PSKmail


 

 

Here it is, the Operating System On a Stick for the raspberry pi2 or pi3 including all necessary Pskmail stuff.

After lots of experimentation with various operating systems for the pi3 I think I now have found a solution which is pretty much ideal for the stuff I am doing while traveling with our camper. I prefer the raspberry pi over the various laptops I am carrying, mainly because of the low power consumption. I don’t have to worry anymore when we are camping without a mains connection, the solar panel on the roof provides enough power for the raspberry computer and a low power ham radio station.

Several people have asked for a complete and easy solution for the raspi including the pskmail programs for server and client (details on the pskmail.org website).

Well, here it is. And I will start with a description how to put in onto your raspi 2 or 3.

Installation

You will need the following hardware:

  • A micro-SD card of min. 128 MB, preferably quality 10
  • A USB stick, preferable USB3 of > 4 GB. I prefer to use the 16 GB variety, which enables me to add other operating systems (e.g. lubuntu or mint) if necessary.

You need two software images, berryboot and raspbian.

You can download the berryboot image at:

The image for the pi/3 is called berryboot-20170527-pi2-pi3.zip The image is 36 MB only. To install the image: extract the contents of the .zip file to a normal (FAT formatted) SD card, and put it in your Raspberry Pi.
Once you start your Pi it will start an installer that reformats the SD card and asks you where to find the operating system.

The image for the USB stick can be downloaded from http://pskmail.org/downloads using linux with:

(in case you don’t have linux yet, get the USB stick version from PA0R, see a previous article @ PA0R.COM…).

First unzip the 16 GB image with:

  • gunzip raspbian_pskmail-v.1.0.img.gz

then write the image to the stick with the following procedure:

  • 1.: Mount the USB stick
  • 2.: Check where it is mounted with:
    • lsblk  (look for a disk with a size < 16 GB, probably /dev/sdb, sometimes /dev/sdc)
  • 3.: write the image to the disk using a terminal with:
    • sudo dd if=raspbian_pskmail-v.1.0.img of=/dev/sdb bs=4M status=progress

If this is successful you are ready with the initial work.

Now is the time to start for the first time. Insert the SD card and the USB stick into the raspi and apply power to the raspi. You will be greeted with the berryboot boot loader. For details on the first start take a look at:

When berryboot asks where to find the OS, tell it to look at the USB disk. If all is well it will boot into raspbian, and you are have a functioning system with fldigi, pskmail server, pskmail client, libreoffice etc.

The SSH server is running by default, the user/password is pi/raspberry. Change the password before you go on line. You can start the vnc server via the SSH server with:

  • vncserver :10

which connects display nr. 10 to vnc. It will allow you to use any vnc client on your LAN to perform further experiments. You can now start the pskmail client and server remotely, and connect to it any time you want.

desktop 1_001

 

I hope you have as much fun with it as I have….

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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 🙂

Introducing a new paradigm in digital radio….

Remember the good old days of packet radio? Remember the problems on HF because
the stations were not hearing each other?
The solution is of course to make sure everybody hears everybody else.
We have the same problem on the PSKmail common APRS frequency. The moment I write this, there are 9 servers active on 10147.00. And none of them hears every other server because of the skip on 30 meters. The solution will be to provide a channel without skip.

Fortunately all servers are connected to the Internet. So it is easy to provide a channel without QRM and propagation problems.

The new server, pskmail_server-1.0.45, connects to a socket in the pskmail.org domain, and sends its PTT status to all other connected servers. So theoretically all servers know if the channel is busy, and can act accordingly.

Of course this function has to discriminate between frequencies and geographical locations.

pskmail_server-1.0.45 offers a test environment for experimenting with this new feature, which I call “Cloud Marshalling” (The servers use the Cloud to communicate their status).

I hope many server ops have the opportunity to test this if software is enhancing channel throughput… It would of course be ideal if all servers on 10147.00 would try this 🙂

The geographical footprint is limited to the servers between 70 and 35 degrees North, and -20 to +20 degrees East. So servers outside this range should not be blocked. Which has to be tested as well 🙂

Rein Couperus, PA0R

http://pskmail.org