Re: DST Communications tools


Hi Mark
I was impressed with your web site and the you tube presentation on using AREDN to connect computer networks!.
I totally agree with you, that AREDN is VASTLY superior  to any of the current Amateur radio digital message programs currently in use. I also agree that there is a large number of Packet stations and gateways across the nation. Packet has been with us for over 30 years, where as VARA is just getting started. Addressing your concern that VARA has "one guy controls the market" I have been in communications with the author of VARA - Jose EA5HVK. I will post his reply - be assured the source code is safe and would be given to responsible people who would continue to support the program in the event that Jose could no longer support the VARA program.
The Los Angeles basin, where most of the people live is huge, and mostly flat. It is surrounded by mountain top repeaters sites to the North ,East, and South where AREDN systems can be set up. Also there is a lot of skilled talent available to set up AREDN systems. If an 8.0 Earthquake should ever hit your area, the Em-Comm traffic load would be huge and AREDN is the only system that could hope to meet the demand! (That is assuming the earthquake had not misaligned the dish antennas!) 

In San Diego it is a totally different  story. San Diego County is by no means flat. It is covered with hills, canyons, and valleys.
There are relatively few good available mountaintop sites that have any space in the vault for a lowly Amateur Radio system. Vault space cost is measured by the square inch! The cost would be beyond reach for any new technology like AREDN. The AREDN network was started years ago,  and sites on T.J. - Palomar and Otay Mt were obtained, but that is as far as it went. Only those who had LOS to these sites could get AREDN. Most of the Amateur Radio population could not benefit from the AREDN due to trees, hills, valleys, and canyons, all it takes is a tree branch to stop the signal. I have been waiting for years for the AREDN network to deliver  a usable signal to my roof in Mira Mesa. The LOS path from Palomar is blocked by Black Mt - which has 4 Amateur repeaters on it. Since Andre illness has sidelined him, all development work on AREDN has stopped in San Diego, to my knowledge. 

So what is left for em-com communications? The ONLY Packet and VARA gate way in the San Diego, is in T.J. Mexico. (there is a new UHF VARA gateway on Palomar Mt - but it is in the noise - blocked by Black MT). The Mexican gateway site is a long reach from North San Diego. From Mira Mesa, I can get very good VARA speeds on VHF VARA-FM thru XE2BNC. But what about a real life disaster? There is NO guarantee that any gateways will be available. AREDN in San Diego, the backbone works, but signals are too weak for general use. In a disaster, any communications tool that gives fast, efficient, and accurate message delivery to the key staff working a disaster, should be used. When a disaster has destroyed ALL the normal communications infrastructure, there is a need to get critical communications out of the "last mile" (During Katrina the "last mile" was more like 50 miles) out to an area that still has Internet connectivity. This may require HF PACTOR or HF VARA.   I realize in some rural areas, there may be more Packet gateways available than VARA, If that is the communications tool available, then it should be used. But I have noticed that the number of VARA stations  are  increasing, especially in the larger cities, while packet is decreasing.  I used to use APRS on 144.39 MHz when I drove across country, but now there are so few active Packet nodes left, I have given up on its usefulness. 

 But back to the realities of a disaster. If there are NO gateways available for Packet or VARA, then we must learn how to pass and relay  traffic using P2P to send traffic in the disaster zone. This is where VARA wins the speed contest, but if packet is all you have, then use it.  I am hoping to get a simplex VHF net going to learn how to pass traffic using VHF VARA P2P relay.  That is a much needed skill to develop. 

Thanks for letting me share my opinions on this important subject, and I appreciate all you and others have done in the L.A. area to set up a very reliable communications network. I am especially impressed with the VHF-VARA network that Oliver K6OLI and others have set up in N.E. L.A. to support Hospital communications. I would sure like to see a network like that in San Diego, but we are hindered by the topography.

73 Bruce    WA6DNT@...    WA6DNT@...

On 9/7/2021 9:12 AM, Mark Warrick (KM6ZPO) wrote:
Hi Bruce,

I disagree with your assessment that packet is "obsolete".  There are currently 1,063 packet FM gateways vs. 349 VARA FM stations.   I'm not discounting VARA as a possible future replacement of packet 1200/9600.  I am a little concerned that one guy controls the market though.  For that reason, I don't see VARA as the future replacement of packet.  What i see here instead is a story of VHF vs. BETAMAX.  Remember, BETAMAX was better, but VHS ultimately dominated the market as an inferior product because more than one company was able to produce it.  Eventually, the DVD kicked both of them to the curb and then streaming took over.

If we truly care about the speed of communications, the usefulness of those channels (multi-purpose) and the cost involved in getting up to speed, the AREDN data network is thousands of times faster and costs less to implement.  In the same amount of time you can send one VARA FM message at its fastest possible throughput, I could submit hundreds, maybe thousands of the same type of message over AREDN while conducting a video conference call!  Currently, there is no technology I'm aware of (aside from the Internet itself) faster than AREDN.  AREDN is simple. The adoption of this data network is going to be a lot smoother as the AREDN network develops further.

Therefore, I'm not focussing upon trying to convince people to adopt a technology that is, at best, only four times faster than the best packet FM technology available.   Packet 1200 is common, reliable, and a lot faster than passing information with your voice.  For that reason I strongly recommend that people at least have 1200 baud capabilities.   I discourage 9600 baud stations because of the lack of 9600 baud gateways, and the cost of the radios you need to use 9600.   I am not going to push VARA.  I will, however, push AREDN.  See my website for examples of how I have put AREDN to work in EMCOMMs.


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