For about twelve years now I have been an amateur radio operator. This hobby has rewarded me with endless hours of tinkering, a venue to learn harder theory subjects such as math, and physics, and most noticeably about me, a garage full of junk. The great thing about this hobby is that when I get bored with something I can just put it down and forget about it, at times for years. And when I get interested in the hobby again I can just pick up where I left off or head in a totally new direction. To get a hint of some of the things I have done in the past regarding this hobby you can read about such things here.
So my encounter with Echolink came about in a strange way, as things often do.For those who have no idea what Echolink is, just imagine a type of voIP that not only connects computers together but also radios to make that last jump over long distances via another medium.
So two nights ago I was reading "Ghost in the Wires", by that hacker Kevin Mitnick in it he mentioned a desert town called Pahrump NV, and said that the town was only notable for two things. Art Bell lived there and that legalized whore house the Chicken Ranch also was located there. By the way an excellent read if you have the time, I highly recommend this book.
Now I remember Art Bell from hearing Coast to Coast AM on my little AM radio from time to time growing up. I got a little curious the next day and decided to look him up online. It would appear that he is a radio amateur with the call sign W6OBB. A little more digging around and I had stumbled upon a forum where he introduced himself. It read
My name is Art Bell W6OBB. I have just joined the Echolink Universe. I
am Retired from the Broadcast business and would love it if you would
join us at W6OBB-L here in Pahrump, Nevada."
Hmm "Echolink Universe", I wonder what all that is about? Oh yeah and from that post it looks like Kevin Mitnick's statement was correct as well.
In my time of surfing the airwaves I have heard the term "Echolink" pop up a few times. I knew that it was internet connectivity via radio but never thought much of it. Up until that point I had always concerned myself with sending and receiving data over the air exclusively. I suppose now it was time to find out what this is.
I looked up "Echolink" and got the link that I am shamelessly plugging here which was the Wiki entry for it. This gave me a good run down on what the software did and how it worked. From this I found the software's website and more importantly I realized that there was an iPhone app for this. Without reading any further I immediately went to the app store and downloaded this. The app is free of charge. I then continued reading up on this.
It turns out that you HAVE to be a licensed radio operator to be properly registered for the software. No problem there I've had my license for twelve years. To insure that you are licensed you had to sign up for an account and then prove that your are licensed. It just so happened that I had my wallet sized license with me so I scanned that and sent the picture to myself via email. I cropped the scanned license and blew it up for ease of review and sent this off to the software company. They instructed me to wait twenty-four hours.
Damn! I wanted to play with this today!
While I waited I needed to first install the software on a machine at home. This might have posed a problem, since I was at work some thirty miles away from any computer at my house. Luckily I was able to exploit a little known connection in our building to get around security and was able to remote desktop to a machine sitting in my garage. I installed the software and then waited to be verified. Within about four hours I was verified and ready to go.
I had some network problems with running the software from home, so be sure to read up on the documentation, apparently you have to forward ports 5198 and 5199 for UDP, if your machine is sitting behind a router. Once you set up Echolink on a PC and configure your account you can then log in using the iPhone App.
Within no time I was popping in and out of QSOs on repeaters all over the world. I even spoke on one in India and one in Ireland.
This was all fine and good, but I wanted to see how *I* sounded coming over a repeater parsing my audio via Echolink. To do this I used the repeater map to find a repeater close enough to my location to listen to over the radio. I then pointed my directional antenna at this location and tuned into it. I keyed up the repeater using my radio to ensure that I could copy it. Then I logged into Echolink sing the iPhone App and connected to that repeater. I then transmitter to it over my phone, across the internet and then out of the repeater and was able to copy my audio on my radio. It sounded pretty good.
Yup, I like Echolink alright. I'll be playing with this a lot more in the future.