic.
The problem was that I couldn’t seem to find the right username and password combination to enter into the DVSwitch app. I kept getting an error message:
Failure code (29): Bad password or Stanza
The iax.conf file on the server contains four different blocks for authenticating different modes and I tried all of those in DVSwitch. Then I changed the secrets/passwords in iax.conf and rebooted the server. It still wouldn’t work.
Finally, a kind ham on social media asked me if I was using the username “iaxclient” instead of iaxrpt. That was the problem. Once I changed the username, DVSwitch worked perfectly.
ClearNode at home
I also got into my router configuration and moved the ClearNode device into a DMZ. I believe that will allow all incoming traffic to hit it. This was a “quick and dirty” way to make sure traffic coming in via port 4569 (and perhaps others I’m not aware of) would be able to reach the node. I have much more work to do on this front as I would like to be able to leave my home node at home when I travel and connect to it remotely. But with DVSwitch and the 57945 hub node, perhaps that concern is already satisfied.
Still to do
I want to figure out how to remotely operate my ClearNode device when I’m not at home.
I tried to configure the 57945 hub to accept Echolink connections but I haven’t been able to test that yet.
I need to find a few ASL friends who are willing to try connecting to 57945 to see if it actually works!
Buy an IP phone and provision a Hamshack Hotline instance. What? Yes, this is also on my list of things to do as it could provide another way for some of our remote club members to engage with other members in a ham-oriented fashion!