Saturday, December 26, 2015

Raspberry Pi for "PocketFM" in Syria

Neat project that used the Raspberry Pi for a tiny FM transmitter for getting the word out in Syria.  This is a project that has been sanctioned by the German government, so it is not just an unlicensed "freebander".

Check out the website at

Radio Rebels: Berlin Group Makes Tiny Transmitters for Syria

Associated Press via
December 22, 2015

BERLIN - On the top floor of an old brick building in the heart
of Berlin, a group of journalists and tech enthusiasts are
working to spur the Syrian media revolution.

Their weapon is an unassuming black case the size of a shoebox
that allows opposition radio stations in Syria to transmit inside
hostile territory.

Dubbed PocketFM, the device is basically a low-powered radio
transmitter. Coupled with a satellite dish to receive new
programs, a car battery for power and a one-meter (three-foot)
antenna, it can broadcast FM radio within a 5-kilometer (3-mile)

That's enough to cover a town or a city district, said Philipp
Hochleichter, who oversees development of the device for the
Berlin-based nonprofit organization Media in Cooperation and

The group has been training journalists in conflict zones for
more than a decade and often relies on FM radio to reach
populations in far-flung areas that don't have access to the
Internet or smartphones. But when the group realized that
shifting front lines and the brutal treatment of journalists
meant operating large broadcast antennae could become too
cumbersome or risky, it developed PocketFM.

It's now being used to covertly broadcast in nine locations,
including two that are controlled by the Islamic State group,
said Hochleichter. Connected to a solar panel, a PocketFM
transmitter can theoretically work autonomously for long periods
of time.

The project, which also includes compiling a daily best-of from
nine cooperating radio stations that is beamed down by satellite,
is financed by the German Foreign Ministry. It cooperates only
with moderate opposition groups who have to abide by a code of

Not catering to propagandists

"Of course it's necessary for us to make sure they don't fall
into propaganda scheme, which is very tough in Syria at the
moment," said Najat Abdulhaq, a Palestinian journalist who
manages the project.

Listeners might be surprised to find that aside from urgently
needed information - which borders are open, what are the prices
in the market, how are refugees abroad faring - there's a fair
amount of light entertainment.

"People have a day-to-day life despite conflict," said Abdulhaq.
"Despite the sadness and the war, people like to listen to music
and even comedy."

Hochleichter said Monday the group is currently working on its
third version of PocketFM, which it hopes to complete by the
middle of next year. As with previous versions, the technology is
decidedly low key, with a $40 Raspberry Pi computer at the heart
of the device.

"We're not a hardware company that's got $100,000 to develop new
technology," Hochleichter said.

The next version will be slightly more powerful and boast a new
security feature that allows users to remotely switch off the
device by text message to prevent it from being traced.

With the war in Syria running for almost five years, the third
version is almost certain to see use.

"I wish, but I would be very naive if I would believe, that the
conflict would be over next year," said Abdulhaq.

How to set up APRS using a Soundcard

Due to the generosity Roger Simpson K5RKS of putting my emails to him into a nicely formatted Word document, here are step-by-step instructions on how to set up an APRS station using the UZ7HO Soundcard software.  These instructions are for setting up a 300 baud BPSK modem for HF.  If you'd like to operate on 1200 baud AX.25 for VHF to be compatible with the existing packet radio network, just select that modem under step 7).

Automatic Packet Reporting System Cribsheet
Instructions for Installation on Computers with Windows

STEP I Installing and Configuring UZ7HO Modem Program
Note: These instructions were written by Jeff: AE5ME

Here is the step-by-step procedure to get UZ7HO running:
1) Download the zip file from the link:
2) Unzip the file to the directory of your choice.  There is only ONE executable file that will come from the zip file.  No DLLs or setup.exe to worry about.
3) Make a shortcut to the soundmodem.exe file.  You can put it on your desktop for your convenience.
4) Configuration is easy after soundmodem.exe is run.  Go ahead and click on your shortcut or run the executable directly.

5) Click the settings dropdown.  Then click on devices.

Set the input device to the microphone (or audio line in) connection of your soundcard interface.  Without being at your computer, I can't tell you what the name of that is.  If you don't know the name of it, I suggest we set up a remote login session so I can connect to your computer and see your particular configuration.
Set the output device to the speaker connection of your soundcard interface.
Under server setup, make sure to check BOTH AGWPE server port and KISS server port.  Default ports numbers should be set and not require any modification.

Default ports numbers should be set and not require any modification.
7) Click on OK and then click on settings dropdown again.  This time click on modems.
On the modems screen, click on the mode dropdown on the left side of the screen.  Set it to "BPSK AX.25 300 baud".

Click on "OK" and the sound modem software is configured and ready

STEP II Installing and Configuring APRSIS32 Client
Note: These instructions were written by Jeff: AE5ME

Instructions for installing APRSIS32:

2)   Similar to the UZ7HO program, you will unzip to the folder of your choice.  The only item will be the APRSIS32.EXE.  No DLL's, setup files, etc.

3)   Make a shortcut to the APRSIS32.EXE location.

4)   Run soundmodem.exe first (the first program you installed).  Run APRSIS32.EXE next.

5)   A setup wizard will pop up the first time you run it.  Enter your callsign with a SSID of your choice.  For example, I am AE5ME-5.  You can leave off the SSID if you just want to use your callsign.  Click on "accept".

 6)  Once the program starts up, then click on "CONFIGURE".  Then click on "PORTS".  Click on "NEW PORT".  Set type as AGW.  Name as UZ7HO.  Click on the create button.

7)  Hit the port type button as "TCPIP".

8)  Enter an address of and port of 8000.  Click on OK.

9) On the last pop-up, check the check boxes like I've done (see screen capture below).  Rather than using AE5ME as the call you would, of course, use your own call possibly followed by a dash and a number: such as K5RKS   or  K5RKS-4. Then click on Accept.

10) Locate your station (as the map says) by moving and zooming to where you are on the map. Zooming in or out is performed by using the vertical scroll bar on the left side of the map.

11) Click on the "Transmit" button when you have finished locating.  You should see some text show up on the soundmodem.exe screen.  If your soundcard interface is connected to a radio, it should transmit.

Once you've done all the above, you are ready to begin some on-the-air testing with your rig. You have to setup the audio input and audio output cables between your rig and soundcard. Also you need to setup your PTT control. These will be the subject of a subsequent addition to this cribsheet.