Tuesday, 16 September 2014

HF Email using Winmor

Hi everyone,
Zen Again now has her Cat 2 safety certificate and so is ready to race for the 2014-2015 season.  With that job done we have now moved on to other tasks, one of which was to try out the HF Winmor system.

Winmor is a relatively new radio transmission protocol which forms part of the Winlink system used by amateur radio operators.  It is an alternative to the Pactor transmission protocol used in both Winlink and Sailmail.  Winmor has the significant advantage that instead of an expensive Pactor modem one only needs a sound card.

We started looking into Winmor after fitting our satellite email system.  With satellite email becoming our primary means of communication we were interested in selling our Pactor modem and replacing it with a cheaper system.  Winmor will be slower than Pactor but hopefully still effective as a backup system.

The sound card most people appear to use is the Tigertronics SignaLinkUSB.  This "sound card" sits between the computer and the HF transceiver.  It detects audio being output from the computer and activates the radio's "push-to-talk" (PTT) switch to transmit the audio.  It costs about $150.

SignaLink USB sound card
Winmor uses the software RMS Express instead of Airmail.  Different software is required since it does a lot more work.  With Pactor the modem hardware does the work but with Winmor those functions move into the software.  From a user perspective it's quite easy to adapt from Airmail to RMS Express since the complex work happens automatically.

RMS Express has a main window in which one composes emails for transmission and reads received emails.  Two additional windows are used for sessions with a coast station - the session and TNC windows.

The session window is similar to Airmail's terminal window.  It gives an overview of what's happening during a session.

RMS Express Session window
The TNC window shows exactly what's going on while monitoring a channel prior to initiating a session and during a session.  The blue "waterfall" display is helpful in identifying what's on the channel, while the black/white constellation diagram shows the quality of the connection.

RMS Express TNC window
Our tests were carried out last Saturday evening while we were on a mooring off Rockingham.  Over the preceding 36 hours there had been a major solar flare which didn't help propagation.  Propagation was poor but improving as we tried out the system.

Happily we managed to connect to a Winlink station in Victoria - VK3DPW.  We were very happy with that given the propagation conditions.  Winmor and RMS Express proved just as easy to use as Pactor, albeit with slower data transfer.

Now to sell our SCS PTCIIusb pactor modem (with Pactor3 license and cables for connection to Icom transceiver)!

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