So what does this thinga-ma-bob do exactly? Well for starters it does just about everything a Windows machine (without M$, thanks to Linux) and a Kantronics TNC can do. But that’s just for starters! It runs on 5V / 1A DC and can be powered on 12V by about .65A. It has 2 VHF ports (so far), serving a packet node, full-service BBS with forwarding, and Winlink Gateways on two VHF frequencies. It has an HF port serving ARDOP for the Winlink system on 80M and 20M (check Winlink.org for the latest frequencies) It offers tunneling to distant nodes over TCP/IP.
It can forward BBS messages and route them automatically over RF or the internet
when that’s available. It allows users to upload and download files such as IC-213 forms,
weather maps, etc. It forwards to other BBS stations along the 223.6 packet backbone
for RF forwarding of BBS messages to most parts of Northern California and beyond.
In short, it does just about anything you can do with a computer and a few radios.
All this in something about the size of a bar of soap, all on 5v/1A minimal power.
Client stations (using a laptop or a home computer) only need Winlink Express and/or Pat, Outpost, or Airmail. Winlink Express is like a standard email client and looks like this:
If you want to set up a server/gateway on a Raspberry Pi or PC, here’s the software:
The above BPQ and LinBPQ are, in my opinion, the best options out there for server-side ops. Check this out.
An APRS iGate is also served by this little RPi.
Linux takes a little getting used to – but once you have a
good build, it’s rock solid! The Raspberry Pi is like a Lego Set for the technical mind. I highly recommend getting one and looking around at all the things it can do on 5V 1A.
NEW as of July 2019
Raspbian Buster has come out and it is very stable and user-friendly! After just a few clicks (and ZERO time spent in the command line), I had FLDigi, J28Call, CQRLog and WSJTX running! Also, Bluetooth now works flawlessly and wifi is a breeze to set up.
After that, setting up Pat for Winlink took 5 minutes to install and configure.
Sharing rig control between applications is cool, but Hamlib and rigctld do take a little longer to set up. But not to worry, these are optional features. The ham apps can all control rigs one at a time without that.
In all, the new Raspbian OS is VERY Ham-Friendly!