Tag Archives: DMR

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. This means commercial gear is setup for commercial users while ham gear is setup for the way hams use radios. 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 (in the U.S.) 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. Today, they resemble small relational databases where settings and data are interrelated and interdependent. Making a change in one area may impact other settings that rely on that data. 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 [Updated: registration site is now at RadioID] 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. User linking is done via Talk Groups or reflectors. Repeaters cannot be linked to directly by other repeaters or hotspots.

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.

Communication Examples

Situation: Find any station to make an extended QSO.
Solutions: Call out on any Talk Group: this is K8XXX listening on ‘name of the Talk Group.’ Ie: “This is K8JTK listening on Ohio Statewide.” When on a “Calling” Talk Group and contact is made, keep the QSO relatively short, move to another Talk Group (TAC Talk Groups for example) or Reflector for the duration of the QSO.

Situation: Make a sked with a buddy on the same local repeater.
Solutions: Use Local9 when all stations are on the same local repeater. Use statewide or other Talk Group when you want to bring in other stations not on the local repeater or hotspot.

Situation: Make a sked with another station on a different repeater.
Solutions: Both stations must have both repeaters linked to the same Talk Group or Reflector. Then call the other station as one normally does. For different regions or countries: a common talk group between both repeater networks must be found. Typically, TAC or any Talk Group on Brandmeister.

Situation: Make a sked with a station on a repeater and other on a hotspot.
Solutions: Hotspot access is only available on DMR-MARC and Brandmeister networks. A common talk group between the repeater network and hotspot network needs to be used. Typically, statewide, TAC, or any Talk Group on Brandmeister. Both stations must link to the same Talk Group or Reflector. Then call the other station as one normally does.

 

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 [DEAD LINK]
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

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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 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/2016/09/september-edition-of-ohio-section.html

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,
I don’t have to complain to you about the hot and extremely humid weather we’ve had because all of you are living it too. Storm season arrived later in Northern Ohio. I wrote last month how my city got hammered by some storms. It continued with a tornado outbreak in Indiana on August 24th. Friend and regular checkin to the Ham Nation D-STAR net luckily sustained no damage. However, his neighbors a quarter-mile to the north and south had their homes destroyed. The line of storms that moved through Indiana spawning many tornados prompted the National Weather Service in Cleveland to staff the Skywarn desk. I was one of the operators at NWS that night. Though the storms significantly weakened by the time they reached the Toledo area, there was one confirmed EF0 tornado in Pemberville (Wood County – my old stomping grounds). It touched down along route 6 and dissipated quickly but not before removing sheet metal roofing from nearby buildings. No injuries or fatalities.

Public service season is quickly wrapping up for most of the section. Technical Specialist David KD8TWG ran much of the five-day public service event at the Great Geauga County Fair. Being from Cuyahoga county (and the far west end at that), I was a little skeptical. ‘OK the GREAT Geauga Fair.’ But it really was a great fair. It’s the biggest one I’ve attended. There’s a ton of people, displays, awards, animals, events and acts, and yes people really do stand in line 45 minutes for a milkshake. This was confirmed in a casual conversation between fair-goers. As far as ham radio there is a great mixture of technologies including Ohio MARCS, 800 MHz, APRS, Mesh, VOIP, and a portable repeater for their communication needs. It was quite the elaborate setup and really is a great example of utilizing technology to suit communication needs.

The public service season concluded in Cleveland on the 11th with a half-marathon called “River Run.” It was great weather and there wasn’t a single ambulance call. A lot of the ham radio event coordinators have to beg, twist arms, and make many phone calls to get people to come out and help. Please volunteer and help out with these events. You’re there to make sure everyone has a good, safe time during the event. Your presence also gets ham radio out in front of the public and builds relationships with event organizers and county officials. If you’re active in helping out with public service events, you’re more likely to be called in the case of an actual situation.

Ham Nation episode 264 (https://twit.tv/shows/ham-nation/episodes/264) was an episode that featured an all YL cast. Everyone on the show that night was a young lady. The episode highlighted female participation in the hobby and pointed out that ham radio is not made up entirely of OMs. Additionally, Dr. Skov (who is not licensed … yet) gave a detailed tutorial on ionospheric conditions and how space weather effects propagation on the HF bands. She talks about the atmospheric layers, electron density, how those layers change during the day vs night vs gray line, the layers which reflect signals, Kp and X-Ray Flux indices. Her tutorial would have really helped me on those licensing test questions! It starts about 44 minutes into the episode – with some interesting analogies. I will leave it at that!

I’ve been spending a ton of time learning more about the DV4Mini dv4miniand DMR in particular. The DV4Mini is a USB hotspot device about the size of a large USB memory stick. It has the ability to “speak” several different digital modes: D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, P25, and dPMR/NXDN/IDAS. A hotspot is a device that provides connectivity. In this case, to different digital networks from your home PC or Raspberry Pi with a low powered transmitter (usually under 10mW). A misconception I hear a lot and have been asked about: yes you do need a radio for each digital mode you want to operate. To connect to D-STAR reflectors you’ll need the hotspot device and a D-STAR capable radio. Similarly, for DMR talk groups, you’ll need the hotspot and a DMR capable radio. I’ve been hanging out a lot on the Ohio Statewide talk group (3139) and USA Nationwide (3100), I even ran into our own Section Manager on the network!

The more time I spend with the DV4Mini the more issues I find with it. It’s a great concept to have one device to work 5 different modes. The DV4M has a lot of issues that I hope the developers correct related to its performance. I actually bricked mine updating it to the latest firmware. Had to crack the case and put into bootloader mode to re-flash the firmware. The update took the second time. This happened to another user too. Comparing audio quality to repeaters on the network and listening to BrandMeister Hoseline, the audio from the device sounds bad most times and terrible the rest. The direct calling feature doesn’t seem to work. A buddy of mine found the developer for the BrandMeister extended routing feature (DV4MF2) completely ceased development as of September 9th. It will be interesting to see why that happened and if that means anything for the future of the device. There are other hotspot devices out there and I hope to find out more about them soon.

David KD8TWG and his presentation on APRS at the Lake Erie Amateur Radio Association (LEARA) meeting was fantastic. We had a lot of fun with APRS on our smartphones and radios sending messages back and forth.

Thanks to the Cuyahoga Amateur Radio Society (CARS) for having me at their meeting on September 13th. I presented my introduction to the Raspberry Pi computer. Good discussion ensued in both cases on new technology hams can utilize.

Coming up, I will be at the Cleveland Hamfest on the 25th. Two days later I’m giving a presentation at the LEARA meeting on Slow Scan TV. If you’re in the Cleveland area and want to see SSTV in action, stop by the meeting on the 27th. More details will be available at leara.org as the meeting date approaches.

Congratulations to Scott N8SY on being reelected as Section Manager for the Ohio Section. Give him a pat on the back or buy him a beer when you see him for all his hard work!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 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/2016/08/august-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

As I’m beginning this month’s article some nasty storms just ripped through Cleveland on the 11th. There were branches, trees, wires, power lines down, and road closures on the west side due to those hazards, including my QTH of Westlake. Luckily I’ve heard of no injuries. If you’re not part of the NWS Skywarn program, please consider joining as a spotter. Skywarn is a volunteer program that helps the local National Weather Service office know what’s happening on the ground and assists in warning people about dangerous weather conditions. Training typically happens in the early spring for spotters. Check with your local club or Skywarn organization.

The Republican Nation Convention went off without major incident in Cleveland. I was working from home and had the scanner on most of that week. Three major trunked radio systems were utilized: MARCS, the new MARCS-IP (Multi-Agency Radio Communications System), and GCRCN (Greater Cleveland Radio Communications Network). If you didn’t set a wildcard or use UniTrunker to watch those systems, you probably missed a lot of the event communications. There were about 12 primary talk groups on GCRCN where most of the action took place. These were previously unidentified so they were not in any lists or databases that use Radio Reference. A wildcard stops on any talk group whereas programming specific talk groups into the scanner will only stop on transmissions for those talk groups. The “old” MARCS system was shut down immediately following the convention as it was kept online largely for backup. It has been replaced by the MARCS-IP system.

This month we learned the sad news of Hara Arena’s closing. No more Hamvention at Hara Arena after 52 years. The Dayton Amateur Radio Association put into action their contingency plans. It was announced that Hamvention will still be in the Dayton area. The new location is The Greene County Fair and Expo Center located in Xenia, Ohio. Michael Kalter and Ron Cramer talked about the new location on Ham Nation for about 30 minutes in episode 259. Couple of links worth visiting:

-Why we are saddened by the loss of the Hara Arena: http://ad8bc.com/bc/?p=601
-Hamvention Announces Venue for 2017: http://hamvention.org/hamvention-announces-venue-for-2017/
-Ham Nation episode 259: https://twit.tv/shows/ham-nation/episodes/259, or YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_OaKmllEDY

One of our Technical Specialists, David KD8TWG, has been involved with setting up a DMR repeater in Cleveland. The frequency is 442.0875 (+5 MHz standard offset) using Color Code 1. The repeater is connected to the K4USD cBridge (http://www.k4usd.org/). On that website is a listing of the “standard DMR Logo configuration” for repeaters connected to the bridge. Right now, your code plug should follow the layout listed on the site. A cBridge is a feature that allows interconnecting of repeaters over the Internet and a Color Code is equivalent to a PL tone or DCS on analog repeaters.

When I picked up my DMR radio at Dayton, I found a code plug that had repeaters in Dayton and Columbus for the drive home. It was a nice opportunity to quickly get on the air with DMR but I kept threating myself to write my own. With the installation of the repeater in Cleveland, I took the opportunity to do just that. What is a “code plug?” Some history I found online notes the origins came from wire plugs, later jumpers, which were plugged into the radio to enable certain options or features. Since everything is now processor based, the term continues to stick with the radio world and is a fancy word for ‘radio configuration.’ It contains transmit/receive frequencies, tone selections, timeout values, IDs, configuration settings, etc. I used the one I found in Dayton as a reference. Tytera MD-380 There is also a sample one on K4USD’s site for my radio. I compared the two and designed mine the way I thought worked best. Just because someone designed a code plug one way doesn’t mean you can’t modify or do it differently. It’s analogous to one ham’s memory channels are not the same as another. In the end, it took about 3 hours to make mine! Keep in mind that was a lot of learning and comparing, in addition I programmed all 65 possible talk groups so I don’t have to add them in later. From discussions on the air indications are it took others a few hours as well. But my code plug works! I couldn’t be happier. Well OK I could, apparently I’m just far enough away that my 5 watts doesn’t quite make the trip. I took the radio to work and tested it from there.

I am writing an introductory series for the Wood County Amateur Radio Club on getting started in digital modes. The first few articles were for those who have never worked digital and want to upgrade their station. Remaining articles will focus on a specific mode. I’ve completed 3 so far (starting in February): an introduction, station setup, and working JT65/9. Published versions can be found at the club’s website WSJT-X Conversation in the CQ Chatter newsletter: http://wcarc.bgsu.edu/. As I point out in the second article, Technician class licensees can still participate. All of these sound card digital modes can be operated over FM simplex or even a net on a repeater using an HT! There are clear downsides like not being able to transmit as far as an HF station and occupying the full 10 to 15 kHz FM, even though the bandwidth of the audio generated by the computer is less. Yes, this defeats the purpose of narrow bandwidth modes. Someone wanting to learn and experiment with these modes may get bitten by the bug and lead to a license upgrade. That’s how I did it. I plan to write an article every 2-3 months.

My dad and I had the opportunity to join the Toledo Mobile Radio Association (TMRA) on August 10. They had Chris Wilson N0CSW, National Sales Manager for Yaesu talk about their System Fusion. Chris did make it clear that the company was paying for travel so there would be some ‘sales pitches.’ The presentation was short but the program ended up being driven by the audience with a lengthy question and answer session. Some things I learned: the DR-2X Yaesu DR-2Xrepeater announced at Dayton is not going to be a replacement for the DR-1X, though they may have improved on some shortcomings. The 2X is more of a full featured repeater. It will have the ability to operate dual receive and dual transmit (but not at the same time) creating two repeaters from one unit. They are including voice messaging (like club meeting announcements). Mailboxes were users can record messages for others. This reminds me of the mailboxes repeaters used to have when autopatches were more prevalent. The 2X can monitor a separate control channel for commands. This repeater will not support WiresX but will have “MSRL” (Multi-Site Repeater Linking) via an add-on Ethernet port. Their linking technology will allow the repeater to be linked over any IP based network, including mesh. This brought to mind an interesting use-case where multiple low profile/portable repeaters could be linked at sites with mesh such as air ports, hospitals, and Red Cross shelters. This would create a linked repeater system where not as many users would have to setup cross-banding or run to the other end of a hospital to reach a radio. In contrast, something similar can be done using the AllStar Linking system. At the meeting there was alot of: “I would like this feature/I don’t like this feature in the radio,” “we’re having this problem setting up the repeater to do X” kind of Q&A. My take away from that, their plan is to add features to radios by firmware update and not always release new radios.

In addition to all the work David KD8TWG has been doing to get DMR up and running in Cleveland, he’s been helping repair and upgrade analog repeaters, and setting up APRS IGates around town. He will be giving a presentation on APRS at the Lake Erie Amateur Radio Association’s club meeting on August 30th. Dinner starts at 6:30pm with the meeting at 7:30, don’t need to have dinner to attend the presentation. Haven’t seen an official announcement on location yet but it’s expected to be at the Play Arcade in Mayfield Hts (5900 Mayfield Rd, Mayfield Heights, OH). Check the LEARA website for updates and for dinner reservations: http://www.leara.org/.

Raspberry Pi 3I will be giving my introductory Raspberry Pi presentation at the Cuyahoga Amateur Radio Society meeting, September 13 at 7:30pm. It will be updated as there is new hardware and innovations available. Their meeting location is the Busch Funeral Home, 7501 Ridge Rd, Parma, Ohio. More: http://www.2cars.org/.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 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.

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Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2016/06/june-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,
You’re reading this so you survived another Dayton. My dad N8ETP and I went down on Thursday. We stopped at MCM Electronics. It was actually on the way because we stayed south of Dayton this year. My dad was looking for some parts. I ended up buying another Raspberry Pi 3 on a Dayton weekend special and an Arduino Uno board. The Arduino was cheap and a lot smaller than I expected. Don’t have much lined up for it but I did want to try a project I saw on AmateurLogic.TV some time ago.

Raspberry Pi 3The difference between the Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno boards is the Pi can run a full operating system (usually Linux) while the Arduino Uno runs instruction sets uploaded to memory. Variants of the Arduino can run entire operating systems. Both have General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins for interfacing. I haven’t mentioned it in this space – Raspberry Pi 3 is the latest addition to the line of cheap micro-computer devices. The Pi 3 has all the features of the Pi 2 with an upgraded CPU to 1.2 GHz 64 bit, built in Wireless N LAN, Bluetooth 4.1 and Low Energy (LE). All of this goodness (still) at $35 in the same form factor. I ran a compile of Fldigi/Flmsg for comparison. The Pi 2 compiled the programs in about 22 minutes, the Pi 3 compiled in about 13 minutes.

This year I really didn’t have a lot on the Dayton shopping list. I wanted to take a look at the new ICOM IC-7300. That is a very nice radio and a huge improvement over my IC-7000. I didn’t pull the trigger on that for some reason. I’m reluctantly holding off. The newer radios are coming with built in USB. For someone looking to get into HF digital check out the newer radios. You won’t need a SignaLink type device because the sound card is built in!

Tytera MD-380I did attend Dayton with the intent of purchasing a DMR radio. From the amount of people I heard on DMR repeaters and podcasts afterwards, it sounds like they were the popular item this year. For good reason, I picked up a Tytera MD-380 for a little over $100. It included the radio, battery, charging base, 2 antennas, programming cable, and software.

DMR LogoDMR stands for Digital Mobile Radio and is a standard published in 2005 that came from our friends in Europe. It is an open standard (publically available for adoption and modification) and widely adopted for commercial use. In practice manufactures have introduced proprietary features into DMR and created marketing buzzwords like MotoTRBO. With enough surplus hardware available in the market, the price dropped low enough for hams to adopt the standard and setup DMR repeaters. I have a lot to learn about how all this works. There aren’t DMR repeaters in range of my QTH. Couple on the opposite side of town and to the south. There are some repeaters in Toledo and Columbus. The greatest concentration is between Dayton and Cincinnati. Thanks to the folks at the Dial Radio Club in Middleton, Ohio, I had a DMR repeater easily accessible from my hotel room during the show.

Kenwood APRS DSTARNew things I saw include scanners from Whistler with DMR (expected June 2016). Following quickly behind was Uniden with the same announcement (no release dates set). If you have a public service agency utilizing a DMR system, you’ll soon have scanner options available. Kenwood showed off their 2m/220/440 radio with APRS and D-STAR (and hopefully DPRS). My dad and I both noticed how incredibly crisp and clear the color display was. Standing about 5-6 feet away we could easily read it. DV4mobile Wireless Holdings showed off a new digital all-in-one radio, the DV4mobile. This thing has ALL the features: 2m/220/440, DSTAR/DMR/Fusion – with P25/NXDN/NEXEDGE coming next year, LTE (as in cellular connectivity), remote programming, remote operation, Ethernet/WiFi, SMS (text messages). Will this thing do my dishes too? Wow. Both Kenwood and Wireless Holdings are expecting release dates in about 6 months.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Field Services table at the ARRL Expo. I had a great time chatting with hams from England and exchanging ideas. It was fun meeting those in Newington who administer the programs we know and love. A lot goes into these programs and there’s a lot of technical research happening. The table was staffed by representatives from the Ohio Section including moi. Scott and his wife Jane spent most of the show at the table making sure everything went smoothly. Huge thanks to them for getting everything organized. It was nice to meet all of you. I picked up a couple books in the store on the way out. More stuff to do!

Windows 10Reminder about Windows 10: Don’t forget the free upgrade offer to Windows 10 is set to expire July 29th. You still have about a month to decide on the upgrade. If you missed my April article, I went into great detail about Windows 10 and the push to upgrade users. Check it out on my site or on the Ohio Section Journal site. There is no indication from Microsoft if the upgrade will become a premium option or if they will extend the offer. Some analysts think it will become a pay upgrade others think the upgrade offer will be extended indefinitely. One change, Microsoft is becoming even more aggressive in forcing the upgrade. Didn’t know this was possible but they’ve succeeded. I mentioned in April that clicking the red “X” to close the upgrade pop-up will delay the upgrade. This is no longer true. Microsoft’s new interpretation of clicking the red “X” is an AGREEMENT to the upgrade. This whole upgrade thing is ridiculous. I have no defense for this behavior. If you want to disable the Windows 10 upgrade, run Never10 (https://www.grc.com/never10.htm). Many users are disabling Windows Update to prevent the upgrade. Please don’t. If you have, run Never10 and disable the upgrade. Reboot. Check it’s still disabled by running Never10 again. Run Windows Updates and let it do its thing. Then run Never10 again to verify the upgrade is still disabled. I’ve been upgrading my machines to Windows 10. It takes some finessing to disable the crap. I do keep coming back to a single question: “why?” Not ‘why did I upgrade’ but ‘why is this useful setting now burred and takes fifteen clicks when it used to be three’ or ‘why would you change things (color schemes, color contrasts, move things around for the seventh time) just to change things?’ Haven’t yet taken the plunge to wipe-out my machine in the shack.

Technical Specialist report:

With summer and projects gearing up, requests have been coming in. Bob K8MD and a good friend of his Dave NF8O traveled to the Ohio Veterans Home station, W8OVH, in Sandusky. They have a sideband station and wanted an upgrade to run digital modes. Bob and Dave spent a few hours working with them to get the station up and running. They trained the club members how to use Fldigi and helped them make their first PSK31 contact! The guys reported it was a humbling experience talking to Vets who served in major conflicts from WWII to Grenada.

Dave KD8TWG has been busy with presentations for ARES groups. First was a presentation on APRS for Cuyahoga ARES. The presentation touched on history, uses, settings and what they mean, and systems built on the APRS network. There is a lot to APRS and I learned a lot. Soon after he did a “program your radio without a computer” for Geauga ARES. Interesting concept. Most groups bring computer programming in to help newbies program their radio. Knowing how to program a radio without a computer is useful during an event or public service activity where improvisation is likely needed. Could you change PL tone on your radio and save it in memory though the front of your radio? Programming a temporary repeater that has a 1 MHz split? DCS, anyone? It’s good to know and practice changing transmit, receive, PL frequencies, and power settings on-the-fly through the front of your radio.

PCARS (Portage County) club members contacted me about a moon bounce (EME) presentation. This is an area I wasn’t familiar with or knew anyone who operated. I reached out to the assembled mass of Technical Specialists. Tracey – W8TWL came through with a couple contacts. Got PCARS in touch with one of them and they are working out the details for the July 11th meeting. I’m hoping to make this meeting and see a great presentation on Earth-Moon-Earth.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Img: VA3XPR, raspberrypi.org