Packet Radio 101 – The Ultimate Guide

Packet Radio 101 – The Ultimate Guide

Here you will find all of my efforts to document and consolidate valid usable packet radio knowledge online. This page should give a clear path from getting started with TNCs, APRS, BBS Systems, to the advanced topics of TCP/IP over AX25. This has been attempted many times, but it almost always turns into the same story. Usually the information is stale, unorganized and even flat out wrong. I hope this can serve as a decent roadmap to getting started in the 21st century.

Most pages referenced here have an accompanying video format for those who are visual learners. That way we cover subjects in two mediums. The page is an ongoing work in progress.

Table Of Contents:

Introduction to Packet Radio
Shopping for Materials
Ultimate Dire wolf TNC Setup guide
Getting Started with APRS on Windows / Linux
Build your own APRS Digipeater
Host your own Packet Radio BBS
Connect to a BBS Node
TCP/IP Over Packet Radio

Introduction to Modern Packet Radio

From the below video or this blog post (Modern Introduction to Packet Radio) , you can get an idea of the current state of packet radio

From here, you can get an idea of what specific field you may want to get into, and get a grasp on what things look like as of 2024.

Required Materials for Packet Radio

The following blog post will give you an effective list of needed hardware or software to get a packet radio node up and running. This can’t possibly cover every single radio or device/TNC on the market. But I’ve got suggestions that are modern, still being manufactured, and applicable today.

Ultimate Dire wolf TNC Setup Guide

Direwolf is a great, and flexible software TNC. It is used as the TNC in most of the examples and guides going forward. As such, I’ve taken the time to cover a setup guide for both Windows and Linux in great depth. If you don’t want to purchase a hardware TNC for your packet station, see the below guide to get direwolf up and running.

Getting Started with APRS

I have both video and written guides for getting started on APRS for Windows and linux. These guides cover everything to get position reporting and messaging up and running on a desktop/laptop or raspberry pi. These blog posts will get a visual map running on your chosen operating system, and talking to a hardware or software TNC of your choosing.

Building your own APRS Igate and Digipeater

After getting some familiarity with packet radio, and APRS, you may want to look into running your own I-Gate and digipeater. Direwolf is a great option for that. You can see the below blog post to get your own running to serve your local community.

Building your own Packet Radio Node

Just like with APRS, I have made both text and video guides for windows and Linux in reference to building your own packet node. The following pages will get you a BPQ32 for windows, or a LinBPQ node for Linux Node running from scratch. I go through the configuration options, management and even show a real time connection example for both pages.

As a bonus BBS, I’ve included a guide to getting the JNOS BBS Software up and running with direwolf:

Connect to a Radio BBS Via Windows or Linux

Although the above examples show how you can connect to other BBS nodes via the one you’ve setup yourself, the following guides will show you how to connect to nodes standalone.

TCP/IP Over Packet Radio

The following section is still being filled out. Here we talk about how packet radio can be used to route TCP/IP traffic over AX25 or other packet radio based protocols.

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