SIARA Slow Scan TV Net FAQ

Authored by: Anthony Parker N9OIU March, 2020

WHEN DOES THE NET MEET?

The SSTV NET will meet each Wednesday at 7:30PM ET on the WB9TLH repeater, aka “Six Four”.  This is an analog-only repeater at 146.640MHZ, (-) offset, pl 136.5Hz.

HOW LONG DOES THE NET RUN?

Depending on the number of checkins the NET will run to allow two (2) or three (3) rounds of one (1) image per station.  That is to say we go through the NET roll call two or three times and each station sends an image when it is their turn to do so.  It is not uncommon for some SSTV NETS to cross the two (2) or even three (3) hour mark!  If you can’t stay for the duration of the NET then please use one of the provided CHECKOUT breaks when appropriate.  

WHO CAN PARTICIPATE AND HOW IS THE NET RUN?

The NET is open to all Amateur Radio Operators that can reliably use the Six-Four repeater.  The Net Control Station (NCS) will open the NET and take initial checkins.  NCS will then invite each participant, in order, to send an image.  After the image is sent NCS may invite comments from other stations before proceeding to the next station. 

During the NET the NCS will allow for breaks for stations that need to checkout early; or for stations that could not attend the opening of the NET but still wish to participate.  If there is an image transmission round after a station checks in late, be prepared:  They will be placed at the top of the list!  This way when we come back to the Original First station all stations will have transmitted images for that round. 

DO I NEED AN AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE?

To send an image, yes, you will need a valid Amateur Radio License that grants operational phone/data privileges on the 2M band. 

If you do not have an Amatuer Radio license; we encourage you to get yours!  However, you can still receive as a listen-only participant. 

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?

In order to participate you will need:

  1. A functional 2M FM station which can reliably make contact with the Six-Four Machine. 
  2. A computing device that can encode and decode SSTV imagery (See ‘WHAT SOFTWARE IS REQUIRED?’)
  3. An audio connecting mechanism to attach the Computing Device to the 2M FM Station.  
    1. Acoustically Coupled (e.g. Held Next To Each Other).
    2. Electrically Coupled (e.g. a TNC or external sound card interface).

WHAT SOFTWARE IS REQUIRED?

There are a number of programs out there that will work depending on your operating System.  The NET will primarily focus on the SCOTTIE, MARTIN, and ROBOT modes.  Example software includes:

  1. For Windows
    1. MMSSTV – MM Hamsoft
      1. Very Popular and Easy to Use. 
      2. Supports most modes. 
    2. MixW4
      1. Multimode package that includes SSTV modes. 
    3. EasyPal
      1. Efficient but more difficult to use. 
  2. For Linux
    1. QSSTV
      1. The de facto standard. 
  3. For iOS
    1. SSTV Slow Scan TV (single app) or Ham Radio Decoder Bundle by Black Cat Systems
  4. AndroidOS
    1. <Input needed>

SIX-FOUR IS ALSO THE LOCAL SKYWARN REPEATER; WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF SEVERE WEATHER OCCURS DURING THE SSTV NET?

If a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado WATCH is issued for Brown, Greene, Lawrence, Morgan, Monroe, or Owen Counties, then the NCS will make an announcement about the WATCH, including location and expiration time, and then resume the SSTV NET. 

If a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado WARNING is issued for Brown, Greene, Lawrence, Morgan, Monroe, or Owen Counties, then the NCS will immediately terminate the SSTV NET and yield control of the repeater to ARES/SKYWARN NCS.  If you become aware of a weather warning while transmitting an image please immediately stop your image transmission and allow NCS to close the NET and handover the repeater to SKYWARN.  

If an ARES event is called up and they need the repeater, then the SSTV NCS will immediately terminate the NET and yield control upon request from the ARES NCS. 

Should the SSTV NET be terminated for any of these reasons then the participants are asked to lend the support to the ARES/SKYWARN NETS at station-discretion.  

If the ARES/SKYWARN NCS is the same as the SSTV NCS, then they will simply switch the focus of the NET and ask stations to continue to participate. 

In all cases where the SSTV Net is terminated early for a SKYWARN/ARES event the SSTV will not resume for that session; but start again at the next scheduled time. 

I NEED TO LEAVE EARLY, WHEN CAN I CHECKOUT?

During the NET the NCS will announce breaks for CHECKIN and CHECKOUT activities.  Please use these breaks when you need to checkout.  If it can not wait, then advise NCS as soon as possible. 

I’M LATE TO THE NET, CAN I STILL CHECKIN AND PARTICIPATE?

Yes; the NCS will announce breaks where CHECKINS and CHECKOUT activities may occur.  Please feel free to checkin during these breaks.  Given the nature of how a SSTV NET may run please use these breaks when possible vs. checking in between image transmissions. 

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SEND AN IMAGE?

Depending on your SSTV Mode, anywhere from thirty (30) seconds to three (3) minutes. 

WHAT KIND OF IMAGES CANNOT AND/OR SHOULD NOT BE SENT?

Anything that would violate the rules governing the Amateur Radio Service (Part 97) cannot be transmitted.  This includes images that are obscene or pornographic in nature. 

Risque, propaganda, hate-speech, “bathroom/lockerroom talk”, etc. is strongly discouraged and likely will lead to not being allowed to participate in future NETs.  

The purpose of this NET is to practice imagery transmission techniques using Amateur Radio, and should be a family-friendly gathering place where goodwill and fellowship are spread.  In a nutshell:  If you wouldn’t want your kids to see it:  Don’t send it.  

WHAT SHOULD I SEND THEN?

Images related to the Hobby such as schematics, pictures of rigs, shack/station setup, Field Operations, etc., are all fine and dandy. Neutral images such as land/skyscapes, flowers, QSL Cards, etc. are generally always acceptable.  During the start of the NET the NCS may suggest a topic-theme for the evening, such as your favorite HT.

WHAT ABOUT COPYRIGHT MATERIAL?

The rules really do not make clear distinction about material under copyright. But, with the pervasiveness of camera phones in today’s modern world, it is very easy for each station to snap a few images of their own to send.  Therefore, whenever possible, try to send your own images; also it is more interesting on the receiving end to get a one of a kind image than one that can be found on the internet. 

Note:  If you know someone who took a picture you’d like to use; ask them for permission to use it first, please.  It can be frustrating to see someone’s work being transmitted without their knowledge. 

WHAT OPERATING PRACTICES CAN I DO TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THE NET?

There are a few tips you can do to help make the NET a smooth and fun experience for all involved: 

  • Set your Transmit Time Out to at least three (3) minutes, but not more than five (5).  We don’t want to timeout the repeater if something goes wrong. 
  • Stay at your control point during transmission so you can intervene quickly
    • E.g. Computer Lockup but Transmitter still active; SKYWARN event, etc. 
    • Leave restroom or kitchen trips to a RX window whenever possible. 
  • Remember to let the Repeater Timer Reset:  Listen for the Courtesy Beep.
  • Make sure your Callsign is somewhere in your image. 
    • Most software can handle that. 
  • When transmitting an image. 
    • Say Your Call Sign.
    • Announce your SSTV Mode.
    • Let the repeater drop. 
    • Begin your SSTV transmission. 
    • It is not required, but your SSTV software can ID for you using Modulated CW tones at the end of the SSTV transmission. 

HELP!  MY STATION WON’T TRANSMIT OR RECEIVE IMAGES AND THE NET IS GOING ON WHAT CAN I DO?!  

Unfortunately, the NET cannot provide in-depth, individual troubleshooting of a station due to the nature of the NET.  You may ask a general query of the NCS to see if anyone may have a quick answer, but issues requiring more than a sentence or two should be handled off the NET.  If the answering station agrees, notify NCS that your stations are going to another repeater, simplex freq, or alternate form of communication to rectify the situation and will come back to the NET when finished. 

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