The Internet Report Form has been a boon for the New England Weather Net during times when we have incredibly poor band conditions. But it’s not for everyone. There is an alternative that keeps a little closer to Ham Radio but it still uses the Internet. It is D-STAR, a digital mode that uses 2 Meters or 440 cms mostly.
You don’t need to buy a D-STAR radio to take advantage of D-STAR, you can use a DV Dongle, a small device that connects to your PC or Apple computer and allows you to access any D-STAR reflector, repeater and, therefore, any D-STAR user in on Earth, now even in Space! See: http://www.dvdongle.com/DV_Dongle/Home.html. Prices vary between $200 and $300, far less expensive than an ICOM or Kenwood enabled base or handheld radio. You don’t need to be close to a D-STAR repeater; all you need is an Internet connection.
As Net Manager, I monitor 3.905 and my D-STAR repeater (KB1ZEG module C at 145.210 KHz with a -600 Hz offset. The D-STAR repeater is linked to a Reflector 050C. I can hear stations on Cape Cod, the greater Boston area, all of New England, and even Florida or beyond. W1JGR and K1CB check in with me frequently when they can’t get through to Net Control on 3.905 but I can.
This is how my dual band Icom 9100 is set up every morning. Click on a button and I can switch back and forth between bands, transmit on the top one and listen to both at the same time.
D-STAR sounds ominous but it is really pretty simple. If anyone wants to look into a DV-DONGLE, feel free to contact me and I’d be glad to help. I’m sure that K1CB and Q1JGR would also be glad to help.