Catching up on things has been an impossible task since the pandemic lockdown made every global (ham radio) event virtual. There’s a lifetime of conference tracks just waiting to be visited and another lifetime of YouTube content being created yet this week. Not that I’m complaining. I would never have been able to visit things like the European GNU Radio Days 2021 (I finally completed this last night!) or any of a hundred such conferences conducted around the world unless they are virtual.
But the unique situation does keep me hopelessly unable to ever really “catch up” with all the conferences, events, and reading.
My blog reading has been seriously lacking and it was only this week that I finally caught up with the SuperPacket blog of N8GNJ. One of the many interesting posts from Steve’s stream of consciousness from a few months ago was a recap of something he had previously written about called RadioMirror:
The genesis of this idea was a discussion I overheard during a local radio club’s (virtual - Zoom) meeting. The club wanted to implement a way to keep all members of their Emergency Communications (EMCOM) group up-to-date with a set of files - maps, lists of personnel, frequencies, etc. continuously updated so that when a communications emergency occurred and Internet connectivity was lost, all of the information they needed to respond would be up-to-date.
Out of the deep recesses of my packet radio experience, I thought of a better way to accomplish this that didn’t require Internet at all - RadioMirror. RadioMirror is a concept originated by John Hansen W2FS that’s been around since the early days of packet radio.
It’s a concept of broadcasting information via packet radio in a way to keep data on disparate systems synchronized. It’s not unlike the PacSat protocol where a small satellite carries a “hard drive” where files can be uploaded. The satellite broadcasts what files and messages are available in its directory and ground stations queue up to request which of those files and messages it wanted to receive.
It was efficient even at low baud rates because hundreds of stations on earth would receive the broadcasted information at the same time. The end effect was that the “hard drive” in space was being cloned by all the “hard drives” on the ground in a unique sharing arrangement. This facilitated file transfers, bulletin-board style messages, image downloads, news and information, etc.
In much the same way RadioMirror is a similar concept intended for terrestrial deployment. The “broadcast” and subsequent reception would enable packet users to always be updated with the latest information - whatever that might be - without user interaction.
A local implementation might include notes from the latest club meeting, announcements of upcoming activities, hobby-related or other news and information, up to date codeplugs, weather bulletins, forecasts, maps, etc. The point being that the information comes to the user instead of the user having to go find the information. And since everyone in a given area receives the same files at the same time, everyone’s system is “cloned” in a hive-like experience.
Steve posits that this kind of network could be rolled out using inexpensive hardware, like the Raspberry Pi that didn’t exist somewhere back in our long ago. He also suggested a scenario where local repeaters might be used to transmit that data daily during little-used time slots, like at 3am.
But instead of me getting some of this wrong, you should beat a path over to the SuperPacket blog and read about it for yourself. His post includes various pointers and references to the concept that are worth a look if you’re interested.
I’m interested. Very interested. Nothing about this concept is outside current amateur radio capabilities. It doesn’t require some pie-in-the-sky new geo satellite or yet to be imagined software. It could be implemented right now in 2021 if the idea caught some fire…