Could Winlink / Pactor be used to submit spots where no cell phone connectivity is available?

This relatively old digital mode is still around and appears to cover the US and Europe quite well on HF.
The latest software “Winlink-express” also calculates the most likely WinLink station that you could contact based on VOACAP propagation reports. As well as it’s own email network, it is also able to send and receive to Internet email addresses.
I suspect the issue may be work at the SOTAWatch website end to accept such data unless I can find a Winlink-SMS gateway somewhere.

Perhaps worth considering - or has this already been tried / discussed - I have searched this reflector and found nothing so far.

73 Ed.

Looking for SMS to Winlink, I found thaere’s actually a Winlink to APRS gateway -

I’ll continue searching …

Perhaps it might even be possible for the activator to receive the last say 5 spots this way through Martyns system if it’s still running:

I’m not sure what you are trying to achieve, but just about anything can be interfaced to anything given sufficient time, software and desire to do the job.

A challenge for you Ed, get yr coding up to scratch !

My knowledge of these things is about zlich but there is a discussion going on QRZ on something that sounds like what is being referred to.

Hope I’m not breaking any rules by putting up a link to QRZ.

Know what it is like being on a summit and no phone access. Hopeing against hope that someone hears you.

My coding skills are somewhat rusty - like 40 years old rusty!

Given that there already exists an interface between APRS and SOTAWatch and between Winlink and APRS - I wonder if it’s possible to do the double hop.Winlink to SMS would be better still.

I’m looking at a way using HF to spot an activation (where there is no cell phone coverage). One might say why not use APRS directly - the WinLink/Pactor coverage appears to be better than HF-APRS and the mode itself has support for pre-formatted forms and can look for the next available access point in the mesh automatically.

73 Ed.

Hi Nick,
that thread appears to have been taken over by a group of amateurs who hate Winlink (and possibly data modes on amateur bands in general) - I don’t see any actual practical advice in it.


Just a thought that something may have been gleaned. Hope you can come up with something.

Cheers, Nick

Doesn’t sound much like a starter to me Ed. Sure, there maybe lots of fun to be experimenting with it and seeing if it can be made to do want you. But it sounds like it will you on a hill fighting against others trying to get a slot with a network station to send a “form”.

The biggest issue I see is that when you are spotting yourself you cannot be SOTAing yourself unless you have 2 HF radios with you. Suddenly it goes from an adjunct to your activation to being more involved than the activation.

Good point. My idea would be find a free frequency, go off and spot, come back and hope the frequency is still clear…

(using just one HF rig).

Looks like the APRS to Winlink gateway works the wrong way around for what I want so that’s not going to be a good solution.
Simplest might be email a mate and have him spot me (and send back the last few spots as well). That would work using Winlink without any additional software.

Luckily for me it’s rare that I don’t at least have SMS capability from a summit but it has happened, so a pure Amateur radio “RF communications” solution appeals to me.


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It depends whether having spotting facilities is just a thing, like having Gortex boots compared to non-lined boots, or whether the spotting is something you want to experiment with.

Having rolled my own solutions twice, I have developed it to the point that it works and I just use it. It doesn’t get in the way of the activation.

Practice makes perfect for that one time code warrior you !

You’ll be bashing Python out like a pro within a week :grin:

Seriously, Iridium is the most attractive way to go for several reasons. But you need to cough up for that privilege

The running costs hurt in comparison to phones. £12 / month for the airtime and about 16p per 48bytes sent. But it works everywhere and works always if you can see the sky.

Having programmed in around 15 different languages in my time, learning another probably wouldn’t be difficult - once one understands the logic of program flow and variables and address registers and … It’s normally applicable to a new programming language.

Iridium (or their competition) is simply too expensive for the 1 in 20 activations that I might not have cell coverage.

73 Ed.

Iridium is ever so sexy, it’s proper Dick Trace stuff. I mean what is there not to be stunned by when you have full duplex Earth/Satellite terminal that is the size of a packet of 20 cigarettes that only needs 5V @ 100mA to work. That justifies those prices. But I would not want to have to pay for voice calls where they cost anywhere between $1.25-$10 per minute and sound as bad as D-STAR and Fusion because they use the same codec!

I know a few activators that use it and find it value for money for the service it provides. I have got to be careful here as my company designs most of the radio modems used in Iridium products, I am not commercially biased however :smile:

If your not interested in voice coms the data burst modems 9602 / 9603 can be picked up pretty reasonably off Ebay and driven simply enough from a micro / Pi w/e. Think Andy has done haven’t you ?! Seem to remember something along those lines being done.

Most high level languages share common similarities. Object orientation usually hurts the most. If you’ve done lots of programming Ed then you may wish to pursue your idea(s) into actual projects. Amateurs these days will often look for solutions to problems rather than trying to develop their own idea(s). Remember traditionally we have always been ahead of the commercial guys.

Talking is easier than doing… :wink:

I have an SBD9602 (old school) modem. Actually I have two of them!

My system is a Raspberry Pi B+ with a 802.11n USB Wifi dongle and the SBD9602 based unit. That looks like a serial port to Linux. I run a Raspbian Jessie kernel on the Pi and it is setup to look like a normal Wifi access point. If you connect ethernet to it, then it behaves just like a home router but with very lax security.

My software is in Python and wraps up a webserver and modem driver. The webserver serves up a spot page and a modem status page. You connect to it via your phone’s wifi.

When I use it I arrive on a summit and plug the USB modem into the Pi, place the modem antenna skywards and power it up. It takes 3mins for the 3F capacitor in modem PSU to charge and another minute to gain sync on the satellite network. During this time Linux boots and faffs about waiting for ethernet then starts the webserver. I setup the antennas for HF during this period and by the time I’ve sat down with 817 and found a frequency, it’s already to go. Access the webpage from the phone, type in the details, click spot and kiss 16p goodbye. 25secs later the spot appears on SOTAwatch.

£191 SBD9602 system
£28 Pi B+
£5 sdcard
£5 case
£6 6-28V psu
£4 wifi dongle

£239 plus 30hours or so writing and perfecting the software on the Pi and at the SMS server in the US. And about £30 in Iridium time and costs to get it working.

I was most annoyed it wasn’t not working when I was in Dumfries/Stranraer this last week. Turned out to be Firefox on my phone, my software was working fine when I used an old Blackberry Curve to access it.

Huge amounts of fun to develop, but it’s a bit boring now as it simply, power on, pay money, place spot.

That’s how I’d do it and so would most other engineers I would like to guess.
Arguably the most reliable spotting system (In RF terms) that you cold put together currently.

Actually Ed, I had some free time this afternoon whilst setting up a load of VMs at work and maybe, just maybe you could be able to leverage APRS-WSPR to do what you want. You can get a simple 1W 30m TX (W5OLF design) and could use that with a random bit of wire independent of your main HF rig.

“I’m looking at a way using HF to spot an activation (where there is no cell phone coverage).”

“My idea would be find a free frequency, go off and spot, come back and hope the frequency is still clear…”

Ed, what do you think about HF APRS? I need to do the same thing because I’ve often hiked in places with no cell coverage, and even places where 2m APRS wasn’t working.

I’ve got something I’m in the middle of working on, and I’ll throw it out for comments even though it’s half baked. I’m using a Raspberry Pi to talk to my KX3 and a TNC. The end goal is to trigger a program on the RPi to do the following:

  • read the current KX3 freq
  • change freq to the 30m HF APRS freq
  • send an APRS message frame to the TNC and Tx the message
  • return to the original frequency

The should take about 2 or 3 seconds to leave and return to the calling freq. The above assumes that I’ve first tuned the antenna on the 30m freq (the KX3 will save the tuning).

I’ve been using a multiband doublet antenna that my KX3 can tune on 10m-80m. I have a TNC that I’ve interface to with a Raspberry Pi. So far I’ve been able to form an APRS message packet with a python program, send it out on 2m with the TNC (haven’t done messages on 30m yet), and have a test spot show up on SOTAwatch through APRS2SOTA. The TNC has a fancy modern mode called Robust Packet Radio, and North America supposedly has a small number of RPR HF APRS I-gates. I’ve used the tracker in beacon mode on 30m, and the beacon packets made it to some I-gates. I could see the spots on That’s where I’m at, I’m pretty busy with work so the project is sitting on the shelf.

Doesn’t sound half baked to me Kevin. My immediate though would be if you are not going to use RPR mode (and it’s much, much better than FSK) then you can use a software soundcard modem on the Pi and leave the TNC at home. IIRC the Pi has audio out but no audio in. So apart from some way of figuring out the channel is clear before you TX, you wouldn’t need to add a USB soundcard either.