EchoStation

I was looking for announcement software for the 146.680 repeater. I currently have EchoLink running on my desktop and connected to my radio. This seems to work quite well but, there is no way to make EchoLink do announcements. So, after looking up EchoStation, and actually trying it out, I paid the big dollars ($19) because it is one of the few pieces of HAM software that actually WORKS! Yep, easy to set up, easy to use, etc.

Then I discovered that it’s a bit limited in to what it can announce – only static announcements! Jeez, I need it to announce the time and stuff and there was no way it would do this. I discovered that it uses separate .txt files to hold the announcements in. SO, I fired up VB6 and made a form and some timers and PRESTO. It now does: current time, weather, weather alerts, club announcements, random stuff at 1/4 hours and more. And, it’s only “slightly” cumbersome.

Since EchoStation is $19, I figure I can charge $5 for my add-on and maybe make a little cash. I do use EchoStation as a DTMF decoder (that beats the module I was going to buy for $127) so that’s a savings of over $100. And EchoStation also includes an “auto patch” (make phone calls over the repeater) feature so that’s a nice bonus. All in all, a pretty good deal.

New Software

I have posted some new software in the ‘Downloads’ area. Be aware though that the ‘sound’ portion may or may not work for you. Worked fine on my desktop but squat on my laptop. No idea. At any rate, what this program does is poll the Environment Canada website looking for “Special Weather”, “Watches” and “Warnings” in selected areas. When an event is found, it automagically emails (or texts) various people who you have added to a list. Currently, only Ontario is listed but you can add your area with some copy and pasting.

Be aware though that since we haven’t had any alerts (in my area at least) it isn’t fully tested. I did add a couple of areas (in BC and SK I think) that did have alerts and it does seem to work adequately.

WIN7 / XP

 

The New CANWARN

We recently had a CANWARN “event” here in Chatham-Kent. Yep, high winds and hail. Luckily very little damage. The unfortunate thing was that very few hams in the area knew there was an alert on. One of our local hams sent out an email after the fact, asking how we could be better informed of these alerts. Pagers? An automated message on the repeater? Hmmm.

This set off a chain of events – a “flurry of activity” if you will with several hams independently arriving at basically the same idea. Some way to let the members know what is happening. Some hams took the hardware route trying to tap into the power of a cheap(ish) dedicated weather radio with built in SAME weather alerts and routing that to the repeater. I had a similar thought but of course using software. Realistically, both approaches will probably be needed.

So, after firing up Visual Basic and searching for various solutions, this is what my effort produced: I poll the Environment Canada website looking for an area alert. If I find one, my software alerts various members via email and/or text messaging to the CANWARN event. Next step is to send a specific .wav file to the repeater based on the type of alert. My system does depend on the internet true, but my theory is that this infrastructure will be in place before an actual disaster hits and now everyone will be prepared if the ‘net goes down.

We’re hoping that by using all of these hardware and software alert methods and using our soon to be wide area repeater system, we will have a world class CANWARN system with few rivals.


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