02 Jun 2019, 15:55

My Net Control Setup

Tonight on the NET net, I’m talking about being a net control operator, what it takes, tips and tricks, and just doing it in general. As part of this I thought I’d share my setup for being net control for the NET net!

So, without further ado, here’s a picture!

my net control station

my net control station

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Pen and paper? and a laptop?

I kid. I know what you’re really thinking. Yes, that’s my kitchen. Yes that’s my sink. Yes that’s a lot of very expensive electronics within inches of a faucet. I know. I haven’t had any mishaps yet, and it’s really the only place I have to do it at the moment, as I need to be on the south side of my place to reach the repeater from the handheld reliably, and then I also have plenty of power and space for things. It’s a risk, but it’s one I take all the time, so it’s fine. All of that stuff is either battery powered or well grounded and on GFCI outlets, so I’m not worried about personal safety.

A quick rundown though of the stuff you’re looking at:

  • laptop – this has my preamble, my topic script, my directed check-in list, my manual check-in list, really everything I need to be able to do this. I can also quickly look things up if there’s a topic that demands it, I’ve definitely pulled up manuals for other peoples’ radios and such to help them out.
  • pen and paper – I don’t tend to use this much, but it can be handy to have if I have a bunch of people with questions or whatever so I can keep track of who I haven’t gotten back to with their question or comment.
  • radio – In this particular case it’s a Kenwood TH-D74a with a Diamond something or other dual band antenna. I have a speakermic for it so I don’t have to bend down to talk into the radio, and it’s clipped to a cutting board so it doesn’t go anywhere, stays fairly vertical, and holds it in place enough that grabbing the speakermic doesn’t pull the whole radio with it.
  • bluetooth speaker – This is actually not something I’ve used for net control yet, but I’m going to try it tonight. The speakermic has a speaker in it, but it’s not the greatest sounding speaker in the world. My radio has bluetooth and the ability to connect a bluetooth headset or speaker or whatever to it. I’m a bit concerned that the mic built into the speaker is the one that’s going to be used rather than the speakermic’s mic, but that’s something that I’ll try to figure out before the net. The speakermic’s mic is decent enough to use, but a better speaker would be less harsh on the ears.
  • water – not just the faucet, but I have a bottle there with some ice water in it. I’ll probably drink all of that and more during the net. I get thirsty, and also it helps me slow down and pace things a bit if I stop and take a drink of water after putting out a call for check-ins or comments or whatever if the net is kinda slow.
  • power supply – it’s off to the right, but I have my desktop 12V power supply also up there. I use this rather than the stock supply that came with the radio because it seems to both provide more power (it’s certainly capable of more power, anyways) and the power seems to be cleaner. I’ve had comments in the past of background noise problems, but last time after the net I swapped out the power supply and tried it and folks said it was free of background noise. Perfect.

Here’s the power supply. It’s just a Powerwerx 30 amp power supply. I “made” the cable by taking the stock power supply that came with the radio, cutting it, and putting Anderson connectors on the ends. The stock supply is 12V, so this is convenient for using with other 12V sources. There’s a big warning though to not wire directly to a vehicle’s 12V supply, however, because it’s not a well regulated 12V, and that can hurt the radio. It expects a regulated 12V source. Makes sense. Also, pro tip, bust out your meter and check the polarity of the wires before you put the connectors on. Some radios don’t much care for reversed polarity, as it turns out. *ahem*

power supply

power supply

There are also a couple of other pieces of electronics in there, there are 2 raspberry pis (only one is in use at the moment), a Mobilinkd TNC2, and there’s another bluetooth speaker behind the cutting board. Those aren’t part of the net control setup, that’s just where those things live. The RPi lives there primarily because my radio also tends to live on that ledge, and it’s connected via bluetooth to the radio for Winlink and other packet stuff, so I just like to keep it near by. Plus that USB charger there is very conveniently placed to power the Pi. The other Pi is something I still want to set up but haven’t done yet, and the Mobilinkd is one of 2 that I have (I also have the TNC3) that I’m using for my “winlink on the cheap” project. But That’s Another Show™

Note that this is all very temporary setup. My handheld does live on that shelf, generally, because it’s just a convenient place for it, but the big power supply and all the other stuff gets put away after the net, it doesn’t live on my kitchen counter!

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