The traditional method for selecting a Packet Cluster in the Telnet Window’s >Cluster tab involves choosing from a static list of 251 links stored in tables on the local computer. Many sites in that list disappeared over time, and new users were particularly frustrated when trying to connect to an available packet cluster.
An alternative method delivers a dynamic list of cluster sites whose availability and performance is reported by participating N1MM+ users.
FAQ – Full Disclosure
This list of FAQs will grow as questions arrive on the groups.io reflector
Next Tuesday’s N1MM+ Update contains production code that enables live cluster data collection and reporting from a database on the N1MM+ website. When you install the update, you will be greeted with a dialog window that allows you to Opt-In or Opt-Out of this feature.
- WHAT DATA GETS COLLECTED? The cluster report contains five data elements: the name of the cluster site; the URL/IP address of the cluster site; the result of your attempt to connect (succeed? or fail?); your geographic Continent; and your CQ Zone (as listed in the Station Information settings). No personal or user-identifiable information is collected on the server.
- WHEN ARE CLUSTER SETTINGS REPORTED? The code sends a cluster report upon opening the Telnet Window, and if / when you select a different cluster site.
- HOW IS THE DATA BEING USED? The reports are aggregated by continent and presented in a summary list of live cluster sites meeting certain criteria.
- WHAT IS THAT SELECTION CRITERIA? For a site to be included in the list for each continent it must have at least 10 successful connections and at least a 75% success -to- fail connection rate.
HOW “LIVE” IS THE LIVE CLUSTER DATA? A fresh Cluster Rating summary is generated in real-time upon opening the Telnet window and clicking on the Live Cluster List.
- HOW LONG IS THE DATA RETAINED? The database will delete the oldest reports when the table exceeds 60,000 reports. Based on our experimental data, the reports will probably never be more than three weeks old.
- CAN USERS OPT-OUT OF THIS CLUSTER REPORTING? Yes. Users who opt-in will be able to use the new Live Cluster and the traditional Stored Cluster selections. Users who opt-out will only be able to use the traditional Stored Cluster selection.
- WHAT HAPPENS TO MY STORED CLUSTER LIST AND CURRENT CHOICE? Your current cluster and stored list will not be affected. You will still be able to use them as you have in the past.
- WHY ARE WE TELLING YOU THIS? Lest we be accused of “snooping” on our users, the Dev Team members felt that Full Disclosure was warranted.
As the author of this code, I’ll answer any further questions you might have – either here or in direct email.
We did not want to directly rate the clusters against each other, because of the risk of everyone overwhelming the top-ranked site at the expense of all other sites. Instead, we established a set of parameters that we consider to be the line between acceptable and unacceptable performance.
- We do not poll any servers
- You send anonymous telnet connection results to a website database, which is throttled at around 60,000 reports
- That raw database is “fresh” in that it is always the most recent reports submitted by N1MM users
- When you open the >Clusters tab of the Telnet Dialog Window and press the Live Cluster List down-arrow, the server generates a summary for you in real-time
- That real-time summary analyzes the raw data by continent, and for each continent gives you an alphabet list of sites that have 1) at least 10 reports of successful connections and 2) a success/fail ratio of at least 75%
- Each cluster is listed with its rating values in parenthesis ( ). The first number is the total reported successful connections. The second number is the percentage of reported successful connections versus failed connections.
The continent is NOT the location of the cluster server. The continent is the location of the hams who are reporting that they use a specific cluster. Thus when you see the NA listings, these are clusters – wherever they may be – that North American hams are using successfully.
For example, scroll through the list and look for DXFUN.COM. I have no idea where DXFUN is located, but Hams in NA, EU and SA are connecting to it and meeting the 10@75% criteria.
If you think about it – you don’t really care where a cluster is located, you only care that folks around you are using it.
The size of the server database has been intentionally limited to 60,000 records. To avoid unnecessary server loading in having to delete a record each time a new record over 60,000 is added, the database is trimmed back to 50,000 records when the record count reaches 60,000. Thus at any given time the database will contain between 50,000 and 60,000 of the most recent cluster reports from N1MM users. Based on reporting volumes collected during our February experimental release, we estimate that the oldest records will be about three weeks old.
A fresh Live Cluster list is created for you in real-time when you open the N1MM Telnet Window, select the >Cluster tab, and click the drop-down arrow. To avoid burdening the server each time you press the drop-down arrow, your real-time list is not refreshed until you close the Telnet Window and repeat the process of opening the Telnet window, selecting the >Clusters tab, and pressing the drop-down arrow.
To be included in the list, a cluster site must have at least 10 reports of successful connections. This could be 10 users connecting 1 time, or 1 user connecting 10 times. Along with these successful connections, there must be fewer than 25% failed connections compared to successful connections. In other words, if users report 100 connection attempts to cluster site www.DonaldDuck.com, there must be fewer than 25 failed connections.
The members of the N1MM Development Team have strong feelings about collecting user information, and there were lively discussions within the group as this feature was being developed. Here are a few details about how the Live Cluster reporting feature works
- Live Cluster reporting is only active when: 1) you are running N1MM+ and 2) you have the Telnet Window running, and 3) you have opted-in to this feature.
- Live Cluster reporting does not collect any information that would identify you individually
- Live Cluster reporting collects five data elements: the name of the cluster site; the URL/IP address of the cluster site; the result of your attempt to connect (succeed? or fail?); your geographic Continent; and your CQ Zone (as listed in the Station Information settings)
The value provided by the Live Cluster list is directly proportional to the number of N1MM+ users who are contributing. To encourage participation, we have taken a “pay to play” approach in which you must contribute in order to get the benefits.
There is no way to manually add a new site to the Live Cluster List. If you are a cluster site administrator your site will automatically appear when it meets the Selection Criteria described above.
So, tell all your friends to start using your cluster and it will magically appear in the Live Cluster list.
Before requesting that we remove it, consider using the Stored Cluster list as your “My Favorite Clusters” list. You can use the Stored Cluster list like bookmarks to identify a few sites that you use regularly. Do you sometimes switch between sites when running a local contest versus an international contest? Or maybe you change sites when operating phone, CW or digital contests? Here’s how to re-purpose the Stored Cluster list:
- In the Telnet Windows >Clusters tab, click the [Edit List] button
- In the Edit Telnet List dialog window, select >File >Export
- Export the stored list to a local text (txt) file, by default into your Documents\N1MM Logger+\ExportFiles directory
- Use a text editor (Notepad.exe?) to open the file. Remove everything except those that you use. If you have a new favorite that you found using the Live Cluster list feature, add it to the list. Save the file.
- Back in the Edit Telnet List dialog window, select >File >Import and choose the file you just edited. Press the [OK] button to exit the Telnet List dialog window.