Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2017 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-ohio-section-journal-hamvention.html

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

DMR: you’re hearing a ton about it from the Ohio Section and the number of repeaters has exploded with nearly 60 in the state. DMR saw growth due to inexpensive offerings of quality radios at last year’s show. I suspect this year will be no different with new offerings from vendors, possibility of dual band radios around the corner, and many more groups supporting DMR.

How many of you know the terminology and could program a DMR radio from scratch? Passing around a code plug makes the mode seem plug-and-play and it’s a great way to get started. Relying on existing code plugs leaves most of us unable to change the configuration of our own radios or even know how it works. What happens if you need to change programming, add a repeater, the code plug information is old, or wrong?

When I started last year, I found there was very little information available on DMR in ham radio. I learned DMR by doing a couple things. First, I looked at the code plug I downloaded for my TYT MD-380. I got a lot of knowledge playing around with that. There were a couple things I wasn’t quite sure about. When I got together with a buddy who was interested in DMR, we further played around with the software, tried different settings, and I filled in those gaps.

With the continued support from the Ohio Section, one of our Technical Specialists, Dave – KD8TWG has been giving training presentations on radio programming and he created a DMR Learning Series explaining terminology and etiquette: https://kd8twg.net/category/dmr/dmr-learning-series/.

I put together a paper with the goal of explaining DMR to the person just starting out and include some more technical descriptions. It started as an idea to write an article or two for the OSJ around Dayton time so anyone jumping in would have good information. After starting the project, it quickly became much bigger.

The first writing talks about the DMR standard and compares it to other made-for-ham-radio modes like D-STAR and Fusion. One topic that might be of interest is the section on ‘is it legal?’ I’ve heard this question come up frequently and even clubs in the section are questioning the legality. Radios, CPS, code plugs, registering for a DMR ID are all discussed. I talk about repeaters, c-Bridges, networks, and some of the issues one might encounter. Terminology covered includes time slots, talk groups, reflectors, contacts, RX Group Lists, channels, zones, scan lists, and hotspots: http://www.k8jtk.org/2017/05/10/dmr-in-amateur-radio-terminology/.

The second will deal with creating a sample code plug for a factitious repeater, tying all the terminology together. Afterwards, you will be able to create and update your own code plugs! Stay tuned to next month. DMR repeaters in Ohio: https://www.repeaterbook.com/repeaters/feature_search.php?state_id=39&type=DMR.

At the request of Cuyahoga County Skywarn, Technical Specialist Dave – KD8TWG has installed a Sage EAS ENDEC device on the 146.76 repeater in Cleveland. 146.76 is the primary Skywarn repeater for Cuyahoga County. The device is the same used by radio and television stations to broadcast Emergency Alert System messages. It monitors NOAA weather radio frequencies and broadcasts tornado watches/warnings, thunderstorm watches/warnings – for Cuyahoga County, and the weekly EAS test. It’s been performing flawlessly!

The data and attention tones are the same everyone is familiar with. These are the same one would hear tuning to a broadcast radio or TV station during an event. In order to not clobber an existing QSO, the device will delay playing the alert until the repeater is free. DTMF tones are available to Skywarn NCS’s to disable the alerts if it begins to interfere with the net. Some innovative working being done here. Thanks for the hard work Dave.

Anthony – K8ZT, our ASM for Educational Outreach, shared some links with me from his site. He has put together lists of great resources for doing projects, ideas for the class room, training classes, and build projects a group my want to coordinate:

After my write up of podcasts last May (http://www.k8jtk.org/2016/05/15/ohio-section-journal-the-technical-coordinator-may-2016-edition/), I try to catch ones that feature a ham in the Ohio section. QSO Today episode 144 featured John Ackermann – N8UR. John was a past president of TAPR (which I’m a member) and is a big proponent of open source hardware and software (openly sharing designs that make the community better). Eric and John talked about his usage of SDR radios and this collection of test equipment. He’s done alot of experimenting with APRS and shares some of his lessons learned. I especially liked his idea that hams can achieve much greater data transfer speeds in the 3 GHz portion of our spectrum. Maybe others in the section will develop technology to utilize that spectrum more than we are currently. The podcast is available on your favorite podcast app by searching for “QSO Today” or by going to: http://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/n8ur.

Don’t forget #HamNation300 special event is starting the Wednesday following Dayton. There will be stations operating D-STAR, DMR, Echolink, possibly Fusion, P25 and anything else we can get our hands on – in addition to SSB. I will be doing D-STAR, JT65, and maybe PSK too for some HF digital contacts. Points challenge is available for those who enjoy the social aspect of a special event. Tune in to Ham Nation (twit.tv/hn) every Wednesday evening. Details can be found on our event page: https://www.hamnationdstar.net/2017/04/05/ham-nation-300-special-event/. I will also be participating in the Ham Nation forum at Hamvention on Saturday, 10:30a in Room 1.

The show featured the digital net controllers this past Wednesday (5/10). My ugly mug was featured along with my good friend Andrew- WA8LIV from the DMR net and Dave – N3NTV from the Echolink net. You can watch the segment if you dare: https://youtu.be/afWX5kQSBAg?t=1h11m27s or download it at: https://twit.tv/shows/ham-nation/episodes/299. There’s a reason (more than one?) I stayed behind the camera when I worked TV production. I kid, check it out and join in the fun of #HamNation300.

That’s about it for this month. I’m looking forward to meeting all of you at Dayton (er, Xenia) this year. I’ve heard there were a record number of ticket pre-orders which I hope means a successful year for Hamvention. One thing I can guarantee for this year: it will be different for all of us. I’m excited to see what’s in store at this new venue. Get your shopping lists ready…. and see you at Dayton! Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

DMR in Amateur Radio: Terminology

Read the rest of the series in the DMR in Amateur Radio series category.


Planning on picking up a new DMR radio at Dayton? DMR saw growth due to inexpensive offerings of quality radios at last year’s show. I suspect this year will be no different with new offerings from vendors and many more groups supporting DMR. How many of you know the terminology and could program a radio from scratch?

Passing around a code plug makes the mode seem plug-and-play and it’s a great way to get started. Relying on existing code plugs leaves most of us unable to change the configuration of our own radios. What happens if you need to change programming, add a repeater, the code plug information is old, or wrong?

Here I’ll explain DMR concepts and terminology as it relates to the Ham Radio service. Next, I’ll walk through programming an example repeater and hotspot for devices like the SharkRF OpenSpot, DVMega, and DV4Mini. This series is intended for the beginner to better understand the technology by providing practical reasons and examples. These won’t be tied to a specific radio or repeater though there will be differences between vendors, models, repeaters, networks, and configurations in practice. Consult the repeater owner with specific questions.

About DMR

Digital Mobile Radio is an open digital mode standardized by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). It was first published in 2005 and is used in commercial products around the world. Open means the specifications are available for anyone to use, modify, add, or remove features as one sees fit. DMR uses two-slot Time-Division Multiple Access (TDMA) allowing two channels in 12.5 kHz of bandwidth using the AMBE+2 proprietary codec (or vocoder, voice encoder). TDMA is old cellphone technology in use before LTE and GSM. “Spectrum efficiency of 6.25 kHz” is often used which is ‘blah blah’ marketing speak for ‘it really uses 12.5 kHz, half the time.’

ETSI’s objective was to have a low cost, interoperable, digital system. In reality, manufactures added their own proprietary features that make their radios non-interoperable with other manufactures. Motorola’s system is called MotoTRBO which is a DMR capable radio with their own proprietary features. Motorola did not create nor invent DMR but they help bring it to the U.S.

DMR is the first time a commercial system was adopted for ham use. Most of the terms heard in relation to DMR are carryovers from the commercial world. In comparison, D-STAR and Fusion were specifically designed for ham radio use. D-STAR, Fusion, and DMR are all open standards. All three use the proprietary AMBE codec allowing 12.5 kHz wide transmissions. DMR achieves two simultaneous transmissions in the same bandwidth. D-STAR uses the AMBE codec while DMR and Fusion use AMBE+2.

D-STAR has an Internet and networking component accessible by users built into the standard. This includes an APRS-like position reporting system called D-PRS. Fusion can transmit pictures messages, and position information to other stations. DMR data features in ham radio are underutilized. Up to this point, text messaging was the most widely used data feature. The Brandmeister network is the first network to begin taking advantage of position reporting data.

Most associate the openness of a standard with how many vendors sell equipment, which is an inaccurate assumption. There have been devices since D-STAR became popular that could turn any analog radio into a digital radio, including repeaters. Now, how much does that equipment cost is the more likely driving popularity factor.

Is it legal?

I hear this issue come up from time-to-time in the Ohio section. I’m sure many more have the same question. DMR is legal under Part 97 as of a decision issued on June 9, 2014 by the FCC in docket FCC-14-74. This decision modified Part 97 rules to allow emission types that cover DMR: FXD, FXE, and F7E into Sections 97.3(c) and 97.307(f)(8). Any further questions, please consult an ARRL legal or technical resource.

Keep in mind however, the DMR ID transmitted by the radio IS NOT a legal FCC ID. It’s analogous to kerchunking a repeater without identifying. There must be an identification using voice or something in the data stream must contain the station’s call sign. This includes identifying when linking and unlinking systems. D-STAR and Fusion transmissions contain the call sign in the data stream. Repeaters ID with CW like analog repeaters. The DMR ID in the data stream does not contain a valid FCC call sign and therefore does not constitute valid identification under Part 97. The transmitting station’s name and call sign may appear on your radio display, it still does not make for valid identification. See “Contacts” for more on displayed names and call signs.

Radios, CPS, and Code plugs

Inexpensive DMR radios are easy to come by. There are over 40 manufactures producing DMR equipment. The TYT (Tytera) MD-380 is the most popular ham friendly option for $100 at R & L and Universal Radio – remember to support your local dealers. Connect Systems radios are pricier but come with actual support and a wider selection, including mobiles. The super-cheap Baofeng DMR radios are just like all other Baofengs, crap.

Repurposed radios or new radios that appear on the market will work with the ham radio infrastructure. The radio must cover the appropriate VHF/UHF band and be “DMR Tier II” compliant. DMR Tier I is unlicensed 446 MHz in Europe, similar to FRS. Tier II, aka conventional, is licensed services needing higher power and IP Site Connectivity (IPSC) using the Internet for site linking. Tier III builds on Tier II adding trunking capability and advanced data services.

It’s estimated that 95% of all DMR repeaters in the U.S. are UHF with few VHF. Popular radios are only single band – a commercial carry over because commercial licenses usually cover a single band. Dual band DMR radios should be available by Dayton (2017). In the state of Ohio as of this writing, RepeaterBook is showing 60 DMR repeaters: 3 VHF, one 900 MHz, and the remaining are UHF… so make sure you pick up a UHF model.

To update settings and memories in all DMR radios requires a computer, programming cable, and Computer (or Customer) Programming Software referred to as “CPS.” CPS is the later version of RSS (Radio Service Software) which was used by radio programming professionals and commercial radio resellers. Front Panel Programming (FPP) is a software enabled setting allowing programming via the radio’s front panel. This method allows modification of important programmed functions but not all, so a computer is still required.

The radio utilizes a code plug which is a small program containing radio settings, repeater configurations, Talk Groups, contacts, power outputs, Color Codes, PL tones, signaling methods, and more. A code plug is similar to programming a ham radio with RT Systems or CHIRP. Settings and memories are programmed into the software then downloaded to the radio. Code plug is a Motorola term when physical jumpers were plugged into old radios enabling certain options. Later microprocessor based radios moved the settings internally but the term still stuck referring to radio settings. Next in this series will be programming a sample code plug.

In general, code plugs are radio specific. A TYT MD-380 will work on a MD-390 because the internals are almost identical. However, Connect Systems is not going to work in a Motorola or Hyterra. The newer a radio or less popular a radio is will make it harder to find preprogrammed code plugs.

DMR radios, unless specifically labeled, are not compatible with other ham radio digital systems like D-STAR and Fusion. Advancements are being made to incorporate all digital modes into a single radio by third-party developers.

Registering

Every user on any DMR network requires a CCS7 ID commonly referred to as a “DMR ID” or “radio ID.” CCS stands for “Callsign Communication System” (or Call Connection Service) and is a subscriber identification containing 7 digits. Users registered in Ohio are assigned 3139xxx, where ‘xxx’ is a 3-digit consecutive ID. Ohio used up all 3139xxx IDs and has rolled over to 1139xxx. One might note that the Ohio Statewide Talk Group has the ID 3139! This radio ID has its place on D-STAR, DMR, and Fusion networks but the reasons are beyond introductory level. The CCS7 is a universal ID that will work on any DMR network.

If you don’t already have a DMR ID, follow the instructions on the DMR-MARC registration site. DO NOT REQUEST multiple IDs for a single callsign! Hotspot devices or different radios don’t need separate IDs. Obtaining an ID may take up to 3 days and the process can be started even before buying a radio. If you think you might already have an ID: on the registration page, click the “Database” link, click “User Database,” and search using your call sign (current or previous). To change the registered information for a call sign, use the “Contact Us” link.

Repeaters, c-Bridges, and Networks

In order to program a DMR repeater into a DMR radio, a couple pieces of information about the repeater are needed. To program an analog FM repeater into a ham radio, a user needs the repeater transmit frequency, offset/receive frequency, and PL/DCS tone configuration to access the repeater. Different information is required for a DMR repeater: Color Code and Talk Group configuration is needed. The functionality of a PL/DCS tone is replaced by a “Color Code” (CC) or “Colour” when in Europe. There are 16 possible Color Codes, 0-15. A DMR repeater cannot be Color Code-less. Like PL, the Color Code must match the repeater or the repeater cannot be accessed.

Configuration of the repeater depends on the c-Bridge or network it is connected to. C-Bridge is a communication device to route calls between different networks. There are many ham radio c-Bridges: DMR-MARC, DCI, NATS, CACTUS, K4USD, Crossroads – for example. Some c-Bridges explicitly define repeater configuration, including limiting available Talk Groups only to certain regions. For example, “Rocky Mountain regional” may not be available on Ohio repeaters. Other c-Bridges allow owners leeway in their configuration.

Brandmeister is a decentralized network of master servers. Master servers are different from a c-Bridge but an oversimplification is they both provide similar linking functionality. The Brandmeister name is synonymous with DMR but it cross-links with other networks and digital systems like D-STAR and APRS. Work is being done on linking Fusion and P25. All Talk Groups and reflectors on Brandmeister are available to all repeaters and hotspots connected to that network.

As with any linked repeater system, there are significant time delays in fully establishing connections. On an analog repeater system with multiple voted inputs, it will take two or three seconds for the system to fully come up. From the time the radio is keyed, the signal has to reach the inputs, the inputs reach the voter, voter decides which input is the strongest, bring up the transmitter(s), and all receiving stations pick up the repeater’s signal. Fast-keying is one of my pet-peeves where a transmitting station quickly keys their radio and starts talking. Receiving stations only hear the last letter or two of a callsign. Delays are even longer when networking and routing packets is involved over a wide area. This is true for any networked mode: D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, Echolink, AllStar, or IRLP. When first establishing connection on a repeater, first key up for 2 to 3 seconds before saying or doing anything to being up all links. Once links are established, they tend to react quicker so that delay can be dropped to 2 seconds on subsequent transmissions.

Another note when linking DMR systems, at the time a repeater or hotspot is connected, an existing transmission might be taking place on that Talk Group. Nothing would be heard by the station that linked. They think the Talk Group is free and end up disrupting an in progress QSO by calling another station. At the point the system is linked to a Talk Group with a transmission in progress, nothing will be heard until the first station unkeys. After linking, wait a minute while making sure the Talk Group is not already in use before calling.

At some point, you will be ‘bonked’ from a repeater. This is the tone a radio might emit after attempting to access a repeater. There are many reasons for being bonked: repeater didn’t respond because it is offline, wrong Color Code is programmed for the channel, out-of-range of the repeater, an incorrect Talk Group/time slot configuration is programmed, Talk Group doesn’t exist, someone could be making a private call, or there is some other error in the radio configuration. Most likely reason: another Talk Group is in use on the same time slot.

More information about repeaters and time slots is in the “Talk Group” and “Time Slot” sections.

Repeater owners: one big problem with DMR has been the lack of information on your repeater. It’s pointless going through the trouble of putting up a digital repeater and not telling people how to access it. Post the Talk Group layout, how to access them, and include any other procedures users should follow. Post this information on a website, use RepeaterBook or RFinder as both have provisions for listing Talk Groups. It can make all the difference in attracting new users.

Time slot (TS)

Time slots allow two conversations on the same repeater, on the same frequency, happening at the same time, and be completely separate from each other. This is what people refer to when they say ‘DMR is two repeaters in one.’ A time slot can be thought of as a ‘channel.’ Each repeater has two time slots or two channels. A user can only access one time slot at a time. Two Talk Groups cannot be accessed on the same time slot simultaneously.

Img: http://www.hytera.com/navigation.htm?newsId=1086&columnType=news

Each time slot occupies the signal for less than 30ms at a time. Within a 60ms window on a repeater: time slot 1 is transmitted for 27.5ms, then a gap of 2.5ms, time slot 2 is transmitted for 27.5ms, another 2.5ms gap, and then repeats with time slot 1. The human ear cannot detect that small of a gap in audio. A repeater transmits both time slots even though one channel is in use and the other idle. This cuts down on the on/off keying of the repeater. User radios, on the other hand, transmit for 27.5ms each 60ms window. This results in extended life of the handheld battery.

Talk Group (TG)

A way for groups of users to be separated on each time slot, without distracting or disrupting other users, is to use Talk Groups. A commercial example would be a baseball stadium. The ball park might have services like facilities management, guest services, security, first aid, concessions, traffic, and ushers all using the same radio system but the conversations are completely independent. Not all services would be using the frequency at the same time for the entire game. Each radio stays muted until their assigned Talk Group appears on the frequency, then it would unmute or activate for that transmission. Their radios would have the ability to switch over to another Talk Group. Security might need to alert first aid of a guest injury or guest services may need to notify facilities of an issue in one of the suites.

Ham radio Talk Groups can be created for any purpose and usually fall into the categories of wide-area (worldwide), regional (North America, Midwest), or a particular purpose (Ohio Statewide, XYZ club). There can be many Talk Groups available on a repeater time slot. Time slot 1 could have 5 while time slot 2 may have 25. Some c-Bridges organize wide-area Talk Groups on time slot 1 with regional, local, and special use on time slot 2.

Locals are unique and only heard on that repeater, not routed to the network in most cases. Special use includes Parrot and audio test. Parrot repeats received audio by the repeater. Audio test is a Talk Group linked to an online audio meter by the Northern California DMR Group (NorCal DMR). This has been deprecated because Brandmeister Hoseline has an audio meter for each Talk Group. Hoseline lets anyone listen to any Brandmeister Talk Group with a web browser: https://hose.brandmeister.network/. It is the “firehose” of Talk Group traffic.

The larger an area served by a Talk Group, the more repeaters and time slots are tied up simultaneously. Ohio Statewide keys about 60 repeaters at once. Calling and worldwide Talk Groups could be in the thousands and should be thought of as the 146.520 of DMR. Etiquette is to make contact then move to another Talk Group or a reflector. Tactical or TAC Talk Groups are used for longer QSOs and nets as they tie up the least number of repeaters and are selectively linked-up by repeater users.

Repeater configuration includes static Talk Groups – always connected, and dynamic Talk Groups – commonly referred to as PTT (push-to-talk). Dynamic are linked by a user for a period of about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes of no local activity, that Talk Group is dropped and the repeater returns to the static group on that time slot.

C-Bridges and networks tend to keep the same Talk Group numbering (ID) and allow cross-patching to others to keep things consistent. This means Ohio Statewide is the same group and ID on DMR-MARC, DCI, K4USD, Brandmeister, and others.

Brandmeister offers the flexibility for any two radios to key-up on a random Talk Group ID and essentially create their own Talk Group. This can be done using any Brandmeister connected repeater or hotspot. This Talk Group is not hidden or private because it will show up on Hoseline allowing anyone to listen in and any other stations can join in too. A list of known Brandmeister Talk Groups is provided in the links section.

Reflector

As described in the repeaters section, some c-Bridges severely limit the Talk Groups a repeater can access. What happens when you’re traveling to Florida and want to talk to your buddies back in Ohio? Or worse, talk to a buddy in England? Talk Group options become limited to wide-area ones which tie-up a lot of repeaters for a lengthy QSO. Reflectors are a way to solve this problem.

Similar to D-STAR or IRLP reflectors, nodes are connected in a round-table style configuration. When one station transmits, their signal is transmitted by all other connected nodes. So far, these sound like Talk Groups. The difference is reflectors are available worldwide and repeater users have to specifically link and unlink a reflector. This means only repeaters and hotspots connected to that reflector are tied up during transmissions and not thousands of repeaters on world-wide Talk Groups.

Reflectors are a 4-digit ID that begins with a 4, 4xxx. Not every c-Bridge has granted reflector connectivity. DMR-MARC and Brandmeister have this ability. Some reflectors are cross-patched to Talk Groups on Brandmeister so either the reflector or Talk Group ID can be used. Reflectors are seldom used on Brandmeister because of the availability of all Talk Groups to all repeaters and hotspots on the network. However, reflectors still serve the intended purpose if a station isn’t in range of a Brandmeister repeater.

Contacts

There are three call types in DMR: Group Call, Private Call, and All-Call. Each is a contact within the radio. A Group Call is a transmission from one radio to a group of radios. These instantly link-up dynamic Talk Groups when PTT is pressed. When you press PTT on Ohio Statewide (3139), all other radios configured for 3139 unmute. All-Call is a carryover from commercial and is programed into supervisor radios allowing the ability to make a call to all radios on the same time slot regardless of talk group. All-call is not used in ham radio.

Private Call is a call from one radio to another radio using the other radio ID (see Registering). In ham radio, that ID is associated with an individual. To return a private call, that users’ radio ID must be stored and selected in the radio. These calls are routed to a user’s last known location on the network, like D-STAR call routing. If someone keyed a DMR repeater in Dayton, then travels to Cleveland, the private call is still routed to the Dayton repeater. Private calls are generally discouraged and even disabled on some repeaters. They tie up a time slot and could clobber an existing QSO. Other users will have no idea why they cannot access the time slot. Private calls are acceptable between hotspots because they are lower profile with only a few users. The DV4Mini can receive private calls but didn’t seem to know how to handle returning a private call.

A common issue I hear on DMR all the time is ‘I don’t see your name and call sign on my display. I must be doing something wrong!’ This behavior depends on the contacts stored in the receiving radio. To see the transmitting station’s name or call sign on the radio display, that radio ID must be setup as a contact in the receiving radio. When the radio receives a radio ID in the contact list, the Contact Name is displayed in place of the radio ID. If the radio ID is not in the contact list, the radio displays what it knows which is the seven-digit radio ID that comes across as part of the data stream in the transmission.

The MD-380 for example, has room for 1,000 contacts which is a carryover from commercial. Most police departments and businesses don’t have more than 1,000 radios in their fleet. Ohio has 1,400+ registered users so the MD-380 cannot store all registered users. Modified firmware makes this possible or look for a radio with more memory for contacts.

(Digital) RX Group lists

An RX Group List is a list of Talk Groups that will unmute or activate the radio when received on the same time slot as the current channel. RX lists were created as a way to monitor activity on the repeater regardless of channel. Key thing to remember is these lists are time slot specific. A radio is set to Local9 with Ohio Statewide and Local9 (both on time slot 2) included in the same RX Group list. When a conversation starts up on Ohio Statewide, the radio would unmute even though Local9 is selected. One can turn their radio to Ohio Statewide and join in. These can cause confusion if a station was heard on Ohio Statewide but the reply transmission went out over Local9. Be careful and mindful of the selected channel before transmitting.

If the radio was set to Local9 and a conversation started on North America calling on time slot 1, nothing will happen. The radio would remain muted because the time slot is different – even if they are in the same RX Group list.

As the name implies, these lists only include contacts set to Group Call for their Call Type. Private calls are not included in these because a radio will always unmute when a private call for that radio ID comes over the time slot. RX Groups keep users from interrupting conversations on repeater Talk Groups they are not monitoring. While intended to cut down on interruptions, some will quickly realize they are hearing a lot more Talk Group traffic then they care about.

When a radio does not unmute as a signal is received, the frequency-in-use LED would illuminate or some other ‘in use’ indicator would be seen. This indicates a Talk Group is not in the RX Group list for the channel, another time slot is in use, or a private call is occurring. To scan across time slots and channels, see Scan List.

Channels

This is where it all comes together. Channels are like memory settings of a typical ham radio. These tell the radio which modulation type to use (analog or digital), frequency, time-out-timer setting, power level settings, and scan lists. It ties together DMR specific settings like Color Code, time slot, digital contacts, and RX Groups. Analog channels are programmed here too.

Zones

A Zone is a way of organizing channels. Most radios allow a maximum of 16 channels per zone because that’s how many positions are available on the channel selector knob on top. Channels not included in a zone cannot be selected on the radio. There can be one or many zones per repeater or hotspot. There is no limit to how channels are arranged within a zone.

Zones are selected through the radio’s menu. When a new zone is selected, channels assigned to that zone become positions on the channel selection knob.

An un-programmed position will result in a continuous error-sounding tone from the radio until a valid position is selected. This was probably intended as a notification for commercial users to indicate they are on a channel where no transmissions will be heard, so a continuous tone sounds.

Scan Lists

RX Group lists receive Talk Groups on the same time slot. Scan lists scan different channels. These lists are closely related to the scan functionality of a scanner. Lists can include the different time slots, different frequencies, and include analog channels. Scan lists have a limit of about 32 channels per list. These lists are not required for radio operation.

Roam Lists

Roam lists are similar to when a cell phone switches towers automatically. They are useful when mobile. Though not implemented by many manufactures, the same functionality can be accomplished by creating a Scan List. The scan list would contain a single Talk Group across many repeaters. Roam lists only work well for static Talk Groups. Otherwise, the Talk Group has to be activated on each repeater, essentially defeating the purpose.

Hotspots

Hotspots are low powered (20mW or so) transceiver devices that connect to a network over the Internet. The hotspot becomes the gateway to the network. An Internet connection is required. Some hotspots will require a computer (DV4Mini) or Raspberry Pi (DVMega, DV4Mini) while others are standalone (OpenSpot). Lastly, a transceiver capable of that mode is needed. SharkRF OpenSpot, DVMega, and DV4Mini are all capable of operating D-STAR, DMR, and Fusion. A D-STAR DVAP, for example, would not work with DMR or Fusion.

After trying out the DV4Mini in a number of configurations with different users, the device needs a lot more work. As of this writing, I would personally stay away from it. DVMega’s are good for tinkering or finding a working software image, which can be frustrating. The SharkRF OpenSpot is my recommendation for a hotspot because of stability, ease-of-use, features, and updates.

If you’re still here, you made it through the terminology portion of this series, which is the hardest part. The next will bring it all together as I walk through creating a sample code plug for a DMR repeater and hotspot. DMR has come a long way since I jumped into it at Dayton in 2016. Likely in the next year, explanations here may change slightly and improvements in radio technology may make code plugs unnecessary.

Links

About CCS7 ID system: https://register.ham-digital.org/html/ccs7-ENG.html
List of BrandMeister Talk Groups: http://www.dmr-utah.net/talkgroups.php, https://brandmeister.network/?page=talkgroups
Ham Radio 2.0 podcast (DMR 101 (Greater Houston Hamfest Forum)): http://www.livefromthehamshack.tv/2017/04/18/episode-90-dmr-101-greater-houston-hamfest-forum/

References used for this writeup
Ham Radio 2.0 podcast (DMR 101 (Greater Houston Hamfest Forum)): http://www.livefromthehamshack.tv/2017/04/18/episode-90-dmr-101-greater-houston-hamfest-forum/
BrandMeister Getting Started Guide: http://n8noe.us/DMR/files/BrandMeisterGettingStartedGuide.pdf
Connect Systems CS600/CS700 Programming Guidelines: http://www.connectsystems.com/products/manuals/CS600_CS700_Programming_Guidelines.pdf
Amateur Radio Guide to Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) by John S. Burningham, W2XAB: http://www.trbo.org/docs/Amateur_Radio_Guide_to_DMR.pdf

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2017 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2017/04/april-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Since the last couple months have been feature articles, this month will be odds-n-ends.

Maker Spaces & Faires

I got positive comments on last month’s article about Makerspaces and Maker Faires. I hope it gave clubs and groups ideas to get younger makers into our hobby. Not only did the January edition of QST have the article on Maker Faires but it was the focus of ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher – NY2RF’s note in April. I’m happy to say these types of things are on the radar of the League and they’re focusing efforts on this new generation of Ham Radio operators. According to Tom, the ARRL plans to be at the three national maker events this year.

AllStar

I learned the creator of AllStar Link, Jim Dixon – WB6NIL, passed away at the end of last year. Jim is the creator of “app_rpt” which allowed the open source PBX system, Asterisk, to function as a repeater controller. In doing so, created one of the most impressive and versatile solutions for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) in ham radio. Having played around with AllStar on my own node, nodes can be linked together directly through the public Internet, private network, point-to-point network, or really any combination of methods. Hubs are systems with greater bandwidth allowing for multiple simultaneous connections – like “reflectors” on IRLP or “conferences” on Echolink. One of my buddies who spoke with Jim commented that he was the smartest, nicest guy you’d meet and [he] would be doing well if he retained even half of what they talked about. Jim will be missed but the AllStar project will live on. AllStar Link: https://allstarlink.org/, Raspberry Pi & BeagleBone image: https://hamvoip.org/

Fldigi & Flmsg

W1HKJ and the contributors to the Fldigi project have been busy (http://www.w1hkj.com/). A new major release of Fldigi was made available at the end of March. This brings both Fldigi & Flmsg up to version 4.0.1. Technical Specialist Bob – K8MD messaged me about the update. My response: ‘crap, I just updated the screen shots from the previous changes the weekend before’ (3.22.x). I was hoping there were no new changes. Of course there were! Now my newly updated instructions are dated again! Those instructions were getting stale because of significant program option changes since I made them available about two years ago. They are on my site (up to Fldigi v3.23.21 and Flmsg 4.0.1) at http://www.k8jtk.org/2015/04/16/getting-started-with-fldigi-including-flmsg-and-flwrap/. Written for the LEARA Digital Net, they do focus on NBEMS operation.

Check them out and do some practice nets. From experience, it’s best if ALL participating stations are using the same program versions. There are fewer issues with forms because newer forms are included in later Flmsg versions that were not in earlier ones and everyone can be on the same page when going through settings.

Over that same weekend, I wrote up tutorials and hacks you can do with Flmsg. We’ve all been there. You missed receiving part of an Flmsg message because of being off frequency (radio or waterfall), in the wrong mode, or not paying attention. The issue is quickly corrected and most of the message is still received. However, Fldigi doesn’t know what to do with the form because some of the headers are missing. When headers are missed, Fldigi can’t open the form because the message won’t checksum. The checksum is used to verify the entire message was received. I wrote up a tutorial how to recover a partially missed message: http://www.k8jtk.org/2017/03/25/recovering-a-partially-received-flmsg-message/.

The last is more of an Flmsg hack. When an Flmsg form is received, NBEMS standard is to have the ‘open in browser’ option enabled. As expected, this will open the received form in the default browser. Many don’t realize that any web programming code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) sent as part of the form will be interpreted by the browser. This means you can send clickable links, link to an image, redirect to websites, and change background colors. Just about anything that can be done on a webpage can be sent as part of an Flmsg form and rendered when opened in the browser. Find out how at http://www.k8jtk.org/2017/03/25/flmsg-forms-rendered-as-web-pages/. Standard squid disclaimer for both: this is for fun and not NBEMS compliant.

OpenSpot

If you have an OpenSpot hotspot, there was a major firmware update for the device in February and subsequent update in March to bring the current version to 108. The changelong has – in the neighborhood of – 80 (yes, eighty) fixes and enhancements. Previously, I wasn’t using this device to run the Ham Nation D-STAR After Show net. However, since they added a nice web interface with call log and export feature, it’s now my device for running the net. If you’re looking for a ham radio digital mode hotspot, check out the SharkRF OpenSpot: https://www.sharkrf.com/products/openspot/

One of the SharkRF connector options is their own IP Connector Protocol Server (https://github.com/sharkrf/srf-ip-conn-srv). The Connector Server is used to create a network of OpenSpot devices and it can be implemented in other hardware/software as it is open source. Like AllStar, it can accept public internet connections, run on a private network, or mesh network. I haven’t tried but it may even compile and run on a Raspberry Pi.

The Connector Server repeats any digital transmission sent to it. All modes can even be simultaneously connected. D-STAR connected clients will only hear D-STAR transmissions because there is no transcoding of D-STAR data streams. DMR and Fusion streams can be transcoded. DMR streams are transmitted to modems set to DMR and converted by the OpenSpot to Fusion for Fusion modems. Similarly, a Fusion stream is transmitted to modems sent to Fusion and converted to DMR for DMR modems.

I’ve setup a Connector Server that is open and there to mess around with. In the OpenSpot configuration:

  • In Connectors: under Edit Connector, select “SharkRF IP Connector Client.”
  • Click “Switch to selected.”
  • Once changed, enter your TX/RX frequencies.
  • Server address: srf-ip-conn-srv.k8jtk.org
  • Port number is in ‘Advanced mode’ but is the default, 65100.
  • ID, use your CCS7 DMR ID.
  • No password.
  • Enter your Callsign.
  • Click “Save.”
  • In the Modem options, select the desired mode.

The dashboard is: http://srf-ip-conn-srv.k8jtk.org/. The server will remain online if it continues to see use. Otherwise, it could disappear at any time without use 🙂

Ham Nation 300 (#HamNation300)

Last but certainly not least, yours truly has been on the planning committee for the Ham Nation 300th special event. Ham Nation is an audio and video podcast recorded live and available at https://twit.tv/shows/ham-nation. The program records at 9:00 p.m. eastern time every Wednesday evening. Following each episode are the “after show nets” which are round tables discussing the show or ham radio. These nets include: 20m, 40m, D-STAR, DMR, and Echolink.

After each 100 episodes, a special event is planned to commemorate another 100 episodes. In the past, these have been geared around HF. The show is not only for the General/Extra class licensees and not everyone has the ability or desire to operate HF. This year’s festivities have something for everyone including the chance to make digital contacts for the special event and a summer long challenge.

Ham Nation 300th special event runs the week following Dayton, May 24-31, 2017. Full details can be found on any of the 1×1 special event callsigns on QRZ or at https://www.hamnationdstar.net/2017/04/05/ham-nation-300-special-event/. Please join in and help make this event successful. Follow it on social media: https://twitter.com/hashtag/hamnation300 and https://www.facebook.com/HNonTwit.

That’s about it for this month. Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Flmsg Forms Rendered as Web Pages

You can spice up your Flmsg forms and make them look like web pages!  The option in Fldigi to open a received form in the web browser is an option frequently enabled.  It allows the entire form to be displayed or printed from the browser.  In order for the browser to render the form, HTML code is generated.

Many don’t realize that ANY web coding language included in the form is rendered by the browser: HTML, CSS, JavaScript.  This means background colors can be changed, hyperlinks included, images displayed, audio or video files played, redirected to websites or YouTube videos, etc.

Standard disclaimer, this is not a good idea during a real NBEMS event for many of the reasons mentioned below.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The message sender has to be knowledgeable in programming or use W3Schools to learn web programming languages.
  • For the HTML to be rendered, receiving stations must have the “Open in browser” set in Fldigi (as described here in NBEMS settings).  The Flmsg window on the receiving end will look like gibberish (code).
  • Website contents, audio or video file contents are not being sent over or using Flmsg.  They are being linked to over the Internet.   This means any links or URLs included but be accessible on the public Internet (not a private internal intranet where receiving stations may not be on the same network).
  • Not every receiving station may be connected to the Internet.  They could be in a location without Internet access or because they’re in a temporary/portable situation.

I’m not going to even begin to scratch the surface on everything that can be included so use W3Schools for ideas.   A couple simple examples:

Turn the page background light-blue:

<style>
body {
background: #3399ff; /* light blue */
}
</style>

Include a link to my website:

<a href="http://www.k8jtk.org/">Link to K8JTK.org, a totally awesome website with lots of Ham Radio tutorials!</a>

Include my mug (picture):

<img src="https://www.jeffreykopcak.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/DSCF5081-K8JTK-300x284.jpg" width="300" height="284" />

To view or test code as a receiving station might see it, in Flmsg click File.

Select View.

Click Html delivery.

One of my favorites is the redirect to a web page.  When received, the web browser will direct their web browser to load a website.

I say this is my favorite because there is a story behind it.  Every sound card digital training class I present or article I write, I preach DO NOT SET YOUR SOUND INTERFACE TO YOUR RADIO AS DEFAULT!!! as instructed.  One reason is noted in that post.  One day, I decided to see who followed instructions.  I sent an Flmsg with a redirect to a YouTube trailer video.  Once the video loaded, one ham (who will remain nameless) started transmitting the trailer video over the air (which included music).  Don’t be that guy.

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=http://wcarc.bgsu.edu/" />

To wait a specified number of sections, change 0 to that number of seconds.  0 means immediately load the included URL.

Web site loaded in the browser.

Recovering a Partially Received Flmsg Message

We’ve all been there.  Part of a Flmsg message was missed because the receiving station was off frequency, in the wrong mode, or not paying attention.  The issue is corrected and most of the message is received.  However, Fldigi doesn’t know what to do with the form because most of the headers are missing – meaning it won’t open in the browser or Flmsg.

I will demonstrate how I recover Flmsg messages that I’ve partially missed.  How much of the message can be decoded depends on how long it took to rectify the situation while the other station was transmitting.  The sooner, the better.

The key is to start decoding the message before the form/message type is transmitted.  This is transmitted fairly early on.

NOTE: re-transmitting incomplete forms in a real event is NOT acceptable!  That is, this (or similar) procedure is used to recover a message, then that message is transmitted in a real event.  Ask for a re-transmit, if possible.

Check out my other Fldigi and Flmsg posts.

Example message

Example plaintext form message used for this tutorial:

The entirety of the message as transmitted through Fldigi:

... start
[WRAP:beg][WRAP:lf][WRAP:fn K8JTK_Recovering_a_partially_missed_Flmsg.p2s]<flmsg>4.0.1
:hdr_fm:21
K8JTK 20172603194239
:hdr_ed:21
K8JTK 20172603172413
<plaintext>
:tt:19 Flmsg recovery demo
:to:24 Digital Net Participants
:fm:5 K8JTK
:dt:10 2017-03-25
:tm:5 1612L
:sb:35 Recovering a partially missed Flmsg
:mg:491 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed tempor mi lectus, at ultrices leo suscipit et. In
aliquet semper pulvinar. Phasellus consequat nisi at orci feugiat euismod ac vitae magna. Proin a nisl est. Sed dignissim
faucibus sagittis. Proin a ornare mauris. Maecenas efficitur ante eu mauris tempus congue. Pellentesque at nulla purus.
Morbi nec pharetra nulla, at bibendum lorem. Donec et libero non ex ultricies porta. Aliquam quis mauris aliquet mi
efficitur ullamcorper.
[WRAP:chksum 780E][WRAP:end]
... end

In this message the form type is <plaintext>.  Everything before that tag could be missed and the message will still open in Flmsg using this process.

Recovering the form

In the Fldigi receive pane, part of the message was lost.  Note that <plaintext> form type is still received.

When the transmission is complete, Fldigi won’t open Flmsg or open the message in the web browser because not all headers were received.

Right-click in the receive pane.

Click Select All.  This will highlight the entire contents of the receive pane.

Right-click again and click Copy.  This will copy the entire contents of the receive pane to the clipboard.

Open a plaintext text editor like Notepad, Notepad++, Vim, or Nano.  Do not use Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer.

Right-click in the text document and select Paste.

Remove any other unnecessary text or other messages that are not part of the intended message.  In this case, the lines about ‘reading macros’ are removed.

Save the message someplace easy to remember like the Documents folder or Desktop.  I’ll put them in the same directory as messages extracted from Fldigi: C:\Users\USERNAME\NBEMS.files\WRAP\recv.

Enter a File name.

Leave the extension as “.txt

Click Save.

Open Flmsg.

Click File.

Click Open.

Navigate to the location where the file was saved from the text editor.

Next to the file name box, select All Files.

Click the file name.

Click Open.

The recovered message is open in Flmsg!

If the form type was missed, a message will indicate an error in the data file (see Failed to Receive Form Type below).

To open the Flmsg form in the browser, in Flmsg click File.

Select View.

Click Html delivery.

Failed to Receive Form Type

If the message type was not received, there are still ways to recover the message but the form type must be obtained.  This usually means asking the transmitting station for the form type they sent.

Using our previous message example, paste and clean up the text in the editor as described above.

Notice that <plaintext> tag is not seen.

Above the first line, insert the form type tag for the message.  In this case <plaintext>.  Other common form types:
<blankform>
<csvform>
<ics213>
<plaintext>
<radiogram>



Save the message and open in Flmsg as described above.

Notes:

  • Missing data shows up as blank fields in the Flmsg form – including those parts of the form where the field prefixes are missing (“fm,” “tm,” “sb,” or “mg,” etc.).  In the Plaintext form, if the message prefix is missing, since it’s one of the last prefixes transmitted the entire form will appear blank.
  • If the wrong form type is inserted (<plaintext> when it should have been <radiogram>), the file will open in Flmsg but the fields will not be populated.  The field prefixes are generally not the same from form-to-form.

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2017 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2017/03/march-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

Ever heard of a makerspace? I hadn’t until one of the podcasts I follow, Hak5, talked about the concept and visited a couple. Following that, the “QSO Today” podcast (episode 75) talked about a connection to ham radio and the January 2017 edition of QST gave ideas for clubs participating in “Maker Faires.” Makerspaces, sometimes referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, or fablabs are shared resources for creative DIY types where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. Sound familiar? It should. Those are the foundations of Amateur Radio.

“These spaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone” states makerspace.com. Makerspaces are a relatively new idea with a leaning toward younger individuals. Spaces can be setup by a group of individuals, nonprofit company, or for-profit company who host spaces in rented buildings, schools, universities, libraries, or anywhere else the community decides to meet.

The business model is similar to that of a gym membership where users of the space pay a monthly membership fee – somewhere in the neighborhood of $30-$50. This gives members access to the facility and its resources. Those resources may include: machine shop, wood shop, welding shop, electronics lab, 3D printer, laser engraver, art supplies, blacksmithing, molding and casting, robotics lab, CAD software, glass blowing, space for experiments, and even entrepreneurship classes. The possibilities are endless. This model works because purchasing even one piece of equipment will run an individual more than the cost of a membership fee. Experts and instructors are available to help others learn how to use the equipment – on-site or through training classes.

When you think about it, hams have been doing this for decades: borrowing radios, borrowing test equipment, and pulling knowledge from the larger community to accomplish a task. The community, as a whole, is a much more powerful resource when each individual shares their own knowledge with the community and builds encouragement for others. Look at all the aspects of the ham radio hobby. Some hams are good at soldering, surface mount, climbing towers, programming, tuning repeaters, fabrication, digital operation, software defined radios, Internet linking, portable operation, award chasing, DX, CW, QRP, building antennas – no one ham can do it all. It’s the reason most of us join clubs. Contribute to the community and learn from others.

Getting ham clubs affiliated with makerspaces will promote the maker mentality of ham radio in a space where people who make stuff are already gathering. A club could hold licensing classes or a build project in the space. Others would see those sessions posted around the space, promoted on the website or Facebook group, or in an email to the makerspace members and community inviting others to join in. One club in our section is doing just that. The Wood County Amateur Radio Club has partnered with the BiG Fab Lab in Bowling Green, Ohio. I am a Life member of the WCARC and joined this club while attending BGSU in 2002.

About the BiG Fab Lab from their website:
BiG Fab Lab, LLC is an open-access 24/7 workshop (or “Maker Space”) that serves people in the Northwest Ohio region. We provide the equipment, classes, private storage and studio space, and personal assistance to a membership community that allows them to prototype and develop any idea they can imagine. We are targeting people, schools, and businesses who have an interest in hands-on skills in a variety of crafting, design, manufacturing areas, and business incubation. We also provide retail space so that our members can test market and sell their creations! … Could you imagine the power of bringing business, students (K-12 & university), and community members together into one place? No walls, no silos, each sharing and collaborating with others to innovate, educate, and collaborate. Perhaps we could transform our region and maybe the world!

Located in the Woodland Mall off North Main Street, the $40 membership fee gives access to: a wood shop, machine shop, engravers, 3D printers, plotters, laser engravers, an arts and crafts space for ceramics, large cafeteria style meeting room, and they’re not done yet! Training classes are held for each piece of equipment in the lab. Once a member is trained and demonstrates the ability to safely operate the equipment, an achievement is added to their member swipe-card giving them access to that equipment 24/7.

The BiG Fab Lab will be featured in an episode of the PBS show “The American Woodshop.” Scott Phillips, host of The American Woodshop, and the crew from WBGU-TV (a former employer of mine), taped episode 2409 set to air this month (March 2017). If you missed the show or it’s not carried by your local PBS station, past episodes can be found at http://www.wbgu.org/americanwoodshop/ and look for “Watch Episodes” near the bottom.

In one of my return trips to visit the club, I got a tour from Bob Boughton – N1RB and Bob Willman – WB8NQW to see how this partnership came to be. Mark Bowlus, Founder and Director of the BiG Fab Lab, wanted to strengthen the presence of electronics in the lab. Doing some research, he reached out to the Wood County Amateur Radio Club. Over the past few years, the two have partnered and are developing a relationship promoting electronics and ham radio. The club established a station at the Fab Lab which and will include VHF/UHF station and HF station. Of course, the work is never done and more is being added all the time.

WCARC couldn’t be happier about the cooperation they are receiving from the Fab Lab. To date, there have been two ham radio licensing classes; one Technician and one General. A second Technician class was started in February of this year. The turnout has been better than expected because the BiG Fab Lab is promoting these classes on their calendar and Facebook group. Participants come as far away as Michigan. Students are charged $30 for the training manual, exam fee, and a monetary fee charged by the lab to use the space.

Future plans include building out the electronics area with test equipment. The club hopes to offer regular electronics and license training classes. Once the training classes are in place, the Fab Lab has offered to waive the lab membership free for WCARC members! Additionally, the club plans to use the station as a base of operations, being more out in the public, in case of an emergency.

Issues the WCARC had to address are: legal agreements and unauthorized access to the station. Legal agreements are incredibly important. Their agreement spells out and covers both the lab and club should either entity disband, dissolve, or go out-of-business; for example, what happens to the Club’s equipment. A club seeking to do the same would need legal counsel or know one willing to do pro bono work to write up a legal agreement.

The BiG Fab Lab is a 24-hour facility. Having a station control operator at all times is unreasonable. The club, with the help of a partnering company, developed a method to allow the equipment to be turned on for anyone to listen. To inhibit transmitting, the microphone port will be disabled by default. Once a lab member becomes licensed or holds a valid amateur license, that achievement will be added to their access card just as if they were qualified on any other piece of equipment. When the member swipes the card with that achievement, the microphone port will be enabled allowing that licensee to transmit.

Having access to a full shop is an amazing resource and opportunity to get ham radio out in front of like-minded people. If a similar shop is not nearby, opportunities for clubs to participate in “Maker Faires” are available too. The article in QST describes them as “one part festival, one part flea market, one part rock concert.” Makers are brought together in a hamfest-like environment to display their projects including: 3D printing, electronics and microcontrollers, robotics and drones, music and dance, homemade electric vehicles, art and textiles, cooking, science, woodworking, and blacksmithing.

One theme that kept popping-up in the article: focus on making, not operating. Visitors are not interested in watching a ham making contacts or ‘get licensed’ pamphlets. Take an indirect approach to ham radio. Makers want to see Wi-Fi and Bluetooth used for wireless data links, long-range data systems (data modes, packet), microcomputers and inexpensive tablets, ADS-B, weather satellite receivers, spectrum analyzers, cable and antenna sweepers, and SDR – to name a few. Makers are already familiar with these technologies. Promote these topics – which lead to discussions on getting licensed. Explain ways ham radio can add value to their projects. A new wide area network technology called LoRa has makers really excited to be able to send bidirectional wireless data between 0.3 kpbs and 50 kbps over long ranges. Hams have been doing similar networking with packet and mesh.

Each year, do a different project to keep people coming back. Some examples of projects include demonstration on the relationship between wavelength, frequency, and changes in VSWR. Explain how communication efforts in a recent natural disaster could have benefited by building an NVIS antenna for a particular band. Have a display prepared on antenna resonance with some hands-on activities. An SDR, antenna, and computer could show different signals on a spectrum display. Bring lots of Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and circuit boards. Be patient as it may take some time to get a maker licensed. Who knows, they may become your club’s most active member.

I challenge clubs to contact these organizations and form a partnership with a local makerspace or participate in a maker faire. I found a number of maker spaces throughout the section including the Columbus Idea Foundry, dubbed “the largest makerspace on the planet” by Tech Crunch. Doing some searching on the Internet leads to maker faires in different parts of the state. Not only is the Wood County Amateur Radio Club pioneering in the maker arena, the Alliance and Massillon Amateur Radio Clubs are involved with the University of Akron Wayne College 3 (UAWC3) Lab.

Efforts to get ham radio into schools for younger adults is great. I think the buy-in from administrators is far too high because it does not fit into their method of teaching to the standardized tests. I’ve been a part of conversations where the feeling that recruitment in scouting programs has not been as favorable as anticipated. Efforts could be better utilized by sharing our hobby with makers, who tend to be younger adults and college aged students with a similar mindset.

Below are links related to makerspaces and faires:

Wood County Amateur Radio Club: http://wcarc.bgsu.edu/

BiG Fab Lab: http://bigfablab.com/

Ohio Hacker/Makerspaces: https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/Ohio

Other locations: https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/List_of_Hacker_Spaces

Makerspace directory: http://spaces.makerspace.com/makerspace-directory

Maker Faires: http://makerfaire.com/map/

That’s about it for this month. Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2017 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2017/02/february-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

On Sunday, February 12, I connected up with the Central Ohio Radio Club located in, you guessed it, central Ohio! They have a Tech Net most Sunday evenings at 7:30pm. They asked me to be the featured guest on one of their nets. Some of you might realize this causes a problem since I live in the Cleveland area. Enter the technical side of the hobby and IRLP. IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Project) is a service that connects amateur stations together using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Different from other ham radio VoIP services, IRLP requires the Internet link be connected to an RF link, usually a repeater or simplex node. Using the LEARA 146.880 repeater in Cleveland (a club which I’m Vice President and a bunch of other stuff) and Internet linking technology, I was able to join their net as if I were local to Columbus.

The CORC Tech Net contacted me looking for information on technical resources available in the section. I got the chance to do an introduction about myself – we’ll quickly move past that 😉 Then I talked about how the technical resources fit into the ARRL organizational structure. If you’re new or haven’t looked at it before, at the top are the ARRL Officers: president, first & second vice presidents, COO, etc. The ARRL Board Committees include the Executive Committee, Administration & Finance, Programs & Services, Public Relations, DX, LoTW, etc. Then Divisions, of which there are 15 total, with Director and Vice Director positions. In Ohio, we’re included in the Great Lakes Division. Finally, our section is the Ohio Section where Scott – N8SY is our fearless leader and Section Manager (SM).

Below the SM are their appointees who may or may not include (depending on the section): Section Traffic Manager (STM), Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC), Assistant Section Manager (ASM), Official Observer Coordinator (OOC), Technical Coordinator (TC), Affiliated Club Coordinator (ACC), Public Information Coordinator (PIC), State Government Liaison (SGL), Section Youth Coordinator (SYC). If you’re reading this, the people above and below me in this Journal make up this list. I won’t spend too much time here as details can be found on the “About ARRL” page at http://www.arrl.org/about-arrl.

As the Technical Coordinator, I’m responsible for the Technical Specialists. The Specialists and I are here to promote technical advances and experimentation in the hobby. We encourage amateurs in the section to share their technical achievements with others in QST, at club meetings, in club newsletters, hamfests, and conventions. We’re available to assist program committees in finding or providing suitable programs for local club meetings, ARRL hamfests, and conventions in the section. When called upon, serve as advisors in RFI issues and work with ARRL officials and appointees for technical advice.

The Technical Specialists really make all this happen. In the Ohio Section, there are about 20 qualified and competent Specialists willing to help. They meet the obligation of advancing the radio art bestowed to us by the FCC. The TSes support the Section in two main areas of responsibility: Radio Frequency Interference and technical information. RFI can include harmful interference (interference that seriously degrades, obstructs, or repeatedly interrupts a radiocommunication service) from bad insulators on telephone poles to grow lights and poorly made transformers, RFI direction finding, or assist in locating bozo stations. Technical information is everything else from building antennas, repeaters and controllers, digital, computers, networking, and embedded devices.

How can we help? The knowledge and abilities of your Technical Specialists are quite impressive. Here are some examples of the knowledge the Technical Specialists provide:

  • Documentation and training.
  • VHF/UHF portable operation.
  • Antennas (fixed, portable, and mobile).
  • Batteries and emergency power.
  • Experts in RFI from powerline and consumer devices.
  • VHF/UHF/SHF contesting.
  • Experts in test equipment.
  • Automotive electronic compatibility (EMC) and interference (EMI).
  • Repeaters.
  • Digital modes (D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, P25, APRS & IGates. HF: MT63, JT65, Olivia, PSK).
  • Computers and networking (VoIP – AllStar link, software engineering, embedded systems – Raspberry Pi, Arduino).
  • Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) members knowledgeable in interference problems.

This impressive list of qualifications is available to all in the Ohio Section. Looking for help in one of these areas? Feel free to contact myself. My contact info is near my picture and on the arrl-ohio.org website. I’ll try to assist or get some more information from you and put you in touch with an appropriate Technical Specialist. One of the Specialists might hear a plea for help and reach out to you as well. If you would like to add your talents, check out the description at the ARRL site: http://www.arrl.org/technical-specialist and talk to Scott or myself.

Thanks again to CORC (http://corc.us/) for inviting me as the featured guest on their Tech Net and LEARA (http://www.leara.org/) for the use of the IRLP node to make this connection possible.

That’s about it for this month. Stay tuned for next month’s article, got something good planned. Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio: Conversational Digital Modes (PSK, RTTY, MFSK, Olivia)

This article appeared in the The Wood County Amateur Radio Club newsletter CQ Chatter February 2017 edition.

Read the rest of the series in the Digital Communications in Amateur Radio articles category.


Got a new rig for Christmas? How about working digital? The most popular digital modes in ham radio are conversational modes (keyboard-to-keyboard). Best way to describe these is the instant messaging or text messaging of ham radio digital modes. One station sends a message to another station. The other station does the same in return. Conversations can be about anything – the weather, where that person lives, traveling, or life stores – for as long as you want. These modes include (in order of popularity): PSK, RTTY, MFSK, and Olivia. All, except Olivia, are available on the W1AW digital operating schedule. Others will pop up on the bands from time-to-time too or you may choose to play around with a buddy using other modes.

For the popular flavors of these digital modes, I performed a transmit time test. The text was one paragraph of “Lorem Ipsum” with 83 words consisting of 569 characters. I recorded how long it took to transmit the message in minutes and seconds to compare the speed of each flavor. The results were close between equivalent modes. PSK-31 and RTTY-45, for example, took about 2 minutes. This indicates that the advantage is not necessarily in speed but which mode works better in a situation. Popular HF frequencies are also listed. There is a lack of consensus on some of the exact frequencies. It won’t be uncommon to hear these modes in other portions of the data sub-bands. Different flavors tend to operate on the same frequency to stir up activity.

Commonalities among conversational modes include the RSID (Reed-Solomon Identification) tones which universally identify a digital signal at the beginning and, occasionally, the end of a transmission. RSIDs are more popular on rarer and wider modes like PSK-63, MFSK, Olivia, and other rare modes. An RSID tone is about 170 Hz so announcing your PSK-31 signal at 31 Hz will interfere with other conversations.

It is common to give a signal report using the IARU RSQ reporting system. Like the RST system of “59,” RSQ adds an additional number “599.” These numbers stand for:

Readability (percentage of good text received):

  • 5: 95+%, perfectly readable.
  • 4: 80%, little to no difficulty.
  • 3: 40%, considerable difficulty and many missed characters.
  • 2: 20%, occasional words distinguishable.
  • 1: 0%, unreadable.

Strength (measure how strong the signal trace is on the waterfall, there are only 5):

  • 9: Very strong trace.
  • 7: Strong trace.
  • 5: Moderate trace.
  • 3: Weak trace.
  • 1: Barely visible trace.

Quality (measure of unwanted artifacts in the signal: pops, clicks, splattering, harmonics, and unwanted modulation):

  • 9: Clean signal.
  • 7: One barely visible sidebar pair.
  • 5: One clearly visible sidebar pair.
  • 3: Multiple visible sidebar pairs.
  • 1: Splattering over much of the spectrum.

Also brush up on CW shorthand as these are used in exchanges. Commonly used abbreviations: btu (back to you), k (any station may transmit), kn (specific station only may transmit), sk (done transmitting, clear), pse (please), de (this is).

Reminder: review the first two articles in the series for information that will be omitted here including some modes operate your transceiver at 100% duty cycle, use upper sideband (USB), and don’t drive the transmitter with too much audio as the signal will be wider than intended.

PSK

PSK-31 is the most widely used HF digital mode. It’s popular because of its narrow signal. PSK was at the forefront of the digital sound card revolution in 2000. It was discovered that ordinary sound cards and computers had enough power to become digital-to-analog converters. Peter – G3PLX created PSK-31 to perform well with weak signals and operate at a narrow bandwidth. In a perfect world, within 3 kHz you could potentially have nearly 100 individual QSOs happening at once.

PSK stands for Phase Shift Keying, the modulation method used to generate the signal. It’s a common mistake to believe that 31 stands for the amount of bandwidth the signal occupies. It does occupy 31 Hz, however 31 stands for the bit rate of 31.25. There are other flavors of PSK: PSK-63, PSK-125, and PSK-250 each less likely to be seen on the bands than the previous.

It might be observed that software applications may have BPSK and QPSK in their list of operating modes. BPSK stands for Binary Phase Shift Keying and QPSK Quaternary Phase Shift Keying. The differences between these two are significant. When people refer to PSK, 99% of the time they are referring to BPSK. QPSK is a better choice under adverse conditions because it adds a significant amount of error correction ensuring nearly 100% copy of the transmission during signal fade or interference. However, both stations need to be on frequency, within 4 Hz, for error correction to work correctly. It takes a lot more work for two stations to be in sync with each other using QPSK.

Some stations may request an IMD (Inter-Modulation Distortion) report. This metric can only be observed while the other station is in transmit mode but no text is being sent; idle in other words. The station might type a message saying they’re looking for an IMD report and leave it idle for 10, 15 seconds, or more. There will be a measurement on screen in negative dB; lower the negative number the better. Readings in the -25dB to -30dB rage are considered very good, -20dB or greater is considered bad. A bad reading is usually caused by driving the transmitter with too much audio.

Transmit test: PSK-31: 1:58, PSK-63: 1:00
Frequencies: 3580 kHz, 7070 kHz, 10140 kHz, 14070 kHz, 21070 kHz, 28120 kHz.

RTTY

After six decades of use by hams RTTY, known as Radioteletype, is still a very popular mode for contesting and DXing on the low bands. RTTY has a long history and HF digital operators are very comfortable with it. Many transceivers also have RTTY built in. This mode works better in decoding large pileups than other modes. RTTY is efficient in that it works at a speed of about 60 words per minute – which is about the fastest one person can type. Other modes are typically much slower.

RTTY is based off the Baudot digital code which represents each character as a series of bits for telephone or radio communication. W1AW will refer to RTTY as Baudot on their operating schedule. Looking at a RTTY signal on a waterfall, the 1’s and 0’s are represented by twin tones for the mark (1) and space (0) tones. The two data streams are separated by the shift or space between them. When people refer to RTTY, they will most commonly refer to RTTY-45 (baud) but 75 can be seen as well. Inverted RTTY flips the mark and space data streams.

Transmit test: RTTY-45: 1:53, RTTY-75: 1:09.
Frequencies: 3580-3600 kHz, 7040-7100 kHz, 14080-14099 kHz, 21080-21100 kHz, 28080-28100 kHz.

MFSK

Multi-Frequency Shift Keying, known as MFSK, is “super-RTTY” which uses multiple tones instead of the two used in RTTY. The most popular is MFSK-16 using 16 tones. MFSK was developed as a flexible point-to-point solution to combat multipath propagation problems. It is very good at detecting noise and reducing transmit errors with error correction all while utilizing low bandwidth. MFSK is slow to decode so be patient!

An exciting addition to some MFSK flavors is the ability to send small images. MFSK-16 can send images but not MFSK-8. A 320×256 sized color image took 4:26 using MFSK-16. It’s unlike Slow Scan TV where the software will size the image and overlay a template. The image needs to be fully prepared before it can be transmitted.

Transmit test: MFSK-16: 1:45, MFSK-8: 2:48.
Frequencies: 7072 kHz, 14072-14076 kHz.

Olivia

MFSK is good in poor band conditions but Olivia offers even better performance. Developed by Pawel – SP9VRC it is named after his daughter Olivia. It is called the JT65 of conversational modes because it’s incredibly slow but unlike JT65, it’s not a structured exchange.

There are different combinations of bandwidth and number of tones used, such as 500/16 is 500 Hz with 16 tones. Fldigi reverses these numbers for some odd reason and will read “Olivia 16 – 500.” Locking on to an Olivia signal may take 15 seconds. If the software is not decoding after that time, the bandwidth might be correct but the number of tones maybe wrong. For this reason, a call for “CQ” may take a minute or longer so stations can lock on and return a call. Be patient!

Olivia is great for poor band conditions because a trace may not be seen on the waterfall but a signal might be decoded! One example I share is a buddy of mine and I tried operating Olivia. We established contact and had strong traces on the waterfall using only 1.5 watts. We decided to compare it to sideband voice. We couldn’t contact each other on sideband until we were nearly up to 100 watts!

Transmit test: Olivia 500/16: 4:56, Olivia 500/8: 3:20.
Frequencies: 1835-1838 kHz, 3583.25 kHz, 3577 kHz, 7035-7038 kHz, 10141-10144 kHz, 14072-14075.65 kHz, 14106.5 kHz, 18102.65 kHz, 21072 kHz, 24922 kHz, 28122 kHz.

Software

I love and recommend software applications that are capable of operating multiple modes (multimode) using one application. This keeps the clutter down of installing multiple applications for each mode. The two I use are Digital Master 780 (DM780) as part of the Ham Radio Deluxe suite (http://ham-radio-deluxe.com/). This package is not free and only available on Windows. If that is out of your budget, then I recommend Fldigi (http://www.w1hkj.com/). It’s free, open source, and cross platform available on Windows, Mac, and Linux including Raspberry Pi. Both of these support many different modes and are constantly being updated and with newer modes.

MixW (http://mixw.net) and MultiPSK (http://f6cte.free.fr/index_anglais.htm) are alternatives and support most modes. There are specific mode applications like DigiPan (http://www.digipan.net/) for PSK and MMTTY (http://hamsoft.ca/pages/mmtty.php) for RTTY. Both are no longer maintained but are reported to work well with later versions of Windows. Other programs have known issues with versions of Windows later than Vista. Keep that in mind when trying older programs.

The software applications are similar in setup and operation. Exact labeling might be different from application to application. I am going to reference Fldigi, though not going in-depth with settings, it should get you started. Install Fldigi with the default options. A configuration wizard will appear the first time the application is started. Fill out all your station information. Select the sound card interface (USB Audio Codec for SignaLink). If the transceiver is using something other than the SignaLink for keying, select the appropriate radio and COM port for TX control.

There are many parts to the Fldigi window. Standard menu options are seen like “File,” “Op Mode,” “Configure,” etc where operating modes or Fldigi configuration can be changed. Below that is Radio Control and Logging. When using internal logging, you’ll want the frequency to be correct. Rig control will help greately to automatically log the correct frequency as you change the VFO. Below that is the tan box where received messages will be displayed as well as transmitted messages will be copied here. The blue box is the transmit window where messages are composed for transmitting. If you have a white box to the left of the transmit and receive panes, this is the signal browser. This will display all conversations taking place, using the same mode, on the same frequency at once! Below the transmit text box is a line of colored buttons which are macros. Macros are pre-populated and commonly exchanged texts so you don’t have to keep typing them (right-click the button to edit). Below that is the frequency scale in Hz and waterfall. Below the waterfall are the waterfall controls. The line below that are the status messages and readings. To the right of the waterfall are two vertical white and a gray bars which indicate the strength of the decoded digital signal and squelch setting.

Tune your radio to one of the PSK frequencies to get setup. 20 meters is better during the day and 40 at night. The waterfall should start turning blue and yellow. If it is black, check the audio paths between the radio and computer, verify the audio input is set correctly in the Fldigi setup. Radios with a main and sub-band often cause confusion as to which band sends audio to the computer. If there is blue and yellow but a lot of black on the waterfall, check and disable radio filtering. Pro tip: the waterfall is a great educational place to visualize the filtering changes of the radio.

Now from the menu select “Op Mode,” “PSK”, then “BPSK-31.” To select a digital signal on the waterfall, simply click on the waterfall and the cursor will move to that location. Signals under the cursor will be displayed in the receive pane. It’s important to move the cursor on screen and do not adjust the radios VFO. Once a strong PSK signal is selected, you’ll notice the white squelch bar fills with green. The green needs to be above the light gray squelch slider to break squelch and decode. This is the first place to look if the cursor is over a signal but it is not decoding. Having the squelch set too high will miss decoding weaker signals and having the squelch too low will produce a lot of garbage text in the receive window. If a specific signal is strong but not decoding, the signal could also be multipathing, thus confusing the program. Watch conversations a good while to make sure you understand how the program works and for conversation syntax. Many programs have a “Signal Browser” or “Signal Sweeper” (DM780) which will decode multiple conversations at one time! In Fldigi, this can be broken out in a separate window under the “View” menu option.

Someone calling CQ will send CQ two-three times. I am K8JTK and Steve – W8HF will be the other station in these examples.

CQ CQ CQ de K8JTK K8JTK K8JTK
CQ CQ CQ de K8JTK K8JTK K8JTK

Repetition is good for weaker stations that might miss a letter or two. A responding station may respond with: K8JTK K8JTK de W8HF W8HF pse kn.

The two stations might begin the exchange using macros. These are good conversation starters. Macro messages typically include age of the operator, when they were licensed, radio and antenna, digital software program (Fldigi), computer operating system, physical location, etc, etc. This macro is called the “Brag” macro because you brag about your station. Beware though, for slower modes like Olivia, it can take a LONG time to send the same macro that takes seconds using PSK. The two stations could conclude the exchange or go back and forth typing out messages using the keyboard.

When receiving a message from another station, the responding station can begin typing a response in the blue transmit window even before the other station has finished transmitting. Always begin with something like “W8HF de K8JTK” so the other station knows you are responding to them, then continue with your message. If you’re conversing with a station and they don’t respond back after your message, they may have lost your signal, their program crashed, or became distracted. I typically wait 30 seconds – 1 minute and try a quick call back to the other station: W8HF W8HF W8HF de K8JTK K8JTK K8JTK, did I lose you? W8HF de K8JTK pse kn. I’ll try this 2-3 times and if they don’t return, I’ll log the QSO and move on.

End of transmissions should conclude with something like “btu Steve W8HF de K8JTK pse kn” noting the station is turning it back over to the other station. Concluding the conversation will end with something like: thx for QSO Steve, 73, W8HF de K8JTK sk. Other stations will end with a similar macro that includes their QSL information or when they upload their logs.

To transmit CQ, find an open space on the waterfall and click to bring the cursor to that spot. Tones will be generated in the same place as the cursor on the waterfall during transmission. Tune up on frequency and call CQ using the “CQ” macro. Some macros start and/or stop transmitting on their own. The “T/R” button under the waterfall is your best friend to start or stop transmitting. Some of the macros have the sequence “^r” at the end. This is an Fldigi command to change from transmit mode to receive mode aka transmission complete. This can be typed in manually at the end of messages too. PSK Reporter (http://pskreporter.info/) can be used just like JT65 to see how far you’re reaching.

Logging is fairly straight forward. RTTY and Olivia are logged as their respective mode only. BPSK is logged as PSK31, PSK63, etc. QPSK31, MFSK8, and MFSK16 are all logged as listed. If an RSQ was exchanged, log it accordingly. IMDs for either station can be recorded in the comments for future reference.

One idiosyncrasy with Fldigi: the position of the cursor in the transmit pane is critical. Fldigi will remain idle during transmission until the cursor is moved further down or moved to the end of the message. Many people are confused by this behavior and other programs don’t seem to follow this convention. For example if you had a sentence with “this that” and positioned the cursor after “this,” characters before the cursor will be transmitted until the point of the cursor was reached. The word “this” would be transmitted then Fldigi will remain idle in transmit mode until the cursor is moved. When moved, “that” will be transmitted until the program reaches the cursor again. Position the cursor at the end of the message during transmit and all will be well.

That’s it. These conversational modes are very open and very free form. Contesting will have a structure but casual operating is very informal. This outline can lead to operating other modes like Contestia, Thor, Throb, MT63, or Hell. Yes “Hell,” short for Hellschreiber, is a facsimile based mode where there is a reason everything is printed twice.

Find out more information:
“PSK31: A New Radio-Teletype Mode” by G3PLX: http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Technology/tis/info/pdf/x9907003.pdf
“Get on the Air with HF Digital” book: https://www.arrl.org/shop/Get-on-the-Air-with-HF-Digital
“RTTY/PSK31 for Radio Amateurs” book: https://www.arrl.org/shop/RTTY-PSK31-for-Radio-Amateurs-2nd-Edition/
“Nifty E-Z Guide to PSK31 Operation” book: https://www.arrl.org/shop/Nifty-E-Z-Guide-to-PSK31-Operation/
“How to get started with PSK-31 Ham Radio” by K7AGE on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8D7C6EBD6E2081E2

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2017 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2017/01/january-2017-edition-of-ohio-section.html

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

In early January I did some traveling. Both intrastate and interstate. Of course, I took my radios to play around and see what activity there was. The first trip was to western Ohio and the second to south-western Pennsylvania (Johnstown area). I have been a buff for keeping updated lists of repeaters between my usual travel spots. Places I don’t frequent, I’ve relied on Internet sites.

I’m always screwing around with programming in my radios and I have programming software for each. When traveling, I program repeaters along the way and near where I’m staying. My programming application of choice is the RT Systems programmer (https://www.rtsystemsinc.com/). Their solution is about $50 for an entire package including the cable ($25) and programming software ($25). However, 4 of my radios use the same cable so I only needed to purchase the cable once and the software for each radio. CHIRP (http://chirp.danplanet.com/) is another popular solution for only the cost of a programming cable (~$15 each), the software is free. CHIRP doesn’t manage radio settings like RT. I like this ability because I tend to have different profiles depending how I’m using the radio. Manufactures release their own software too. Some are free downloads, others a premium accessory. I gave up on these solutions because the couple I tried were horrible experiences and very barebones packages. They were janky to operate and didn’t have an, what I consider to be essential, import/export function.

RT Systems has a good importer where, in many cases, the output of a webpage can be copied and pasted into the programmer. It will attempt to determine the content of each column (transmit frequency, PL, etc.). It’s not always successful but the data type can be specified during the import process though, this needs to be repeated each time. If a CSV file (plain text file with comma separated values) is not available, I found it much easier to paste webpage results into an Excel spreadsheet. This will retain the data columns. Insert a blank row above the data and type in labels that match the column headers in the programmer. Other columns, like city or distance, can be deleted or left blank – and will be ignored. Copy all data including headers and repeaters from the Excel sheet and paste them into the RT programmer. The import wizard will appear. Check that the data is being detected correctly in each step. Clicking finish will complete importing the data into the programmer. This helps greatly in importing data straight from a webpage so I don’t have to assign data types each time I import data. This spreadsheet approach is not needed when using “External Data” sources built into the programmer. Here are some header conversion examples: the webpage column label is on the left and the spreadsheet (RT) header on the right:

  • Frequency -> Receive Frequency
  • PL -> CTCSS
  • Call -> Name
  • Notes -> Comment
  • Distance -> *delete column or no label*
  • City -> *delete column or no label*

Aside from the programming software, sources are needed for data. I’ll share my experiences with some that I’ve used. I used the Repeater Directory, Ohio Area Repeater Council (OARC) website, RFinder, K1IW Amateur Repeater and Broadcast Transmitters Database Websearch, RepeaterBook, Radio Reference, and the ArtSciPub Repeater database.

General comments about these sources: much of the information is old, dated, stale, or wrong based on information I knew about repeaters in my home area and observations about the resulting data in my travels. Most make some claim to pull data from a ‘number of sources,’ which almost always means the local repeater coordinating body for that area. In Ohio, that is the Ohio Area Repeater Council. Others take a crowdsourcing approach which enlists the services of a large number of people – or at least those who do contribute. Contributors can submit add/delete requests for repeaters as necessary, update call signs, PL tones, locations, features, network affiliations, Internet links, DMR Talk Groups, and so on. It appears the Repeater Directory is used as a starting point for most databases.

ARRL Repeater Directory and the Ohio Repeater Council website (http://www.oarc.com/): The Repeater Directory and OARC Repeater search are supposed to be one-in-the-same so that’s why I grouped these two together. The OARC is the source for the printed ARRL Repeater Directory. Recent updates may appear on the website with those changes appearing in the print edition a year or more later. I did find differences between the printed edition and online version. I’m unsure why but they should be the same. In both the printed and online searches, there are a lot of, what hams refer to as, “paper repeaters.” That is someone who correctly holds a repeater frequency pair coordination but does not have a repeater in operation on that pair. Repeaters in the testing phase or down for repairs are not considered paper repeaters, unless that time reaches 6 months of inactivity. This timeframe is determined by the local repeater frequency coordinator. Something else I noticed: there are repeater pairs turned over to the OARC, nearly a decade ago, that are still listed as active or coordinated. The OARC website is free to use and results can be copied and pasted from the webpage for importing. No export of the OARC database is available.

The Repeater Directory comes in pocket sized ($10.95 – https://www.arrl.org/shop/The-ARRL-Repeater-Directory-Pocket-size) and desktop editions ($15.95 – https://www.arrl.org/shop/The-ARRL-Repeater-Directory-Desktop-Edition). An electronic version is available through RFinder (see below). Importing from the paper Repeater Directory into programming software is, well, impossible without typing it in or utilizing character recognition. 🙂

RFinder (https://www.arrl.org/shop/RFinder-The-World-Wide-Repeater-Directory/): Also known as the World Wide Repeater Directory (WWRD). It started out as a project by Bob – W2CYK as the place to find repeater data. He has partnered with the ARRL, RAC, RSGB, and many other organizations throughout the world including software companies for the ability to import directly from the RFinder database. In partnering with the ARRL, RFinder is the online version of the printed Repeater Directory. There is an iOS and Android app available. The Android app is feature-rich which includes the ability to preload a continent (if you don’t or won’t have Internet access), different sort methods (frequency, distance), display estimated coverage maps, list Internet Linked nodes (EchoLink, IRLP, and AllStar), and ability to submit updates (crowdsourcing). In addition to the mobile apps, much of the functionality is available through a web interface. My favorite feature is the map displaying my current position and tower icons indicating repeaters nearby. Though not the best implementation because a city with multiple coordinated repeaters has the icons for each stacked on top of each other. A popup balloon listing all would have been more useful. A lot of work has been put into developing features but, the interfaces could use some fine tuning as the map was one example of multiple problems I encountered. RFinder suffers from paper repeater and stale data problems due to the source of the data. An annual subscription of $9.99/year is required with multi-year and lifetime discounts available. The Android app comes with a 30-day limited trial. Purchasing the iOS version includes a 1 year subscription.

K1IW Amateur Repeater and Broadcast Transmitters Database Websearch (http://www.amateur-radio.net/rptr/): This website serves a single purpose: find repeaters and/or broadcast transmitters (FCC listed AM, FM, and TV) within an area. Enter a city, state, radius, and select at least one band and the results will be a listing of repeaters within that radius – including Canada and DC. The search aggregates various coordinating organizations along with a couple other sources. Searching Toledo, Ohio brings up both Ohio and Michigan results. Usefulness of the results are based on accuracy of the sources. There are paper repeaters and stale data here as well. Resulting lists can be copied and pasted from the webpage for importing. This service is free.

RepeaterBook (https://www.repeaterbook.com/): RepeaterBook relies on crowdsourced data and not sources like the Repeater Directory. Upon navigating to a particular state, there is an extensive list of quick search options including: band, features (Autopatch, EchoLink, IRLP, linked), emergency service (ARES, RACES, Skywarn), coverage of a route (highway, US route, state route), town, county, and ratings. Advanced search options provide radius, nationwide, travel, niche (digital modes, linking), and frequency vacancies. Results can be copied and pasted from the webpage for importing. Creating an account will enable exporting to the software applications CHIRP, G4HFQ, RT Systems, and TravelPlus. Though most are CSV files, they nicely include the correct column headers and break the data into the correct fields like 146.610- into “Receive Frequency” and “Offset Direction.” Since the data is crowdsourced, the listings are not entirely accurate. I noticed a good number of repeaters in the Repeater Directory and on-the-air but, missing from RepeaterBook. When I brought up the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) for the jog around Pittsburgh, no repeaters were listed. The first one returned was nearly 3 hours east of the PA border. This means no repeaters in Pittsburgh have been submitted as covering I-76 which was incorrect seeing as I could hit a number of repeaters. The website can use some unification because different options are available on different screens. Mobile applications are available for iOS and Android and they support BlueCAT BlueTooth (http://www.zbm2.com/BlueCAT/) available for a limited number of radios. Clicking a repeater listing in the mobile app will tune the radio to that frequency and set correct offsets and PL tones. This service is free.

Radio Reference (http://www.radioreference.com/): Radio Reference is geared toward the scanner listener and contains mostly crowd sourced data for public service frequencies. Scanner listeners who are travelers have definitely used this site. Once you locate an area in the Frequency Database, often there will be a list of repeaters in the “Amateur Radio” tab. This list is minimal and not comprehensive but includes mostly popular, emcomm, and Skywarn repeaters. These will likely be ones of interest and will actually be on the air when you key up. Results can be copied and pasted from the webpage for importing. Downloading a CSV file requires a premium subscription of $15 for 180 days, $30 for 360, or by providing an audio scanner feed.

ArtSciPub (http://www.artscipub.com/repeaters/): ArtSciPub stands for Arts & Sciences Publications. They started as a software company and now do science related publications. One of their projects is a repeater database. Start a search by selecting a state, entering a zip code, or frequency. The resulting list can be resorted by clicking any of the column headers. Repeaters can be added or modified without an account. This database is very old as changes that happened 15 years ago are still not listed. Results can be copied and pasted from the webpage for importing. A Repeater MapBook is available for purchase. A membership of $20/year will allow access to larger maps, customized content, removal of advertisements, and high-quality PDF maps.

In this realm, there are currently no great solutions with perfectly accurate data. Some repeaters never change, others are changing all the time – which is a reason why it’s hard to keep accurate records of such as large population of repeaters. I think my best option is using RepeaterBook in conjunction with the ARRL Repeater Directory or K1IW to get a good representation of the repeater landscape while traveling.

I got the chance to finish up the project of getting LEARA’s Fusion repeater on the air New Year’s Eve. I mentioned the first in a series of tips back in November. With the help of Bill – K8SGX (Technical Specialist), we punched some holes, ran some jumper cables, and finally, the machine was on the air! Other DR-1X owners who are using the repeater in Automatic Mode Select were reporting the repeater locking in transmit when a digital and analog signal were simultaneously received by the repeater. Cycling the power would be required each time the repeater locked up. Our club decided to configure the Fusion repeater in digital only mode as a result. Today, it is a stand-alone repeater but things are looking promising for an Internet link. If you’re in the Cleveland area, try out the 444.700 YSF repeater on the west side. No tone, digital squelch, or digital code options are required. Thanks again to K8SGX and my dad Tom – N8ETP for their help with this project.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2016 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2016/12/december-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

In October, I was invited by Medina County ARES to see a presentation about Winlink. I had heard of it as a way to send email messages over the HF bands. There were rumors around whether specialized hardware was needed and I really wanted to see what it was all about. Rick – K8CAV gave a great presentation on how it all works and some tips that really helped me get operating on Winlink.

Winlink, in short, is a way to send email via radio circuits frequently used by RV campers, boaters, and mariners where the Internet may not be available or reliable. It is a store and forward system meaning your messages will be held and delivered when you call into a gateway, much like the dial-up or BBS days. There are a number of ways the software will operate: connect to a remote gateway station over the air, operate peer-to-peer over-the-air, connect via the Internet using Telnet (yeah, yeah ‘telnet isn’t secure’ but neither is your email going out over the air), or webmail. Winlink has regional Central Messaging Servers (CMS) which connect to the Radio Messaging Servers (RMS) over the Internet. The RMS is the gateway your client connects to for sending and receiving messages over-the-air.

There is little privacy as other stations can read your messages but the intent is to have a worldwide emergency email messaging system. Messages can be exchanged with any email address (Gmail, your ISP) on the Internet using the assigned callsign@winlink.org email address. Stations conducting business will likely get blocked from the RMS gateways. Attachments can be included with messages but due to bandwidth, these should be kept to small files like CSV or TXT files – no multi-megapixel images or videos.

There are three pieces to the Winlink client software: RMS Express is the ’90’s looking email client, Winmor – the modem, and ITS HF Propagation is a third party software program that works with Winmor to determine propagation for connection reliability. I got Winlink setup and working with my radio and SignaLink so no specialized hardware is required. A lot of back-and-forth transmit and receiving happens between the client and gateway. The TX/RX turn-around time needs to happen quickly (under 200ms), longer will require a high number of retransmissions. One tip to help minimize the delay: set the SignaLink delay control no further than the second hash mark (8 o’clock position). To get started, go to ftp://autoupdate.winlink.org. Click “User Programs.” Download and install “Winlink Express Install,” and “itshfbc” to their default locations. To get an account created on the system, you need to send one email to an Internet address such as your personal email. In addition, Winlink has an “APRSLink” where you can check for messages, read, compose, forward, and delete all by sending APRS messages. Feel free to send me a message to “my call” at winlink.org. More: http://www.winlink.org/

I’ve also been playing around with a new device from Shark RF called the OpenSpot. It’s a small company with two guys in Estonia (South of Finland). Production is done on a batching basis so there is a waiting list. It seems like they’re shipping units close to once per month. Once I got the shipping notice, I had the device within a week. They say 3-6 business days shipping time and it arrived certainly within that range. The OpenSpot is a standalone digital radio gateway otherwise known as a hotspot. It currently supports DMR (Brandmeister, DMR+), D-STAR (DPlus/REF, DCS, XRF/DExtra, XLX), and System Fusion (FCS, YSFReflector). If the mode or network isn’t supported, they do take requests and will make additions available via firmware upgrades. Since it is a hotspot device a transceiver capable of operating that mode is required. They are doing something cool since DMR and Fusion use the AMBE2 codec. A DMR radio can be used to access the Fusion network and vice-versa (DMR Talk Groups with a Fusion radio).

The OpenSpot has a lot of flexibility, very well designed, and is superior to the DV4Mini. It doesn’t need different Raspberry Pi images for different modes like the DVMega. The device comes with everything: the OpenSpot hotspot, Ethernet cable, USB cable, USB power adapter, and antenna. It runs an internal webserver for device configuration. I even like how they do the firmware update process. The OpenSpot shows up as a drive to the computer and using the copy command – copy the firmware to it and voilà – done. For DMR, it will operate like a DV4Mini with the radio configured in TG 9 (talk-group) or it will operate like a repeater (my preference) where the Talk Groups are push-to-talk. All the TAC groups are available (310, 311, 312, etc) and call routing works. I could not get these to go on the DV4Mini. D-STAR works great too. You can link and unlink to reflectors using radio commands. It does not have a drop down for linking directly to a D-STAR repeater on the network. The only systems listed are reflectors. Forum posts describe how to link to a D-STAR repeater (like a DVAP or DNGL would do) using the “Advanced Mode” screens.

It’s not great for portability as it comes (in a car, for example). I have not tried any of the USB to Ethernet adapters with my smartphone or tried a Raspberry Pi as a WiFi to Ethernet bridge. OpenSpot requires an Ethernet cable connection meaning no WiFi though there are plans to add this and uses USB for power and firmware upgrades. As with these devices in DMR mode, they do not transmit a valid call sign. The radio ID is not valid identification. If you listen to a repeater in FM it will ID in CW. Unfortunately, the cost is about twice that of the DV4Mini 182.50 € which, when I ordered, was about $235 including shipping. More: https://www.sharkrf.com/

Other new tech (Christmas gifts?). With advancements in Software-Defined Radios (SDR) I’m seeing a new breed of devices hams can use as radios: your smartphone. Well, at least something that resembles a smartphone or tablet – still need the additional hardware. A device out of the UK called “MyDel Hamfone Smartphone Transceiver” is available. It offers a 3G cellphone, 70cm transceiver (500mw/1W) with camera, expandable SD card, and GPS. The few reviews are positive but there is some question if its FCC certified in the US. More: http://www.hamradio.co.uk/amateur-radio-handheld-radio-mydel-handhelds/mydel/mydel-hamfone-smartphone-transceiver-pd-6093.php

Bob – W2CYK and the guys over at RFinder (the online repeater directory of the ARRL) have released the “RFinder Android Radio.” Their device integrates 4G LTE & GSM cell technologies alongside FM (DMR is also available) radios into a device with the RFinder repeater directory database. The directory offers coverage maps and switching repeaters is a point-and-click away. They also boast the elimination of codeplugs for DMR. This is great as finding codeplugs, or the information for one, is not always readily available. More: http://androiddmr.com

This past month, the Parma Radio Club invited me to their meeting to give the Raspberry Pi presentation. There was a lot of good discussion and questions. This is always good to hear because you know the audience is engaged, thinking, and ultimately providing real-time feedback on the presentation. Thanks for having me at your meeting. More: http://www.parmaradioclub.com/

Don’t forget, National Parks on the Air will be wrapping up at the end of the year. According to Tom Gallagher – NY2RF, NPOTA is getting closer to #1MillionQSOs: https://twitter.com/hashtag/1millionqsos. Look out for those NPOTA stations to get your score up for your wallpaper (that is certificate if you don’t operate special events and contests).

Starting this past fall with the kickoff of new TV seasons, the CW is airing a show called “Frequency” loosely based off the 2000 Sci-Fi thriller of the same name. It starred Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel as father and son, Frank and John Sullivan. This was big with hams because the movie incorporated something that resembled ham-radio which allowed the father and son to talk 30 years into the past and future. The TV show has gotten positive reviews with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 74% with the biggest criticism being the back-and-forth between now and 20 years in the past. It airs Wednesday nights at 9pm (Ham Nation time so it gets the DVR treatment here) with the last couple episodes available on the CW website and on Netflix streaming. More: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/frequency/

Finally, don’t forget the HF Santa Net through Christmas Eve. Starts at 8:30 pm Eastern and can be found on 3916 kHz for the little ones to have a chance to talk with Santa! More: http://www.3916nets.com/santa-net.html

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ham radio and tech.