I'm enjoying using VARAC v5.1.8 very much, including full QSO, but also the beacon/vmail feature. I'm involved with the local ARES and EMCOMM here in Washington state and I just heard a presentation on how little the Winlink P2P feature is used. A catastrophic event may take out much of the communication infrastructure and leave the Emcomm ham with limited options. Connection to an out of impacted area Winlink RMS can be hit or miss, depending on propagation and even then, a message may sit for several hours, depending on the RMS station's connectivity. A Winlink Peer to Peer (P2P) connection would be of great advantage in getting a message through, but the mode and frequency would need to be decided ahead of time. That's not going to be possible in most cases.
This is where VARAC shines. If there is a catastrophic event and I'm out of the impacted area, I could start sending a beacon with an "I'm away" message saying "I'm an EMCOMM Winlink capable station, leave a short vmail message and email address for forwarding". The station in need would be able to see beacons with good SNR, connect and leave a vmail with their emergency traffic. My home QTH station has a dedicated vhf winlink station with several local VARA FM Radio Message Servers I can connect to, plus Winlink Telnet, both capable of message forwarding. I'd like to set up a proof of concept in the near future using the current VARAC beacon frequency and have VARAC stations send me an email request via vmail that I would forward. I could send the message and then send an Ack back to the station via VARAC vmail. They would check their internet email and verify it went through and how long it took.
In the future, maybe would could allocate one of the other slots, say slot 15, as an Emcomm beacon slot, only used for emergency situations. Also, establish a couple new Emcomm, 2300 BW slots up the band when higher throughput is needed for emergency traffic.
If there are enough folks who think this is an idea worth exploring and the concepts works well, perhaps we could add some of these features to VARAC for EMCOMM. I really think it would greatly augment the Winlink P2P mode. What say you?
VARAC has massive potential for EMCOMM but the reality is that Winlink is what a lot of ham EMCOMM groups are going to use as their software of choice no matter what. Mostly because it has the integrated ICS forms and has nodes all over the world. If Winlink could be integrated with VARAC so they can run side-by-side better, then we would have the best of both worlds. I can run them separately by setting up an additional instance of VARA FM in another directory, but there is no way to gatekeep which program is going to do what. For example both of them could try to RX or TX at the same time. Maybe too tall of an order I don't know, I'm not a programmer. Keep up the good work.
My pleasure Brian.
2300HZ BW works great. As long as you pick your own frequency for your Emcomm activity/drills. You can set your own 2300HZ frequency for emcomm and take the lead on this if you want. I have enough on my plate managing this community :)
I believe VarAC/VARA would be a great benefit to Emcom BUT as it stands right now, NO! I believe you can TX files up to 1mb in size if I understood Irad correctly.
What I don't understand is why VMail went from 500 characters down to 300.
Also the Broadcast feature that was recently added only will handle 92characters.
It seems to me we have taken steps backwards.
I love the program BUT it doesn't seem to me very viable for Emcom work.
The lack of decent file sizes seems to be it's short comings. Just my opinion!
Irad tnx for the work you have put into this program.
73 de Steve KB6HOH
I too see potential for VarAC during emergencies. Protocol question: Does the underlying VARA HF/FM require the same kind of time synch precision that FT8 does? It is my understanding it does NOT, but wanted to verify.
If I'm correct in that assumption, it elevates VarAC for emergency use, IMHO. Protocols that require rigid time synch are not likely to be much help during gridless emergencies, IMHO.
In any case, I've been really enjoying learning about VarAC. It's the most meaningful digital comms I've encountered so far.
73 de K0RvW
Plus 1 on the idea of dedicating a slot for EMCOMM use and establishing higher bandwidth slots.
Indeed VarAC has a potential for EmComm. I am actually working on some feature to allow this. But most of the EmComm drills are leveraging the VARA FM and not HF as most Emcomm needs are more of a local characteristics.
I hope you find more partners here to explore this on HF. I will be happy to assist. So if you have and ideas feel free to submit them.
I am now working on a store/forward mailbox feature that will serve this well as you can turn your station to a Emcomm mailbox so one can leave a message to 3rd party. once they check in, they will receive the vmail