Tag Archives: Part 97

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 2020 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:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

With the continuation of ‘ronaFest 2020 and the latest blah-blah-blah from our GOV, individuals who didn’t have time to study for their ham exam have found themselves doing just that and passing their test! I’m hearing more new hams on the bands. Welcome. Most want to purchase a new radio as a reward. A new VHF/UHF handy-talky (or HT) is on many-a-new-ham’s shopping list. Great idea. There is a vast and wide range of features and options. For a while now, many new hams, and even current hams, have been purchasing Baofeng radios. Please don’t.

Yaesu FT-60R

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my objection with Baofeng radios. Since then, they haven’t improved at all. Baofeng UV-5R radios cover the 2m and 440 ham bands and are available for about $25. Sounds great except nearly all of their radios do not comply with Amateur Radio service regulation, known as Part 97. Part 97 acknowledges the operator is responsible for operating all equipment within the limits set forth for the Amateur Radio service under FCC regulation. Other regulations, such as Part 90 (public service and business band, among others), certifies the specific piece of equipment stating it passes technical requirements. Each Amateur Radio license holder is responsible for the proper operation of all equipment.

It’s a very compelling argument, $25 for a handheld. Perfect options for new hams, young hams, or public service events were radios are prone to damage and misuse. Destroy it and it is $25 vs. a couple hundred, or $700, to replace. Newer, less expensive, radios could replace older radios that maybe didn’t have PL, low power TX, or were single band. Baofeng manufactures radios targeted at radio operators, including hams, for next to nothing. Inconsistencies in firmware versions lead to differing sets of features, programming software is in Chinese, issues getting the programming cable to work, complaints about the lack of support, and lack of a usable manual. I’m not installing software from China on my PC. You get what you paid for and even more than you bargained.

Baofengs have this nasty habit of transmitting everywhere at once. That’s tongue-in-cheek for they decimate radio spectrum by producing spurious emissions up and down the RF spectrum, which interferes with other licensed services. Part 97 specifically addresses this type of emissions in 97.307(e):

The mean power of any spurious emission from a station transmitter or external RF power amplifier transmitting on a frequency between 30-225 MHz must be at least 60 dB below the mean power of the fundamental. For a transmitter having a mean power of 25 W or less, the mean power of any spurious emission supplied to the antenna transmission line must not exceed 25 µW and must be at least 40 dB below the mean power of the fundamental emission, but need not be reduced below the power of 10 µW. A transmitter built before April 15, 1977, or first marketed before January 1, 1978, is exempt from this requirement.

Boldness added for emphasis. As hams, we are given plenty of leeway in how we use our frequencies and the ability to self-regulate. It’s up to each of us to make sure our radios are compliant and we are good stewards of the spectrum we’ve been afforded. It’s funny because I’ve been in radio club meetings were hams are the first to complain about interference, pirate stations, and unlicensed devices in the amateur spectrum. Yet, it seems, very few follow regulations minimizing interference to other devices and services. By not following Part 97, hams are in violation of their license which could lead to fines and even revocation.

The ARRL published their findings in a November 2015 QST article and another in January 2020. I came across yet another video demonstrating the non-compliance of these radios with Part 97. In this video, he keeps mentioning the 60 dB requirement. I believe that is incorrect because these radios are 25 watts or less and would fall under the 40 dB requirement.

Baofeng UV-5RX3 on a Spectrum Analyzer. Left most spike is the fundamental frequency. Next spike to the right of the fundamental is the first spurious emission. This emission is only -19 dBm (upper right) from the fundamental. These emissions are nowhere near -40 or Part 97 compliant. (The Radio Mechanic YouTube video)
Alinco DJ-F1 on a Spectrum Analyzer. Left most spike is the fundamental frequency. The diamond marker in about the middle of the noise floor is the first spurious emission. This emission is -57 dBm (upper right) form the fundamental. This radio is compliant with Part 97 as it is beyond -40. (The Radio Mechanic YouTube video)

Every transmitting device has these spurs. The manufactures employ filtering within the radio to knock down these spurs to a level that complies with regulations. Baofengs likely have none of this filtering or very, very, very poor-quality filters. The ARRL found units tested from big name manufactures are 100% compliant.

I stopped using and recommending Baofeng radios because they do not come close to meeting FCC requirements. No way would I transmit using one of these radios. Only receiving is fine, transmitting is the problem. Many tests from both amateur and professionals have validated these radios are not worth the money. Better off taking your money and throwing it out the window.

What radio, that meets Part 97 requirements, is available for the price? About the cheapest dual-band hand held radio is the $80 Yaesu FT-4XR or the $160 Yaesu FT-60R, which are fantastic entry level radios and very much Part 97 compliant. DMR radios compete on price and most were found to be compliant. Many usual ham features are missing and programming difficulty have not really put DMR radios on the same playing field.

Few years ago, I found another option. Unfortunately, the company has “Baofeng” in the name which doesn’t help its cause. A company called “Baofeng Tech,” or BTech, is a US based company offering the UV-5X3 for under $60! They have comparable offerings to other Baofeng models too. BaoFeng Tech not only sells improved Beofeng radios but they also support their products directly. It even ships free and supports the ARRL if bought using Amazon Smile.

BaoFeng Tech UV-5X3 and accessories

The radio looks and acts like a UV-5R. BaoFeng Tech updates the firmware, modifies the radio by installing better filtering on the transmitter, and includes an easy-to-read, nicely printed, 85-page manual. The UV-5X3 comes with all the same accessories including belt clip, antennas, charger, and ear piece. All original Baofeng accessories work too. To my surprise, they even squeezed in the 220 MHz (1.25m) band into the radio making it a tri-band radio!

BaoFeng Tech assured me their radios meet spectral requirements for Part 97. I had mine tested a few years ago at the Cleveland Hamfest by AD8G (ex KD8TWG). On VHF, one harmonic was a little higher than 40db down, UHF was spot-on. I feel very comfortable transmitting with this radio knowing it is compliant.

The CHIRP free programming software will program the UV-5X3. If you’re into the RT Systems programmers, the BTS-5X3 programmer is needed. The RT UV-5R programmer (BAO-5R-3) will not work with the UV-5X3. However, the same cable (USB-K4Y) will work on both radios.

Now there’s no excuse to get a compliant radio that is reasonably priced like the Yaesu FT-4XR, Yaesu FT-60R, or a BaoFeng Tech UV-5X3. These are great entry-level VHF and UHF radios. They can replace older radios, be a Christmas/holiday gift, and are options for young hams or new hams that just received their ticket. If you would like to check radio compliance, a number of Technical Specialists have equipment that can validate if it follows regulations. Also look for “test and tune” nights at a local club meeting – maybe when we’re all seeing each other again.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2019 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:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

‘Tis the season for … regulation. The FCC and ARRL have been quite busy with proposed and amended changes affecting Part 97. Both organizations take on proposed changes brought by technical requirements, additional research, lobbying organizations (commercial and private), other laws/regulations, and of course, other hams. The FCC publishes proposed rules and invites the general public to comment on changes. Comments help decide if the FCC should enact a proposal. Once again, our allocations are under scrutiny and attack.

FCC WT Docket 19-348 and WT Docket 19-138 seeks to change 3 GHz and 5.8 GHz allocations. Nearly all allocations for the Amateur Radio Service above 220 MHz are on a secondary basis. Secondary allocations are services allowed to use the same frequency range as a primary user. A secondary user cannot cause harmful interference to primary users and cannot claim protection from primary users. Protection can only be claimed by the same or other secondary services. WT Docket 19-348 seeks to eliminate the secondary allocation of the Amateur Service on the 3 GHz frequency range. WT Docket 19-138 seeks to modify primary usage on the 5.8 GHz bands. Though not eliminating the Amateur Service secondary allocation, this would affect and restrict secondary usage.

HamNET Mesh (Wikipedia)

What’s in those frequency ranges? Primarily WiFi networks. 5 or 5.8 GHz, commonly referred to as 5 GHz WiFi (not to be confused with the mobile broadband 5G standard) or the commonly known standard, 802.11ac. Consumer WiFi in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz are unlicensed ISM spectrum meaning you don’t need a license from a regulatory agency to use that spectrum. This is the reason you don’t need a license to operate a WiFi router or hotspot where a laptop, mobile phone, or Internet of Things device would communicate with a wireless network or the Internet. The 3 GHz spectrum is also used to create wireless networks but does require a license in other to operate. Our allocation (3.3 – 3.5 GHz, or 9-centimeter band) is just below commercial WiFi but the same equipment is modified for amateur use.

This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is in response to the MOBILE NOW (Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless) act passed by Congress to make new spectrum available for fixed and wireless broadband, aka your mobile phone and 5G devices. From the introduction to docket 19-348 by the FCC, “By proposing to delete the existing non-federal secondary allocations from the 3.3-3.55 GHz band in the Table of Frequency Allocations, we are taking an important initial step towards satisfying Congress’s directives and making as much as 250 megahertz of spectrum from this band potentially available for advanced wireless services, including 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity.” “Currently, the entire 3.1-3.55 GHz band is allocated for both federal and non-federal radiolocation services, with non-federal users operating on a secondary basis to federal radiolocation services, which have a primary allocation.”

“Needless Obstacles” are apparently Amateur Radio and using that space to build out high speed networks to support Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), non-governmental agencies (NGO), and first responders. Most notable use of the 3 GHz spectrum for Amateur Radio has been pioneered by the AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network) group which came out of an ARRL group on High-Speed Multimedia (HSMM). For more than a decade, AREDN has developed software for a large number of commercially available wireless devices, in the $45-$95 range, allowing operation in Part 97 allocations including 900 MHz, 2, 3, and 5 GHz bands. Commonly referred to in the ham community as “Mesh” networking, these devices utilize the same protocols used on the Internet allowing served agencies connectivity to Internet-based services. Independent of Internet infrastructure, they can additionally provide video, email, voice, and chat service when the Internet is not available.

Though the proposal offers re-locating secondary services, the AREDN project has posted their response to these proposed changes citing such a move “would be difficult if not impossible without a complete redesign, manufacture, purchase, and installation of new custom Amateur hardware and software… raising the price out of reach for the typical ham.” The ARRL news posting includes information on how to file a comment on the proposal at the end of the article. An earlier post from the ARRL indicates the changes also affect satellite operations in the 3.40 – 3.41 GHz segment.

Obviously, I’m against commandeering bands and spectrum of the Amateur Radio Service. Trying to lessen the impact by seemingly providing good-will relocation assistance always comes with catches and gotchas, not-to-often many benefits. Many outlined in the AREDN post. Contributions are always of question of when, how much, and how far will it go. It’s unlikely they’re going to make any manufacturing contributions to redesign and sell new equipment at a reasonable price. Prices for mesh equipment is reasonable because of commercial interests in the 3.65 GHz licensed WiFi band. Not to mention time invested by volunteers to develop mesh technology hams have available today. Please consider commenting on the proposal or support the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund which takes on challenges such as these and protects our operating privileges.

3 GHz AREDN mesh nodes (AREDN)

I’ve been in favor of the symbol rate elimination from Part 97 and adopting bandwidth limitations of 2.8 kHz on HF band data emissions – though I would like to see bandwidth limitations set across the board. Arbitrary [low] baud rates are not allowing experimentation of more innovative and spectrally efficient digital modes, and curtail experimentation with modes that can transfer the same data at a much faster rate. The ARRL has renewed its request to delete the HF symbol rates and adopt the 2.8 kHz bandwidth requirement.

The ARRL believes a proposal filed by New York University (NYU) would add further uncertainly to Section 97.113(a)(4) – prohibiting “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.” In relation to the deletion of symbol rates, the NYU proposal seeks to adopt language the ARRL feels could weaken the prohibition of encrypted messages. The wording “effectively encrypted or encoded messages, including messages that cannot be readily decoded over the air for true meaning.” The League has an issue with the wording “effectively encrypted.” “ARRL said that adding the word “effectively” would make the definition even more vague by including all encoded messages plus an additional set of undefined messages, the extent of which is unknown.” It has asked the FCC to dismiss the NYU petition.

The issue of encryption will continue to be a hot-button issue and will be as heated as it has become among scanner enthusiasts when disusing encryption on public safety radio systems, if not more. I completely understand and fully support the openness and transparency of Amateur Radio. However, I think there are a few issues we, as hams, need to have very solid responses when encryption comes up in discussion and in competition with other sources.

The first is privacy and security. More laws are being passed such as GDPR in Europe. It is mandated regulation around the privacy and protection of European Union citizens including data collection, retention, disclosures – and encryption standards. On the heels of that regulation, many states have passed similar laws mirroring those compliance requirements. I see us (hams) sitting at the table with served agencies. Some representative has mandated some form of encryption on network links and retaining control of data. Is ham radio now off the table? Probably depends on the wording. What is our answer when commercial entities are pushing their “first responder” networks and reserved bandwidth that can offer data encryption and protection? Is the expectation of coding patient data into TAG IDs good enough? Does it keep ham radio relevant because we can’t offer encryption and why? Proposals to modify the obfuscation requirements of Part 97 have pointed to such requirements or potential requirements by served agencies. I guarantee we have not seen the last of these arguments.

Experimentation side of ham radio is another issue. I have seen the maker movement as a way to bring younger and like-minded people into the hobby. If these technically minded individuals are experimenting with technologies that probably offer some form of encryption by default, how can ham radio win at this argument? Why would they choose a non-encrypted method when there are readily available encryption methods and they are becoming the foundation for newer technologies? Maybe the thought of being able to use higher power or not as crowded spectrum might be an incentive. To me, it’s not an issue of ‘what are they hiding’ or ‘why do they need encryption.’ Technical (ie: Information Technology, I.T.) professionals are opting for security and encryption instinctively. Technical individuals and the industry have conditioned average users to look for secure options such as checking for the green lock on websites and using “secured” WiFi networks. Vint Cerf, considered to be the father of the Internet, reflected on the progression of the Internet by stating “If I could start over again I would have introduced a lot more strong authentication and cryptography into the system.” How would that have affected ham radio TCP networks? Maybe those who would utilize ham radio for their experimentation purposes just don’t want someone else peering into their information exchange or use it as a method of authentication, not necessarily hiding something.

In a devil maybe in the details change, the FCC modified Part 97 RF exposure safety rules. Current safety limits will remain unchanged. The amateur-specific exemption from having to conduct an RF exposure evaluation will be replaced by the FCC’s general exemption criteria. Certain stations are exempted from having to conduct evaluations based only on power and frequency. The Commission indicated that if the source was excluded from routine evaluations under the old rules, they will be exempt under the new rules. From the ARRL news release: “For applicants and licensees in the Amateur Radio Service, we substitute our general exemption criteria for the specific exemption from routine evaluation based on power alone in Section 97.13(c)(1) and specify the use of occupational/controlled limits for amateurs where appropriate,” the FCC said. “RF exposure of other nearby persons who are not members of the amateur licensee’s household must be evaluated with respect to the general population/uncontrolled exposure limits. Appropriate methodologies and guidance for evaluating Amateur Radio Service operation is described in the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) Bulletin 65, Supplement B,” the revised rule concludes. Further review by ARRL technical, legal staff, and ARRL RF Safety experts is needed to determine any changes in requirements.

(Wikipedia)

In 2017, Norway was the first country to shut off FM broadcasts in favor of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). In North America, we use the HD Radio standard. Not amateur related, but interestingly the FCC is seeking comments on a NPRM allowing AM broadcasters to voluntary change to an all-digital broadcast. “We tentatively conclude that a voluntary transition to all-digital broadcasting has the potential to benefit AM stations and provide improved AM service to the listening public,” the FCC said. “We seek comments on proposed operating standards for all-digital stations and the impact of such operations on existing analog stations and listeners.” We’ll see where this goes. This maybe an incentive for low-power AM stations to move to HD Radio. I didn’t think there were many AM HD Radio stations. This was confirmed by HD Radio – Find Stations that indicated there were about a half-dozen total in the major cities of Ohio. I also wonder how HD Radio will work with signal fading or can it be received at a great distance from cities like Chicago, New York, or Nashville. Instead of being able to receive AM radio with a crystal set or HF radio, you might need a computer for some stations in the near future.

I usually don’t get to publish ISS Slow-Scan TV events in advance because they are often last minute and at the mercy of crew availability. There was an announcement of a possible SSTV event starting December 27 or 28 of this year. No special setup is required to copy images, even an HT can be a crude way to receive. To receive the best images, Yagi antennas on a tracking tripod is best. I just use my external VHF antenna and let the computer listen for transmissions. To receive SSTV images, the popular choice for Windows is MMSSTV and QSSTV for Linux. Tune a radio to 145.800 MHz FM and wait for the ISS images to appear on screen. I have tutorials available to help get your station setup and get started with MMSSTV for more details on receiving images.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!
73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 2019 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:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

I received a question last month from Andy – KD8SCV on setting up a digital hotspot transmit frequency compliant with “Line A.” I’ll address these as two separate issues. If the hotspot or simplex node is within the correct ranges of the band plan, Line A doesn’t matter. You’re going to need your copy of Part 97.

What is Line A? It is an approximate border between the U.S. and Canada that varies in exact location but is most often 75 miles (about 121 km) from the border. According to Part 97.3(a):

(30) Line A. Begins at Aberdeen, WA, running by great circle arc to the intersection of 48° N, 120° W, thence along parallel 48° N, to the intersection of 95° W, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Duluth, MN, thence by great circle arc to 45° N, 85° W, thence southward along meridian 85° W, to its intersection with parallel 41° N, thence along parallel 41° N, to its intersection with meridian 82° W, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Bangor, ME, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Searsport, ME, at which point it terminates.

This is the same wording as Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 90.7. Doesn’t tell you much, like why does it exist? This information is a little sparse. Possibly to protect land mobile stations in Canada. Land Mobile Service (or LMS) is defined by the ITU as communications between base stations and mobile stations or between mobile stations. Think public service agencies and even private companies to coordinate people, resources, safety, or security. Amateur Radio is allocated secondary status on most U.S. allocations above 1.25m or the 220 MHz band. 420-450 MHz is shared with federal agencies and military for radar applications such as PARCS located in North Dakota near the Canadian border. As it pertains to the Amateur Radio service:

(1) No amateur station shall transmit from north of Line A in the 420-430 MHz segment. See §97.3(a) for the definition of Line A (Part 97.303(m)).
Line A (maroon) overlay. (FCC)

For stations in the western part of the state north of 41° N, no transmissions between 420-430 MHz can be made. This includes the cities of Ottawa, Findlay, Tiffin, Willard, New London, and Lodi. Close to the intersection of State Route 83 and Interstate 71, near the cities of Lodi in Medina county and Burbank in Wayne county, is where 41° N and 82° W intersect. From that location, Line A takes a northeast trajectory to Bangor, ME. North of Line A constitutes Medina, much of the Cuyahoga Valley, Hudson, bisects Streetsboro and Mantua, Hiram, West Farmington, North Bloomfield, and Andover.

For those wondering, there is a Line B, Line C, and Line D. In Canada, Line B is opposite to Line A while Line C and D divide the Alaskan border with Canada. There is no mention of Line C in Part 97. Land mobile stations licensed north of Line A or east of Line C requires additional coordination with Canadian authorities.

PARCS Radar station (Wikipedia)

The FCC has provided a couple resources that depict Line A and check Line A coordinates. The checking site won’t accept Google Maps coordinate format. It requires NAD83. I found a converter that worked well. On a Google Map, left-click until a small gray marker appears on the map. Coordinates will appear in a pop-up in the lower-center of the map. 41.460459, -81.911875 for example. Copy them. Go to the West Virginia coordinate conversion website. Paste them under “Input Coordinates.” “Lat/Lon WGS 1984” should already be selected. Under “Output Coordinates,” select “Lat/Lon NAD83.” Click Covert. Copy the output coordinates (removing the negative symbol and spaces) into the FCC Line A check site. Example Lat: 412737.6, Lon: 815442.7. The site will return “North of Line A” or “South of Line A” for the relative location.

As a general rule, don’t transmit 420-430 MHz within 80 miles from the Canadian border and you’ll be golden.

For everyone, the following applies in Part 97.303(m):

(2) Amateur stations transmitting in the 420-430 MHz segment must not cause harmful interference to, and must accept interference from, stations authorized by the FCC in the land mobile service within 80.5 km of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit. See §2.106, footnote US230 for specific frequencies and coordinates.

(3) Amateur stations transmitting in the 420-430 MHz segment or the 440-450 MHz segment must not cause harmful interference to, and must accept interference from, stations authorized by other nations in the fixed and mobile except aeronautical mobile services.

80.5 km is a little more than 50 mi. Check the FCC or Radio Reference sites for issued licenses between 420 and 430 MHz in Ohio. Many licenses are assigned in the Cleveland and Toledo areas.

My OSJ article last year, though pertaining to hotspots and satellites, addressed the hotspot frequency question nicely. I’ll reiterate because this is important. Under Part 97, hotspot devices are considered an auxiliary station. In general, advice would be to ‘check with the local frequency coordinator’ but experience with the coordinating group indicates they won’t be of any help. Where should you operate a digital hotspot or digital simplex node? I do like the ARRL’s Band Plan because it spells out many details not included in graphical representations. Note: this advice only applies to the U.S. band plan. The band plan has allowances in the following frequency ranges for simplex, auxiliary stations and control links:

  • 146.400 – 146.580. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 146.4125 – 146.5675
  • 433.000 – 435.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 433.0125 – 434.9875
  • 445.000 – 447.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 445.0125 – 446.9875
Raspberry Pi Zero ZUMspot

“Usable” indicates the lower and upper frequency limits that can be used and programmed into a digital hotspot. Don’t forget to stay away from the national calling frequencies of 146.520 and 446.000. Some of these ranges are shared with repeater links so remember: it is your responsibility to ensure correct operation of your equipment and find a frequency not already in use before using it! There is NO excuse for not adjusting frequency to eliminate interference with other operators and equipment! Listen to the desired frequency by setting up a radio or scanner with the volume turned up. If you hear any kind of obvious traffic, data bursts, or digital screeching, pick another frequency then rinse and repeat. Notice none of these allowances include frequency restrictions imposed by Line A.

Every hotspot user and repeater owner reading this needs to verify your operating frequencies and take corrective action, if required. Auxiliary stations cannot operate within the satellite sub bands. Many hotspots are operating there illegally. Satellite sub bands for 2 & 440 are:

  • 2 m: 145.800 – 146.000
  • 70 cm: 435.000 – 438.000

If your hotspot is operating near edges where deviation would fall into an unauthorized band segment, operating “out-of-band” (ie: weak-signal, satellite), or operating 420-430 MHz and located “North of Line A”, you need to take corrective action now! Your cooperation is greatly appreciated!

Yahoo! Groups is going away! Since 2001, the service allowed users to “build relationships, stay in touch, share ideas, and discuss interests through the convenience of popular e-mail and Web-based tools.” Many ham radio groups over the years have used or are using Yahoo! Groups to coordinate and collaborate.

An SSTV Net in Cleveland used Yahoo! Groups to share received pictures and offer support for stations having trouble with their setup. It was the first time I used the service. Special interest groups formed on a wide variety of topics including scanner information, D-STAR, DMR, and System Fusion.

A note sent to users laid out the time line of the impending shutdown:

Beginning October 28 you won't be able to upload any more content to the site, and as of December 14 all previously posted content on the site will be permanently removed. You'll have until that date to save anything you've uploaded.

Moving or saving data needs to happen relatively quickly should you or group members want to keep the information. Read this knowledge base article to understand the changes and information on how to save content from your groups. Steps don’t seem quick or easy.

An ARS Technica article provides more details on the shutdown. Citing a successful service with 110 million users in 2010, Yahoo failed to adequately compete in other areas after being acquired by Verizon. Verizon responded by cutting budgets and staff.

I mentioned Groups.io in July as a service I joined earlier this year to keep updated on different ham radio projects. Feedback has been positive and many are recommending it as a place to transition before the shutdown. Groups.io doesn’t serve ads, track users, and has a better reputation than Facebook, which I neither use nor trust. Featuring a modern platform for communities to connect through messaging, calendar, chat, polls, databases, photos, wiki, and integration with a list of other platforms. Great place for projects to post documentation and offer support or as a platform to keep in-touch with club members. Some indicated greater engagement with club members and more attendance.

A wiki article posted contains instructions for moving content to Groups.io. It indicates transfers need to be initiated before December 1, 2019 to guarantee the transfer of content from Yahoo! Groups to Groups.io – though Yahoo was having issues with Photos.

Last month, I was invited to give a presentation at the meeting of the Lake County Amateur Radio Association (LCARA). The presentation was about, well, me. I talk about my biography including schooling, how I got involved with groups, jobs, and other presentations I’ve put together. Most importantly, talk about the duties and responsibilities of the Ohio Section Technical Coordinator and technical resources available to hams in the Ohio Section. I had a great time as I don’t get out to Lake county often and it was a fantastic day for a drive. The club was very welcoming. LCARA has many members passionate about different aspects of the hobby and they report on each during their meeting. A good time was had by all.

If you would like to know more about the TC position within the Ohio Section or want to know more about the technical resources available in our section, contact myself or a Technical Specialist.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 2018 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://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Nov-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

A couple years ago, Medina county asked me to create a training session for them on how to use Fldigi specifically for NBEMS. Recently, Lorain county ARES encouraged participants to utilize NBEMS methods. NBEMS stands for Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System. It is a set of standards for the ham radio community to communicate with each other using text and E-mail type traffic. Standards are good to have so there is not a situation where different groups use different digital standards and cannot communicate between themselves.

Two hams are responsible for the NBEMS standards: Dave – W1HKJ, author and maintainer of the Fldigi suite of applications, and Skip – KH6TY, author of one of the first PSK applications, Digipan. Their idea was to have a prolific digital communication standard that followed these important principals:

  • Utilize radios, software, and hardware that are used in every day ham radio (familiarity)
  • Inexpensive. All can participate. Older computers can be used.
  • Simple. No steep learning curve in an emergency situation but flexible.
  • Independent of infrastructure

To make digital interaction possible: a radio, computer, interface between the two, and software to tie it all together is needed. An interface is typically a device like the SignaLink or RigBlaster. One nice thing about NBEMS, it’s possible to operate MT63-2KL by holing your radio up to the computer. This means a separate interface is not required. It’s great in a pinch but doesn’t provide an ideal operating situation.

Fldigi is a modem application. It modulates and demodulates – what sounds like noise – into data. Flmsg, used in conjunction, is a forms manager. It allows you to create and reply to standardized forms and verify reception through a checksum. A checksum is an algorithm used to detect errors in storage or transmission. Standard forms included are ICS, IARU, Radiogram, or the ability to send CSV data. CSV is a plain-text file that stores tabular data with each line being a single record contains one or more fields separated by commas. In NBEMS, CSV is a low-bandwidth way to transfer Excel documents without formatting and extra Meta data. As an example: a Excel document can be 17 kB in size but the same data exported to plain-text CSV is only 5 kB.

Tim – NC8OS, EC for Lorain, asked if I would give an Fldigi training session, which I was more than happy to do. A few years passed since I gave similar training in Medina. A number of changes have happened and it was time to update my presentation. Changes include much more frequent (and not always stable) Fldigi and Flmsg updates, changes in work flows – especially within Flmsg, and I have gained more experience interacting and interfacing with digital nets across the country.

Fldigi had some cosmetic changes, mostly around the menus and configurations. Workflow changes in Flmsg seem like they could be beneficial but were poorly implemented. Luckily, we can go back to familiar behavior. Most important lesson I’ve picked up: all these whiz-bang things are tools. This or any other technology needs to be played with to figure out how it can be best utilized (offering a real advantage), how it can be utilized efficiently, and have people who know how to use these tools. Groups are finding digital operators are ones who have the least amount of problems and greater success during drills than someone who hasn’t opened the application in 6 months. This, too, means someone who wants to become successful needs to practice, practice, and practice by operating, participating in practice nets or starting one if one is not available.

For my presentations and training, I feel people get much more out of a hands-on session. I encouraged participants to bring their stations or go-boxes which helped facilitate a great question and answer session to address a good number of problems. Eric – N8AUC, DEC for District 10, was on hand to answer questions as well. We accomplished a lot, answered a lot of questions, and got them on the right track.

I learned that I need to be figuring out interactions with this combination of hardware, software, and Windows 10. As more people are upgrading, replacing computers, or purchasing new devices this means more questions and issues will center on the most widely used operating system platform. Though I have stopped using Win 10 in favor of Linux, I do need to spend time with it to better answer those types of questions.

Thank you to Lorain ARES for allowing me the opportunity to pass on knowledge about digital and NBEMS. My presentation is available online on my website. Contact me about setting up a training session with myself or a Technical Specialist if you would like to host a session on NBEMS.

Speaking of Technical Specialists, another meeting night idea for your club is to hold a “Test and Tune Night.” Dave – KD8TWG hosted one of these events for LEARA. It usually ends up being a “Test and Test Night” because the operating manual does not have the information on how to make adjustments. Those are found in a Service Manual. Professional test equipment was on hand including Service Monitors, wattmeters, and analyzers to test radios, scanners, and coax. Dave could tell you if that $30 Baofeng is compliant with spectral requirements. VERY good chance it won’t be.

Dave reminded all of us that Part 97 certifies us as operators to be compliant with the rules. This allows us to build our own radios and not have to do something crazy like file a testing and compliance report with the FCC for a home brew project. Just because the radio ‘sounds good,’ ‘does everything I need,’ or ‘was cheap’ doesn’t mean it works correctly especially when transmitting. It is up to each of us as hams to make sure our equipment is compliant. Contact Dave or myself to help get a Test and Tune night for your club.

It’s that time of year again! For the 13th consecutive year, The 3916 Nets will be presenting The Santa Net on 3.916 MHz. Good girls and boys can talk to Santa Claus, via amateur radio, nightly at 8:30 PM (Eastern) starting Friday, November 23, 2018. The Santa Net will run nightly at 8:30 PM Eastern through Christmas Eve, December 24, 2018. This fun opportunity is great for connecting kids or grandchildren with the Head Elf himself. Details and updates will be made via their Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/3916santanet/.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 2018 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://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Oct-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Digital mode access points, often called hotspots, have been in the news lately. Those are the 10mW personal devices used by digital operators to cover a relatively small area like a house, car, or hotel room. Instead of tying up a gateway repeater, which largely connects local users to the Internet, many have opted for these low-powered devices to provide similar functionality. Advantages over a repeater are the hotspot owner has complete control over which reflector, repeater, or talkgroup their hotspot is connected to. They are not beholden to the preferences of the repeater owner and have the flexibility to use their hotspot however they’d like. Many use them mobile in the car or take them on a trip allowing them to enjoy their favorite digital modes where there may not be repeater coverage.

Hotspot devices in general are about the size of a deck or two of cards and require an Internet connection, computer to run the software, application or web browser for configuration, and a radio capable of operating each mode. An Internet connection can be your home WiFi or cellphone hotspot (as in WiFi-hotspot). The original OpenSpot was the only device that required a wired Ethernet connection. A PC computer may serve as the Internet connection for USB access points. The computer could be a Raspberry Pi in many cases or might be completely self-contained. A web browser or application is needed to make configuration changes and adjustments such as call sign, transmit frequency, mode, or network. These hotspots are the RF gateway to the internet which means a radio capable of transmitting and receiving that mode is also required. Few hotspots today are single mode like the D-STAR DVAP. Nearly all on the market are capable of operating multi-mode and connecting to associated networks. To operate DMR the user would need a capable DMR radio, a capable Fusion radio for the Fusion networks, and so-on.

Hotspots can utilize the many available modes & networks:

  • DMR: BrandMeister, DMRplus, XLX
  • D-STAR: DCS, DPlus, XRF, XLX
  • Fusion: FCS, YSFReflector
  • NXDN: NXDNReflector
  • P25: P25Reflector

A keen eye might ask about Wires-X, P25net, or DMR-MARC. Those networks cater to a specific manufacturer of equipment and are often closed to other vendors. You might be able to reach resources on those networks because someone has cross-linked a closed network with an open network, usually at the point where digital signals turn into analog audio. This is how a user can be on Wires-X America Link and talk with a DMR user.

Hotspots and satellites

Not the Dave Matthews Band song Satellite either. A major issue for other hams has been caused by hotspot users. Every hotspot user and repeater owner reading this needs to verify your operating frequencies and take corrective action, if required. Under Part 97, hotspot devices are considered an auxiliary station. Auxiliary stations cannot operate within the satellite sub bands. Many hotspots are operating there illegally. Satellite sub bands for 2 & 440 are:

  • 2 m: 145.800 – 146.000
  • 70 cm: 435.000 – 438.000

If your hotspot is operating within those frequencies or near the edges, within the weak-signal sub bands, or any other sub band likely to cause issues, you need to take corrective action now!

In general, advice would be to ‘check with the local frequency coordinator’ but experience with the coordinating group indicates they won’t be of any help. What should you do? Note: this advice only applies to the U.S. band plan. Every band plan I’ve seen has the satellite sub bands defined. I do like the ARRL’s Band Plan because it spells out many details not included in graphical representations. The band plan has allowances in the following frequency ranges for simplex, auxiliary stations and control links:

  • 146.400 – 146.580. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 146.4125 – 146.5675
  • 433.000 – 435.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 433.0125 – 434.9875
  • 445.000 – 447.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 445.0125 – 446.9875

“Usable” indicates the lower and upper frequency limits that can be used with a digital hotspot. Don’t forget to stay away from the national calling frequencies of 146.520 and 446.000. Some of these ranges are shared with repeater links so remember: it is your responsibility to ensure correct operation of your equipment and find a frequency not already in use before using it! There is NO excuse for not adjusting frequency to eliminate interference with other operators and equipment! Listen to the desired frequency by setting up a radio or scanner with the volume turned up. If you hear any kind of obvious traffic, data bursts, or digital screeching, pick another frequency then rinse and repeat. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated!

OpenSPOT2

Right after Dayton I started hearing rumors that the OpenSPOT was discontinued. Not the news you want to hear if you just purchased one at Dayton. The website eventually confirmed the rumors and that another device was to be announced “soon,” which turned into months. Finally, the SharkRF OpenSPOT2 was announced. This replacement addresses many issues of the now legacy device including the need for a wired Ethernet connection, limited portability, and lack of newer digital modes.

Feature-wise it is nearly the same but includes a much-needed internal WiFi antenna and support for NXDN and P25 (two up-and-coming digital modes in ham radio). It includes POCSAG which I’m not familiar but told is a paging standard. Those under 35 have no idea what a pager is. The device operates off a USB-C cable (included) and looks to be about the size of a computer mouse. It will still have cross-mode support for DMR and Fusion radios and networks. As with the previous, you will not be able to use your D-STAR, NXDN, or P25 radio in cross-mode. Release date is expected before the end of 2018. Stay tuned to their website and social media portals for exact date.

ZUMspot review

At Dayton I added to my hotspot collection. On my shopping list was a ZUMspot or something I could use with the Pi-Star software. I picked up a ZUMspot kit and case from HRO. The kit lists for $130, $110 without the Pi board. The case adds $15. The kit came with the amazingly small Raspberry Pi Zero W (W for Wireless) and the ZUMspot modem board from KI6ZUM. You’ll need to provide a Micro-USB cable which powers both devices. I’ve seen demos and received feedback saying Pi-Star was a great application to use – and is stable. Many had issues with the DVMEGA (in particular) getting a good distribution that worked reliably with that device. Pi-Star is software written by Andy – MW0MWZ. It is distributed as a Raspberry Pi image for use with Digital Voice modems.

All configurable options are available through the web interface. It’s convenient and you don’t have to mess around with multiple interfaces or carrying around a screen for the device. Services like SSH are available but generally not needed.

Before I tried to use the image, I knew I had an issue. Since this was my first Pi device without a wired connection, I couldn’t edit the WiFi settings by wiring it to my network. Instead I mounted the SD on a Linux system and edited the /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf to include my WiFi information. Booted the ZUMspot and it connected to my wireless auto-magically. The Pi-Star site has a utility to help create the wpa_supplicant.conf file.

I’ve primarily used the ZUMspot on D-STAR and DMR but it supports all modes and networks mentioned earlier in the article. It doesn’t do as well as the OpenSPOT when D-STAR stations are marginal into their gateway. There’s more “R2D2” on the ZUMspot in that respect but it’s a minor issue. Pi-Star can enable multiple digital modes at one time. This is a great selling point and works great if conversations happen at different times on different networks. It is a “first wins” scenario. If a D-STAR transmission ends and one on the DMR network starts, nothing will be heard on the D-STAR radio until the DMR transmission ends. In other words, parts of an otherwise interesting conversation maybe missed. The case is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle but it’s fairly easy to figure out from the picture that was provided. The ZUMspot is an excellent little device and I’m happy with it.

Technical Specialists report

Dave – KD8TWG has been very busy recently. He was again in charge of the communications and networking for the Great Geauga County Fair where they run APRS tracking of their golf carts, setup a phone system and IP cameras to cover the fair. At the Cleveland Hamfest he gave his presentation on Digital Modes. He compared and contrasted modes available to ham radio operators, including quality and radio options. Updated for this year was information on digital scanners and receiving the MARCS statewide digital system. Coming up on October 30, he and a few buddies will be putting on a “Test and tune” night for LEARA. It’s a great opportunity to check operation of radio equipment and make sure it is not transmitting spurs and harmonics (*cough* *cough* Baofengs *cough* *cough*). Contact Dave if you’re in the Cleveland area, or myself for the rest of the section, to have a similar program at a club meeting or hamfest.

If you were involved with the State Emergency Test, Black Swan exercise the weekend of October 6 & 7, you likely received bulletins from The Ohio Digital Emergency Network (OHDEN). Eldon – W5UHQ and crew gave up a good portion of their weekend to help with this event. They did a fine job of handling bulletins from the EOC and those stations that came through on the wrong communication channels. Join them for the OHDEN net on 3584.500 USB using Olivia 8-500 set to 1500 Hz on the waterfall each Tuesday at 7:45 PM eastern.

WB8APD, SK

Cleveland Hamfest – 1999, hac.org

I received word that Trustee Emeritus and past long-time Treasurer for LEARA, Dave Foran – WB8APD became a Silent Key on October 10, 2018. I knew Dave for about 10 years as a member of the LEARA board and mentor but knew the impact he made on the Ham Radio community long before I was a ham. In the time I knew him, Dave was always a behind the scenes guy – rarely getting on the radio. He was instrumental in getting repeater sites and maintaining equipment for LEARA including having an input for one of the repeaters at his house. Stories have been told that his basement was the print shop for the club’s newsletter when the club had 400+ members no-less. Dave was incredibly smart with technology and the Internet before most of us knew what it was. He worked for the phone company and the joke was “Dave had half of Ma Bell in his basement.” Internet linking was something he was into early on with his own IRLP node. He owned a server that, for a long time, served resources for the Cleveland area – not only ham radio clubs but community organizations too.

HamNet BBS before closing
Maybe you even dialed into the old HamNet BBS system located in Dave’s basement (yet another reference those under 35 won’t understand). Dave was my mentor with technologies LEARA was using as I was going to be helping or taking them over. He is the reason I’m into digital modes. Cleveland’s first D-STAR repeater was in-part Dave’s doing. Of course I had problems at first and he was my go-to for questions. The little space here covers only a fraction of his involvement and lives he impacted through his countless contributions. Goodbye and 73, Dave.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio: Winlink

This article appeared in the The Wood County Amateur Radio Club newsletter CQ Chatter February 2018 edition.

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


Hurricane season wasn’t particularly fun in 2017. We had both extremes. Houston got hit with Hurricane Harvey which required little response from the ham community. Infrastructure stayed online. Disruption to communication systems and Internet was minimal. This left many hams wondering, ‘are we at the point where our infrastructure is stable enough to survive a category 4 hurricane?’ ‘Are hams still relevant since we were not needed for this type of event?’ We got the answer to those questions over the next month with two category 5 hurricanes. Irma impacted the state of Florida and Maria devastated the relatively poor U.S. possession of Puerto Rico. We went from wondering if ham radio was still relevant in emergency situations to rethinking training for extended deployment scenarios, all within a matter of weeks.

Ham radio news sources pointed out many communication techniques were utilized getting traffic in and out of affected areas. An ARRL press release indicated “Maxim Memorial Station W1AW at ARRL Headquarters is monitoring the HWN, 60-meter interoperability channel 2, and Winlink for any traffic.” Winlink gained prevalence in ham news media due to these disasters, gained popularity in emergency communications circles, and became an operating requirement for hams that assisted in Puerto Rico. Winlink is a very powerful and flexible system for exchanging all types of messages.

“Winlink (also known as Winlink 2000) is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay” (Wikipedia). In other words, Winlink is a global email system via radio. The backbone uses the Internet for communication but users do not need an Internet connection. This makes the system popular in Emcomm when the Internet is not available. Winlink was first used recreationally by mariners, RV campers, and missionaries. The entire system is run by volunteers and a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Though similar in name, the “WIN System” is a popular IRLP repeater system based in California and entirely different.

https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

The Winlink system consists of multiple Common Message Servers (CMS) on multiple continents thought the world. The CMS servers form a “star” network configuration to coordinate traffic and provide services like email, webmail, telnet, bulletins, and reporting. Each CMS is a mirror image of the others for redundancy, failover, and outage situations. The Internet, by design, can work around outages. To date, there has been no global outage of the Internet – only regional. Having multiple servers, with redundant copies of the same data, means one or more could be affected by an outage and the system still functions. As of November 1, 2017, the CMS servers have been moved into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud for greater redundancy.

Remote Message Servers (RMS) are scattered throughout the world and are the RF connection into the Winlink system. RMS gateways access the resources of the CMS servers via the Internet. These nodes are provided by hams familiar with the system and are setup on many ham bands (HF, VHF, UHF). On VHF/UHF, connectivity is limited to local clients. HF gateways serve a wider area but depend heavily on band conditions.

Finally, your computer runs the client software which interacts with services provided by the CMS, most often through an RMS gateway. The client software sends and receives messages. Size is limited to 120KB maximum, including attachments. Winlink uses a “store and forward” approach to messaging meaning clients are not constantly connected to an RMS or CMS gateway.

There are currently 6 client software applications available for Winlink. A feature comparison is available at: https://www.winlink.org/ClientSoftware. Winlink Express (formally RMS Express) is the preferred client because it’s developed by the system administrators and supports all features of the system. The software is well supported and frequently updated. The application looks and operates much like a stripped-down email client. Using a familiar email interface makes the application easy-to-use. Though free to download and use, Winlink Express is nagware. It will frequently prompt to purchase a key supporting development of the system. Registration of $24 is encouraged but not a requirement to use Winlink.

Winlink Express interacts with a wide selection of transceivers, provides different operating modes (PACTOR, Packet, Telnet, WINMOR Virtual TNC), and offers different connection methods (relay over mesh and D-STAR networks). It can be operated in any of four general methods:

  • Winlink: access messages on the CMS via an RF connection to an RMS gateway using the Internet.
  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P): messages exchanged directly with other users over RF, Internet, or mesh without the use of a RMS or CMS.
  • Radio-only: messages transferred between HF RMS gateways – without use of the Internet.
  • Telnet Post Office: connects to the CMS directly over the Internet.

A growing library of forms is available for ARES, RACES, SHARES, or MARS organizations including ICS, ARRL, and form types used in Ohio. The advantage of Winlink versus NBEMS is the ability to exchange messages over the public Internet. A form could be emailed directly to a government official instead of relayed via another ham. Winlink Express makes it easy to fill out or reply to forms by utilizing the local web browser. When composing a message, these forms are found under “Select Template.”

A “Query Catalog” accesses services provided by the CMS such as weather and marine forecasts, news, and propagation reports. Location coordinates can be reported through Winlink as well.

Winlink Express will work on a modern computer or Windows tablet running Windows Vista or later. The WINMOR Virtual TNC requires a 700 MHz or greater processor and 512 MB RAM or more due to the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) needed. An Apple or Linux version of Winlink Express is not available but it can be run using a virtual machine or dual-boot configuration. A Linux client is available but does not support all features.

This series primarily focuses on soundcard modes over HF and I will be discussing the WINMOR Virtual TNC. WINMOR is a low-cost interface utilizing the SignaLink USB for $120 as opposed to a PACTOR 3 dedicated hardware modem which can run $1,100 – $1,600. Low-cost hardware means tradeoffs. WINMOR is not anywhere near as fast or reliable as a PACTOR 3 modem, but it does a very good job.

To get started, first go to: ftp://autoupdate.winlink.org/User%20Programs/. Download two programs from the list of files: latest itshfbc program and Winlink_Express_install. ITS HF Propagation is prediction software to provide a rough estimate of the signal path quality between your QTH and remote RMS. Install both applications, order doesn’t matter. Click “next” through both installs, accepting defaults.

An Internet connection is required on the computer for initial setup. After starting Winlink Express, a “Winlink Express Properties” configuration will be seen. If not, click Settings, Winlink Express Setup. At a minimum the following fields must be completed: callsign, choose a password, enter a non-Winlink password recovery email, and grid square. Under Service Code, if you plan on using EMCOMM channels, make the code read: PUBLIC EMCOMM

I recommend checking Display list of pending incoming messages prior to download. This will display incoming message details prior to download allowing the user to select or reject messages based on size or sender. Click Update. An account will be setup on the Winlink system. The Winlink email address won’t become active until a message is sent through the CMS gateway. Click Remind Me Later on any Winlink Express Registration screens.

To create a message activating the Winlink email address, click the New message icon or click Message, New Message.

In the To field, enter your real email address. In the Subject field, enter something like “My first Winlink message.” In the message body, enter something like “This is my first Winlink message, whoo hoo!”

The message is ready to send, but wait! There is no “send” option. What gives?!? Since this system is store-and-forward, messages are Post to Outbox and appear in the “Outbox” System Folder. Messages in outbox can still be edited but will be sent when connected to a CMS.

Next to “Open Session,” in the drop-down select Winmor Winlink. Click Open Session.

Two more boxes will appear: “WINMOR WL2K Session” and “WINMOR Setup.” The WINMOR WL2K Session box is where an RMS gateway is selected and it displays the connection status.

You will be prompted to select the Capture and Playback soundcard devices in the WINMOR Setup box. For the SignaLink, select USB Audio CODEC. Leave all other settings at their defaults. Click Update. A third “WINMOR Sound Card TNC” box will appear. This window shows a waterfall along with transmit and receive state of the virtual TNC. Ignore this box for now.

On the SignaLink, begin with the TX and RX volume knobs set to the 12 o’clock position. Set delay (DLY) to the 2nd tick-mark (8 o’clock position).

If you have a way to control your radio through CI-V commands or equivalent, click Settings, Radio Setup, and configure the settings for the radio. Radio control makes it much easier when selecting different RMS gateway stations. Selecting a different station will automatically change the radio’s frequency and mode. With a VOX device like the SignaLink, for “PTT Port” select External. Click Update.

Back in the WINMOR Winlink Session box, click Channel Selection. An “HF Channel Selector” window will open. A message will ask to ‘update the channel list and recompute the propagation estimates now?’ Click Yes. If not asked, click Update Table Via Internet. This table will update with the current list of Winlink RMS gateway channels on HF. The list can be updated over radio in the future if desired.

Once updated, the presence of color in the “Path Reliability Estimate” and “Path Quality Estimate” columns mean the ITS HF Propagation predictor program is installed and working. Calculations are based on your grid square and solar flux index. Update the current grid square in Winlink Express setup and this table often when traveling. “Mode” is the bandwidth of the RMS node. A higher number means faster transfers are possible. “Hours” means the hours each day the node is online. “00-23” is all day, “02-13” is 02:00 – 13:00. The rest is self-explanatory.

To select a particular RMS gateway, double-click that row in the table. Gateways in green are good choices but ones at the top of the list may not always provide the best connection. Reliable gateways are found by trial and error and can be added to the “Favorites” list. If Rig Control is enabled, the radio should tune to the dial frequency of the RMS gateway and enter USB mode. If not, tune the radio’s display frequency to the “Dial Freq” (VERY important!) shown in WINMOR. Warm up the Tuner if it needs it. Remember to use no more than 30% power. Click Start.

If WINMOR thinks the channel is busy, it will prompt to verify you still want to connect because your transmissions maybe interfering with another station. Your radio will start pinging the remote RMS gateway station. In the WINMOR Sound Card TNC, above the receive indicator will be the “Measured T>R Latency” value. This measures the transmit/receive turnaround time. This should be less than 250ms and adjustable in part by the SignaLink DLY knob. Higher values will cause problems receiving from the RMS gateway. While receiving transmissions from the gateway, adjust the RX knob to a level that falls within the green portion of “Rcv Level.”

With any luck, your client will connect and your first Winlink message will be sent! There will be A LOT of back-and-forth (TX/RX switching) between your radio and remote RMS gateway. These are handshaking and acknowledgments or sending/receiving messages. When all messages are exchanged, the client will automatically disconnect from the RMS gateway. Clicking “Stop” will gracefully disconnect and ID at any time during a session. “Abort” should only be used when something is very wrong because communication is terminated immediately (without ID). Attempts will be made by the RMS to reestablish communication with the client before eventually timing-out.

Once the test message is received in your actual email, your new callsign@winlink.org email address is now active! Send a reply to the test message through your real email. To call a different RMS gateway, click Channel Selection and select a different station. Wait 5 minutes or so for the reply email to reach the Winlink CMS. Click Start in the WINMOR Winlink session box. You will see your reply downloaded to the inbox! When replying to lengthy messages, I will keep a few sentences (paragraph at most) of the original message. This keeps the transmission time down. The original sender can look at the full message in their client sent folder.

Before going crazy telling people to send messages, there is one crucial piece to this system. Winlink uses a “whitelist” (approved senders list) approach for external email addresses. This keeps abuse and spam to a minimum. As a Winlink user, you are free to send messages using your Winlink address to other Winlink users. Other Winlink users can do the same, freely contacting you.

External email addresses are handled very different. An external email is any mail system other than Winlink (Gmail, Outlook, DACOR, Buckeye Cable, BGSU, etc.). If you first send a Winlink message to someone@someprovider.com, that email address is automatically added to your Winlink whitelist. That means email from someone@someprovider.com will be delivered to your Winlink inbox.

For an external email address to send you a message unsolicited to Winlink, there are two options: add that email to your whitelist ahead of time or the sender must put “//WL2K” in the subject line. Example: “//WL2K Holiday Meeting.” Anything with //WL2K in the subject is considered a deliverable message and will not be flagged as unauthorized. By default, all outgoing messages have this inserted automatically by Winlink Express. When some individual replies to your message, which would have //WL2K in the subject, it will be accepted. Any non-whitelisted (blacklisted) addresses or messages without //WL2K in the subject, the sender will receive a bounced error message saying “Sender not authorized for any recipient.”

Whitelists can be managed by logging on to the Winlink My Account page and click My Whitelist. That page will provide details how to update the whitelist using client commands, if desired.

Another important detail to remember, there is no expectation of privacy with the Winlink system. RMS gateway owners and Winlink administrators can read messages exchanged through the system. They are looking for Part 97 violations and inappropriate usage of the system. Violators will be blocked. I’m sure they would find details of your camping trip fascinating, but they really don’t care.

Email messages through this system are considered 3rd party traffic under Part 97. The email message resides on the CMS until you (a ham) make a connection to another ham’s station (RMS) to retrieve your messages. This is similar in nature to passing messages over the National Traffic System (NTS).

The list of services available through the Winlink system is extensive. Winlink is quite flexible allowing many different ways to access the system over RF, APRS, or Internet. Feel free to send a message to my Winlink email address, K8JTK—at—winlink.org. Replace “—at—” with the appropriate email symbol. Don’t forget to include //WL2K in the subject!

Find out more information:

Winlink website: https://winlink.org/

Introduction presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTx9pY1Akl8

Resource for beginners: https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

System tutorials, documents, and FAQs: https://www.winlink.org/content/winlink_book_knowledge

Terminology of the system: https://www.winlink.org/glossary

Winlink over APRS: https://www.winlink.org/APRSLink

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 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://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-November-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,
I’ve been playing around with a couple new radios. With the holidays approaching, these will make great gift ideas.

Cheap radios for new or young hams are hard to come by. Many opted for the under $30 Baeofung (or Pofung) UV-5R and for good reason. They’re cheap. Perfect options for new hams, young hams, or public service events were radios are prone to damage and misuse. Destroy it and its $30 vs a couple hundred, or 7, to replace. Cheap radios could replace older radios that maybe didn’t have PL, were lower power, or single band. You got what you paid for though. Inconsistencies in firmware versions lead to differing sets of features, programming software wasn’t easy to use, neither was installing the programming cable, complaints about the lack of support, and lack of a usable manual. I stopped using these radios because of the many tests proving they were good about transmitting everywhere at once (across the entire band). As hams we are given plenty of leeway in how we use our frequencies. It’s up to each of us to make sure our radios comply with Part 97 and do not interfere with other licensed radio services. The ARRL published their findings in a November 2015 QST article. Ohio Section Technical Specialist Dave – KD8TWG demonstrated this with a couple of radios he had purchased: https://kd8twg.net/2015/10/17/a-quick-and-unscientific-spectral-analysis-of-two-baofeng-radios/.

Ok, so don’t use these radios. What radio, that meets Part 97 requirements, is available for the price? This was a problem. There was no real option. About the cheapest dual-band radio was $150. DMR radios competed on price and features but, until recently, were only single band. I finally found a better option. Unfortunately, the company has “Baofeng” in the name which makes things even more confusing. A company called “Baofeng Tech” or BTech, is a US based company offering a similar radio called the UV-5X3 for under $60.

The radio looks and acts like a UV-5R. Baofeng Tech updates the firmware, modifies the radio installing better filtering on the transmitter, and includes an easy-to-read nicely printed 85 page manual. The UV-5X3 comes with all the same accessories including belt clip, antennas, charger, and ear piece. All original Baofeng accessories work too. To my surprise, they even squeezed in the 220 MHz (1.25m) band! Baofeng Tech assured me their radios meet spectral requirements for Part 97. I had mine tested at the Cleveland Hamfest by KD8TWG. On VHF the 3rd harmonic was a little higher than 40db down, UHF was spot-on. The CHRIP free programming software is the only programmer that currently works with this radio. RT Systems UV-5R programmer for the original Baofeng radios does not work with the UV-5X3.

Now there’s no excuse to get a very reasonably priced radio compliant with Part 97 spectral requirements. It even comes with free shipping if bought through Amazon. For someone looking to play around with 220, this is a great tri-bander radio. Check out this radio as an option, from a US company, for new or young hams: https://baofengtech.com/uv-5×3. Product images from Baofeng Tech.

I’ve wanted to install a dual-band DMR mobile radio in the shack. Yeah, all the DMR repeaters in the area are UHF. I like to have the flexibility of a dual-band. Connect Systems was one for the first, if not the first, to release a dual-band DMR mobile radio earlier this year. Talking with Jerry at Dayton (President of Connect Systems), they had just shipped the first batch of CS800D radios and were expecting to get another batch ‘in a couple months.’ I heard very good things from hams that have purchased from Jerry’s company previously. Connect Systems is accessible via email and social media for support, they worked to fully resolve product issues, fixed issues with firmware quickly, and let customers try out their new equipment while seeking feedback. I didn’t hesitate to get on the waiting list.

I finally got the radio at the beginning of August and I like it a lot. The radio itself looks like a Motorola CM300D or nearly identical in layout, including microphone, to the Kenwood TM-281A. Radio covers VHF: 136-174 @ 50W, UHF: 400-470 @ 45W. The head and microphone are removable and extendable with a cat5 Ethernet cable. It will hold 4,000 channels and 130,000 contacts with firmware updates – more contacts than the ENTIRE DMR-MARC user database! It’s got a couple quarks which I’m told are to be fixed in future firmware releases. Biggest annoyance being the display doesn’t always update after a button is pressed. The programming software is straight forward if you’ve ever programmed a DMR radio before. The Ohio Section website has a pre-built codeplug: http://arrl-ohio.org/digital/digital.html. N0GSG makes a great codeplug editor and codeplug converter that I found useful: http://n0gsg.com/contact-manager/. His editor now supports the CS800D, TYT MD2017 & MD9600.

The Connect Systems CS800D was a little pricey when I bought it ($399 + $15 for the programming cable) but has since dropped in price to $299. I feel this radio could have been more popular if the radio was not released in batches. Jerry was great about communicating and explaining the situation. Like any distributor, they were beholden to the timetables from their manufacturer. Nothing they could do about it. I think that allowed other options to enter the market sooner and resulted in lost potential sales. It’s a great radio and recommended for someone looking for a dual-band DMR mobile radio from a US based company. CS800D product page: http://www.connectsystems.com/products/top/radios%20CS800D.htm.

If you’ve picked up a CS800D, check the Software page for recent firmware updates: http://www.connectsystems.com/software/software%20CS800D.htm. Product image from Connect Systems.

Technical Specialist reports

Dave – KD8TWG has been busy as usual. In addition to testing radios at the Cleveland Hamfest, he tackled the issue of “operational security.” This has been a topic of discussion in the area as of late and on social media. He was seeing arguments that operational frequencies needed to be obscured for the purposes of “securing” an operation. Without encryption, there is no such thing. As Dave points out, any modern scanner can scan VHF and UHF bands within seconds. It’s even easier with SDR receivers that allow you to look at the entire band scope at once. Check out his post about Hiding Frequencies for “Operational Security”: https://kd8twg.net/2017/08/14/opsec/.

In October, another Section Technical Specialist, Jason – WG8B, gave a presentation to the Dayton Amateur Radio Association about his area of expertise: bike mobile operations. Jason provided feedback on his program:

The briefing focused on using bike mobile capabilities to support public service events and covered topics such as

  • Suitable antennas. Bikes are not good ground planes, and dual band antennas are important when supporting public service events from a bike since carrying extra antennas and swapping them out is not easy.
  • Speakers and microphones that work while bicycling while allowing you to safely operate a bike.
  • Properly mounting equipment to not only protect the equipment but also protect the bicycle and rider.
  • APRS operations from a bicycle

Most of the questions revolved around antennas. I won’t repeat specific questions to protect the innocent so to speak, so I’ll just clarify what I think good antenna requirements are for VHF/UHF bicycle mobile operations. First and especially when supporting public service events, omnidrectional antennas are absolutely required. On a bike, there is no practical way to steer antennas with directional patterns whether they be gain antennas or magnetic loops. You will be changing direction quite frequently, and you need to hit repeaters from any aspect. Second, high-Q antennas such as magnetic loops require precise tuning, something that’s not possible while on a bicycle. Stick to an antenna that does not require tuning. Your radio should be working for you while on a bike during public service events not the other way around. There’s already enough going on, and safety is first. Third, any antenna bigger or longer than a bicycle flag is not likely safe. There are balance issues with weight above the bike’s center-of-gravity, and just about the worst shape aerodynamically is an antenna. So how hard do you want to pedal? Also, I’ve had problems with low hanging branches with just a bicycle flag. Anything taller is going to be problematic. My recommendation is still to use a dual band J pole like Ed Fong’s DBJ-2 taped to a bike flag or a single band half wave dipole like Larson’s NMO 150B HW. While not the absolutely best antennas performance-wise, they will still hit every repeater in my local area and then some with a 5W HT. And these are very simple and small form factor antennas that just work and won’t get in the way when on a bike.

Finally, if you would like to see the briefing, I’ve made it accessible here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2Yn-_hki2v0blFnNVVRbW9kc3c

Jason’s presentation has lots of tips and pictures for making a bicycle mobile installation a success. If you would like to have Jason at your meeting, drop him a note!

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. 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