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Friday - November 01, 2013 - Amateur Radio at the Beach - Amelia Island - KH2D.net
EchoLink User Database Search and System Status.
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You may have read elsewhere on this web site my opinion regarding VoIP and ham radio. If you haven't and you are interested, you can find it here.

In the years I've been a ham, nothing has ever come close to causing the controversy among hams that The Evil Morse Code has caused, as least not until VoIP linking came along. Since EchoLink is the most popular program now being used by hams for VoIP linking, it's usually the center of the discussion.

As with every story, there are two sides. The two sides involved with the EchoLink controversy are the I LOVE IT side and the THAT CRAP ISN'T HAM RADIO side.

The Echolink discussion, no matter where you find it, is like the Morse Code discussion - same old tired arguments, same old tired people arguing. As with the Morse code discussion, nobody on either side ever seems to be willing to take the time to understand the other side's views, and no amount of discussing seems to win anybody over to the opposite side. If you've already got your mind made up about EchoLink, it won't do you much good to continue reading this page - you need to scurry on over to the prime place on the internet where hams go to argue, QRZ.Com and jump in with both feet. If you're just a tiny bit open minded or you haven't chosen sides yet, you might want to keep reading.

The I LOVE IT side (where I can safely say that I fit) consists of people who are using EchoLink (again, go figure). It's a very well written program, full of features, it never seems to make Bill Gates puke, and it's a means of increasing your horizons as far as talking to other hams when you want to talk to other hams is concerned. It's not a new MODE even though some people refer to it as one. Basically, it's a way to LINK a RADIO to another RADIO that would be beyond the normal communications range of the two radios.

The THAT CRAP ISN'T HAM RADIO side of the discussion seems to usually consist of people that don't seem to have the concept behind EchoLink sorted out. They focus on things like "working people over the internet isn't really DX" and "chat rooms aren't ham radio". While I have to agree that VoIP chat rooms aren't ham radio, and talking to people over the internet isn't "working DX", I'd also have to point out that most people (like me) that are using EchoLink aren't INTERESTED in working DX over the internet, and are in agreement that VoIP chat rooms aren't ham radio. But what amazes me the most is the guy who says he would NEVER use a VoIP link because it's NOT ham radio has no problem with VHF/UHF repeaters (which extend communications range), no problem with repeaters being linked via satellite connections, or phone lines (which we've been doing for years), and no argument with the ever present clueless newbie on the local VHF repeater who drools about "working DX" thru the repeater when the band gets open to the next state for half an hour.

How I Use Echolink - I have an ADI AR-147 (two meter transceiver) hooked to a little homemade interface (which interfaces the radio audio to/from a computer sound card) connected to a PC running the EchoLink program. The radio is on a simplex frequency, and connected to a modest VHF vertical antenna in the back yard. I have the software configured so that only a few people I know can "connect" to my radio thru the internet - which eliminates having to deal with clueless newbies working DX and somebody connecting a chatroom to my radio. With this simple setup, I can:

Talk with a friend in Guam with an HT or with another VHF radio in my truck whenever I want to, no propagation required. Seven thousand miles on an HT - not too shabby.

Listen to the VHF repeater in Hawaii to see if any of my friends are around and if so chat with them.

Keep in touch with a friend in Canada, with whom I compare software/antenna/DX/ham radio notes on a regular basis. Much more fun to TALK to him than just send email back and forth.

I live in a QTH that doesn't allow large HF antennas - but with the sunspot cycle where it is, even with big HF antennas I couldn't keep in touch on a regular basis with ham friends like I can with EchoLink.

Sure, I could talk to my friend in Guam, my friend in Canada, and my friends in Hawaii with a number of VoIP programs over the internet - AOL Messenger, MicroSoft Messenger, Yahoo Messenger - IF we are were sitting in front of a computer. But EchoLink gives us the ability to communicate via the internet using HAM RADIO - in the car, around the house with an HT, in the yard. None of us think we are "working DX". None of us want or expect QSL cards for EchoLink contacts. We are just keeping in touch with friends while enjoying our hobby - ham radio.

I see no need for the chat rooms on the EchoLink server - other than they give the "sysop" types a chance to see who's ego is biggest - most are configured for 1,000 users and are lucky to have one at any given time. I'd rather see the IRLP concept applied to EchoLink - no radio and you can't play, but I didn't write the software so I have no say in the matter. I also see no need for neighborhood bars - places people go to get tanked and then drive home and wreck the car either, so I drive right by the bars and don't stop, and I ignore the EchoLink chat rooms and they don't bother me in the least.

So if you have a couple VHF radios laying around (like I did), or you can't put up a big tower (like I can't), but you have ham friends scattered around the globe (like I do), you might want to consider giving EchoLink a try. Great software, good use of decaying VHF hardware, and a super way to keep in touch with old friends.

And if you wanna werk sum Deeeee-X, check out our EchoLink User Database Search and System Status page (updated every 10 minutes on a good day) which comes complete with DXCC countries AND CQ Zones - you could be the first ham to get WAZ on EchoLink if you hurry.....

73, Jim KH2D

EchoLink by K1RFD - Echolink Web Site

Friday - November 01, 2013 - Amateur Radio at the Beach - Amelia Island - KH2D.net
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