AllStarLink

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Project Summary

The WWI 2M Echolink node is up and ready for testing. This means you can use the 2M repeater from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an Internet connection. Echolink runs on a PC, Mac and Android phone.

Based on previous work (documented here RoIP), I decided to use an AllStarkLink node to form the the core of the architecture. AllStarLink is built on the Asterisk PBX software and uses a bridge to cross connect AllStarLink nodes with Echolink nodes. The WWI AllStarLink node runs on a Raspberry PI (3B) and uses a FT-1500 as the link radio to the repeater. See the drawing.

System Connectivity Options

The radio is located at Matt's (KO4WAT) house in Lake Ridge. (Thanks for volunteering Matt!) The radio is set to transmit on 147.84 (CTSS 107.2) and receive on 147.24. So the set up is just like any other radio communicating through the repeater. When you connect to the node, it's just like you were magically transported to the repeater coverage area!

I have most of the beeps and announcements turned off. You may hear the CW ID from time to time. (W7IY/L) I suspect I'll turn that off because it will be 'unusual' and will generate lots of questions! However, in the short term I suppose it's sort of an advertisement. We may hear people we've never heard before. Honestly, I don't know the community's behaviour. So hopefully people are respectful. We have the ability to restrict access.

Note - we can use this system to link to other AllStarLink nodes as well. This means if there is an interest, we can brink up a link with another repeater group located elsewhere in the world and communicate. I haven't fully explored all the options and capabilities, yet. This may not be something we want to do. Or, maybe we want to do it on 450 or 222 instead. So don't be surprised if funny things happen.

Matt and I can disable the node at anytime via remote control. If you hear something go bonkers, send me an e-mail or call.

If you would like to know more or would like to experiment, please send me an e-mail. I plan to start (finally) to experiment with MMDVM, PiStar and the potential of cross connecting AllStarLink with the digital world.

Instructions

As you can see from the drawing, there are many ways to connect to the node.

  • The AllStarLink (ASL) node is: 52951
  • The EchoLink node is: W7IY-L
  • The callsign of the node is: W7IY/L (which you may hear on the repeater, if the ID is enbabled)

Echolink

The easiest path is Echolink. Install the software on a PC or Mac (Echolink or EchoHam) and register with the Echolink system. Once you're registered, you can connect to W7IY-L. After you register, you can also use the phone app (Android), which is super easy and convenient. In fact, this was the whole reason we started the project. Kathy (KM4TAY) suggested this might be a great way to involve new Hams who might not have a radio.

I find that my microphone levels need to be fairly high when I use my Surface Pro as the client. I didn't have to adjust anything in the Android app. Matt's the expert with the Mac.

iaxrpt

As an alternative, you can connect to the link using IAX2 protocol with the iaxrpt client. The node is 52951. Email me for the password. IAX2 can also be used to link to the node using another AllStarLink node. Meaning, you can build a simplex node at your house and tie your node into W7IY/L. That way, you can use a handheld as your communication device. Obviously, this is a log of work! It's a lot easier to use Echolink and your Android cell phone. There are other iax2 clients on the net (e.g Zoiper), but there is no PTT button in the app. You have to use *99 to key the radio and # to unkey it. Very easy to forget to unkey and leave an open mic.

Here's a link to the client: https://hamvoip.org/downloads/setup_iaxrpt_xipar_010146.exe

Phone Dial In

AllStarLink operates a phone system that can interface with any AllStarLink node, as long as it's enabled. You need to create an account with AllStarLink, which will give you a 10 digit pin. Once you have the pin, you dial 1-763-230-0000 and follow the instructions. You want '2' for Function based connection. '1' is vox based and background noise is problematic. *99 turns keys the link and # unkeys the link. Use this link (https://w2ymm.home.blog/allstar_phone/) for more info.

Voice over IP

It's possible to connect to the node using a soft phone client. Instructions coming soon.

Brief System Description

System Connectivity Options

The system uses a Raspberry Pi 3B and the AllStarLink image. The image is based on Debian and you must be careful when you upgrade. Download and burn the image to a microSD card. (4GB is big enough.) The kernel needs to be 'held', otherwise stuff starts to break. (sudo apt-mark hold raspberrypi-kernel-headers raspberrypi-kernel). Ask me how I know this!

The PI connects to a DMK Engineering URIx, which provides the interface to the radio. You can use an inexpensive soundcard FOB based on the CM-108. I know the cheap FOBs work from my previous research. Search the Internet. If you have a steady hand and good eyes, you can make the interface for $5. The company making the RTCM product is out of business. Don't bother searching. DMK Engineering is still in business. I used the SimpleUSB asterisk module in Asterisk.

The URIx connects to the FT-1500 via the data jack on the back panel. For an antenna, I connected a short telescoping whip to an old mag mount base donated by WA0DYJ. The power supply is an inexpensive switching supply with a loud fan. (Sorry Matt!)

The ASL image uses a console based menu for setup and configuration. Once you go past the basic stuff, you end up tweaking things in the configuration files themselves. My past experience with Asterisk was very helpful because the configuration files are confusing at first. Note - Asterisk is a professional level PBX package. If you're interested in Voice over IP, it's worth getting to know. ASL has tools for setting the audio levels. I used a deviation meter to set the TX levels and the on-screen meter to set the RX level. Default is 500, but I ended up around 150.

The node can also connect directly to two radios and turn the system into a repeater. (requires duplexers if TX and RX are on the same band) Multiple nodes can be cross connected to link repeaters together. There are remote linking commands. An autopatch and reverse autopatch are available. They are disabled in this system. There is a voting option, but I didn't test it. Looks like there is a GPIO interface, too. Many options!

The original suggestion was for Echolink. However, I had some past experience with ACID, which is now AllStarLink. These systems are based on Asterisk and Linux instead of Windows. I find Linux much better than Windows for headless, remote operation. The rpt-dir module was added to AllStarLink, so system set up was much easier this time around.

A note about callsigns.... I used W7IY for the link because I was registered in both systems already. I don't plan to add another Echolink node under my call, so it's not a big deal. If somebody feels strongly about using W4IY or W4AD, we'll need copies of the licenses to submit for proof of a club station. I wasn't sure if this would be possible, so I stuck with W7IY. Path of least resistance!

If you need more info, please e-mail me.

References