"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun! "

Hams, Packet Radio and Linux

by Phil Hughes, WA6SWR, phil@ssc.com

Copyright (c) 1996
Published in Issue 10 of the Linux Gazette

This year's ARRL/TAPR sponsored conference on Digital Communications was in Seattle on September 20-22. Being a ham, a packet fan and 18 miles away from the conference, I decided to attend. I also offered to bring some Linux Journal magazines to give away. By the end of the conference "some" had become about 100.

The papers presented varied from very introductory material to a serious look at how to equalize group delay of IF filters. Many of the papers and one of the three workshops dealt with a system called Automatic Position Report System. For those not familiar with this, a GPS receiver is combined with a packet station to send out position reports.

But, the purpose of this article is not to talk about the "ham content" of the conference (if you want more info on that, check out http://www.tapr.org/, but to talk about the L-word.

In the first workshop (on APRS), Keith Sproul demonstrated both a Windows and a Mac version of the system, but regularly referenced the fact that a Linux version also existed. I was surprised (as there was no mention of a Sun version or any other Unix-like version), but I was now sure that Linux had infiltrated the ham packet radio community pretty seriously.

The L-word then continued to come up in discussions with people. It varied from comments about installing Linux to how Linux became a significant part of a ham network. For example, in Barry McLarnon and Dennis Rosenauer's presentation on Wireless Networking Using the WA4DSY 56K RF Modem Technology, Barry said "Linux is the platform of choice". Later, when describing the Ottawa MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) he pointed out that their Internet server (hydra.carleton.ca) is a Linux box, and they, when talking about the packet gateway machine, said "It hasn't been converted to Linux yet."

At the end of their presentation we had a chance to play with a wireless network set up in the room. The machine on one end of the 56K link was running Linux as was one downstream machine off the other end.

All in all, the conference was good for Linux.

Phil Hughes