LJ 1: Linux and Hams

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following to the Usenet newsgroup comp.os.linux.misc. I am the editor of Linux Journal, a paper magazine that will be covering the Linux scene. In my correspondence with people about writing articles for LJ I have seen an amazing number of ham calls. Being a ham myself (WA6SWR) I was just wondering how many of “us” ar

If you are a ham, let me know and maybe include a short blurb about how/why you got involved in Linux. I think it could be interesting. I will post a summary and might even include the info in an upcoming issue of Linux Journal.

Rather than try to draw any conclusions I have decided to just post what people said. I think hams will find it interesting. Note that in the ham tradition I edited the signatures so they consist of the person's first name and ham call unless they didn't give me a call. Then I include the full name.

Assuming there are no objections (and enough space) I plan to reprint this in the March issue of Linux Journal. I think it helps tie Linux into another community. One who has traditionally been on the leading edge of both technology and spending as little money as possible. :-)

Any hams out there doing “ham stuff” with Linux and want to write an article about it for Linux Journal?

The SLS/slackware distributions have basically given me a UNIX/X workstation at home...wish my 486 was as fast as the Indigo on campus though.

I've been using Linux for over a year on a Gateway. I just now have some time to try hacking on some programs for the radio.

Most of the time I'm on 80/20 meter PACTOR. I almost have a PACSAT station working (still need a preamp and a few other odds-and-ends).

I think Linux would work great for automating satellite uploads and downloads, tracking, etc.-Phil AD4FH

Well, this comes to you from host w4bzl.concert.net at the end of a quite productive SLIP link. Of course this host at home runs linux. AT CONCERT we have at least two other hams that run linux with their calls as their hostname. I'll leave it to them to respond.-Joe W4BZL

I'm a ham too, N5SNN down in Austin, TX. How I got involved? Well that's because our lab has too many junks (or goodies in ham word), that made me just buy a used 486 motherboard and a new 486sx/25 to start a unix-pc using Linux. Why? To replace the NOS-box that I use for ausgw (austin's packet-internet gateway) with a better system.

My linux is now 100% on the Internet (it's under my lab desk at campus), runs gopher server, anon ftp, and uucp-internet gateway (private).-Paulus N5SNN

Add me in there too. BTW, I started using Linux about 6 months before becoming a HAM. Part of the reason for becoming a HAM was the large number of them involved with Linux.-Jim KD4PPG

I am VK4BSB. Packet mail to VK4BSB@VK4ZGQ.BNE.QLD.AUS.OC-Serge VK4BSB

Who, ME? I've been a netnews reader since the Great Renaming. I decided it was time to start working with the `blood & guts' of a Unix.....-David WB8FOZ

I got interested in Linux last year when Algorithm magazine published a quick blurb about the freely distributed Unix clone and how great it was. I wasn't able to start playing with it until this past August when I upgraded my old XT to a 486. Unfortunately, that also corresponded to my starting a PhD program, so I haven't had much time to play with Linux, outside of installing SLS 1.03 and wondering how to patch what doesn't work!-Chris N0OQT

I am: Jim Graham, N5IAL /4. I've been a general-class since `86. I live on Okaloosa Island, in Ft. Walton Beach, FL (NW FL). I started looking at Linux in mid-1992 as part of my (then) ongoing search for a UNIX that would run (read, would actually work) on my 386 at home. I finally got a tape drive, which made the installation much simpler, and a memory upgrade to make Linux happier, and installed 0.99 PL6 very early this year. Needless to say, my search for a UNIX system for my machine has ended.

Oh, I'm also the author of KAMterm, which is a shareware host mode terminal program for Kantronics TNCs. It currently runs only under dos (and some dos emulators, I'm told), but I'm working on porting it over to Linux (don't hold your breath—due to all of the things that are going on right now, and the fact that very few people have contacted me about KAMterm in the last couple of months, I'm not spending a whole lot of time on it at the moment...and the port wouldn't be a quick thing to do even if I were). Of course, there are other issues involved with a Linux port, such as the fact that KAMterm is shareware, not freeware, and so on (I need the KAMterm money to pay bills).-Jim N5IAL/4

I use Linux because I want to run a Unix system at home. I'm one of those `sick' people who like the punishment that Unix systems hurl onto their operators. I hope to working with packet radio, as I am a avid packeteer. I understand that there is a version of NOS out for Linux, but have not found it yet. Know where? I also know KB9CTJ here running it too. Were working together on this. I hate MSDOS too.- Chuck WO9K

I use SunOS 4.1.3 at work and don't particularly fancy DOS or DOS/Windows. Linux is an excellent OS for learning how to admin Unix, as the SLS distribution comes complete with lots of configuration problems. That is the configuration for lots of the programs provided with SLS are incomplete or wrong, but close enough that it is better, and more realistic, than course examples. I will be almost upset if the next distribution has all of the problems fixed, as requested by so many flames, because I would have chosen a fixed version had I the opportunity and not learned nearly as much.

All the applications that I need for home are available on Linux and the VC's are great. 386sx/16 with wait states *really* bogs running X. I am waiting for something in c.o.l.a to brag about an excellent TNC interface prog/doc set before I buy one and learn about the real-ether network.-Alan VE3ALO

FWIW, I'm not a ham, although I am studying to become one next year. At this moment I'm using the CB for packet radio. [Don't panic - Peter is in the Netherlands where apparently you can do anything with CB as long as the radio is type approved.]

At this moment Linux is one of the most promising systems for hams. At this moment several versions of NOS have been ported to Linux, like Wampes and JNOS.

The big advantage is that these versions don't suffer from severe lack of memory like most of the MS-DOS versions. And for the future, Linux will have the AX.25 protocol in the kernel. The normal UNIX socket interface will allow easy program development. It is also rumored that FBB will be ported to Linux when the AX.25 support is built in.-Groetjes, Peter Busser

I am WA8USA. I use LINUX on a laptop I have for work (image and digital signal processing). I went to LINUX because of the large number of public domain programs that are included in distributions (or are easily built) and because the availability of source is helpful in solving problems.-Bob WA8USA

I am a ham (ve3ich) and am active in Linux, but the reasons have little to do with amateur radio. I suspect that the type of person who is interested in amateur radio would likely be interested in Linux: doing something technical that is new and state-of-the-art at a low-cost.

I've used Unix at work for a number of years, and had various microcomputers at home. It was a dream of mine to be able to afford a machine at home that had the hardware and software capabilities of a Unix workstation. Just over a year ago I bought a PC specifically for the purpose of running Linux. I learned more about Unix in the first 3 months of using Linux that in 5 years of experience with commercial Unix workstations. I now find myself wishing that the $10,000 Sun workstation that I use at work had more of the capabilities of the $1,800 Linux PC at home.-Jeff VE3ICH

Well, there's my wife N2VIS (Carolyn Carrock) and me N2RDI... I'm more a Unix admin geek type that got into Amateur Radio than a ham that got into Unix... My wife dared me to take the test at the Trenton Computer Festival after hearing me say I could pass it... If you're looking for writers—I was a Unix instructor for Pyramid Technology and a former newspaper editor and reporter... I'm looking forward to subscribing... and reading every article in LJ. My last project—idasendmail on Linux with pathalias routing. My next project - 99.14 kernel and making a linux SVR4 lookalike with all new scripts and the /sbin directory structure.-Bill N2RDI

My call is KF6VB, I've been a ham since 1970. Ham radio got me into electronics, electronics got me into software, software got me into a nice career . But it all started with ham radio.

I got into Linux about a year ago, around version 95pl7, I think. Linux offered me a way to learn about unix without spending big $$$. Also, it allowed me to upgrade my home UUCP node to a much more powerful environment than what DOS supported.

Four years ago, I got my jollies on the radio, talking to people all over the world. Now propagation is in the toilet, and I get the same jollies with uucp, email, and News.

I've also been a student of the Russian language most of my life, and in the past few years I took two trips to Moscow. The first one was pre-Linux , in 1988. Then I visited radio amateurs. I have pictures of Yours Truly at the operating console of the Moscow Radio Club.

The second trip was last December; no radio buddies this time, just people I met through the email. I took the complete latest SLS distribution with me, and seeded Moscow with Linux! At that time, people there had heard of it, but never seen it. Even while I was there, I could see it seading exponentially: people borrowed my diskettes, copied them and gave them to other people, who copied them....

Right now, I am trying to get the Ka9q networking program running on my 99pl9 system. If I am successful, I will be able to integrate the amateur and landline email worlds at one console. So if I say “mail wa6xxx@ampr.org” the system would automatically squirt it out the TNC instead of the phone line. Also, since the Linux box runs 24 hours a day, I would be able to offer routing to my friends, run an on-the-air ftp site, etc, etc....

I too, have noticed the multitudes of hams on the linux groups; what's more, I have seen more and more mention of Linux on the ham groups. In my mind, hams have two main characteristics:

  • They like to communicate

  • They like to play with gadgets.

A Linux box is both a powerful communications platform and a really neat gadget! What ham could resist?-Jerry KF6VB

1 more. And soon to be a real US HAM (N5something)--I passed the Tech exam some time ago. : If you are a ham, let me know and maybe include a short blurb : about how/why you got involved in Linux. I think it could be : interesting. I will post a summary and might even include the : info in an upcoming issue of Linux Journal. I am also doing an AX.25/NETROM layer in NET-2.-Fred N. van Kempen

I'm a radio amateur, and a LINUX user. My computer is not (yet) connected to packet radio, but once I get around to buy my own rig, instead of just using the radio club's (SK5EU) gear, it sure will be. Sadly, TCP/IP on packet seems to be virtually unknown here in Sweden..-Ture SM5UUO

Phil, I'm N4HHE and saw your request to hear from Linux Hams in the mail- archive on tsx-11.mit.edu. Don't know what kind of information you are looking for. I use Linux for “recreational computing.” When I work (as an electrical engineer) my choice is Macintosh. Been Unix'ing for over 5 years, usually as the system administrator, and always made sure I had a Macintosh that I could use for login. A couple of years ago I “ran” a 12 machine Silicon Graphics installation from a 512k Mac. Lots of fun.

Currently experimenting with TCP/IP over amateur radio. WAMPES has been running at my home for the last couple of weeks. See some people gripe about the lack of Linux documentation, they need to try WAMPES and really learn about lack of documentation.-David N4HHE

I'm a ham and I have used Linux since May 1992 I think. I just can't remember where I heard of Linux first, but I followed the development of Linux from November 1991 (or maybe December). First by listening to reports by others, from 23. January I started to `finger' Linus' account to get the latest news about the state of Linux. As I said above, in May 1992 (or was it April? Hmm, not easy to remember.. :-) I started to actually use it, after having followed the mailing list for some weeks, enough to feel confident about how to install it and so on. I'm not using Linux for any ham-related stuff, one of the reasons is that I don't have a PC at home (I'm using Linux in my job only).-Tor LA1RHA

N3PFP. I'm essentially inactive, I only bothered to get license because I was planning on trying out packet radio. I passed the written tests up to advanced before I ran out of testing/checking time that day, but I've never done the code tests (and probably couldn't break 10wpm at my peak). ... still looking for a cheap, short-range 56k-1Mbs packet radio setup.-Donald N3PFP

I am a ham, WB4ARV, but I only use linux at work. I at least have been working on it when I have time. I have been pulled to another project and have been unable to work on it for the last couple of months. I also have been working on the depca cards for the ethernet so that has slowed me down alot. If I ever get it working good I think I will try to use it at home. I am not into packet at the moment but I may if I switch to Linux.-Joe WB4ARV

Alright, I'll bite! ;) While in college, I started to dream of having my very own “unix box” to hack on for endless hours. The thought of being able to do this *and* get to participate in the evolution of a new OS was really exciting to me, and remains so to this day, a couple years later!

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I have been able to learn *so* much more about unix and PCs in general because of the decision to run Linux on my own computer. I have been able to contribute to portions of the OS in 1992 and early 1993, in the form of initial ports of network clients, a BBS package, and several X Windows games. I also established a free Linux-oriented BBS in late 1992 which continues to flourish and present new learning opportunities.

Ham Radio entered the equation this year, when I decided to once again obtain a license, this time Technician. I operated CW as a novice at the tende r age of nine years - fifth grade, and now enjoy 2 meter rag-chewing, packet radio and *maybe*, CW. Someday. When I get around to it again. ;) A small group of experimenters in the Bay Area are architecting a high speed packet network. It uses 256 Kbps modems designed by a fellow at Stanford, and protocols by a friend (Cliff Skolnick N1DPH) and myself. Mike Cheponis (K3MC) is the mastermind behind the project. A mailing list is set up on my machine (list is called “speed-freaks” - send mail to listserv@hip-hop.sbay.org with “help” in the body for info).

It's coming along, albeit slowly, and we're experimenting with some low-speed stuff right now. My Linux system talks to a 286 DOS box (running KA9Q) over ethernet, and from there out onto the local TCP/IP network; the 286 functions as a router, and allows access to network services on my Linux box from the ampr-net. Cliff and I are eagerly awaiting the release of the Linux AX25 drivers to try out and possibly integrate into our network software.

Hope you enjoyed reading this response to your post. I look forward tohearing other Linux-using ham operators' stories as well!-Dave KE6AJC

Actually, the number of technical “netters” in *any* field who are hams is rather amazing.

++Brandon (JNOS Linux port, and if I ever get time I'll finish up some enhancements to XSat that make it almost worth using)

--... ...-- -.. . -.- ..-. ---.. -. .... ...-.-

[in English, 73 de KF8NH—boy is morse code hard to read like that] 73 de KF8NH

Hi. I am also a ham (WQ3S). I recently started running Linux because I wanted a REAL multitasking OS for my computer. I was already familiar with UNIX, so I found Linux to be an ideal choice for my needs.-Andrew WQ3S

I got into Linux because I wanted a real Unix and it was free, and nowadays its free and better. I'm currently running a public access Linux box via AX.25 and WAMPES (much hacked).- Alan Cox

Well, count me in. I've been keen on Unix from the git-go, but it always seemed to be out of my reach for hobby use until Coherent. When Linux reached ~pl12, I jumped in; never looked back.

One of these days RSN, I hope to start using Linux for some ham applications, but that's somewhere down in the queue. OTOH, it seems that I'm having so much fun dinking with Linux that the ham gear is gathering quite a coat of dust.-John N4VU

I am N2VKD, just got my technician's license in June. Have been playing with Linux on my 386/20 for about a year now. Running packet radio here in New York City under Linux is one of the reasons I got my ticket. So, sometime in the coming year, I hope to get the radio gear and tnc that will best work with Linux. I joined AMSAT too, that big bird they are going to send up sounds exciting. Overall, I think Linux and Ham Radio will be great together, with both being the better from the merge.-Jim N2VKD

I've been involved with Linux since 0.12. I work in data networking, and am an active packet radio operator. I am co-administrator of the Sydney amprnet tcp/ip Wormhole gateway. I have a strong interest in computing too, and for me, Linux is ideal, allowing me to meld my radio and computing hobbies into a single series of projects.-Terry VK2KTJ

I am KD4UBM. I am eventually going to have a login: over the air via packet. It'll be a while till I get the money to buy the equipment, but I am setting up my Linux PC for it now.-John KD4UBM

My call is DL4YBG, name is Mark and QTH is Berlin/Germany. It was much fun working on a homebrew CP/M-system, because you could create your own system and built your own hardware. All this fun was gone when using MSDOS... LINUX with its complete sourcecode and kernel-hacking brought back the fun to computing...-Mark DL4YBG

Finally, my turn. I have been a ham for over 30 years and have always been on the experimenter end. Even build a remote base station when I was still in high school. I see Linux as another chance to experiment and hope to get Linux and ham packet plugged in together.-Phil WA6SWR


Phil Hughes


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Ham's have always been on

AA2ZR's picture

Ham's have always been on the cutting edge of tech. LINUX allows me to experiment as well. Been a ham since 1992 currently old school extra (20WPM).

Linux - How I got started

Anonymous's picture

Here it goes - I got going on Linux because of the slow (and tortuous) demise of NetWare. I'll explain. I make (or made) my living being a Novell MCNE and support customers Novell networks all around the country for a long time. Then, I joined the Windows brigade but really missed the really good stuff. At that point in my life I tried, and fell in love, with Linux. So, I got myself a couple of entry level certifications. But, so far, in upstate New York state, not too many serious Linux installations, so I'm (happily) biding my time supporting Windows networks. Keeps me employeed. Besided Windows 2003 server is a great product. But, I've done some Linux work and would like to do more.

Haven't done a thing with Linux and amateur radio, however. Maybe I will someday, especially if Ham Radio Deluxe gets ported over to Linux (yeah, like that will happen).

73's - Larry

The Miracle of Discovery

Anonymous's picture

Today, March 30, 2008, it has been 8 years since I stopped using Linux and gave my computers back to Mr Gates. Nothing like a windowed environment, and games to seduce one to the dark side.
To this date, My amateur activity had been spotty at best over the same time frame.
Now, today, I write this on a "Windows" Linux box. All the look and feel of Microsoft. Slackware 12.0, now freshly installed, just this weekend. Old, AMD K-6 3D, machine. Installation not that hard to do after all this time. And Linux works darn good these days. Much better than before. Amazing!
This past week, after many months, I turned on the old tube, Drake TR-4 HF set, sound card, PSK station --- and it worked! And it was fun! A marvel in it's self.
Back to the year 1997, Slackware Linux user here and Amateur Radio Operator. Started out with Slackware v3.2 issued, around 1997. Worked up a 2 meter packet station on the local ham net. The 2m network was slow, but it worked. Myself full of wonder!
Even did some C++ programming for college assignments. Computer simulation assignments. Couldn't afford a $300.00 Borland Compiler, especially with a linux box up and running. To me it was magical.
Isn't that what ham radio is about.
Discovery! and Miracles!
Where will discovery and miracles take you next?

Profile: Glider Pilot, Maintenance Worker, Musician, Family Man, Bicyclist, Toastmaster, Fly Fisherman, Amateur Radio Operator, BS Forestry, BS Computer Science, R/C Airplane Modeler, etc.

Best Ham Radio Linux distro please?

VK4AKP's picture

HI, I want to blow away some excess data usage before the end of the month and download some usefull linux distro's.

Could you help with some suggestions and links please?

Whats the best free Ham Radio related Linux Distro?

And where can I download .ISO files for burning direct to CD / DVD?

If there is a really good compilation of Ham Radio related stuff for Linux I'd love to download that also.

And perhaps if there is also one for normal Dos and or Windows as well.

vk4akp -at- yahoo.com.au

What got me interested in Linux

Mike, KD0AR's picture

Back in 1999, I used to write a website for the radio station I work for. After spending hours on some graphics, and having my computer crash when running MS 98, I thought to myself..."There has to be something BETTER out there". I stumbled upon Slackware 3.5.
Now I'm running Debian Etch almost exclusively, and SELDOM run any Windows product. I'm doing the radio thing with it too, logging, digital ham radio, rig control...There is some VERY excellent software available for linux, and guess what...it dosent crash! I was even printing weather fax charts last nite from Linux.
I'm scared to use Windows for email any more, with all the viruses floating around. Never got one in Linux, and I dont have to keep renewing the license on a virus scanner! There are just too many good reasons to run Linux and so many more to dump Windows. not only that, I fit the cliche that HAMS ARE CHEAP! I have yet to spend a $ on a linux app.

Mike, KD0AR

Linux and ham radio

Martin's picture

Hi. KB0HAE here. (Martin) Although I have been a Ham since 1990, I have been using Linux for about a year. I am almost to the point of getting rid of Windows in favor of using Linux full time. I got interested in Linux after discovering Harv's Hamshack Hack, a remaster of the Knoppix Live CD. The author has removed some of the pre-installed software normally included in Knoppix, and installed a lot of Ham Radio related software. As this is a live CD, all you need to do is insert the CD and reboot. You are then up and running from the CD with nothing installed on your hard drive. You can install Harv's Hamshack Hack to hard drive if you wish.

I progressed from that beginning to trying about 10 or so different Linux distributions. Only 4 completed the install on my computer (homebrewd with a Biostar MB with 256meg ram), Harv's Hamshack Hack, Debian, Knoppix, and later Kanotix. I have now settled on Kanotix (the BEST Linux distro EVER) and have installed Ham radio software, some games and other programs. I am simply amazed at the amount of pre-installed software in Kanotix (and some other distros) compared to how little you get with Windows. There is quite a bit of Ham Radio software for Linux, and the list is growing. I have found that Linux is much more stable and secure than Windows (in my experience) and many apps for Linux are smaller and run faster than similar software for Windows. I even have 3 windows games running under Cedega that run BETTER than they ever did under Windows!

Radio For Linux

Nigel MD0FIX's picture

I have been using Linux for 12 odd years mainly Debian and now Ubuntu
as these have the best inbuilt Ham support.
I run a webserver on these also, you cannot beat it, the same in a MS world would cost me 100s, there is no comparison.
The webserver is basic but it lets me experiment.


I've been involved with Linux

Jim (the Berean)'s picture

I've been involved with Linux since the 0.99pl14 days - been a ham since 2000.


Talk about late to the party.

Anonymous's picture

Talk about late to the party.

My name's Sean, and I'm KI4IIB, a newly minted Tech. I've been using Linux for five years, mostly because I love the -power!-...

Re: LJ 1: Linux and Hams

Anonymous's picture

I have been a Ham since 1982, and one of the things I like about linux is the SHARING. That in a nutshell is what Ham Radio is all about... I am president of a local club here in PA. We are involved with 1. advancing the state of the art in radio communications. 2.
developing advanced and not so advanced digital/analog communications facilities. 3.
providing education about these technologies. and most of all 4.
having a ton of fun with the hobby we enjoy.
Linux has made it easy to do all the above when it comes to digital Communications both Old and New. The learning Curve has been steep at times... But most Hams have a thirst for knowledge and Linux has helped to Foster a healthy learning environment.

Roger W4RFJ
President DelCoDUG

Contact me...

Timothy Smith's picture

Old friend

Re: LJ 1: Linux and Hams

Anonymous's picture

I feel odd responding to a post 10 years old but what the hell perhaps someone will get something from it. I thought Unix were guys that got jobs climbing high power radio towers.

I tried Linux a few years ago but with little success, having a renewed interest I have recently standardized my office on it using Red Hat 9.0, and run Mandrake 9.2 on a laptop for ham applications. Got the server running and hope to do great things with some online ham stuff from the laptop. A great OS, much to learn but certainly not any tougher than 20 wpm.


Re: LJ 1: Linux and Hams

Anonymous's picture

I'm Charles Wackerman, KI4BWW, a relatively new ham, but a Linux user since the mid-90s. I was introduced to Linux at work, where I found it much more stable than the microsoft os, and once I retired I found the Linux price to be more to my liking. Linux is more fun to me because it permits a bit of interaction with the OS, and a little bit of experimentation, and a great many things run faster on Linux than on Windows. I just wish I could find a comprehensive listing of ham related software for Linux (there probably is one, I just haven't found it.)



KC0YEF's picture

Been using Linux for 15 years I am a Ham since July 2006 General Class
Just loaded the Knoppix Xastir and Damn Small Linux and these being used for Search and Rescue Operations