Packet Radio with Debian Hamradio Pure Blend

I stumbled across this concept of ‘Debian Pure Blends‘ a couple of days back. These are Debian distros that are configured with software preinstalled for a specific purpose, like graphic design, and astronomy. The Ham Radio distro caught my eye as it’s preconfigured with ax25 and Direwolf for Packet Radio.

The trouble is, while it has these included in the distro so you get them out of the box, it doesn’t seem they’re configured, and worse, the ax25 support doesn’t appear to work with Direwolf.

Here’s a few notes of my experimenting:

Direwolf uses a direwolf.conf file in your home directory which you customize with your callsign and setup to connect with your soundcard input and output. There doesn’t seem to be a copy of this file anywhere on the filesystem. The file is usually created if you’re building/installing from source by running ‘make install-conf’. I searched my fresh Debian install and couldn’t find a copy of direwolf.conf anywhere, so already being familiar with Direwolf, I decided to uninstall the pre-installed version (apt-get remove direwolf) and build/install from source unstead. See my previous notes on how to do this.

Immediately ran into the libasound library missing:

/usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lasound
 collect2: error: ld returned 1 exit status
 Makefile.linux:257: recipe for target 'fsk_fast_filter.h' failed
 make: *** [fsk_fast_filter.h] Error 1

This is fixed by installing libasound:

apt-get install libasound2-dev


Edit /etc/ax25/axports and add a line like this:
1 YOURCALL-1 1200 255 2 2m packet

Starting up direwolf for the first time:

 kev@kh-debian:/etc/ax25$ direwolf -t 0 -p
 Dire Wolf version 1.3

Reading config file /home/kev/direwolf.conf
 Audio device for both receive and transmit: default (channel 0)
 Channel 0: 1200 baud, AFSK 1200 & 2200 Hz, E+, 44100 sample rate.
 ERROR can't open device /dev/ttyUSB0 for channel 0 PTT control.
 Permission denied
 Note: PTT not configured for channel 0. (Ignore this if using VOX.)
 Ready to accept KISS client application on port 8001 ...
 Ready to accept AGW client application 0 on port 8000 ...
 Virtual KISS TNC is available on /dev/pts/1
 WARNING - Dire Wolf will hang eventually if nothing is reading from it.
 Created symlink /tmp/kisstnc -> /dev/pts/1

Looks like /dev/ttyUSB0 cannot be opened for my PTT on my Rigblaster Plug n Play.

Following instructions from here, as root, I did:

usermod -a -G dialout kev

and then logged out and logged back in again. That fixed that issue.

The input volume was low, so I bumped up the mic slider in the top right to about half way, and now the input volume is better:

KG6SJT-10 audio level = 43(20/19) [NONE] |||||||__
 [0.3] KG6SJT-10>ID:Network Node (YCARES)
 Unknown message type N, motorcycle


Next up, starting Direwolf and then starting up my ax25 stack with kissattach and mkiss (which I’ve covered before here), I was getting a Permission Denied error:

kev@kh-debian:~$ sudo kissattach /dev/ptmx 1
AX.25 port 1 bound to device ax0
Awaiting client connects on

Followed by:

kev@kh-debian:~$ sudo mkiss /tmp/kisstnc /dev/pts/4
 mkiss: open: Permission denied

I posted a question about this on the Direwolf group on Yahoo Groups here. Since it looks like mkiss is getting permission denied accessing /tmp/kisstnc from Direwolf, I started Direwolf with a sudo and this avoided this error. Direwolf shouldn’t need to run with sudo permissions so something’s not quite right, but this did allow me to get up and running, and then I could ‘axcall 1 kberr’ to make a connection to nearest packet node.

To get to this point I could have installed a vanilla version of Debian, Direwolf from source, and ax25, and I probably would have got to the same point in about the same about of time, but when I have time I’ll take a look at the other apps that get preinstalled.