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ARRL forcing closed systems for ARES datacom

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by WA3YRE, Jun 9, 2004.

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  1. WA3YRE

    WA3YRE Guest

    Well it seems that the leadership at the ARRL
    is again showing us how clueless they are
    about things in the digital age. They are
    right now trying to force a closed expensive
    proprietary system on ARES members for data
    communications purposes. The details are at

    I suppose that I should not be surprised though as the
    ARRL president is clueless about what software runs
    his own PC. When I asked him what operating system
    he was using he told me AOL! I think it is about time
    we get some DIRECTORS elected that have a clue about
    the world today and that are interested in more than
    just what affects them. To quote the Hudson Division
    Director Frank Fallon N2FF "if it does not affect me
    why should I care about it". Frank has by his own admition
    no interest in experimentation, development of new
    digital techniques, or anything but contesting and DXing.

    Read the article and if you see the danger in emergency
    communications being locked into a single closed software
    system then LET YOUR DIRECTOR KNOW! Even if you are not
    a league member if you see what is dangerous about this
    make some noise!

  2. bigdog

    bigdog Banned

    I think that this is a bad idea.
    I think that ARES Should try to go in to one standard but should let all in on what is, I meen that people with a receiver and a lap top should at with any operating system should be able to receive, if not communicate with ARES should there be a need.

    just a thought.

  3. N0OV

    N0OV Guest

    Last time I looked isn't it more important for ARES to be able to communicate with Federal, State, and Local governments?

    Question -- is this an ARRL idea or is this a specifications requirement levied by the Federal Government to ensure system wide compatability with other digital networks?
  4. WA5KRP

    WA5KRP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here is the proposal made by the Ad Hoc Committee on ARES Communications.  It should be noted, two committee members are also members of the WinLink 2000 (WL2K) development team:  Rick Muething, KN6KB, and Steve Waterman, K4CJX.  An argument can be readily made this creates a conflict of interest.

    I submitted the following comments to the South Texas Section Manager, the West Gulf Division Director, and League officers on May 5th:

    </span><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1"><tr><td>Quote </td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">Hello,

    I've been keeping my ear to the ground regarding the League's push to make WinLink and Pactor II/III the standard for NTS and ARES communications.  I can appreciate that this is being done to bring about a uniform national network for passing data digitally with greater reliability at relatively higher speeds.  But there are some issues that should be addressed before the League procedes with this system-wide upgrade.

    1)  What compelling reasons exist to use proprietary software?  Once chosen, the user - in this case the NTS and ARES - is married to a specific vendor.  As the new system is deployed and previously unforseen needs arise or improvements are sought, what will be the willingness and capability of the vendor(s) to make adjustments?  And how rapidly and at what cost?  What is Plan B should a vendor be unwilling or unable to make requested changes in a timely manner and at reasonable cost, or if they go out of business?  Would there not be greater flexibility and lower costs if non-proprietary software with open source code were adopted?

    2)  What convincing argument can be made that Pactor II/III has the best capabilities to move traffic when HF conditions are less than optimal?  It has been suggested that MT63 can do better and at much less cost.

    3)  Should WinLink and Pactor II/III be adopted at a cost ranging from $850 to $1200 per installation (assuming participants already have a computer), how many amateurs will be able to afford and are willing to upgrade to participate in the NTS/ARES system?  Keep in mind the average amateur spends $750 per year on his hobby.  Shouldn't the League consider options which would permit a more ubiquitous participation of the amateur community?  A select few does not a network make.

    4)  In formulating these recommendations, what input was received from federal, state, and local emergency management team members?  Have they indicated they are willing and able to make the necessary expenditures to adopt the proposed system?  What is to be done if a large municipality, county, or state is unable or unwilling to adopt the proposed system?

    5)  Why has there not been an opportunity for League and non-League members to respond to this proposal following its publication in QST?  Simply mandating a change requiring such significant costs will undoubtedly be met by resistance by active NTS and ARES participants if their input is never sought.  Are you not interested in making this system one that will employ the talents of as many operators as possible?

    I strongly urge the League to seriously weigh the benefits of adopting proprietary software and hardware against the drawbacks of inflexibility, long-term reliance on specific vendors (NEVER a good idea), and costs that will thwart participation by the average amateur and possibly, smaller or poorly funded Emergency Operations entities.

    Thanks for your consideration.


    Danny McCarty
    San Antonio[/QUOTE]<span id='postcolor'>

    If you do not agree with the submitted proposal, contact your section manager, division director, and League officials at the ARRL Headquarters.  Bitching in here will generate plenty of heat but do nothing to illuminate your feelings to those poised to act on this proposal next month.

  5. AC3P

    AC3P Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sort of got the lowdown on this at the Timonium Hamboree last March.

    My bottom line is that I am not going to spend several hundred dollars for additional equipment and software for something I will seldom use.

    If I can help in an emergency with the equipment I have, I am there. But I cannot afford to buy specific use equipment. My current packet stuff works fine.
  6. wa2dxq

    wa2dxq Ham Member QRZ Page

    First to make it clear, I am a Winlink 2000 PMBO, and personally I don't care one way or another if ARES / ARRL adopts this or not.  I do think it could be a valuable part of ARES , but that's not my decision. I have plenty to do without this added.

    As to open source software.  WHO is doing it, WHO?
    On this scale No one!  
    NTS/ NTSD  has used winlink Classic for years.   Where did Winlink Classic come from ?  Basically the same group ,
    the Winlink Development Team (WDT). The WDT spends a
    lot of time maintaining and upgrading Winlink 2000, why should they open source it to others that will use it
    for commercial purposes? I know because I have to download it. It's amazing how much effort they put into this.
    If you think that open source software is so important that nothing else should be used then do something about it. Create the software/system.

    None of this software costs amateur users anything, it is all licensed free to hams for amateur use.
    The WDT has set up a way to transfer the source when they no longer are interested in maintaining it.

    As to the Pactor problem.  Pactor TNC's ARE expensive. However the primary use that seems to have the most populartity for ARES is VHF/UHF and that only requires inexpensive TNC's or even sound card TNC's in some cases.  Pactor was not selected by price it was selected because
    it is the fastest and most robust HF mode as of now. The WDT is investigating other modes including sound card based modes for HF.  They understand the cost problem.

    As to the point that Emergency managers are not interested, if you asked a hundred of them you will probably get a hundred answers.  Few EOC's are run exactly the same. Some
    depend on amateurs, some don't. So be it.  All we as amateurs can do is inform them of our capabilities and let them decide if they need or can use them. Another capability
    can't hurt.

  7. WA5KRP

    WA5KRP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Perhaps this issue should be distilled to one essential point: If a system is adopted, what good is that system if few folks are willing to make the expenditures necessary for its deployment?

    Those folks who volunteer their time and effort to sustain an ARES net won't all have the resources needed to make the upgrade. Let's be generous and say HALF of ARES participants can handle the expense. What is left if half the present-day ARES stations disappear?

    Shouldn't an emergency net have as many participants as possible? As proposed, I find the committee's recommendations to be exclusive, the fallout being an emergency traffic system with exceptional capabilities and very few grass roots participants. it better to have a great ARES/ECOMM system that can pass high volume emergency traffic supported by a very small nucleus to sustain its activities, or a system that may not be as fast or robust, but makes up for its difficiencies with a large number of experienced, capable, active stations that are geographically widespread - geewhiz, pretty much like it is right now?

    If the committee's proposals are adopted - I have this first hand - a bunch of guys who have always been there when needed will throw up their hands and say &quot;Phuggit!&quot;

    Is that what we want?

  8. K4CJX

    K4CJX Ham Member QRZ Page


    First of all, no one has complete technical knowledge. The president of the ARRL had enough knowledge to form an ad-hoc committee, ARESCOM, consisting of people with several disciplines.  ARESCOM welcomes any alternative system, open or closed.

    The objective is to pass (IETF RFC 822 with extensions) SMTP Mail from the desktops of community served agencies to other community served agencies, with or without the Internet. It wishes to do this with no invasive software on these desktop computers  and by using their normal email programs with only the addition of an account. It wishes to deploy tactical SMTP email addresses for these agencies. It  wishes to do all this without being behind the firewall, and without adding to the learning curve or stress of those who stand to benefit from its use. Radio use provides a compressed binary format that can handle &quot;to:, CC,&quot; and multiple binary attachments via (mainly) &quot;last mile&quot; Packet or longer-haul HF Pactor.

    Fortunately, Winlink 2000 can fully comply with these requirements. It can do so with version and enhancements control in order to know what functionality is operative within the entire network.  

    Rather than complain about the ARRL and the tools it may deploy for ARES, why don't you come up with an alternative option?  

    Steve, k4cjx
  9. wa2dxq

    wa2dxq Ham Member QRZ Page


    First of all I don't think that is going to be the proposal.  I don't have any inside
    info, but they seem to be looking at this as an adjunct to the present systems.
    I have been in contact with my SEC .  He contacted me because ARRL was looking for
    comments from the field leadership.  He had the same concerns as you about cost. He
    seems to be looking for ways for the current system to integrate with WL2K, not replace

    You can't look at the Winlink 2000 system as something that can do everything, it
    can't. I do not think that the ARRL / ARES  management thinks that either.
    Adding this capability should give the emergency management community more
    options on using amateur radio.

    I  have worked VHF voice during Emcomms ( Hurricaine Andrew and a few others) so I have
    some experience.  Some of the Emcomm functions cannot be handled effectivly by
    digital means, other can.

    Although I have always been impressed with the hard work and dedication of ARES and
    NTS people I'm afraid they have not been very good at keeping up with technology.

    We need to move into the 21st century. WL2K is a start, maybe something better will
    be developed. When it is we need to move on. We cannot offer Emergency Managers message
    delivery times in hours, we need to do it in very few minutes or we will be irrelevant.

    I am not going to comment on the people that will leave because they can't have their way.
    As a former Volunter Fire Chief, they wouldn't like what I have to say.

  10. K6BBC

    K6BBC Senior Moderator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think the best thing the ARRL can do is encourage hams to stay out of the way when there is an emergency. The days of hams being effective in these situations are long past. What you have now is a bunch of police wannabees getting in the way. Please , leave it to the professionals.

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