Dave Freese, W1HKJ will be presenting a forum at the Huntsville Hamfest titled “Emergency Communications using HF Digital Modes”. Dave and a core group of contributors have been working for the last few years on a suite of open source applications for amateur radio. The fldigi application is the flagship of these.
Fldigi is a digital modem application which generates and decodes a number of digital modes using the sound hardware in your computer. Amateur radio using digital modes has been growing in popularity, and with good reason. These modes offer a variety of tradeoffs between rf bandwidth, data bitrate, error correction, and noise immunity.
These modes are all sent and received using audio frequencies that fall in the normal voice range used in amateur radio, about 300-3000 Hz. Some modes use very little bandwith, as low as 31Hz, allowing many contacts to take place within a frequency range that would be occupied by one voice contact. These modes are most commonly used with a text interface that resembles internet chat, but are also suitable for inclusion in a higher layer of protocol which allows further error correction, block sending, and retries. When used with a ‘stack’ like this, it is possible to send binary files over amateur radio error-free. This is useful for emergency communications. An example is to be able to send a spreadsheet listing items needed at a shelter, instead of reading and copying every line in the document by voice. The low speeds of these modes limit the usefulness to relatively small files, but a lot of information can be passed in small text files.
Fldigi runs on Linux, Free BSD, Windows XP, W2K, Vista, and OS X. At the hamfest, Dave will be demonstrating using windows and a Linux platform, and I will be helping him demo with my Ubuntu system.