Tale of Two Packets

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Getting to a Packet Radio BBS, a tale of two packets

Attending a VECTOR packet night has shown me a couple of ways we can explore packet radio beyond the message transfers we do in RMS Winlink (or Pat) and VCTPacket. You can find several active packet radio sites in our area to explore and practice using a few simple steps.

After “listening” for a while using axlisten, I found a few packet radio sites to visit. I even established direct connections with VE7NV and VE7CNV at a packet night to observe what we could do.

What follows works readily with a Kenwood TH-D72A or TM-710GA, VECTOR’s primary UHF-VHF field radios.


To use packet radio on Windows 10, you need to have a terminal program that can understand AX.25 protocols. At the writing of this post, SV2AGW maintains a two-part set of software he shares with other hams without charge for hobby use (“hamware”).

Laurisilva Digigroup EA8RKL published a short video (Spanish) demonstrating AGWTerm in 2012. Find detailed information about AGW tools at SoundCardPacket.org. You can also look (while there) at the 6 things SoundCardPacket suggests using packet radio to do.


  1. Download and install AGWTerm and AGWPE
  2. Open and configure AGWPE
  3. Open and configure AGWTerm
  4. Run AGWTerm

The first window AGWTerm opens is where you start connections and see AX.25 traffic. When you start a connection, look for the specific connection window so you can interact with the station you reached.

Definitions - Windows

AGWTERM gives you an AX.25 capable terminal program
AGW Packet Engine version 2013.415 (Windows 95/98 to Windows 10) gives your terminal an interface to your terminal node controller.


To get started using packet radio to explore BBS’s on Linux, you only need to add the AX.25 tools on top of your typical system. Refer to videos on Youtube from Tom VK7NTK to see this in action.

Francois VA7GPL has published a short, clear article to set up a packet radio system on Linux. After you have set that up, you can follow the steps Tom VK7NTK outlines in his two videos. Let’s summarize:


  1. Set up your system, refer to Francois' article - this uses the Kenwood TH-D72A
  2. Open your favourite terminal
  3. Run axcall (the following example uses the same port name you would set up following Francois’s guidance to call the BBS that Zsolt VE7CIZ runs)
axcall wl2k ve7ciz-1

You can reach any call sign this way. To see AX.25 traffic, open another terminal window and run axlisten. Axlisten will fill your terminal window with a running log of traffic. Take notes or capture the terminal output in the usual ways.

sudo axlisten -cart

Definitions - Linux

Most Linux kernels (the heart and brain of the system) include AX.25 without additional effort.
a small program that includes a rudimentary BBS interface; its manual (man) page

Additional Notes for Linux

Everything below follows from the setup Francois described.

With SystemD

If you have systemd and you have set up your AX.25 settings, use:

  1. Power on radio
  2. Connect USB to laptop
  3. Activate the AX.25 system (“systemctl start…")
  4. Do your stuff (pat, axcall, axlisten, etc…)
  5. Deactivate the AX.25 system (“systemctl stop…"):
sudo systemctl start ax25
pat http&
axcall wl2k ve7ciz-1
sudo systemctl stop ax25

Without SystemD

Use when you can’t use systemd.

  1. Power on Radio
  2. Connect USB to laptop
  3. Reset the radio’s TNC
  4. Attach the USB to internal AX.25 (two ways)
  5. Tally ho, let’s go (pat, axcall, axlisten, etc…)
sudo /usr/share/pat/bin/axup /dev/ttyUSB0 wl2k 1200
pat http &
axcall wl2k va7hur-1

Reset the TNC and Activate the USB-AX.25 Connection

/usr/share/pat/bin/axup /dev/ttyUSB0 wl2k 1200

Just Reset the radio TNC

Use whenever you want.

-B : radio band, (0 is Band A)

-S : serial connection

-b : baud (on-air)

tmd710_tncsetup -B 0 -S /dev/ttyUSB0 -b 1200 -h

Attach the USB to AX.25 port

Only need this if axup is unavailable on your system.

sudo kissattach /dev/ttyUSB0 wl2k -m 128
sudo kissparms -p wl2k -t 500 -l 10 -s 12 -r 80 -f n
pat http &
axcall wl2k va7hur-1

Remember where your settings live

Files to look at for your settings, when you forget:

  • /etc/default/ax25
  • /etc/ax25/axports
  • /etc/systemd/system/ax25.service