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[ax25-layer2] decline of ax.25

Pete Loveall AE5PL pete at ae5pl.net
Fri Aug 4 14:06:59 UTC 2006

For a reason to use AX.25 as a layer 2 protocol instead of an
application specific protocol, I will point to a demonstration that
Amateur Radio was part of earlier this year.  We were asked by the USA
government (specific details will not be posted here by request of the
government agencies involved) to participate in an emergency exercise
with a number of other private and government agencies to demonstrate
interoperability and rapid deployment.  In a nutshell, the requesting
agencies were impressed with the Amateur Radio capabilities using D-STAR
radios (both "high" speed 128k IP and low speed digital voice and data -
low speed data is about 900 bits per second).  We used many people who
had not ever seen a D-STAR radio before that test to prove that you
don't have to use this equipment everyday to be a proficient
communicator.  And we succeeded!

The above paragraph is on topic because this list is about returning
AX.25 to its original design as a layer 2 protocol where the operators
do _not_ have to know _how_ it works to _use_ it.  I challenge the group
to show that even 1% of the Internet users have a clue as to how IP
works, how routing works, etc.  But they do know how to use the end
applications and don't care whether their data is transported over
AX.25, ATM, SONET, or all the other flavors of layer 2 protocols out
there including Ethernet.  Will AX.25 as a layer 2 protocol make Amateur
Radio just another ISP?  Nope.  It will make it much more useful to
served agencies and to the common ham out there who could care less how
their data is getting from point A to point B, they just want it to get
there.  That is the difference between writing protocol dependent
applications and generic applications.  The first takes significant
training and recurrent use by the end user to stay proficient in using
the protocol.  The second, if done properly, can be used without regard
to the underlying infrastructure.

Somebody made the comment that AX.25 was partially pushed out of the way
because of disparate usage (BBS vs. IP) on the same channel using
different networking mechanisms.  Folks, the public Internet is not that
old (14 years old).  Widespread broadband is even younger (less than 6
years).  So why did AX.25 slide off into oblivion during the _early_
90's except for some specific usages like APRS?  Because we refused to
give up our "write the application and the network to use AX.25"
mentality and instead migrate to the "write the application for the
user" and "create the network to carry the data using any means
available" mentality that has made the Internet grow to its high usage
today.  If it is difficult to use and there is a simpler way to do it,
people will go with the simpler way.  It is just human nature.

We can continue to concentrate on writing applications to AX.25 and
Amateur Radio will continue to decline in significance to our served
agencies and to our membership.  Or, we can begin to look at how to
create and use underlying layer 2 protocols (like AX.25) to support the
applications that are written for true network and end user operation.
I was asked by someone recently "If all we do is supply the radios,
antennas, and control operator function, and the served agencies supply
the personnel that are actually doing the messaging, form completion,
etc., why are we even there?"  My response was "Because we ARE supplying
the radios, antennas, installation, operation, and monitoring of the
communications AND we are providing multiple means of communications
which can be independent of any pre-existing infrastructure."

I know I am considered harsh for making this statement, but this _is_
why this list was created: "If you are not interested in refining the
AX.25 protocol to make it a better layer 2 protocol, this list is not
for you."

Stepping off soapbox...


Pete Loveall AE5PL 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert Bruninga
> Sent: Friday, August 04, 2006 8:17 AM
> Subject: Re: [ax25-layer2] decline of ax.25
> And the other thing we need is a reason.  WIth the global 
> internet available to anyone even in the palm of their hand, 
> there is no application I can think of in HAM radio that will 
> attract any kind of grass-roots network like we had back in the 80's.
> Of course we want to play, but that is not going to motivate 
> the massive investment needed to re-constitute a ham network 
> no matter how slick we make the modem...
> So it seems that the only thing that has any lasting 
> significance in Ham radio to offer is the "last mile" 
> extension back to the internet
> for emergency services.   But as we all know, unless you play with a
> system daily, then you wont be able to make it work when the 
> shoe drops.

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