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W0CHP Ham Radio & Tech Musings

Hamshack Hotline Sucks, and Why I'd Never Use it

Hamshack Hotline (“HH”), a “free” (not really) ham operator VoIP service is becoming all the rage right now in the world of ham radio (read: clueless hams drinking the kool aid). I haven’t used it, I won’t use it, and I can say that it sucks…

Even my local ham club has begun evangelizing HH on their social media presence as a “tool” for ARES/RACES/United Whacker Association, etc.

Now, I can appreciate the concept of HH: bring VoIP telephony technology to the world of ham radio. As my local United Whacker Association states, it certainly could prove a useful and additional communications tool in the arsenal for Em-Comm, etc. And many hams will likely think that it’s frigging amazing and use it.

I won’t, however; based on principle, not function.

HH has absolutely zero documentation as to what makes their project (actually, “service”) tick, edifying curious-by-nature, hams and hackers who would like to:

  • Understand the underlying technology
  • Experiment with it
  • Deploy their own, localized instance of it, for their ham club, events, etc.
  • Improve upon it
  • Fork the technology to make a better/more robust/more reliable/etc. version.
  • Help with and mitigate security holes and bugs
  • More I’m sure I could rant on about

To quote a very sharp ham radio operator on Reddit, who completely understands the spirit of ham radio:

One kind believes that the certificate simply grants you access to more products to buy and use without paying the slightest attention to what’s under the hood.

The others are actual radio amateurs.


Hamshack Hotline is Not Free

HH may be gratis, but it is not free. No source code, no docs, no public community behind it, no nothing.

There are no HH architectural diagrams, no crediting the underlying technologies creators1, no mentioning of resiliency/redundancy in their “service” and how its hosted, no obvious ways for other hams to contribute, etc. etc.

My perception of HH: it’s just a strange “service” for hams to play with while not knowing how anything works, how (un)reliable it is, run by a small conclave of hams.

Hamshack Hotline Does Not Advance nor Improve Ham Radio

Closed systems such as this, are exactly why and how technologies become incredibly fragmented, stale and irrelevant. Hams continually and blindly buy into and propagate closed and mysterious systems because its yet “another thing to play with.” This does not advance our hobby by any stretch. Sharing, collaboration, openness and community does.

On the flip side, look at AllStarLink… Fully open source, plenty of documentation, etc. This is a good way of building and sharing a project. And AllStar is killing IRLP and EchoLink (both closed, shitty systems), and rightfully so. Want a big user base and a compelling project? Open it up.

By Using HH, You are Not Helping Ham Radio

HH sucks, and while it remains a closed system, I’ll never even consider it. I refuse to fragment, close-off and propagate unknowns in ham radio technology and our wonderful hobby – and you should too. By using HH it while it remains closed, you are not helping to advance our hobby.

  1. I think it’s safe to assume that a fundamental underlying technology used by HH, it likely the venerable and F/OSS Asterisk VoIP/PBX software. And yet HH makes no mention or credits this. In the likely event they are indeed using it on their back-end, I find that shitty. Worse, the creator of Asterisk is a friend of mine, and we go back to about 1998 or so. Sorry you don’t get the credit you deserve sometime, Mark. I know what F/OSS gifts you’ve given folks, and I’m sure grateful. ↩︎