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Tutorial

Title: Amateur Radio Computer Networks and Communication Technologies at Home and School

Abstract: The tutorial begins with introductory information about the amateur radio communications and continues with studying one of the most popular computer-related radio communication modes: the VHF/UHF and HF 'packet-radio' (other popular modes, like 'amtor', 'pactor', 'gtor', 'clover' etc. are also the options). The tutorial discusses (with examples) on how to choose inexpensive hardware and software needed for establishing the amateur radio links from home and work. The tutorial explains step-by-step how to build an AMUNET – the Amateur Radio University Network – a grid of radio stations within or between universities’ campuses and surrounding schools, including an opportunity to become a low-cost solution for communicating in educational institutions in rural areas and developing countries.

Key Speaker: Miroslav SKORIC (NIAR - Hyderabad, India, IEEE)

Miroslav Skoric has 20+ years of experience in computer network administration and system maintenance (Diploma in Business Computing) and 25+ years of practice in the amateur radio (licensed amateur since 1989, amateur radio call sign YT7MPB). He has been maintaining various types of amateur radio bulletin board systems (MS DOS, Windows and Linux platforms) with VHF/HF radio frequency and Internet inputs/outputs in the local amateur radio union and clubs-societies.

Miroslav Skoric voluntarily served as the information manager and union’s secretary during the nineties – where he was compiling technical and scientific information for broadcasting via local amateur radio frequencies and repeaters. Teaching experience includes several classes in a local high-school amateur radio club; technical paper presentations during domestic and international events listed above; tutorials on the amateur radio in engineering education, one round-table session, four book chapters (the fifth in print) and several magazine/journal articles, as well as a dedicated web page http://tldp.org/HOWTO/FBB.html introducing a popular amateur radio software users’ manual.

His researching efforts include his graduate studies in Computer Sciences, as well as his membership in IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Communications Society, IEEE Education Society, ACM and IAENG.

Rationale (Importance and timeliness)

Why this? According to the instructor’s two-decade experience in amateur radio, the significant percentage of school kids (and youngsters in general) – being involved in that traditional and useful technical hobby – continues with their education in areas of computing, telecommunications, mathematics, electronics and other engineering disciplines.

Why now? To reverse the trend of decreasing interest in those disciplines in many western countries.

Why at CN2016 in Poland? Because Polish radio amateurs have always been very active in that kind of information technology, and there is a chance to have them providing practical display & demo at the conference venue.

Secondly, after an initial investment in the amateur radio communicating equipment, described in this tutorial – there are almost no other costs – either before, during and after establishing exciting amateur radio communications. That significantly improves the return of investment and offers a lot of opportunities for education institutions in developing countries and remote communities anywhere on the globe. Having in mind that the radio amateurs live all around the world – that is for sure their equipment and knowledge can and should be used on behalf local and global communications. One important role that the radio amateurs often perform is to reestablish communications after natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc). Some radio amateur enthusiasts participate to scientific and professional events, contribute technical papers, tutorial lectures, as well as magazine or journal articles – and all of those contributions improve the state of technical culture.

Finally, this tutorial focuses on network architecture, LAN & WAN technologies, data and network security & safety, telecommunication systems; and emergency communications - that belong to modern computer network operators' areas of interests.

Learning objectives
What will the participants learn?

  • What is the amateur radio, who are the radio amateurs, how to find and join them.
  • What is needed to establish a simplest computer communication between two users.
  • How to solve the problem of natural or artificial obstacle between two (or more) users of that information system.
  • What are the advantages of communication with the amateur radio satellites.
  • How to exchange an e-mail without an ISP connection, or without a telephone, or in a case of an emergency.
  • How to choose the proper computer, modem, radio, and antenna.
  • How to fight against potential amateur radio 'pirates' (hackers).
  • What regulatory changes are needed to establish more amateur computer networks.
  • What topics and questions belong to the new suggested ADL license’s curricula.
  • How to make the local AMUNET and how to link it to a neighboring one.
  • How to simulate a real radio network by using a computer LAN.

Outline

  • Introduction of the amateur radio (basic principles, main ideas and goals)
    • What the radio amateurs do and how they establish their communications
    • How to find and join an amateur radio group (a ‘ham club’, a union etc)
  • Simple computer-related radio communications, ‘packet-radio’
    • Direct link between two computer users
    • Description of splitting information to smaller ‘packets’
    • Indirect link over a repeater (incl. 3D simulation)
    • Security and privacy in the amateur radio digital networks
  • Opportunities of amateur packet-radio satellites (PACSATs)
    • Additional equipment needed (special antennas and positioning devices)
    • Two protocols used (‘broadcast’ and ‘ftpl0’)
    • Signal flow diagram at a ground station
  • Exchanging e-mail using an amateur radio BBS system
  • Hardware needed for the amateur computer-related communications
    • Special modems (several examples of types, speeds, connectivity etc.)
    • Radio stations (types, output capabilities, power supply etc.)
    • Antennas
    • Computers (PC XT, AT, i386, i486, Pentium, non-PC, Raspberry Pi, etc.)
  • Software solutions
    • Server side (DOS, Windows, Linux systems)
    • Client side (OS-included software, other software)
  • Regulatory environment – national and international legal issues
    • Obligatory manual Morse code course and test (comparison with other ICT areas)
    • ADL – Amateur Digital License, requirements/curricula and opportunities
  • Foreign experience
    • Universities on the West (examples on what they have been doing in the amateur radio)
    • General approach on the hobby in developed nations
  • Networking opportunities
    • AMUNET – Amateur University Network (local area, MAN etc)
    • Networking simulations
    • Widening the network (surrounding countries, global connections)
    • Voluntary and humanitarian role of the radio amateur communications: examples on disasters such as hurricanes in the USA – where the amateurs voluntarily helped to the local community to save human lives, etc.
    • Scientific role – Improving the level of technical knowledge in a society
    • Improving domestic and international regulatory environment
  • What else can be done
    • Connecting schools with astronauts at ISS, ship crews, etc.
    • Interconnections to/from TCP/IP world (i.e. the Internet, 'Winlink' emergency email)
    • International summer (winter) school on the amateur radio

Selected publications

  • Skoric, M. (2014). Software in amateur packet radio communications and networking. In Matin, M. (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Progressive Trends in Wireless Communications and Networking (pp. 122–188). Hershey, PA USA: IGI Global.
  • Skoric, M. (2013). Security in amateur packet radio networks. In Khan, S., & Pathan S. (Eds.), Wireless Networks and Security: Issues, Challenges and Research Trends (pp. 1–47). Berlin - Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.
  • Skoric, M. (2012). Simulation in amateur packet radio networks. In Al-Bahadili, H. (Ed.), Simulation in Computer Network Design and Modeling: Use and Analysis (pp. 216–256). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  • Skoric, M. (2009). Amateur radio in education. In Song, H., & Kidd, T. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Human Performance and Instructional Technology (pp. 223–245). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
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Institute of Computer Science The Silesian University of Technology, ul. Akademicka 16, 44-100 Gliwice, Poland

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