WA0TDA Remote Base Ham Radio

Operate an amateur radio station from anywhere with an Internet connection.

13 – 15 April 2021 Status – WA0TDA, W0ZSW online, W0EQO online

Software interface radio

New RCForb software

Thunderstorm season has returned to Minnesota.  There will be sporadic outages at WA0TDA & W0ZSW as the antennas will be disconnected to prevent lightning damage to the stations.   You can check out the lightning map at: https://www.blitzortung.org/en/live_lightning_maps.php?map=30

Once the danger of lightning is past, the stations will be returned to service.  

Use the latest version 0.9x software or it will not work on Windows!  Download the new client software to use the remotes here.

Dear HF Operator:

Welcome to the HF Remotes!  This website has information on the following
stations:

W0EQO – Northern Minnesota in the tall pine forest near the headwaters of the Mississippi; Kenwood TS-480SAT radio equipped with speech readout feeding a 300 foot dipole antenna fed with 450 ohm ladder line and a current
balun.  160 through 6 meter operation. Grid square is EN27mc in Hubbard County, MN USA. Callsign admin is WA0TDA.  Station hardware admins are N0CIC & WA0TDA.

W0ZSW – Metro Minnesota Twin Cities location at WA0TDA QTH; Icom IC-7300 radio feeding an off-center fed dipole antenna.  80 through 6 meter operation.  Grid square is EN34mw in Washington County, MN USA. Callsign admin is KA0PQW.  Station hardware admin is WA0TDA.

WA0TDA – Metro Minnesota Twin Cities location at WA0TDA QTH; Icom IC-7200 radio feeding an inverted vee maypole antenna system fed with underground coax. 160 through 6 meter operation. Grid square is EN34mw in Washington County, MN USA. Callsign & hardware admin is WA0TDA.

All of the above stations can run up to 100 watts and all are SSB and CW capable. All are subject to occasional maintenance outages or weather outages.

Please contact wa0tda@arrl.net to report a problem with any of them.

The quick start guide is for anyone who wants to install and use the RCFORB HF remote base client software from Remotehams.com with a minimum of time and effort. That would be most of us! A quick start guide shouldn’t be
wordy, so let’s just use some simple steps to get you up and running.

IMPORTANT:  Register with Remotehams.com using YOUR CALLSIGN as the username, or this will not work!

Get the WA0TDA RCFORB Quick Start Guide in PDF:
http://tice.us/wa0tda/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/The-WA0TDA-RCFORB-Quick-Start-Guide.pdf
Note:  Always choose the newest version 0.9 version of the client software, NOT the version 0.8 as is recommended in the guide or video.  The old 0.8 version will be deprecated due to the removal of Adobe Flash support in Windows.

Screenshot of download page

Choose ONLY 0.9 software!

I have made two YouTube videos on the use of the RCForb software.  This one
is for the free Windows version:
https://youtu.be/V3Sw2aC6Gcs

Note:  Always choose the newest version 0.9 version of the client software, NOT the version 0.8 as is recommended in the video.  The old 0.8 version will be deprecated due to the removal of Adobe Flash support in Windows.

This one is for the Android version, which you can buy from the Play Store for under $10:
https://youtu.be/1zZOK34pj9M

If you are a blind user, be sure to check out the K8HSY guide:
http://handiham.net/index.php/2016/08/02/remotehams-users-manual-for-blind-hams/

The Handiham Radio Club also has a useful website:
http://handiham.net/

Good luck and have fun with the radios!

73,

Patrick Tice
wa0tda@arrl.net

Attachments area

Preview YouTube video Handiham Remote Base HF Stations

Preview YouTube video Ham radio with your smartphone! RCForb Android App Explained

Software radio interface now includes POWER button on W0ZSW

The POWER button on version 0.9x of RCForb software

The POWER button has been activated on the W0ZSW station interface in version 0.9x of the RCForb software. Please turn the IC-7300 power off when you are finished using the station.

The W0ZSW radio, an Icom IC-7300, supports power on/off while maintaining handshaking with the host PC, so we have added the optional POWER button to the client software interface.  Please use the POWER button to turn the radio on when you begin a session and off when you are finished.

WA0TDA recovered from Sunday morning outage

Mini-PC

Mini PC: Host computer for WA0TDA HF remote

The WA0TDA IC-7200 is back online following a multihour outage caused by Windows Update.   The update began in the background on the host PC, at first leaving the station accessible at login, but unresponsive to control.  I have seen this in the past and knew that the station would no longer work correctly without manually completing the pending update.  This is simple – just approve the update by selecting “update & restart” from the power button, then manually restarting the RCForb host software.

This was completed, and at first seemed to be okay, but after a few minutes of operation, the station lost connectivity due to ports closing on the network.  Killing and restarting the RCForb software fixed that, but all told the station was offline longer than expected.

Everything was working as of 10:00 AM CST.

 

USA License Required for Operation of USA-Based Remotes

Pat, WA0TDA, wearing headset and holding licensing manuals.

From time to time I get requests for station transmit privileges from operators outside the United States and its territories.  It doesn’t matter where the control operator is located,  but there is a USA requirement that the control operator must hold an FCC-issued Amateur Radio License with the appropriate privileges.

For more information on the requirements, please follow this link to the ARRL website, which does a great job of explaining it and answering your questions.

 

W0ZSW & WA0TDA back online following maintenence

Both W0ZSW and WA0TDA are back online following Windows Update on both station host computers.  When updates are loading in the background, sometimes things don’t work properly; the antenna tuner might not function, the sound may not work correctly, and some other functions seem slow or don’t work at all.  Please let me know if this happens so that I can address the problem as soon as possible.

Short-term outages may also occur when the Eero mesh network used for internet routing at this location performs an automatic update.  These are unscheduled but seldom last more than a few minutes and the stations will generally be up and running without further intervention.

You may contact me at my callsign at ARRL.net if you notice any issues.

73 – Pat

RCForb software buttons image

September update

September 1 marks the beginning of meteorological autumn.  While it is still mostly a summer month, September is when we begin to notice the “look & feel” of the autumn season.  Nights get cooler and days are pleasantly warm instead of hot.  It rains less and lawns get dry.  The sun comes up later and goes down earlier.

For ham radio operators, these changes are notable.  There is less thunderstorm static and generally better HF operating conditions.  VHF ducting events begin fall off as summer heat wanes.  And since it’s no longer hot and muggy out, antenna projects can be resumed.  That is the case here at the WA0TDA QTH, where there are three HF antennas to maintain.

Two of the HF antennas have been checked off this summer’s list.

View from above of antenna base with feedline, radials, and tuner.

It’s not the most tidy installation, but stuff is soldered and it works.

  • The Butternut vertical has been checked out for feedline integrity and found to be in good shape.  An LDG remote automatic tuner has been installed at its base to allow for use across 160 through 6 meters.  This antenna system is not available to remote HF users, as it services my IC-706M2G station, which is my main “in person” operating position.
  • The heavily used inverted vee maypole system in use at the wa0tda HF remote has been completely removed and reinstalled on a new support system.  It frequently provides the best and strongest signals of any of the HF remotes.  Its transmitter is the Icom IC-7200 and the tuner is an LDG AT-200 cabled to the radio so that the TUNE button activates the antenna tuner.
  • That leaves the w0zsw antenna system, which now consists of a 270′ zepp fed with 450 ohm ladder line and a 4:1 current balun.  The station’s radio is a SARA-owned IC-7300 cabled to an LDG AT-1000 antenna tuner.  This station’s antenna system is slated to be replaced this autumn, due to continuing problems with noise and generally poor performance.  The plan is to replace the zepp with an off-center fed dipole, moving the antenna feedpoint far enough from the house to avoid the typical interference from noise sources like switching power supplies, LED & CFL bulbs, and appliances.  In order to do this, new direct-bury coax will have to be laid across a section of yard that includes ornamental gardens and a swath of sod.  The feedpoint will end up in another section of garden with trees and shade plants and be supported by either a handy tree or by a fiberglass push up pole.  I expect the orientation of the dipole to be roughly SW-NE with the two legs to be in semi-inverted vee configuration.  The longer leg will be the farthest from the house and go off to the NE.  I expect to have this last project nailed down by October, because we all know what comes next.

W0EQO Networking issues resolved

Moving “up north” to station w0eqo, we had a number of issues building with our internet connectivity. The system had been serving up internet to the entire scout camp this summer, which meant many devices and very heavy use. Even so, our data demands are very modest and the system managed to pretty much hang together with only a few interruptions until late summer after the regular camp sessions wound up and storms went through the area. Following one storm event, the station was down and Bill, N0CIC, found that an elderly Netgear router had expired – by which I mean “He’s dead, Jim” expired, not just sleeping.  Probably this was the consequence of power surges when the storms interrupted the AC supply, but in any case a new Netgear was installed and configured and… the system still didn’t work.  It turned out that the internet provider’s modem had reset and had forgotten everything it knew about the ports we needed forwarded to the Netgear.  Tech support helped us out, and everything was working again until the modem decided it was time for a firmware update after which we went though the same exercise again.  As this was going on, I got sick and was out of the loop for awhile, but things are running again and everything seems stable.  This sort of thing can happen to a double NATted network, one in which NAT – Network Address Translation – is allowed to take place in more than one network device.  I’m not sure exactly where we ended up, but as long as it’s working now…

And speaking of network problems:

Station w0zsw, here at the wa0tda QTH, was reliably reachable on the internet until our Eero mesh network decided it was time for a firmware update.  The resulting disruption caused our older Netgear legacy network downstream of the Eero to be unable to reach the necessary ports for the RCForb host software to get through the firewall, so bingo, no w0zsw.  Worse, when the port forwarding was restored, another device on the network and the Netgear router decided they had to continually fight it out for the same internal IP address.  That meant w0zsw was available sometimes and not other times.  A few strategies were available, but I decided to bite the bullet and move the w0zsw host PC to the main Eero network and put it behind just one NAT device.  That has restored reliability.  The wa0tda remote was already on the newer Eero system and was never affected.

So there we are.  I’ll let you know how the antenna work goes.

Update: W0EQO transmit button change test

W0EQO test: The TX transmit button had been removed and replaced by the Txd button.  This affects primarily Windows app users.  Android app users used the PTT button as usual.

The Tune button had been added in order to make this function work on the Android app.  It activates the antenna tuner briefly, which allows a previously stored antenna tuning memory to be selected.  For a longer antenna tuning, use the Txt button, which allows more time for the SWR to drop down to its minimum at the displayed frequency.

Results:  Users reported that audio was not transmitted over the air, although it was loud & clear in “test” mode (VoIP talkaround).  As of now, we have had to restore the TX transmit button, which restored the audio out over the air.  Further tests pending.

Please report any problems to admin at wa0tda@arrl.net.

Thunderstorm season begins

lightning

Thunderstorm season has begun!  Storms can pop up quickly, and when they do, the HF remote base stations may be shut down in order to allow the antennas to be disconnected so as to avoid lightning damage to the radios, host computers, and computer networks. 

There may be little or no warning, and the stations will return to service after the storms pass.  This is just an inconvenience we have to live with during the late spring and summer.  You can check the WX at the WA0TDA station to see what might be going on. High dewpoints (usually over 60 degrees F) are associated with unstable air and possible thunderstorms. 

Report a problem: wa0tda@arrl.net

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