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Old 09-04-2010, 07:24   #1
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HF Weather and E-Mail - Best Approach ?

It seems there are two approaches, the software approach for cheap, and the Pactor modem for over a grand.

How does the software approach compare to hardware? (assume a fast enough computer), and which software packages work best?

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Bill
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Old 09-04-2010, 07:44   #2
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The Pactor III protocol has the best thruput and reliability, and is used by commercial (e.g., SailMail) and ham stations (WinLink).

The new WinMor protocol is promising, but by most accounts is not quite ready for Prime Time. At best, it seems to achieve thruput somewhere near or below Pactor II speeds. I believe it's not yet available on commercial email relay stations, but soon may be if it proves to be reliable and popular.

Lots of info on these protocols available on the Web.

By the way, HF offshore and high seas weather voice broadcasts are available on a regular schedule from USCG stations, and relays from, e.g., WMO in New Orleans.

Bill
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Old 09-04-2010, 08:00   #3
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Thanks Bill. I've been looking at the Winmor approach, it does seem to be the way of the future, but that's probably a few years before the bugs are out of it, and it is widely adopted.

It would seem that for e-mail, the hardware Pactor approach is it, for now.

Weather fax software is out there in profusion. Any ideas which work best?

Bill
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Old 09-04-2010, 08:40   #4
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Not sure which WX fax program is preferred these days. Maybe someone else has an opinion....it's been years since I used mine.

FWIW, I've found that WX reporting is so much better these days that some of the older modes aren't really all that useful. For example, you can get HF weather from any number of sources, many of them tailored to your location. These include:

. USCG offshore and high seas forecasts
. rebroadcasts of these forecasts by WLO
. summaries of these forecasts by any number of ham and marine nets (MM service net, WaterWay Net, Bahamas and other marine and ham nets, etc.
. weather routers (Herb, Chris, etc.)

If WiFi is available, the weather products available on the Internet are numerous and very good. I especially like PassageWeather.com which has worldwide coverage of the three most useful items: wind direction and speed, surface pressure, and wave height.

Hurricane forecasting is excellent....lots of warning time.

If you have ANY means of contacting someone ashore with access to the Internet, you can make use of many of these weather products even if you don't have WiFi or HF email available.

There are also some relatively inexpensive satellite solutions now available which, inter alia, allow you to directly download satellite images such as the following (greatly reduced in size):
Click image for larger version

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Old 09-04-2010, 09:05   #5
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I'll second what Bill has said about WINMOR for digital communications. I've been using Pactor II/III, and have also been testing with the WINMOR group for over a year. The Pactor modem definitely seems to have connect and throughput advantages over WINMOR in the conditions I have encountered, though I haven't made any controlled comparisons. Under perfect conditions, WINMOR is able to equal Pactor III, but these conditions aren't likely to exist but rarely for cruisers. WINMOR at present is hampered by the limited number of RMS stations that support it, but I'm sure that will improve.

The ability to make Pactor II quality digital connections using $100 instead of $1200 worth of extra hardware will definitely make a place for WINMOR, but right now if this kind of communication is very important to you, a Pactor III modem is the best way to go. The Pactor III solution is a lot more "Plug and Play" at this time too.

If you are a Ham and like messing with the hardware and software, go ahead and give WINMOR a try now.
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Old 09-04-2010, 09:24   #6
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I'm sure the software approach will catch up, we have so much processing power in the average PC, and 16 bit audio give us a lot of data to work with.

For now, I'm not going to shell out a grand for a Pactor. What WINMOR station provides best coverage, and how much does it cost to use the service?

Thanks,
Bill
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Old 09-04-2010, 10:26   #7
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If you have an amateur radio license, you can sign up at Winlink 2000 | Global Radio Email System and it will cost you nothing to use it. You can join the WINMOR Yahoogroup for files and information. There may now be a license fee to get the RMS Express software that implements the WINMOR protocol.

Which station you will best connect with is totally dependent on your location, time of day, solar conditions, and potential interference, just like with Pactor modems.

At present, there is not a commercial service utilizing the WINMOR protocol, so you have to have an amateur radio license and abide by those license restrictions to use it.

Chip
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Old 12-04-2010, 08:56   #8
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Why don't more cruisers use PSK-Mail? I have just begun looking into this, and am far from an expert, but my understanding is that it is another method of sending and receiving e-mail via HF and internet. Not as fast as Pactor or Winmor, but it's been around longer and is plenty fast enough for plain-text e-mails.
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Old 12-04-2010, 09:19   #9
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PSK Looks good. I'm not a radio amateur though, and am unlikely to take the time to get my morse, which I have not used for 40 years, up to 15 wpm.

Bill
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Old 12-04-2010, 10:32   #10
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I have tried PSK mail a bit myself but don't use it. It has very limited bandwidth - good for relatively short text emails but not much more. The other problem is that there are few PSKmail stations in this hemisphere, it seems to be more popular with more stations in the European theatre. The paucity of stations really limits your connection options. This may improve over time, but I think WINMOR will predominate in North America and probably elsewhere, with little reason to expand the PSKMail network. WINMOR does much more with the same hardware requirements as PSKMail (though PSK Mail probably would do better with a very slow computer).
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Old 12-04-2010, 10:56   #11
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Bill, several years ago the morse code requirement was dropped for *all* classes of U.S. ham licenses.

For what it's worth, I've had much better luck getting reliable service via SailMail than via Winlink (ham). Perhaps it's a location thing... I use the Pactor modem.

-Paul (wb6cxc)
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Old 12-04-2010, 10:58   #12
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Originally Posted by ctsbillc View Post
PSK Looks good. I'm not a radio amateur though, and am unlikely to take the time to get my morse, which I have not used for 40 years, up to 15 wpm.

Bill

Bill...

The Morse code requirement has been dropped...entirely. For several years now.

So.....there's no longer an "excuse" not to get a ham license :-)

Bill
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Old 12-04-2010, 11:03   #13
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Wow. A Canadian amateur just told me I had to get up to 15 wpm. Maybe it's just Canada, I'll check it out.

Thanks Bill & Paul,

Bill
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Old 12-04-2010, 11:29   #14
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Hi guys, I have a marine HF transciever, Icom M710 and a laptop. How do I go about downloading the weather maps or faxes onto the laptop for the Indian ocean, around the west coast of Sumatra and Java? I have just bought the boat and need a bit of guidance on this. I have an marine radio operators licence.
Thanks from Keith.
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Old 12-04-2010, 12:25   #15
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With regard to weather information there are two significant categories:

1-to-1 communication - e-mail is the best example of this. Pactor II and III are still the most reliable and fastest means, with Iridium somewhat behind. Winmor is showing performance between Pactor II and Pactor III but isn't production ready yet. It's still a year out in my opinion.

1-to-many communication - both wefax and voice forecasts are good examples. Everyone gets the same information at the same time so the spectrum efficiency is high. If you already have a Pactor modem and use Airmail you are already set. If you have any SSB and a soundcard in your laptop you can use (among others) free JVCOMM software to receive weather faxes and text broadcasts.

On Auspicious I have a laptop, SCS IIpro Pactor modem, and Icom IC-M802. I use e-mail for personal communications and updating my blog. I use the same hardware to receive synoptic charts over wefax. It all simply works, all with the same (Airmail) interface.
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