Using the Wisconsin Network - Part 18

by Andy Nemec, KB9ALN

In past editions of Using the Wisconsin Network, we have dealt with all sorts of networked packet radio node stations. This time, we will deal with a station that is not strictly a Network Node, but becomes part of a network in very many areas. This type of station also is capable of doing some nifty stuff, and you, or someone you know may even own one. It is a KA-Node, and it is inside of a great many of the Kantronics TNC's that are sold these days. A KA-Node is not a networked node in the strictest sense, but you can make a long-distance connection through a series of them to form a loose network, of sorts. They do not utilize the "Net/Rom" protocol, as Network Nodes do. They are strictly AX.25 nodes.

They are a sophisticated digipeater that operates on the same principle as a node. They repeat your packets, acknowlege the reciept of them, and acknowlege the receipt of a packet intended for your station before the packet is sent to you. In other words, they do not rely on "End-to-End" acknowlegment the way that digipeating does. Therefore, it is much more efficient when used as a node. The KA-Node can be used as a node on your usual 2-meter LAN frequency, and some can even act as a gateway to other frequencies or LANs. Most KA-Nodes have a Secondary Station I.D. of -7, although this can be changed to a different SSID.

They can also have an alias, but this alias is not recognized by network nodes (they don't speak the same "Net/Rom" language). There are two versions of the KA-Node. The single-port version is found on TNC's like the KPC-3, while the dual-port version can be seen in the KAM and 9612 TNC's. The single-port version is easy enough to get familiar with, it resembles a simple network node in many ways. When you connect to one, you will get a greeting and a prompt that looks something like this:

Welcome to my node, feel free to use it. PBBS is WX9APR-1

The B command is just like any other node or BBS - use it to do a polite disconnect.

The C command tells the node to connect to another station. C WZ9APR will tell the node to connect to station WZ9APR. If it is unable to connect to this station, the node will respond with:


The J command is the Heard List, and can be seen in three forms, J, JS, and JL. JS is a shorter form heard list, without the extras. JL will give a longer heard list, with the time and date the station was heard, along with digipeaters and the type of station it has heard.

The N command is also much the same as what one would encounter on a network node. It will list nodes, and it gathers a node list based upon the station ID that it hears from another station. Other KA-Nodes are shown on this node list, as well as any network nodes it can directly monitor on the frequency. KA-Nodes don't show nodes linked by backbone or wire link.

The Help command will show all of the valid node commands and their variations. The Dual-Port KA-Node offers one other important feature that makes it all the more useful. There is one addition to the command prompt, and it looks like this:

Welcome to my node, feel free to use. PBBS is WX9APR-1

The X command is added, and the J Heard list is expanded a bit. And notice that it now tells you that you are connected on "Channel A". This node has two ports, or channels that connections can be made on. They can be configured to be "Channel A" and "Channel B", or "VHF" and "HF", to name a couple. When they are configured in this manner, the node becomes a "Gateway" to another frequency, and sometimes another mode. Using one of these nodes configured as a gateway is fairly easy. If the operator has the gateway enabled, you simply connect to the node and issue the J (heard) command. The heard list will indicate whether a given call-sign was heard on channel A, B, VHF or HF with a forward slash and an abbreviation after the call-sign. For example, this heard list shows:

WZ9APR/V 07/04/96 07:04
WY9APR/H 07/04/96 07:03

WZ9APR was heard at 7:04 on July 4th, on VHF. WY9APR was heard on the same date, one minute earlier, on the HF port. This is where the X command comes in. If you wished to connect to WZ9APR, you would use the C command. If you wished to connect to WY9APR, you would use the X command (Cross-Channel Connect) to make the connection. This tells the TNC to look for the station on the other port (channel). This presents some interesting possibilities.

The other port can be HF or VHF, or can be a different mode - like AMTOR, GTOR, or RTTY. If one of the ports is HF packet on say, 20 Meters, one could carry on a conversation with someone on the other side of the world, DX permitting. This node can also provide a VHF gateway to another VHF LAN. Usually the short greeting you receive when you connect to the node will tell you what port does what job.

Though KA-Nodes are not really part of the Wisconsin Network, there certainly are enough of them. Besides the gateway service they can provide, they are far superior to the practice of digipeating to a network node, should you have difficulty making a direct connection to a node on your LAN frequency. In this manner, they help you to better navigate through the Wisconsin Network.

On to Part 19 - Using the REQFILE and REQDIR on the MSYS BBS

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