QUICK-START

ORCA DIGITAL QUICK-START GUIDE

This overview of ORCA will help prepare you to participate.  ORCA is similar to all Amateur nets with the exception of mode.  Digital nets are conducted by computer keyboard instead of a CW key or microphone.  Otherwise, they are very similar to other Amateur Radio nets and easy to learn and navigate.

ORCA DIGITAL NET relies on the FLDIGI  suite developed by Dave W1HKJ.  We use FLDIGI, FLMSG, and FLAMP every session. The net is brisk and interactive; NCS will engage you numerous times during the net.  Member stations usually come to the net with a practice message prepared in FLMSG, but it’s not required.  No practice traffic?  Send QRU (no traffic).  If you’re not yet familiar with NBEMS software, check-in to monitor-only with ‘CALL In&Out’.  The first event is the weekly FLAMP exercise.  NCS sends a short msg in FLAMP, takes reception REPORTS in rotation, and fills missing blocks as needed.  It’s a simple and direct process; after monitoring a few sessions you will be ready to participate.

TRAFFIC does not necessarily mean ‘formal traffic’.  For our training objectives, any message you bring is traffic and we pass it directly on the net frequency.  We’re here to practice digital traffic handling protocols.  Some Ops bring interesting radio articles, bulletins, or just their personal comments in an FLMSG form.  Formal traffic, ie: NTS traffic, is usually passed off the net frequency.  Because our focus is training and practice, we pass practice traffic on the net frequency so everyone can monitor the process. Traffic is not required in Traffic Round.  No Traffic?  Send, ‘QRU’.

Visitors are welcome.  When you check-in,  NCS will add you to the rotation list.  Monitoring (in&out) stations are inactive (not-engaged) during net. New stations are encouraged to monitor a few sessions to learn net routines.  It’s not difficult and you will soon be exchanging digital traffic and keyboarding in rotation.  Hold KEYBOARD dialogue for the Comment Round.

Following Check-In, NCS transmits three files:
1) A grayscale image to help assess band conditions (30sec)
2) The rotation list.  (keep it handy to know your position)
3) Announcements

The weekly FLAMP exercise is the main event. Pay particular attention to this exercise.  The message, usually instructions for an optional advanced exercise, is brief and the exercise moves briskly.  Following the message, NCS goes quickly around the roster for reception REPORTS,  prompting each station in order with their Callsign only.  Wait for your prompt, then Press the REPORT button or send ‘No Copy’.  Mode is likely to change during this exercise;  be sure RxID is active.  See the FLAMP EXERCISE tab (below) for more information.

Next is the Traffic Round where stations send traffic in FLMSG or FLAMP.  NCS calls each station in rotation.  Digital traffic practice is the sole focus of this round.  Hold comments for Comment round.  All traffic in the Traffic Round is sent to NCS and only NCS REPORTS and fills FLAMP traffic.  Stations wishing to fill Traffic Round messages may do so following the net.  Ops will usually stay a few minutes for fills. Messages should be brief.

The Comment Round follows the Traffic Round with reception reports, comments, questions, observations, etc.  Here, you can keyboard or use FLMSG BLANK Form as you like.  We’re interested in how well you received the other stations. You can add this info to the rotation list you received from NCS and resend it during Comments. Or, keyboard live if you prefer. See Keyboard tab (above).  Following the Comment round, the net closes.  Stations often remain on frequency to fill incomplete messages, explore various features of the FLDIGI suite, or resolve technical issues.

With this information in mind, you can monitor the net for a few sessions.  The weekly FLAMP exercise moves quickly, but is not difficult when you have some experience with filling missing BLOCKS in FLAMP.  When you’re ready, check in and practice digital traffic handling with us.

PRE-TONE

Pre-Tones are important to digital networking.  Pre-Tones help prevent doubling.   A Pre-Tone is sent before your message with a brief activation of the fldigi TUNE button in the upper right corner. A brief tone alerts other Ops that you are about to TX.  Wait a second or so after the tone to be sure the frequency is clear. This simple convention will eliminate most doubles.  Doubles are more troublesome in the data modes because both signals are usually garbled.  On CW and Phone, you can often catch enough of the signals to understand some of each.  Not so in the data modes.  Doubling stations must resend and often double again.  Always send a brief pre-tone when doubles are likely.

For example, when NCS calls you, answer w/o pre-tone.  The net is expecting your TX.  When NCS asks, ‘Who can relay that weak station?’, doubles are likely so you send a pre-tone first.  There will still be doubles with weak stations that don’t hear everyone on the net,  but using pre-tones eliminates the avoidable. The Auto-Pre-Tone feature should not be active for DIRECTED nets. The correct use of Pre-Tone is an important digital operating tactic.

Ck-In/Out

For your first Check-In, send CALL, NAME, QTH.  After that, send only your CALL.  To monitor the net, send ‘CALL In&Out’. Monitoring (in&out) stations are logged on the roster, but not engaged in net activities; we occasionally call them at the end of Comments when we have time.

Ck-In / Ck-Out:  Between net events, NCS calls for late Ck-in and Early Ck-Out.  You can Ck-In late or Out-Early at four points in the net.  ORCA is active and brisk; when you miss Ck-In, please monitor until NCS calls for Late Ck-Ins.   If you have to leave early, please Ck-Out with NCS.

MESSAGES (TRAFFIC)

This is a digital traffic training net, and members come to the net with practice messages for digital transmission.  But, traffic is not required.  You can send ‘QRU’ during the Traffic Round and participate in the Comment Round.  Brief messages provide similar training to long messages and enable the net to process more traffic without consuming too much time.  That said, occasional longer messages are OK.  Some Ops prepare two messages before the net. You can help manage net length by sending a short message or QRU when the roster is large or band condx hinder net flow.

We are primarily practicing digital traffic skills; message content is secondary.  Still, pithy messages keep the net interesting. Our members enjoy radio related articles and personal/station information, observations, and comments.  Remember, our primary interest is practice, not content.  Net Ops are always interested in your QTH, station equipment, power, antenna, and other information relative to your signal. Messages about a minute or less in length are preferred.

Keep in mind that the mode determines how long it takes to complete your message.  If conditions are poor and you switch from MFSK-32 to MFSK-16, your traffic will take twice as long.  You may also send small grayscale images.  They take longer than text, so they must be small.  Contact NCS before sending color images.  Remember that other Ops are waiting for their turn to operate. Numerous check-ins and/or difficult band condx means more waiting.  Brief, concise, and accurate composition is the standard for radio traffic.  Text messages should take a minute or less. B/w images should take 30-50sec max.  Following these guidelines will help us keep nets to a reasonable length.

If you complete the OPTIONAL exercise within the weekly FLAMP Exercise, you will have brief FLAMP traffic to send in the Traffic Round.

FLAMP

FLAMP is a file transport program. We use it every net.  FLAMP breaks messages into BLOCKS to reduce the need to resend an entire file.  It works very well and has additional features useful for bulletin broadcasting.  It doesn’t auto start, so you should have it configured and running before transmission begins.  FLDIGI can be configured to auto-start FLAMP from the Auto-Start tab.  Long files are compressed by FLAMP; they cannot be read in the FLDIGI RX buffer, but can be read in the FLAMP window when complete. They also open normally in their native  program.  FLAMP can send almost any type file, including images and music files.

During the weekly FLAMP exercise we try to fill every station.  NCS prompts each station in rotation for their REPORT by sending their callsign only.  When prompted, press the REPORT button.  NCS will send the BLOCKS needed by all stations.  Or, NCS may ask another station that has completed the file to RELAY the needed BLOCKS. For FLAMP traffic sent to NCS in the Traffic Round, only NCS REPORTS and fills. All other stations monitor.  Stations wishing to fill incomplete messages copied in the Traffic Round can complete them after net.  Most Ops will stick around a few minutes to send fill BLOCKS.

FETCH and RELAY are important features on the FLAMP Receive tab.  FETCH copies all missing BLOCKS into the ‘blocks’ window.  RELAY transmits these BLOCKS.  If the ‘blocks’ window is empty, RELAY sends the entire file.  Fills don’t have to come from the originating station.  Stations needing fills may  better copy a stronger station that has verified the BLOCKS.  You may erase BLOCK numbers from the ‘blocks’ window to send the entire file, or enter BLOCK numbers in the window as needed.  When FLAMP indicates it missed the ‘Preamble’, enter a ‘0’ (zero) in the ‘blocks’ window to resend the Preamble.

WEEKLY FLAMP EXERCISE

The main net-event is the weekly FLAMP exercise.  All active stations participate. NCS sends a brief file in FLAMP.  This file usually contains an optional advanced exercise in file management.  After sending the file in FLAMP, NCS prompts members for a reception REPORT with their callsign only.  Stay aware of your position in rotation.  When prompted, press the REPORT button to send your report.  If you didn’t copy or don’t have FLAMP active, send NO COPY.  NCS will send fill BLOCKS to CONFIRM your file.  Or, NCS may ask another station to RELAY the BLOCKS you need.

This exercise moves briskly.  Be prepared to send your REPORT.  NCS will prompt you in rotation with your CALL. After monitoring a few sessions to catch the routine, you’ll be ready to go.  FLAMP is a remarkable application.  It saves resending the entire file when copy is incomplete.  In difficult condx, NCS will switch to a more robust mode to fill your file.

Be sure RxID is active.  Mode may change numerous times as we match mode to band condx.  The Optional advanced exercise can be completed and sent to NCS during the Traffic Round, or completed after net and sent to NCS next week or any week. The ‘optional’ exercise prepares you to manipulate files on your OS during a Traffic or Emergency net.

KEYBOARD

Your Keyboard is central to digital communications.  Once your station is configured, most activity is through the keyboard.  Some digital Ops compose their thoughts in the TX buffer before sending.  This insures the message is clear concise and spelled perfectly.  It looks great and sends our thoughts in their best form.  But, it takes a lot more time.   While you compose and edit, the other Op or Ops are idle.  On a busy net, these long pauses add up quickly.  Better digital comm strategy is typing into the TX buffer with the transmitter hot.  We all make typos and mis-spell words now and then.  Radio Operators can read around typos and mis-spelling.  Easily.  Or, they’ll question what they don’t understand.

If you’re not doing this now, begin in QSOs with your friends.  They’ll appreciate the brisker pace of the QSO.  Soon, you’ll be comfortable with the tactic.  We don’t like the entire net to see us back up and correct, but it’s more efficient than pre-composing and polishing each transmission.  Soon, your typing and confidence will increase and the skill will become subconscious.  Even though you may type slowly, you will reduce dead-air time. Your digital colleagues will appreciate your effort (-:

CALLSIGN Lookup by WM7D

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International SATERN Digital Net


International SATERN Digital Net transmits digital text, images, and FLAMP files via remote HF station. NCS and Net Manager is Ken Standard AD5XJ.

International SATERN Digital Net

12:00 NOON CT Sat
14.066 MHz USB
OLIVIA 8/500

World Clock

FEMA Region X HF Interoperability Testing (60m)


FEMA Region X Monthly Interoperability NET, which comprises Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, conducts a monthly interoperability communications exercise on the 60-meter band. This exercise often includes a voice portion and a digital portion.

FEMA Region X uses the call sign of WGY910. The COMMEX occurs on the third Wednesday of the month from 1730 to 1900Z. Primary check-in is usually on 60-meter channel 1.

FEMA Region X Monthly Interoperability NET

3rd Wednesday 1730Z - 1900Z
Channel 1: 5330.5 kHz
Channel 2: 5346.5 kHz
Channel 3: 5357.0 kHz
Channel 4: 5371.5 kHz
Channel 5: 5403.5 kHz
1730Z Open net, delay check-ins
60M - CH1
1735Z NCS sends 1st dig msg
60M - BPSK31 - CH 2
1740Z NCS repeats 1st dig msg using alt mode
60M - MT63-2KL CH2
1745Z NCS calls for check-ins and reports
60M - CH1
1815Z NCS TX 2nd digital msg
60M - BPSK31 - CH 2
1825Z NCS reTX 2nd dig msg using alt mode
60M - MT63-2KL - CH 2
1827Z NCS calls for reports
60M - CH 1
1850Z NCS closes the net
60M - CH 1

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SHORTWAVE RADIOGRAM

Shortwave Radiogram transmits digital text and images on an analog shortwave broadcast transmitter. The program is produced and presented by Dr. Kim Andrew Elliott KD9XB. Shortwave Radiogram continues VOA Radiogram's tradition testing new modes and is an interesting source for Digital Ops wishing to practice more with FLDIGI & FLAMP.
 

Shortwave Radiogram Transmission Schedule (AM)

Fri 2030-2100 UTC
7780 kHz
9455 kHz
WRMI Florida
Sat 1600-1630 UTC
9400 kHz
Space Line, Bulgaria
Sun 2330-2400 UTC
7780 kHz
WRMI Florida
Mon 0800-0830 UTC
7730 kHz
5850 kHz
WRMI Florida

World Clock