The DX CLUSTER

Info on the local WB4IUY DX node and use of the DX Packet Cluster



The PacketCluster...


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


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:

  • AX25L2V2 = ON
  • 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



Packet Node Connection Tutorial


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.

  • To connect to WB4IUY via ZEBDX, dial up 145.07 Mhz simplex (1200 baud), and from the command mode (cmd:) type "C ZEBDX". Once connected, type "C WB4IUY", then "DX" and follow the instructions in the PacketCluster Logon Tutorial below.

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.




PacketCluster Logon Tutorial
Modified for the WB4IUY DX Cluster and outlying nodes


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:

  • To enter your name, type SET/NAME [name]
    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 SHOW/STATION [yourcall],
    Example = SHOW/STATION WB4IUY. (Using other users' callsigns, you can retrieve their station information entered by them.)

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:

DX 14223.4 VU2TTC

To sned a spot for 9X5AA on 28.012.0 with QSL info of 'via W4FRU', you would send:

DX 28012.0 9X5AA QSL via W4FRU

Other primary commands are:

  • BYE or QUIT - to log off the network
  • 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:

    • DIR for Directory
    • L for List
    • R for Read
    • T for Talk
    • SH for Show



PacketCluster Command Summary
Modified for the WB4IUY Packet Cluster




COMMAND SYNTAX COMMAND DESCRIPTION
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.

PacketCluster is a Trademark of Pavillion Software
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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