Tag Archive: EchoLink

At the September 8th meeting of the Sullivan Amateur Radio Club, I gave a presentation about AllStar Link and the changeover of our EchoLink node to AllStar Link.  You can view the Powerpoint presentation at the link below:


IMAG0031Ok, so a few posts ago, I lamented about how EchoLink was sorta boring.  And because I felt that way, I undertook a project to evolve my traditional Windows based EchoLink node to an AllStarLink node (with an EchoLink channel!)

Well, after a couple of weeks of learning AllStarLink, and sorting out a malfunctioning interface module, it’s finally up and running and by all accounts it sounds really great!  And before I go any further, I want to give my sincere thanks to Scott Zimmerman (N3XCC) of Repeater-Builder fame who built and supplied the modules I used and for his help in sorting out the bad module.  Scott is a great guy and a stand-up businessman and I would highly recommend his products!  I used the RIM-Maxtrac-RM (correction: I used the RB_RIM_Maxtrac interface! Thanks Scott!) version of his line which can be found at http://www.repeater-builder.com/products/usb-rim-lite.html .  This module has a 16 pin connector that plugs directly onto the back of the Motorola Maxtrac radio that I was using for the EchoLink node.  A picture of this module can be seen on the left below and as the lower left image and the middle image of the 5 images at the top of Scott’s product page.  IMAG0032The module provides a nice, compact audio and control interface to the computer in a single USB connection.  I used the most recent DIAL image for installing AllStarLink on the computer, and was actually up and running fairly quickly (if you take out the time we spent sorting out the bad module.)

I’m really quite amazed at the flexibility and programmable control one can have using the AllStarLink system.  It’s designed to be a full fledged repeater controller and repeater linking system.  The default audio quality AllStarLink uses is quite a bit better than I imagined.  Even the EchoLink connections sound better to me than they did before!  As a bonus, the streaming audio feed for the repeater to which the radio is tuned now originates directly out of the AllStarLink node.  The quality improvement of this alone made the entire project worthwhile!

I invite you to check out the node if you like!  On AllStarLink it is node number 43758 and on EchoLink it is still  node N0NOE-R (407714.)  The radio is tuned to the input and output frequencies of the Sullivan Amateur Radio Club 2 meter repeater which is located in West Sullivan, MO and is on 146.805 Mhz.


The EchoLink node has been up and running well for quite a while now.  You might ask, why would you want to change anything about it?

Well, to be honest, it’s kinda boring!  Yeah, it works, and it’s providing a service.  We have a few people who use it fairly regularly.  The truth is that it’s somewhat limited though, and I’ve been researching a somewhat newer technology called Allstar Link.

The nice thing about Allstar Link is that it would allow for linking with any other Allstar Link node, it would continue to provide EchoLink access to the club’s repeater and it provides several alternative methods to connect to the node itself.  It can even be a complete repeater controller in itself, a use that I intend to explore in another separate project in the very near future.

So today, I ordered the interface I need to connect to the existing EchoLink radio.  I already have a testing Allstar Link node up and running and have connected to it from virtually every IP based device I own.  When the interface comes in, I’ll move the radio from the existing EchoLink computer to the Allstar Link computer and we’ll just have us some new Allstar Link fun!  Hopefully, it’ll sound as good as the current setup.

Svxlink during buildNever one to leave well enough alone, I have undertaken the build of version 3 of the N0NOE-R EchoLink machine.

The goal of this rebuild is two fold:

1.) Convert the machine into a full fledged cross band repeater with EchoLink capability.

2.) Use the new platform for providing wider coverage and additional services to the club and the community in general.

To accomplish this we will replace the computer with a different one that will be running Debian Linux v8, and the SvxLink package.  SvxLink will provide the core controller logic for the cross band repeater and will also implement the EchoLink functionality.  Can you say “So long Windows 7 and the windows based EchoLink software”?

I admit, this is somewhat outside my comfort zone as I have most always been a Windows oriented consultant.  I don’t think my MCSE certification is going to help me much here!  I’ve played with Linux in various flavors before, but never committed anything to it that would become a “production” system.  Hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew! 😀

It will be a bit of a challenge as I prefer to disrupt the existing EchoLink box as little as possible.  The new machine will reuse the existing 2 meter radio, it’s digital interface and the existing power supply.  My intention is to put the new machine in place first with the existing radio being used and get the EchoLink function up and running again asap.  Once that’s sorted out, we’ll begin to add other features like the 440 radio, cross band repeat functions, etc.

As you can see in the picture above, I’ve started to put the necessary pieces in place.  On the new computer, I’ve installed Debian 8, installed all the prerequisites for SvxLink, and downloaded and compiled the current master source distribution of SvxLink.  In addition, I’ve taken a Raspberry Pi and loaded the current Raspbian operating system onto it, and downloaded and built SvxLink on it.  You may ask why I’m doing that.  Well, one of the things I’m looking to test in the near term future is the ability to add inexpensive remote receivers and transceivers to the repeater system linking them to the main machine through the internet.  SvxLink will give us this capability, thus the choice to use it in this iteration.  To make secure connections through the internet, we will use OpenVPN on both the base computer and all the remotes.  To this end, I’ve installed and configured OpenVPN on the main server machine and tested it with a couple of different laptop computers as clients.

We’re only a few steps down the line, but at least the project is moving.  My goal is to have the new machine in place and running the EchoLink within a couple of weeks.  The additional functions and features will be phased in over time as the required resources become available.

For anyone who might be interested in the capabilities of SvxLink, here’s a place to find out more about it:

http://www.svxlink.org/ .

Wish me luck! 🙂


Whew!  I nearly gave up on this project several times.  I can’t believe how long it took before I finally got it working right, but the EchoLink project is on the air and functioning the way it should.  The audio is still a little low.  Maybe we can find a way to boost it a little more.

I always seem to get tripped up by the less than obvious solutions.  For example, the audio delivered back through the Internet to the end user was terribly distorted and I couldn’t figure out why.  The solution?  Turn the volume slider on the microphone input all the way down.  I would have thought that would eliminate the audio altogether, but no!  Instead it took out all the distortion.  Go figure!

Anyway, there’s still more to do.  As you can see, it still needs some tidying up! LOL



Two dead hard drives in a row??  Seriously???  Something is really WRONG with this picture!

I’m beginning to think that the Gods of EchoLink don’t want me to complete this system!  I mean, cmon!  I know other people who slap stuff together with little thought and it always just works!  My deliberate approach is suffering though by way of lack of results.

Tomorrow I’m ordering two hard drives from Newegg and if they both fail, I’ll give up and take up gardening! (Yeah, right! Like I could grow anything!! LOL)

Ok, so a while back I decided I wanted to build an EchoLink node.  After discussing my plan with my friend Paul (AA0GB), he got fully behind my building the node and setting it up to work on our favorite repeater.  Paul has been a gem, encouraging me, helping me get the parts I needed, showing incredible patience with me and I admit, I have taken a LONG time to get it to work correctly.

Finally, about a week or so ago, I got it working properly.  I was overjoyed, and even wrote a Facebook post about it, but still didn’t complete the work.  Two days ago, I decided that I would get it finished, and of course, Murphy and his Law decided to squash my project.  The computer that would run the EchoLink died.

After beating my head against the wall for a couple hours in frustration, I finally calmed down and did some troubleshooting.   The hard drive died in the computer and would no longer allow it to boot.  After a little re-engineering with my other computers, I made a hard drive available and proceeded to rebuild the system.  I’m now back at the point I was before but I think I’ve learned a lesson or two here.

First, testing is a good thing.  I could have rushed this system into service only to have it fail shortly after going live.  Second, be cautious when using used critical computer parts.  Having done this sort of stuff for most of my professional career, you’d think I would have known better and paid more attention to these two lessons.  But I guess I was just trying to get it moving along.  Oh well, no lives were lost and with the exception of Paul’s waning confidence in me, I’m no worse for the wear! LOL

We’ll be putting up the EchoLink node hopefully sometime this week for general public use.  If you’d like to use it, look for node N0NOE-R.  It will be tuned to the 146.805 repeater in Sullivan MO.

P.S.  I’ll be putting a list of DTMF commands that you can use when connected to N0NOE-R in a separate page here on this website when the node is actually up and running.  Check back later for that information. 😀