Tag Archives: SharkRF OpenSpot

DMR In Amateur Radio: Programming a Code Plug

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


You picked up a new DMR radio! Congratulations! You maybe thinking, what have I gotten myself into? Good question. DMR is the first commercial mode adopted for ham radio use. Terminology and radio setup are familiar to those who program commercial gear. If you’re coming across this programming example and have not read the first part on terminology, please do so as this will build upon it. Passing around a code plug makes DMR seem plug-and-play and it’s a great way to get started. Doing so tends to leave most of us unable to change the configuration of our own radios. My goal is to demonstrate how to program a DMR ham radio code plug from scratch. This will lead to understanding how code plugs work and how to modify them. I will demonstrate programming a code plug for an example repeater, hotspot, and simplex operation.

In addition to this example, I recommend looking at available code plugs online to get an idea of different ways to improve yours. This is how I learned to program code plugs. There is no central database or repository. Code plugs are scattered around the Internet and shared online. This makes sense because local users would know where to get a code plug. Ask others in the area with similar DMR radios where to find code plugs. The ARRL Ohio site has ones for Ohio’s DMR repeaters: http://arrl-ohio.org/digital/digital.html. Where this works for local hams, a scavenger hunt is required to find working code plugs for an area they’re visiting.

Screen shots and settings referenced in this tutorial are from the TYT MD-380 CPS and radio. Similar settings can be found in other programmers and radios. Functions of not-so-obvious radio settings are described in the appropriate sections.

Software (TYT & Connect Systems)

Updating settings and memories in all DMR radios requires a computer, programming cable, and CPS. Check radio packaging because some include the cable and software, others consider it an additional accessory. Most stock CPSes can’t rearrange entries or import from other sources. If you entered a new contact and wanted to rearrange the order, you can’t. If you want to import thousands of users, you can’t. Third-party code plug editors provide this additional functionality. All are freeware.

Tytera (TYT) MD-380/390/2017 CPS and firmware: http://www.tyt888.com/?mod=download

Connect Systems documentation, CPS, and firmware: http://www.connectsystems.com/software/

MD380 Tools: https://github.com/travisgoodspeed/md380tools
Alternative firmware for the TYT MD-380. Use at your own risk.

TYT MD-380 / 390 Code Plug Editor: http://www.miklor.com/MD380/380-CPEditor.php
Editor for importing/exporting settings, importing from the DMR-MARC user database, and rearranging entries. The TYT CPS is still needed to write the code plug to the radio. This is my preferred MD-380 editor.

N0GSG’s DMR Contact Manager: http://n0gsg.no-ip.org/contact-manager/
Works for certain models of Connect Systems, Tytera, Retevis, and AnyTone radios. Editor can import/export settings and import contacts from the DMR-MARC user database, comma separated file (CSV), or existing code plug. Sorting is accomplished by clicking the header columns. Radio CPS is still needed to write the code plug to the radio.

The last three are free to use but please consider a donation to the developer if you find their work useful.

Radio ID, general settings, and FPP

After installing the CPS, in “Basic Information,” first check the “Frequency Range” is correct for the radio.

First thing to program is your “Radio ID.” You registered for one, right? It is found in the CPS under “General Settings.” Enter your assigned CCS7 ID. When passing around a code plug or loading someone else’s, update the CCS7 ID otherwise you will appear as someone else.

The “Radio Name” can be whatever name you want to give the radio.

I like to have a notification when the transmission is complete and the channel is free. This is known as the ‘CH Free Indication Tone.’ NOTE: this tone did not work with the DV4Mini for some reason.

Enable FPP so the programming can be modified from the radio’s keypad. Remember to read the radio or update changes made through FPP into the CPS. Changes will be overwritten when the code plug is downloaded again to the radio. In the CPS, FPP can be enabled in “Menu Item,” under “Utilities,” check “Program Radio.”

To enter FPP mode on the radio, go to the menu, select “Settings,” and “Program Radio.” The “Radio Program Password” in “General Settings” of the CPS is used when entering FPP on the radio. This is a commercial carryover to keep users from screwing with the radio. Enter the program password, if needed, and voila.

Hang-time, delays, and other adjustments can be made and experimented with at your leisure.

Programming example

In order to successfully program a code plug for a repeater, Color Code, talk group, and time slot configuration must be known. This information can be obtained from RepeaterBook, RFinder, owner/club website, asking another user or the repeater owner. Also ask if the repeater has access to reflectors, if desired. Brandmeister and DMR-MARC repeaters have reflector access.

A configuration example of a factitious repeater is outlined below. I’ve picked common U.S. talk groups for each time slot and will use the “Area 8” reflector as examples. When you become more comfortable, substitute the local repeater’s information.

Private calls to individuals are never a mandatory part of repeater configuration. They are possible and will be shown as an example. I include private call channels for frequent contacts as part of my hotspot code plug.

The “type” column in the table below is for informational/clarification purposes only and would not necessarily be provided by the owner (see the previous terminology write-up).

Labeling and organization of the code plug is user preference. RX Group lists and channels will need an abbreviation or prefix noting to which system it applies. When programming even 10 repeaters, some distinction must be made for clarity. Prefixes help programming because similar items are grouped together in the CPS. Rationale behind this will become clearer as you add repeaters to a code plug. Some might like to have the city spelled out (Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo) while having the talk groups abbreviated (WW, NA, Lcl 9, TAC-311, Statewide). Others like to have the city abbreviated (Cle, Day, Col, Cin, Tol) while the talk group is spelled out (World-Wide, North America, Local 9, TAC-311, Ohio). No two items may have the same exact name in any one area: Contacts, RX Groups, Channels, Zones, or Scan Lists. “SC” will be the prefix used for this example to indicate “Some City.”

Call: K8XXX City: Some City, OH Output: 444.300
Input: 449.300
Color Code: 1
Label Type ID Time Slot
World-Wide Talk group 91 1
North America Talk group 93 1
USA – Nationwide Talk group 3100 1
Local 9 (or Reflector) Talk group 9 2
TAC-310 Talk group 310 2
TAC-311 Talk group 311 2
TAC-312 Talk group 312 2
Midwest (regional) Talk group 3169 2
Ohio (statewide) Talk group 3139 2
USA – Area 8 Talk group 4648 2

Individual contact

Scott N8SY User 3139437 N/A

Contacts

Digital contacts are required to be setup first. These drives the ability to build RX Lists and channels. Every talk group, reflector, or user gets a contact. Relevant information in the table above: Label, Type, and ID.

It’s best to follow the labeling/naming provided by the c-Bridge. Some radios don’t have a lot of display real estate and names must be shortened to something like “WW” for talk group 91, “NA” for 93.

There are four fields per “Digital Contact” record in the CPS:

  • Contact Name
  • Call Type
  • Call ID
  • Call Receive Tone

“Contact Name” is simply the name you give each contact and is the label seen on the radio while receiving a call from that ID. “Call Type” is group/private/all-call setting. “Group” is for talk groups and “Private” is used for radio-to-radio calls or commands. “Call ID” is the numeric talk group, reflector, radio ID, or command number. “Receive Tone” is a per-call setting where a tone is emitted from the radio prior to unmuting the audio. This can be used as notification prior to receiving a call from a contact of interest.

There cannot be two contacts with the same “Call ID” or the same “Contact Name.” When programming different repeaters, potentially on different networks, all talk groups for all c-Bridges are entered as contacts. If two networks label talk group 3333 differently, a generic display name will have to be chosen, such as “3333” or “Group 3333.” On the other hand, “Example talk group” is talk group ID 3333 on one network and ID 3344 on another, then two differently named contacts have to be created for the same talk group (ie: “ExTG 3333” with ID 3333, “ExTG 3344” with ID 3344).

If the repeater owner says they follow K4USD’s talk group layout for example, they have nearly 70 available talk groups on their c-Bridge. Though it seems like a lot of work at the time, I recommend creating contacts for all 70 available talk groups. Having all talk groups programmed will result in less effort changing the code plug later. Brandmeister on the other hand, good luck. You really have to decide which talk groups are of interest because all talk groups are available to all repeaters and hotspots. To keeps things simple, stick with the repeater owner’s suggested Brandmeister groups.

For this programming example, contacts are pre-sorted by ID number. In the CPS software, create Digital Contacts with the listed settings:

  • Contact #1
    • Contact name: Local 9
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 9
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #2
    • Contact name: World-Wide
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 91
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #3
    • Contact name: North America
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 93
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #4
    • Contact name: TAC-310
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 310
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #5
    • Contact name: TAC-311
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 311
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #6
    • Contact name: TAC-312
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 312
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #7
    • Contact name: USA Nationwide
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 3100
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #8
    • Contact name: Ohio
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 3139
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #9
    • Contact name: Midwest
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 3169
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #10
    • Contact name: Ref Disconnect
    • Call type: Private call
    • Call ID: 4000
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #11
    • Contact name: USA – Area 8
    • Call type: Private call
    • Call ID: 4648
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #12
    • Contact name: Ref Info
    • Call type: Private call
    • Call ID: 5000
    • Receive tone: No
  • Contact #13
    • Contact name: Scott N8SY
    • Call type: Private call
    • Call ID: 3139437
    • Receive tone: No

Notice contacts #10 and #12 are not listed in the example table. These are standard reflector commands. A private call to ID 4000 is required to disconnect the repeater, 5000 checks link status. Talk group 9 is also required for reflector use. See the Reflector section for usage.

(Digital) RX Group lists

Once Contacts are entered, RX Group lists can be created. Relevant information from the example table: Label and Time Slot. RX Group lists are limited to a maximum of 32 talk groups per list. The intent was to monitor all talk group activity on a time slot. Only contacts set to “Group Call” can be added.

There are generally two ways of creating RX Groups. The first uses a one-to-one relationship where each talk group has its own RX Group List. The second includes all available talk groups on a repeater’s time slot into a single list. The latter creates lists unique to a repeater that cannot be reused on another repeater, unless the configuration is exactly the same. If the repeater has less than 32 talk groups on a time slot, put them all in one RX Group list. If there are more than 32, then create one RX list per talk group.

To keep repeater specific group lists unique, name the list: repeater location followed by “TS1/2” for the time slot designation. Example: “Some City TS1,” “Some City TS2.”

RX Group lists and the RX list selected for a channel are the first places to look when there is a suspected radio programming issue or nothing is being heard.

A repeater specific example is provided later. For this programming example, the one-to-one relationship is demonstrated. RX Groups are created in the same order as the repeater listing. In the CPS software, create RX Group lists and include the listed contact(s):

  • Digital RX Group List #1
    • Group List Name: World-Wide
    • Available Contact, select and add: World-Wide
  • Digital RX Group List #2
    • Group List Name: North America
    • Available Contact, select and add: North America
  • Digital RX Group List #3
    • Group List Name: USA Nationwide
    • Available Contact, select and add: USA Nationwide
  • Digital RX Group List #4
    • Group List Name: Local 9
    • Available Contact, select and add: Local 9
  • Digital RX Group List #5
    • Group List Name: TAC-310
    • Available Contact, select and add: TAC-310
  • Digital RX Group List #6
    • Group List Name: TAC-311
    • Available Contact, select and add: TAC-311
  • Digital RX Group List #7
    • Group List Name: TAC-312
    • Available Contact, select and add: TAC-312
  • Digital RX Group List #8
    • Group List Name: Midwest
    • Available Contact, select and add: Midwest
  • Digital RX Group List #9
    • Group List Name: Ohio
    • Available Contact, select and add: Ohio

Notice contacts #10-13 cannot be included because they are set to private call.

 

Repeater specific, all talk groups per time slot example:

  • Digital RX Group List #1
    • Group List Name: Some City TS1
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 1): World-Wide
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 2): North America
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 3): USA Nationwide
  • Digital RX Group List #2
    • Group List Name: Some City TS2
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 1): Local 9
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 2): TAC-310
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 3): TAC-311
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 4): TAC-312
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 5): Midwest
    • Available Contact, select and add (position 6): Ohio

Channels

This is where it all comes together. To create channels, Contacts and RX Group lists need to have been established.

Analog channels are straight forward if you’ve programmed any other analog ham radio. They will not be covered here.

Channels for the same repeater are easier to copy and paste. This depends on the software but usually involves setting up a channel, copying that channel, creating a blank channel, and pasting over the blank channel.

Some settings definitions:

  • Admit Criteria: determines when the radio is allowed to transmit.
    • Always: allows the radio to transmit any time PTT is pressed. This is the most disruptive option and may interrupt another QSO in progress.
    • Channel Free: the radio will only transmit when there is no transmission in progress on the time slot.
    • Color Code (Free): the radio will only transmit when the time slot is free on the repeater matching the color code. This mode pings the repeater at the beginning of each transmission to find a matching color code. This pinging is also an indicator if you’re making the repeater or if it is in use.
    • “Color Code” is recommended for a repeater, “Channel Free” for hotspot & simplex use.
  • In Call Criteria: action taken while receiving a call and the PTT button is pressed. This can be thought of as the ‘interrupt a call’ setting.
    • Follow Admit Criteria: follow the setting defined in “Admit Criteria.”
    • Always: always transmit, even while receiving a call.
    • “Follow Admit Criteria” is recommended for a repeater, “Always” for hotspot & simplex use.
  • Auto Scan: when the channel is selected, the radio begins scanning channels defined in the selected “Scan List.” For this option to function: create channels, add the channels to a Scan List, then create another new channel with the newly created Scan List selected and “Auto Scan” checked.
  • Lone Worker: the user receives an alert from the radio after a specified amount of time and must acknowledge by pressing any button on the radio. If the user does not respond to the alert, it is assumed the user is injured or incapacitated. The radio switches to an emergency mode so the user can be located and assisted. I have not seen this used in ham radio.
  • Allow Talkaround: this allows the radio to operate simplex mode when a repeater is not available or out-of-range. TX and RX frequencies must be different for this option to function. Talkaround is enabled/disabled manually via the radio’s “Utilities” menu, select “Radio Settings,” select “Talkaround,” then select “Turn On/Off.”
  • Emergency System: settings for an emergency alarm. I have not seen this used in ham radio.
  • Privacy: DMR includes the ability to “scramble” transmissions. This is a form of encryption and not allowed in the US.

A clear definition of “RX/TX Ref Frequency” has not been found and understood the default setting is sufficient.

Provided by Rich – G3ZIY:

These two drop-down selections are provided to change the radio’s basic oscillator frequency in the receive or transmit side. Because the radio covers such a wide frequency range, on some specific receive or transmit frequencies there can be a birdie generated internally which interferes with reception or transmission. If this occurs, by simply trying a different setting from the current setting, it should be possible to get clear reception and a clean transmission.

Leave “TX/RX Ref Frequency” at the default unless you experience problems transmitting or receiving and tack the problem down to the radio itself.

These settings will be applied to every digital channel created for this example and is a good template for actual programming:

  • Channel Mode: Digital
  • Band Width: 12.5kHz
  • TOT[s]: 180s (3 min) max for repeater & hotspot, 600s (10 min) max for simplex channels.
  • Power: “High” for repeaters & simplex – unless really close, “Low” for hotspots.
  • Admit Criteria: “Color Code” for repeater, “Channel Free” for hotspot & simplex.
  • Allow Talkaround: yes
  • Emergency System: None
  • Privacy: None
  • In Call Criteria: “Follow Admit Criteria” for repeater, “Always” for hotspot & simplex.

For this programming example, channels are created in the same order as the repeater listing. In the CPS software, create channels with the listed settings including universal settings above. SC = Some City, Ohio:

  • Channel #1
    • Channel Name: SC World-Wide
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: World-Wide
    • Group List: World-Wide (or Some City TS1)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 1
  • Channel #2
    • Channel Name: SC North America
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: North America
    • Group List: North America (or Some City TS1)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 1
  • Channel #3
    • Channel Name: SC USA Nationw
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: USA Nationwide
    • Group List: USA Nationwide (or Some City TS1)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 1
  • Channel #4
    • Channel Name: SC Local 9
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: Local 9
    • Group List: Local 9 (or Some City TS2)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #5
    • Channel Name: SC TAC-310
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: TAC-310
    • Group List: TAC-310 (or Some City TS2)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #6
    • Channel Name: SC TAC-311
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: TAC-311
    • Group List: TAC-311 (or Some City TS2)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #7
    • Channel Name: SC TAC-312
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: TAC-312
    • Group List: TAC-312 (or Some City TS2)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #8
    • Channel Name: SC Midwest
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: Midwest
    • Group List: Midwest (or Some City TS2)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #9
    • Channel Name: SC Ohio
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: Ohio
    • Group List: Ohio (or Some City TS2)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #10
    • Channel Name: SC Ref Disconn
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: Ref Disconnect
    • Group List: None
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #11
    • Channel Name: SC Ref USA – 8
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: USA – Area 8
    • Group List: None
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #12
    • Channel Name: SC Ref Info
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: Ref Info
    • Group List: None
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2
  • Channel #13
    • Channel Name: SC Scott N8SY
    • RX Frequency: 444.300
    • TX Frequency: 449.300
    • Contact Name: Scott N8SY
    • Group List: None
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2 – though really depends which is available on the repeater.

Zones

To use a Channel on the radio, it needs to be added to a Zone. Zones can contain analog channels too.

Some repeater and c-Bridge owners only made 16 talk groups available on their systems. That’s easy. All 16 go into one zone. Repeaters with more than 16 talk groups must have channels grouped.

Order of channels added to a zone will correspond with the dial position: first added will be position 1, second added will be 2, and so on.

Most use the zone to indicate where the repeater is located. Call signs are not often used because the city provides more detail when selecting an appropriate zone, especially when traveling.

For this programming example, only one zone is utilized. In the CPS software, create a zone with the listed channels:

  • Zone Information #1
    • Zone Name: Some City, OH
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 1): SC World-Wide
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 2): SC North America
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 3): SC USA Nationw
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 4): SC Local 9
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 5): SC TAC-310
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 6): SC TAC-311
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 7): SC TAC-312
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 8): SC Midwest
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 9): SC Ohio
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 10): SC Ref Disconn
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 11): SC Ref USA – 8
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 12): SC Ref Status
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 13): SC Scott N8SY

Scan Lists

Scan Lists are not required for radio operation but are nice for scanner like functionality across repeater time slots and frequencies. Channels have to be established first before it can be added. Scan Lists can contain analog channels too.

Order of channels added to a Scan List will correspond with the scan order. Private Call channels are unnecessary in scan lists because they are infrequent, short, and unnecessarily take up available list entries.

Activating the selected Scan List on the active channel requires assigning the “Scan On/Off” functionality to a programmable button universally in the radio. This is done in “Button Definitions” of the CPS. Another way is to create a channel with the “Auto Scan” feature enabled (see Channels section).

For this programming example, only one Scan List is utilized. In the CPS software, create a Scan List with the listed channels:

  • Scan List #1
    • Scan List name: Some City, OH
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 1): SC World-Wide
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 2): SC North America
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 3): SC USA Nationw
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 4): SC Local 9
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 5): SC TAC-310
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 6): SC TAC-311
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 7): SC TAC-312
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 8): SC Midwest
    • Available Channel, select and add (position 9): SC Ohio

Once a Scan List is created, Channels to which a Scan List applies must be updated. All of the “SC” channels.

 

That’s it! You have successfully programmed a ham radio DMR code plug from scratch! Now, substitute the local repeater’s information and begin having fun!

Suggested talk groups

Here is a suggested list of talk groups to get started on a Brandmeister network U.S. repeater or hotspot. Each bullet can be a separate zone.

  • Wide area groups (World-Wide: 91, North America: 93, USA – Nationwide: 3100)
  • Regional (Midwest: 3169, Southern Plains: 3175, Northeast: 3172, Mountain: 3177, etc.)
  • Ohio & surrounding states (Ohio: 3139, Indiana: 3118, Michigan: 3126, Pennsylvania: 3142, West Virginia: 3154, Kentucky: 3121)
  • Local & tactical (TAC) (1, 2, Local 9, TAC-310, TAC-311, TAC-312, TAC 1: 8951, TAC 2: 8952, …, TAC 9: 8959)
  • Reflectors & commands (Disconnect: 4000, USA – Nationwide: 4639, USA – Area 0: 4640, USA Area 1: 4641, …, USA – Area 9: 4649, Ref Info: 5000)
  • Special use (Parrot: 9990, audio test: 9999)

Reflectors

Reflectors are different than talk groups. With a talk group, keying automatically establishes the connection and is dropped after 15 minutes. Reflectors must be manually linked and unlinked. Time slot 2 is always used for reflectors and associated commands.

At user discretion, programming can include reflectors of interest. It’s a good idea to program the control commands into a code plug regardless of the desire to use reflectors. A repeater maybe connected to a reflector and left abandoned. Having those commands programmed are good for knocking down an abandoned link.

To establish reflector connection, a private call is made to the reflector ID. Some radios can make on-the-fly private calls by entering the ID on the keypad. Others need a channel programmed with the reflector ID in the “Call ID” field with “Call Type” set to “Private Call.”

A “Group Call” channel programmed to time slot 2, talk group 9 is required to carry on the QSO. This is known as “Local 9” on many repeaters.

When the QSO is finished, another “Private Call” is made to ID 4000 to disconnect the reflector. Private Call to ID 5000 will check the status at any time.

For two stations to establish communication on the “USA – Area 8” reflector (4648), both stations initiate a “Private Call” to ID 4648 on time slot 2, for 2 seconds. Switch their radios to “Local 9” for the QSO. When done, both initiate a private call to 4000 to disconnect their nodes.

Simplex

Like any good communication system, DMR doesn’t have to be operated using a repeater.

Standard DMR simplex configuration and frequencies in the U.S.:

  • Talk group (contact ID and RX Group): 99
  • Color Code (channel): 1
  • Time slot (channel): 1
  • Admit Criteria (channel): Always (though I like to use “Channel Free”).
  • In Call Criteria (if applicable, channel): TX or Always.
  • UHF
    • 441.000
    • 446.500
    • 446.075
    • 433.450
  • VHF
    • 145.790
    • 145.510

 

Simplex code plug programming template:

  • Contact
    • Contact name: Simplex
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 99
    • Receive tone: No
  • Digital RX Group List
    • Group List Name: Simplex
    • Available Contact, select and add: Simplex
  • Channel, common:
    • Channel Mode: Digital
    • Band Width: 12.5kHz
    • TOT[s]: 600s (10 min) max.
    • Power: High
    • Admit Criteria: Always
    • Allow Talkaround: yes
    • Emergency System: None
    • Privacy: None
    • In Call Criteria: Always
    • Contact Name: Simplex
    • Group List: Simplex
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 1
  • Channel 1
    • Channel Name: Simplex 441.000
    • RX Frequency: 441.000
    • TX Frequency: 441.000
  • Channel 2
    • Channel Name: Simplex 446.500
    • RX Frequency: 446.500
    • TX Frequency: 446.500
  • Channel 3
    • Channel Name: Simplex 446.075
    • RX Frequency: 446.075
    • TX Frequency: 446.075
  • Channel 4
    • Channel Name: Simplex 433.450
    • RX Frequency: 433.450
    • TX Frequency: 433.450

Hotspots

Many hotspots follow very similar programming to that of a repeater. Others offer a ‘simple’ mode utilizing a single talk group in the radio to make programming easier. I prefer my hotspot to function like a repeater.

Hotspot devices like the SharkRF OpenSpot and DVMega act similar to a repeater in terms of the programming. Follow the programming tutorial above with differences being the TX frequency would match the RX frequency (simplex) and time slot is always 2 (though the OpenSpot can use either).

For the OpenSpot, every RX Group will need to include “Local 9” to hear the voice announcements from the OpenSpot. These are the ‘connected’ and ‘profile’ announcements. There are additional control commands that can be used with the OpenSpot, like changing profiles, which are outlined in the manual: https://www.sharkrf.com/products/openspot/manual/

The OpenSpot can alternatively operate in a simple mode where transmissions to and from the Internet are routed to and from talk group 9 for the radio. Example: hotspot is connected to talk group 3139, the radio receives and transmits using talk group 9; connected to talk group 3100, radio still uses 9. Using this method, talk group changes have to be made through the OpenSpot web interface including changing the ‘Reroute ID.’

The DV4Mini will ONLY operate using talk group 9. For this reason, programming talk group 3139 into the radio for the DV4Mini will NOT work. No other talk group configuration will work with the DV4Mini EXCEPT talk group 9!

Brandmeister Extended Routing (XTG) is needed for talk groups not listed in the DV4Mini DV4MF2 application (eg: TAC-310, TAC-311, or TAC-312).

A programming example for OpenSpot in ‘simple’ mode or the DV4Mini. 446.900 is the simplex frequency chosen for the hotspot:

  • Contact (does not need to be created if “Local 9” already exits.)
    • Contact name: OpenSpot/DV4Mini
    • Call type: Group call
    • Call ID: 9
    • Receive tone: No
  • Digital RX Group List (does not need to be created if “Local 9” already exits.)
    • Group List Name: OpenSpot/DV4Mini
    • Available Contact, select and add: OpenSpot/DV4Mini
  • Channel
    • Channel Mode: Digital
    • Band Width: 12.5kHz
    • TOT[s]: 180s (3 min) max.
    • Power: Low
    • Admit Criteria: Always (though I like to use “Channel Free”).
    • Allow Talkaround: yes
    • Emergency System: None
    • Privacy: None
    • In Call Criteria: Always
    • Channel Name: OpenSpot/DV4Mini
    • RX Frequency: 446.900
    • TX Frequency: 446.900
    • Contact Name: OpenSpot/DV4Mini (or Local 9)
    • Group List: OpenSpot/DV4Mini (or Local 9)
    • Color Code: 1
    • Repeater Slot: 2

You’re now setup to use OpenSpot in simple mode or DV4Mini!

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

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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


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

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

Maker Spaces & Faires

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

AllStar

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

Fldigi & Flmsg

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

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

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

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

OpenSpot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ham Nation 300 (#HamNation300)

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

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

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

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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2016 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


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

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

73… de Jeff – K8JTK