Well, that was a fun adventure. That’s the only way I know how to describe it.
If you’re going to follow along or try and do this yourself here’s what we used:
Yaesu FT1500M – Bought from eBay for $113.10 with shipping and tax
Astron RS-20A Power Supply – Bought from HamRadio.com used for $134.39 with tax and Will-call
Tram Pre-tuned Antenna – Bought from Amazon for $66.79 with shipping and tax.
Signalink – Bought from eBay for $85.25 with shipping and tax
6 Pin Mini Din Cable – If you buy the signalink new it will come with the right cable, used may or may not, we bought used and had one laying around.
Intel Nuc – pulled from a decommission project *Free* (You don’t need a high powered computer for this project, Spend less than 100$)
LMR 400 and ends – Donated by KE5UB0
You’ll need an active Winlink Account and then you’ll need to follow the instructions at this page to get approved for your RMS.
I advise giving K4CJX more time than I did (I asked the night before like a dumb dumb.) 😛
Once you’ve done that, and you’ve set up your antenna, and you’ve wired in your radio, the next move is to configure the SignaLink to communicate. The Signalink is a straight forward device, one USB out to your laptop and then one (or two depending on radio) to the radio.
In this case we used this wiring diagram (you have to scroll down till you find the right connector, in this case the 6pin) and a straight through 6 pin cable, if you don’t want to wire it, Tigertronics makes a plug and play module, you can purchase, however as easy as it was to wire it, I saw no reason to buy the jumper module.
Now that that is all done, it was time to download the Vara Modem. Since we’re using a 2Meter band radio, we’re going to download Vara FM, grab it from EA5HVK’s Website, if you’re going to do a different frequency get the proper one for the frequency you’re running.
Now go download the Winlink RMS software. You’ll want to go to Winlink Downloads > RMS Packet install.
Next open, run the Vara FM install and let’s tune it. This was a super handy guide that got me all set up. Literally, just follow the recommendations and tune back and forth and you’ll eventually get it dialed in just right, it took me about 10 minutes and I tuned mine against an RMS station 45 miles away! (Our omni was mounted 60′ up though).
Next it’s time to set up your Winlink RMS Packet software, this one was pretty straight forward, run the install file and open it, follow the prompts and input your grid square (Here’s one of a 100 websites, when I applied for ARIN there was an even better website, but I’m struggling to find it.)
Major settings to note:
Site Settings > Make sure to select “use direct access to TNC”
Vara FM Settings > Most of this is the default, fill out the bottom as expected, and make a nice Optional Log in Message, Mine says “Winlink for Waco / McLennan County”
Once that’s done it’s time to have someone connect!
So far KD5UEW has been nice enough to check our set up almost daily and by the logs it’s been working every time! =)
The next article will hopefully be me detailing how I connected a Digirig and a Baofeng HT to my radio surface and hit the RMS server from 5ish miles away 😉
This project took us about three weeks to complete, mostly because I chose to go on vacation the day AFTER we installed the antenna. Now that I have everything compiled, once Antenna is run, I expect this would take approximately 30-45 minutes to get set up and working. But we’ll know soon enough, I added a Duplexer, so that I can configure a 70cm Radio to work as well for maximum compatibility. (That article involves a TYT radio, but we are working on the wiring from the Signalink to the TYT and then we need to locate a donor computer for the Vara FM, OR find out how to run Vara FM and Winlink RMS twice…) I hope this helps the next person get Winlink RMS set up!
Note: I chose my frequency by going to this website and searching those near me and mirroring it. Select Vara FM and then find your location and see what’s around you. I chose 145.030 as that seemed to be the frequency most people around me were using.