November 1997 - Pages 2-4
"Gateways to the World Packet's Best Kept Secret!"
Part 2
Written By: Bill Baran, N2FNH

     OK you people, it's me again...with more on those amazing Packet<->Internet Gateways. In my last installment, I laid out a master plan to connect to this region's most most popular, and somewhat distant Packet<->Internet Gateway, known to those who use it as AMGATE. I also promised to offer a good operating strategy for locating and accessing these let's get busy!
Say that you've sent your E-mail access request to the sysop at AMGATE and you've been cleared for take-off! Let's also say that you have just learned of a Gateway in Lancaster, California. The call is AB6QV, the alias is AVGATE and the IP address is
The place to start is at the prompt, which either looks something like this:

Area: 'n2fnh' Current msg# 0 of 0  ?,A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z >  or like this: AMGATE:KA2TCQ >
»You send: T
AMGATE answers with: "Trying...  The escape character is: CTRL-T"
When the connection is established, you receive this line:  "*** connected to"
Streaming in right after will be the Gateway billboard, which looks like this:
KA9Q NOS - KO4KS-TNOS/Unix v2.22/qv (
Welcome! Please login with your callsign (lower case)...

When you are prompted to login, do so with your callsign.  Many systems will accept any password but most hams will send their name.  Once logged in, the rest of the billboard is sent to you:
Welcome n2fnh, to the TCP/IP BBS (KO4KS-TNOS/Unix v2.22/qv)
Last on the BBS: Fri Sept 19 18:39:45 1997
You are the only user currently on the BBS  AVGATE:AB6QV-3 >

Good! At this point you have established a 2,000 mile transcontinental telnet session between KA2TCQ in Plattsburgh, New
York and AB6QV in Lancaster, California, keeping in mind that you're connected to Plattsburgh from the Capital Region with 150 miles worth of radio links!

Once connected, you have three options for getting information on other systems. You either call up a NODES list, a PORTS list or an IH list. Getting a NODES list is easy. Use the same command you would for local nodes.
»You send: NO- This is what comes back:

You scan the NODES list and decide that you want to connect with VK2PK-5 and in the same way you would locally, you send a C CSIRO -or- C VK2PK-5. By the way, CSIRO is located in Sydney, Australia. This type of connection is called a NET/ROM connection. The advantage to this type of connection is that CSIRO "sees" you as an amateur radio operator using an amateur radio Gateway. This means you do not have to login and usually means full access to the system.

The second way to establish a connection is to access the dedicated PORTS list.
»You send: PO- This is what comes back:
 AVGATE:AB6QV-3 >  Available ports:
croat  :  AXIP Link Lancaster, CA <-> Zagreb, Croatia (RKZ:9a1abd-5)  ax1    :  TCP/IP -- 439.025 MHz @ 9600 bps  ax0    :  TCP/IP -- 145.010 MHz @ 1200 bps

Looking over this list, you will see that there are three ports available. One is a link to Croatia and there are also two radio ports. Suppose you decide to try Croatia...
»You send: C CROAT 9A1ABD-5 If the link is good, you're hangin' in Zagreb!
These dedicated ports are also known as "wormholes". Unlike the Packet<-> Internet Gateways which offer broad connectivity, these are fixed point-to-point connections. They may use a telephone, HF, satellite or Internet path and the device on the other end may be just a TNC, a node, a standard-issue packet BBS or...another Gateway! The two last ports, "ax1" and "ax0" are radio ports, but more on how to use these radio ports later! Just like the NET/ROM connection, you will not have to login and usually full access is allowed.

Now, the best way to find out who else is using the system is to send M or ML. Sending M will tell you who's on the Gate with you currently and this is also where you can find IP addresses. A list of callsigns and their operational status will be shown, including Uplinks, Circuit Connections and Telnets. If you transmit an ML , you will then receive a list of all stations who logged in since the last system reboot. This list may be a long one depending on how heavily used the system is but it can be very informative nonetheless.

The third source of information is the IH list. This list provides a readout on TCP/IP stations heard, via radio and by way of the Internet.
» You send: IH What comes back looks like:
AVGATE:AB6QV-3 >  Tcp/Ip systems heard:
Address                Port       Since           Pkts    linux     0:00:02:45        8            ax0      0:00:03:32     307            ax0     0:00:24:47      606

What you have here is a list of Packet stations using TCP/IP rather than AX25 as their choice of protocol (the ones coming in
on "ax0") and also a Gateway (AMGATE, in this case, coming in on "linux"). Using this list, you can then telnet to any of the sites that appear in the IH, assuming they are on-air or on-line for connection at that time. Telnetting to another system means you must login at the prompt. It also means restricted access and an access-request message to the sysop. The request allows the sysop time to verify that you are a real amateur radio operator and not a pirate, bootlegger or hacker/cracker from the Internet. All local TCP/IP packet stations and most Gateways use an address that begins with 44. The 44 prefixed IP address is also known as "", which is short for "Amateur Packet Radio Organization". Many Gateways use the 44 address as a firewall to the Internet allowing transport through, but not connection to, other non-amateur radio sites. Another way the address can be expressed is by its Domain Name. So, AMGATE has two addresses: and also- Truth be told though, sites like AMGATE have FOUR addresses, two Domain Names and two 32 bit IP addresses. The other two addresses for AMGATE are: -and also-

Enough already with this stuff! If you've gotten this far and are still with me, let's look at a really neat feature available on most Gateways which is also the first of two methods of connecting with individual stations around the world. This feature is known as CONV or  CONF, short for CONVERSE or CONFERENCE.
Following our example from before, let's do a telnet to TNOS:KO4KS in Tampa, Florida and...Hold on, looks like we've just connected:  "AMGATE:KA2TCQ Connected to" Login and then, at the prompt:-
» You send: CONF- What comes back looks like:

TNOS:KO4KS >  *** TNOS Conference @ Tampa  Type /HELP for help.
*** There are 70 users online  *** There are 14 groups available
*** n2fnh signed on at  11:10.  *** Now on Channel 0 (22 users).
Check out the latest news (/news). Thanks! [KO4KS]

Following the suggestion, call up /news and you will receive a list of  commands to use in managing the converse bridge.
» You send: /NEWS  What comes back looks like:
The Conference Bridge has several new commands:
/CAll callsign   Displays callbook information for 'callsign'
/Groups   List all available groups and nets
/Join groupname  Join (or create) a group named 'groupname'
Enjoy! ---- KO4KS
Now, there are actually many more commands available but I cropped for  space! Anyway, after looking over these options, you're ready to leap into the action! Many converse bridges will drop you into channel 0 a.k.a. the "Zoo Channel" and even before you make your /NEWS request, here's what will come flying across the screen from packeteers worldwide!
 *** pp5js signed on at  11:12. <yo2bx>:  yo5brz buna seara de Poly din Timisoara
<f5lkd>:  QRZ DE F6KVD
<dg7lae>: ha8px: hi to you, this is Uli
<pa3gzb>: ha8px: Hello, de bert =>
<yo5brz>: yo2bx> buna seara, sunt in compania lui yo5qca & yo5ln!
<dg7lae>: cq , this is Uli, QTH Lubeck
<pa3gzb>: ha8px: Hello, do you read me, de Bert =>
<f5lkd>:  cq de f6kvd
<ha8px>:  pa3gzb, yep, here is OE/HA8PX  Zsolt from Graz
*** ha5xv switched to channel 156 at  11:19.

Bigtime users call this the "Zoo Channel" because channel 0 is used as an international party line where everyone talks with as many other stations at the same time as they can manage. Eventually, you can get more selective by calling up /CHANNEL -or- /WHO, which offers a list of the currently established streams of activity which you can then use to connect with with a smaller collection of stations, maybe chatting on a more specialized topic. These converse bridges are the amateur radio version of Internet Relay Chat. The main difference is that all activity is ushered through these Packet<-> Internet Gateways and are also much "cleaner" in content because part of the connection is via Ham Radio and subject to resident governmental rules and regulations.

The second way to connect directly with a station is to make use of the radio ports I mentioned before. Designations for radio ports will be different at each Gateway but the format is the same as I described in the PORTS story before. Then, say you've telnetted to TA5KB-8 in Adana, Turkiye. You decide, after checking the ML list of past users, to connect with TA5A(who, it turns out, is the sysop for this system). You check the PORTS list and find the radio port designation is "2M":

»  You send C 2M TA5A What comes back looks like:
TA5KB (#0) >  Trying...  The escape character is: CTRL-T  *** connected to TA5A
Hello Bill, how are you?  Yes, Yasar is doing fine. His family was up in Istanbul.
They are  coming back pretty soon. Vecdet is also fine but he has  been very busy commercially.. :-)  What abt your side?

Here, you have made a TNC to TNC connection, just the same as you would with a fellow ham through a local node, except that this is a connection on a global scale! There will be some time delay between transmissions but it will be worth the effort and you will find yourself making new friends in far away places very quickly. I have found many amateur operators are pleasantly surprized when they find themselves connected with another packeteer thousands of miles and several time zones away.

So, there you go! In 13,000 bytes or less, I have given you the basic tools to get in there and make that connection! Using Packet Radio to communicate with hams around the world is not meant to replace working DX on the HF bands. It's just another way of accomplishing the same goal, using different tools.

Think about this: When you use a local repeater, like the 145.17 machine, you are relying on the technical expertise of a few dedicated individuals to get your signal far and beyond your handheld's operating range. Same thing with packet but to the Nth degree. Here, you are depending on the local packet network, the efforts of some pretty intense and very intelligent Gateway sysops, the Vast Digital Sub_Space that we call the Internet and the far distant local radio networks at the other end of the virtual circuit. All this, for the sake of connecting with a fellow ham operator who happens to be 5,000 miles away.... Not bad, eh? More Later! 73 and GUD DX!