Friday, 14 June 2019

Sending Position Reports via WinLink Express using Smartphone Internal GPS

G'Day Guys,

The WinLink Express client application used to allow operators to send emails via RF has as one of its features the application to send "Position Reports".  The position reports can contain lat/lon, comment and if desired include "weather details".  These reports are then if successfully received sent a "Position Report Acknowledgment" email to let the operator know the report has been received successfully and is now visible on the tracking map portal:

Via this portal you can see all the latest positions reports of all users for the last 10days. There are even link to allow you to view specific callsigns only (see bottom of the portal page).

The lat/lon for the position report can be entered manually, or it can be obtained from a NEMA compliant GPS connected to local COM port.  This is all fine and dandy if you have  one.... but we all do... kinda... we have a internal GPS on our all smartphones.  So th question is how do we get that integrated to WinLink.   A quick scan of the Android Playstore and I initially located the following:

  • GPS Tether
  • ShareGPS
These programs provided a feature to support setting up a local TCP/IP Server on the phone which streamed the NMEA sequences from the phones internal GPS to any client connected.  I used VSPE (Virtual Serial Port tool)  to map a TcpClient to Virtual Serial Port.  The first hurdle I encountered was that it seems that the TCP service each app provided seemed to required a CRLF command sent from the PC before the application would send any data.  Then it appears that after a period of time the TCP socket for each application would close for no reason.

Taking a step back and rethinking this through, I located the follow applications which instead of providing a server to connect to,  it would act as a client and connect to your PC running a server and send NMEA sequences from the phones internal GPS.

Fortunately VSPE provided TcpServer and maps to a VSPE virutal comm port.  This allowed me to quickly configure NMEA Relay and ShareGPS to both connect as  clients sending NMEA sentences.  VPSE then mapped them over to the virutal comm port configured at 4800 which then be used by RMS Express.

Once the Lat/Lon is available on the GPS/Position Report, click the "Copy GPS Data" button.  Complete your report with a basic meaning comment or include weather data and send. A email / messages will be created and put int the Outbox ready for you to send via one of the WinLink sessions.

NMEA Via Bluetooth

ShareGPS offers another brilliant feature, that allows you to share the NMEA data via bluetooth.  This allows the phone to be connected to your PC via bluetooth and once connection established a COM port will appear on the PC which can be used by WinLink RMS Express.  Give it a go, but it will required your PC to have bluetooth capability (i.e internal or via external BT dongle).


Before I sign of, one other little gem of a tool I found while mucking around with all this was VishalGPSView.  Its free and will graphically show your GPS data and NMEA logs.

Hopefully wonderful WinLink devs will update the GPS/Position reports to provide a server which  accept NMEA data from Phone running an app like NMEA Relay / ShareGPS acting as a client.

That's all Folks,
de VK4TMZ (Mark)

Setting up WinLink HF / VHF Wingates


I wont go too much into about what WinLink is as there is plenty of information on their site ( But in a nut shell - "Email over RF".

After my experience running a ALE Pilot Station and not having no much interest from local Australian operation using such mode. I decided to try my hand at setting up running HF/VHF WinLink Wingates.

Before I did this and I started of by installing the WinLink Express (client) software.  This allowed me to easily configure my Yaesu FT-991A fairly quickly.  Then via sessions I was able to try out and successfully contact and send / receive emails via HF to several other Australian operator providing Wingates supporting Winmor, ARDOP and VARA modes.

With that done and me up to speed with the client software, I turned to reading up on running HF and VHF Wingate.

WinLink VHF Packet WinGate

Starting of with the WinLink VHF Packet Wingate, I firstly decided to set up my BTECH UV-50x3 VHF/UHF rig along with my Mobilinkd Bluetooth TNC.  I was able to install the WinLink Packet application and very quickly configure it to use "KISS TNC".

HF Winlink Wingate (Winmor, ARDOP and VARA modems)

With success of easily running and operating the WinLink Express client software with the FT991A I was expecting the WinLink RMS Trimode application to be just as easy.

NOPE!!!!  First hurdle was the FT991 was not among the set of support HF rigs under server side application.  Fortunately I was able to quickly develop a little powershell script which acted as a "translator" between one of the rigs available under RMS Trimode.   I opted for Kenwood TS590 to control the Frequency and PTT control via CAT commands. Using VSPE to have 2 virtual comm ports I was able to intercept the Kenwoods CAT commands and translate and even inject extra control commands to the FT991.  My script is available on GitHub:
but please note its not refined by any stretch of the imaghination, but if you know your rigs CAT commands and have a bit of understanding of powershell you'll be able to alter it to suit your own needs.  This sorts me out until hopefully the fine developers of WinLink RMS tools support FT991A.

Once I got over that little hurdle, the next challenge was finding clear frequencies that would have minimal impact on other operation as the station runs 24x7 fully automated.  The modems (Winmor, ARDOP and VARA) have "channel busy" detection of sort.  But it must be kept in mind that its up to  operator wishing to connect to my wingates to perform due diligence and ensure to the best to their awareness the frequency is not in use.  Wingates DO NOT auto beacon so until they are polled they will operate silently.

Once I had my frequencies selected which I opted to support / scan through 80-40-30-20-17-20m bands.  

PLEASE NOTE: It takes ~45 secs for RMS Trimode logic to scan through and spend ~7sec dwell time on each band. So please ensure if trying to connect to any of my wingates you give it a couple of goes incase when you tried I just missed you polling attempts.

So witth the HF and VHF set up I'm hoping this service will provide valuable to Ham both Land and Maritime Mobile on your travels.

Please drop me a email via VK4TMZ[AT] and say gday.

Why no Pactor Modem / Support

Pactor modems are very expensive and are not opensource.  Many other stations around Australia seem to support Pactor, but at this time I've no intention to purchase one of these modems.

That's all for now folks
de VK4TMZ (Mark)

PC-ALE and MARS-ALE Running as a Pilot Station


I ran PC-ALE for a period of months, and then requested access to become a Pilot Station using the MARS -ALE. I was granted access and set up successfully to allow Email to be sent via AMD commands.

Unfortunately at this time the only other Australian stations running ALE were primarily Peter VK2EHQ and more recently Peter VK4EA setup himself and our club station VK4RC.  The participation in Australia via amateur bands is virtually non-existent which is a real shame. 

I've enjoyed my time and the experience of running the Pilot Station but have ceased operation for now. I have both PCALE and MARS-ALE backed up for any EMCOMM situation and can be running in very short notice.  Perter VK4EA is looking to reestablish the original Brisbane ALE Pilot Station VK4SAA and I wish him all the best and hope it will continue to support those that want to have experience using ALE.

de VK4TMZ (Mark)