Node-RED & IRC with ON4KST Chat

Background

Continuing with using Node-RED to handle messaging for radio related things I’ve created some flows for using with the interactive chat service at www.on4kst.com.

This web and Telnet based messaging service is invaluable for VHF+ users for contests, scheduling and band related chat.

The web interface is great for using while at home but when out portable using a mobile device it is a bit fiddly. Additionally, during contest/activity days, the messages can be flying by so quickly a page of text can scroll past in a moment and it’s easy to miss out messages even when directed at you with the /cq prefix. After my last outing portable I returned home to see I had been called but hadn’t noticed.

Prompted by some discussion of this on the ukmicrowaves mailing list and a mention of IRC which I use a lot I thought I should have a go at sorting something out for myself and others if interested.

There are applications that can be used to access KST chat such as the contest logging software tucnak for raw access to the telnet interface and the Windows application kst2me which runs wellin Linux with Wine. Kst2me is great and would be the likely solution for most people with a computer to hand but it’s doesn’t solve my mobile device and alerting requirements.

Using Node-RED & IRC

By pulling the ‘kst chat in to Node-RED my intention was to filter messages to channels on an IRC service based on their content:

  • A channel for all chat, effectively a mirror of whatever chat it’s connected to.
  • A channel for nearby DXCC entries. As I’ll be using this for microwave outings I have some filtering if required during busy periods.
  • A channel for direct messages sent to me with the /cq prefix so I have everything directed to me in one area.

I also want to be able to send messages to KST from my own IRC client via the channels above. A two way set-up is intended for a single user and care needs to be taken to ensure that messages sent to KST are coming from the legitimate logged in user.

I’ve used IRC here because I am comfortable with it and have clients connected to IRC servers 24/7 and can connect to these clients from any device to pick up where I left previously. This means I can leave the Node-RED flow running at home on a contest day and connect to the IRC server as I need and have a full view of everything that has happened in each of the channels. This also means I don’t have to worry about disconnections or leaving it running all the time running batteries down.

Node-RED is however  extremely flexible and allows the messages to be sent to pretty much anything such as an MQTT broker, SMS messages, DMR SMS messages, Web APIs, TCP/UDP servers etc so the use of IRC here should just be taken as an example use.

I have also set the flow up to have CQ messages directed to me on KST to send me a direct message on Twitter to gain my attention on my mobile device when not viewing the IRC channel. I could have used SMS here but the Twitter application with alerts works as well and doesn’t require using a paid for SMS service.

Interfacing With KST Chat – Login

There are two interfaces to the KST chat, the web interface and the Telnet interface, there’s no API that I’m aware of. In this instance I’ve used the Telnet interface to interact with the service as it’s the least complicated for scraping purposes.

In order to log in via Telnet we need our username, password and the band chat we wish to connect to, once these have been provided we are placed in to the selected band chat room. The Telnet outout is shown below connecting to the quiet Warch chat number 11 for test purposes.

Free text at this point will appear in the chat channel and commands need to be prefixed with a forward slash, for instance /quit.

We can log in to the Telnet interface easily with Node-RED using built in nodes and very little customization.

The flow above will initiate the connection to the ON4KST Telnet interface and log in. The nodes do the following:

  1. The first node is set to execute on start-up and contains three values, username, password and the chat number.
  2. The function node takes the user, pass and chat, splits them and sends the username to output 1, the password to output 2 and the chat room number to output 3.
  3. These three outputs are then connected to a TCP Request node, this node takes a hostname and port number, http://www.on4kst.info:23000 in this instance. This node allows both input to and output from the TCP connection.

We also have two delay nodes, as the user, password and chat are entered separately and prompted one after another, we insert a delay after the username and password to allow the next prompt to be displayed. If they are all sent at the same time the ‘kst Telnet interface will not accept them.

If we connect a debug node to the output of the TCP request node we will see the output from the telnet session.

Remember that anything sent to the interface will be immediately sent to the channel so take care not to send your password to an already connected interface. This has caught me out already!

Interfacing With KST Chat – Output

The output from the TCP request node is fed straight in to a function node with four outputs. The function node filters and alters data and directs it to the correct outputs. The four outputs link the function node to three IRC channels and one Twitter output.

The Process Output function node does a number of things. It firstly converts the utf8 input from the TCP node in to a string and strips out newline characters. This allows us to work with it easily.

It then splits the incoming messages up if they are identified as normal messages. The message format is as follows with TOCALLSIGN being the optional CQ message and the NAME being of a variable length:

TIME FROMCALLSIGN FROMNAME > (TOCALLSIGN) MESSAGETEXT

Once we have each of the above split in to variables we start to make decisions as to what to do with the incoming messages based on regex matches.

We have three IRC channels set up for this test, one for all KST chat, one for local KST chat and one for CQ messages directed at us.

If a message matches our callsign, when someone send’s a /CQ message to us, the message is sent to all of the four function outputs resulting in it appearing in all IRC channels and a message to our user on Twitter.

If a message matches a list of prefix’s local to me (2/M/G/EI) they are filtered to the local area IRC channel and also to the all KST IRC channel. This means I have filtered IRC channel containing British Isles chat, which for me in GI matches what I’m able to work, if I was in a position to work other countries it’s easy to add them to the list.

If a message is not a CQ directed to me or in the list of filtered prefixes it is placed in the all KST channel which can be monitored when traffic isn’t heavy.

Interfacing With KST Chat – Input

I have two Input types set up to send text to the KST Telnet interface.

The first was set up for testing purposes in the Node-RED interface and consists of buttons that will send commands when clicked. These buttons send the text to a function node than adds line breaks then forwards them to the TCP request node input.

The second takes input from the IRC channels I’ve configured Node-RED to connect to and carries out some validation of observed messages, processes them then forwards to the add line feed node for sending in to the TCP node.

The Process IRC node checks incoming messages and matches them with some rules. It requires that incoming messages originate from the channels the IRC node is connected to and from a username that matches my IRC clients username.

Once this incoming messages are validated, the node checks the content for commands before actin. For instance it will parse “CQ CALLSIGN Good evening”, prefix the CQ with a forward slash and send it to the telnet service  and it will appear as a valid “/CQ” command on the KSTchat.

Wrap Up

IRC is just a single communication method here, we could do this using any other messaging platform and integrate in to applications easily enough and make this more interesting easily enough. Node-RED allows easy control of messaging and simple coding in JavaScript to manipulate things.

I hope to try the described setup while portable with my microwave setup some time and imagine that the messaging ability to alert me to calls, and the use of a persistent IRC client to interact with people should allow me to keep track of KST chat in a manner I’m more comfortable with.

My code is a horrible mess but I can forward it to anyone that would like to try something like this out. Here’s the whole thing:

Please have a look at some other Node-RED posts for more amateur radio uses if interested in the above:

 

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A Node-RED Module for DMR SMS using an openSPOT

I’ve been using Node-RED to send DMR SMS alerts for about 6 months now as described in the earlier post here. This has worked perfectly until now but I would rather have a single configurable node instead of a collection of nodes containing code, so here it is.

Once installed, the node will be available in the social section and can just be dragged in to the flow. The image below shows the previous setup at the top where a number of different nodes were used and the new setup with just the one node and an input.

Once the node is in the flow, the openSPOT server will need to be configured within it by selecting the edit icon next to the openSPOT drop down. The defaults in the server section should suit a basic default install on a local network.

Each SMS node can be configured with all of useful options as described in the HTTP API documentation. The main requirement is that a destination ID is entered, this will be your DMR ID if you’re using this for sending messages to yourself. The rest of the configuration options are as described in the API documentation.

Once configured, any string payload sent to this node should send it to the radio.

The module is available at https://www.npmjs.com/package/node-red-contrib-openspotsms and can be installed in an existing Node-RED instance by changing in to the instance directory and running:

npm install node-red-contrib-openspotsms

It’s also available on github if you’d rather grab it manually. I’m no coder so it’s very messy but it seems to work for now, I’ll get through the todo list in time!

WSJT-X alerts to MD-380 with the openSPOT HTTP API

DMR SMS alerts using the SharkRF openSPOT with Node-RED

I recently acquired a SharkRF openSPOT for use as a hotspot to connect to the Brandmeister DMR network with my MD-380 DMR radio as I have no easily accessible repeaters nearby to use for DMR.

I have nothing but good things to say about this device, it works very well, the UI is simple to use, reported bugs are fixed very quickly and new features added with new firmware. The icing on the cake is it is a very accessible device with a HTTP and UDP API to interact with! I’ve only toyed with some features in the HTTP API but happy with what I’ve seen so far.

The first use I came up with for it was receiving DMR SMS messages to my MD-380 from my existing WSJT-X & Node-RED setup. The status-dmrsms API allows us to receive and send SMS messages over the local RF link to our connected DMR radio by specifying its DMR ID. This functionality works exactly as described in the API documentation now and if you follow it you will get a beer.

BEER

BEER from the SharkRF openSPOT HTTP API

In order to get this working in to Node-RED a flow was needed to handle authentication. As described in the Login Process, we need to hash our openSPOT password with a provided token to get a digest for use in all communication to the API, this digest is valid for 60 minutes.

The flow below shows the authentication process it as set up at the moment.

Node-RED openSPOT API Login

Node-RED openSPOT API Login

The inject at the beginning just sends a time stamp, which is unused, to start this flow off on Node-RED start-up and every 30 minutes thereafter. After the login is posted some global variables are set with the login status, the token and the digest if authentication was successful. This should hopefully tick away to ensure we will have a valid digest to hand at all times.

The posting of messages is easy and exactly as documented in the API description. With the digest already in a global variable from the login process above, we take any text input, limit it to 75 characters, convert to UTF16BE HEX and post it in the correct format for our radio. The full flow including the message input from WSJT-X is pictured below.

Full flow for using the openSPOT API

Full flow for using the openSPOT API

The inject function in the send flow is just there for testing purposes to insert a test message manually and the success function at the end just writes the status to the debug console.

With the above all set up we just wait for the DX to light up our DMR radio with an SMS message, the image below shows this on an earlier version of the same flow.

WSJT-X alerts to MD-380 with the openSPOT HTTP API

WSJT-X alerts to MD-380 with the openSPOT HTTP API

Alerts from Node-RED via Twitter or IRC might be easier but at least with the above it is all contained on the RF side and doesn’t need the Internet 🙂

It has been running for a few days now and seems to be working fine. I’ll try and wrap it all up in a more easily deployed function if I get the time but if anyone wants the nasty code before then just drop me a line.

Node-Red WSJTX

WSJT-X monitoring with py_wsjtx & Node-RED

An article about Node-RED by G4WNC in a recent Practical Wireless gave me the push to try and use it in my own radio set-up for alerting and monitoring using a spare Raspberry Pi.

The goal is to receive notifications when my own local radio spots new DXCC on HF bands, any WSPR or JT spots on 6m+ and to plot the 2m JT65b beacons I can hear over time amongst other things.

Prior to this I was only monitoring the beacons using a script and forwarding this to openHAB over MQTT to display alongside some house statistics. This wasn’t too flexible and openHAB is a bit of a burden on the Pi which would randomly hang.

For this project I’m wanting to take inputs from different physical radios & SDR with multiple copies of WSJT-X to display, log certain decodes and alert me in multiple ways if interesting things are seen.

The set-up currently has three radio inputs, each of these has a WSJT-X instance with its own configuration:

  1. HF Radio (IC-7300 and/or FT-817)
  2. VHF Radio (FT-847)
  3. GQRX (IF out of FT-847)

Input 1 is set to whatever I’ve left the HF radios monitoring.

Inputs 2 and 3 are usually set to monitor the two JT65B enabled 2m beacons I can hear from this location, GB3VHF and GB3NGI, using the same antenna. I have this graphed on openHAB but it’s not working great so will be using something else and graphing from the database instead at some point.

WSJT-X can output status messages and decodes over the network to a configured address, this is discussed in a previous blog post where we split the output to AlarmeJT and CQRLOG. We will add a third listener on an extra port, py_wsjtx.

Py_wsjtx is a Python network listener that takes the network output from WSJT-X and displays it in a console, either line by line or a curses interface. I have all of the WSJT-X instances sending their data to a single py_wsjtx instance.

py_wsjtx

As can be seen above, this is really handy for monitoring things from a console rather than the GUI and will highlight new DXCC spots and CQ calls. It can also output the decoded messages to an MQTT broker if configure which comes in really useful for what we’re doing here.

Node-RED allows us to easily take these MQTT inputs, process them in whatever way we want and act upon them. The image below shows the current set-up.

Node-Red WSJTX

The purple boxes are MQTT inputs and outputs, each of these points to an MQTT broker (running on the same Raspberry Pi) and listens or sends messages for a particular topic. Py_wsjtx sends MQTT messages in the format py_wsjtx/WSJT-X radioname/messagetype which makes it easy for us to configure Node-RED to process them in the correct manner for instance filtering by radio or by decode type.

Working from the top row of the flow down:

  1. GQRX and FT847 JT65b beacon decodes are converted to JSON, then they are forwarded on in three ways:
    1. All decodes go to openHAB which is graphing things at the moment, this is shown in the image below and I have it copied to my qrz.com page, I’ll be changing this shortly to something more reliable/configurable.Beacon monitoring
    2. All decodes are logged to a MySQL database which I will use for generating graphs when we stop using openHAB.
    3. If the decodes are above set levels, <5 for GB3NGI and <20 for GB3VHF, then send a post to twitter and to me on a local IRC server.
  2. Next we have DXCC alerts from WSJT-X, if it spots a new country then a message is sent to twitter and IRC with the spot, hopefully I will see it and respond. To make it more interesting I had it ring the shack doorbell, I’ve got two ways to do this, using a HackRF to replay the wireless doorbell, which is a bit of a waste of an expensive SDR, or ringing via a second remote unit using the Pi GPIO pins. The ringer got annoying quickly so it’s now turned off, flashing a light may be better!
  3. Next up we have an input for any WSPR spots on any radio. I’m not doing much with this at the moment other than alerting me on local IRC/twitter if there are any spots on 6m/4m/2m, I don’t often have WSPR listeners on these band though but if I think conditions are looking likely I will switch one of the WSJT-X instances to it.
  4. The solar inverter statistics are sent out on 433.9mhz and I use an RTL SDR dongle to receive them and decode with the program rtl_433. These are then rate limited and forwarded to openHAB as well as being written to the database.
  5. The other MQTT inputs are DHT11 temperature and humidity sensors in the house hooked up to various Pi I have. I’ve not got around to doing anything with these in Node-RED yet but they are currently used by openHAB.

Not much more to say other than it works well for me and I plan on playing about with the flow some more to add some more alerting rules and cutting openHAB out of the solution entirely by graphing the outputs from the database in a more accessible way.