Ham Radio on the Internet
Hints and Tips for EchoLink Users by G.Mike Raymond - K5HUM
also published as Chapter 21 in the ARRL's new
Amateur Radio Public Service Handbook.
ISBN: 978-0-87259-484-5

Last updated Wednesday 20th of August 2014

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Hints and Tips is now available to D/L in PDF Format

What is EchoLink?
About EchoLink Hints
WHO CREATED ECHOLINK
GOOD OPERATING PRACTICES
CONNECTION PROBLEMS
ICON REPRESENTATION
NODE NUMBERS
The SPACEBAR
Your PROFILE
TIMEOUTS
CONNECTION ATTEMPT TIMEOUT
BUSY MODE (the Hand)
CONFERENCING
TEXT CHAT
Callsign LOG
TEST SERVER
The ALARM
SECURITY
LOST YOUR PASSWORD
Locating Echolink Data Files
PORT BLOCKS
Android APP for Smart Phones

Additional EchoLink RESOURCES

***********************************
What are PodCast? and HAM's who Podcast
HAM VOIP RESOURCES
Other Non Ham VOIP Clients
Text Chat with a Browser only!
Free DNS Services
REMOTE Desktop VIEWING Software
SDR or Software Defined Radio
Preventing Internet Hanky Panky
FREE Google Phone Service
Viewer Comments
About K5HUM
Latest info on PopNote!
FreeWare worth Investigating!
Send a PRIVATE E-Message

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Welcome and thank you for visiting. For non Ham curious visitors, Echolink is a means by which Licensed Ham Radio operators can use the Internet to expand their typical radio only capability. Echolink is a
free software program that runs on a computer and utilizes special servers to connect, relay and facilitate connections. If you find this Blog useful, or wish to critique it, your Comments" are welcome.

If you are an experienced Echolink user, I hope you learn a new trick during your visit here, and if you know of a trick or have a useful tip that's not mentioned here, please tell me about it so it can be added here. Credit will be acknowledged! Im also pleased to report that this "Echolink Hints and Tips" article was selected by the ARRL to be published in the first edition of their new "Amateur Radio Public Service Handbook". The ISBN# is 978-0-87259-484-5 Thanks!

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Why EchoLink Hints?

After using EchoLink for some time I noticed a lot of users, both new and old, who might benefit from some of these Hints and Tips. Here is most everything you need to know about using EchoLink for basic peer to peer or round table (conference) chatting. If you find this Blog useful, or wish to critique it, your
Comments are welcome.



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WHO CREATED ECHOLINK
EchoLink was created by Jonathan Taylor, chief engineer of the Synergenics Corporation, also known as K1RFD to his Ham friends. Jonathan gave EchoLink as a gift to the Ham Radio community. He also created EchoStation, a repeater-control program for Windows, for which he charges a small reasonable fee.


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GOOD OPERATING PRACTICES
Before continuing with this article, I suggest you read Arguments for Proving Identity.

New to EchoLink? Although most Hams are eager and willing to help those new to EchoLink, it might save some time and frustration if you first connect to the EchoLink TEST Server (found under the "Station" sub menu "Connect to Test Server"). Reason? Here you can transmit then listen to what you just sent (called your echo). This allows you to hear exactly what others will hear and tweak your audio levels if required. This insures readability BEFORE you attempt to communicate with others. Some Hams monitor for new connections and immediately connect to those with high Node numbers offering assistance, but it is best not to depend on it.

Although you can reasonably assume that anyone shown as "active" wants to chat, you should think of EchoLink as if it were a typical ham band. How often have you heard a station calling CQ but failed to get a QSO going? If you are scanning the active user list for a QSO and you succeed in getting a CONNECT, please do NOT wait for the other Ham to start the QSO after you make the connection. It is considered proper form to talk first with an invitation to engage in a QSO. Would you knock on a door and then after it opens just stand there silently?

If you are running EchoLink, but temporarily leave your terminal un monitored (like when taking a landline call), I suggest you put EchoLink in "Busy" mode by clicking the white hand in the tool bar. There also seems to be a great deal of impatience when users get a Connect but get no reply within 10 seconds or so. Might I also suggest one full minute before you blast off? I know there are many occasions when I am AFK for a very short time, not warranting going into Busy mode, as I am typically just refilling my coffee cup or dealing with Mother Nature.

If your intention is to connect to another Ham or Link or Repeater station with the desire to only read the mail, that's fine and even encouraged. Many new Hams starting out with EchoLink do not have microphones connected or operating properly. No matter what your reason for connecting, it is still considered courteous to at least announce your presence and intention, if not by voice, then by a text message. This way, no one will be left guessing as to the purpose of your visit.

Regarding station ID requirements, peer to peer (or direct connects) on EchoLink do not require signing with calls. Connects to Station Links and Repeaters do. However, as a matter of habit and courtesy, most hams on EchoLink always sign; if not everytime, then every so often.

If you are a busy guy like me, you probably want to do other things on your PC while chatting on EchoLink. Here is an operational tip that will allow you to confirm EchoLink's transmit or receive status in a flash. This can be useful when you "think" you toggled back to receive yet are still in Transmit mode. Reposition the EchoLink window so that its Status Bar is just above the Windows Taskbar at the bottom of your Desktop. Now, take your Browser, E-Mail clients etc and reposition them so their Status Bar rest just above the Status bar of EchoLinks. Now EchoLink's status bar will always be visible on your Desktop, above your Taskbar, indicating transmit activity by the RED [TX] Transmit flag on the right side of EchoLinks Status Bar or Green [RX] when in receive mode.

In addition, you can avoid having to return focus to EchoLink (i.e. putting EchoLink back on TOP of your Desktop) in order to regain control of the transmit toggle. How? Easy, you can configure EchoLink to use the "Enter" key on the numeric keypad (my choice) to provide a "System Wide" PTT functionality. Meaning it matters not whatever program has Focus (is on top) as focus will no longer an issue. Go there vi the Tools menu, then the Preferences sub menu, then click the Connection Tab at the top, followed by clicking the PTT button). When making this change, remember it is important to put a check the "System Wide" box in the setup menu. You can also configure a few other keys for wide area PPT but I find the keypad's Enter key to be the most convenient for how I operate.


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CONNECTION PROBLEMS
A frequent error message when attempting to connect to another uses is "Cannot Connect to (Users IP) - No Route Available". This means the user you tried to connect up with has blocked ports. Typically these are new users (check their node number - if over 500,000 they are relatively new). If you are interested in being a good Samaritan you can go to QRZ.COM, enter their call letters and check to see if they publish an e-mail contact address and then write offering assistance.

The solutions to curing port blocks vary a great deal with your particular setup (i.e. type of modem/router and software firewalls used). Because of the large number of combination possibilities I can only offer a good "generic" solution here. Many newer DSL Modems (the Westel's in particular) have a rudimentary internal firewall that blocks all inbound traffic except on the major ports used by the Web and E-Mail clients. You should DMZ or set the Modem to "Port Follow-through" mode. Next, DMZ the router (block nothing) on the LAN IP of the PC Echolink is running on. Finally STOP Blocking (if using XP SP2+ internal firewall) when the Blocking Security alert pops up. CAVEAT: If you DMZ the Router on the Node (PC) that EchoLink is running on, its important you run a software firewall. Enabling Windows XP SP2+ built in firewall is your best bet. If anyone is intent on using their routers NAT as a hardware firewall and going thru the process of port forwarding, there is an excellent web site with many setup menus for almost all manufacturers hardware at PORTFORWARD.COM.

The setup menus to change modem or router configurations are reached using your Web Browser and using the IP address of the devices internal web server. 192.168.1.1 and 192.168.1.254 are commonly used addresses; check your hardware manual if those don't work.

EchoLink requires that your modem, router or firewall allow (DMZ) or forward inbound and outbound UDP traffic to ports 5198 and 5199, and outbound TCP traffic to port 5200. If not DMZ you must configure your router to "forward" UDP ports 5198 and 5199 to the node or PC on which EchoLink is running. Typically few firewalls block outbound traffic, but it does not hurt to check yours.

For a another "how to" article on curing firewall blocks that can be applied to EchoLink, try Solving Firewall Blocks

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ICON REPRESENTATION
A "human face" means EchoLink is running in either standard (peer to peer) or conference mode. A pair of "chain links" represents a Link station, that is, someone (usually at home) with a transceiver on a simplex frequency, that is connected to their home computer running EchoLink. A "set of gears" represents a Repeater that is connected to a PC running EchoLink. A "PC with two faces" is a Reflector; that is, a PC connected to the Internet on a High bandwidth connection that is primarily intended to connect up Links and Repeaters as well as many single users. A big advantage to using a Conference is not dumping your friends who connected to you when you close your connection. A popular software package for running a Reflector or Conference is TheBridge


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NODE NUMBERS
Your Node number is assigned to you when you become an authorized EchoLink user. These numbers are assigned in ascending order and as of this writing, are topping over 500,000. Obviously then, users with the highest nodes are the newbies. However, just as the FCC will issue vanity call for a Fee, the EchoLink author will sell you a LOW node number to feed your vanity as well. Some users take great pride in advertising how long they have been using EchoLink. Unfortunately, with low node numbers for sale, having a low node number has lost its importance; unless keying in 4 numbers is more efficient than 6. There are two ways you can connect to another EchoLink user. If you are on a PC running EchoLink, you may use the other stations call letters OR node number. If you are Mobil and trying to connect to an EchoLink user vi an EchoLink Repeater or Link Station, you click the Node numbers of the other EchoLink user into your DTMF pad, and if they have EchoLink running, you will be connected; that is, if they are either in Conference mode or not Busy.


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THE SPACEBAR
You already know that by default, the spacebar acts as a Rx/Tx Toggle and not to hold it continuously unless you reset it for "push to talk - release to listen" under Tools Connections/PTT. But are you aware that the spacebar's operational function depends on not losing "Focus" (a Microsoft term meaning the window that is "active" or ontop all others showing on your desktop). You shift Focus anytime you place the cursor and click in any other dialog box or window! Restoring focus to Echolink only requires you left click the mouse inside the tan window where the horizontal audio level indicator resides.
Menu: Tools/Preferences/Connections/PPT Control


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YOUR PROFILE
Adding a profile is a great way to both introduce yourself as well as keep a QSO moving along. Why EchoLink effectively "hides" the profile "Edit" button is a mystery. But, go to Tools - Preferences - Connections Tab and walla! there it sits at the bottom right of that menu tab. NOTICE: If you want to see how your profile looks to others, just connect to YOURSELF (yes, you can do that!).
Menu: Tools/Preferences/Connections/Edit


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TIMEOUTS
Are you tired of the default two minute xmit or recv timeouts? Not a problem. Although important in repeater and link operations to avoid locking up a system if you get distracted, its totally not necessary for peer to peer communications. Go to Tools - Setup - Timing and place a ZERO in the appropriate boxes (zero means NO timeouts or disable). A few people use the timeout bell to warn themselves when they have talked too long.
Menu: Tools/Setup/Timing


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CONNECTION ATTEMPT TIMEOUT
It is my experience that if you fail to get a connection to your intended contact within 6 or 7 seconds, you wont. Or, if you eventually do, the latency or delays on the net wont allow for 5+9 communication anyway. So I suggest setting the delay to time out of the attempt at 7 seconds rather than the default of 30. Go to:
Menu: Tools/Setup/Timing/connection timing


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BUSY MODE (the Hand)
Busy mode allows you to be seen on the various active Echolink users listing but prevents any user from having the ability to contact you directly. If you are in Busy mode and you are also connected to a Reflector (a special multi chat server), this can prevent sharing your bandwidth by blocking other users from connecting directly to you. When you set BUSY mode on, your font text color turns blue rather than the normal black. The Busy status affords you a certain amount of privacy, but does not stop you from connecting to others who are not either in busy mode or otherwise blocking.


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CONFERENCING
By default conferencing is off. The effect is that once you connect to another user, no one else can get through to you (unless your contact has conferencing enabled on their EchoLink and someone connects through their side). Call this a privacy mode if you will. However, a great tradition in Ham radio is the Round Table or Rag Chew. Unfortunately if you are on a dialup to your ISP, you wont have the bandwidth for solid round tables or conferencing. But if you have a DSL or digital cable connection, conferencing can add a lot more fun to the entire EchoLink experience! When connected to CONFERENCES (or REFLECTORS), turning your "BUSY" flag "ON" can stop some types of rotation problems when other attempt to connect to you directly. Some conference moderators insist visitors flag BUSY ON when joining to prevent this from happening.
Menu: Tools/Preferences/Connections/ check "Allow Conferencing"

Side Note:

If you are station (A) and connect to station (B) (who is operating in conference mode) and a 3rd station (C) connects through station (B) and joins your QSO, then station (B) elects to leave (or disconnect) you will lose both stations (B & C). This can sometimes be frustrating and the only solution when running round table rag chews is for the so called "control station" to remain connected until all parties disconnect. Another option is to use one of the many REFLECTORS (called CONFERENCES) available on EchoLink.


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TEXT CHAT
A frequently overlooked feature, the text chat window, can be used anytime after a connection is established; its real usefulness is akin to a Break-In when you wish to comment before having the Mike passed back to you. An audible alarm (ON by default) will inform you when a text message has arrived. You many even assign your own home brew wave file for this purpose. By general agreement, typing three plus symbols [+++] is a request for an "immediate" break in.


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CALLSIGN LOG
EchoLink (by default) records every contact you make (in a standard text file) as well as any connection attempts that you are not around to answer. If you are as active on EchoLink as I am, with a corresponding bad memory, these logs and their Search function make recalling contacts a snap.


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TEST SERVER
Many users find EchoLink runs perfect right out of the box. However, if you ever decide to make changes to your audio levels etc and want to hear how you sound to others, donít forget the Test (or echo) Server under the "Station" Menu. This test server will echo back anything you transmit allowing you to check and tweak your volume and microphone levels.


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THE ALARM
When a user is in your Alarms and they join or leave EchoLink, you will get a notifying pop up window and a system sound. Tip: From either the Index or Folder view, right click to pop up a menu for easily adding a user to either your Alarm or Favorites.


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SECURITY (under Tools/Preference/Security Tab
Because Hams are people and occasionally some people have temporary or otherwise mental or emotional problems, this feature exist. Personality conflicts are not unusual among Hams. From my years on EchoLink the more common troubles exist when two Hams don't share the others world view, and as a result, get on each others nerves and no longer wish to communicate. Right or wrong, this Security feature allows any user to block another user from making contact. In addition, users can block, say, non English speaking countries from contacting you if English is your only language. My technique to avoid the occasional personality conflict is to listen and respect the opinion of others. In my years on EchoLink I have never had the need to block anyone.


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RECOVER FORGOTTEN PASSWORD
Lost your EchoLink password or changed your e-mail address? This sometimes happens. Go here to RESET YOUR PASSWORD on EchoLink. Worse case, you may have to be re validated again; that is, prove you are a legally licensed Ham Radio operator.


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PORT BLOCKS and PROXY SERVER Cures
Firewall issues are discussed elseware in this article; however, another problem some users are experiencing is ISP's who block incoming connections to your modem. This is especially troublesome with WiFi or wireless connections in Hotels, Coffee Shops and Airport Lobbies. The EchoLink "symptom" is you can connect to Joe on Echolink, but Joe can never connect directly to you. If your not the paranoid type and don't mind unknown 3rd parties seeing all your packet traffic, there is a work around for this problem. Its the use of an EchoLink Proxy server or signal go between. The problem: you can connect to a peer out on the Net but they cannot make direct connect to you. The cure: you connect to a 3rd party Proxy Server who in turn receives connections for you and relays them to your connection. In many ways a Proxy operates like a typical Ham Radio Repeater.

You can find a list of available EchoLink Proxy servers here. The two biggest negatives are Proxy availability when you need one, and security. My personal view of using Proxy servers, for security reasons, is that of a very last resort option resource.


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Locating Echolink Data Files

Moving the Echolink program to another computer is easier IF you know where to locate various text based data files that hold your "favorite.txt", "info.txt", "calllog.txt" and "qsolog.txt". Basically these files are stored in a Documents folder or directory. But the Path varies with the version of Windows you are using. One way to find the Path is to do a Windows search on "FAVORITE.TXT" and see where its located. On a Windows 7/8 machine the path might be something like:

C:\USERS\YOUR-PC-ID?\Documents\Echolink

Copy the files mentioned above to a Jump drive and reinstall (copy) them to the equivalent folder on the PC with the new install of EchoLink.

Saved data for "Alarms" is another issue. "Alarm" data is stored in a Key in the Hive or Windows Registry, typically here:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\K1RFD\EchoLink\Options]
"AlarmList"="K5HUM, etc, etc".

CAVEAT: Careful! a mistake with the hive could turn your PC into a BRICK so I don't recommend novices remove or add keys to the Registry. However IF you feel confident, here are two Methods:

METHOD ONE: On the source or original PC, type "REGEDIT.EXE" into the "Start/Run" box and click OK. After REGEDIT loads, Export a complete backup copy! Next search [HKEY_CURRENT_USER] for "Echolink". Once the key with the "AlarmList" entrie is found do a block/copy of just the text in the line "AlarmList". Paste it to a temp file and move it to the second (new) PC vi a Jump Drive. Now find "AlarmList" in the registry of the new PC, "right click it" and select Modify. Now paste in the contents you saved into the Modify/Edit box and click Ok. Run Echolink, all your Alarm entries should immediately show.

METHOD TWO On the source or original PC, type "REGEDIT.EXE" into the "Start/Run" box and click OK. After REGEDIT loads, Export a complete backup copy! Next search [HKEY_CURRENT_USER] for "Echolink". Once the key with the "AlarmList" entrie is found, export that entire key to a file named "alarms_key.reg". With a text editor you can edit the "alarms_key.reg" file and delete all the entries except the one titled "AlarmList"; now save "alarms_key.reg". Finally copy that .reg file to a folder (Desktop is ok) on the new PC and Double Click it. Run Echolink, all your Alarm entries should immediately show.

CAUTION, DOUBLE CLICKING on a file with the .REG extension causes the Windows Operating System to INSTALL the keys it contains automatically.


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Android Smart Phone App for EchoLink

The APP is free and works fairly well. However some Android devices wont allow it. One glitch using this APP is: you can call out to anyone currently logged into EchoLink from their DeskTop, HOWEVER, if someone on a Desktop calls you, they will get a "no route found" error message. There is a work-around to the "no route found" problem: Connect to a public *CONFERENCE* or reflector, and let your Ham buds know in advance you hang out there. CONFERENCES are public not private like peer to peer VOIP chating. If you do use a CONFERENCE, courtesy is of Paramount importance. Two poplar conferences are *DODROPIN* and *SCARS*.

Another problem, maybe minor, with using the Android EchoLink App, has to do with adding people etc to the App's favorites list. The Ham, Conference or Link Station you want to add must be currently logged into Echolink. If not, they will not show up in the various zone list for you to add them. This is contrary to how the desktop version of EchoLink works.

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Additional EchoLink Resources

The
SOUTHCARS EchoLink Conference.
Among many items covered, SouthCars answers why Hams should take advantage of VOIP; or, should we avoid it like the plague because "it's not radio"?

The Nifty EZ-Guide to Echolink.
(Note, this item is a printed book available for sale if your so inclined)

EchoLink on WiKiPedia.

EchoLink User Group on Yahoo.

An Experimental Echolink GUI Interface EQ100.
YouTube Video on using EQ100.

AmateurLogic.TV on using Echolink Episode 7 and Episode 38.

An Echolink client for Macintosh EchoMac.

An Echolink App for Android Smart Phones.

List of free Proxy Servers offered by W8FSM.

Article from KI4GGH: Why I enjoy Echolink so much.

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MY COMMENTS ON HAM RADIO VI THE INTERNET

Everyone is entitled to their opinions but they are not entitled to create facts. With that said, my opinion of Ham Radio is that today it is more about communicating with my brother Hams than the hardware used to do it, or the mode or the medium.

VOIP clients like Echolink, HamSphere etc. makes no pretences that they are ham radio in the classical sense. However an argument could be logically made that packet data on the Internet is, in fact, mostly transmitted by some RF means; satellite, microwave etc.

One predominant fear among older brass pounders is that the Internet will eventually bring an end to the traditional and independent use of RF to communicate. Sadly many of these older Hams have just not kept up with technology, and now express this frustration like "the Fox reaching for the Grapes" in Aesop's Fable.

The idea most old timers express is that if Ham's don't use their band allocations, they will surely lose them. Personally I don't see Ham Radio ever going away. It is still too critical in cases involving all out emergency communications. However there is no question in my mind that the commercial radio interest want more and more of our protected frequencies as technology expands and the pressure for more wireless means to control it increases.

There is even suggestions among commercial forces that the age of emergency communications is now better suited to professional relay communication systems and feel that Hams should no longer be involved.

Since the powers that be are planning the elimination of telephone lines going into our homes, I suppose radical change is not too far fetched as nothing good last forever. The future always brings changes. The Raccoon is the most successful critter living in our neighborhoods because of how quickly he adapts to change. There is a lesson there somewhere.

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PodCast Reviews

Over the past year I have received many kudos on the software reviews I cover in this Blog. Since there appears to be some solid ongoing interest, I plan to continue and expand coverage into anything that is becoming trendy in Ham Radio. Such is the case with PodCasting. In that vein, many Hams are now broadcasting over the Internet, (something they cannot legally do over the Ham radio bands) to disseminate Ham News and technical information. Podcast and Webcast are receivable vi Computers, and or Data Devices, that are connected to the Internet. True Podcast technically require special RSS grabber software or Browser plugins, but many use Flash which is built into WEB Browser like Chrome etc.

Podcast are a series of digital media files, (.WAV .MP3 .MP4 etc) consisting of either audio or video, that are released episodically and disseminated through syndicated (RSS) media feeds over the Internet. True Podcast allow listeners and viewers to subscribe, and get automatic updates. This information is seldom streamed live but mostly available as download-able files on demand. When such programs are streamed live (sent in real time) they can also be loosely described as WebCast.

I will mention several Ham Podcast plus my review of their efforts. It is said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Since I started my humble efforts here to get good useful software information out to other Hams vi this Blog, I'm happy to see more and more new and old Blogers and Podcaster repeating similar information. This section will be updated as required so check it often.


AMATEURLOGIC.TV This is an ongoing monthly effort (eight years now) of several Mississippi Hams, and one in Australia. Together they produce a slick, professional looking Internet TV broadcast covering and promoting Ham Radio. While informative and entertaining, especially watching the unique and fun personalities of the hosts interact, the live show lacks viewer ability to easily cherry pick segments of interest within the long one hour telecast, unless one waits to view the canned versions that can be fast forwarded.

Here is a nice abbreviated listing of all the ALTV's shows you can view and or download.

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HAM NATION This operation is West Coast based, with professional production quality and streamed live from the impressive studios of TWIT.TV. Several major principles (and contributor) to Ham Nation make money from Ham Radio through their well known private business enterprises, however there is minimal self promotion during the broadcast and the show has some major sponsors like Icom. The show brings in many outside Ham guest to speak and or be interviewed. Guest are always active in various Ham related activities. They generally have an open chat room running during broadcast and occasionally answer chat questions while on the air. RSS or subscriptions are available for this PodCast.

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SOLDER SMOKE SolderSmoke Podcast Archive started in 2006 and is a co operative effort of many contributors all dealing with the subject of Wireless Electronic Communications. The Podcast are solely audio based but all the announcers have very clear, easy to understand diction. They cover a mountain of information thats sure to please anyone interested in radio. RSS or subscriptions are available for this PodCast. I give it THREE STARS.

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THE HQA LIVE SHOW appears to be off the air, although the Website is still on line. I attempted to contact the Host for information, but as of 6/1/14 I received no reply. UPDATE: It was reported on QRZ.COM that the Host of HQA-Radio, Thomas F Samacicio, is now a Silent Key. My sympathies and condolences to his family and friends.

NOTE: Find out how to possibly beat the advertising on many Add SPONSORED web sites.

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PodCast News from the UK This is basically a father son Ham PodCast devoted entirely to news in the Ham Radio world. This operation streams audio only, and boast more than just Ham news, but the personal opinions of the announcers regarding any relevant news affecting Ham Radio. The audio is crisp and clear. They ask for donations to support their program but not in an obligatory fashion. To my knowledge there is no RSS or subscription service currently available.

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The Practical Amateur Radio Podcast. This Podcast has been serving the Ham Radio community for several years. The Host is relatively new to ham radio but does not show it by the swath of ham radio material he covers. The Host has a beautiful succinct and clear voice making it almost a pleasure just to listen to him. This is essentially another one man operation, currently broadcasting only audio from his website, but also offering some canned video productions on YouTube. The Host seems very dedicated to providing useful information to new Ham operators. RSS or subscriptions are available for this PodCast.


Special Info: Some Podcasters are using free Stream servers that inject paid advertising that trumps the broadcast while the adds run. I'm told there is a way to get around those interruptions. Find out how on Tom Medlin's W5KUB web site.

If your PodCast is not mentioned here please let me know so I can help spread the word. If you are a Viewer, Listener or a Fan, please tell me HERE what you like or dislike about these Podcast. Your feedback will help the Producers of these Streams know if their content is moving in the right direction.


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Want to try PodCasting yourself?

With NCH STREAMING SOFTWARE you can become an Internet Radio and TV Broadcaster. You would need a broadband Internet connection, and an ISP that would not block port 80 (preferentially), although you can transmit on other ports by having your custom port number appended to your URL as illustrated below. Note the placement of the semicolon between the URL and the port number - HAM.K5HUM.COM:83 NOTE: NCH Video Streaming Software is shareware, usually with a 14 day trial period and limited to five simultaneous viewers.

If you wish to use a commercial (paid) server to host your PodCast media files, you can investigate the LibSyn Corporation.

For production purposes you can cue up your background music, media files etc using a commercial cue loader like SoundByte

For a great freeware Audio recorder and format converter, there is Audacity.


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PSK31 on your Computer
(a clever way to receive PSK31 WITHOUT an HF Receiver)

PSK is a hi tech form of old RTTY or Radio Teletype. Here is a clever way to receive and decode PSK WITHOUT having to have your own Ham Receiver. You can do this by making use of any SDR web site and installing a piece of freeware for Windows called DigiPan. Your Web Browser must have both Java and Java Script installed!

The bands and frequencies where PSK can be found are:

160 meters (*), 1.807 USA 1.838 EU
80 meters (*), 3.580
75 meters (*) (but no PSK)
40 meters (*), 7.070 USA 7.040 EU 7.028 Japan
30 meters, 10.138 10.142
20 meters (*), 14.070
17 meters, 18.100
15 meters, 21.070
12 meters, 24.92
10 meters, 28.12
6 meters, 50.290 USA 50.250 EU



Download this Decoder program:
DigiPan 2.0, install it, then go to any SDR website.

This setup works great and is fun to play with. I'm assuming your PC has a properly working sound card. Should you happen to have a HF Receiver nearby, you can also tune it to the PSK frequencies, turn USB mode on, place your PC "Mic" near the HF's speaker, then tweak your mixer levels as required and walla! Of course an audio cable between the HF Receivers audio output and your PC sound card's Aux input would be a bit more professional hihi.

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CQ100 on QsoNet
(a subscription based system - for licensed Hams only)

An exclusive Ham Radio VOIP Service using a virtual Desktop HF Tranceiver GUI is CQ100 . A big plus for the less technically oriented Hams is not having to bother with forwarding ports. CQ100 escaped this problem by operating a special server that users first connects to (when the program first runs) to get your IP as well as those currently on their system, and then acts as a relay. The downside to this technique is that if that server goes down, your CQ100 program goes down too.

CQ100 offers a free 90 day evaluation period before you must pay the $32 (now $39) annual subscription fee. This service is only available to licensed Hams. Although the service is fairly stable and the GUI interface is interesting and works, Im not sure if these assets can keep a subscriber base after the trial period. Based on the total subscriptions since CQ100 came on the scene, and those currently remaining, it seems few Hams are inclined to continue paying for the virtual aspects of a service when other basic VOIP operations are available elseware for free, i.e. EchoLink and E-Qso, and lately, Googles free Gmail Plus Video and voice service. The voice quality of CQ100 is good, a 10 on my 10 scale. QsoNet is the brainchild of Doug McCormack, VE3EFC.

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ADDITIONAL HAM VOIP RESOURCES

Link and Repeater Locator Software: EchoMap
Reflector (Conference) Software: TheBridge
How to Ham on the Net
SlowScan TV over the Net with: InterAce.
The Internet Radio Linking Project: iRLP.
G3ZHI's Bookmarks1 and Bookmarks2


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DETAILS AND REVIEWS of "other" (non Ham specific) VOIP Software:

HamSphere
(a subscription based system - open to anyone willing to pay)

Another VOIP service (similar to CQ100) is
HamSphere . It too uses a virtual Desktop HF Transceiver. However in this case the goal of the author of HamSphere is to give his creation the illusion of working real Ham Bands by simulating QRN, QRM and pileups. The service also allows anyone (i.e. non Hams) to use it. This makes the very name "HAMsphere" somewhat disingenuous. Like with CQ100, there is minimal concern over having to forward ports. The voice quality is an 8 on my 10 scale.

The jury is still out on how well this simulation idea will be accepted by the users; my guess is most wont enjoy being subjected to noise. At the time of this review, there was no band separation between competing groups, a factor that has historically caused operating conflicts. Another downside to HamSphere is its dependency on Java. I have received several reports that HamSphere runs interference with other Java based clients like Stock Trackers.

Its been several years since HamSphere came into existence, and my subjective observations indicate that HamSphere is losing more original subscribers than gaining new subscriptions. Perhaps because mixing non Hams (CB'ers) with Licensed Hams is a problematic formula. Like eQSO, the majority of users are non english speaking. Only time will tell if this formula survives. However, Kelly Lindman (5B4AIT), the creator of HamSphere, is quick to address bugs and problems.

12/17/12 Update: A new five day trial extension was just provided to cheapskate Ham's like me. In fairness I use these trials, when offered, to re evaluate my review of HamSphere. Unfortunately nothing I previously observed has changed. The activity I observed was dismal and mostly on the 40 meter virtual band and then only 3 stations. The service continues to be mostly panned by US Hams, with the dominate users being non americans. The quality of Ham Sphere 3, the latest software build, continues to improve and I can find no fault with it. Kudos to Kelly (the developer) on that score!

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TalkForce
(a free as well as subscription based system - open to all)

TalkForce offers 20 FREE public channels as well as a subscription service for for those who want private and or encrypted channels. TalkForce is open to all users.

This client offers a simple GUI interface and like others mentioned above, its easy to setup because it requires no port forwarding as connections are made by a TCP "outbound" contact with the TalkForce directory (or DNS) server. This service is open to anyone with a need for VOIP communications, and is frequented mostly by European Hams, CB'er and SWL'ers alike. The voice quality is a 7+ on my 10 scale.

Download TalkForce here. TalkForce was created and is operated by KGB Systems LLC, an industrial software automation design company in Canada. You might find "Warren", one of its principles occasionally online.

TalkForce Downsides: Some random crisp poping noise that appears to be originating on the server side. Some users report occasional lockups when using the Config menu and or complete crashes, especially when closing the program. Side note: I cannot get the TalkForce web site to work correctly using FireFox, but it works fine using Internet Explorer.

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CQPhone
(a formerly free Voice, Text, Video Chat client - open to anyone - has been DISCONTINUED)



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PicoPhone
(a free P2P VOIP with conference capability - open to anyone)

PicoPhone is for the advanced user who understand how to port forward and take advantage of free DNS services such as those mentioned below. PicoPhone, in conference mode, is limited by the users available downstream and upstream bandwidth.

PicoPhone depends on NO company support servers for establishing connections, leaving it entirely up to the users to obtain IP addresses. Therefore as long as the Internet functions, PicoPhone will function. Another upside to PicoPhone is its ability to use sub domain (or FQDNs) in lieu of numerical IP's to make connections. PicoPhone also has several other text based features for chat and messages, although the majority of users are more interested in voice communications. PicoPhone is the creation of Marko Vitez.

More details can be found on the authors website at PicoPhone. The program itself can be downloaded here D/L PicoPhone

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Free DNS Services:

The
NoIP DNS update service.

Paid DNS service: DynDns DynDns works with most popular routers (like the LinkSys WRT54G) for automatic IP updating.

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REMOTE VIEWING SOFTWARE

For those interested in remote controlling a PC at distant locations there is
TeamViewer. This product is free for personal use but requires a license if used in a business environment. TeamViewer offers the ability to control the desktop of a remote PC, transfer files and even voice chat during the process. TeamViewer has improved tremendously since it first appeared and is now an indispensable tool especially for PC technicians.

Team Viewer comes in two flavors. The All-In-One: TeamViewer9 Full Version and the instant customer QuickSupport version9 that requires no formal installation at the remote; just download and run. In addition there are several other commercial version that offer remote control and or viewing vi Web Browsers at off site locations as well as "Presentation" capabilities.

TeamViewer requires no port forwarding as it gets its IP/DNS services from company operated servers located at TeamView.


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TEAMSPEAK VOIP SERVER (and Client) SOFTWARE

TeamSpeak enables full-featured voice integration for online games, virtual worlds, educational programs, military simulators, or any application where up to thousands of users require crystal clear, simultaneous voice communication. TeamSpeak software (both the Client and Server) is free for personal use. License fees must be paid for business use and for renting remote servers (if desired) to host your operation. Go to the TeamSpeak Web Site for all the details. One advantage to TeamSpeak is that there are version (32 and 64bit) for all platforms. Running a TeamSpeak local Server on your PC requires adequate bandwidth and the users ability to forward ports as outlined in the TeamSpeak tutorials.

TeamSpeak 3 is now out of Beta and has more features and advantages than TeamSpeak 2. A NON-PROFIT LICENSE can be obtained for TEAMSPEAK 3 SERVERS if you qualify. This license will increase TeamSpeak 3 Server's capacity to allow a maximum of 10 virtual servers and 512 slots. Non-profit entities include but are not limited to organizations such as online gaming clans, guilds, or friends and family who utilize TeamSpeak software in a manner in which profit or gain of any kind is NOT intended.

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How to Prevent Internet Hanky Panky

Let me elaborate. If your PC is connected to the Internet, this means your computer could be open to being scanned or probed by anyone with the technical know-how on the Internet. Any attempt at a connection to your computer will contain the originators (or source's Internet Postal) or IP address encoded in their incoming probe (request) called a packet datagram. You can use this IP to stop them!

Windows Firewall will "allow" attempts to connect to you over programs you "approve" (by connecting over the programs assigned ports); and block all non approved programs and all other ports. However, lets talk more about a program that you approved to have Windows Firewall stop blocking. An example would be a home based Web Server. Now, what if a person connecting to your server is causing you headaches? Can you block or stop just that one individual? It depends, most Web server allow such blocking as well as some com clients.

Typically, to block, you need to know the IP address OR the range of IP's assigned by the intruders ISP when then connect. If the offender has a Static IP, it's less complicated. Sadly, when you block a range of IP's you also stop any legitimate user in that range. So, the first issue is determining the IP of the aggravating SOB. Better server programs make the connecting IPs available for viewing in a real time listing. Otherwise you need a way to determine the IP yourself.

One way to determine the IPs that are connecting to your PC is with a free Network utility called
TCP/IP View. This utility is fairly intuitive to use, just run it. No install is needed. It immediately displays the IP endpoint of all network connections.

Once you know the IP, the next challenge is to BLOCK it, and only it, without degrading the performance of your stack or Internet connection. It up to the Client and or server software you use to employ blocking features. I am unaware of any freeware IP Blocking "Utilities" out there that actually work.

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Free US Google TELEPHONE service!

GOOGLE Phone Service is free for long distance anywhere in the US or Canada. A Google Gmail account is a pre-requisite. The telephone calls are made from a dial-pad displayed on your Gmail web page. The remote telephone is then dialed; your home phone is not involved. The voice quality is excellent. Go here to sign up:
Google Phone Setup. You select a phone number for your account as well as various options. Your Google number will forward to any land or mobil number you configure within the US.

Google now intergrates Voice, Video, Chat and Telephone services into a new operation called Google Hangouts.

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MAGICTALK, a division of MagicJack offers very inexpensive unlimited calls to anywhere in the US or Canada for only $1.70 per month. You might luckout and still get a free 30 day trial. This is totally PC and Internet based, yet rings the destination phone number dialed thru the MagicTalk software. The voice quality is excellent and unlike Skype, MagicTalk does not use your computer resources for other customers when you are idle. The software is free and available for download at MagicTalk.

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ooVoo, Voice and Video Conferencing over the Internet, but with a nice TWIST!

While this service is almost identical to Skype, it offers a very unique feature. That is the ability of the person you wish to video chat "with" having only a Browser. Meaning they do not need to have the OoVoo software installed!

Here is how that works. You e-mail your friend (right from your OoVoo installation) with an invitation to video chat and a special Link or URL. Your friend receives the e-mail, then clicks on the embeded Link (URL), which causes their Browser to open, load a java applet and behave as if it were a video chat program. OoVoo accompolishes this by allowing your copy of OoVoo software to basically act as a streaming video web server and client.

Of course your friend must have a video camera, microphone, and more importantly, a current Browser with all the latest plugins for java, flash etc. For more information and to Download, visit OoVoo. You can test your Browser's ability to Video Chat by clicking Video Chat with me now! If I happen to have OoVoo running you will connect. If not and you still wish to try it, e-mail me to setup a schedule. Note: I have used Chrome and FireFox without any problems.

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LogiTech Vid, Voice and Video Conferencing over the Internet. (SORRY, LogiTech Video has ceased operations).

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SDR or Software Defined Radio

The combination of computer circuitry and Ham Radio equipment is nothing really new. Computer control is emerging everywhere. The family car is now almost totally controlled by digital devices. SDR was sooner or later bound to emerge.

There are now black boxes like
FlexRadios that use personal computers to provide the operating interface, and Icom transceivers like the Icom IC-9100 that can be remotely controlled over an Internet connection.

There are also WEB controlled receivers that can be operated remotely using only your Browser. Check out the SDR-Radio site for more details. Or obtain a listing of SDR Web Radio Sites. Finally, I was just informed about another company that has introduced The ComCat that apparently has Aps for the likes of Iphones etc. to control Ham rigs etc remotely.


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Microphone Tip:

The least expensive (typically under $2) Mic1 and Mic2 and Mic3 are three examples, and are also the type of mikes that work best with most all PC sound cards. They are of the Condenser types, sometimes called Electric. Please do not confuse these with piezoelectric or crystal types which (among other problems) severely overdrive most Sound Cards. Dynamic Mikes are another no no as most Sound Cards work with +5 volts DC bias on the pin jack, and all dynamic (coil type) mikes have low internal resistive paths to ground.


My own creation, PopNote
You can download a copy of my own freeware PEER To PEER (totally private - no need for 3rd party servers) Instant popup Message client-server, called PopNote. You are invited to check out the latest version either on PopNote Site 1 or PopNote Site 2. I monitor PopNote 24/7 for testing and chatting.

My contact method of preference is Google's free G-mail Video and Voice Services, where the user only needs an ordinary Web Browser like *Chrome, Internet Explorer or FireFox. My Gmail address is "mike.k5hum@gmail.com". My Google number is (985) 377-9130.

*Based on monumental advances in Googles Chrome Browser since it first appeared, I now recommend Chrome above all other Browsers for Windows machines.

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ATTENTION: Support for my PopNote Instant Message Client has moved to a Forum on
Yahoo as well as a new Google PopNote Group.

About the Author's IT background: Programming: ASM, ASIC, BASIC, GWBASIC, Turbo Basic, Pascal, Power Basic, RQBasic, HotBasic, DBase3 Clipper, HTML, PHP, PERL, C+, Python, Java. Web Master and Web Site designer and Sysop. Networking in all Windows environments. Author of numerious freeware and shareware programs for personal computers.

My Engineering Licenses: I was formerly a license holder of a 1st Class Commercial Radio Telephone License and a 2nd Class Commercial Radio Telegraph license, both carrying Radar Endorsements. In those days you had to appear at the FCC's Offices to take the exams. Since the FCC deregulated commercial broadcasters from employing licensed engineers, a General Radio Telephone License was issued and now supersedes the older certificates. I was the 15th individual in Louisiana to pass the NEA exams to become a Certified Electronic Technician and also tested to become a Louisiana State Radio and Television License holder. When passing my Commercial Telegraph License I also simultaneously qualified to obtain the Extra Class Ham Radio license. I have been licensed continously since 1956, with the same station call, K5HUM

My Aviation Certifications: I am the holder of an ATP or Airline Transport Pilots Certificate and I am a retired FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. I also hold a Certificated Airplane Instructors license (Gold Seal), with Instrument and Multi Engine ratings. I was also an FAA appointed Written Test Examiner. In addition I hold a current Certificated Ground School license, with an Advanced and Instrument endorsement. I also served several years as an FAA Accident Prevention Counselor giving speeches and conducting seminars. -[30]-

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Chatting with your Browser!

With the surge in cellular texting, basic on line Chat technology is growing. Here are links to four chat operations that only require a Browser (Chrome, Firefox or IE8 all seem to work ok), in other words, no special software to install. The upside is you can use any computer anywhere. I tried them all and they all work.

The first two are unique in that you automatically and randomly get connected with people anywhere in the world. Turning your Cam on gets quicker results.
Both Text & Cams:
Chat Random.com.
Both Text & Cams: Char Roulette .

These two below are text chat only but allow you to create your own chat room.
Text only: EveryWhereChat.
Text only: FreeNode Chat.
(note: you can change roomname in above Freenode URL to your choice of a custom room name)

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Looking for help setting up any poplar VOIP Services?
Contact me to setup a schedule using any of the following services:

For HAM's Only: EchoLink

Download the FRN Client
How to setup the FRN Client
My ICQ# 683575284
ooVoo
SKYPE
CQPhone-NOW CLOSED!


as well as through Google Hangouts most times of the day.

      














The Briefing Room

Due to the rapid growth of this feature it is being relocated to its own web page. Click
The Briefing Room to go there now and remember to Bookmark it.

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