Friday, January 30, 2015

Node relocation

I've learned a couple of things about running an Allstar node. Nothing too earth-shaking.

1. The mobile radio hanging off the node computer can spend a LOT of time transmitting. Typically a non-commercial ham radio is not rated for this sort of duty-cycle. But I'm hoping that having the power set to the lowest setting (5w) will make a difference.

2. I've been experiencing a high number of dropped cellular calls. I don't know for sure, but it seemed that most of the dropped calls happened while sitting 3ft from my node antenna. And these dropped calls probably happened while the node was transmitting. It is for this reason, as well as general RF safety that I decided to relocate my node to the garage (see pictures).

3. Technically I'm supposed to be monitoring the node at all times and have the ability to turn it off if need be. That is part of the definition of a "control operator", which every ham station must have. However when someone is using my node, they are transmitting and my node is not. When my node is receiving RF it is sending VoIP out over the net, but it would be the repeater or node on the other end of the connection that would be transmitting. And for that I would not be responsible to the FCC. The repeater or node-owner on the other end would. My node would only be transmitting what gets received from the repeater or node that is on the other end of the VoIP connection.  Of course the repeater or node-owner on the other end may block me (and be justified in doing so) if someone on my end is abusing my node.

As part of the move out to the garage I set up a spare router that runs the Tomato open-source firmware to act as a wireless bridge. It connects to the wireless router in the house via WiFi signal and connects to this PC via ethernet. It's not that different than having a wireless card in the PC, except that this PC runs an ancient version of CentOS Linux that probably has really iffy support for wireless cards. With the bridge it only needs to support the on-board ethernet.