An efficient sound card HF digital mode
by Gary E. Kohtala, K7EK / AFA0IU / AFE0DM
A new FREE sound card digital protocol, called Winmor, has been created by the Winlink 2000 Development Team. Its purpose is to augment the prohibitively expensive and proprietary Pactor modes, bringing a viable HF digital communications alternative to the masses. RMS is the abbreviation for Radio Mail Server.
I presently operate K7EK-5, a 24/7 Winmor RMS on 3569.5 (c), 3568.0 USB dial, at night, and 7078.1 (c), 7079.6 USB dial, in the daytime.
I have been beta testing RMS Express, the Winmor-enabled Windows-based user client, ever since it became available. Initial results were very disappointing; however after we had a chance to hammer the application on the air for several months, things rapidly began to take shape. Although Winmor does not give results close to Pactor III, it gives a surprisingly good accounting for itself. One cannot complain too loudly about free software.
When band conditions are reasonably good, we are able to transmit large emails with attachments over HF. I have successfully sent and received JPG and PDF files as attachments with good results. This capability should prove to be extremely useful to all that use the system. Let me clarify something. Winmor is a protocol. RMS Express and Winmor RMS are programs that are Winmor-enabled. There is no Winmor program. It is a protocol.
I have gone beyond the beta testing phase of RMS Express and have volunteered to operate a 24/7 Winmor RMS, the server resource that supports users and their client program. I am on 80 meters during night time hours and on 40 meters during the day. The Winmor RMS application used by system operators employs an automatic scheduler that can be programmed to change frequencies at specified times. This nifty feature allows a “day” and “night” frequency, if so desired. Winmor enabled stations don’t do continual multi-frequency scanning like Pactor MBO’s. Instead, we use a day/night frequency. From my Spanaway, Washington (Grid CN87TB) location, I routinely receive user connections from 5 to 1500 miles away.
Detailed information about the Winmor protocol and RMS Express can be found at the WINLINK 2000 web page. The Winmor-enabled user client, RMS Express, is available for downloading at the Yahoo Winmor Group. You must become a member of the group to get access to the software. Go to The Yahoo Winmor Group to sign up.
There are a large number of beta testers in the group. It is strongly suggested that you thoroughly read, and re-read the Winmor documentation. Also search the group message base for key words relative to your question.
If after reading the documentation you find that you are still having difficulty, post a message to the Yahoo Group. Someone has probably encountered your issue in the earlier days of beta testing and should have a viable solution for you.
Also available on the Yahoo Winmor Group is the Winmor Sound Card TNC for developers. This “helper program” is the heart of Winmor protocol in its current state. Hank, W0RLI, has integrated the Winmor Sound Card TNC and his Simple Network Operating System, or SNOS. He has added Winmor protocol to his very cool TCP/IP program.
Melding of the two gives some very unique capabilities to SNOS. I might add that this arrangement does not shackle Hank’s program to a Winlink 2000 CMS. That makes him completely stand alone with forwarding capability, or the option to conduct live keyboard to keyboard rag chewing, if so desired.
Click here for details on W0RLI’s SNOS. Another amateur radio software author, John, G8BPQ, has written hooks into his outstanding BPQ32 program. HF Winmor protocol is now available on many BPQ32 nodes around the world. I am anxious to see what other programs will become merged with the Winmor Sound Card TNC in the future.
The requirements for successfully operating Winmor are meager.
You need a stable HF radio that can operate upper sideband (USB) mode. Generally, your radio should not drift more than +/- 100 – 200 Hz after power on. Winmor uses USB by convention.
Secondly, a suitable computer with Windows operating system installed. Your computer should employ a quality sound card. Sound cards built into mother boards are generally very unstable. Many, if not most, will be unusable. The sample rate and frequency of your sound card must not drift very much or there will be serious degradation when running the Winmor protocol.
I personally learned about the lousy sound systems built into mother boards by personal experience. I had a lot of problems with inability to connect and stay connected to other Winmor stations. When I installed a Sound Blaster SB-Live! 24 Bit PCI sound card into an expansion slot, things started percolating! I was actually able to connect and exchange messages with others.
Last but not least, a radio/sound card interface isolates the radio from the sound card and passes quality audio. Winmor works especially well with a Tigertronics SL-1+ or SL-USB interface.
In the case of having an unstable sound card in your computer, the SL-USB unit will nicely solve that problem for you. It not only contains the necessary components to isolate the radio from the computer, it also has a very high quality sound card built in.
You won’t end up tying up your main computer sound card for digital operation. Use the sound card in the SL-USB for that! For $99 you cannot go wrong. It is the hardware around which the Winlink 2000 Development Team designed Winmor.
Another dividend of the Tigertronics SL series of radio/sound card interfaces is that they use an internal voice operated (VOX) system to key your radio.
Do not confuse that with the VOX built into your radio. That is not cut out to do digital modes. Leave that turned off.
The VOX built into the Tigertronics SL series of interfaces works much better, while eliminating the need for a serial port for PTT. Besides working with Winmor, the SL series of interfaces also work with all other sound card digital modes, including ALE, PSK31, JT65A, SSTV, RTTY, Olivia, MT63, etc. Other types of hardware interfaces will work just fine. The SL series of Tigertronics interfaces simply take away most of the possible problems one might encounter with others.
At present, Winmor has two bandwidths, 500 Hz, and 1600 Hz, the narrower being slower than the wider. Unfortunately, most USA Winmor RMS Sysops are running with 500 Hz.
Since the Winmor RMS software is NOT automatic in nature (it just sits there waiting for a user to connect with their client, like RMS Express), there is nothing stopping a person from legally running the wider bandwidth, whether the station is attended or unattended.
If Winmor RMS acted like the mainstream unattended pactor stations and automatically connected to other stations for forwarding of messages, then it would have to be operated in the so called “automatic sub-band” if 1600 Hz bandwidth was going to be utilized.
Due to intentional distortion of the truth about Winmor RMS, some individuals have asserted that running 1600 Hz unattended is illegal. That is simply not true.
Irregardless of whether attended or unattended, Winmor RMS at 1600 Hz is legal in the USA.
You see, until someone consciously fires up his client program, such as RMS Express, and forces a link with a Winmor RMS, nothing happens. The Winmor RMS is silent, never transmitting. IT IS NOT AN AUTOMATIC SYSTEM.
When that user links up with his client program, Winmor RMS comes to life, complete with control operator in charge: The guy running the client program, RMS Express! This is a case of history repeating itself.
Back in the 80′s and 90′s, some argued that Amtor and Clover and Pactor I were being illegally operated without a control operator on both sides. That’s simply not necessary by law. As long as there is a human in the equation, irrelevant of which side of the link it is on or the bandwidth, it is legal. End of story.
K7EK-5 Winmor RMS runs 1600 Hz at all times. By the way, should band conditions deteriorate during a connected session, Winmor RMS will throttle back to 500 Hz bandwidth in an effort to keep the traffic moving.
I encourage anyone interested in a great HF digital package to check out Winmor protocol and RMS Express. It will make a great addition to all EMCOMM tool boxes.
While certainly not an all out replacement for Pactor, Winmor will certainly be an easy layer to deploy.
If your agency already has Pactor III, you already have the best of the best. Winmor is for the rest of us that do not have the luxury of unlimited budgets.
My philosophy has always been that redundancy is the key to the success of EMCOMM. Use what you have and what works. If a particular layer fails, go to the next best. Having HF Winmor in your bag of tricks just might give you the edge that your agency has been missing.
Gary E. Kohtala, K7EK / AFA0IU / AFE0DM