The DX CLUSTER
Info on the local WB4IUY DX node and use of the DX Packet Cluster
What is a PacketCluster or DXCluster, as it's sometimes called?? PacketCluster is a sophisticated, multi-user, packet information system designed and oriented for DXers. It was developed by Dick Newell, AK1A, of Pavillion Software for the Yankee Clipper Contest Club and is in use today by over 400 contest and DX groups in the US, Japan, Korea, and Europe. It's an innovative system that provides DX Announcements, user-to-user messaging, WWV Propogation information, Bulletin storage and access, storage and retreival of DX databases including QSL route info, a BBS system, beam heading calculations, and more. As the internet developed, AR-Cluster became a very popular system as well, and us supported by nodes and cluster connections all over the world.
The WB4IUY Packet Cluster node is actually a connection to the network of many such systems all along the eastern US. By this being a network, all users have the ability to send and receive DX Spotting information to everyone on the system on a real-time basis. It is a powerful tool for the DXer. I can personally attest to it's usefullness after having watched my confirmed QSL count climb sharply with the use of the cluster.Ready to get started?? OK...follow me...
TNC settings are a bit different for packet cluster operation than conventional Packet Radio BBSing or other packet modes. The following are recommended settings for the PacketCluster to minimize accidental disconnects and maximize system performance.
When on the PacketCluster, CW ID's and Beacons are not desirable because they cause excessive system congestion. Your packets are automatically identified in AX25 already, and the FCC no longer requires auxillary identification in CW.
Here are the TNC parameters you should set in your TNC before connecting to your local node/cluster. Some TNC's may not have all of these parameters, and if not, simply set those that are available:
DWAIT =600 MSEC (some TNC's express this in 10's of Msec, so the setting would be 60 for 600Msec, as an example)
RESP =3000 MSEC (some TNC's have a maximum of 2500 MSEC, so set yours as close to 3000 as possible)
TXDELAY = 400 MSEC
RETRY = 10
PERSIST = 64
SLOTTIME = 10
PACKET SIZE = 255
BEACON = 0 (OFF)
CWID = 0 (OFF)
CONPERM = OFF
A few of you are fortunate to live close enough to a Packet Cluster with a user port, that you can connect directly to the Packet Cluster without having to employ the use of a node to relay your signal in. You can determine if you're one of the lucky few by searching the [Cluster List] in the Packet Radio Menu and locate the closest Packet Cluster to you. Next, skip on down to the "PacketCluster Logon Tutorial" and follow the instructions. Simply try to connect to WB4IUY directly on 145.07 mhz... If you can't make the connection, read on!
The rest of us need nodes to get our signals on into the Packet Cluster. There are lots of nodes in in central NC. Most TEARA members can connect to the WB4IUY DXCluster port (direct to WB4IUY) or via the Zebulon node. The Zebulon node is called "ZEBDX", and it provides connectability to the WB4IUY DX Cluster for Johnston, Franklin, and many other surrounding counties.
For info on other nodes in your area, search the [Cluster List] in the Packet Radio Menu and locate the closest Packet Cluster NODE to you. Follow a similar connect procedure as above. While I've been referencing node connection via the alias of "DXERAL", you can substitute the actual callsigns you'll find on the [Cluster List] and connect as well. In fact, some nodes don't have aliases and you'll have to you the actual callsign.
Today's DX Cluster Nodes are worldwide - a network providing instant DX spotsand related information to Ham Radio operators logged onto their local cluster/node. Even access via Telnet is possible to some nodes.
The system has many commands to provide DX information, mail, bulletins, and informational databases. As a User you won't need to know all of them to make the network work for you. Following is an introduction to the commands you should know, and how to use them.
When you logged on you probably went through a registration dialogue asking for your name and QTH. If you were not and plan on returning to utilize the network, it is normally asked that you provide your name, QTH, and the latitude/longitude of your station. Here's how:
Example = SET/NAME Dave. To enter your QTH (or full address/telephone), type SET/QTH [qth]
Example = SET/QTH Youngsville, NC. To use the features which give the DX station heading and sunrise-sunset times, you need to enter your latitude and longitude. Enter for example,
SET/LOCATION 35 55 N 078 22 W.
To verify the information entered, type in
The most important item of the network is the sending and receiving of DX related information. To display DX spots that have been sent, type SHOW/DXto list the last five DX announcements. If you're interested in one band,say 15 meters, type SHOW/DX 15. To list spots for a particularcall, type SHOW/DX [call], ie. SHOW/DX S79A.
To send a DX announcement, the format is: DX [freq in KHZ] [call] [comment-optional]. As an example, to spot VU2TTC on 14.223.4, you would send:
To sned a spot for 9X5AA on 28.012.0 with QSL info of 'via W4FRU', you would send:
Other primary commands are:
SHOW/WWV - lists last 5 WWV solar flux reports
DIRECTORY or LIST - lists last 5 (or more) mail messages since last checked
READ nbr - reads that particular numbered mail message
READ - reads mail messages addressed to you
DELETE nbr - deletes the mail message to/from you
SEND call - send a mail message to someone (call) on system
SHOW/BULLETIN - lists the directory of bulletin files
TYPE/BU filename - reads the bulletin (filename) requested
SHOW/HEADING pfx - gives the heading of the country prefix requested
SHOW/SUN pfx - gives the sunrise/sunset of country prefix requested
TALK call msg - send a one-line message to someone (call) on system
SHOW/COMMAND - lists the available information databases
Some commands may be sent in abbreviated format. Examples are:
|ANNOUNCE||A msg||Announcement to LOCAL users only|
|ANNOUNCE/nodecall||A/call msg||Announcement to users on node (call)|
|ANNOUNCE/FULL||A/F msg||Announcement to users on ALL NODES|
|BYE or QUIT||B or Q||Log off node|
|DELETE or KILL||DE msg# or K #||Delete a mail message|
|DIRECTORY or DIR||DI or L||List last 5 mail messages|
|DIRECTORY/ALL||DI/A||List all active mail messages|
|DIRECTORY/NEW||DI/N||List all new mail messages|
|DIRECTORY/OWN||DI/O||List mail TO or FROM you|
|DX||DX fq call cmt||Announce a DX station|
|HELP||H or ?||Brief command summary|
|KILL or DELETE||K msg# or DE #||Delete a mail message|
|QUIT or BYE||Q or B||Log off node|
|READ||R||Read a mail message TO YOU|
|READ||R msg#||Read a specific mail message|
|READ||R/filearea fn||Read a file in a specified filearea|
|REPLY||REP||Reply to a read message TO YOU|
|REPLY/DELETE||REP/D||Reply to a read message & delete|
|SEND||S all or call||Send a mail message to (all) (call)|
|SEND/PRIVATE||S/P call||Send a PRIVATE mail message|
|SEND/RR||S/RR call||Send mail message with return receipt|
|SET/HERE||SET/H||Specify you're at the keyboard|
|SET/LOCATION||SET/LO||Enter your latitude/longitude|
|SET/NAME||SET/NA||Enter your name|
|SET/NEED||SET/NE pfx,pfx||Specify your needed countries|
|SET/NOHERE||SET/NOH||Specify you're away from keyboard|
|SET/NONEED||SET/NON pfx||Delete needed countries|
|SET/QTH||SET/Q||Enter your address/city|
|SHOW/ANNOUNCEMENT||SH/AN||Show last 5 TO ALL announcements|
|SHOW/BULLADDR||SH/BULLA||Show list of TO ALL mail addresses|
|SHOW/BULLETINS||SH/BU||Show files in BULLETIN files area|
|SHOW/CLUSTER||SH/CL||Show number of nodes & users|
|SHOW/COMMANDS||SH/COM||Show available DATABASE commands|
|SHOW/CONF/NODE||SH/C/N||Show nodes connected|
|SHOW/CONFIGURATION||SH/C||Show nodes and users connected|
|SHOW/DX||SH/D||Show last 5 DX announcements|
|SHOW/DX||SH/D band||Show last 5 DX spots on (band)|
|SHOW/DX||SH/D call||Show last 5 DX spots for (call)|
|SHOW/DX||SH/D frq1 frq2||Show DX spots between Freq1-Freq2|
|SHOW/FILES||SH/FI||Show files in GENERAL files area|
|SHOW/HEADING||SH/H prefix||Show beam heading to a country|
|SHOW/LOCATION||SH/LOC call||Show lat/long/distance for user|
|SHOW/LOG||SH/LOG||Show last 5 system log entries|
|SHOW/LOG||SH/LOG call||Show system log for user (call)|
|SHOW/MUF||SH/MU prefix||Show MUF to country (prefix)|
|SHOW/NEED||SH/NE call||Show country needs of user (call)|
|SHOW/NEED||SH/NE prefix||Show user calls needing (prefix)|
|SHOW/NOTICE||SH/NO||Show (review) local node notice|
|SHOW/PREFIX||SH/PR prefix||Show country assigned and zones|
|SHOW/STATION||SH/ST call||Show information on user (call)|
|SHOW/SUN||SH/SU prefix||Show sunrise/sunset for (prefix)|
|SHOW/USERS||SH/U||Show users logged onto local node|
|SHOW/USERS/FULL||SH/U/F||Show users logged onto all nodes|
|SHOW/USER||SH/U call||Show NAME/QTH of user (call)|
|SHOW/WWV||SH/W||Show last 5 WWV announcements|
|TALK||T call||Enter talk mode to a user (call)|
|TALK||T call msg||Send a 1-line message to user (call)|
|TYPE||TY fn.ext||Display a file in BULLETIN area|
|TYPE/FILES||TY/FI fn.ext||Display a file in GENERAL area|
|UPDATE||UPD/filename||Update a DATABASE file (restricted)|
|UPLOAD/BULLETIN||UPL/BU fn.ext||Upload a file to BULLETIN file area|
|UPLOAD/FILE||UPL/FI fn.ext||Upload a file to GENERAL file area|
|WWV||WWV sfi=,a=,k=||Send Solar Flux as reported on WWV|
|EXIT MESSAGE||/EXIT||Enter command on a new line to exit|
Note: This command list is not complete, but contains the most popular user commands.
More info can be obtained about the "WB4IUY Packet Cluster" by emailing WB4IUY at wb4iuy@TEARA.org.
Copyright © 1996-1997 C. E. Strobel, All Rights Reserved
This document is based on work by C. Strobel K6PBT for the Northern California DX Packet Spotting Network, and to him, we owe many thanks!
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