What is a DX Cluster? A DX Cluster is a gathering of nodes that amateur DX hunters can use to communicate about DX they have worked or heard. It's composed of a main computer, which gathers and stores, and distributes information sent by ham radios to it.
Thousands of nodes are linked together via the internet or radio to make a worldwide network. Telnet or packet radio may be used to connect to a cluster.
The networked nature of DX clusters is perhaps its most distinctive feature, allowing novices to obtain information about uncommon and rare DX situations such as meteor scatter or VHF ducting very quickly.
DX Clusters are a general purpose ham radio tool, not limited to use by DX hunters. In many ways it is the equivalent of Usenet news for radio amateurs. Like Usenet it is possible for individuals or groups to set up their own servers and provide a "bulletin board" service to the amateur radio community.
It's also possible for individual hams to use one or more clusters as a bulletin board system for sending text messages called notes to other hams in a similar fashion to email, either from the command line interface or from an automated script that forwards received public bulletins from one or more clusters directly into an email account using software such as Yahoo! Pager. addition, many local nets operate on the cluster, giving it a role analogous to that of the "repeater" in 2-way land mobile radio or local chat on amateur packet radio.
DX Cluster Standards
The following are standards for operating nodes on the DX cluster network:
For anyone who wishes to establish their own node on any of the various networks, there are several programs available to connect with other nodes and distribute messages. Below you will find a list of the more popular programs as well as links to their respective home pages.
There are a number of programs that can be used for this purpose.
- DX Spider -Netscape plugin allows you to connect direct from your browser. The source code is also available from their website.
- Telnet.org - Home of the open source software.
- DXNet / DXAtlas Sites Both include information for setting up personal nodes.
- DX Summit- Information for setting up your own node can be found in the "How To" section of the DX Summit website.
- DX Cluster Networks - A DX Cluster (US callsigns only) for use by general radio amateurs that is sponsored the Radio Amateur Society of Trinidad & Tobago. It consists of a main station, two relay stations and several remote receivers.
DX cluster Software from DXzone - A number of different packages are available for new users.
The DX Cluster Network provides access to several software packages which can be used to establish a node on the network. Available software includes various BBS-like programs as well as one package that will work with some types of radios.
DX Clusters are an excellent way of getting into the world of DXing. It is also possible, although not recommended, for DXpeditions or other major operations to make use of these free services to send updates and bulletins to hams around the world.
A DX Cluster is also very useful in areas where propagation between two points is difficult or non existent. Using these services it's possible to contact someone several thousand miles away by simply clicking on their callsign and sending them a "note".
DX Clusters are excellent resources for radio users, especially if you are DXing or contesting.
Conclusion: What is a DX Cluster?
Using a Cluster is also an excellent way of giving back to the amateur radio community. Many hams find it their responsibility to use these free resources and keep them running at optimum efficiency.