A shiny new AllStarLink device was waiting for me when I got home yesterday. I purchased a ClearNode unit from Node-Ventures (visit their site to see it). I don’t get anything for sharing the link with you other than the satisfaction of helping you discover it.
I purchased a ClearNode to help me connect with various friends and communities while I travel. My work requires that I regularly engage with members of my work community all across the State of Washington and that means a lot of driving and a lot of time away from home. I am hoping that the ClearNode will help me keep in touch with other ham radio enthusiasts, especially while I’m in travel status.
The ClearNode is a lovely little device based on a Raspberry Pi. It was pre-configured for me and I expected that after booting up, it would “just work.” Unfortunately, it didn’t.
I think what happened was that I probably fumble-fingered my home network SSID or password when providing that information to the vendor. The vendor configures the unit for you so that it is essentially “plug and play” when you boot it up. There is a fallback procedure involving connecting the unit directly to my router via Ethernet cable but that also didn’t work for me. Stumped, I resorted to reading the instructions.
A great feature is built into these units: the ability to program the wifi SSID and password into the ClearNode via light flashes from my smartphone. This is a technology that I used when provisioning a new building with commercial wall switches for the lighting in offices. Each light switch could be programmed with flashes of light from my smartphone’s LED flash.
After I entered the correct SSID and password for my home network in the Android app (yes, there is a ClearNode app for both Apple and Android devices) I flashed that information to the ClearNode. That should have worked…but didn’t. It turns out that the ambient light in the room was too high. As dusk fell, I tried it again and that time the programming worked.
Suddenly, my node number 57849 showed up in the ClearNode Android app.
I have my Yaesu FT5D set up to transmit to it on a particular UHF frequency with a tone code. When I tested, I saw an LED light up on the top board of the ClearNode and the stats available online show the device was keyed up. The AllStarLink network sees it and hears it.
Apparently, I also need to have that tone code in the FT5D to receive. I’m not sure how to do that yet. I have not tried connecting to any other nodes to see if I can receive. That comes next, perhaps this morning as the rest of the West Coast wakes up.
Once I know I can send and receive, then I can explore the AllStarLink ecosystem.
Throughout these first steps, the vendor has been amazingly helpful. This is exactly what I was hoping for: great support. Even better, the device is entirely configurable and supportable by me once I learn more about how it works.
Down the road, I can see myself attempting to build something like this, but for now, having an appliance that is “known good” helps me explore this technology with a relatively small investment of time. I will learn from this and gain some confidence that will help when it comes time to try my hand at building a node.
And you know what? This device is a lovely little thing.
One addition: the vendor at Node-Ventures let me know that the information I need to set the tone on receive is in the advanced manual for my Yaesu FT5DR, page 9. This is another example of the great service from the vendor!
I wonder if this would be viable for the 440 repeaters. Thanks.