Scenario: A major earthquake event has taken out all local Winlink RMS servers, Digipeaters and internet is down at all locations. HF capabilities are very limited, searching for a reachable Winlink RMS is taking too much time.
Impacted station sends broadcast message request for a Winlink Relay, frequency specified up 6KC (clear). Connection BW of 2300 requested.
Relay station (out of impacted area) set up as follows:
a) PC running VARAC(V6.4.15) ,VARA 500,2300, interface to HF transceiver
b) Internet/Wifi capable. Internet is operational at this location
c) Same PC running Winlink Express with "Winlink Telnet" Session selected
3. Relay station receives broadcast and connects with impacted station using VARA 2300, specified clear frequency
4. Impacted station sends brief description of situation and sends relay station a Vmail with emergency traffic and contact email address.
5. Relay station cut and pastes email address and message traffic into Winlink Express "New Message" from Vmail. Post to winlink "Outbox".
6. Relay "Starts session" using Telnet Winlink and email is sent.
7. Relay station acknowledges receipt of Vmail and that message was sent via Winlink Telnet session back to Impacted Station.
Tom, WJ9H sent a Broadcast "CQ" message with 2300 specified and up frequency. I answered his CQ and along with a nice QSO, we performed the steps as outlined above; Tom was the impacted station in WI and I acted as the relay station in WA state. All worked well. This was a simple and very manual example, but showed how the VARAC and Winlink Express current releases could be used. There are several advantages I see:
Using the VARAC Broadcast feature, impacted stations in need of sending emergency traffic can quickly connect with relay stations out of the impacted area with internet access and winlink capability.
While Winlink Express provides a list of available RMS servers, it takes time to go through the list and find an RMS that you can connect to. I have several HF RMS's I test regularly on 80M, 40M and 20M, but at times connectivity is not possible. I see using VARAC broadcast as a viable backup strategy.
One option with Winlink is to connect to a hybrid RMS that will queue up your traffic and send it when it can, using a "Post Office Box" that is set up prior to the event. This works, particularly if the station is local, but lost internet connectivity. The hybrid RMS will hold the message until it can connect with another RMS (HF or VHF) or the internet comes back. This is fine, but your emergency traffic can take hours or even days to be sent. Your never really sure when the message actually is delivered. With this approach, the VARAC relay station can acknowledge the emergency traffic was actually sent via VARAC chat at the completion of relay session.
This test was only meant to be a proof of concept. Providing a less manual way to connect at VARA 2300, send the Vmail emergency traffic message to WInlink Express, post to outbox and send via Winlink Telnet/VHF/HF needs lots of thought. It was interesting to try this and challenging to think about how this could possibly provide another way for stations to connect using VARA 2300 and send emergency traffic.
Please, feel free to throw darts at this, add your ideas, comments.