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St. Louis Metro ARES® packet operations

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St. Louis Metro ARES® has a VHF Packet Mailbox setup in order to help educate and train packet mode users in the use of a store and forward method of digital communications. Packet radio provides a way of sending non-critical messages and bulletins during an emergency in order to free up other modes of realtime communications for more urgent traffic. It also can be used as a keyboard-to-keyboard method of communicating, although this is very cumbersome and would generally be reserved for less mission critical applications. Similar to moving a QSO off of a repeater when simplex would work just as well.

The station is operational 24 hours a day and can be reached via the MSTL node on 145.070 MHz. Or if you're in the South County area, you can try communications with it direct.

Please use it at your conveinence to practice sending messages to each other, obtaining non-critical bulletins that are posted, and to verify that your packet gear is functioning correctly.

Packet Radio Supplement to the ARES Operations Manual

Basic Packet Station Configuration

Two methods of configuring a packet station can be employed.

METHOD 1: A traditional hardware setup would include a PC or dumb terminal connected via serial cable to a hardware TNC (AEA, Kantronics, MFJ, etc) and the TNC is then interfaced to the mic or data jack on the radio.

METHOD 2: A PC replaces the dumb terminal, a soundcard interface with appropriate cables to interface between the radio and the PC are then used. Additional software is configured to emulate the packet radio TNC thru the soundcard of the PC. Although this method does work, it is often frowned upon for packet use due to software configuration and less forgiving soundcard configuration to modulate the proper tones for packet usage.

How-To log into the St. Louis Metro ARES Packet Station/Mailbox

Frequency: 145.070 MHz (Simplex, No CTCSS Tones)

Using MEPN:

  1. Tune your packet radio to 145.070 MHz.

  2. Connect to MEPN using the following command: C MSTL

  3. Wait for the MSTL node to respond with: *** CONNECTED TO MSTL

  4. Once connected, send the following command: C N0ARS-1

  5. Wait for the N0ARS-1 station to respond with: *** CONNECTED to N0ARS-1

  6. Once connected to STLBBS:N0ARS-1, you should receive the following prompt: MSTLCO:N0ARS-5} Connected to BBS

  7. The BBS prompts will be: de N0ARS>

    If you are a new user, you will be prompted to enter a few items such as your name, QTH, and Home BBS. You can enter in either just your first name or first/last name. QTH is self-explanatory. For the Home BBS, enter in N0ARS. This way if someone else creates a private message to you, they will not be warned that your message may not be delivered due to a Home BBS not being set.

  8. After successfully connecting to N0ARS-1, you should then issue the "List Last 10" messages available to be read by issuing the LL 10 command.

    If you are done creating, reading, and deleting your messages, you can simply tell the mailbox "bye".

    1. Issue the following command: B
    2. Wait for N0ARS-1 to reply with: Thanks for stopping by. 73!

    If you connected directly to the BBS, your packet session is disconnected and complete.

    If you connected thru MSTL, you will be connected back to MSTL node to complete any other additional tasks you would like from MSTL. If you are done with MSTL, make sure you disconnect from it correctly by issuing the QUIT command.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have now completed your weekly message to St. Louis Metro ARES and verified that your packet station is working correctly.

Connecting directly:

If you are close to the packet station in South County, you can always try a direct connection instead of going through MEPN:
  1. Tune your packet radio to 145.070 MHz.

  2. Once connected, send the following command: C N0ARS-1

  3. Wait for the N0ARS-1 station to respond with: *** Connected to BBS

  4. Pick-up where STEP 6 leaves off in the "Using MEPN" instructions above.
If at any time you get lost or are unfamiliar with the BBS commands, you can ask for help.
  1. While connected to the BBS, issue the following command: help
    Example: de N0ARS> help
  2. The BBS will respond with the following:
    A - Abort Output
    B - Logoff
    D - Flag NTS Message(s) as Delivered - D num
    HOMEBBS - Display or get HomeBBS
    INFO - Display information about this BBS
    I CALL - Lookup CALL in WP Allows *CALL CALL* *CALL* wildcards
    [email protected] PARAM - Lookup @BBS in WP
    IZ PARAM - Lookup Zip Codes in WP
    IH PARAM - Lookup HA elements in WP - eg USA EU etc
    K - Kill Message(s) - K num, KM (Kill my read messages)
    L - List Message(s) -
    • L = List New, LR = List New (Oldest first)
    • LM = List Mine L> Call, L< Call = List to or from
    • LL num = List Last, L num-num = List Range
    • LN LY LH LK LF L$ LD - List Message with corresponding Status
    • LB LP LT - List Mesaage with corresponding Type
    • LC List TO fields of all active bulletins
    LISTFILES or FILES - List files available for download
    N Name - Set Name
    NODE - Return to Node
    OP n - Set Page Length (Output will pause every n lines)
    POLLRMS - Manage Polling for messages from RMS
    Q QTH - Set QTH
    R - Read Message(s) - R num, RM (Read new messages to me)
    READ Name - Read File
    S - Send Message - S or SP Send Personal, SB Send Bull, ST Send NTS, SR Num - Send Reply, SC Num - Send Copy
    X - Toggle Expert Mode
Currently there is no automated path out of the N0ARS station to the nationwide packet network to route NTS messages in or outside of the Saint Louis area. Full RMS functions will be added after testing. Once the functionality is added, this will be updated to provide direction.

Getting Help

If you need assistance in setting up, configuring software, or have any general questions regarding packet mode operations, please feel free to contact Peter Brisbine, N0MTH.

Presentation on setting up and connecting to MEPN, by Craig Klimczak, K4LSU: Powerpoint format1 Word format 1

St. Louis Metro ARES® would like to thank the owners and operators of the Missouri Emergency Packet Network for their guidance, continuing support, and for allowing us to use the MSTL digipeater for our practice sessions.

1 - Please see the Software section of the Resources page if you do not have software necessary to read these files.

© 2018 St. Louis Metro ARES®