Oinker is Twitter for HAMs

oinker

Have you ever wanted to send a quick message to your HAM radio buddies over the air but then realized you forgot your radio at home? [Troy] created Oinker to remedy this problem. Oinker is a Perl script that turns emails into audio.

The script monitors an email account for new messages and then uses the Festival text-to-speech engine to transform the text into audio. [Troy] runs Oinker on a Raspberry Pi, with the Pi’s audio output plugged directly into an inexpensive ham radio. The radio is then manually tuned to the desired transmit frequency. Whenever Oinker see’s a new email, that message is converted into speech and then output to the transmitter.

The script automatically appends your HAM radio call sign to the end of every message to ensure you stay within FCC regulations. Now whenever [Troy] runs into some bad traffic on the road, he can send a quick SMS to his email address and warn his HAM radio buddies to stay clear of the area.

Comments

  1. RD says:

    Can you provide more details on the radio interface? That same interface will work with a very wide range of radios. Are you essentially just using the VOX feature of the UV-5R?

  2. RD says:

    Can you provide more details on the radio interface? That connector is used in a wide variety of HT’s. So it would be relatively simple to adapt to any number of radios with a few more details.

  3. RichV says:

    Why not just SMS the friends directly as a group?

    That said… not sure it’s a practical project but I like the execution and the build.

    • jpnorair says:

      Yeah… you pretty much nailed it. The fact is, in the modern world, HAM is rarely more than a toy. I’m not sure it’s really serving the public good or doing much for educational purposes when there are plenty of ISM bands to play in, which allow much more interesting educational opportunities now that digital radios are here and all. I guess there’s the “Red Dawn” or “T3″ scenario, but, really?

      • fartface says:

        I love it when people that know nothing at all about amateur radio lament about how useless it is.

        • lostengineer says:

          haha i agree. Amateur Radio is extremely under appreciated in the “hacker scene” as we see in the comments here. There is so much you can do with the bands Amateurs have been given…especially compared to the ISM bands or whatever. Because of Amateur Radio we have huge sections of spectrum that can be used for anything a hacker could imagine which are also completely protected from commercial, and to an extent, government interference.

          Sure some hams can be sticklers for the rules and courtesy, etc… but this is really just older gentlemen trying to protect what they fought a good battle to keep. In reality, you could transmit pretty much anything, even encrypted data without a liscense, and the likelyhood of getting in trouble is almost zero. In fact, it’s likely no one would even notice unless you try and take over half of 20m during a contest weekend.

          And also, “Just SMS the friends directly” … no offense, but seriously? You do know this is a hacking site right? All hams are fully aware that cell phone technology is WAAAYYYY more practical for every day use, but that’s not the point. The point is that building it yourself is FUN.

          This was an interesting hack. I would have liked more integration with current networks such as APRS which many people don’t know can actually handle good amounts of data. I want to find or make an APRS to SMS bridge so a cheap radio can be used to text message directly when a cell phone won’t work.

          • rasz_pl says:

            > can be used for anything a hacker could imagine

            umm NO, unencrypted, noncommercial, no music + identify yourself

          • Rick Osgood says:

            It’s been a while since I’ve taken the exam but if I remember correctly your amateur transmissions have to be readable to the public. I don’t think you can encrypt communications. In fact, I think if you transmit in any kind of code or cipher you have to have published instructions for how to decode the transmission. Correct me if I’m wrong though.

            That being said I do think HAM radio is a fun hobby and I think it does have a lot of uses that people don’t really think about. I like it because it sort of feels like a prehistoric Internet to me. Also, you can talk to people all over the world without any wires or infrastructure! How is that not awesome?!

          • jpnorair says:

            My criticism of amateur in the modern area is quite simple: it makes poor use of spectrum, it has an ugly lobby via the ARRL which has an obstructionist agenda towards any kind of changes in the spectrum or the technology used in amateur, and technologies developed first within the amateur community stopped being relevant in the broader market for RF technology about 50 years ago.

            Really, the problem I have is with the ARRL, because if they weren’t so obstructionist, the spectrum could be used better, new technologies would be developed, etc, and amateur radio might, once again, become more than a plaything.

          • jpnorair says:

            Moreover, I think you actually admitted that Ham is a toy.

            I appreciate that Ham is a hobby to many. That’s fine. But it is a hobby that costs everyone else because it uses spectrum and power in horribly inefficient manners. That could be changed.

      • Jcoman says:

        I suspect you are one of the only people in the world that doesn’t live in an area that is plagued by wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters that cripple communications for days or weeks on end.

        Perhaps you need to look at the things hams have do to assist in emergency situations before you make a bold statement that it’s a toy. If you need a list of disasters to look at to see what hams do with their hobby and toy, just look at Hurricane Sandy, Katrina and the others. Look at the Loma Prieta earthquake. The Yarnell Fire, the Schultz Fire, the Rodeo-Chediski Fire. Look at the Tsunami in Japan and Typhoon Hiyan in the Philippines. The list goes on and on. Every time there is a disaster there is a ham right there providing communications. So I offer a challenge to you: tell me how people would have communicated in the disasters I mentioned above if it had not been for hams and their “toys”.

      • kg7bgz says:

        I suspect you are one of the only people in the world that doesn’t live in an area that is plagued by wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters that cripple communications for days or weeks on end.

        Perhaps you need to look at the things hams have do to assist in emergency situations before you make a bold statement that it’s a toy. If you need a list of disasters to look at to see what hams do with their hobby and toy, just look at Hurricane Sandy, Katrina and the others. Look at the Loma Prieta earthquake. The Yarnell Fire, the Schultz Fire, the Rodeo-Chediski Fire. Look at the Tsunami in Japan and Typhoon Hiyan in the Philippines. The list goes on and on. Every time there is a disaster there is a ham right there providing communications. So I offer a challenge to you: tell me how people would have communicated in the disasters I mentioned above if it had not been for hams and their “toys”. Out here in the West, hams are considered a crucial element in emergency response.

        Also, you said: “and technologies developed first within the amateur community stopped being relevant in the broader market for RF technology about 50 years ago.”

        Let’s list some of innovations in the last 50-years (since you said it’s been more than 50-years since anything relevant has come from hams) : LoJack, RFID, cellular telephones (I actually personally asked Dr. Martin Cooper about this less than four months ago and still have the Tweets from him), pagers, APRS and several data transfer protocols used for communications (AX.25, Pactor, Olivia, MFSK, PSK31). The list is longer, but these are pretty relevant inventions that caused massive change in society.

      • RD says:

        “Yeah… you pretty much nailed it. The fact is, in the modern world, HAM is rarely more than a toy”

        Tell that to the several cyclists that needed medical attention in the race this past weekend, or the several other riders that needed mechanical or other assistance where there was no cellular coverage. All the SAG vehicles were staffed with ham operators. Even the stand-by paramedic teams were ham operators and were able to quickly and effectively run communications over a “cellular challenged” 150 sq mile course. This use of ham plays out every weekend this time of year, as it does a all kinds of events and festivals. A group of hams can arrive at an event, coordinate frequencies, put up temporary repeaters and be running within hours, down to a few minutes, depending on the requirements.

    • AsmoB says:

      > Why not just SMS the friends directly as a group?

      SMS and radio serve two different needs: A SMS is a message that you want to get to a particular person (or people) — whether they’re staring at their phone at that point in time or not. Radio is much more like IRC — it goes to whomever happens to be listening at that point in time. This includes people that the sender didn’t know were paying attention at that time.

  4. hans says:

    In some countries you need to be physically present at your transmitter in order to be allowed to transmit. This would count as an unmanned station and you can only run that with a special permit (like they use for repeaters).

    Just make sure to check your local laws if you want to build this.

  5. In addition to complying with local laws, be sure to check with you regional frequency coordinator (as I’ve discovered and will update accordingly on af7hg.com) to make sure you’re not using any linking frequencies or repeater frequencies.

  6. Corrosive says:

    I’m a ham.. and as such have a radio in every car I own.
    This is interesting but I wouldn’t put it on any frequency unattended… because you cannot monitor it.

    Since you can’t monitor it… you don’t know if your transmitting over top of someone else.

    • Mike Lu says:

      It wouldn’t be particularly difficult for it to monitor for an incoming signal in order to do CSMA/CA. I would also put in a watchdog timer so it can’t stay stuck on (due to a software lockup) and launch an unintended DoS attack.

    • chiefcrash says:

      An easy idea would be to use the “busy channel lockout” feature of most of these radios, which prevents the radio from transmitting while receiving another station.

      Only downside is detecting/notifying you of when this happens (so you know your message wasn’t transmitted or some sort of auto-retry) would be difficult. If you needed that, you’d be better off using a photoresistor hooked up to the RPi to detect a received signal and wait for the channel to be open for 60 seconds or something.

  7. William McGree says:

    ….and HAll Monitors posting restrictions/warnings in 3… 2 … oh too late.

  8. @RD The interface simply uses VOX to trigger. Although the easy-digi (http://www.ebay.com/bhp/easy-digi) has been a great tool as well. @Corrosive Since inception I’ve made it practice to listen before transmit with another HT in the car. I agree that transmitting over other HAMs isn’t good practice. As such, as well, the next version of oinker will have an automatic listen before transmit feature.

  9. 0c says:

    HAM is not an acronym. No need to type it in all caps.

  10. WanderingMetalHead says:

    Do you screen the message source number to make sure it is from you before you synthesize and broadcast it? I get semi-random text messages from unknown senders often enough that I would hate to have transmitted with my call sign attached.

  11. henry says:

    Why not APRS?

    • fartface says:

      Because APRS is for GPS coordinate reporting and status reporting. Kind of wierd to send email via GPS coordinates like that.

      I’d just use Packet Radio, the underlying technology that makes APRS even exist and is designed for clear text transmission and relaying. Or better yet, use one of the many packet radio mail forewarding systems.

      • Andrew says:

        I love it when people that know nothing at all about APRS tell others what it should and shouldn’t be used for.

        • Jerry says:

          Who told others what APRS should and shouldn’t be used for? Henry asked a question. It was answered.

          • asheets says:

            But it was answered wrongly (sorry, F.F.). Here — http://www.aprs.org/aprs-messaging.html — lists a variety of APRS email, SMS, and texting schemes that could be implemented.

            (Truth be known, although GPS and status reporting, while the most common use of APRS, are hardly the only use of APRS. In fact, the creator of the protocol/system (Bob, WB4APR) says as much on a regular basis. Quote: “APRS is not a vehicle tracking system. It is a two-way tactical real-time digital communications system between all assets in a network sharing information about everything going on in the local area”.).

      • 2ftg says:

        Doesn’t APRS support short text messages as is? And thanks to the digipeaters it will provide coverage for a larger area too!

        “The Status packet is free-field format that lets each station announce his current mission or application or contact information or any other information or data of immediate use to surrounding activities. The message packet can be used for point-to-point messages, bulletins, announcements or even email.”
        from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Packet_Reporting_System

        Some handhelds support this out of the box, so no raspi or external computer needed!
        Here’s one video demonstrating that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axcX7zWJjgU

      • static says:

        APRS was conceived as a packet forwarding system that use UI frames in unconnected transmissions.

    • SirPoonga says:

      Yes, it’s been done with APRS. Just Google “aprs to twitter”. However, I do something my way because it is fun, even though I know there is another way someone already figured out.

  12. fartface says:

    Broadcast only? this is in violation of the FFC rules regarding Ham radio. you cant Broadcast like that.

    • Andrew says:

      Indeed! You must use 50 ohm coaxial cable. FFC simply won’t do!

    • 2ftg says:

      Well if one gets a separate callsign for the automatic station or uses it with direct supervision it is all ok. Just look at the typical APRS trackers which are transmit only.
      Some also supply weather information via APRS.

      • I cannot believe the ignorance of ham radio being spewed here. I applaud this hack, and the inventive spirit behind it. This is the future of ham radio: experimenting with new ways of communication.

        “Get a separate callsign?” You’ve got to be kidding. In the United States and Canada, at least, any ham can operate an automatic station, subject to very few restrictions. APRS especially lends itself to automatic operation. I put up my own digipeater–as many hams have– and have not had the Friendly Candy Company come after me. Because it’s legal, good grief!

        APRS is the “Automatic Packet Reporting System.” It’s not just for sending GPS positions.

        And to the guy that said amateur radio spectrum should be re-allocated to cell phones or something: as the Texans said at the Battle of Gonzales, “Come and take it.” If you can.

        • 2ftg says:

          Around here (the OH land of north) one needs a separate callsign for automatic stations like repeaters and beacons. It is different in CONUS, but elsewhere automatic stations need a separate callsign if not directly supervised by the license holder.
          Even APRS vehicle tracking is a gray area because people leave the tracker on when not driving.
          Speaking of hambands being taken for cellular, it is happening here, all of 13cm under 2400MHz is gone in sweden and is going to be gone here in 2016 for cellular, 9cm (3400MHz) is going to be gone in 2016 due to wimax being deployed there (yeah right) and 23cm is going to be eliminated completely in 2016 to “protect” Galileo satnav.
          In the UK they are going to loose most of 13cm and 9cm, with some ham slices preserved. I don’t know the situation with 23cm there.
          In the states Mimosa networks is petitioning the FCC to release the 10GHz hamband for rural broadband usage at rather high power levels.
          They will come for the rest of your bands eventually. Only HF and VHF seem safe.

        • static says:

          I as well have had both APRS digies, and packet radio network nodes on the air, automatic control of those is narrowly defined, as is automatic control of telephony stations. However ‘ll let others decide how they operate their stations until they affect the operation of mine.

        • neobyte says:

          As a Texan ham, I agree with the last part very strongly.

  13. Great for use as emergency broadcast system but limited for other uses unless mobile networks are down. I can see several applications for emergency use and will look at it from that viewpoint…

  14. RD says:

    @troy Thanks for the reply! I like the hack. Many of the modern mobiles let you monitor 2 frequencies at the same time. If you had a local repeater that was not very busy, and the owner didn’t mind the extra traffic. The only gotcha is the using a phone while driving thing – a major no-no in most places these days. But it does not have to only be used over the air. I could also send a message that could be read in the house over speakers, or used as a remote announcer somewhere else.

  15. Hirudinea says:

    I assume that you could use the Raspi to transmit in other modes, CW, Baudot, etc.

  16. static says:

    We amateur radio operators in the US are free to operate our stations in accordance I we interpret the regulations and suffer the consequences if the FCC doesn’t agree. This wouldn’t be a project I’d duplicate. I see potential violations that I wouldn’t want to hassle with.

  17. Geekmaster says:

    The FFC may consider forwarding od SPAM emails as a violation (commercial use).

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  19. Eric/AB3OO says:

    I found this post while looking for something in reverse. I want to receive CW or maybe other digital modes through the rig and use the RasPI to tweet it out from a preconfigured twitter account.

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