Earlier this evening, I heard a couple of guys on another local repeater talking about the WIN System on our repeaters but they were not sure how it worked. The WIN System is short for Western Intertie Network created by Jeff (Shorty) Stouffer, K6JSI when he lived in San Diego. This began as a radio frequency (RF) connected link system covering most of California.
At some point, Shorty decided to allow connecting through the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) using a dedicated reflector. Before long, there were 40+ repeaters from all over the world connecting on a 24 hour basis through a loose affiliation. Our 443.3 MHz repeater became an official WIN System affiliate in November of 2006. When a repeater becomes an affiliate, the natural state is to be “continuously connected”, though there is nothing preventing a repeater from disconnecting and reconnecting to a different node whenever they choose to.
The IRLP has two different types of nodes, individual repeater nodes and reflectors. The individual nodes can connect and disconnect with other individual nodes or to a reflector. When connected to an individual node, there are only two repeaters connected to each other. When connected to a reflector, many repeaters are connected simultaneously. When one person keys up to speak, all other repeaters begin transmitting that person’s voice.
The IRLP is simply a computer running Linux connected to the repeater through an interface board and acts like a repeater. For example, the interface board detects a carrier and begins sending received signals from the repeater into the computer sound card to the other connected node(s). If the interface board does not detect a signal, then the audio will not go through. This signal is called a carrier operated squelch (COS). Once the repeater detects the signal has ended, it switches from sending packets over the Internet to receiving packets of audio from the Internet. When audio packets are received over the Internet, it triggers the repeater to transmit the audio over the air on our repeater.
All connected repeaters have a similar setup so that everyone within range of any of the repeaters will hear the audio coming over the Internet. It works relatively well but has a few quirks such as a slight delay in the audio. When a person keys their radio, the Internet link system takes a second or two to engage all of the other repeaters. For this reason, they encourage you to transmit and then delay a second or two before you begin talking. Otherwise the people on the other end may miss the first couple of words you speak.
The WIN System is only one of many such systems on IRLP but it is the one that our repeater is affiliated. If you ever want to see how many repeaters are connected through the IRLP side, just click on this status link. One more thing to add is that the WIN System also employs another Internet linking system called Allstar Link. It too is a system that runs Linux but instead runs on a Linux based telephone PBX system. A good description of how it works can be found here.
To summarize, the WIN System is a collection of about 20-25 RF connected repeaters around California, connected over the Internet through IRLP and Allstar Link. All together, there are as many as 75 repeaters from all over the world connected into this system at any given time. While many of these repeaters are affiliated, connected all the time, many are only connected intermittently as the user wishes. The vast majority of users are from California but there are people from Japan, England, Scotland, Australia and others. From one day to the next, you are likely to run into a different group of people.
Each night on the WIN System, at 1:00 AM local time, there is a net called the Insomniac Net. This net runs every night, 365 days a year.
There is one down side to a system like this that is a necessary evil. Any time you have that many connected repeaters, you are going to have more opportunities to have offensive behavior, malfunctioning repeaters, poor users, etc. that will affect everyone on the system. As such, there are many control operators, sometimes called “reflector cops” that attempt to maintain order and do so pretty good. On occasion, you will run into one of them that forgets that the system is “Amateur” radio and thinks that it is commercial radio and expects perfection from the users. Sometimes they will come down harsh on someone when it is not necessary. If you can just keep in mind, their situation and not take it personal, you will enjoy it much more.
You may have noticed that the repeaters are off the air on occasion. The reason for this is because due to life events, the local control operator is not always available to monitor the repeaters and so they get turned off when a person is not available to oversee the repeaters. Unfortunately this is just the way things are where the repeater is located.
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