PACKET RADIO: Network Node Information
Steve Wolf, W8IZ@W8IZ
(This text from the W8IZ packet radio bulletin
board. It's formatted to fit a 80 character screen.)
From: Steve, NO8M@NO8M.OH.USA.NA
Date: January 5, 1990
Subject: What are Network Nodes?
Four popular versions of nodes are the NET/ROM, The Net, KA9Q Internet
and MSYS. The first two are firmware mods made to standard TNCs. The
addition of a ROM to a TNC, and its accompanying transceiver, makes it a node.
The others rely on computers to make them run.
NET/ROM and The NET operate identically. In the beginning NET/ROM was
offered commercially. It is expensive. The NET was designed overseas and is
free. Feuds exist over whether The NET is a copy of NET/ROM and should not be
Network nodes talk to one another. Every so often, like a beacon, the
node will transmit all it knows about the network in which it works. Other
nodes copy this information and learn about their neighbor. They also learn
about their neighbor's neighbor and so on.
Let's say a Cleveland node gets on the air and says, "I'm here!". A node
in Akron would copy this Cleveland node and note it in it's table of nodes it
hears. Later, Akron comes on and broadcasts that it is there and the nodes
that it knows about. Cleveland hears Akron and notes it's presence. It also
notes all the nodes that Akron can get to. Let's say that one of them is a
Columbus node. The Akron node broadcasts that it can get to Columbus and
the route that is required: Akron to Mount Gilead to Columbus. The Cleveland
node notes in its table of nodes that it can now talk to Columbus.
Nodes are smart, too. A short time later Mount Gilead comes up and says
it is there and the nodes and routes it can take. Cleveland hears Mount
Gilead and the fact that Mount Gilead can talk to Columbus. Cleveland looks
in its tables and notes that it has Columbus but with an extra step to Akron.
It amends its information and now can talk to Columbus through Mount Gilead
rather than to Akron, to Mount Gilead and to Columbus.
HOW DO I USE A NETWORK NODE?
Network nodes are not difficult to use. There is a file called
NETNODE.CMD (D PACKET\NETNODE.CMD) that
explains the commands. If you send an "H" after a connection,
it will tell you the commands you can use. The "N"
for node command will tell you what the node knows about the network.
A Cleveland node may announce that it can talk to Fort Worth. If you
wanted to use this route you would just issue a command to connect to Fort
Worth. The node would look up Fort Worth in its table and begin connecting to
intermediate stations on the way to there. When it has connected, it will let
Long haul routes, like Fort Worth, especially on a busy channel, are
likely to take some time to complete. Once your command is received and
acked, you may not hear from the node for quite some time. Nodes have the
ability to cross-band. Issuing a connect may cause the node to go to a
different frequency for the route.
The most important parameter is the path quality. That is explained in
the NETNODE.CMD file. If the quality is low, your connects will be
ARE ROUTES ALWAYS THERE?
No, they are not. Although a node might announce its ability to connect
to a distant station, this information may have been logged when the band was
much more active than it is now. You may find a disappointing message in
response to your connect request.
Nodes will adjust their tables over time. However, during the good
conditions afforded in the summer, their tables may show route that no longer
WHAT SHOULDN'T I DO
First off, there are a number of nodes which contain a pound sign (#) as
the first character of their alias. These are high speed backbone nodes.
They are not destinations ... you can not talk to someone from them.
Connecting to them is a waste.
Attempting a 500 mile connect on VHF when the band is active is not a
good idea either. Much like DXing two meter repeaters, your activity will tie
up many of the network's resources and air time that could be better used by
locals all across the 500 mile path.
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