Saturday, June 12, 2010

Club Repeater Buildout

I began building and testing an Allstar Repeater for my local club (WA6YBN), using a computer from a previous blog post. The Allstar install disk is not like a Windows install, it installs basic functionality, then gets the rest from the Internet. The install disk will show a text mode menu system with colors, but this is as fancy as an Allstar build gets. You will need at least a 4GB HDD. It will setup, partition, and perform the install. After the install, it will start getting material from the Internet and updating itself, that took about 45 minutes for me. I just left it to do its thing for a few hours, and then it will be almost ready for configuring. The first thing it asks for is a password for the root account. Pay attention here, because if you just hit the enter key a few times here, you won't be able to login.
     A script will start asking Allstar related questions, and it will program your node number, and then ask you to plug in your USB Radio Interface, then it will reboot. After that completes, you can login with "root" and the password you set.
     I grew up installing Windows 95 over DOS, so command line is not new to me, but Linux is a little intimidating because of the different structure. There is no GUI (Graphical User Interface), so you will need to understand how to navigate using the keyboard. I wanted to setup several capabilities for this Allstar Node, Echolink being one of them. I will demonstrate basic commands using the procedures I used to configure Echolink on Allstar. My reference for setup is located here. There is a wealth of information on related to setting up an Allstar Node, but come linux experience is needed, that you can learn here.

The starting point here is how to change folders. The "cd" command is for Changing Directories and it is used like so:

[root@test ~]# cd /etc/asterisk
[root@test asterisk]#

Notice the "/etc/", the Asterisk config folder is in the /etc/ folder. The folder name you are in shows in the brackets of the command line header. If you enter "dir", it will show you a listing of what is in the directory. To go back to the root folder, simply enter "cd", with no folder destination. When you are back at the root level of the folder structure, it will show "~", as you are not in a folder.

If you need to make a folder, use "mkdir foldername", where foldername would be what you want it to be called. Remember, whatever folder you are in, is where you will be creating this folder. So use the cd command to navigate to where you want this folder first.

To copy files, I find it easiest to go to the folder where the file resides, and then use the "cp" (copy) command like this:

[root@test ~]# cd /usr/src/configs/examples/echolink/
[root@test echolink]# cp echolink.conf /etc/asterisk/

Editing configuration files is a little different. first navigate to the folder where the configuration file you want to modify resides.

[root@test echolink]# cd
[root@test ~]# cd /etc/asterisk

Next we need to edit the file with a program called VI Editor. To edit the echolink.conf file, type the following:

[root@test asterisk]# vi echolink.conf

This will open a full screen editor, and display the configuration file. To move up and down the file, use the arrows on the keyboard. To make changed, first hit "i", and INSERT will appear on the bottom left of the screen. you can now make changed to the file. Some lines start with a ";". Those lines will be ignored, and it is an easy way to turn a command on or off by adding or removing the ";". Sometimes comments for commands will be on the same line as the command, the system will simply ignore anything on that line after the ";" character.

When you are done with your exiting, hit the "ESC" key to exit the edit mode. To quit the editor, first type ":", then the program will accept commands like "q" for quit, "wq" write and quit, "q!" for quit without save

The program that does the work of the repeater is called Asterisk. It was initially intended for phone communications. Tuning of the repeater can be done now, I followed instructions located here. I did need to borrow a service monitor from a friend to complete the tuning, and I also had to adjust the gain level in the rpt.conf to make it sound a little better. When making various changed to the config files, I would usually restart Asterisk so it would take the new settings by executing "service asterisk restart", this way I wouldn't have to do a full reboot.

A quick Duplexing Vs Simplex note, Allstar defaults to full duplex, so it will be impossible to control or use if you are setup for simplex without adding "duplex=1" to the rpt.conf file, in the section for your node number. 2 is the default to run as Full Duplex, 1 is Semi-Half Duplex and will give all the tones and identifiers, while 0 is full Half Duplex with no tones or identifiers.
If you are planning on setting up your Allstar Node with Echolink capability, you will need to go through the validation process, login and setup as a repeater to get a node number. Once you have that all complete, its just a matter of using the correct DTMF commands.

*1node Disconnect Link
*2node Connect link in monitor mode
*3node Connect link in transceive mode
     For Allstar, use *3nnnn, all Allstar nodes start with a 2
     For Echolink, use *33nnnnnn, ex, *33009999
     For IRLP, use *34nnnn
*4node Enter command mode on a remote node
*7 Local connection status

*80 Force System ID
*81 Say System Time
*82 Say app_rpt software version
*85 Last active node (system-wide)
*87 System-wide connection status

Have Fun with Allstar