Re: VARA and Winlink

Paul Butzi (W7PFB)

My understanding, supported by what I’ve seen on the Winlink site, is that ARDOP will be the Winlink supported protocol going forward, with WINMOR being abandoned over time.

So ARDOP will not go away.

Vara is developed and supported by Jose Alberto Nieto Ros, EA5HK, the same fellow who created the ROS digital mode.  As far as I can tell he’s the entire team.There’s a reasonable discussion to be had about whether $70 is the appropriate price point for the upgrade from the nagware version but when you compare the $70 to the $1200+ price for a Farallon/SCS TNC that will do PACTOR I think Jose’s product is an incredible value.

The VARA software is not like, for instance, Direwolf and the UZ7HO soundmodem which implement already engineered protocols.  Jose has done the considerable work of developing a protocol AND the software and is doing continuing development and support.  Maybe I’m wrong but at $70 bucks a pop, I don’t think Jose is getting rich off this. 

 On top of that, if you put together a group of ten folks who want licenses, the price is $50 a pop. I suspect that SNOVARC could round up 10 hams who want VARA licenses with not much trouble.

This morning I stumbled across the following article on the Winlnk website, detailing the results of some testing of the speed of WINMOR, ARDOP, VARA, and PACTOR under various conditions including noise, fade, and various levels of multipath.  It’s interesting reading but also very useful even if you do nothing beyond scroll thru and look at the graphs.  Of particular interest is the part at the end about how VARA FM performs compared to AX.25 and FX.25 packet.  

-p W7PFB
73, Don’t forget to smile and have fun!

On Jul 21, 2020, at 11:54 PM, W7ABD <w7abd1@...> wrote:

I have seen many CMS HF stations now reporting they will no longer be supporting winmore after the end of July.  Also heard that ARDOP is being abandoned by winlink.  So that leaves VARA as the only current solution for email over HF. 

I too have been experimenting with VARA and agree it's quite a bit faster and more reliable than winmore was.  Even in it's reduced "evaluation" version.

I am not happy that the VARA Team has chosen to make their product commercial.  Rather than follow the winlink model, with an optional donation option.  I have supported the winlink product by donating over the years and will continue to do so, but don't think I will support VARA, as I don't like their business model.  But since the other options are going away, will use the eval version of VARA until something better comes along.


On 7/21/20 21:30, Rowland wrote:
I have been experimenting with VARA HF non-paid version and the connection rate is much higher than Winmor.  I do not have a lot of experience so I will be interested in hearing about your trials.  If you want me to work with you I would be delighted.



On Tue, Jul 21, 2020 at 9:19 PM Paul Butzi (W7PFB) <w7pfb@...> wrote:
Motivated by the Weekly Net check-in via Winlink I have been experimenting with Winlink again.

In particular I was interested in what changes happen as a result of the abandoning of the Winmor connection protocol/modem/soft TNC.

The direct replacement for Winmor is ARDOP.  I have used ARDOP for a while, it is more reliable and perhaps a bit faster than Winmor but not a dramatic improvement.

So I decided to try VARA.

The downside of VARA is that if you want it to go into fast mode, and you want to avoid the nag screen, you must buy a license, which costs $70.

The upsides are:

* VARA is faster, especially in good conditions when you can run a fair bit of power on your end (most of the Winlink RMS stations seem to run pretty solid signals).  On a really solid connection, VARA is massively faster.

* In any conditions that are less than ideal VARA is dramatically more reliable and faster than any of the non PACTOR alternatives.  As PACTOR TNC’s cost more than $1k, that makes $70 a pretty good deal.  (I don’t own a PACTOR TNC so I don’t know how the various PACTOR modes stack up against VARA)

In short I can connect to more Winlink RMS stations using VARA than I can using Winmor or ARDOP.  I can connect more reliably when conditions are not optimal.  I can connect reliably using 5-15W instead of 30-70W.   And the connections are faster.

In short, I think it’s a pretty interesting piece of technology.

And that’s all on HF.

There’s a version of VARA for VHF/UHF FM which can exploit the wider audio bandwidth you get when you use the 9600 baud receive data path of a VHF/UHF radio that offers input/output for a 9600 baud packet modem.

This would get around the big problem with VHF/UHF Winlink, which is that packet radio is deadly slow.  The slow speed of packet is the flaw that makes VHF/UHF Winlink nearly useless for tactical use in an emergency.  There are other problems with VHF/UHF Winlink but the flaw that cannot be ignored is that it is just too darn slow for modern needs like moving digital photos or larger files.

I’l be ordering some hardware to allow me to exploit the wider data path you get using the 9600 baud audio path - basically a couple of wide bandwidth sound cards. 

Is anyone else interested in experimenting with experimenting with VARA on VHF/UHF FM?  If so, let me know and we can coordinate.

Also, if you’re a Winlink HF user, I urge you to check out VARA.  The evaluation copy, speed throttled as it is, is still a dramatic improvement over Winmor and ARDOP, especially in marginal conditions.

-p W7PFB
73, Don’t forget to smile and have fun!

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