Hamnet: A Broadband MESH Network

From Phil Sherrod, W4PHS:

I just got home from a meeting with two other Winlink developers. We spent most of one day discussing the Hamnet MESH network, and I had a chance to learn a lot and play with the Hamnet software.

Hamnet is a broadband MESH network providing speeds about the same as a Comcast cable connection (or much faster if you use more expensive equipment). Since it is a MESH network, as long as a node has a connection to any other node, it can reach anything in the network. You can simultaneously stream feeds from multiple 802.11 video cameras, do high-speed file transfers, set up an iGate, use VoIP phones or do anything else you could do through a TCP/IP LAN. You can access the Internet through the mesh if one of the nodes has an Internet connection (optional). It would be very cheap to set up Hamnet drop kits as long as we can get the coverage across the county. You only need a Technician license to be part of it.

One of my Winlink colleagues helped set up a country-wide Hamnet network in Chester Co, PA that provides broadband coverage for nearly all locations in the country. They have a hilly county like Williamson.

Texas is big into Hamnet – especially around Dallas and Austin which have almost complete coverage. Hamnet is spreading like wildfire across Europe and developing countries. It now covers many countries in Europe. We are working with them to set up an interconnection with Winlink through the Wien CMS.

The only equipment we need are a collection of Linksys WRT54G routers of versions 1.1 through 4 or the WRT54GL (Linux); I just ordered several WRT54G on eBay for about $25 each.

Note that you don’t have to have a computer at a node. Just plug in a WRT54G, and it’s instantly part of the network, and it can provide coverage to other stations further away. No on-site software configuration is needed. If you put a WRT54G on a hill with a battery, you would have an instant relay across the hill and coverage for anyone with a LOS location around the hill.

Here’s the main page for the Hamnet organization: http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/

An even better device than the W4T54G is the Ubiquiti Bullet BM2HP or one of their other devices:


The Bullet is available in several frequencies, but I think we should stick with 2.4 GHz to be compatible with other 802.11 devices except for long-haul links where 800 MHz would have better penetration through foliage.

For long-haul, line-of-sight links (10-20 miles), you can use 20+ dB antennas that only cost about $10, such as:


The Fall TEMA/AuxComm exercise is Oct. 10-11, and it’s being held at the Independence High School in Franklin. My plan is to set up and demonstrate a Hamnet covering the exercise.

If you want to get going with Hamnet, here are the steps:

Register your callsign at http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/component/user/?task=register
Read this page to find out which versions of the Linksys WRT54G are compatible with Hamnet. http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/section-blog/37-hardware-faqs/101-supported-hardware.html
Find or buy a suitable WRT54G, and load the Hamnet firmware into it: http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/software-download.html
You may want to consider replacing the antennas on the WRT54G with a mag mount or better. Note that at 2.4 GHz, feed line loss is severe.
If you want to set up an outdoor installation or build a good drop-kit for field operation, this is the recommended equipment including a Ubiquiti Bullet that mounts outside and requires only a CAT5 cable to run inside:
Total cost: $107.41


Ideas for Field-Expedient Antennas

Visit the following website for ideas on field-expedient antennas, many of them applicable in a military-type setting:


Online Weather Spotter Training

Online Webinar NWS Spotter Classes!!
Here is the webpage to visit if you want to sign up:


Remember, to attend the webinar, you will need to complete the two modules on this same page first.
Any questions, just let me know..
Scott Unger
NWS Nashville

Software Defined Radio


Apps for the Emergency Services community

From Richard, WB4TNH:
Website for apps for the Emergency Services community. ReadyTN is one of the apps listed. Looks like it has a lot of potential.


AppComm is APCO’s Application Community forum where first responders can learn about existing apps, rate and comment on apps, and share thoughts about these new tools.

Learn Winlink!

This is the greatest development in years! It is easy to get started. And there are many RMS sites, VHF and UHF, in our immediate area. This mode should be a mainstay for us, especially in emergencies when the internet may be down. Best source of information: http://www.winlink.org/

Additional information (from K4IDK):
Anyone wishing to check-in using Winlink is encouraged to do so when not available at 7PM for the regular net. All you have to do is send me, K4IDK, an email using Winlink by way of any RF mode (packet, winmor, pactor). When doing so, include your power source and the mode that you used when checking in. I will acknowledge receipt of your check-in at some point during the day as I’ll be signing in periodically to check for email, and following the repeater net I will send out an email on Winlink with any/all announcements. This way you will be able to check-in at a time convenient for you and still get any information that was given out during the regular net. The only catch is that you must use an RF mode, meaning that Telnet will not count as a check-in, and you must check-in prior to 6:30 PM so that we will have time to get the roster set for net control.
If you are still learning about Winlink, then please feel free to send me an email via Winlink using Telnet as a training tool and I’ll be more than happy to send you a reply while you gain proficiency in the use of RMS Express. Phil, W4PHS, has an excellent paper that he’s written and kept up to date on Winlink at QRZ.com. You can download it and read through it at your leisure. Getting involved in using Winlink using an RF mode is not difficult or expensive, costing about $100 or so for a basic 1200 baud modem for VHF, such as a Tiny Trak 4, or a TigerTronics Signalink sound card for use with winmor when using HF. The same sound card is useful for other modes as well, such as PSK-31 or RTTY. If I can do it, you can as well, as I’m far from a computer guru. Winlink provides us, as an ARES group, the ability to send message traffic in real time devoid of any errors that can occur when passing traffic from station to station using voice and is therefore critically important in emergency communications.

NWS Radar and APRS in Google Earth

Today I was thinking about how great it would be if I could overlay National Weather Service alerts, radar, and APRS objects on top of Google Earth. After searching to find out if this is possible, I quickly found this great article from a fellow ham. I’m sure it will be of interest to many of you. Enjoy!





Below you’ll see a screenshot I took over Williamson County on the morning of July 22, 2015 as a storm is rolling through. You can see here that I was able to query the weather stations that are in our area to track rainfall levels, pressure, temperature, and wind speeds. If I needed information from people on the ground, I could look for mobile stations transmitting in the area and call them on the frequency that they listed in their APRS position report.

APRS and NWS in Williamson County Google Earth

Dallas Clements



APRS How-to Videos and Presentations

For the July 18, 2015 WCARES Chew and Chat, I put together several how-tos involving APRS. If you missed them, I’ve got them all listed below:


Receive APRS Messages for Unread Winlink Messages

If you use Winlink, this is a killer application of APRS. If you’re like me, you check in with Winlink once a week. Imagine driving in your car and your APRS rig alerted you mid week to the fact that you have unread Winlink messages waiting on you. As some of you know, you can send a message to WLNK-1 to find this out and even read those messages. However, this method requires no user interaction after the initial setup and will check your box every day you’re on APRS.

Send a Winlink Message through APRS

This brief video shows licensed amateur radio operators how to send Winlink messages through APRS. While this functionality is being demonstrated on a Yaesu FTM-400DR, any APRS rig capable of sending messages can perform this task.

I’ve clipped the periods between acknowledgements for time. Acknowledgements can vary from a few seconds to several minutes based on numerous factors. Your distance to the nearest RX/TX IGate is number one followed by network congestion.

Emails and Texts through APRS

This PowerPoint presentation covers just about all the ways you can send or receive emails or cell phone network texts through APRS.

Managing Winlink Via APRS

In my first two videos, you learned how to interact with Winlink through APRS. This PowerPoint presentation teaches you the rest of the functions available through APRSLink, the bridge between Winlink and APRS. While this was originally a PowerPoint, I converted it to a video in order to host it on YouTube. Size limitations on this site prevent me from uploading the original slides. Be prepared to hit pause if the slides advance too quickly.

Budget APRS Mapping Solution and Portable Battery Box

This is one of several “homemade” APRS rigs that I cobbled together over the last year. Since filming this several months back, I’ve moved on to an integrated rig for mobile APRS use (the Yaesu FTM-400DR), but I still use this battery box setup as part of an APRS base station for field work. In its current configuration, the smartphone has been swapped out for an inexpensive Windows 8.1 tablet (a Micro Center Winbook) running APRSISCE/32. With this full featured APRS client, I’m able to establish beacons for objects or events reported on the voice nets, assign tactical calls to objects (SAG 1, etc), Digipeat, and IGate as necessary. I will likely do a video on this newer setup down the line.


This page was created July 17, 2015. If you have any questions, I can be reached at my callsign @arrl.net.

If you like the videos and want to see more like them in the future, hit the like button on YouTube and leave your feedback in their comments section.

Dallas Clements


‘SOS,’ ‘CQD’ and the History of Maritime Distress Calls

” ‘SOS,’ ‘CQD’ and the History of Maritime Distress Calls”
by Neal McEwen, K5RW


You Got Your License. What’s Next?

It’s been really great getting to meet all of the new licensees and rag chewing on the repeater. A number of people have approached me to ask the question – “What’s next? How can I get more involved with WCARES?”

Here are a few points to set you on the right path.

Study The Website

There is a lot of great information on the website contributed by members. Spend an hour just surfing the site paying specific attention to the Members Only area.  If you’re new and having trouble accessing parts of the website please email webmaster@wcares.org.

Print and Read The Emergency Ops Plan

The emergency operations plan has been created to serve as the official WCARES plan of action when dealing with a disaster or emergency. There is a lot of great information about frequencies, policies and procedures that pertain directly to WCARES members and volunteers. It’s very important that you have a printed copy of this plan in the event that a disaster disrupts Internet service.

For members the document can be found here.

Check Into A Net

The WCARES net meets every Monday night at 7pm central. Listen in to the net and wait for the appropriate time to check-in. If you are an active member of WCARES your name should be called during the roster check-in. Alternatively there is an opportunity for anyone (member or non-member) to check in at various times.

Participate in Net Activities

Serving as shadow backup for net control will be a big help and also give you good training for net procedures. It’s very easy and very important to WCARES as an organization.  Once you’ve gotten your feet wet and put in some time as a shadow backup – you can step up and run your own net.

Further Your HAM Education

Remember that there are 3 license classes and if you’ve just gotten your Technician license then you still have an opportunity to get your General class license and your Amateur Extra class license.  There are dozens of highly experienced Elmer’s in WCARES that can help explain and offers hands on training in almost any area of amateur radio.

The Incident Command System

During an emergency WCARES will follow the Incident Command System. ICS was developed at the Federal level and is a set of procedures and rules that are necessary to create an effective chain of command and efficient flow of communication from the man on the ground to the top level decision makers.

It’s suggested that all WCARES members begin by passing ICS-100, ICS-200, ICS-700 and ICS-800 before moving on to other components of ICS study.  Proof of a passing grade in all four of these ICS courses will be required for certain activities within WCARES.  These classes are free and available online only.

Volunteer For WCARES Activities

Throughout the year there are dozens of volunteer opportunities that are fun and effective in honing your skills as a radio operator.

  • Field Day – A 24 hour exercise which involves the entire country and gives you an opportunity to go hands on in a high-paced communication simulation.
  • Races – There are numerous foot and bike races that give you an opportunity to be in a fixed location or mobile in a vehicle.  You will be assigned a position and a specific set of criteria for the communications that you will pass to net control.
  • Organizational Activities – you can help with Chew & Chats, severe weather watches, on the antenna team, mobile installation team or one of many WCARES “pods” that are helpful in the local community.

Check the website calendar to see a list of upcoming events that you can volunteer for.

Become A SkyWarn Trained Weather Spotter

SkyWarn is a group of over 20,000 trained weather watchers that are educated on what qualifies weather as severe and how to communicate with local responders and become a helpful member of the weather spotting community.  In middle Tennessee we are subject to seasonal thunderstorms frequently activate a severe weather net.  SkyWarn training is essential in being an effective member of the local weather response community.

In Closing

Being an active WCARES member can be very rewarding on many levels. Investing just a little time and energy will yield high rewards in knowledge and friendship as you gain responsibilities within the organization.

-KJ4YJG ( kj4yjg@wcares.org )