You installed PSKMAIL, and connected your Raspberry Pi or your laptop to your transceiver.

 What now?

The possibilities with PSKMAIL are manifold. The best way to get to grips with most of them is to start the easy way and take it step by step.

What do you  need for the first steps?

1: A working USB HF TRX, preferably with a narrow filter. 500 Hz is ideal, it is nice when also 300 or 250 Hz filters are available. QRP will work, I can work SM0RWO-1 with 5 Watts and 10m of wire from our camper in Spain.

2: An antenna. Ranging from a 3-element beam to 10 metres of wire with a suitable tuner.I normally use the wire and a fishing rod on top of the camper for mobile use.

3: A server. I mean you need to be able to hear/work at least one of the active servers.There are several factors influencing this. One is your location, the second one is our friend the sun with its spots. In practise you will also encounter the third, often more important one which is the environmental noise conditions at your location. A ship in the middle of the Atlantic is ideal, a  campsite full of Chinese battery chargers is catastrophical. Skip is also important. Don’t try a server which is too close, skip is normally quite long on 30m which is the main band of operation for PSKmail at the moment.

Why do I hear so few servers?

PSKmail is an amateur service run by amateurs. So we are depending on those who make servers available for others. Europe is pretty well covered at the moment, for the rest of the world it is off and on… You can see which servers are active on a web site: http://www.PSKmail.org/users. By the way, to run your own server at home or at your local club station you only need a raspberry pi with a USB audio dongle, an old transceiver and a piece of wire. And internet access via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The servers normally beacon during the first 5 minutes of every hour. If you can hear them you can work them…

I can hear a server. What now?

I would take it one step at the time. PSKmail has two working modes, connected and unconnected. The easiest way is to try unconnected mode first. The “ping” command sends a request to all servers asking if they hear you. Once you get an answer you can send a beacon, and check if it reaches APRS. Once this is successful you are able to use PSKmail for real communication. My guess is that at least 70% of the users are using unconnected mode for APRS beaconing and texting.

Once you are happy with the above, you can tackle the more difficult challenges…

Have fun 🙂

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