Question about VPN

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  • Updated 3 months ago
I know nothing about VPNs. When I do a Google search I see that one sets up a VPN to hide their identity and web activity. But I have seen numerous posts on the Community about using a VPN if you wish to use digital modes remotely as DAX is not currently useable via SmartLink. I don't see the relation between hiding web activity and allowing DAX-like audio transfer. How does this work?
73 Mark K5XH




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K5XH

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Posted 3 months ago

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Bill -VA3WTB

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Mark VPN for Flex users is simply a connection method instead of using Smart Link in order to use Dax audio over the connection. Other people may have other reasons.
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Greg - N8GD

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VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network" and it establishes a secure link (you use a secure login with a password) between two ends of a connection, in this case a Flex radio and a Flex client (Maestro, laptop, iOS device).  When you are on the Internet, you are utilizing a public IP address, which is different from the IP address on the home LAN )local area network) side of your router (or your radio, for that matter, which must have a similar private address to work on your LAN).  A VPN establishes a secure connection using the same private address range on both ends so that the Flex radio and client can communicate with each other, just as if they were on the same LAN.  If you were to have a LAN with similar IP address ranges on both ends (like 192.168.1.xxx) but no VPN, it still wouldn't work because the IP addresses get changed to public addresses going over the Internet.  A VPN establishes a so-called "tunnel" so that the LAN IP connection is maintained even though it is being carried over the public IP Internet.
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Paul

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Hi Mark, a VPN is a secure link via the internet into your LAN. Once you connect in this way you can do everything on your computer remotely that you would normally do whilst sitting in front of it. That includes using SmartSdr without the need for SmartLink. If you set up a private VPN such a Softether, this means you dont have a 3rd party involved in your link (other than your ISP). The nature of the traffic is hidden by the VPN so your activities are not easily intercepted by others. The IP of the server is however visible. So some people use a 3rd party VPN which makes all activity appear to come from a different IP from their own.

I use a Softether VPN for my remote operations. It is robust and not too hard to set up. Good luck.

Ps. my post overlapped with Greg's. Sorry for any duplication.
(Edited)
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K5XH

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Thanks Bill, Greg, and Paul. I think I see the light now. Greg enlightened me to what I was missing in my Google searches. I understand now that the VPN makes the computer at the remote end look like it is connected to the same LAN as the radio. Therefore eliminating the need for SmartLink and allowing DAX to work - as long as the connection is fast enough. Thanks for the quick responses!
73, Mark
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W8QB

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I went back and took another look at a related thread,

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/how-secure-is-smartlink


Apparently, "Auth0" authenticates the user every time they log-in via Smartlink.  Also, "Communication and control messages between your radio and its client system (SmartSDR for Windows or Maestro, for example) occurs over a secured Internet communications channel using SSL/TLS encryption."  

Based on the above explanation, why bother using VPN?
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Matt NQ6N

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When you connect using SmartLink you can control the radio using SmartSDR and SmartSDR CAT, but you can't use DAX audio. 

So for things that require DAX audio (digital modes, etc.) a VPN lets you skip the SmartLink authentication mechanism and connect to the rig using a higher bandwidth method that is meant for a LAN. 

As long as you have enough bandwidth, this works, although I ran CW Skimmer via DAX audio remotely for a few weeks and realized I had almost used my bandwidth cap allocated by my ISP. 

In my case, I control some station equipment via USB, and so connecting to the VPN lets me keep those devices behind the firewall, since there is not an authentication mechanism built in. 

So my wish list for SmartLink would be: 
  • support for DAX audio
  • support for remote USB and USB serial connections (via SmartSDR CAT)
  • built-in VPN functionality for station control, etc.
  • user-configurable buffering/latency settings 
However since most of that stuff is pretty easy to do with a VPN like SoftEther, it probably does not make sense for Flex to build those features into SmartLink.

73,
Matt NQ6N
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Paul

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When Auth0 and/or Microsoft Azure are down, your VPN won't be affected and you will continue to be able to operate remote. Unlike Smartlink, which depends on them for authentication. Also, Softether is free vs £200 for SmartSdr v2/Smartlink.
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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To clarify a little of what Paul said, Smartlink is also free in ALL new 6xxx products (6400/6600). Smartlink is part of v2 release and any future release of SmartSDR. You will only have to pay for v2 if you have a 6300, 6500 or 6700 that has v1 installed. Take note that the software follows the radio, not the user, so if you purchase a used radio with v2 already in, you will not have to re-purchase it.
(Edited)
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Geoff - AB6BT

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No DAX?

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Alan W4FBI

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that's right, no DAX with Smartlink..  (at least for now)
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Geoff - AB6BT

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I guess I was out of sequence, I was replying to W8QB's question about why bother with a VPN.
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John - WA7UAR

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But please note that our friend Mario/DL3LSM has created xDAX and xCAT with SmartLink support for Mac and iPad users. Wonderful products that (I hope/expect) Flex itself will provide to its PC-centric base soon too. https://dl3lsm.blogspot.com
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John - WA7UAR

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“And now for something completely different!” (Apologies to Monty Python) ... Newly released SmartSDR 2.4.9 supports DAX!

Quoting, “DAX is Supported When Using SmartLink: DAX has been optimized for efficient network operation, which allows it to be used in conjunction with SmartLink. Like using SmartSDR CAT, the SmartLink or locally connected radio must be selected from the Radio Chooser. Please note that due to DAX bandwidth optimizations, you will need to adjust your DAX TX and RX levels the current setting will be slightly lower in gain than with previous versions of DAX.”
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Rory - N6OIL

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Other uses for VPN are when I need to access my servers at work from home I have a specific VPN AP router that makes it look like I'm sitting at my computer, I see all my network shares and printers and my connection is secure. When I'm done and just want to jump on the web and surf or do other things I just disconnect the VPN and surf on my home ISP.