In short: Clusse is a free DX cluster server software package for amateur packet radio. If this doesn't tell you anything, you are probably not an amateur radio operator, and won't benefit from this software. You could as well stop reading now.
A DX cluster is a network of DX cluster nodes, which each provide services to a group of local users. Nodes are linked together using a special protocol so that the users of each node can exchange information with the users of the whole cluster.
As the name "DX cluster" suggests, the main purpose of the system is to distribute information about DX stations currently on the air. Once an user of a cluster has heard (and worked) a DX station, he tells the callsign and the frequency to the local cluster node, which distributes the information to all other users of the network, so that they can find and work the station.
The DX cluster concept was widely introduced by the PacketCluster (TM) software developed and sold by Pavillion Software. Clusse is a DX cluster node software similar to PacketCluster in functions. It includes most features of the original software, but it is not a clone. It is not intended to look similar and no effort will be done to make it feel similar.
- Original PacketCluster features: DX information, cluster-wide and node-wide announcements, user-to-user communication (talk), weather and WWV information.
- A PacketCluster-compatible database system, remote databases queries (no limits for amount of users or databases), support for Buckmaster HamCall CD-ROM callbook database.
- Links to the existing PacketCluster network. Handles an unlimited number of links between PacketCluster and Clusse nodes. Catches loops by detecting duplicate messages and other illegal situations, and cuts links if it is necessary to cut the loop. (Because of the original design of the PacketCluster, only star-formed networks are allowed, with few exceptions.)
- An on-line help system. The help file is available in most major languages, and you are welcome to translate it to your own language. The English and Finnish files are maintained by the author, and the others are maintained by volunteers.
- Character system conversion tables: Clusse can do conversions between different character systems separately for each user. This feature is needed in countries where special characters like ä, ö, å and ü cause problems when they are exchanged between different types of computers (at least Scandinavia and Germany).
- Multi-user conference system with virtual channels. Very much like the conversd network used on the Amprnet.
- Uses either the PC/FlexNet kernel or the G8BPQ Packet Switch as an ax.25 stack. All modem/TNC hardware supported by either of these can be used with Clusse. The G8BPQ Packet Switch does NET/ROM and the PC/FlexNet interfaces to the FlexNet network.
- Includes a broadcast-based interface for smart end-user terminal / contest / logging software. Once Clusse-aware terminal programs are available, this can reduce the load of busy DX cluster user access channels by a magnitude.
- The user interface is not compatible with the PacketCluster. The user interface is intended to be much more user friendly, and the original VMS-stylish interface was intentionally abandoned.
- It is distributed free of charge. Yes, that's FREE!
- A 286 compatible computer with around 400-500 Kb of free base memory after loading the ax.25 stack (PC/FlexNet or G8BPQ) and other necessary drivers. Hard disk needed for comfortable operation. The software itself fits well in under 1 Mb, and the data generally takes around 1-10 Mb.
- MS-DOS 3.0 or later. Windows 95, Windows NT and OS/2 can also run DOS applications like Clusse. Clusse also seems to work relatively well under the Linux dosemu. Currently, Windows 95 is used as a development platform.
- Either the PC/FlexNet kernel version 3.3e or later, or the G8BPQ Packet Switch. Both can be downloaded free of charge on the Internet.
- For attaching the radio interfaces, some kind of modem, TNC, SCC or PI card, sound/DSP card or a network card. See the downloading page for information about hardware supported by the ax.25 stacks.
Clusse is still very much under construction. A lot of features are being worked on, and some may not work as expected. The current version is 0.31, and is still considered experimental, though the software is already about three years old.
© Heikki Hannikainen <email@example.com>