Weather Fax Via SSB
I am writing to inquire about people's experience with any of the software programs available for receiving weather fax via a SSB unit when connected to a PC via audio cables. Does anyone have any experience with such software and using a laptop pc to connect to a SSB unit?
Any and all input will be greatly appreciated.
Yes I used my SSB/laptop to Hawaii and back last year. Mine is an old system, toughbook CF-27 (waterproof) with windows 98 on it. This laptop is for boat only so I don't need anything fancy. The weather program is Weather Fax 2000 ver 6.44. and it all worked quite well. Since you are receiving a fax I don't think new high speed computers are of much help here.
Also if you are having trouble receiving on the correct frequency you need to be .10 lower than the published freq.
Frolic has an Icom M710 with a backstay antenna and a Pactor IIusb modem (upgraded to III) connected to an old Dell running XP. I used to use the audio cable method but have switched to getting the faxes via HF email.
Before getting weatherfax via HF email (using Saildocs, see below), I used Mscan Meteo (http://www.mscan.com/) via an audio cable with good results. I tried several different packages before selecting Mscan. To limit power consumption, I usually have the laptop and computer turned off. So, after the system was set-up (before leaving port!), the hard part for me was to remember to turn everything on at the right time to get the FAX I wanted - I missed a few times. I've crewed on boats that had dedicated weatherfax boxes that, after being programmed like a fancy alarm clock for the desired faxes, regularly spit out paper. But these systems are expensive and hard to find now that most big boats have gone to satellite.
Since I use Airmail for HF email (because I'm a General Class Ham) I now use Saildocs (included in the Airmail package) to get weather faxes and GRIB files. Sailmail (which doesn't require a Ham license) has the same software included. If you're only downloading one or two weatherfax files at a time, getting them via email is more efficient than catching the HF broadcasts in real time. And the files obtained via email (see attached tif) have much better resolution than ones obtained in real time (png file). In the Pacific I've been satisfied with the surface state analysis (PYBA01), sometimes the 500 mB chart (PPBA50), and the GRIB for my location. My routine was to download one PYBA01 per day and the local (moving) GRIB twice a day. If conditions looked like they were changing rapidly, I'd get the 500 mB chart too, and maybe the 24 hr surface forecast. If you need to download more weather faxes or want the satellite images, it's generally faster to catch the HF broadcast.
How do you get weatherfax via HF email? In Saildocs, simply send an email to email@example.com with anything in the subject line, and in the body, for example: "send http://weather.noaa.gov/pub/fax/PPBA50.TIF" Replace "PPBA50.TIF" for whatever file you want.
You can get the list of available files by sending a request for the file "rfaxpac.txt" In addition to the list of files, the response will include instructions for getting the files via FTP, without Saildocs. As I recall, Saildocs includes the list of files, but I remember it being cryptic - I suggest being prepared ahead of casting off.
With a reasonably fast internet connection, you can browse the available files themselves at, for example, http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyes.shtml. Press "E-mail" in the "These products also available via E-mail or FTP " line to get the same detailed directions for getting the files without Saildocs.