Where we build things and learn stuff.
Build an inexpensive kit TNC for the purpose of connecting your HT and laptop to the Winlink mail system, and explore additional Amateur Radio packet modes. A project approved by the club members in attendance on November 9, 2023.
The purpose of this project:
Encourage anyone with a laptop and a HT and a technician license to learn a new communication tool. This service is available in most urban areas using 2m, and around the world on HF.
Teach inexperienced builders how to solder using thru-hole components.
Show uninitiated hams how the Winlink system works and where it works. It is free to use, but the software can be optionally registered for $24 as a donation toward development. Winlink software for your smartphone can cost between $8 and $15.
There are other options for those who are willing to compile code or use programs that are not fully featured as Winlink Express. You can research these options at https://winlink.org/ClientSoftware and we would love to hear a report on how well they work.
The Project Parts:
First, we need you and whatever soldering skills you have.
This is the project we will be building https://tarpn.net/t/nino-tnc/nino-tnc.html The estimated cost for the board plus parts and a cable is between $40 and $55, which includes the PCB and CPU from Etsy, and the thru-hole components from Digikey or Mouser. The club will collect names and a down payment, then order parts and distribute these kits.
A single kit, if ordered individually, may cost you a bit over $50 unless you substitute parts already owned. We hope to get enough committed builders to make a bulk purchase and get the price down around $42.
3D printed case, using STL files obtained from thingiverse or the Tarpn site, and you can create your own. 3D printers are available at the SD libraries, or find a friend to help. If you have never used a 3D printer, find someone to help you get started. These things can be awesome or frustrating, or both.
A USB-A to USB-B cable. Everybody should have these laying around, but if not... find someone who will give you one. These are the old style big connector USB types.
Kenwood style plug with DE9 connector. This is the audio interface from the TNC to your radio, most commonly found on inexpensive radios like Baofeng, Alinco, Anytone, and others. Yaesu uses a 4 ring single connector, and your larger mobile radios use the multi pin DIN connectors. We will be ordering the Kenwood style cable for this kit, and if we have enough interest in other brands, will make an effort to buy those in bulk also. You can buy pre-made cables for nearly any radio style from https://hammadeparts.com
The Project Plan:
Starting now until December 15, 2023, we will collect names and money from all interested parties. Contact us directly by firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know the following things. How many kits you want. What radio you intend to use. Your level of soldering skills - this is thru-hole soldering, no surface mount - and do you need help with this project? You can bring your payment to our club Ham Potluck on December 14, a partial payment will be sufficient until we know the total price based on the number we order. Please work with me here so we get some money and commitment up front and don't get stuck with a dozen TNC kits.
The club will place an order for boards and components, hopefully to arrive before January 11, 2024.
While you wait, prospective builders or interested participants will be encouraged to get registered and familiar with Winlink software. Begin your training on a PC with a reliable internet connection. It's free and you need a HAM call sign to get started. Go here and read up https://winlink.org/ . There are plenty of how-to videos and documents to help get started. Once you are familiar with how Winlink works on an internet connection, you'll be ready for jumping onto RF!
January 2024 meeting - deliver the kits and we host a solder workshop. The kit claims to have a ONE HOUR assembly time. The PIC processor ships preloaded with code, so when you are done, cable up to your HT and send/receive mail. I'm sure it will be a bit harder than this.
February 2024 meeting - follow up and debugging. Bring your HT, laptop, TNC, and we can all learn to send mail by simplex.
The Other Things:
What are the alternatives to this TNC? MFJ makes a TNC, and there is a TNC board you can attach to the top of a Raspberry Pi, and use the small computer for your own projects. These are sold online and from HRO, and have a lot of useful features.
How about Direwolf? Yes, you can use software and a USB sound card (or your computer soundcard) to accomplish things this TNC does. https://github.com/wb2osz/direwolf There is nothing stopping you from doing both the Tarpn TNC and exploring other software options. It's good to have options! Don't limit yourself.
Chromebook? Raspberry Pi? Netbook from the early 2000's? The amount of processor power needed to decode 300 baud and 1200 baud packet radio is well within the capabilities of a modern computer. The limitations of the Chrome OS may force you to use android style phone apps to accomplish this task. Older laptops and netbooks (remember those?) should work fine as they run windows or linux easily. Packet radio has roots in the days of the BBS and DOS.
If you have experience with this TNC or others, and have done packet radio recently, come and share your experiences, give some friendly advice, and encourage others to use packet in cool new ways.
THE SHORT VERSION
Email us and tell us how many kits you want. email@example.com They will be about $42-$50 depending on demand.
Bring some money to our HAM potluck on December 14 and put a deposit on your kit. Bring a dish to share, stay and eat.
Wait for the kits to arrive. We'll distribute them on or before our January 11 meeting.
Build a TNC.
Send email over RF and be cool and popular.