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Radiosailor 11-15-2005 06:28 AM

Inexpensive Winlink2000/Airmail HF SSB E-mail.
I use an old Kantronics Kam Plus HF Modem (TNC) with Pactor 1 capability (important), for doing E-mail from my laptop hundreds of miles out to sea and from the woods, using Winlink2000.

Any of the following TNC''s should also work for an inexpensive Pactor 1 connection:

Kantronics Kam +
Kantronics Kam 98
Kantronics Kam XL
PK 232
PK 900
DSP 1232
DSP 2232
MFJ 1276
MFJ 12788
DXP 38

All supported by Airmail 3.2 e-mail software for both Winlink and Sailmail.

Winlink2000 would like everybody to use very expensive Pactor 2 and Pactor 3 TNC''s (HF Modems) for faster connections, (and thus shorter connection times), but these TNC''s are outside of the scope of reality for Africa, in my humble opinion.

However, if you do have the money, then by all means buy one of the SCS PTC II TNC''s, at +/- $800 to $1200 a piece.

The Kam cost less than $100 on the used market, (or sits idle in your shack since your Packet Radio days), and I had the radio, cheap manual antenna tuner and laptop anyway. (Plus a Ham Radio license).

It can only do Pactor 1 at about 200 baud, but that is fast enough to do text-only E-mail, the lenghth of this post, in about 15 seconds, or so.

I connect it to my old Icom 735 Ham radio through the microphone socket, but it can also be connected to the accesory plug at the back.

If your wire interface or harness (between the transceiver and the TNC)was professionally built, then you are definately good to go.
If you did it yourself, just check and double check your work and soldering. (See the links later on for wiring diagrams.)

Watch out for ground loops.
I would say, as a rule of thumb, if your transceiver and the tuner is grounded (they should be), then do not have any ground wires connected in your interface wire or harness between the TNC and the transceiver. This causes a hum when the ground wire in the harness is connected, due to different phasing in the slower or faster ground wire connection, compared to your main ground connection to the transceiver and tuner.

If nothing works, I have disconnected all wires on my interface harness, and just left the TNC''s audio transmit line connected. Now open the vox on your transmitter and set it to key the transmitter when you hit the green connect dot on Airmail''s Terminal Window. This crude arrangement works. However, you could then reconnect your other wires one by one untill you get a workable arrangement without having to use the vox. Once again, try not to use the ground wire in the harness.

I assume you know how to tune your transmitter and load it up on a desired Ham radio frequency.
I assume you are a Ham. =)
I assume your computer talks to your Kam. (Airmail 3.2 does this automatically - no need for other software).
I assume your Kam can do Pactor 1 (important) - see the specs. You need firmware version 8.0 or there abouts, but if it says it can do Pactor, you are good.
I assume you downloaded Airmail version 3.2


Turn everything on.
Call up Airmail on your computer.
Open the Terminal window (Far right icon on your tool bar up top)
After a few seconds,it should say: "Kam modem initialized OK" in the Terminal window.
Tune your transceiver for the desired band (7Mhz, 10Mhz, 14Mhz, 21Mhz)
Find a Winlink2000 frequency here:
Copy and paste this whole list into Airmail and update the frequency list (see the Help file).
Highlight the frequency up top on the Terminal page with your mouse and cursor.
Now set the transceiver''s dial frequency to the frequency displayed at the bottom of the Terminal page.
Tune up the transmitter with the antenna tuner.
Run only about 60 - 70 Watts (or less). - Pactor has a very high duty cycle, and your rig will warm up, if you run full power. This is adequate power for 1000 NM or more.
Make sure you are on LSB (Lower Side Band ) for ALL bands.
LSB is the traditional Pactor mode, however, Winlink2000 now advises to use USB. Bottom line, if you set your audio tone up as LSB, then use LSB. If USB, then use USB. (Tools, Options, Connection from Airmail''s menu bar.)
Click on the "Transmit" icon in the Terminal Window (Green dot) (After listening out for any other Ham activity on the frequency)
Your Kam should now make your transmitter cycle through transmit and receive.
Listen to your signal with a portable radio on LSB, or from another yacht (RF gain turned way down!). The signal should be a nice, clear audio chirping (Not hoarse). Hoarse, means RF in the system, or ground loop in action, or overdriving the audio into the transceiver.

If you hit a PMBO, you will eventually, after a few seconds (up to about 15 secs), hear Pactor chirping coming back in your receive cycle.
Two green lights (Lock and Val) should come on, on your Kam. ("Val" only comes on, when an excellent signal is present - look for a frequency and time that gives you this, for a faster connection, but the system works (just slower) without "Val " on.
Read the message in the Terminal window.
You are in business !!!

Open any unread e-mails in the message index window after all activity stops.

Try all PMBO,s within 1000NM, on all frequencies at different times of the day, untill you find a good, clear, fast connection, and log all settings and times for future ease of use.

All the above might work for Sailmail as well, but since I don''t have a Sailmail account, I did not test it yet.

Here is some more info:
> Definately read "A Pactor Primer",
> Good general info here.
> See the "Help File" in Airmail
> Specific info about your radio and Kam and USB ports
> to serial ports, in the
> file.
> See more on Sailmail and download Airmail here:
> Also see:
> for Kam
> wiring info to radio.
> Also:
> And
> The system is not "Plug and play", and needs a
> little research and free
> consultation, but works excellent and inexpensively
> when done.
> Once all is set up, it could be tested on Winlink
> (free to Hams), or
> Sailmail ($250/year for sailboaters worldwide)

Easy, and cheap for Hams who are far away from the Internet, though.

Excellent for emergency communications.


magnusmurphy 11-24-2005 08:19 AM

Inexpensive Winlink2000/Airmail HF SSB E-mail.
The only problem with using pactor 1 is that you''ll very quickly use up your allowable time. You''ll also probably have significant problems with dropped signals halfway through the lenghthy time it takes to download messages. If not extremely careful with who you give your address to, you''ll quickly find that you are swamped with messages to lenghthy to download in the available time and propagation conditions. This will lead to significant frustration.
Other than that, I guess pactor one is ok.

I only try to connect to anything other than pactor 3 PMBOs if I absolutely cannot connect to pactor 3 and HAVE to send something.

M Murphy

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