This How to is for those interested in the Radio hobby known as Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Radio amateurs have been on the cutting edge of radio development since the very early days (early 1900's)and have provided Emergency communications many times over that time. (For More information on the many facets of this hobby go to the American Radio Relay League web page at arrl.org)
A Little History – My Amateur Radio Call sign is KC1DI - I have been interested in radio communications since I was about 11 years old and received my first Amateur license in 1966. ( You must be licensed by the correct authority for your Country. In the U.S. it's The Federal Communications Commission. That is in order to transmit radio signals.) My primary interests in radio have been most in the High Frequency range (H.F.) Also knows by some as Short Wave. (I have communicated with other Amateur radio operators on every Continent and over 250 Countries. It has been great fun. There are many facet of this great hobby. From Satellite communications, Local Emergency communications, bouncing signals off the moon and a wide verity of contesting, radio direction finding (also called t hunts or fox hunts.) and many more. Until recently my main interest was in transmitting Morse Code – old but one of the most reliable modes of transmission and very low power transmitting.. In the U.S. we are allowed to transmit up to 1,500 watts of R.F. Power In other countries it is different. But Since my early years in the hobby I have always found it interesting to use the least amount of power possible to make the contact. In fact the power output of my current equipment ‘s power output limit is about 2 watts and I often make contacts with as little as 500 Milliwatts or .5 Watt.
Another interesting aspect of the hobby that has been around since the very early days, is Home Brewing (no not the beer kind) making one’s own equipment out of parts scrounged from all sorts of places. In the 1940’s –through the 1980 old tube type Televisions where a prime source. But with the advent of Transistors and miniature devises it has become more difficult to find parts in single lot sizes and build one’s own equipment, though many still do.
How does radio fit with Linux and specifically with Vector you ask?
With the advent of the computer of course many amateur radio operators were among the first to see the potential and when Linux was first introduced many a ham saw something ( Free was always a good draw to the radio ham who learned to look for bargain parts.) Thus many of the early Linux Distributions (Red Hat, Debian , Mandrake (now Mandravia) and others had quite a few software programs in their repositories specifically for Amateur Radio uses.) Today many of them have dropped those repository holdings except Debian still has a fair amount of radio programming. When I first came to Vector of course I looked for programs that were compatible with my Amateur Radio hobby and I found none pre-built for Vector. Though I liked Vector Linux ( I first used it very early in its development.) I would almost always end up back with Debian. Need is the mother of inventions. When Vector 5.9 came along I thought to myself ( it just ran so well on my older , Free computers) that I needed to learn how to package for Vector so I could package some of the outstanding radio programs available out there. In Short I learned how to make my favorite programs , Which include Computer log book software ( a logbook was once required of all Ham radio operators , that requirement in the U.S. was dropped several years ago , Many of us remember having to keep logbooks for years that were hand written. And include such things as calls , times , signal strength and names of all other hams contacted.) So I’ve Packaged a log book program Named Xlog that was written by another ham PG4I. and it works great in Vector.
Xlog allows me to keep an electronic logbook in adif Format which is the format acceptable with most Amateur Radio organizations around the world for transfer of radio logging information. Xlog has not yet been moved to the testing repository but hopefully will be soon. (that is as of today , 4-24-08)
There are many reason to want this ability – Since the Old days of radio Ham’s have sent each other what are known as Qsl Cards. ( a post card that confirms that the radio contact actually took place) and since very early on those cards could be used to prove contacts. They were then used to apply for any number of operating awards that were available. Today most Qsling is done on- line and Logbook entries are confirmed by sending electronic Qsl cards. Via organizations like Log Book to The World , Sponsored by the A.R.R.L. or Eqsl a private non-profit. They all accept Logbook entries for upload and download in ADIF format.
Enter Xlog that allows me to log my contact automatically ( with the dependency program Hamlib, more on that one in a moment.) and transfer the information to eqsl.cc in ADIF format. We’ve come a long way from handwritten logs on paper and mailing Cards that ofter took years to arrive.
Xlog – When it's moved you will be able to install it with gslapt by enabling the testing repository. In Gslapt go to edit >preferences> sources and check the box next to one of the testing repositories.
Xlog is very easy to use once installed. Either type xlog in a termial or add it to your menu. Once it's up and running it will look similar to this:
Next thing is you should name your new Logbook – by clicking on log >New >enter your call or name in the box that comes up hit save.
After that everything is quite self- explanatory
To add an entry simply fill in the information on the in the left panel and click on the add button. Don't forget to save your log when you exit. Other information can be found in the help menu or online at http://www.qsl.net/pg4i/linux/xlog.html
Hamlib-- I mentioned the package hamlib. Xlog list it as a dependency this is a neat program that allows you to conect hamlib to a compatible reciever and transmitter via the serial port and control the frequency of the radio , and automatically log the information present to the computer by the radio. Thus frequencies , singal strength and such will automatically be logged in the Xlog program.
I've packaged hamlib and it is available in the testing repository. You can install it with slapt-get or Gslapt.
Another fairly new and interesting aspect of is digital communications that the computer sound card has made possible.
There are many digital modes not all are new. Some Like Radio Teletype , Hellscribner and Morse Code have been around since the early days but relied on electro-mechanical devices to translate the tones sent by radio waves to printed copy. Today with the advent of computers there has been a resurgence of sorts into new ways to send digital signals over the airwaves. Transmission modes with names
like PSK31 , Psk63 (Psk stands for Phase Shift keying and the number stands for the data transmission rate.) thus a Psk31 signal uses as set of tones and the amount of shift between the tones is messured by the computer software and translated to plain language. In Psk31 the transmission rate is 31 charectors per second or what is know as 31 baud. This low a fairly low rate is excellent for keyboard to keyboard communications and only take a fraction of the frequency spectrum other modes take.
Programs capable of generating and deciphering PSK, Radio Teletype (RTTY) CW and many other digital modes have been written for Linux by many hams around the world. One of my favorites is
Fldigi – It was Written by W1HKJ David H Freese, Jr. - I have packaged it for Vector also. And it is available in the testing repository. Again you'll need hamlib as a dependency. And fftw will need to be installed along with portaudio.
Here's what it looks like running:
I would be more than happy to help any Ham Radio Op or Short wave listener (SWL) who would like to get into Digital modes using Vector Linux Drop me a P.M. From the Forum or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Note: there is so vary much more that can be added to this How to , and as time permits I'll be packaging other ham related software for Vector. And will add them to this list at that time. )
Happy Vector Linux Hamming.
73 Dave KC1DI
(Note: I've been testing these programs on VL 5.9 Light and in Light there are some missing dependencies you will have to download and install, They include portaudio, libpng gnomeprint and maybe others.)