RBNGate was an automatic spotting tool created by Eric June KU6J to enable CW SOTA activators to get spotted as soon as they called CQ and were picked up by the Reverse Beacon Network. Unfortunately, Eric passed away in early 2016, and his excellent software was no longer able to push spots.

As the SOTA MT waited to get the original source code to RBNGate from Eric’s widow, I took it upon myself to try to write a temporary string-and-duct-tape version. As a Gate is a nice, ordered break in a fenceline, I decided to call my software RBNHole, being a tatty, rough around the edges, slightly frayed, cabbage-smelling mess (the software, not me)

In true IT form, the temporary solution has morphed into the permanent solution; the source code we obtained from Eric’s widow missed a crucial version, and by the time we worked that out, RBNHole was ‘good enough’ for SOTA purposes. Thus, RBNHole has stayed, and the telling of the story of the name honours the quality of the work that Eric did.

What do I have to do to be spotted by RBNHole?

RBNHole does not require registration with RBNHole, although you will need to create an account on SOTAWatch, and post an alert for your activation. RBNHole will spot you if your callsign (*as posted in the alert*) is seen on the RBN, within a window of 1 hour before your alerted time, and 3 hours afterwards.

That’s it? Surely there’s more? I’m calling CQ all the time, won’t that be a lot of spots?

In a nutshell, that’s it. There are some finer nuances. If you are spotted within a few kHz of your RBN posted frequency before the RBN picks you up, or you self-spot, RBNHole will not post an initial spot. This lockout lasts for 10 minutes – you will not be respotted unless you meet certain criteria

And those criteria are?

You will be respotted if you change bands (eg, 7MHz to 10MHz), or if you move more than a few kHz away from your original window. If someone spots you in the meantime, the window will reset.

But I’m doing multiple summits, how will RBNHole know which one?

RBNHole isn’t psychic; it’s just a pretty good guesser. You will be spotted if you are within the time window for your alert (-1/+3 hours), and if there are more than one alert that you’re within the window for, RBNHole will choose the one closest to your original alerted time.

Moral of the story, RBNHole will generally get it right, but when it doesn’t, it’s up to you to send a reference to the chasers. Someone will spot you on the right summit eventually.

I may be more than 3 hours late, or even a few hours early, can I alter the alert window?

Of course, you can use the syntax “S+XX” or “S-XX” in your alert comment to move the end or start of the window respectively. XX is the time in hours from the original alert time you want the window to start. Eg, S-3 S+12 in the comments of an alert at 0400 UTC would spot someone between 0100 UTC and 1600 UTC.  Unlike the original RBNGate, this is case sensitive, for reasons I’ve long since forgotten.

This sounds too hard, can I tell RBNHole to ignore me?

Yes. Put either RBNN, NoRBNGate or NoRBNHole in the comments section of the alert. If you want this to persist, you can email me, or contact me via the reflector, or contact via the SOTA MT contact form on sota.org.uk and I can permanently exclude you from RBNHole spotting.

Anything else?

Can’t think of anything, but I strongly recommend you read Eric’s RBNGate documentation, at http://www.grizzlyguy.tv/RBNGate.htm. It’s fairly comprehensive, and all the features there should be available in RBNHole.  You can also see the source code (pull requests welcome) at https://github.com/vk3arr/rbnhole