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Old 04-04-2011, 02:50   #1
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Winlink

I was looking at the Winlink 2000 website and saw the map of user positions all over the world. Makes me wish I was in some of the tropical areas and not land-locked in Europe. I'm learning more about the modes used for this. I finally got Airmail set up for Ham use and looking at doing MARS in the future too for my next deployment(s).

I read some talk about Sat-Phones and other high tech communications.

Do a lot of you guys go right to the high tech or go for the radio setups more?

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Old 05-04-2011, 09:44   #2
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Re: Winlink

Dan,

I'm using winlink2k (airmail) as a ham radio operator, but right now only at the house or out and about.

You can use it without a radio if you have an internet connection that is live (preferred method for the hams as it's quicker than dumping 20k of data at lower baud rates via HF for instance).

I have a bench set up right now using either a laptop or a netbook that ties into a tigertronics Signalink (No, I'm not using the German made proprietary pactor III stuff and probably won't any time soon).

I don't connect to radio sites that require Pactor III only, obviously either. The speed it a tad slower, but honestly, there's no problem in sending a few messages, or getting a weather report etc.

Since I am a communicator by "trade" (26 years as a USAF communicator) I prefer using whatever method is most expedient and as "free" as possible. So I don't go "high tech".

HF radio is fine for the wife and I when we start cruising full time next year. Right now, we're still working out various setups and how we want things to work. The experimentation beforehand for us is fun because we have a better understanding of how things work and how to fix it when it breaks.
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Old 05-04-2011, 10:53   #3
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Re: Winlink

Nice to meet you Rick. I've been out of the loop on a lot of things for a while. I haven't been on the air much, other than listening. If the military ever stopped sending me all over the place, I might be able to get more active. I'm only recently getting familiar with Paktor. I heard about it before but never used it. I decided to get one of the SCS modems and seems to be working out pretty good. Considering the price, it better work..haha.
Looking at all the points where people are at on the winlink map makes me wish I could get out on the water.
Good luck in getting to full time cruising.
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Old 06-04-2011, 06:55   #4
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Re: Winlink

Historically, as others in the HAM system can speak to - Winlink/Airmail was developed to assist world-wide cruisers communicate and get information about weather, etc. when the cruisers are out literally in the middle of nowhere. Since it is operated in the Amateur Radio arena, getting a HAM license was a requirement that in the "old" days was not so easy a task.
- - Several folks recognized the value of such a system and the difficulty that some cruisers have with studying and taking tests and recognized a viable market existed. So Cruise Email and SailMail were started which both use the Airmail/Winlink type system but operate in the "commercial" spectrum so do not require the end user/cruiser to go through the HAM licensing procedures. I meet more and more cruisers these days using the Sailmail system and a decreasing amount using the original HAM system.
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Old 06-04-2011, 08:33   #5
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Re: Winlink

The Winlink folks have hitched their wagon to the emergency communications band wagon and have lost some of their enthusiasm for the cruising sailor, RVer, and missionary folk. Everything works fine and it is a great resource, but the attitudes are clearly focused on EMCOMM.
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Old 06-04-2011, 09:12   #6
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Re: Winlink

Amateur Radio (HAM) has been locked in a battle for the last two decades of trying to keep as much as possible of their allotted radio sprectrum. Government on the other hand is wanting to take that spectrum away and sell it for money to commercial users.
- - The vast simplification of the Amateur Radio License testing was the first defensive moves of the HAM community to maintain or boost membership to justify their keeping their allotted spectrum. They desperately needed cruisers to join up as General Class members to keep their dwindling membership numbers stable or growing.
- - So I would hazard a guess that the emphasis on EMCOMM is another attempt to defend their access to radio spectrum and slow or stop the money hungry Government from selling it out from under them.
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Old 06-04-2011, 09:31   #7
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Re: Winlink

Dan, as you have seen, Winlink is often used on boats at sea, for email and weather information (search "GRIB" for details on getting wx info while at sea).

As mentioned, Sailmail, and a few other organizations, provide Pactor radio email services as an alternative to ham radio Winkink. Sailmail is a nonprofit, founded by sailors, and costs $250/year to join. Sailmail has a limit on the weekly connect-time, and Winlink, being an amateur radio service, is restricted to non-commercial traffic.

As a lower-speed alternative to Pactor, some Winlink operators are using a free software modem called "WINMOR".

The Pactor modem also makes an excellent weatherfax demodulator, letting you directly receive the wfax broadcasts from the worldwide shore stations. There are also free or low-cost software soundcard demodulators for wfax.

Some people use satphones for email while at sea. Look at Iridium and Global Marine Networks "XGate" for an example.

I mostly use the satphone, sometimes Sailmail, and occasionally Winlink. These all have their strengths and weaknesses, and wildly different cost models. You will get strong opinions and good advice on any of these topics here, and you will find many archived discussions on the merits of SSB vs satphone.

Have fun!
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