I became involved with the Internet Radio Linking Project in the last millennium when we repurposed tired, old PC’s into Linux machines to which was added the custom IRLP hardware board along with a VHF or UHF transceiver to create a working system. The result was a network of such radio “nodes” capable of spanning the planet thanks to the internet. This worked extremely well with the added advantage that no special radio hardware was required, just good old-fashioned analog FM.

Some years later the digital systems (D-STAR, Fusion, DMR, etc.) appeared and despite the need that created for all new repeaters and all new (expensive) transceivers, requiring the replacement of already in use analog systems even though the audio was downright horrible. Hams who say otherwise are claiming the naked emperor’s clothing is divine. It also proves my contention that a LOT of radio hams would talk into the steaming end of a hot turd so long as they were told it was a new digital mode of communication…

I continued to maintain my neighborhood IRLP node for many years and through various hardware upgrades and iterations until about five years ago when I pulled the plug and took the system offline and got rid of the hardware.

For good, or so I assumed.

Over the last few weeks I became interested in finding out what was new in the IRLP world and of course the new trend is based on the Raspberry Pi. It makes sense given the size, cost, and required computing features. After a little asking around, I was informed that one of the popular new pre-packaged systems (there are a few) was the Normad Companion IRLP Node. It’s a small package with everything needed built into it for use from home or the road. Operation away from the home network using a smart phone or other hotspot is supported via an IRLP VPN server.

Long story short, I ordered one a few weeks ago and it arrived yesterday. In fact, two of them showed up (even longer story) and my old IRLP node number 4212 has been resurrected and is back on the air. I’d like to provide detailed instructions, but those would be brief: open box, plug it into power and a network connection.

That’s it. Worked out of the box.

I spent an hour or so hopping around several of the reflectors that I remembered and noticed almost immediately that like most all ham radio resources, IRLP is also underutilized. But there remain pockets of interesting activity that still make it worth having in my shack. I look forward to renewing old acquaintances and hanging out on a few of the specialized nets. If you have access give me a call, 4212 directly or via the East Coast Reflector (9050) most weekday mornings during The Morning Brew time.