The Not-Very-Technical Linux Ham Radio Page
Before you read on, please note that I haven't updated this page for some years. I have now gone through it carefully and have, I think, corrected and fixed all the hyperlinks. The reason for the lack of updates is simple: I hardly ever use datamodes any more, having decided that I prefer talking to people or banging away on a morse key. I hope the information presented here will still prove useful to you.
I am not able to assist with installing or running any of the applications featured here.
Welcome to the Not-Very-Technical Linux Ham Radio Page! I've been a Radio Amateur since August 1992, originally holding the callsign G7MZQ. I have held the 'A' class callsign G0TVJ since June 1993. I was a bit of a late-comer to computers. I purchased a 386 in 1998, with a view to doing a bit of packet radio. I quickly discovered that I didn't like packet very much but by then I had discovered the DOS programs JVFAX and Hamcomm and suddenly the computer was an indispensable part of my radio 'shack'.
I realized the limitations of the 386 fairly early on and soon built a new computer. Driven by the need for new experience and the promise of greater amateur radio compatibility it wasn't long before it had the Linux operating system on it. I started out with RedHat 5.1 and have since gone through numerous incarnations of RedHat, SuSE and Mandrake.
The Linux Ham Radio applications described below are ones which I have actually used successfully. I am not a programmer. I don't have the time, inclination or ability to get a 'difficult' program working. Consequently these are all programs which compile or install effortlessly and work 'out of the box', so they should prove of interest to new users in particular.
Shortly after I first published this page, I received an email from Bill Leonard, KF8GR, who said he had been inspired by seeing my page and was setting up one of his own. Since then, Bill's page has grown ever bigger and better. It's an absolute goldmine of information for radio amateurs using Linux, whether you're an old hand or just starting out, with links to just about every piece of Linux radio software in the known universe as well as plenty to read about Bill's specialist interests in QRP and Adventure Radio and enough links to other radio sites to keep you entertained for hours. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, set aside some time for a good read and check out Bill's page here.
Linux Ham Radio Applications
I have two favourite applications I use all the time, Xastir and Qsstv. I like them both for two main reasons... they were the first two programs I actually succeeded in compiling on Linux and they both work really well, are simple to set up and use and don't require any kernel re-compilation or other complexities to work. To use Qsstv you will need a properly configured soundcard and to use Xastir you will need a TNC, unless you have ax25 compiled into your kernel or available as a module, in which case you can also use a Baycom modem, soundcard or anything else that can be used to connect your radio to the computer. An internet connection also enhances Xastir... as you're reading this, I assume you have one of those!
Xastir is an Automatic Position Reporting System program. If you're not familiar with APRS, you'll find a vast amount of information about it on the internet. Basically it's a means of using your computer to display maps which show the location of amateur radio stations in the form of symbols. It enables you to send text messages between stations, amongst many other features. Xastir is still very much in development - although it's perfectly stable and usable - and new features are being added to it all the time. If you're coming to Linux from Windows and are familiar with UI-View, Xastir is now even able to use UI-View maps and comes with a script to convert them for this purpose. You can also use standard APRS maps, ESRI shapefile maps and even online Tiger and Terraserver maps. Here are some pictures of Xastir in action; click on a thumbnail for a full-size image (Please note: These are large images - 1280x1024 - and may take some time to load if you have a slow connection).
Qsstv, by Johan Maes, ON4QZ, is a Slow Scan Television program for Linux. SSTV is more a form of enhanced fax than 'real' TV - it allows you to send high quality still images over a narrow-bandwidth radio channel. There are lots of SSTV programs for DOS, Windows, and MacIntosh systems but, to the best of my knowledge, Qsstv is the only one available for Linux - and it's a superb program. It's very stable and has a slick, classy and very intuitive interface. It's able to handle 11 sstv modes and can be set up to function as an sstv repeater.The most recent version has added the ability to receive and transmit weather faxes. Qsstv uses the computer's soundcard as a decoder and, if you want to transmit with it, you'll need some kind of electronic switch to key the transmitter via the comport. Circuits for these and information on how to build them are abundant on the internet but you can also buy them ready-made from many dealers. As an alternative you may be able to use vox to key the transmitter. Click on the thumbnails below for screengrabs of Qsstv.
Here's a weather fax I received using Qsstv. It was received in the UK on 4.610 mHz. It needs a little slant correction but that's down to me, not a problem with Qsstv. I have used a lot of fax reception programs but I've rarely pulled in one of this quality.
This is a useful little application for the 'greyline' DXer, providing a real-time picture of where it's light and dark in the world and it's also handy for finding out if your friends around the world are asleep when you're trying to talk to them on the radio! It comes as part of KDE which is installed by default with many Linux distributions so you should already have it on your system.
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