Outpost Packet Message Manager Setup

This document explains the process of connecting and configuring my station, K0YDS, for VHF packet digital communications using an inexpensive KISS-mode (only) TNC/modem. The basic process would work with more expensive TNCs, by choosing the appropriate cables and the appropriate setting in the AGWPE software. I don’t address the issue of a serial to USB converter cable, though if it has a genuine FTDI chip, the following will probably work (beware: there are “fake” FTDI chip converter cables–Google is your friend).

The station:

Yaesu FT897D, Coastal Chipworks TNC-X, and a Dell laptop (dual boot with Windows 10 and Xubuntu) booted into Windows. How to set up on Linux is a future project.

Software:

Cables:

Sites I found helpful:

Note: Read these instructions in conjunction with the documentation of the components: TNC-X, AGWPE, and Outpost PMM. What follows is an illustration of what settings I needed to make to make it all work. Your mileage may vary, given what TNC you have (and the version of the Windows operating system). These are the basic settings to make it work.

Configuration of Computer:

It is important to install the FTDI drivers so the computer will recognize the serial-USB chip used in the TNC-X. You need to see these two lines in Device Manager (the COM port may be a different number, of course). The computer driver labeled USB Serial Converter makes a “virtual” serial port visible to the AGWPE software. Note that a Windows 10 update may remove or hide your COM ports. Here’s more information and a fix.

Device Manager screen

The two keys to enabling the computer and TNC-X to talk.

Configuration of TNC-X:

The hardware setting of JP1 and JP2 of the TNC-X should set the serial link speed to either 1200baud or 9600baud. It is possible, however, to fill up the buffer of the TNC-X if a long message or attachment is sent at 9600, because the speed from the TNC to the radio will always be 1200. Note the manual’s suggestion on the setting of the audio level pot. I drilled a hole in the top of my TNC-X case to make the adjustment easier, if need be.

Configuration of AGWPE:

The first step in setting up AGWPE is to configure the serial (USB) port.

Port Setup

For the TNC-X, the setup of the serial port is set this way. The TNC-X is equivalent to the “TAPR TNC2” TNC in KISS mode. Note that since the TNC-X is a “dumb” TNC, no commands should  be sent to it (they will only go on out to the radio), so be sure all 3 fields are empty and that the ExitKiss command box is unchecked. The “SerialPort/Modem BaudRate” must be set the same as the TNC. In my case, 9600. This next screen makes sure the on-air BaudRate is set to 1200 (the TNC-X is 1200baud only).

Port Properties screen 2

Setting serial parameters

This screen sets up the internal communication on the computer between the AGWPE program and other software, in this case, the Outpost program. First, we enable the TCP/IP port, then set the port number to 8000 (this is matched in the Outpost program, of course, so the two can talk with each other).

Setting up the internal data port for AGWPE

Configuration of Outpost Packet Message Manager

When you first open Outpost, you get the program banner and the identification screen:

First Screen

On this screen you can choose the profile (see the Outpost documentation for more detail) and set your call. There is no generic packet: every packet of data contains your call.

This is the home screen of Outpost, giving you access to all the necessary settings and fields. You can choose a different profile if you’ve set one up, set up the BBS you will be connecting to, configure the interface to AGWPE, and many other features, including forms for easy message construction.

Outpost Home Screen

Outpost Setup Menu Choices

Here’s the “Interfaces” screen, the key to the connection between Outpost and AGWPE:

Interface Configuration Screen 1

This screen sets up the internal communication port to match the port defined in AGWPE: in this case, 8000. (127.0.0.1 is the IP address of the computer’s “loop-back” port.)

Interface Configuration Screen 2

Next, set up the BBS you wish to connect to when you click on “Sent/Receive.”

BBS Setup Screen

Outpost is smart enough to figure out what commands to send to most BBSes. You can configure each command yourself if you meet a BBS that doesn’t match.

This should get you connected and allow you to send and receive messages in several formats. Have fun exploring all that Outpost can do! See some more sample screens here.