My Ham Shack

Being new to the hobby my “ham shack” is not big at all. It’s literally more like just my computer desk. It’s not much, but hey, it’s mine! 😊

So what sort of hardware am I working with?

  • Baofeng UV-5R
    • Signal Stick antenna
  • Kenwood TH-F6
  • RTL-SDR
  • EchoLink (on PC and iOS)

At this time I’m currently working with two handheld radios. My first radio was just a “cheapo” Baofeng. I know they aren’t considered great radios, but honestly, it’s the cheapest and thus the easiest way to start off in the hobby. Living on an island, it has no issues hitting the local repeaters and making contacts, especially when I pair it with a nicer antenna like the Signal Stick. This is the radio that I tend to take out with me when I’m mobile.

I inherited the Kenwood from my father. The radio, while older, is still a great radio. While I still need to get a new tri-band antenna for this one, I really like the range of bands that this radio can utilize. And the step-up in quality compared to my Baofeng is also instantly noticeable. Being my nicer radio, this one tends to be more of my home rig.

I had also inherited an RTL-SDR. I haven’t really gotten around to figuring out how to use it, but it’s on my list of projects to do. I think it’ll be neat to learn how to use it.

And the final thing in my shack is EchoLink. Think of it as voip-for-hams. It’s a great way to turn your computer or smartphone into your transceiver and connecting with other hams all over the world. I think it is a really neat digital means to get on the air. While analog radio is interesting, coming from an IT background I am really interested in learning more about these newer digital modes of radio.

EchoLink Proxy Guide

I have already talked about what EchoLink is in a previous post. In this post, I am more interested in covering all the steps required to stand up your own private proxy for accessing EchoLink while you are on the go. I’m going to do this by documenting the steps while I actually deploy my own proxy.

I’m using AWS’s LightSail to provision a very cheap Ubuntu 20.04 machine as my server. You can use any cloud provider (Azure, AWS, Oracle, DigitalOcean, etc…) or even something as simple as a raspberry pi at home with some port-forwarding on your router. I’m not going to show how to set that part up as there are so many places and ways to do so… Once you have your server ready and online please continue on.

First step… Update everything…

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

Now let’s start installing the necessary package dependencies for EchoLink.

sudo apt install fail2ban openjdk-17-jre-headless screen unzip

Let us create a folder to download and install EchoLink into.

mkdir echolink
cd echolink
wget https://www.echolink.org/downloads/EchoLinkProxy_1_2_3.zip

Now we’ll unzip the EchoLink proxy software, then modify the permissions to run the file.

unzip EchoLinkProxy_1_2_3.zip
chmod 755 EchoLinkProxy.jar

Open a text editor and edit the “ELProxy.conf” file. You will need to update the “Password” value to a password of your choice.

Password=MyBlogIsAwesome

*If you want to make it into a public proxy, set the password to “PUBLIC” if you will be a publically accessible proxy.

NOTE: Make note of which port is set to be used in your config file… Is it port 5200 or port 8100?
You will need this value when you connect from the client on your computer or smartphone.

Let’s make the cron job that helps us restart the proxy anytime the system has been rebooted.
Replace <USER> with your username.

crontab -e

@reboot sleep 60 && /usr/bin/screen -S echolink -d -m /usr/bin/java -jar /home/<USER>/echolink/EchoLinkProxy.jar /home/<USER>/echolink/ELProxy.conf

Something worth noting is that the above cron task waits 60 seconds after rebooting before it initializes EchoLink. This allows the system to finish fully booting up and potentially avoids some weirdness. It’s really not a big deal… But it is worth knowing so that you don’t expect to be able to connect instantly after a reboot.

Time to create the firewall rules on the machine.

sudo ufw allow 5198:5199/udp
sudo ufw allow 5200/tcp
sudo ufw allow 8100/tcp

Now it’s time to set up Fail2Ban. Let us navigate to the folder below and create a file that we will edit in the next step.

cd /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/
touch echolink.conf

Open your editor of choice and paste this into the echolink.conf file

# fail2ban filter configuration for Echolink proxy
[Init]
maxlines = 2
[Definition]
failregex = ^.* Client connected: <HOST>\n.* Incorrect password challenge received
ignoreregex =

After we have the above-mentioned filter, we need to set up a “jail.” Let us navigate to the folder below and create a file that we will edit in the next step.

cd /etc/fail2ban/jail.d/
touch echolink.local

Open a text editor and copy the code below into it. Update “<USER>” to your username.
Note: Make sure that the port used here is the same as what is in your ELProxy.conf file.

[echolink]
enabled  = true
port     = 8100
filter   = echolink
logpath  = /home/<USER>/echolink/ELProxy.log
findtime = 14400
maxretry = 3
bantime  = 31536000
banaction = ufw

Now that we have everything set up… Reboot your machine. Then after waiting for it to come back up, try connecting to your Personal EchoLink Proxy from the client application on your computer or smartphone.

EchoLink

EchoLink is an awesome bit of software that allows you to do a form of Radio-Over-IP (RoIP). That means you’re talking to other stations over the internet, anywhere in the world. Whether from your laptop in a coffee shop, or from your smartphone as you drive during your commute, you can call CQ and make your QSLs across the world. One thing of note is that while it is available worldwide, it’s only open to the Amateur Radio community as it requires a valid call sign to create an account.

Currently, EchoLink is only available on Windows 7 and above (link). However, it is available on App Store for Apple devices and the Google Play store for Android devices.

ARRL training courses

The ARRL offers a few free training courses to HAM operations to help assist them to prepare for emergency situations. Just like the FEMA courses, these are self-paced online courses that you can work on. These are “nice to have” pieces of training that will greatly improve your abilities to operate.

However, these do not take the place of the required FEMA pieces of training needed to participate with your local ARES/RACES. And actually, the FEMA courses are prerequisites for the ARRL courses.

To take the ARRL training courses, you must first register with the ARRL: http://www.arrl.org/online-course-registration
(NOTE: Registration does NOT require becoming an ARRL member for these courses)


Basic

Advanced

FEMA training courses

As a licensed radio operator, learning how to be an effective and properly trained volunteer will allow you to be an essential communications asset during a response to any emergency. During exercises and emergencies, your local ARES/RACES must comply with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) because when activated, its operations would function under the Incident Command System (ICS). This means you will need to complete some official training if you want to volunteer with your local ARES/RACES organization.

To help you become “qualified”, FEMA offers a few self-paced training courses relating to Emergency Management that are beneficial to HAM radio operators. All of these FEMA training courses are offered for free, online, thru the FEMA website. They are self-paced courses that you are able to proceed at your own pace through. Each online course is presented as slides that you will click through, and additional course materials are also available for download on the webpage for each course.

Once you complete the course you are then able to take an online exam, for which you will receive a certificate of completion if you pass. In my experience, after taking an exam, I was emailed my pass/fail status and certificate (if passed) within five minutes of completing the exam.

To initially begin any of the FEMA courses you will need to have first created a FEMA Student ID to log in with: https://cdp.dhs.gov/femasid

Basic, required courses:


Advanced, optional courses:

Professional Development Series –
As an added perk to completing the courses I list above, you will receive a certificate from the FEMA Emergency Management Institute for finishing their Professional Development Series.


Optional but related courses:

GMRS License

So while I have my HAM license, I decided to go ahead and get a GMRS license too. My reasoning for getting it was twofold. The first reason was that I often spend time with family and friends that are not HAM radio operators. Since they aren’t HAMs, I can’t exactly hand them one of my handheld radios and then chat with them over the air when we are out someplace camping, traveling, hiking, or doing any other activity. Having the GMRS license will basically allow me to do just that, to stay connected and communicate with my friends and family when we are out somewhere having fun.

The second the FCC recently reduced the cost of the license. They cut the licensing fee from $70 down to $35. This fee reduction makes getting the license much more affordable, especially since it lasts for 10 years – just like a HAM license. With the FCC fee so low, getting it really has now become a non-issue. So ultimately, getting this license is only going to enrich the experiences that I have with friends and family. While some HAMs might consider GMRS a just ‘kiddie’ radio, that really makes no difference to me. It’s really more of a way to supplement my HAM hobby, and who knows, maybe it’ll even act as a gateway to convert a friend into a future HAM. Ha ha ha.

US Amateur Radio Bands

The ARRL has created a very nice infographic that shows a breakdown of the various bands and the permissions that each license class has on that band.

US Amateur Radio Bands - ARRL infographic

Source Link: ARRL Band Chart


The ARRL also has another really nice graphic that just displays all of the Technician privileges.

Tech-Band-Chart-ARRL

Source Link: ARRL Tech Bands

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Oahu Repeater Frequencies

DEM / HI-EMA Linked Repeaters:

PL Tone: 88.5PL Tone: 103.5PL Tone: None
146.680-   Waimanalo444.325+   Waimanalo146.760-  Peacock Flats
146.880-   Diamond Head444.350+   Diamond Head
147.060+   Diamond Head
146.980-   Downtown Honolulu
146.860-   Makakilo
146.900-   Kuhuku​

EARC Repeaters:

(Linked Repeaters)
PL Tone: 88.5
(Stand Alone Repeaters)
PL Tone: 88.5
146.800-   Makakilo444.150+   Olomana
146.660-   Olomana

ARES / RACES VHF Simplex:

146.550 MHzDistrict 1​
146.475 MHzDistrict 2 North
146.460 MHzDistrict 2 South
146.535 MHzDistrict 3
146.505 MHzDistrict 4
146.490 MHzDistrict 4 Alternate
146.550  MHzDistrict 5
146.565 MHzDistrict 6
146.565 MHzDistrict 7
146.445 MHzDistrict 8
146.580 MHzCity Hall
146.415 MHzAlternate
146.430 MHzAlternate
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Phonetic Alphabet

The phonetic alphabet is a commonly accepted way to pronounce letters in a way that is distinct as possible so as to be easily understood by those who exchanged voice messages by radio or telephone, regardless of language differences or the quality of the connection.

NATO phonetic alphabet image
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