PACTOR NEWS

by,
Phil Sussman - N8PS
( Formerly, KB8LUJ )

" An online source dedicated to HF communications and PACTOR "



LATEST NEWS

Rev: 29-MAR-2014
THE WAITING GAME

The deadline for filing Comments and Reply Comments regarding FCC: RM-11708 has expired. Nevertheless additional comments continue to be entered and posted. Whether or not these comments will be accepted is secondary. We have now entered a waiting game where both 'sides' are posturing in anticipation of FCC action.

The ARRL, anticipating an adverse reaction (no matter the outcome), has embarked on 'face saving' measures such as:

  • 1. Asking for comments from the membership.
  • 2. Posting FAQ's about RM-11708 which are more policy statements that skirt the real issues.
  • 3. Trying to create a revised bandplan in anticipation of significant interference to other users.
  • 4. Holding Director meetings to 'discuss' how to deal with RM-11708.
  • 5. Trying to curtail the dwindling ARRL membership and deal with possibly hundreds of promised resignations.
So, now we wait on the FCC to take action. Presently there is no indication how soon any action will be taken. But sooner or later the FCC will act. When they do, rest assured that one group or another will be dis-satisfied.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

73 de Phil - N8PS


Rev: 02-FEB-2014
DECISION 2014 ?

It has been a while since this web site was updated. Perhaps that is due to the fact that PACTOR has been 'treading water' for the past year. Over that time several interests, primarily the executive staff of the ARRL, have promoted a petition for rule making which has become widely known in digital circles as RM-11708.

What is the mission of RM-11708? It has become a hotly debated question, which has encompassed two opposing points of view:

  • RM-11708 IS A GREAT PROPOSAL: It's time to promote PACTOR 4 as the digital ham wave of the future. It's needed by those who desire high speed communications, boaters, those participating in MARS, and by auto mailbox (Store and Forward) users.

  • RM-11708 IS A TERRIBLE PROPOSAL: The expanded use of PACTOR 4 would only overrun the ham bands disrupting narrowband digital users with massive interference. The current plethera of automatic store and forward mailboxes would overwhelm others. In addition, the inability to identify a disruptive user or copy the 'encypted' PACTOR 4 transmissions is limited to those willing to buy a high priced PACTOR 4 modem.

    The FCC assigned a posting as RM-11708 and requested comments about this proposal. About 900 comments and reply comments were received. Some were terse (we need it, we love it, it proposes no ill) and others went on for page after page of technicalities. The two camps were well represented. Some comments were technical and well thought out while others were strictly emotional.

    Some commenters claimed that many of the comments came from by non-hams, solicited by commercial interests, wanting to use Pactor 4 as a lower cost email alternative. Others said that objections to RM-11708 were based on not understanding its true beneficial purpose.

    In the meanwhile, PACTOR NEWS has received several emails asking that we promote one of these particular views. I have already offered comments that advised acceptance of RM-11708 should be limited by the following:

  • All store and forward automatic mailboxes should be required to employ mandatory monitoring
  • All store and forward automatic mailbox users should be restricted to certain frequencies.

    Several of the comments concerning RM-11708 made specific reference to the SCS web site's technical description of PACTOR 4, indicating that it was specifically designed to "overcome narrowband transmissions" by swamping them with bandwidth. There have been some emails received by PACTOR NEWS addressing this issue. "Isn't it interesting," said one particularly long and technical email, "that in the wake of RM-11708, it's probably no coincidence that SCS has chosen to take down their web sites for weeks of 'extended maintenance'," it said.

    Now it is up to the FCC and their staff to wade through the diversity of comments and determine whether RM-11708 should be adopted or rejected. There has been no particular time frame established for making this decision.

    Regardless of the FCC decision, the battle lines have been drawn. Both sides are marshalling their forces to continue the struggle.

    So as 2014 rolls on, the PACTOR community awaits the next step from the FCC. More will be posted later as developments unfold.

    Have a HAPPY and HEALTHY 2014.

    73 de Phil - N8PS



    Rev: 04-JAN-2013
    WHAT CAN WE DO IN 2013 TO PROMOTE PACTOR ?

    With respect to the Ham Bands there is no doubt that the role of PACTOR has changed over the years. It has been stated before, but perhaps it's time to outline a plan of action. So here is an outline to expand the use of PACTOR.

    TOPIC ONE: PACTOR has changed from an HF digital mode of choice to a means of specific high speed communications. The use of PACTOR by boaters, by those participating in MARS, and by auto mailbox (Store and Forward) users has grown while the number of 'others' is not growing as rapidly.
    ANSWER: The expanded use of PACTOR should be the goal of most PACTOR users. That means if those in the 'other' catagory are to grow, then PACTOR should be used more often, much more often, by this group. Perhaps even a PACTOR contest can be started to help increase PACTOR awareness.

    TOPIC TWO: In the past PACTOR modems were multipurpose. They did CW, RTTY, AMTOR, PSK-31, WEFAX, etc. Today PACTOR modems are pretty much limited to PACTOR mode only.
    ANSWER: SCS, the maker of PACTOR, has promised to address this issue in the future; however, results are needed. There should be an ongoing communications issue to remind SCS that PACTOR continues to be used by a number of non-commercial users. Perhaps we can request a date to expect an update which should be sooner rather than later.

    TOPIC THREE: The cost of a PACTOR modem has gone up so much that it is beyond the means of the average Ham Operator.
    ANSWER: As previously reported, SCS has said that the number of general Ham Radio users has declined to the point they are a minority of SCS business. As a result, there is little incentive to create a bare bones PACTOR modem. When the only 'cheap' PACTOR-4 modem is high priced box and the 'regular' PACTOR-4 modem is even far more expensive, here's what to do:

  • SCS should be 'challenged' to create a basic PACTOR-4 modem (without all the bells and whistles -- perhaps even without a big flashy display)
  • This unit should include other modes, at the least RTTY and PSK-31. (perhaps others, too)
  • The price point of this unit should be less than $1000 US.

    Now, of course, a new lower priced PACTOR modem may be wishful thinking, but for SCS to even consider creating such a device we should let SCS know there is a market for making it. We should remind SCS that Ham Operators were the initial prime supporters of PACTOR -- the main beta-testers of their products -- and the promoters of future sales. Now is the time for SCS to return the favor and support their original base of users.

    Frankly, SCS has not been paying attention recently to Ham users. With little to sell and few to buy, is it any wonder? Now is the time to change that equation. If there was a new modem available from SCS with more modes and at a lower price would you purchase it? I certainly would. Yes, now is the time to let SCS know that !!

    Have a HAPPY 2013.

    73 de Phil - N8PS


    Rev: 30-DEC-2012
    PACTOR IN 2013

    A recent topic of conversation has been the forecast of 21-DEC-2012 as the end of the world. Yet, today the world survives. Can the same be said of PACTOR?

    With respect to Amateur Radio it can be claimed that using PACTOR for QSO's is on life support. Yes, there are a few 'die-hard' hams trying to preserve the originial purpose of the mode. But today, the primary day-to-day operation of PACTOR in the Ham Bands is as a store and transfer mode used by automatic mailboxes -- and even that use is not exclusive. Of course, PACTOR is also used for other non-Ham purposes, such as MARS and Marine.

    2013 PREDICTIONS:

  • PACTOR in the Ham Bands will continue to be used for QSOs, but that use will continue to decline.
  • PACTOR use will also decline for auto-mailboxes as cheaper software alternatives are adopted.
  • The cost of a PACTOR modem will NOT decrease.
  • The use of PACTOR will increase, OUTSIDE the Ham Bands.
  • The use of PACTOR-4 will only be permitted in the USA Ham Bands when an FCC petition is filed and financially supported.
  • The use of RTTY will be the primary DIGI mode on HF, with the number of RTTY contest participants increasing.

    As previously mentioned, the deterioration of Ham Radio support by the sellers of PACTOR and the ever increasing cost of the product explains our 2013 predictions. Yes, FREEWARE SOFTWARE and the much higher cost of using PACTOR means that fewer Hams will bother with PACTOR.

    Meanwhile, please have a HAPPY NEW YEAR. I hope to have a QSO with many of you and I do have a PACTOR TNC. I still call CQ with RTTY, but I am not a contest player -- I like to chat.

    73 de Phil - N8PS



    Rev: 30-OCT-2012
    WILL HAM QSO USE OF PACTOR SURVIVE THE ECONOMY OF FREE?

    When PACTOR first appeared on the Ham Bands, a number of years ago, it held great promise for the expansion of digital operations. It was novel and it was fast. Unfortunately, from day one, it was not cheap. Yes, it cost money, often lots of money. Then cheaper PACTOR versions appeared and the advantage of PACTOR was challenged by CLOVER and G-TOR. Over the years PACTOR use on the Ham Bands has dropped -- replaced by increased use of RTTY and PSK-31.

    What happened? As mentioned previously, there are two main reasons. First, a deterioration of Ham Radio support by the sellers of PACTOR and the second is the ever increasing cost of the product. Yes, the automatic mailboxes still exist and they are the primary Ham Band PACTOR use. The appearance of FREEWARE SOFTWARE and the much higher cost of using PACTOR means that fewer Hams bother with PACTOR.

    In addition, PACTOR use is touted for "OUT-OF-THE-HAM-BAND" use. PACTOR-4, the latest release, is not permitted on the USA Ham Bands, yet ads for AUTO MAILBOX use, MARINE BAND use, MARS use, and OUT-OF-USA use are the sales and marketing efforts. When was the last time there was a PACTOR ad in a Ham Radio publication? Is it any wonder manual PACTOR QSOs are on the decline?

    73 de Phil - N8PS


    Rev: 10-AUG-2012
    PACTOR USED ONLY INFREQUENTLY FOR QSOs

    Several years ago PACTOR was used for QSOs. Of course, RTTY was the favored mode, yet you could always find a PACTOR QSO in progress - primarily on 20m. This was in the days before PSK-31. There were even CLOVER and G-TOR QSOs occasonally.

    So, what been happening? According to many sources there are two main reasons. First, a deterioration of Ham Radio support by the sellers of PACTOR and the second is the ever increasing cost of the product. More on these items to follow shortly.

    73 de Phil - N8PS


    Rev: 15-JAN-2012
    AUTOMATED MAILBOXES UNDER THREAT?

    Several sources have advised PACTOR NEWS that the use of automated store and forward mailboxes may soon be subjected to new rules regarding content. Althought nothing has yet to be released publically, behind the scenes there is much wrangling with the almost total lack of monitoring and security by the ham operators responsible for store and forward stations operated on the ham bands. Apparently copyrighted material and third party traffic violations are commonplace and there is no way for outside parties to monitor these mailboxes.

    In addition, so-called "Homeland Security Concerns" may exist where "codes and other means of obscuring the meaning" of messages may be a significant problem.

    While directly there is no tie to PACTOR-4, the use of PACTOR-4 on Store and Forward operations is seen as adding to the problem rather than correcting it. Meanwhile, my sources report there are some 'bottlenecks' in the process to allow PACTOR-4 to legally operate in the US Hambands. Some progress has been made, I was told; however, there are some issues about commerical conflict and whether PACTOR-4 (being called a closed protocol designed for commercial use) merits use on the ham bands when royalities are involved.

    More on this topic later as further news is released.

    73 de Phil - N8PS


    Rev: 17-JUL-2011
    PACTOR-4 RAISES QUESTIONS FOR USA HAMS

    The legality of operating PACTOR-4 on the USA Ham Bands has been called into question. Obviously the wider bandwidth and greater symbol rate are cited why PACTOR-4 has no place in Amateur Radio. According to SCS, the PACTOR-4 mode should not be operated in the CW portion of the US bands. It is still unresolved whether PACTOR-4 can be classed as an 'image' mode, much as SSTV, and operated in the SSB portion of bands.

    Much as PACTOR-2 and PACTOR-3 were challenged as being 'non-compliant' with FCC Rules and Regulations, time has shown that novel digital modes do take time to 'shake-out' and their later adoption has been credited to technical standards. However, PACTOR-4 uses a challenging modulation scheme and unlike previous PACTOR modes, the signal is so complex so as to render obsolete many existing FCC Amateur Band standards. While the idea of rapid data transfer appeals to many hams, there is great objection to the growing bandwidths of new modes. The preference is for digital signals to be contained within a 500Hz bandwidth -- and -- the narrower, the better.

    Some of the objections to PACTOR-4 are logical and based upon existing technical standards. However, others object to PACTOR (no matter the bandwidth) based upon purely personal motives. These objections fall into three areas, technical, financial, and personal. The technical objections (as with PACTOR-2 and PACTOR-3) can be addressed by the process of acceptance and changing of the existing rules. It is more difficult to deal with the financial and personal areas. The high cost of a PACTOR TNC has always been the source of frustration for those who might otherwise be very interested. Unfortunately, the Amateur Radio crowd would rather get something for nothing -- hence the preference for software driven applications. The personal aspect of objecting to PACTOR has its roots in the licensing and control of the mode. Back in the days of PACTOR-1, past licensees and builders of PACTOR-1 TNCS (AEA, MFJ, KAM, etc.) took shortcuts that cheapened the product and undermined the original specifications to the point that some TNCs were so inferior as to hurt the reputation of the mode itself. Many articles of the time were devoted to the inferior performance of the PACTOR-1 mode itself, when in fact the units under test themselves did NOT meet and undercut specifications.

    Is it any wonder that SCS (makers of the PTC) clamped down on letting others make inferior copies of their products? The bad experience of marketing PACTOR-1 led to the high cost (for a fantastic unit) for newer products to grow even higher. In addition the tight control of the source code and the shielding of technical aspects caused the 'freebee' software writers to be 'shut-out' of attempting to write inferior copies of software only applications of PACTOR-2 and more recent upgrades. So, the financial and personal objections have pretty much combined to avoid SCS products.

    The current challenge is two-fold. First, to compare the actual results achieved with PACTOR-4 and secondly to see if the PACTOR-4 can be effective in the the ham radio arena. Meanwhile, PACTOR-4 needs to be tested in the USA and elsewhere to determine if the rising price of this newest mode is justified. Only time and experience will tell if PACTOR-4 can work in the ham bands.

    73 de Phil - N8PS




    INTRODUCTION to PACTOR

    The best digital ARQ (linked) mode on High Frequency ( 3 to 30 MegaHertz ) Amateur Radio is called PACTOR. It transfers text, files, and graphics quickly and without error. Pactor was invented in Germany and is quite popular among hams who communicate by radio with computers. PACTOR NEWS is an online source dedicated specifically to PACTOR.



    THE PTC-IIpro

    Picture of PTC-IIpro [Click on image for full size view]

    The PTC-IIpro was introduced by SCS. It is the new updated replacement for the PTC-II.




    THE PTC-IIe

    Picture of PTC-IIe
    [Click on image for full size view]

    The PTC-IIe, was introduced at the 1999 PACTOR Forum by Dr. Tom Rink, DL2FAK, President of SCS. The 'e' means economy, as the new PTC-IIe costs about 300$US less than the PTC-IIpro.



    HOW TO REACH US:


    Email: psussman@pactor.com


    Click here if you would like to read my biography or for information about Clayton, Ohio.

    Thanks for reading.. this is Phil Sussman - N8PS - 73's




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