March 25, 2022

ClearNode Tip #3: DTMF Commands

The ClearNode FM Hotspot for AllStarLink and EchoLink can be handily linked to other nodes via the ClearNode mobile phone app (iPhone or Android).  The mobile phone app is easy and convenient to use to look up nodes and connect.
Kenwood TH-F6A Triband Amateur Radio Transceiver

AllStarLink supports DTMF commands that allow you to control your node using only your radio.  It is good to know how to use these commands.  A few possible use cases:
  • Your mobile phone is charging, upgrading, or is otherwise unavailable.
  • You want to share your node with a friend, family member, or neighbor and don't want to share your mobile app credentials.
  • You are communicating via radio through another node and want to control it via DTMF tones.

AllStarLink Node DTMF Nodes
To use these commands, first press and hold your radio's PTT while entering the command through the radio's keypad and then releasing the PTT.

*1node - Link Disconnect
*2node - Link Connect (Monitor Only)
*3node - Link Connect

*70 - Link Status (Locally connected nodes)
*71 - Disconnect Permanently Connected Links
*73 - Permanently Connect Links
*75 - Full Status (Avoid using if you are connected to a AllStarLink hub)
*76 - Disconnect ALL Links
*77 - Reconnect Links (Disconnected by command above)
*81 - Say Time of Day (local)
*980 - Say App_rpt Version

Dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) was developed by Bell System. DTMF was introduced for public use on Nov. 18, 1963. It is known by the trademark Touch-Tone.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 23, 2022

ClearNode Tip #2: Antenna Upgrade

The ClearNode comes with a stubby antenna.  The stubby has the advantage of having a low-profile.  It has the disadvantages of being a compromise antenna - reduced efficiency, lower gain, and potentially some portion of the signal being reflected back into the transceiver.

You can improve your antenna gain and efficiency by swapping the stubby antenna for a larger 440m SMA vertical antenna.  I happened to have a SMA 2m/440m dual band rubber duck antenna in a drawer, so it was a easy no-cost upgrade for my ClearNode.

ClearNode with SMA 2m/440 dual-band rubber duck antenna
ClearNode on the bench with a SMA 2m/440Mhz dual band rubber duck

Upgrading my ClearNode antenna provided excellent coverage in my home, yard, and neighborhood with full quieting and crisp clean audio.  I was surprised to find that I can even reach my node with an HT transmitting with 1w from 1 mile away.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 22, 2022

Completed ARRL 80M Worked All States Award

I completed the ARRL 80M Worked All States Award tonight with a FT8 contact with Chris, KI1P in the great State of Vermont.  A big THANK YOU to Chris for an outstanding job with his excellent station.  I had been searching for VT on 80m for quite some time, so it was downright thrilling to make contact with the Green Mountain State and the leading producer of maple syrup.

Vermont State Flag

Next challenge is to complete 5-Band WAS (just three states to go).

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 21, 2022

Confirmed 8 out of 8 Connecticut County Contacts

I have been slowly accumulating United States County contacts toward the United States Counties Award.  This is a rather ambitious award (at least for me) as there are 3007 US Counties.  It certainly takes patience to work and confirm contacts with them all.  As with any challenging journey, it is important to stop and smell the roses when they appear.

I recently confirmed my last Connecticut County (8 out of 8) with a 10m FT8 contact with KG5TA (Gregory) located in Windham County, CT.  That brings my total number of States completed toward the United States Counties Award to four.  Just 46 more US States to go! :-)
  1. Fairfield County ✓
  2. Hartford County ✓
  3. Litchfield County ✓
  4. Middlesex County ✓
  5. New Haven County ✓
  6. New London County ✓
  7. Tolland County ✓
  8. Windham County ✓

State flag of Connecticut

Are you collecting US County contacts?  If yes, what is your strategy?  Do you happen to know someone who has successfully completed this award?  How did they go about it?  Please leave a comment.  Would love to hear from you.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 20, 2022

ClearNode Tip #1: NOAA warnings

Your ClearNode unit comes complete with software capable of receiving and announcing NOAA warnings for your local County area on your local node.  AutoSky is a Skywarn program designed to work with Allstar.  AutoSky automatically generates simple NOAA voice alerts such as, "tornado watch", "flood warning", and "severe thunderstorm warning" at the drop of transmissions.  It is capable of alert messages that would be encountered in a Skywarn system.


This feature is easy to setup on the ClearNode unit using the ClearNode mobile application available on both iPhone and Android.  Steps to enable AutoSky:
  1. Lauch the ClearNode app on your mobile phone.  Note both the mobile device and your ClearNode node must be communicating with the Internet.
  2. Select your node
  3. Scroll down to "Node setup" and select "AllStar Setup"
  4. Scroll down to "Weather Options"
  5. Confirm your correct zip code is listed next to "Zip for weather"
  6. Confirm your correct NWS County Code is listed next to "NWS County Code"
  7. Move the slider to the right (green) for the option, "Enable AutoSky at book"
  8. A "Node Setup" popup will appear that can be used to save and restart your node
  9. Go to the MOde Details menu and select TimedEvents
  10. Enable “AutoSky Check Advisories"
  11. Save to commit this change

To test the AutoSky configuration, monitor the ClearNode via radio and listen for a computer voice give an update regarding weather advisories.  A notice will be given based on the "Play AutoSky every (ms)" setting. The default is set to 30 minutes.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 17, 2022

ClearNode Allstar Link and Echolink hotspot node is on the air

My ClearNode AllStarLink/EchoLink (FM hotspot) simplex node arrived today from Node-Ventures.  Fun!  

For those unfamiliar with AllStarLink, a node is a computer that connects to the AllStarLink network.  A node is often interfaced with an amateur radio and is connected to the internet. Radios can range in size from a repeater to a low power radio integrated into a node (as is the case with the ClearNode).  A node enables the owner to connect to other nodes in the AllStarLink network.

It was super easy to setup and get on the air.  My ClearNode unit came preconfigured so there wasn't much to do other than attach the 440Mhz band antenna and power it up.  I really like the durable case and overall simplicity of the design.

The ClearNode puts out about 500mW and comes with a stubby antenna.  I considered using the stock antenna though I was concerned that it may limit my ability to connect when operating from the backyard with my HT.  I decided to repurpose an unused dual-band rubber duck SMA antenna I had in a drawer to enjoy a bit more gain and extended range.

Testing NJ2X's Clearnode Allstar / Echolink node
The ClearNode worked great with both AllStarLink and EchoLink.  I was able to link with repeater nodes all over the world easily using the ClearNode iPhome app.  The software worked flawlessly and offers a ton of configuration options for those that love to experiment.  Node-Ventures have also done an excellent job those who want a simple plug-and-play node.  Kudos!

EchoLink icon

AllStarLink logo
I talked to several hams on various repeaters and then checked-in on the Puget Sound Repeater Group's Nine O’clock Net on WW7PSR in Seattle, Washington.

Coverage around the house was strong with full quieting while using my dual-band HT set to low-power (1W).  This coming weekend I plan to do further testing around the house and outdoor coverage with my HT.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X