Just wanted to pass along this information about the Digital Training Net now on Saturday mornings on Zoom. 

I would highly recommend everyone continue to practice with using Winlink with VARA FM and VARA HF as much as possible.  Also, VAR AC, a chat application, is another tool that we should try to learn as well.

Please read the details from Barry Feierman below:

As many of you know, the Philadelphia based “Five County Digital Training Net” (FCDTN) has evolved from a local 2m FM net to a regional HF net and mostly now we meet on Zoom every (available) Saturday morning around 9 am to 10 am using the Zoom link:


We are currently looking at how to get the mode VARA to work both on HF SSB (mostly 80m and 20m) and also how to get the mode VARA FM to work on two local (Philly) 2m FM analog repeaters (with the owner’s blessing). These modems can be downloaded at EA5HVK webpage (there is a fee for the licensed versions). Almost any sound card can be used for HF and 500 Hz bandwidth option. VARA FM has two speed options: narrow and wide for 2m/70cm where you have more bandwidth.

Topic for the next month or two

I would like to propose that we continue to look at mastering VARA using two clients: Winlink (P2P and Gateway modes) and VAR AC.   Both are free.
Winlink is gaining popularity for EMCOMM sending of emails, and any two stations can exchange a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) email with no internet. Of course, connections to a Gateway allow access to forwarding emails via the internet.
VAR AC is gaining popularity in a number of areas, including chat mode (broadcast).
The author, Irad Deutsch, has been very busy updating this each month.

RF choices

We can use an 80m SSB frequency around 3583 kHz around 9 am for the folks within a few hundred miles of Philly, and use a 20m frequency for folks >300 miles from Philly. The regional 80m NBEMS nets (NH and NY) usually end by 8:45 am Saturday.
Last Saturday morning at 9 am we concentrated on 80m for most of us (MidAtlantic region) and one of the group was from Missouri so a few of us switched to 14.100 MHz to reach him with VARA Broadcast mode, and I finally got a LINK to him for about ten minutes with very satisfactory S/N using 50W and a vertical antenna on 14.100 
VARA will listen before transmitting to avoid QRM.

VHF options for the Philly Region

For those of you who only have VHF FM gear, we have two repeaters we can use to “play” digital mode, but ONLY from 9 am to 10 am on Saturday morning. Please please do not use either of these machines for digital mode practice other than the one hour (9 to 10 am) we have approved. The two 2m FM repeaters are the Bucktown 147.270 and the MidAtlantic ARC Newtown Square 147.060 These repeaters are also used by county EMCOMM and have priority for club events, drills, and of course, emergencies.

Need for Net Control Ops

Some of us have other meetings or family events that happen on Saturdays, so on those days we will need additional  “net control” ops (on Zoom or HF or VHF). My Zoom link is active and I need not be the local Zoom host every Saturday at 9 am.

New Topics to Explore

So what about after our VARA training for one or two months - what is next?
What I would like to propose after the VARA training is to go through each of the chapters in Steve Ford’s new ARRL book: Getting on the Air with HF Digital
It was published this summer and is available from ARRL and Amazon - about $25 I think.
Steve has brought together a ton of useful information into one small paperback.

I propose that each Saturday net (zoom) we take on one chapter at a time. That means as many of us as possible purchase the book. I’m not sure if there is an on-line version.
I’m sure I can get Steve Ford, the author, to join us for at least one Saturday morning session, as Steve is recently “fully retired” from ARRL.  This is the updated 3rd edition of this popular ARRL paperback. Don’t purchase the somewhat outdated earlier versions.

That should be about a 6 month outline of where I propose this new Saturday morning net should be heading. I’m looking for Guest Speakers who can add more technical information to each chapter - especially on the topic of Rig Control (CAT, CI-V, etc.)
Sound cards are evolving and getting better and cheaper - how about a review of them? The last ARRL QST review was many years ago. Some of you have picked up the new Masters Communications DRA sound cards - how are they working out?

Please let me know if you have suggestions?
I am just calling this the “Digital Training Net” now and leaving off the “five county” business related to the Phila region, since we are reaching a larger audience.

Most of the questions sent my way almost always involve the specifics to get a rig to PTT or do CAT successfully.  With many of us aboard, I’m sure we can help each other with the config setups.  VARA (HF) has a new MONITOR capability that is so cool for watching the traffic on a frequency.

Please pass along this information to clubs in your area.
With Zoom, we can meet (no QRM) and help each other, then test our rigs on the different digital modes on HF (80m and 20m) and VHF (simplex and via approved repeaters).

I am looking forward to this time to learn more about digital modes, sound cards, best antennas, and especially what EMCOMM opportunities are available.

73 and have a great week,

Barry Feierman k3eui
West Chester PA