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Old 01-09-2004
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HF Email options


I am going out on a M/V in the So Pac, and need to hear what options there are today using a ham hf/w laptop for email or commcerail email on the hf bands. Any sugesstions or direction where I can find this info wouod be gresat. this is comming together fast and i HOPE TO FIGURE SOMETHING out beore I leave for Pango Pango next week..

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Old 01-09-2004
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HF Email options

Barry, you''re trying to swallow a big topic in a short timeframe...even replying to your query with cursory but helpful answers is tough. If you need to correspond with me offline, feel free to do so. But here are some basics I think you''ll need to reflect on:
1. If the timetable is so short, you''re only viable option is to work with an established vendor that knows this stuff cold. You might start with www.hfradio.com based in SF Bay area, altho'' I don''t know if you are located near there. HFradio sells gear, provides software, does equipment installations, and offers tutoring - and you''ll need all of those services, either from them or another vendor. If you''re going TO the boat, which is already out, then this simply isn''t going to work.
2. You don''t say whether you currently have a SSB rig aboard or not. If you do, it would need to be compatible with pactor transmissions and a TNC (essentially, a ''modem'' for HF rigs). The right SSB & TNC gear makes it possible for the digital info on the laptop to be changed into the analog data coming in/going out of your HF radio. So...if you have a SSB it needs to be confirmed as suitable and matched up with a TNC. If you don''t, then a vendor will need to install a SSB (it doesn''t sound like you have a ham license, so you''ll be needing a Marine SSB unit like Icom''s 710 or 802).
3. With this kit - and a well installed ground plane AND a good antenna - you would most likely want to use Sailmail, a non-profit, commercial HF-based email system that is used throughout the Pacific by cruising boats, sail and power. The software is free (www.sailmail.com), can be easily downloaded and installed, is simple but very elegant, and is a treasure. To use this service, you pay an annual $200 or so fee and have an on-air connection time limt (rolling average) of 10-12 mins/day, as a number of enrolled users are trying to share the same shore stations supporting whichever region you are in. This time limit is more than adequate for email traffic and downloading GRIB files (wx files) which are also offered.

A far better system is Winlink, as you''ll need as much wx info in the SoPac area as you can get and, using the same technology and gear, Winlink can provide all of that along with email service. But this is a ham system, only available to hams...and a good reason to think about studying up on getting your own ticket some day.

Every year this is covered, hands-on, in extraordinary detail at the annual SSCA Gam, and each year all the seminars are offered on CD to participants. You might consider contacting them (www.ssca.org) to find out if they still have that info available from last November''s Gam.

Good luck!

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