WAPR News - March, 2002

by Andy Nemec, KB9ALN

Hello, everyone. I am sure everyone knows about the passing of Jim Romelfanger, K9ZZ and the incredible commitment he had to the BSSS. Jim was more than a part of ham radio in Wisconsin, he was a force. We'll all miss him - there was no one else like him.

It sure is good to see the BSSS back in print, even though Jim's presence will certainly be missed. I enjoyed working with him and certainly miss him.

Because of the missing issues, I will be combining the missing months into one super-sized news report. The Node series continues, of course, and the missing parts will be printed on a space-available basis.

Now, on to the news, starting with October. You'll remember that I had mentioned the "Code Red" virus/worm that had been making the rounds on the internet at that point. Since then, we've had experiences with other worms and viruses and that brings up something that we, as packet network operators should think long and hard about. The reliance of our packet network on the Internet to complete our packet linkages.

One problem that became apparent during October was that the Amateur Internet Router, responsible for helping us complete amateur packet networks via the internet, was flooded with traffic, bogged down, due to the spread of these viruses and worms. At one point, no packet traffic of any kind could get through.

This again points out the vulnerability of the internet when it comes to packet forwarding and the completion of network linkages. At the risk of sounding alarmist, I say we may want to carefully consider our role as packet operators in emergency situations. Can we handle traffic should the internet become unavailable to us for some reason? Are we ready to do our part in handling emergency traffic should (heaven forbid) another disaster occur? Are our networks up to the task? Are our BBSs and nodes configured correctly? And are our nodes capable of operation on emergency power? These are things to consider now, before anything else bad happens.

It's good to think about these kinds of things for any potential emergency situation, not just for internet problems or something related to terrorism. While we were all captivated by the biggest news story most of us have ever seen on Spetember 11th of last year, Amateurs were also dealing with other, more frequently seen disasters at the time of the terrorist attacks.

We must be ready to do our part should any disaster, whether it be the a tornado, wildfire, flooding or hazardous chemical spill or something as unusual and insane as we saw on September 11th. This is something that we have to think about in our role as emergency communicators.

On to something more pleasant. On November 4th we held a WAPR meeting at the Fox Cities Amateur Radio Club Swapfest in Menasha. A good time was had by all, and the meeting minutes are included here.

Also in November, I announced the creation and activation of the WAPR web site. It has news archives, the "Using the Wisconsin Network" series, as well as the "Netrom Node Information for the Sysop" series. There are other features on there as well (like a packet primer series), so you may want to check it out. Look for it at:


In the near future, I plan to add a node map that was kindly drawn by Aaron, KB9QWC to the page. It will be downloadable in PDF format. This means you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer to look at it. This is a freely available program - you can get it from:


Thanks a bunch to Aaron for taking the considerable time to make this node map available.

Also in the month of November, I mentioned the new ARES packet internet mailing list. Ray Meyer, N9PBY arranged for this and already it has generated a lot of interesting discussion on the state of Packet Radio with regard to Emergency Operating. To subscribe to the list, simply send an E-Mail message off to:

[email protected]

You can leave the subject and body of the message blank. In fact, you may want to erase your signature, if you normally have one on your outgoing E-Mail. That's because this is all done by machines, and it's best to not confuse them.

You'll get a return E-Mail message asking you to confirm your desire to join the list. After you confirm, you'll get a welcome message with instructions on how to send mail to the list, and how to unsubscribe should you wish to do that at some point.

On another topic, Thanksgiving weekend Joel, N9BQM replaced the TNC used for the backbone connection on 440 MHz at the Rudolph node site. Aaron KB9QWC reported that there was now a solid connection between #RUD4:W9DQA-5 in Rudolph and #446OG:N9WBR-4 in Ogdensburg (Central Waupaca county near Iola). This means that there is a much more reliable connection between two different parts of the packet network - Central and some Western parts with the Eastern part.

In January, Ray, N9PBY reported that there's a new backbone node on the air in the town of Wayne on UHF at 9600 bps. The alias is #WAYN4, and the call-sign is WB9DLT-4. It's intended to help complete the state-wide packet radio network and make linkages where none have been for a long time. Thanks go to Virgil, WB9DLT and Al, N0GMJ for making this possible.

Speaking of backbone and packet network expansion, Fon-Du-Lac is also making a little news. Although nothing is on the air just yet, a location is being scouted, and I'm told and it's a matter of time before it will help complete the linkage between the North-Eastern and Lake shore segments of the Wisconsin packet network with the South-Central and Madison area network segments. I'll let you know here when it's on the air and all of the pertinent details. Late word has it that there was an interference problem at one proposed site, and a new one is being sought. As more info becomes available, I will report it here.

The goal of all of this is to make a big circle of backbone nodes throughout the state. We've still got a long way to go, but these two nodes wouuld represent significant progress. Once this circular route is in place, we have redundancy and the ability to route around any temporarily failed network nodes. This is not only a boon to the casual packet user, but is especially crucial to operators who use packet radio as part of their emergency communications services. Of course, that's one are where packet radio can be a definite plus.

We can (almost) always use more backbone nodes. One area that we consider crucial is the Wausau area. Currently, we need to link the Central and South-Western segments of the packet network to the North-Central and North-West segments. A backbone node in this area would accomplish exactly that. If you know of someone who has a good location in this area, and is willing to host a packet node, please contact Joel Papke, N9BQM. 

This would go a long way toward enhancing emergency communications in the North Central and North Western parts of the state, in addition to the Central Wisconsin area.

Recently we got some bad news from Len, N9QIP that the nodes in Green Lake were taken off the air due to a power problem. When they return, I will report that here.

In more recent news, the state of the Wisconsin Network was tested in a drill for the Point Beach Nuclear Power Plant on the 12th of February, and the results were not encouraging. In the past, we were able to make connections with the station at the State DEM in Madison, but not this time. We had hoped to use BBS forwarding curcuits to exchange messages, but there were problems here, too.

The one thing that came out of this was that we have a great deal to do in this department. Not only should we be building more network links, but perhaps we should be re-thinking our processes and the way we transfer messages. This will certainly be a topic of conversation in packet circles in the coming months. Lately I have gotten a few messages concerning this. There are at least two people who suggested we use TCP/IP and other network transport methods rather than Net/Rom and other current technologies.

What do you think? I am always interested in your comments. feel free to mail me at one of the addresses at the top of this page.

There is also good news for the people of Marintte county and points further north. The #446CR node in Crivitz has been repaired and is back on the air. It sure was nice to see familiar calls from the folks in extreme Northern Wisconsin and the U.P. back on the heard lists.

One of those calls was N8QWG, Leroy in Crystal Falls, Michigan. He tells me that they are trying to find the time to get the MIIRN node back to operational status. That node is located in Iron River, Michigan. We're looking forward to that, as this helps link the Houghton area by radio to the rest of the U.P., and then Wisconsin.

Red N9GHE has his backbone node in Manitowoc back on the air after repairs. This lakeshore node linked Algoma, Green Bay and the Valley to Sheboygan and Port Washington. Red's BBS is still in need of updating, however, I am working on that and it should be ready to go very soon.

One more note before we close this extended news report. We are working on lining up a location and date for a WAPR meeting. This one will feature election of officers for the coming term. Our current chairman, Joel Papke N9BQM, has announced that he will not seek another term. He deserves our thanks for his efforts to maintain and advance WAPR at a time of decreasing packet activity. It's not easy to pilot a ship through troubled waters, and Joel not only did this well, but even managed to make some good progress during his years at the helm.

One was getting WAPR to be recognized as the official packet radio coordinating body in Wisconsin by the National Frequency Coordinators Conference (NFCC). In addition, Joel oversaw a good amount of network expansion at a time when other locations were seeing nodes die off and forwarding routes go away. Joel deserves our thanks for a job well done, and our hopes for an easy and fun "retirement" from office. I am sure he will be busy with other things, though. That's all in this extended news report. As always, I am pleased to pass along your news to other packet people through this column. If you have any news or comments, send them to one of the addresses at the top of this page.

Until next time, 73 from Andy.

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