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Real vs HamSphere Virtual vs Hybrid
Radio communication and Amateur Radio as the terms suggest, clearly define the mode of communication using electromagnetic (EM) radio frequency waves. Hence it is obvious that the medium of signal transport must be able to propagate EM waves and not electrical RF energy. There is a clear distinction between the two. EM wave propagation relies on a self-sustaining propagation mechanism by continuous and alternating transfer of energy between an electric field and an associated orthogonal magnetic field.

Each of these energy transfer processes generates a new EM wavelet which continues to propagate. In contrast, electrical RF energy uses an electrically conductive medium like copper wires similar to transporting energy at other frequencies including the well-known utility power distribution networks. We may also use fiber-optic medium by modulating a light source with information which propagates over a graded density refractive index medium within the confines of the optical cable. But this too is not Radio propagation.

Virtualization is the process of replicating the behavior of a physical real-world process using mathematical modeling, whereas Hybridization is to use an alternate via-media to bypass difficult and perhaps unsavory parts of the physical process to achieve end results without having to negotiate natural obstacles of a normal physical process. The bottom line is that Virtualization in a Ham radio context is a genuine effort to replicate a physical process in its entirety with all its natural challenges. On the other hand, Hybridization is an attempt to circumvent and dilute the natural process by using exogenous or extraneous medium/processes to achieve end results even though it may not be a technically viable proposition within the realms and boundaries of the communication mode which we profess to be using.

Hybrid Communication & Trunking is not Ham Radio
With the advent of modern technologies, various hybrid communication systems have been designed and successfully deployed. All this is perfectly legitimate for commercial, military and various other forms of traffic where the objective is not to stick within the boundaries of a single stipulated medium (like RF waves) but to deliver the most cost-effective and robust overall solution. Hybrid communication networks may employ several modes where a partial circuit may be radio while the rest of the circuit may use copper cables, fiber-optics, etc. On the contrary, Amateur radio is a hobby where we are expected to operate within the provisions and limitations of the radio communication medium. The moment we start using an alternate medium to leverage our communication, it is no more ham radio. In such cases we should rather give up the hobby of Amateur radio and stop fooling ourselves.

Therefore, hybrid communication paradigms have no place in Amateur Radio. It is simply ridiculous to have a small part of the point-to-point link via radio EM waves and thereafter use fiber, cables or Internet for the balance part of the circuit. Ham radio is a hobby of radio communication and not that of self-deception. IF we do it, it is not Amateur Radio. Sadly though, several Internet-based applications have infiltrated Amateur Radio. Ham operators are being misled to believe that they are still practicing Amateur Radio if they use such hybrid modes. This is completely untrue. If an operator uses a VHF/UHF transceiver to thereafter have his traffic routed across thousands of kilometers via Internet and radio trunking to another VHF/UHF operator at the other end, it is certainly not Amateur radio.

Even at the risk of being very unpopular, I would not shy away from naming the prominent players like EchoLink and even D-Star networks. Although D-Star digital voice modulation technology is a welcome development, that is true as long as it is restricted to over-the-air radio transmission. The idea of using internet gateways to route D-Star traffic via the internet makes it quite unacceptable. I wonder at times if this is Amateur Radio or Amateur Internet. Yet these protocols are used extensively by many clueless ham operators who are falsely made to believe that it is cutting-edge radio technology. The truth is that it ceases to be radio when hybridized with the Internet. The proliferation of such services are only doing a disservice to Amateur radio and should have no place in this hobby.

Virtual Radio – Simulation of RF Communication Environment through Mathematical modeling
If conceived and implemented properly with the utmost care and due diligence, Virtual Radio legitimately complements real radio communication. Virtualization of any physical phenomena is a scientific process that requires a deep understanding of the underlying principles and parameters that determine the behavior of the natural processes in the real world. Therefore Virtual Radio is also a process of mimicking, emulating or simulating the real world radio communication environment with all its properties and idiosyncrasies.

The virtual experience must be as close to the real as possible without compromising on the finer behavioral aspects of the real environment which is being virtualized. Today we find several applications which claim to be Virtual Amateur Radio applications. We have found that barring one application, none of the others do any justice to fundamental concepts of virtualization. They simply fall far short of providing radio-like experience to users. They are all shady deals that make a mockery of science, mathematics, mother nature and Amateur radio.

The only virtual ham radio application that meets most qualifying requirements is HamSphere 4.0. Rest of them are either simply plain VOIP chat applications with negligible efforts to emulate real-world environment parameters which determine radio communication or they are radio trunking application using alternate information transport medium to facilitate communication.

Although HamSphere 4.0 uses the Internet VOIP protocol as an underlying data transport medium, its application virtualization layer ensures complete opacity which de-links the properties of VOIP protocol while replacing them with its own simulation protocols. This is a simulation of the geophysical and solar-terrestrial parameters through a complex mathematical model to recreate radio propagation environment and to ensure that communication experience is very close to real-world scenario.



Genesis and evolution of radioHamSphere 4.0 Architecture

HamSphere 4.0 is a simulation (or perhaps emulation to an extent) of HF Radio communication environment. It is a virtualization model deployed in a distributed computation paradigm using a client-server architecture. HamSphere client is essentially a thin-client whereas at the server-side it is a distributed cloud computing network.

At the core of the system is a software bundle which is collectively called the Sphere. The Sphere is deployed at the server-side and is responsible for most of the niche modeling. The Sphere hosts the HF propagation model which draws its inputs from real-time Geophysical and Solar-terrestrial parametric data obtained continually from satellites and earth-station observatories. HF band frequency-dependent propagation metrics including point-to-point path losses, noise-floor, expected signal strength, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), etc are dynamically computed with a minute-to-minute update for the entire global canvas.

Effects of Ionospheric slab densities, gradients and heights are computed in real-time while taking into account solar sun-spot activities, diurnal and seasonal variations, variations due to 11-year Sun-spot cycles and Multi-path propagation effects are all factored in. NEC compliant virtual antennas are deployed on HamSphere with realistic performance characteristics. These include a huge variety ranging from dipoles, verticals, Collinears, Cardioids, Yagis, Cubical Quads, LPDAs, Stacked arrays, etc. Supplemented by real-time responsive antenna rotator at the client-side, it provides a near real virtual HF Radio experience to the ham radio operators. I strongly recommend that every Radio Amateur must give it a try and experience true virtual reality… Read More.
HamSphere 4.0 modular constructionModular Transceiver Design

HamSphere transceiver is the client-side user interface to the system. When installed on the user computer, HamSphere application deploys a feature rich HF radio software transceiver interface. The standard deployment comes with a ready to use all band HF transceiver. It also includes an Assembly Editor. HamSphere 4.0 is modular and scaleable in design. Hence the Assembly Editor can be used to modify the transceiver layout or extend it with optional feature rich extension plugin modules.

Although the default HamSphere transceiver layout is sufficiently adequate for most HF communication needs, the ability to edit and extend TXR features with plugins opens up unlimited possibilities. This is like starting off with a modest mid-range HF TXR and thereafter gradually building it up to a very high-end enviable asset. Some of the notable add-on plugins are a modern Waterfall Band-scope, Band scanner, Digital S-Meter, Digital Power Meter, CW IAMBIC Keyer, Microphone voice recorder for calling long repetitive CQ, SSN/SFI display, HF propagation map, Solar-terrestrial Data module, etc to name a few. All this along with a wide selection of antennas render HamSphere 4.0 a very realistic and interesting HF virtual radio platform… Read More.
NEC compliant virtual antennasNEC Compliant Virtual Antennas

Other than the high degree of realism on account of a very realistic HF propagation model, HamSphere 4.0 is strongly supplemented by its range of virtually deployed antennas. These are further supported by a set of precision emulated antenna towers, masts, and rotators. All antennas provide a real-world like experience to the user in terms of gain, takeoff angle, 3D radiation pattern, lobe characteristics, etc. Each antenna design is based on NEC modeling while taking into account the characteristics and limitations of real-world construction material. The end result is uncanny realism. If these antennas were to be constructed in the real world, they would perform quite identical to the way they perform on HamSphere.

However, the upside on HamSphere is that there are no real estate concerns and no angry neighbors… The XYL is happy too… Being a virtual world, the antennas can often stretch the limits of worldly physical constraints in terms of size and weight. HamSphere provides a selection of antennas ranging from dipoles, verticals, OCFD, G5RV, Collinears, Cardioids, Four-square, Loops, Yagis from 2-element to 8-element designs, Cubical Quads from 2-element to 7-element, Multi-band Yagis and Cubical Quads, Wide-band LPDA, high gain Stacked Arrays and several special antennas like Optibeam, W8JK special, VU2NSB OmniDX Array and VU2NSB Fish-bone Array and many others. New antennas are regularly being added to the HamSphere 4.0 repertoire. Such a rich selection of antennas are unimaginable elsewhere… For most amateur radio operators, HamSphere is perhaps the only platform that provides a unique opportunity to experience the realistic performance of such a variety of antennas… Read More.
Loogbook eqsl and awardsLogbook, eQSL & Awards

HamSphere 4.0 is an integrated virtual amateur radio communication platform. Therefore it provides all necessary peripheral support functions to make ham radio an enjoyable experience for all. HamSphere has a fully functional Log-Book system which is accessible from the transceiver interface. Operators can log QSOs on the fly. This is supplemented by a native eQSL sub-system. Operators can create multiple QSL cards for dispensing. There is a feature-rich QSL card editor built into HamSphere. Logbook and QSL statistics are automatically maintained and updated on the HamSphere servers.

The logbook and the eQSL sub-systems are very well integrated to allow quick and intuitive usage. Even in the event of a rare DX pileup operation or a DXpedition, logging and QSLing can easily be done on the fly by experienced HF operators. For those who are keenly into radio-sport and award hunting, HamSphere provides an extensive range of challenging awards. Some awards are similar to what we find on real HF like the DXCC award or WAS, while there are others which are quite unique and interesting. Apart from the regular set of awards, HamSphere has recently launched a set of annual awards which are designed to reward avid DXers who apply their understanding of HF radio propagation and experience to negotiate contacts. These are called “Master DXer Annual Award”… Read More.
Knowledgebase and FAQKnowledgebase & FAQ

HamSphere has a comprehensive and a multi-faceted user support and information system. The official HamSphere and HamSphere 4.0 websites carry a wide spectrum of information related to the system including rules, regulations, operating procedures, etc. This is supplemented by onsite forums, Helpdesk and support ticket system.

Other than this, HamSphere also provides helpful information and articles presented via the transceiver on-panel clickable help interface and plugin. Social media presence of HamSphere is extensive, ranging from Twitter to Facebook. Dedicated Facebook groups are set up by HamSphere for user community interaction and also to disseminate important information. Special HamSphere Facebook groups have also been set up to impart online education on HF propagation, antennas and various technical aspects of HF radio communication. Informative newsletters are also sent to HamSphere users every quarter. Under this section on our website we too will offer HamSphere 4.0 related information from time-to-time in the form of Knowledge-base snippets and FAQ…
Feature updates and eventsFeature Updates & Events

This section will be dedicated to providing information on HamSphere updates and system enhancements. We will review such updates to help understand them and their ramifications on user experience. In this section we will also announce special activities and events which are conducted on HamSphere 4.0... Read More.
India DX Net on HamSphere 3.0 and 4.0India DX Net - (on HS3 & HS4)

The India DX Net a.k.a IDX Net or IDXN is the oldest amateur radio net running on HamSphere. The net started functioning in the year 2012 and continues to be very popular amongst the operators on the system. It is a discussion net with a global reach. Not only is the net regarded as a source of authentic information pertaining to HamSphere, but it also regularly dwells into topics related to HF Radio Propagation, Antennas, Operating practices, Ethics, HF Transceivers, Station equipment setup and various other matters related to Ham Radio.

Our strength stems from the vast pool of knowledge-base and collective wisdom of participating Ham Radio operators. Here we cover various aspects of HF Propagation, how to find and predict band opening, Ionospheric behavior, the influence of Solar Cycle, seasonal and diurnal variations in propagation, which bands to use at what time of the day or seasons, etc. Antenna related topics explain Antenna behavior, variety, and types of antennas, their finer points, performance and usage under different conditions. Here we also cover techniques required to optimally use the HF radio transceiver to achieve best on-air performance, and how to work DX and establish communication under difficult and hostile weak-signal band conditions... Read More.
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