Tag Archives: Repeater

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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,

Back in January of 2017, I wrote an article published in the OSJ that talked about different sources of repeater and frequency information. A couple things have changed since it was published. The ARRL no longer prints a pocket-sized directory, much to the chagrin of my dad, and prices have gone up. There is still no great source for the most current list of repeaters. The workplace required me to do some traveling earlier this year to D.C. and Dallas. The D.C. tip was going to allow for much more hamming it up time because I was driving and it was a two-week trip. Dallas required long working days so I wasn’t sure how much radio time I would have but I took an HT anyway. These trips gave me a chance to review different sources of repeater data.

For D.C., I took my HTs along with the gear I typically pack for a public service event where I’ll be riding in someone else’s vehicle. It’s pretty basic consisting of a mag-mount antenna, ICOM IC-2820H dual-band radio with D-STAR, and adapter to go from the radio’s power plug to a cigarette lighter. I take a couple extension cables: coax extension with PL-259s and a barrel connector in case the antenna coax is not long enough. I also take the remote mount cable for the display head just in case.

The cigarette lighter car adapter is more than good enough to power the radio especially when listening more than transceiving. I checked the manual, and verified on an amp meter, the highest power setting (50W) draws about 12-13 amps. Most car adapters are rated at 10A so I’m limited to low or medium power. Components of the typical car adapter are flimsy and drawing anywhere near 10A, or more if the line is fused higher, for a sustained period of time could cause failure or even fire. Low power (5W) draws 4A and medium power (15W) is about 7A (a little less on 2m). One thing that has surprised me, no reports of alternator whine where I’ve used this VHF/UHF setup.

Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

Traveling to and from D.C. and to any new area, I use the band scan memories or scan edge memories. To me it’s easier than making banks of repeaters for different cities along the way. Scan edges are memories available on most modern radios. Set the start and end frequency and the radio scans frequencies in-between, stopping on any signals received. Once it hits the end frequency, returns back to the start frequency and begins scanning again. Often notated “xA/xB,” “xL/xU,” or similar memory locations for beginning and ending frequencies respectively. The 2820 is capable of dual band operation (2 frequencies at once). On the left side of the radio I had a scan starting with 144.000, and ending at 148.000 which covers the 2m band. On the right side was 440.000 – 450.000 for the 70cm band. The “step” setting determines frequency increments. A setting of 15.0 kHz will start on 144.000. The next frequency scanned will be 144.015, then 144.030, 144.045, and so on. A step of 5.0 kHz will start on 144.000, then 144.005, 144.010, 144.015, etc. Most 2m band plans are 15 kHz steps and most 440 are 25 kHz. I stick with those frequency steps. Setting the step to 5 kHz catches more frequencies in cases where a repeater might be coordinated on a non-standard frequency, but it does take much longer to scan and it will stop on a lot more interference from the car or near-by transmitters.

In this day and age, noise will be an issue and the scan will stop frequently. This can be reduced by turning up the squelch or attenuator, but you’ll miss weaker signals. Some radios have a ‘skip’ (sometimes called “lock-out”) function that will skip over problematic frequencies. I use the radio’s “scan resume conditions” to resume scanning 10 seconds after arriving on a signal. This is nice so I don’t have to keep messing around with the radio while driving. If there is an interesting conversation, I have to stop the scan in order for the radio to stay on that frequency.

I use RepeaterBook almost exclusively for downloading repeater lists at home and places I’m staying on the road. The search is straight forward but I do massage the data. I start off with a Location search with a radius of 50 miles. 50 miles is good if you want to hear distant repeaters or driving around the area. A radius of 25 miles is sufficient if you’re staying in or around one city. I export that to CSV (a portability format in plain text for databases, separating the fields by commas) and open in Excel removing anything the radios can’t receive. ATV repeaters, P25, NXDN, 900 Mhz – all get removed. The ICOM radios will get analog and D-STAR repeaters, but not Fusion or DMR. The Fusion radios get Fusion repeaters, not D-STAR or DMR. Then use RT Systems to import the modified CSV for each radio, save it in RT’s file format, and finally download data to the radio. There are entries in RepeaterBook that haven’t been updated so an analog repeater which is now DMR will slip through, for example. I remove those from the RT file later and download again if necessary. I generally don’t spend time writing a DMR code plug while traveling. I don’t find much benefit in researching repeaters static and PTT talk groups for use over a short period of time. If I don’t find a code plug browsing a couple club sites in the area, I use a hotspot.

For some reason, the RFinder application was not loading any data during most of my time in D.C. There was a fix which corrected that toward the end of the trip. I found the website of the local coordinating body for D.C. and Northern Virginia, T-MARC. The website looks like a callback to 1995 but it had information I found interesting including recent coordination actions, detailed interference FAQ, policies, band plans (including digital voice), and updated frequency lists. It should really come as no surprise because the president is a guy that did a lot of good for the Cleveland area before moving to Maryland, Dave – W8AJR. What does our repeater council website have? Complaints the ARRL is not using their repeater data anymore and the 2016/2017 Ohio Repeater Directory!

K3RTV station at The National Capital Radio & Television Museum

When looking for things to do during downtime in D.C., I discovered they had a Radio and Television museum. It was something I wanted to see because I did television production in high school and professionally in college. The National Capital Radio & Television Museum was located in a converted house. I walked in and you’re standing in a side room welcoming area, library, and gift shop. I immediately notice a SignaLink and some ham radio gear. There was a bulletin board with ham call signs next to the station. I asked the docent if he was a ham. He wasn’t but the guy in charge was the station Trustee of K3RTV and would arrive a little later. The museum had a couple of pieces from Ohio, KYW pictures and “newspaper delivered by radio” in 1939 from WLW. I hung around and talked to station Trustee Jim – N3ADF after perusing the exhibits. The museum gives him another place to operate radio in addition to another workshop. The club station at the museum does operate a couple special event stations. I’ll be looking for them on the air.

On the way back from the museum, a QSO revealed there was a hamfest coming up that weekend in Virginia. I attended the Vienna Wireless Society’s Winterfest held at Northern Virginia Community College. If you’ve ever been to NOARSfest in Elyria at Lorain County Community College, it was very similar. Outdoor and indoor flea market areas and catering provided by the college. I was happy I attended because of a couple deomonstration tables that were setup. The NoVA ARDEN Mesh (Northern VirginiA) group had nodes setup demonstrating capabilities of the network including phone and video. That area of Virginia has a lot of datacenters. AOL used to be headquartered with 3 datacenters in that area. It was good talking to those guys who could give me more of a deep-dive into technologies used on the networking side. As I’m talking to the mesh guys, I look over at this guy talking about Winlink. He looks familiar but I can’t place why. I figured it out a little while later. If you go to YouTube and search “winlink” he is the first video you’ll see. It was Greg – KW6GB whose video I had seen doing research for a Winlink writeup. I talked to him for awhile and I’m participating in his Winlink Wednesday.

In Dallas, I knew we were going to be putting in long days and since we were flying, I didn’t want to be hassled bringing ham radio equipment by TSA. I did some research and most of the comments read: ‘keep a copy of your license’ which I always have, ‘keep batteries in your carryon’ this is regulation especially for any Lithium-Ion batteries which have been known to explode in checked baggage, ‘it’s unlikely you’ll have a problem.’ This was exactly my experience in both CLE and DFW. I didn’t have large wire antennas or any HF equipment. I can’t say if you’re transporting that type of gear, you’ll have the same experience. Ship it if there is a concern.

Portable ARDEN mesh setup, Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

As it turned out, I didn’t get any time to play on the radio while in Dallas. One night we did have severe storms roll through. After our work was done, our group made it back to the hotel that night while the ground was dry. Storms were threatening, alot of lightning and weather alerts were popping off. By the time we made it up to our rooms, it was raining sideways.

I was in a hurry to find local Skywarn frequencies and I hadn’t pre-programmed the radio before making the trip. I went to RepeaterBook for Dallas county, 93 repeaters were found. Didn’t have time to sort through or scan for the Skywarn frequency. I remembered something I found and noted in my 2017 article, the RadioReference database has a list of Amateur Radio frequencies for an area. The ones listed tended to be repeaters actually on the air, more popular, Emcomm, and Skywarn type repeaters. Sure enough, tuning into 146.880, the first frequency on that list was the Dallas RACES and Skywarn net. The storms blew through with no major events. More like the storms experienced on Thursday night/early Friday morning at Dayton this year. Lotta rain, flooding, and some damage depending on location.

For some reason, this new location for Hamvention and lodging is prime area for thunderstorms. Fine by me. I love a lightning show and it has become a highlight every year to see storms roll through. Sometimes they roll through during the show which wasn’t so neat. This year they seemed to happen before and after the show which was perfect. There seemed to be more people attending Hamvention which was probably attributed to the dryer weather. My dad and I spent most of our time in the flea market since it was sunny and dry. Sunscreen was a requirement otherwise you were going to be toasted. I usually don’t need sunscreen on my legs but even the backs got a little burned.

My dad and I had some excitement the first night at the hotel. About 4:30am Friday morning, all were woken up by the sound of the fire alarm. Just after being awakened, I heard thunderstorms outside. At that point, I hoped it was a false alarm and would cease before we left our rooms. While in Dallas, the fire alarm went off but it stopped 20 seconds later in the early morning. Enough to be annoying but I was now 2/2 over my last two hotel stays where the fire alarm sounded. Got dressed and left our room with everyone else. The alarm panel was showing smoke detected in the pool maintenance room. A large awning provided shelter from the storm, pouring hard but not blowing. Waited there 15 minutes or so while the fire department showed up with two firefighters. The hotel staff couldn’t get in the pool maintenance room. They finally shut off the alarm but we had to wait in the lobby. Another 40 minutes later we could return to our rooms but they couldn’t get the fire alarm to reset. That pretty much set the tone for the weekend at this hotel. *Insert Circus theme music here*

Yaesu FT3DR

At Hamvention, Yaesu was showing off a demo unit of their new Fusion HT. The FT3DR is the same as the FT2DR though a little smaller, more like the size of the FT-70DR, with a color screen and Bluetooth. Elecraft had a demo of their K4. Seems a little higher in price than other SDR radios but those who have them swear by ’em. It’s cool that it’s running Linux because many other SDR radios have been running and require Windows.

Probably the biggest news came in the Ham Nation wrap-up of Hamvention. It maybe answers the question, what happened to Mendelsons? They had the biggest tent in the flea market when the show was at Hara Arena with loads of surplus gear. Since the switch to Xenia, I think they were there in some corner one year. George – W5JDX went to visit the store location and found out they are planning to close the store. They maybe still around for visitors of Hamvention 2020 but sounded like they might be closed by next year. George shot some video but hasn’t edited it yet. It will probably appear on Ham Nation or his other show, Amateur Logic. Sad to see another Hamvention vendor go!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


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

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK