ARETF Begins Stirring Back To Life

ARETF is reimagining its original mission of developing standards for Amateur Radio networking.

This new mission for ARETF includes becoming a nexus where people discuss interesting new ideas in Amateur Radio that haven’t yet been implemented, as well as discussion of existing projects and systems in Amateur Radio that could be combined or repurposed or adapted to achieve interesting new capabilities.

For example, a discussion of “wouldn’t it be neat to have a new sound card mode that did x…” that is read by a grad student looking for a challenging idea for their thesis which results in that new sound card mode becoming available. Another example is a discussion of an interesting idea proposed a decade (or two) ago that wasn’t practical to implement then because we didn’t have cheap and powerful compute power like what is now available in a Raspberry Pi running Linux. Yet another example is to highlight a project such as the Terrestrial Amateur Radio Packet Network (TARPN) that is doing interesting things, but not yet widely known. And much more.

One reason for ARETF reimagining its mission is the emergence of Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) as a source of grants that can fund “interesting new things in Amateur Radio”. (Those are my words – see ARDC’s grantmaking guidelines for details). ARDC just announced a Request For Proposals.

A primary goal of ARETF is that all projects discussed (for implementation) within ARETF are intended to be freely available to the public.

We’ll flesh out this new vision in future posts here, including ways to join the discussion.

Steve Stroh N8GNJ

Another TAPR DCC….

It has been a year since my last update and in that time I have not done much to move this effort forward. I would like to change that now.

In order to get this group off the ground, we need a place to talk. So several months ago I put up a online forum site to hold discussions about the ARETF. The site is available at , if you’d like to help out, please go sign up.

The next step was finding a place to store our documents and being a software person at heart, I setup a Git repository at GitHub. I have uploaded some of the initial documents describing how I think the group should operate, I will figure out the best way to accept commits as we move forward. The GitHub link is

Finally I am really happy to announce that Andrew-KA2DDO has made the first contribution. Andrew wrote up a proposal for how to authenticate APRS packets for various uses, which could easily be extended to other amateur radio areas. The draft is checked into the git repository mentioned above, but here is a direct link.

Kenny, Ku7M

TAPR DCC Follow-up

I started writing this blog post while flying home from Austin and the 33rd annual TAPR DCC conference. Reviewing all the talks and discussions that occurred over the long weekend, thinking about how well the idea of the ARETF had been received. Going into the weekend, there was some concern about it, but everybody I spoke with had nothing but positive things to say. I loved how the idea was incorporated on the fly into so many people’s talks. It seems the timing was perfect for this crazy idea.

It has now been about a month since the conference, here in the Pacific Northwest it is clear summer is finally over and we are firmly into the fall. I wanted to take my first blog post to talk about more of the vision for the ARETF and what the next steps are for the group. Before jumping there, I thought it would be a good idea to talk a bit about my own background and what I bring to the table. I have been a ham now for just over 25 years and over that time I have dabbled in many different areas of the hobby. The one common theme has been digital, starting when I saw my first TNC back in the late 80’s. I credit much of my professional success in what I learned in those early days of packet radio, it is what got me interested in computer networking. Over my professional career, I have been directly involved in three different standards bodies. The most significant was the USB standards group, where I was the chairman for the Communication class for the first couple iterations of the specification. I have also dabbled in IEEE 1394 and the UPnP groups. While I have been a software developer, most of my recent professional jobs have been more managerial. I have been a software development manager and program manager at Microsoft and now Amazon, I’d like to think of myself as a professional cat herder. This being maybe the single biggest qualification I have for trying to jump start this group.

The ARETF was born out of K7UDR seeing a need, when he discussed the idea with me I saw the immediate value in it. The idea for basing it on the IETF was interesting and I spent a couple of weeks refreshing myself on the internal workings of the IETF before signing up. While I have been a big consumer of their work and attended meetings, I wasn’t deeply knowledgeable of how the IETF really functioned. But as I read more about the group and quizzed people more familiar with it, the more I liked the idea. What Amateur radio really needs is a framework for people with a similar problems to come together and hammer out common solutions. The solutions should not be ‘owned’ by any particular group, but available to the greater Amateur community to build upon. Because this is a hobby and an international one at that, any real authority the group will have will come from the people willing to commit their time and energy to it. If we provide useful solutions to problems, people will be happy to adapt them. After all, we like to communicate and that requires agreeing on standards.

My personal goal is to help construct the initial framework for this process, validate it can produce useful standards and ensure it can live long past the point I am able to contribute. I believe the best standards are those written by multiple parties with a common problem to solve and are validated by real world implementations. In that spirit, the ARETF process won’t be really proven until it has successfully produced its first standard. I know we won’t get the process right the first time, but we won’t know how well something works until it is tried. I hope by basing it on a proven system we are close enough, that we can successfully adjusted along the way. I have been collecting a set of tenets for the group, I will devote an upcoming blog post to them.

So where does the ARETF stand right now? I have taken a first pass at defining how a working group will function, meaning how the ideas go from something discussed over e-mail to a document that can be handed off to others. I have leveraged (i.e. stolen) the IETF standards process, using their own documents as references. The next step is defining how the board of directors will work and what part in the process they will play. This is an area I really need some help from someone more familiar with the IETF and ideally seen how the inside functions. If you would like to volunteer, please drop me a note.

Once the board of directors are defined, we will need to find some additional volunteers (victims?) to server on the initial board. I think kick starting the initial working groups will be an easier problem, there are several really good options. Some were identified prior to the DCC and some bubbled to the surface during discussions in Austin. I hope to find chairman’s for those groups, people with the necessary deep knowledge in the space and with experience working in small groups.

The next steps:

  1. Finish drafting the board of directors definitions.
  2. Launch an online discussion forum, so these ideas can be hashed out.
  3. Publish links to GitHub repository for current version of organization bylaws.

More to follow…

Kenny, KU7M