Offroad & Overland Amateur Radio Net - Bay Area + IRLP

camp4x4

Adventurer
Originally posted to the CA - NV Regional forum but thought it better here since we're on IRLP and open to anyone anywhere. I asked a couple mods to move the thread but since I don't see that happening I'm creating a new one. Apologies for any confusion.

NET IS ON HOLD - NO NETS WILL BE HAD UNTIL A FUTURE TIME

The Basics

What
Amateur Radio Net specifically by and for offroad / overland enthusiasts

Where
W6SRR Repeater on the Sunol Ridge 147.045MHz, +0.6MHz shift, 94.8 PL tone, Narrowband FM
IRLP Reflector: 9351

Local Repeaters with IRLP Access
K7DAA Repeater in Morgan Hill 442.9750MHz, +5MHz shift, 100 PL tone - you'll need to connect to IRLP by typing *49351 on your DTMF keypad
W6SON Repeater in Sebastopol 441.375MHz, +5MHz shift, 88.5 PL tone - you'll need to connect to IRLP by typing 9351 on your DTMF keypad

When
Bi-Weekly (every other) Wednesday nights, 7:30pm PST - Starting January 4th, 2017
iCal Link

Who
Who's running it? Me, Aaron Vogel, W6TDR. I'm a Technician level ham who has only been at this for about a year and a half, as well as an overlander with a preference for harder trails. My '87 Chevy Suburban is where I'll be conducting the net from - no ham shack for me.

Who's it for? Offroad and overland enthusiasts who have recently made the jump (seen the light) from CB or FRS/GMRS to ham radio. AND those who've been hams and wheelers for as long as they care to remember and would like to converse with like-minded gear heads.

Why
Big picture: there's a lot of benefits to ham radio on the trail and in general in a vehicle. I believe that having a forum for new hams to practice using their equipment, good radio etiquette and connecting to repeaters is valuable and could encourage others to join the movement.

Little picture: I'm very interested in meeting more wheeling / overlanding folks, and this seems like a good way to have chats "live" vs online.

Beyond The Basics

Background
I've been a ham for less than 2 years, but I see terrific potential for its use as part of my truck-related hobbies. There's lots of discussion online about the benefits of getting and amateur license, so I won't go into that here. Suffice to say I'm a believer. I've been trying to encourage others I travel with to get licensed and get radios as well. However, I'm finding it hard to give them a reason to practice in between trips. So I figured why not start a net? A weekly net specifically for offroad and overland folks gives me a way to keep my friends in practice so when we actually get out to the trails I'm not playing Elmer constantly.

After putting the idea out to a few places online - this forum being one - I found others from the Bay Area interested in the same thing: a place to practice radio use, as well as a way to chat with local offroaders besides the web.

After spending some time on RFinder.com and RepeaterBook.com I found a few local repeaters with wide area coverage so as many people as possible would have a chance to join. A few emails later I got some understandable rejection, and one approval. Ian, W6TCP, is the trustee for W6SRR and was more than happy to have the repeater host our net. So a big thanks to him and Sunol Ridge Repeater Group, of which W6SRR is a part. I would strongly encourage anyone who participates in this net to go over to their site and donate even a few bucks to help keep things in shape. After hearing from others who aren't local I reached out to an IRLP reflector owner - N6HHP, Herman Pang - and got permission to use the WALA reflector to allow other IRLP nodes to join the net. Again, I would like to strongly encourage supporting WALA if you participate in and enjoy the net.

I'd like this net to be constantly evolving. Initially we'll kick things off with a few get-to-know-you nets. After that I'd like to do nets in a topic of week format. Occasionally we'll throw a tech net in to discuss more advanced ham radio topics in a Q&A format. Other than that I'm very open to suggestions for format. Feel free to use this thread as a place to post up topic suggestions.

So, if you are a ham radio operator I hope you'll join us! If you're not a ham radio operator, hopefully this will be one more reason to take the plunge!

What is a Net?
A net is simply an on-the-air meeting of hams who have common interests or goals. Nets are formed for emergency communication coordination, large event communications, or to just shoot the s*** (called a ragchew). Many nets are scheduled - such as this one - but some, such as emergency communications, are not.

How do They Work?
More often than not a net will have a Net Control Station (NCS). Because radios (and thus repeaters) are not a constant 2-way means of communication - the way a phone is - when multiple people get on the same frequency it can really cause a breakdown in communication quickly without some order. That's where the NCS comes it. The NCS is an operator whose job is to direct any traffic on the net. This is why they're called “directed nets.”

Most scheduled, directed nets follow a similar pattern (and this net will as well):

  1. NCS opens the net, explaining what the net is and how to participate.
  2. NCS makes any announcements as needed. The NCS may also call for announcements from other stations.
  3. NCS calls for check-ins. Often there will be various “levels” of check-ins. Each net seems to have their own way of doing check-ins, so listen for instructions before checking in.
    • Rapid check-ins. These are generally called first to allow those who have time constraints to check in first. Typically these are short and quick, “hey all,” traffic.
    • Regular check-ins. Typically these are club members or regular net attendees.
    • Visitor check-ins. If you are not a regular of the club or on the net, wait for the NCS to call for “visitor” or “any other” check-ins.
  4. NCS starts business of the night. If the net is a simple ragchew then the check-ins may include a quick chat between the station checking in and the NCS. If the net has a specific purpose or format, then there may be business to discuss among the attendees. This will be guided by the NCS but round-table in nature.
  5. NCS closes the net, opening the repeater for general use again.
As you should be able to tell, the NCS is in charge the whole time, and engaged most of the time.

How do I Participate?
While it may seem confusing or intimidating at first, participating in a net is fairly easy. Let me point out a few techniques and guidelines:

  1. Don't “quick-key.” Quick-keying is hitting the PTT button immediately after the last person is finished talking. This is bad for two reasons. First, it doesn't allow for emergency traffic to break in. While that doesn't happen often, a huge reason for ham radio's existence is to aid in emergency situations. Second, you should always let the repeater “drop” or finish transmitting before transmitting again for a number of reasons.
  2. Hit the PTT button, pause, then speak. This ensures that all the systems, through the reflector, are activated before you speak.
  3. If you find that you're doubling often, key, release and listen, then key and speak. If someone else is speaking after you key the first time, let them finish and try again.
  4. Listen. Pay attention to how others are doing it, then mimic them.
  5. If you'd like to make a comment or question related to what is being discussed, wait for a break in the conversation then say, “comment, [your callsign]” The NCS will recognize you by saying something like “go ahead with your comment [your callsign].” Then you can go ahead and make your comment or question.
  6. If your comment or question causes a back and forth between you and another station, keep the conversation to a short length - a few back and forths. If you'd like to discuss further you can either arrange to stay on after the net or switch over to simplex or another repeater. If your conversation goes on too long the NCS will likely break in and ask you to do one of the above.
  7. Remember that you're supposed to ID yourself at least every 10 minutes on air. If you've made a comment, or are done with your check-in say your callsign and something like, “back to the net” to indicate you're finished.
  8. Use the phonetic alphabet when checking in, but generally not after. This helps net control get your callsign correct the first time. The exception to this is for emergency nets. RACES and ARES nets generally prefer you don't use phonetics as it slows things down.
  9. Use plain English. CB-lingo, 10-codes and such are frowned on by the FCC. Communications should be clear, not confusing, and many people aren't familiar with the meanings of these.
  10. Again, listen and learn. You'll get a sense of the pace, tone and structure of a net very well by just listening for a little while before jumping in.
  11. Lastly, don't stress. Unless you're trying to participate in an emergency net, most nets are very understanding of mistakes. Our net especially will try to be welcoming and instructive to new hams, so jump in and do your best. We'll help you get squared away!

What's The Deal With Narrowband FM?
This could be a HUGE topic to cover, but that's not really necessary here - though this is an excellent answer to that very question. Suffice to say most repeaters operate in standard FM (frequency modulation) mode, however, some operate in Narrowband FM mode. This is simply a different method of FM communication. While the repeater will still respond to your signal, certain issues can arise including cut-out of your signal from the repeater. For this reason you're best of setting your radio to Narrowband FM (NFM) mode when connecting with W6SRR. Most modern radios have this feature and enabling it can be done through the radio's menu. Some may require using the radio's programming software or CHIRP. Beyond that you'll have to refer to your radio's manual.

What's The Deal With IRLP? What's a Reflector?
IRLP - Internet Radio Linking Project - is a means of connecting ham radio repeaters to one another over the internet. Each repeater that enables the feature is given a "node" number. These numbers can be dialed like phone numbers in order to connect. Once connected, any traffic on one repeater is then sent to the other repeater and transmitted as if they were local traffic. The limitation of this system is that repeaters can only be directly connected one to one.

That's where a reflector comes in. A reflector is similarly a node on the system, however, it doesn't have a radio connected to it. A reflector, instead, is a hub that many IRLP nodes can connect to at once, enabling multiple systems to talk to each other simultaneously.

The one downside of IRLP is that it introduces some delay into transmissions between systems. Some of the guidelines above are specifically there to address that delay.

How Do I Get A License?
First thing is to find a testing location. If you're in the Bay Area, particularly south of SF, there's a testing station every 1st and 3rd Saturday at the Saratoga Fire Department proctored by the Silicon Valley Volunteer Examiner Group. This is the most frequent test that I'm aware of. Simply show up with $15 cash or check, your ID and SSN (card itself not required).

As far as prep/learning, I'm a strong believer in the cram method. This is how I got my license, that's how my friend got his. My favorite method is to simply read the questions and the correct answers over and over again. What I did is use https://hamexam.org/ - they have flash cards if you want to go that route, practice exams, as well as the entire question and answer pool.

Here's what I had my friend do: Go to the website above, go to the Technician Question Pool section. Un-Check the "Show question numbers" box. Then print out the whole thing (gonna be a lot of pages so maybe do 2-sided). Then go back and check the "Only show correct answers" box. Use what shows up to highlight the correct answer on the printed pages. This will help with retention. Spend a couple hours going through and reading and re-reading the question then ONLY the highlighted correct answer. Do this a couple/few times the day before and you should be able to pass the Technician level test with no problem.
 
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camp4x4

Adventurer
Well, it was a little quiet on the net tonight, but that's okay. Had 10 check-ins, though most were random folks who stumbled on the net while scanning. Thanks to those who did pop in and say hi on purpose. Hope to hear from you again!

I'll be doing some troubleshooting with the IRLP reflector connection because it sounded like we had some audio issues. If you tried connecting through the reflector and only heard the kerchunking of the repeater but no audio I apologize and we'll work on that.

73's - W6TDR
 

MTN4RNR

Adventurer
I meant to check in tonight but got caught up with work in the house. I will be around next week. See you then.

KM6BSM
 

Wh1t3nukle

I gotz dis
Darn it. Just saw this today. I'd like to learn how to tie into from Sac area. I'll use echolink to go direct as last resort.

I know this will help improve my thread of useful repeater directory, which again, the intent is to be a bit more focused to offroad community

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/165894-Region-HAM-Repeater-Digest-Repository-Directory



Hey Max, saw from the other thread.... use handheld inside to X-band repeat through the mobile. lol O, wait, do you have a mobile in there?
 

SSSSTFIRE

Adventurer
This is great!! Thanks for setting this in motion and serving as NCS. I'll look forward to checking in next week. Well done.
 

rho

Lost again
Bummed to have missed this, but I'll be setting this up on my calendar for the future nets. Hope to check in on a few of them.
 

BWickett

Observer
Thanks Aaron, this is a great idea and I'm glad you are taking the time and effort to get it going.

I got my General a couple of years ago, but really don't talk too much, just listen mostly. Look forward to hearing from likeminded folks in the area.

Thanks,

Brian
KK6DWJ
 

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SSSSTFIRE

Adventurer
Unless I've already missed the whole net tonight I couldn't hear anything on 147.045 all the way down in Gilroy and it didn't appear that the K7DAA repeaters were linked. Of course I could just be all screwed up, good chance of that.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

camp4x4

Adventurer
Unless I've already missed the whole net tonight I couldn't hear anything on 147.045 all the way down in Gilroy and it didn't appear that the K7DAA repeaters were linked. Of course I could just be all screwed up, good chance of that.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Hey, nope, you probably didn't screw up. We had IRLP issues getting W6SRR into the reflector. K7DAA was linked in but our main repeater wasn't. :( Gonna work with the trustee to see if we can't get the DTMF decoder to be less finicky... hope you'll try again next week!
 
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