Building a Node
What and why
In a packet radio network, a node is a station which is often unattended, with one or more radios on different bands, generally forming a permanent part of the network, and generally offering some services to nearby stations which connect.
You might have heard the term “digipeater”. A node differs from a digipeater in that other stations can connect to a node itself, and node software like BPQ can support a protocol called NET/ROM which enables a form of dynamic routing. A node can also offer digipeating services.
You might want to run a node if you want to contribute to extending the reach of a packet network, or if you are technically curious about packet network routing.
In a traditional packet network, it's perfectly reasonable for many/most people not to want or need to set up a node. However, some OARC members are beginning to think about the design of more modern applications, utilising the underlying packet network, and to give the best experience it is likely that you would want to have an instance of that application running in the same location as the packet node. If we get to this point, then it's likely that more people will run node software than otherwise might be the case. So you might want to have a play for this reason.
What a node isn't
A node takes over your TNC - it isn't something you can just run in the background. If you turn your packet station into a node then everything you do will be done indirectly, via that node. Which works fine, you just need to be aware of it.
Building a node isn't, as it stands, low-effort. There is a bit of a learning curve, and you'll need to be comfortable with getting your hands dirty and troubleshooting. We believe there is room for improvement in this area.
There are several ways you can end up with a node, among them:
- Install BPQ32 on a Raspberry Pi or spare old Windows or Linux computer
- Configure the AX.25 and NET/ROM support built into your Linux computer - including the Raspberry Pi
- Install XRPi - an AX.25 / NET/ROM / TCP/IP router for Linux, which has just become known to this group and looks interesting
- Use a traditional standalone TNC - unlike a KISS TNC, a standalone TNC can be a complete, if minimal, node - just add a radio.
Click the link above to find out a bit more about that particular method.
For all of them, you will also need a TNC of some description. We did a group buy of the NinoTNC and may do another one soon.
You'll also need one or more radios, and well-sited antennas. For radios, take a look at this member-contributed list of experiences with particular radios.
To connect your TNC to your radio, you'll need a cable.