Random Wire℠
Random Wire℠ Reflections
Random Wire Reflections for Issue 97
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Random Wire Reflections for Issue 97

Audio preview of Random Wire Review issue 97, recorded in my pickup truck! Topics include Independence Day, a LiFePO4 battery, Digirig devices, and a new TNC in my shack. News about AllStarLink!
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Good afternoon. KJ7T is in the booth! This is Tom Salzer with some Random Wire Reflections for Issue 97 of the Random Wire Review that will publish on Friday, July 5th.

And I have to laugh a bit when I saw I'm in the booth, because the reality is I'm at my messy sit-stand workstation at home, early in the morning when it is quiet, and just pretending that I have a recording booth!

I actually recorded this podcast inside the passenger compartment of my Honda Ridgeline truck while waiting for my daughter’s prescription to be filled. I captured audio on my Zoom H4N Pro Handy Recorder with a “dead cat” filter over the sensitive microphones. The audio was later imported into Audacity for final editing. I exported the audio in mono to save space, making this podcast a bit more friendly for folks using cellular bandwidth to listen.

Tom Salzer KJ7T
Tom Salzer KJ7T

Overview

OK, let's take a dive into Random Wire Review issue 97.

Topics in issue 97 include:

  • Independence Day;

  • a new (to me) Dakota Lithium battery;

  • the Digirig Mobile and Digirig Lite devices; and

  • a terminal node controller by MFJ.

I also offer some reflections on encryption of radio traffic and on APRS. The closing notes include a short bit about cloning my hotspot microSD card, a sound clip from an AllStarLink net, and a few photos from the Hillsboro Hops baseball game.

If you are interested in AllStarLink, you’ll want to stay tuned to the very end where late-breaking news is shared about a major version upgrade for AllStarLink!

Independence Day Edition

Since issue 97 will publish on July 5th, I'm calling it the Independence Day Edition.

On July 4th, my wife and I will attend a baseball game that pits the Hillsboro Hops against the Eugene Emeralds. We'll try to eat a few hot dogs, have a beer, and watch the fireworks show that will be featured at this game. Usually we get together with family, but having a night out for the two of us seems like a great way to celebrate Independence Day this year.

In issue 97, I refer readers to a Reddit thread about the First Amendment and ham radio. Reading through those comments helped me appreciate the many privileges we enjoy as licensed amateur radio operators even more.

New Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery

I succumbed to a deal on Facebook for a 12-volt, ten amp-hour battery from Dakota Lithium, for $69. That’s a nice price for a portable battery.

This little guy is a bit larger than my off-brand 12.8V 6 amp-hour battery by TalentCell. I'm surprised the Dakota battery doesn't weigh much more than the TalentCell battery.

I tested the battery by clipping the power leads from my Ten-Tec Scout 555 to the spade lugs on the Dakota battery. It worked great and I can tell this is going to be a mainstay in my ham radio kit.

Digirig Mobile and Digirig Lite devices

I have a Digirig Mobile device that I bought because I couldn't get an MFJ TNC some time ago. The Digirig device works great. It's about the size of a large thimble, as in the protective device you put on your thumb when sewing.

Actually, the Digirig kind of blows my mind. Essentially, it's an external sound card that is just tiny.

The catalyst for me to look again at the Digirig products was an issue of Steve Stroh's great newsletter titled Zero Retries. Steve included a bit about the new Digirig Lite device that incorporates some of the needed cabling into the device.

I love a tiny and complete solution so the Digirig Lite is on my "must acquire" list.

If you like content that is interesting and future focused, produced by an experienced and capable ham, I recommend Steve's newsletter to you. A subscription button is included in issue 97 of the Random Wire.

A New TNC Arrived in the Shack

And speaking of terminal node controllers, Steve's mention of the Digirig Lite caused me to remember why I bought the Digirig Mobile, so I went looking for an MFJ 1270X TNC again. Most vendors I checked list this device as out of stock, but Ham Radio Outlet had some in Sacramento.

I very swiftly logged into my HRO account and ordered up another 1270X. It arrived a few days later. I include unboxing photos in issue 97.

Encryption of Radio Traffic

I overheard an interesting conversation from an east coast reflector while on a morning drive for the coffee that fuels the start of my day. Somehow, those hams got onto the topic of encryption of radio traffic by city, county, and state agencies.

I reflect a bit on this in issue 97. I'm of two minds. Normally I would prefer radio be open to all. But I've been in the public safety arena and I understand the need to protect people, families, businesses, and public officials. If encryption makes public safety officials safer and better able to do their jobs, then I support it.

How Do You Do APRS?

I actually did laugh out loud when this title popped into my head because it echoes a line in the 1980s movie The Last Starfighter. In that scene, an alien astronaut is meeting the hero's friends and family on Earth, and when one of the people asks him "How do you do?" he responds with: "I do WELL! How do YOU do?" That's the intonation I hear in my mind when I read How do YOU Do APRS?

I run APRS in my mobile rig: a Yaesu FTM-300DR on VFO B. I also have APRS enabled on my desktop AllStarLink node and on my Yaesu System Fusion hotspot. These latter two devices simply report the position of the devices. They aren't digipeating or igating APRS traffic.

I'd love to know how you use APRS, and if you don't, why not? The technology has been around for a while but I consider that a strength because it means there are a significant number of APRS digipeaters around the world.

I've been kinda sorta thinking of adding a digi on my home network, and that means either getting a pre-built device like the WX3in1 Plus or building a fill-in digipeater. There are links to some interesting digi projects in issue 97.

Notes

I did clone my hotspot microSD card as I suggested I should a few weeks ago. The clone is currently in the hotspot and running fine. The original card is labeled and in my workstation drawer. The image file that I can use to burn more microSD cards is stored on my file server. That's about as backed up on this system as I need to be.

Something I'd like to do in Random Wire Review issues is include a sound clip of a particular operating mode. In issue 97, I link to a seven-minute clip of an AllStarLink net that let's you hear the wide range of audio quality among the participants. Audio ranges from smooth and clear to completely broken.

One of my goals is to help subscribers who have not used some of these modes experience the kind of audio you might hear.

I think I'll throw in a few photos from the Hillsboro Hops game, just for fun. Getting away from radio for a few hours can be a refreshing change that helps provide a bit more perspective when you come back to it later.

LATE BREAKING NEWS

Hours after Random Wire 96 was published last week, AllStarLink announced the availability of ASL 3. This is presented as a Beta release. If you take a look at the online manual, this is a big step forward for ASL:

  • Supported Hardware & Software

  • Any x86_64/amd64 hardware device

  • Any emulated x86_64/amd64 virtual machine

  • Any arm64-based device such as Raspberry Pi

  • Any emulated arm64 virtual machine

  • Debian 12

I welcome this big version change but I think it should come with a caution. Many of us will want to upgrade to the latest and greatest version which is now ASL 3 Beta. If your node is running fine, I suggest waiting a bit to see if undiscovered bugs or problems come to light, especially if your node is publicly accessible.

Despite my sense of caution, I must say well done to the AllStarLink folks. I feel like my financial support of AllStarLink is helping to make a difference. AllStarLink is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so your donations may be tax deductible.

I’m sure I’ll give it a try soon. My cloud node is definitely a public-facing system so I’ll capture multiple backups of the working node before I go down this path. Step one, though, is to read the user manual!

With that, I'll say thank you for taking the time to listen and to comment. 73 to all. This is KJ7T and I'm clear.


Credits

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Random Wire℠
Random Wire℠ Reflections
Interviews, radio audio, opinions, and news of upcoming issues of the Random Wire newsletter. #AmateurRadio #RandomWire #KJ7T
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