DX Cluster “How To”

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by Bob/KB2TGD

This is an instruction sheet for you guys who have never heard of a DX cluster in hopes that you may find this a valuable means of ham radio communication.

I am not a whizz  on this stuff, so my explanation may not be as polished as need be, but i hope it will give you a general idea of what the concept is.

A DX cluster is a packet radio means of giving hams on HF interested in making contacts to stations on the air, the information needed to make that contact.  For example, a ham in Europe will make a contact with a cq call in France.  Immediately after making his contact, he will bring up his local DX cluster, and type in the call sign of his contact, and the frequency of that contact.  The DX cluster will then send out that information via packet radio to any other stations connected to the DX cluster, who then know that this station is currently on this frequency and is looking for contacts.  Upon seeing this come across your packet screen, you then have a chance to make a contact with the person in France.

That in itself is enough to be interesting to a lot of people, but it is only the tip of the iceberg as to the usefulness of a DX cluster.

In addition to announcing DX spottings, a DX cluster also will let you send short messages live (keyboard to keyboard) to any connected station, so you can have a live communication with another ham right now via typing to each other.   If that station is not presently on the air, the DX cluster will let you leave a mail message for that station who will then get the message when signing on again to his or her local DX cluster.

When you click on the link on this page, you will be brought to a huge list of DX clusters.  You can scroll down to pick one close to you or pick one  wherever you want to visit and by connecting to that DX cluster, you may chat, message, look at DX etc. On that cluster.

Once you learn the basic commands, the software is the same and you can take it to any DX cluster on the list.

To learn how to use a DX cluster, you need to know what commands are available to you.  So here is a sample DX cluster “trip”:

Click on http://dxcluster.info/telnet/index.php then search  and click on the node nearest to your location ( WC2L works for us).

Clicking on the link will bring up a program in your computer that you do not know you have, and you will see  a screen open that is asking you to sign on to the DX cluster with your call sign.  So just type in your call sign and hit enter.  You will almost immediately see call signs start to scroll on your screen.  These are DX spots that I talked about earlier. They are input by hams like you who have made contacts with the call signs you see going down the screen.

Now, what you need to do is just type a   ?   And hit enter.  This will bring up a list of commands available for you to use.    To learn more about those commands, you may type help show for example.  This will bring up more information that will tell you how to use the show command.

Now, just play and in playing you will learn the other commands and how to use them.

I will let you go at this point; play all you want and then just type a q or quit to disconnect from the cluster and you will have cleared out of the system.

Now, for future thought.  You have just done all of this on the internet.  You should know now that if you hook your radio up to a TNC and connect on the needed 2m frequency, you can do everything above with your radio in your shack and not use the internet at all.  That is packet radio. It is not dead!!!

For more info contact me and I will do what I can to help.

73 de bob, kb2tgd

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