Getting started with HF ALE

For quite some time I’ve wanted to get a start in ALE in hopes of bringing the possibilities of the system to the channel & the blog. Being an Android and Linux user, the Windows only software PCALE, was an obvious obstacle & deal-breaker for some time. Still there is so much potential for robust grid-down, group comms, I simply had to bite the bullet, moving my primary comms laptop over to Windows/Linux dual-boot. This blog will provide all key bits of information, all in one place, to get you and your Yaesu FT-817ND (or other rig) up and running with PCALE. It will also provide some useful information for those new to ALE.

What is ALE?
Automatic Link Establishment, usually abbreviated ALE, is a standard for digitally initiating and sustaining radio communications on HF. ALE enables a station to make contact between itself, another station, or a group of stations, with the goal of providing rapid, reliable HF voice and messaging, despite unstable ionospheric propagation, reception interference, or congested HF channels. ALE also monitors, tests and logs the most/least reliability channels for facilitating contacts with other stations. The most comprehensive source of ALE information can be found at HFLink.com, but don’t head over just yet.

Most interesting ALE features.
ALE for ham radio, is like a battleship for rabbit hunting, so it’s important to point out the features which are critically important, then ignoring everything else!

  • Band Channel scanning 
  • Link Quality Analysis
  • Initiating connections for phone QSO
  • Call/Message alerting
    ADM messages
  • Keyboard to keyboard chat
  • Email
  • geo-position tracking, or telemetry.

Getting started
Getting started with ale can be a frustrating affair. There’s almost too much information on the net, much of it redundant, but it’s good info if you have a filter. I’ve picked through much of the relevant pages, and present only what is required to get you up and running. Everything else has been omitted!

  • PC-ALE Software download Although there are download links on hflink.com, they unfortunately point to groups.yahoo.com. Here are the installation package I found from there. A yahoo account is needed to access the group, and you’ll need to be approved to the group (yes yahoo by force sucks). You’ll need to install the Full Installation, and the update found here. There’s also Specific Instructions for how to install the software, which can be found here.
  • Setup guide once you have the software you’ll need a good guide to help you navigate effortlessly through the configuration. HFLINK.com has an excellent set up page. You can find it here.
  • QRG Files are the “channels guide” for ALE in your group or region. Youll nedd to download the file from HFLINK.com (also found in the above setup guide). Alternatively, this is the link to the zip archive I downloaded
  • Antenna

    I decided to use the Chameleon CHA TD. It is a Broadband terminated dipole with good swr from 160-10M. It an excellent example of the ideal antenna system for ALE. You can find it on Amazon, or a direct link from my shopping pages which helps the blig and channel.
    There are also homebrew designs from Bonnie KQ6XA listed on the HFLink.com website here. 
  • HFLINK HFLink.com
    With all things new there’s always going to be some getting used to the way other people present their work. Thankfully the HFlink.com website, is an excellent resource to find much of the information we need. In fact in some respects there’s too much information there, but with some patients you’ll be able to sort through it.
  • HFLINK.NET is another resource with excellent  tools. One of them is the real-time activity map. Another is the main page, having scaled down versions of the map and activity log  tools. There is also a real-time chat which comes in handy.
  • ALE^Stat is another useful tool which allows operators to report the ALE activity heard over RF, to hflink.net. You can find the software (Windows only) here.

PCALE Video Tutorial
One of my YouTube channel Buddies has produced an excellent instructional video video about PCALE. You can watch it at this link or view the video below

Signing up for the yahoo group is required to get access to the files with more importantly to the support forum. You can get access to that group here

This is a living document.  It’ll be updsted from time to time.

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