Hosting an AllStar Node and an AllStarDMR bridge in the cloud

Update: The DVSwitch group is working on some documentation you may also want to refer to as it is official 🙂
ASL to DMR:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eN50Csr29eAprBu7eKA0Bfa2XUcsXw5iktY1Ey-Qjkg

DVSwitch: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-Ot5pGaibmEGmmFh-l8HUq2LRyZoujiJYulr-VSga9s

Since jumping into Digital Modes and hotspots in November of 17 and Allstar stuff in early 2018, I decided to look at setting up something for my club, ALERT, to have EchoLink and bridge it over to DMR so members without DMR radios could still interact with each other.

There were several considerations made as far as hosting the node and bridge. I considered using my existing raspberry pi but there were some technical challenges with the OS and how you got the bridge software to install and extract. I think it can be done but I didn’t invest further time into it when it gave me trouble. I considered formatting an old windows computer with Ubuntu but after some thought about this being for the club maybe hosting this at home was not the best idea. Even though the title says host in the cloud you can totally do this on an Ubuntu computer at your home to (and if you are ok opening some ports), I’m explaining where mine ended up in this post. So, I chose AWS (Amazon) to host them both. There are also other great host I almost went with if I had heard about them earlier in the process, Vultr and DigitalOcean. I don’t know the AWS cost yet. I do know that I have 1yr free of AWS EC2 and that based on the data stats I may be able to stay in the free tier after that depending on usage. I suspect our usage will be small except during severe weather season so, we have time to watch it. I’ll update down the road when this gets nailed down.

I don’t plan to cover setting up AWS as it’s pretty straight forward after setting up an account. However, I had to do this a few times because the image I chose (trying to get 32bit) cause me more install issues with the Ham stuff. I finally, found out I needed this and 64bit was fine:

chrome_2018-05-23_14-49-44

Once you get the instance running they give you all the ways to connect to it which I also don’t plan to cover since they have their own guides as part of the setup. You can use your SSH tool of preference. I use Putty and Bitvise (client is free server is not but you shouldn’t need server). For AWS you download a user key (you do not use a username password) that you need to load into your ssh client. For Putty, AWS gives you instructions on converting the key to a putty file. With Bitvise, you just import the .pem file. Once you are in with SSH you can start installing the ALS Software.

Alltar (ASL):

Update: This might be a better guide as it’s more automated than my way as it is the manual process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGqdTvyObIU  The video is for a Vultr install but may apply to AWS as well if you can install via ISO.

The AWS server user logon is Ubuntu (covered in their docs) but so I didn’t have to use sudo all the time I set this after i got in. sudo -s and that switched me to root user.

To intall ASL run this:

Note on linux commands: enter these one line at a time and hit enter. You can cut and paste if your ssh client supports it. Right mouse click in putty and bitvise.

cd /tmp
wget http://dvswitch.org/install-allstarlink-repository
chmod +x install-repository
./install-repository
If Raspbian: apt-get install raspberrypi-kernel-headers -y
Otherwise: apt-get install linux-headers-`uname -r` -y

apt-get update
apt-get install allstarlink -y 

Based on the video there is a menu that I didn’t know about when I setup my node that would be easier for a first time setup:

cd /usr/local/sbin
sudo asl-menu

end update.

Follow the “Manual setup” from this guide: https://www.hamvoip.org/config-setup.pdf

Even thought this guide is for the HamVOIP image most of the manual setup things apply or maybe minor edits. I didn’t rewrite these instructions to fit an ASL install, I just “made it work”.

Turn off your AllStar Telemetry via this guide this seems to interfere with the DMR to Allstar audio: https://dvswitch.groups.io/g/allstarlink/wiki/home

To enable EchoLink make sure to modify the echolink.conf accordingly then enable it in the modules.conf.

Check your Node and made sure it’s online and you can connect to it before moving to the bridge part.

If not you may need support from this group: http://lists.allstarlink.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/app_rpt-users

DVSwitch:

This is the Bridge software. They actually support bridges to all the digital modes I believe (DMR, C4FM, P25, NXDN, ect). They use a MD380 emulator to get around the hardware requirements of most systems with dongles or boards. Sign up for their email list they will provide great support for your project if you can’t get it going yourself. https://dvswitch.groups.io/g/main

To install:

As root
cd /tmp

wget http://dvswitch.org/install-dvswitch-repo
chmod +x install-dvswitch-repo
./install-dvswitch-repo
apt-get update

apt-get install analog-bridge
apt-get install mmdvm-bridge
apt-get install md380-emu

These get installed to the opt folder:

BvSsh_2018-05-23_15-19-06

Edit the ini files in the Analog folder and MMDVM folder (I did not have to modify the DVSwitch.ini for this bridge)

I used beyond compare to show the difference between the original ini and what i changed to make it work:

The Analog_Bridge.ini allows you to set decoding to the emulator and your DMR information that will also be updated or used from your MMDVM_Bridge.ini

Analog_Bridge

MMDVM_Bridge.ini sets up a MMDVM configuration which isn’t much different than setting up the parameters on a hotspot just without the radio. So, you will most likely need to register for the Brandmeister self care website and once setup you need to set your desired TalkGroup as static. In the config your DMR ID is the callsign DMR will see and the Repeater ID is the DMR ID + 01 (or any 2 digits) Note: DMARC is not supported unless there is a D-plus bridge to it.

MMDVM_Bridge

In the rpt.conf turn off the dahdi and enable the USRP lines.

rpt

in the modules.conf enable the usrp.

modules

Recommended rpt.conf settings for cutting off tones and connect/disconnect messages to DMR: https://dvswitch.groups.io/g/allstarlink/wiki/home

If you plan on using IAX, EchoLink, and SSH you may need to open some ports to your system. I did IAX and EchoLink:

chrome_2018-05-24_14-24-46

Now you are ready to load up the bridge software with these commands:

systemctl enable md380-emu
systemctl start md380-emu

systemctl enable analog_bridge
systemctl start analog_bridge

systemctl enable mmdvm_bridge
systemctl start mmdvm_bridge

If you have issues there are logs located here to review:

BvSsh_2018-05-24_13-57-33

As long as your server/bridge/nodes are running you have a live bridge between the 2 modes. Users on either side will not have to do anything out of the ordinary. AllStar users coming over to DMR do not have DMR numbers so DMR users will see the club/personal number of the number you chose in the MMDVM config.

Hopefully, with that, your AllStar Node and DMR bridge are going!

If not don’t stress help is an email or remote session away.  It’s probably something small and stupid that’s stopping it. There are lots of ways to do this and none of it is documented that great but be persistent and ask questions it took me a good week on an off to get mine online and tons of trial and error. Maybe this guide will help you with the concepts and get you going faster than it took me.

73,
Russell, KV4S

I now have an AllStar/EchoLink node! Join me: 47923 or KV4S-L (1003254)

After being on and still on the Digital HotSpot craze, I started looking at the Analog options and that brought me to the Open Source AllStar system.

I was actually a little surprised to see how much EchoLink and IRLP are still used for over 20 year old systems. AllStar plays very nice with EchoLink and to a degree IRLP. Most of the IRLP nodes I’ve looked at connects up with AllStar as well.

To find out more check out: https://www.hamvoip.org

Based on that site I invested in the equipment and just got it going about 2 days ago. The setup is harder than the other digital hotspots but most of that is because it’s command line Linux that you need to be familiar with or at least be able to follow from the guides. The guides over on HamVOIP are outstanding.

At any rate my nodes are online!

AllStar: 47923
EchoLink: KV4S-L (1003254)

Link up and lets chat!!

For all my modes and ways to connect check out this page: https://kv4s.com/connect

73,
Russell, KV4S

Amateur Digital Modes, My new toy!

After being mostly inactive (other than the ALERT club meetings) for the last 5+ years, I started getting interested in Digital after seeing folks talking about DVAP for D-STAR. During my research I found there was also a mode called DMR that allowed private calls and group calls based on commercial systems. I also learned there was a D-STAR and DMR repeaters about 4-5 miles from me easily accessible via an HT. Part of the reason for my inactivity was there were no analog repeaters in my city. Also, during my research I found out about Raspberry Pi hot-spots, a new advancement in the hobby that made things feel new again and I was totally hooked.

November 10th, 2018 I was on the air with my Radiodddity GD-77.  I started getting on the repeater and having a great time. Later, I added an Openspot and a ID-51 to my gear. The last piece was a Nano-Spot that had wireless built in and I could take my hotspot mobile.

I verbalized my thoughts and showed off my Nano-Spot mobile setup in this video:

 

Where I hangout:

DMR:
ID: 3101393 (DMR Private Call)
Alabama Talk Group: 3101 (DMR-MARC Network or Brandmeister)
ALERT-K4NWS: 31013 (Brandmeister Network)
Alabama Link: 31010 (Brandmeister Network)
Central Alabama: 31015 (Brandmeister Network)

D-STAR:
Direct via (UR/To): KV4S
Gateway: KV4S B
Alabama Reflector: REF058 B

Amateur Radio Anniversary

This June marks my 13th year as an Amateur Radio Operator and 10th as Extra class.
I became an Amateur Radio operator in 1999, upgraded to Extra class in 2002.

While I’m not quite as active on air, I still find this one of the most interesting hobbies out there. I’m most involved with the Skywarn aspects and an active member of the ALERT club who works with the National Weather Service to help relay storm reports from the Amateur community.

Birmingham's Local News stations interviewing for Field Day 2009

@N4HUB Tune into NBC13’s Midday Show today. Paul Nash, W4JY, will be interviewed after 11:00am about BARC’s Field Day this weekend in Trussville.

@N4HUB Tune in to CBS 42’s Wake Up Alabama show Friday morning from 6 to 6:45am. Jeff Drew, N4JDU, and I will be talking about Field Day. 73, Hub

Saddened by the passing of Charles Spanos, N4DKE

The Amateur Radio community and beyond was saddened Monday morning when we learned of the passing of Charles Spanos, N4DKE.

“It is my sad duty to report that Charles Spanos, N4DKE passed away at 5:30 AM this morning. There are no details at this moment.

Bill, KW4J”

I feel I only new Charles a short time… I moved to Birmingham in 2001 and spoke with him several times over the years on the 146.980 repeater. Some of my commutes and drives after work we would utter the phrase “You load sixteen tons” a familiar song that goes like this:

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go;
I owe my soul to the company store…

Somehow even though the words are depressing when he said it it would brighten the day.

At Shelby County Amateur Radio club meetings when we all did introductions (we gave our name and call sign) he would only say “Ya’ll know who I am”. That was his catch phrase!

Thanks to “Just” John Miller for the following pictures:
image 
image

Goodbye Charles, we truly lost a great engineer and electronics/antenna genius. You will be missed.

Funeral arrangements as follows:

There will be a viewing of the body at 6:00 pm Wednesday June 17th at the Greek Orthodox Church on 19th Street South with a service following at 7:00 pm.
Flowers can be sent to the church. Donations made be made to ARRL under his name and call sign.

This is in addition to the 11am funeral on Thursday morning June 18.

The link to the church is…  http://holytrinity-holycross.org

My 10 year Amateur Radio Anniversary

January 21st 2009 marked my 10 years in Amateur Radio!

I wanted to post this then but it’s been very busy.

I can’t believe it’s flown by already.  My interest in Amateur Radio started years before.  I had got a police scanner for Christmas one year. Before I had a list of stuff to program i hit search just to see what i could hear.  The first thing it picked up was the 145.350 KX4I repeater in Tuscaloosa, of coarse at the time i had not clue what it was.  I just hear people chit chatting on there.  Over the next few months i continued to listen and learned quite a bit from the hams that talked on that repeater.

I found other repeaters to listen to over time time and had a great time.  I also found out I had a relative who was a Ham and I got up with him to find out more about the hobby. Leland Hartley WR4O, came to visit and he showed me his 2 meter radio. He had a custom mic on it that was a an old style Telephone handle that had a PTT on the hand grip.  I was fascinated.

I still didn’t get my license right away. I don’t really remember any specific reason that made me start wanting my license after so many years of listening.

It wasn’t until I had completed a year of college.  I had just finished a fall semester of 1998 and was going to have a few weeks off when I started studying for the Technician (entry level) class. At the time there were 6 license classes.  A month later after talking with some other Radio operators I was ready to take the test.  One Friday night the Tuscaloosa Amateur Radio club was giving a test session so I drove up to some church just before the Northport bridge on HWY 69.  I got to meet some of the Hams that I heard on my scanner over the past few years.  The test was easy because i was really prepared!  I think I only missed one or two questions.  Over the next week I checked qrz.com to see if my license had been granted.  I don’t remember exactly when but it finally showed up and my callsign was KG4BQK.  I ended up getting a mobile radio the Yaesu FT-2500M which I’m still using but for APRS now. I had a lot of fun programming in the repeaters i used to listen to and getting to finally join in on what everyone was talking about.  One of my favorite things to do was check into the AICN link net.  At this time the AICN was a link system that covered the entire state of Alabama. The system is no longer around at least in that form.

When I graduated college in 2001 and was on  a 5 month job search, I took the opportunity to upgrade.  The license classes had changed so now there were only 3 licence classes. I got my General and Extra almost back to back.  Studying for 5 WPM morse code was a difficult thing for me. I was very opposed to having to know such an archaic means of communication just to get a higher license class.  What funny is once i got into it i really enjoyed morse code. I easily passed the code portion and the question pools weren’t that difficult either.  I got a yaesu FT-100D for HF communications.  At a ham fest I got a paddle and I used CW a few times on the air.  I ended up applying for my current callsign KV4S because I wanted a short callsign to reflect all my hard work!

The rest is history! The next couple years i got interested in SKYWARN and now I’m active with the ALERT group in Birmingham. They assist the National Weather Service in getting storm reports from spotters in the field.

73,
Russell Thomas, KV4S