Using the Wisconsin Network - Part 5

By Andy Nemec, KB9ALN

In Part 4 of our series, we discussed the most important of the network node commands, Routes, Nodes, and Info. We also talked about careful use of the network, and efficient use of distant BBS's. In this installment, we will put this information to use. We will begin a journey through a network node path. We will discover some standardization that will help you navigate to a distant destination.

We have discussed the construction of a typical node stack and how they communicate. You'll need to remember that discussion as it does relate to navigating the Wisconsin Network.

 You already know that Local Area Networks (LANs) are linked together by Backbone Nodes. These backbone nodes are the traffic carriers, and may often carry traffic between several LAN nodes. We might use an analogy here to better understand this system. Think of this all as a highway system. The LAN nodes are on-ramps to a freeway, the Node Stack is an interchange, and the Backbone is the "freeway". Sometimes it is useful to know the difference between a backbone node and a LAN node when you connect to one.

For example, it is not logical to connect to a distant LAN node and tell it to connect to another, more distant LAN node. Using our analogy, you would not want to exit a freeway and get tied up in an interchange if you wish to make an efficient, rapid trip on a freeway. So, backbone nodes will be carrying your packets, and your connection to LAN nodes will only slow your communication.

However, backbone nodes are generally designated as "hidden" nodes. If you connect to your LAN node and ask for a node list with the "N" command, you will see no backbone nodes listed. There are good reasons for this, but we will discuss them later. If we don't see the backbone node listed with the "N" command, how do we get to see that it is there? We use the "Routes" command.

The "R" command will show all nodes connected on the same stack, whether they are "Hidden" backbone nodes or not. Backbone nodes almost always have a # in front of their alias. Like the LAN node alias, there is usually a clue to a backbone node's location in the alias. For example, the Green Bay UHF 9600 baud backbone node has an alias of #446GB. It tells you that it is a "Hidden" backbone node, it is UHF, and it is in Green Bay. That is just a little cryptic, but the I command will tell you that is is backbone node that links Green Bay, Algoma, and Appleton, Wisconsin.

Now, let's start an imaginary journey through the network from Green Bay to Milwaukee. We will assume that you know it is possible, and that you may know that what your destination node is, but are not quite sure. We may have to take a few off-ramps to get there, but once we find the way there, we will know better than to take these exits.

The first thing you may have done is to get the list of nodes with the "N" command. There is nothing listed that resembles an alias that would indicate a Milwaukee node. A little bit of reasoning will let you in on what would be the most likely path to take to get there, though. The "N" command yields the following:

WIGRB:KE9LZ-5} Nodes:

GRBBBS:KB9ALN-5         MTWBBS:N9GHE           MTWDX:N9GHE-7          NEEBBS:KA9JAC
SHEBBS:NF9R                 WIALG:KE9LZ-8             WIAPL:KB9BYQ-5          WICRIV:KE9LK-7
WIDC:W9AIQ-1                 WIGLK:KB9WC-7            WIMTW:N9GHE-8           WINEE:KA9JAC-5
WISHEL:NF9R-8               WISTB:W9AIQ-7

The first nodes to rule out are ones that contain "BBS", for obvious reasons. Now we think of geography and airport designators. We want to look for a node that is part way toward our destination. If you want to take it one step further, you could look in the callbook would let you know for sure. There are a couple of possibilities, if you have a map in front of you.

WIMTW looks like a possibility, that looks suspiciously like an airport designator for Manitowoc. WISHEL (and SHEBBS) seem to indicate Sheboygan. A quick check of the call-book will confirm these deductions. Let's start by connecting to WIMTW, as that is about 1/3 of the way to Milwaukee. Once connected, send the "R" command. This will return:

WIMTW:N9GHE-8} Routes:
>1 #446MT:N9GHE-9 255 19
>1 #WIRED:N9GHE-6 255 2 1
 0  MTWDX:N9GHE-7 255 18

Well, now we can look at this and determine that there are 2 backbone nodes connected to this node stack. Notice the > symbol in front of #446MT. This indicates a "Route in Use". It also can point you in the right direction in your travels. Let's investigate the first one, #446MT, and send the "R" command. We then see this:

#446MT:N9GHE-9} Routes:
>1 WIMTW:N9GHE-8 255 20
>1 #WIRED:N9GHE-6 255 2 1
  0 MTWDX:N9GHE-7 255 18 0
  0 #446AG:KE9LZ-7 224 8 0
  0 #446SH:NF9R-9 224 18

Then we send "I" for Info and see this:

#446MT:N9GHE-9} Backbone Node 446.100 Manitowoc, Wi [] 9600 Baud Backbone to Sheboygan and Algoma

This is information that you need to know. This tells you what this node does, and where it goes. A helpful hint: Take notes, or turn on your printer while you journey so that you know where you have been. When we continue in part 6, we will use this information to explore the the next stop on our journey, Sheboygan.

On to Part 6 -  Continuing our mythical journey from Green Bay to Milwaukee

Back to Part 4 -  Basic Node Commands

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