Remote Station Manager – RSM

Before starting, it’s important I give credit for the development of this RSM application to Fraser Gorrie Senior Software developer in Canada. Without his experience and patience I would not have been able to make this a reality. If you need help developing software, Fraser comes highly recommended. You can find him on the Bildr Discord forum or visit his website.

Additionally, Gene Hinkle K5PA provided extremely valuable suggestions, personal support and inspiration to stay with the vision. Both hung in there with me on this project and I’m grateful.

RSM is a fully functioning app that is in limited use.

About RSM

Remote Station Manager (RSM) is a stand alone web application to monitor RCForb servers you have permission to use. The RSM app is accessible with a personal login and will run on any desktop or mobile browser.

The impetus for this project is to solve a need for Ham operators wanting to use of their monitor a personal remote station or club station using RemoteHams.com the RCForb Software. The author of this article long with Gene K5PA have an informal network of five RSM servers we share in different locations. RSM makes it possible to quickly determine who is online.

The RSM web application displays the status of each remote station with a single mouse click or mobile phone screen tap to eliminate the hassle of hopping around station to station looking for one not in use. Or to see who’s is using your station. You do not have to wait for a RCForb Client to load on your PC to determine if the station is offline. RSM makes it possible to quickly view who is logged in, what mode they are using along with other relevant data about the radio without the RCForb client. RSM will run inside any browser and any OS.

Early adopters are free to use the service. Depending on interest, we may create a way to subsidize further development and server fees so contributions are appreciated for ongoing growth.

How to Operate RSM

Login

Select the station you want to view

What about Mobile Access?

You can access RSM on your phone or PC desktop. For mobile, the display will look different with stations icons at the top. You can simulate what it will look like on your PC desktop by simply dragging the right side of your browser to a narrow view of RSM and you’ll notice it automatically switches the buttons on the left to round buttons at the top. This is a very handy of staying aware of server status on your PC without using much screen real estate.

What happens If the station is offline

If a station is offline, RSM will update the STATUS line with text messages every two seconds and then give up after 20 seconds. The good news is you can just click on another station and bring a different server status up without waiting.

Learn more about RSM

The idea of just wanting to know who is logged into an RCForb server surfaced in a conversation with Gene Hinkle, K5PA. We started thinking about Ham radio trends for the coming years moving toward remote stations. We see a growing number of people creating their own remote radio stations and sharing them privately. Some Hams have a small personal network of friends, others share an RCForb server for club access. Seeing who’s online gives some insight on when you can jump on and make your own QSOs or just join in on the conversation. You’ll still need to bring up your RCForb client to get on the air.

Gene monitors and administrates quite a few RCForb servers so he surfaced an idea of finding a way to quickly monitor the status of each one without having to manually attempt logging in. Gene found some specific information on the RCForb Forum that led us down a path to create RSM to solve this problem. Because that’s what Hams do.

A bit more detail

We found out the RCForb server responds to JSON requests. JSON is a structured way to exchange information with another device over the Internet. This is a read-only process meaning the RCForb Server can only reply to requests. RSM cannot control the radio.

We further discovered the RCForb Server relies on a specific port that replies with JSONP if a properly constructed URL is typed into the browser. After a some researching, we were able to access and decode this JSONP into regular JSON. The issue was further complicated as RCForb Server only responds over HTTP and most modern NoCode software only works with HTTPS.

We solved both of these issues by implementing Node-Red as an intermediary server between Bildr.com and the RCForb radios. Node-Red does the polling and maintains the current status of a remote station. We added a little magic of our own by preventing inactive RCForb radios from tying up RSM (waiting for the API call to finish via timeouts), again with the help of Node-Red.

What is next?

If additional funding emerges, we want to expand the project to increase the number RSM users with more features and radio types (i.e., FlexRadio, Kenword, ICOM). Various improvements have been suggested like a club scheduling page for each server, the addition of local weather, station status updates, recent lightening status, an alert system to send email or text when users are on or someone needs assistance or an alert needs to be sent. That’s all possible in the Bildr.com environment.

For more information on how RSM works contact Tom, KB5RF.

Special thanks to:

Fraser Gorrie – senior software developer

The Bildr.com team for access to their amazing Nocode Development environment

The NodeRed.org community

and the entire RCForb development team for which RCForb would not exist:

KG6YPI (Mastermind, Development, Support & Testing)

W8RJ (Driver Development, Support & Testing)

3Z8FLY (Android Development, Support & Testing)

WA6LIE (Remote Concept & Design Consulting)

M3GHE (Support & Testing, Early Adopter Award)

RemoteHams.com is a global community for Online Remote Bases.