2M Packet fun !

Whilst enjoying QSOs on 2M and 80M of late, and enjoying some surprisingly good ‘lift’ on 2M which resulted in QSOs further a field. Still my interest returned to the use of AX25, aka Packet as the Kenwood TH-D7 has a built in TNC and capabilities as well as I have an interest to understand and investigate this more.

I started off by setting up Direwolf on Windows. I was quickly able to decode APRS packets from 144.800 – this made for interesting observation of the received information – there was quite a bit of packet data going on in the location and was even picking up data as far north as south Wales and the midlands.

I then went on to try out various visualisation software, starting with APRSISCE/32. Soon the screen started to fill with actual locations of APRS beacons and users, ranging from messaging to location tracking ! It was great to see so much info on 2M APRS.

Soon I was using the THD7 to send my own position data, and sure enough it appeared on APRS.FI website. At this point I knew next to little about APRS routeing and how messages are ‘repeated’ – before the Internet there were many ‘packet’ networks whereby you could jump between packet ‘nodes’ – this is more the ‘connected’ mode, rather than ‘unconnected’ modes where the likes of ‘beacon’ and ‘messaging’ are used tho.

After reading up a bit on WIDE-2,WIDE-1 I was able to get my messages rebroadcast by digipeaters in the location ! It was great seeing my messages rebroadcast and received and the station ID highlighted. I can see why Packet was important/useful before the internet.

With getting a grip with Direwolf on Windows and using clients to beacon and message my THD7, I wanted to do more ‘connected’ work. I was glad to see a AX25 packet station in Southampton of GB7SOU. At this point, I knew nothing on how to connect to a BBS with packet. In the ‘old days’ pre Internet, one would ‘dial in’ with a Modem with lightening speeds of 14K4 or even as fast as 56K ! Connect to a packet node was slightly more involved. I tuned my IC9700 and put the radio into FM-Data mode. I was able to hear the packets from the station and Direwolf was decoding them ! Huzzah packet contact.. but how do I connect – there is a huge amount of AX25 commands, and each BBS has its own set of commands. I edidn’tven know how to get messages out !

Sure enough several youtube videos later I was pulling messages via AX25 ! It was awesome ! I’ve not done BBS’s since about 1995 on an Amiga 1200 – it was great to use again and the BBS had loads of interesting informatin. I was quickly able to sort and filter the messages to make them readable.

WIth that I was thinking – well, I should have everything here to make my own packet-node ! So i set about setting up a raspberry Pi (4) and building a packet node. So far I have direworf working great and the PTT to UV-5R with Vox is doing the job ! Packet radio on a budget ! I’ve got to put up a better antenna, currently I’m using the Yagi and its very directional, so that will be swapped out for a Diamond X50. I will use my ‘starlink’ connection as the IP back end and look forward to running my own BBS ! albeit low power, it will be fun to try it out when going /M and yet another interesting part of the hobby on 2M comes alive !


Alan / 2E0FWE