WAPR News - December, 2002

By Andy Nemec, KB9ALN

Hello and Happy Holidays to everyone. This is the time of year when we reflect on the past year and what it's brought us. And it's a good time to say thanks to all of our friends who've made our packet lives more fun.

First, the reflection. It has been a mixed year in this state and it's neighboring ones. While packet in general has seen it's share of trying times, we've been luckier than most. We've had people step up and get involved in one way or another, mostly in providing network infrastructure. Others have provided other facilities that enhance the network's utility and fun factor.

While there seems to be a general drop-off of packet activity nationwide, there are signs that this may be changing. This year saw the creation of the ARRL's High-Speed Multi-Media (HSMM) Working Group. Chaired by John Champa, K8OCL, it uses the TAPR Spread Spectrum Mailing List to toss around ideas and develop technical standards. You can join in the discussion (or just sandbag) by going to the TAPR Web site (http://www.tapr.org) and signing up for the Spread Spectrum list.

There has been some movement toward firming up the technical specifications and standards of late. Mostly these standards are reiterations of the IEEE 802.11b standards.

802.11b (also called "Wi-Fi"), as some may know, is one of the standards for wireless computer linking that is commercially available for any consumer computer product. It uses spread-spectrum technology, is reasonably priced, operates on the 2.4 GHz. band (which has an Amateur allocation) and seemingly ideal for amateur packet radio usage. There are other issues related to amateur radio that make for some needed modifications of the system, however. That's where the HSMM Working Group comes into play.

One is the addition of the station ID (in beacon form) and the possibility of increased power without Automatic Power Control for units operating at less than 10 watts. Current FCC rules require any Amateur spread-spectrum transmitter operating at a power level of more than 1 watt to utilize APC. There's a movement to petition the FCC to change this, a direct outgrowth of the HSMM Working Group. Higher power is desireable for backbone links, of course, and at 2.4 GHz, this becomes important.

Another is the standardization of antenna polarization. While most of these "off-the-shelf" units utilize vertical polarization, the HSMM Working Group has proposed horizontal polarization. This will help to minimize interference to and from consumer 802.11b operation.

There has been discussion concerning other issues, far too much to relate here in the space we have. I suggest you join the list and read the archives to find out what they have in store for us. But, the bottom line is that the packet picture is looking a little rosier these days. The doomsayers who have predicted the demise of packet radio certainly have to backpedal with the knowledge that we'll be advancing the art of data transmission in the coming year.

In this state, we've seen an increased role for packet in emergency operating, and small (yet sorely needed) growth of the network to accommodate this expanding role. While this alone is great, casual users can benefit during times of non-emergency (most of the time, of course).

This brings us to the thanks part of this column. A hearty Thank-You goes out to all of the people who have generously given of their time, stations and extra effort that they have put into new nodes and other network facilities. I'll take this time to recognize the efforts of these good folks on behalf of WAPR. Your effort does not go unappreciated.

The same goes for all of the folks who have bothered to keep a node, BBS or other network facility on the air, or perhaps revive one that's been off the air for a while. It's not always an easy thing, and I speak from personal experience. Please take comfort in knowing that we recognize your effort, applaud you for it, and hope you can continue to keep the network going by keeping your part of it "on the air". This goes for the folks who live in adjacent states as well - without our neighbors, we can't get very far.

Let's all hope that the coming year brings us much to be thankful for in 2003, both personally and within our hobby. That's all for this month.

Until next time, 73 from Andy.


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