Tag Archives: System Fusion

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2020 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

One of the things I’ve been working on during my time at home is the Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System (DVMIS), also called the K8JTK Hub. About a year-and-a-half ago, I came up with this bright idea to setup a system that would interlink many different ham radio VoIP (Voice over IP) modes for interoperability and experimentation. Through trials and tribulations, it’s experiencing some success, caught the interest of some nets, and a podcast.

Many digital modes sit on their own island and are restricted from crossing over to the analog world or to other digital networks. Some may say this is for quality-of-service but does nothing for interoperability or the ability to link and communicate across different systems. Original D-STAR DPLUS reflectors banned analog connections. My Hub supports ham radio experimentation by allowing hams to discover ways of utilizing a system that can link different modes. Utilization of ham radio spectrum is a priority through the use of hot spots and repeaters. Connections without RF are not a priority. Hamshack Hotline was provisioned because of use in Emergency Operation Centers. Many times, I’ve been asked about stations that don’t have access to RF hotspots or radios. They still have options including the Echolink app on Android and iOS devices, Hamshack Hotline phone which can be purchased for $30 (I’ve heard deals as low as $5 for a compatible phone), or the DudeStar app. The servers are hosted in a Chicago data center to provide resiliency against hardware, power, weather, and Internet outages, but still be fairly inexpensive.

All this is possible through integration of open-sourced packages including: AllStarLink which is a world wide network of Amateur Radio repeaters, remote base stations and hot spots accessible to each other via the Internet and/or private IP networks. Built on an open-sourced PBX system called Asterisk, Jim Dixon – WB6NIL (SK) built the apt_rpt module emulating functionality of a repeater controller. Jonathan – G4KLX authored programs that support D-Star, DMR, System Fusion, P25, and NXDN which are utilized in MMDVM devices like most hotspots. DVSwitch is a suite of applications for provisioning and operating Amateur Radio digital voice networks maintained by Steve – N4IRS and Mike – N4IRR. The DVSwitch Mobile app was designed to operate analog and digital modes utilizing an Android phone in conjunction with server applications running on a Linux server or Raspberry Pi. The ASL to DMR documentation (groups.io account required) got me started experimenting with these applications and ultimately lead to the build out of the system. XLXD is a multiprotocol reflector server for D-STAR by Jean-Luc – LX3JL & Luc – LX1IQ. Skip – WB6YMH & others maintain thebridge, an Echolink compatible conference bridge.

Originally, hosted on 2 servers, after troubleshooting some issues, it was more reliable to host everything across 3 VPSes (Virtual Private Servers) running Debian Linux. Parts of the system can go down and individual parts will continue to function. Aside from the VPSes, a Raspberry Pi with a Northwest Digital Radio DV3000 provides D-STAR audio transcoding to the system. Wires-X is available through the use of additional remote hardware. Wires-X is proprietary to Yaesu radios and repeaters. Wires-X is not available through open-source implementations such as YSFReflector or MMDVM without additional devices. I’d like to get the DV3000s in a reliable data center but doing so is prohibitively expensive. AllStar Link is the “Hub” that provides connectivity and linking control between all networks.

Putting all of this together provides a system with access to ten different networks and eight different modes! Any user on one network can communicate with users on other networks. Access is available through these nodes and connections:

  • AllStar Link: 50394
  • DMR: Brandmeister Talk Group 3172783
  • DMR: TGIF TG 31983
  • D-STAR: XLX983A (A = Analog Bridge. Pi-STAR = DCS983A, OpenSpot = XLX983A)
  • Echolink: *DVMIS* conference 600008
  • Hamshack Hotline: 94026 (*99 – TX, # – RX)
  • NXDN: TG 31983
  • P25: TG 31983
  • YSF: K8JTK-Hub 31983
  • Wires-X: K8JTK-ROOM 40680 (available upon request)

Dashboards:

Amateur Logic episode 149

Building this system has not been without problems. Luckily, I’m able to work around known issues. In order from least frustrating to most frustrating: all programs use IP addresses and ports to communicate, keeping all of that straight was a challenge initially. Using IPs allows for great flexibility utilizing network links such as private networks and VPNs. Dependency hell as a result of additions and changes to programs made a constant deployment from one day to the next an issue. XLXD changed its implementation to include YSF which then conflicted with the port used for the YSFReflector. Changing the YSFReflector port required propagation to Pi-STAR host files and OpenSpot DNS. DVSwitch has been rewritten two times since I’ve implemented it and they’ve released another round of changes. Data center provider choices resulted in issues with packet loss. Moving the servers to another provider yielded much better results. The previous provider finally acknowledged and supposedly resolved the issue a year after it was reported, and after I moved.

Use of physical hardware for D-STAR. OP25 software codec can transcode D-STAR but “you won’t be happy” to quote a post in the forums. D-STAR looooves IP addresses. DNS is great for switching IP addresses easily (like when moving data centers or spinning up different servers). However, D-STAR relies only on IP addresses. As a result, reflector IP changes take about a day to propagate to online hotspots/repeaters. Using AMBEServer with the DV3000 on a remote device resulted in very choppy audio. After some time, had the idea to move Audio Bridge to the same device as the DV3000 then use IP routing to send audio to and from AB. Worked great.

In order to compile AllStar Link from source takes a lot of time to get right and includes A LOT of dependencies. Finally, one that drove me crazy was the chan_echolink module for AllStar which provides Echolink connectivity natively to AllStar. When load testing with many connections, something was making stations sound as though they were transmitting underwater. After observing patterns, determined it was audio originating on the Hub being sent out to Echolink connections. Incoming audio from Echolink stations was OK and audio sent to all other nodes was also good. The problem seemed intermittent until I consulted groups.io and further determined chan_echolink has audio quality problems when more than three EL stations are connected simultaneously. Not ideal for a hub. Best workaround was to implement an Echolink Conference server. Then only allow chan_echolink connection to that conference server. Echolink users would then connect to the same conference server. This issue took a lot of time and a lot of hair pulling but implemented a workable solution that offers a quality system. Root cause is still unknown as an AllStar developer hadn’t chimed-in with any suggestions or possible reasons.

K8JTK Hub/DVMIS connections

The DVMIS hub hosts a couple nets. Tuesday nights at 9pm eastern, since about the first-time stay-at-home orders were put in place, is the Amateur Logic Sound Check net. The net encourages checkins to utilize as many modes as possible during the net to test equipment. If you haven’t seen the Amateur Logic podcast, it has been going for over 15 years and they release two shows monthly. The regular podcast has segments about technology and Ham Radio. “Ham College” is an educational show for those wanting to get licensed or upgrade. The guys asked me to put together a segment for the show. My segment can be found in episode 149. A huge thanks goes out to the ALTV crew and everyone checking into the net which helped me identify and resolve system issues. They’ve also been great in keeping up with all the changes over the last 9 months. At the end of December, I’ve been testing with the West Chester Amateur Radio Association – WC8VOA to add digital modes to their net on Monday evenings at 8pm.

Around the time my segment was airing on ALTV, Brandmeister did not approve of the linking method and linking to other networks. Brandmeister uses the MCC standard and they manage talkgroup IDs consisting of 3, 4, or 5 digits. 6- or 7-digit IDs are repeater IDs and user IDs respectively, and can be used however the assigned owner would like. The BM TG in the ALTV episode is now 3172783 and is correct in the listing above.

The Hub is open for all to use in testing equipment, software, or linking up with friends. I keep status updates listed on the page linked at the beginning of this article. For this and any linked system, please remember a couple practices. When keying your radio, pause a second or two to allow all links to rise, otherwise the first couple words maybe lost. Pause a minimum 3-5 seconds between transmissions to give time for links to reset and other stations to break in. Do not “tailgate.” Enjoy and join the nets to get a feel for the Interlink System’s capabilities.

Slow Scan TV has become big over the last couple years due to ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) events. One of the longer events will have begun before OSJ publication: starting December 24 at 16:40 UTC and continue through December 31 ending at 18:15 UTC. Dates are subject to change due to ISS operational adjustments. Images will be downlinked at 145.800 MHz +/- 3 KHz for Doppler shift and the expected SSTV mode of operation is PD 120. Radio enthusiasts participating in the event can post images they receive at the ARISS SSTV Gallery at https://www.spaceflightsoftware.com/ARISS_SSTV/. After your image is posted at the gallery, you can acquire a special award by linking to https://ariss.pzk.org.pl/sstv/ and follow directions for submitting a digital copy of your received image. Even an HT can receive images from the space station. If you would like to receive images using MMSSTV on Windows, head over to my tutorial.

Congratulations to Scott Yonally – N8SY who won his election as Great Lakes Division Vice Director! Since he cannot hold more than one elected position at a time, he will be stepping down from his current Section Manager position when he assumes the Vice Director position on Jan 1. I wish him nothing but the best in his new role as he has done a lot for the Ohio Section during his tenure. We will then welcome Tom Sly – WB8LCD who will be appointed the new Section Manager for Ohio!

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

K8JTK Hub DVMIS Presentations

Presentation on the K8JTK Hub Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System which integrates many Ham radio modes, both analog and digital.

Framework

The framework I chose to use for the presentation slides is called reveal.js. It is an HTML framework meaning it will run in any HTML 5 capable browser. Looks a little better than a PowerPoint presentation.

Navigation

Useful navigation keys in the presentation. In addition to navigating with the keys below, you can swipe (tables/smartphones) or use the navigation arrows on screen in the lower right.

Toggle full screen: press [F11].

Advance to the next slide: press [n] or [SPACEBAR].

Go back to the previous slide: press [p] or press and hold the [SHIFT] key while pressing the [SPACEBAR].

Display presentation overview: [ESC] then use the arrow keys or mouse to select a slide. [ESC] again will exit overview mode.

Links

Clickable links are colored in brown text.

Presentations

Three variations are available: presentation version is viewable in a browser. Printable version for printing or saving in a different format. Finally a PDF version.

They may take some time to load because I left original images untouched and some were a couple MB in file size.

Slides

The presentation is about 10 minutes in length which aired on the AmateurLogic.TV podcast on 11/13/2020 for episode 149.  It includes additional slides referenced in the video segment.

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

Segment:

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2020 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Now that we’re all sequestered to our homes, what the heck do we do to not go iNsAnE? Idle down time is an opportunity to learn something new, catch up on lingering projects, or improve operating skills – all while staying sane. Improve operating skills can mean getting on the air, making conversation with new friends, checking in on our brethren, or practice being a better operator.

Ideas for learning something new: study for a license or upgrade, learn a new mode or Morse Code, configure your station for digital modes and get on the OHDEN net, make or update a DMR code plug, setup a hot spot, configure a Raspberry Pi to learn Linux or Python, make an APRS RX IGate with an RTL-SDR, setup Hamshack Hotline, make an AllStar node, or learn about MakerSpaces and how we can draw like-minded people into the hobby.

Free time is a good time to tackle the “I’ll get around to it” tasks, aka “the to do list.” That maybe fix/repair/replace a broken antenna, spring cleaning of the shack, selling or getting rid of unused equipment, organize or clean out junk piles, install that new radio, configure the new radio, figure out a lingering problem, clean out old data files and documents on a computer, phone, or cloud storage account, or purge and clean out email messages.

Pirates

While everyone has downtime, not everyone is using it for good. I’ve received reports since the imposed staycation of what can be described as pirate “preppers” appearing on local repeater systems and simplex frequencies. Preppers, as they are often referred, sometimes called survivalists, “is a movement of individuals or groups who actively prepare for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international.” Survival preparations range from job loss to stockpiling supplies to building self-sufficient structures. They appear to be “testing” and asking for text message signal reports from their buddies. The have also been holding informal nets on simplex frequencies. It’s funny they want to communicate off-the-grid but are using the grid to receive text messages. Obviously, they don’t present a call sign and do not properly identify. One can only speculate that they obtained a wonderful (read: crappie) BaoFeng radio for a couple bucks, figured out how to program it or are passing around a codeplug someone found or programmed for them.

When these stations appear, first kindly remind them they are using a licensed service and obtaining a license is easy. Provide them resources for obtaining a license through the ARRL study manuals, an online resource like HamExam or Ham Test Online. While they maybe illegally transmitting now, encouraging them to take a license exam will strengthen numbers and get them legal regardless.

If, after repeated attempts of encouragement to become licensed, they continue to appear on frequencies, politely ask them to immediately stop transmitting. Keep calm, cool, and collected on the air. DO NOT become irate. Continuing to transmit in this manner qualifies as willful or malicious interference. Do not engage them further. Contact the repeater owner or control operator and see if disabling the repeater is an option. If shutting the repeater is not desired, see if the owner wants you to document incidents. If they do, you are the repeater owner/control operator, or they are using a simplex frequency, record audio as part of documenting process. The FCC requires specific information that includes dates, times, and frequency(ies). Audio recordings dramatically strengthens the case. A VOX activated recording program with logging, such as Scanner Recorder, and feeding the audio into the computer from the radio’s speaker jack makes this easy. Scanner Recorder automatically logs the date and time of the recordings. Verify the audio is clear and understandable by doing a sample recording.

KerberosSDR

Locating the offending station will take some work. Contact someone who has access to direction finding equipment. Some of our Technical Specialists have access to this equipment. KerberosSDR is a low-cost direction-finding alternative option which employs four RTL-SDR devices. There are a number of YouTube videos on setting up and using the KerberosSDR on their site. It might be “good enough” but not as good as professional equipment.

Do not indicate to the other station they are being tracked or located as they will likely cease transmissions, preventing an accurate location fix. Multiple readings and triangulation techniques will be utilized to pin-point the origin. If a location is determined, DO NOT engage. Document the findings and file a complaint with the FCC. Local authorities will likely be of little help unless one is active in the ham community and really understands the situation.

Windows 10 Free Upgrade

I ran into my neighbor, John WG8H, who is a long-time friend of my dad, at a local hamfest before they were all canceled. He said ‘I read your article on Windows 7 but couldn’t find anything about taking advantage of the Windows 10 free upgrade.’ I found references online that indicated the upgrade was still active and available but had not gone through the process recently. Figured the ‘out of support’ messages that appeared in Win7 would instruct a user how to do this. They did not.

Officially, the free upgrade program has ended. However, this process gave me an upgraded version of Windows 7 to Windows 10. It’s really in Microsoft’s best interest to have as many machines upgraded as possible. Check this forum post for more details or if you run into issues. As always, backup first! On a Windows 7 machine you wish to upgrade, it must have Internet access.

  • Go to: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10
  • Under “Create Windows 10 installation media,” click Download tool now
  • Signed in with an administrator account, run the downloaded Media Creation Tool on the local machine. “Run as administrator” will not work and it will tell you to sign into an administrator account first.
  • When the tool starts up, accept the license agreement
  • On the “What do you want to do?” screen, select Upgrade this PC now
  • Click Next
  • Follow the rest of the on-screen prompts to completion

I was testing on a machine that had an unsupported Win10 driver. If this message appears where drivers are not supported in Windows 10, I clicked Confirm and it proceeded. Upgrade these afterwards.

When the upgrade to Windows 10 is complete:

  • Click Start
  • Click Settings (gear)
  • Click Update & Security
  • Click Activation
  • Confirm the resulting window shows “Activation: Windows is activated with a digital license.” If activation failed, there was not a valid key installed on Windows 7 prior to upgrade.

Click Windows Update and apply updates – including the cumulative optional updates.

To tie the activation to you and the PC requires signing into Windows 10 with a Microsoft account. On the Settings home screen, click Accounts and follow the links to create a Microsoft account or login to an existing account. Otherwise, try following Reactivating Windows 10 after a hardware change if activation fails after a reinstall or hardware change.

It might be possible to update a Win7 machine that does not have Internet access by selecting the Create installation media option when prompted in the Media Creation Tool. Though I did not validate this.

K8JTK Hub Interlink System

Anyone wanting a place to meet-up for checking on friends and fellow hams or looking for something to do can use a system I’ve been working on the last few months. Currently, it offers 6 full-time ham radio VoIP modes interlinked for interoperability. Ways to access the system:

  • EchoLink: K8JTK-R 233196
  • AllStar Link: 50394
  • Hamshack Hotline: 94026
  • DMR: Brandmeister TG 31983
  • D-STAR: DCS/XLX983 A
  • YSF: K8JTK Hub 17374

Since I’m working from home, I’ve linked up my Wires-X room: K8JTK-ROOM 40680

More information or updates on the system: http://www.k8jtk.org/ham-radio/k8jtk-hub-digital-voip-mutimode-interlink-system/

Thanks for reading, stay sane, and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PARCS Radar station (Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Oct-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

Hotspots can utilize the many available modes & networks:

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

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

Hotspots and satellites

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

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

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

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

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

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

OpenSPOT2

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

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

ZUMspot review

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

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

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

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

Technical Specialists report

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

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

WB8APD, SK

Cleveland Hamfest – 1999, hac.org

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Jun-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

The Wood County Amateur Radio Club (which I’m a member) has a Fusion digital net on Thursday nights. Longtime club member Phil – W8PSK, posed the question: can I operate a Wires-X node mobile from my RV?

A little background about Wires-X setups. Wires-X is part of Yaesu’s System Fusion and is a closed Internet linking system. Only Yaesu hardware is allowed. Other digital devices like the OpenSpot, DVMega, and Pi-Star are not permitted. The obvious answer, if it were a viable choice, would be to use a digital hotspot but Yaesu doesn’t allow them. Wires-X hardware requirements include: a Yaesu FTM-100D or FTM-400XD radio or Fusion repeater, Yaesu HRI-200 interface between the radio and PC, a Windows 7 or 10 PC (yes, it must be Windows machine), and an Internet connection with a global IP address. A common example of a global IP address is one provided to you by your DSL, Cable, or Fiber provider. This IP is accessible from anywhere on the Internet and (generally) unrestricted. Lastly, another radio is required to use the Wires-X node locally.

Having setup my own Wires-X node in addition to LEARA’s repeater node, my first assumption was Phil would be able to connect out from his node in the RV to any other Wires-X node, but no other node could connect to him. This theory was based on the need to open or “port forward” 7 ports from the Internet to the PC running the Wires-X software. Port forwarding is a computer networking method used to allow data to bypass a firewall which would normally block that communication. Those that run websites from their network or have access to IP cameras while away from home will have these port forwards configured in their router.

Phil planned on using his smartphone as the Internet connection to the PC. Modern Smartphones have the ability to use the cellular network to serve an Internet connection to other devices like a laptop or Raspberry Pi via Wi-Fi connection. This is labeled something like “Mobile Hotspot” or “Personal Hotspot” in the phone. Standard disclaimer: check with your provider first in case there is an extra charge for this service or bandwidth cap. Bandwidth is standard for a Voice over Internet system at about 60kpbs/connection or about 30 MB/hour/connection with constant TX/RX. Port forwarding is never allowed on consumer cell plans. The unknown was can the Wires-X software connect without the port forwarding outlined in the configuration.

I tested my theory to see if the Wires-X software functioned by modifying a known working Wires-X configuration. I closed (temporarily disabled) the forwarded ports on my network. This meant communication over those ports would now be blocked, similar to that of a cellular connection. Then restarted the Wires-X software and hoped for the best. Was my theory correct? Drumroll please… the answer was: no. Wah waaaah. Not having the required ports forwarded to the PC did not allow the software to receive data from the Wires-X network. That result almost killed any hope of Phil using Wires-X mobile in his RV.

Phil was determined and we looked further into different solutions. VPNs were an option because they can often bypass network restrictions. However, a small number of VPN providers allowed forwarding ports as part of their service. Reviews weren’t positive and VPNs tend to easily fail with unstable data connections as one might have while mobile. Not something to be messing around with while driving. It introduced another point-of-failure in this setup. Hilariously enough, there were applications that touted the ability to ‘open ports on your phone.’ These wouldn’t work because it might open ports on the phone, almost assuredly the provider was blocking any ports upstream to the phone. Verizon offers a business account which allows port forwards but there is a one-time setup cost of $500 plus the service. Yeah, no. I suggested asking in the Yahoo group. John – N9UPC, Fusion representative for Yaesu, reinforced the conclusion I came to: operating mobile wasn’t possible because wireless providers don’t provide a global IP. Though Phil posted his question in late April, oddly enough John did not give any indication to an announcement at Dayton. One solution that looked promising used AMPRNet which is block of Internet routable IP addresses for ham radio operators. It could give us the global IP address we needed. After finding out more, someone else’s data center was being used and we weren’t sure Phil would have permission to use it as well.

Sensing no way to get around the port forward restriction, an announcement came during the Fusion forum at Dayton that (we hope) will solve Phil’s problem. Yaesu is going to release an update in the coming months that will allow the FT2DR, FTM-100D, as well as the FTM-400XD to operate as a portable node. With additional cables, these radios would connect directly to a computer for Wires-X operation without the need of an HRI-200. This was created specifically for mobile setups and users who don’t have the ability to forward the necessary ports (like in a hotel). Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

A couple caveats: purchase of an HRI-200 is still required. To use the portable node, you still need to register on the Wires-X system which requires a serial number from an HRI-200. The portable setup will not have ‘all of the features’ of the traditional setup such as hosting a Room (round table-type node) or messaging. Purchase of two cables is required to make the necessary connections: an SCU-19 USB and CT-44 audio cable. It wasn’t clear if both are needed for the 100/400 radios. There are no plans “at this time” to integrate any other Fusion radio other than the three listed above.

It would have been nice to have a heads-up about this new option before we spent time researching a solution. I think this will solve Phil’s problem and get him mobile with Wires-X. Announcement from the Fusion form, Dayton Hamvention 2018.

Speaking of digital hotspots, my favorite has been discontinued: the openSPOT. Saw it disappeared form dealer sites just after Dayton. June 8th it was removed from the SharkRF website with an announcement that a new product was going to be introduced soon. What could it be??! If you need a digital hotspot device today, I really like the ZUMSpot with the Pi-Star software. I picked up one with a case at Dayton. More info in future articles.

The next big ham holiday, Field Day, is right around the corner. Get out and join your club or find a club to join if you’re not a member of one. It’s a great time to bring friends and get them excited about ham radio. Hams that come out get bitten by the bug to expand their station or learn a new mode. Check the Field Day Locator for operations taking place near you. Sending 10 messages over RF from your site gets you 100 points – including Winlink messages. I love to receive messages about your setup, stations operating, or social activities taking place. These can be sent via the National Traffic System (NTS) or Winlink – K8JTK at Winlink.org – to my station. Winlink post about Field Day points.

With July around the corner, two of my favorite events will be kicking-off soon. The 13 Colonies Special Event is coming up July 1 – 7, along with the RAC Canada Day Contest on July 1st only.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Feb-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Have a bunch of odds and ends for everyone this month.

Ham Cram Sessions

I received a piece of feedback worth sharing from December’s article on the “ham cram” type training sessions. One group in the section is working on a cram session for new licensees. That will be followed up with a “now what” session. The follow up session would have mentors and elmers available to help get new hams on the air. Depending on the success, this may be followed up with a General class too.

I think it’s a great idea to follow up with the “now what” session in a more relaxed environment for learning and getting them comfortable being on the air.

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio

Operating PSK31

I’ve been working on my Digital Communications in Amateur Radio series for the Wood County Amateur Radio Club. The series started with an overview of Ham radio digital modes and how to get your station setup with different interface options. From there I’ve been taking an introductory look into specific modes, though mostly ones used on HF. My articles are available in the club’s newsletter, CQ Chatter, found on the Wood County Amateur Radio Club Website (past years are on the CQ Chatter Archives page) or available on my site as well. Check them out to get an introductory look at digital modes.

Latest additions:

  • Conversational Digital Modes like PSK, RTTY, MFSK, Olivia (February 2017)
  • Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System or NBEMS (August 2017)
  • Winlink (February 2018)

Yaesu Fusion Announcements

After the New Year, Yaesu released an announcement with regard to their Fusion C4FM offerings.

  • The DR-2X purchase program will continue through June 30, 2018.
    • A trade-in program is available for current DR-1X repeater owners (they will not accept the beta version) towards the purchase of a DR-2X. $300 if you are trading in a DR-1X and only want the DR-2X repeater. If you wish to include the IMRS IP linking option in the DR-2X, the price will be $500.
    • Buying the DR-2X outright is $900. $1100 to include IMRS.
  • New Firmware will be released for DG-ID and DP-ID functionality in the DR-1X repeaters. Much like the Wires-X upgrade, it is very likely the repeater will need to be sent back to Yaesu for this firmware upgrade.
  • They are releasing the DR-1X FR. The DR-1X FR is a “factory refurbished” DR-1X for $400. It will have the DG-ID and DP-ID firmware already installed. The DR-1X FR cannot be used for the trade in program towards a DR-2X.

The discounted prices listed for the DR-2X and DR-1X FR require an application available from Yaesu. Firmware upgrade details or applications can be obtained by contacting John Kruk – N9UPC (Sales Manager for Yaesu USA) at j.kruk@yaesu.com or through the Yaesu Service department.

Yeesh. Lost yet? I won’t rehash my thoughts on Fusion (see August & September 2017 editions of the OSJ) but I think this announcement only further fragments their offering.

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF to Retire

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF is going to retire after 2 short years as CEO of the ARRL. For me the cliché is true: it only seems like yesterday. I appreciated Tom’s articles in QST and his behind the scenes look at the ARRL. As an MBA, I loved his explanation into some of the financials and reasons for the league raising membership dues in 2016 (July 2017 QST, Mythbusting: ARRL Not “A Big Radio Club”). The League may have $14.7 million in assets but that doesn’t mean that is money lying around. It goes toward programs and services to benefit members and non-members alike. Despite the non-profit status our government affords the organization, they need to pay competitive wages to employees and authors – otherwise they will go elsewhere. I also had the privilege to correspond with Tom on, I think, an excellent direction to get Makers into the ham radio hobby.

I wish Tom well in his retirement. Announcement: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-ceo-tom-gallagher-ny2rf-to-retire

Tinkercad

Speaking of Makers, I saw a video on the Amateur Logic podcast that demonstrated TinkerCAD electronics. If you’ve done anything with 3D printing, you’ve probably used Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a product of Autodesk, makers of software for architecture, engineering, and construction manufacturing. As Tommy demonstrates in the video, Tinkercad has an electronics section to simulate building electronic circuits and projects. This can be used as a great introduction into electronic circuit building for students and kids. The simulator has many types of electronic components: switches, capacitors, Arduinos, diodes, power supplies, oscilloscopes, potentiometers, resistors, ICs, breadboards, motors, servos, sensors, and of course – wires!

Tommy duplicates a simple blinking LED project he built in a previous episode using the simulator – even using the exact same Arduino code. I wondered if there was a product available to simulate circuit building and was quite impressed how well the simulator worked. Check it out in Amateur Logic episode 113. To sign up and start “tinkering,” go to: https://www.tinkercad.com/. 6 years or so ago, they were charging for the service. It appears when Autodesk took it over, it’s been free to use.

Scanner Anti-encryption Bill

Lastly for this month, I’m a scanner listener and I’m intrigued by the State of Ohio’s MARCS-IP public service safety system (Multi-Agency Radio Communications over IP). In short, it’s a state wide P25 digital communications system that allows users to be anywhere in the state and communicate with their agency. Once of the selling points for any commercial digital system is the ability to encrypt. Only those authorized can “unscramble” the transmission, meaning scanner listeners are locked out of listening to that particular group, or system in a few cases. Agencies love it and scanner listeners hate it.

Robert Wareham – N0ESQ

Our friends in the Colorado section made headlines last month when State Government Liaison and Section EC Robert Wareham – N0ESQ participated in drafting what is being called the “anti-encryption Bill.” With the backing of Colorado State Representative Kevin van Winkle (R), the bill outlaws blanket encryption by state and local governments striking a balance between transparency and the public’s right to monitor public agencies. Legitimate needs of confidential investigations and tactical operations are not protected under the bill. There are criminal penalties for those who monitor these communications to further a criminal enterprise, avoid arrest, detection, or escape capture.

While this bill only applies to Colorado, it could set a path for other states to draft something similar. Encryption for public radio systems is always a hot topic with completely valid points on both sides. There is a 51 page thread on the topic in the Radio Reference forums debating reasons both ways.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-September-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Last couple articles have been features so this month is a lot of odds-and-ends…

System Fusion

Last month’s article covering many System Fusion issues sparked some feedback as one might imagine. It was split.

One group in the section was using an external controller and was having a DR-1X repeater lock-up problem. They troubleshot the issue and with “additional circuity” resolved their issue. One disputed my assertion the repeater is two FTM-400 radios, but didn’t provide any details to the contrary. Having opened up LEARA’s DR-1X and upgraded the firmware, one radio looks exactly like the 400 (minus the speaker). Additionally, the firmware upgrade process was identical to my 400. Arguably, the transmit radio could be different but it’s hard to really tell with the heatsink mounted on top.

On the opposite end, a club in the section is completely frustrated with how Yaesu treated them as customers. They’ve attempted to call and email no less than 6 Yaesu representatives asking for details on promotions, hardware specifications, or answer to questions but never heard a word. They believe ‘Yaesu has lost any competitive edge they had by flooding the market with Fusion gear.’ Though I agree, I have not experienced this particular problem with my inquiries to support. My emails have been answered within a day or so – usually confirming suspicions I heard elsewhere. Seemingly ignoring customers is bad for business. Though customers feel they are being ignored, it may be a management attempt to better coordinate internal communication before going public. You’re doing it wrong, but it is a possibility. As pointed out previously, statements of fact made countless times are suddenly reversed and changed at release.

To clarify a point, the FTM-400 radio does operate both A & B sides of the radio simultaneously. My issue is, for their high-end offering of a mobile radio, it should be able to operate Fusion from both A & B sides of the radio at the same time. It does not. The A side can operate Fusion digital or FM. B only operates FM. Operating Fusion digital from both sides is one nice feature of the FT2D.

It didn’t take long before I started hearing the DMR arguments. DMR does have issues too but I see them as growing pains. It’s not: ‘this crashes, this locks up in transmit, this doesn’t work until you get a factory upgrade, need to spend $$$ to work around a shortcoming, upgrade to get the full power output, something can’t be fixed because there is no published specification…’ the list goes on. I’ve covered DMR issues here before and have noted most of them in my DMR Terminology and Programming a Code Plug learning series: http://www.k8jtk.org/category/amateur-radio/dmr-in-amateur-radio/.

Background checks, public service, & saving lives

The era of submitting to a background and credit check before helping out with fund-raising public service events is upon us. The local Multiple Sclerosis Society in Cleveland hosts a 150 mile (or so) bike ride every year. This used to be called “Pedal to the [Cedar] Point” but was renamed “Buckeye Breakaway” when the ride changed destinations to Ashland University. Last year, the MS society pushed for all volunteers to run a full background check. This included all ham, SAG (Support and Gear), and medical units – whether they were mobile or stationary at rest stops. Failing to complete the required check or failing the check would mean that person couldn’t volunteer or participate. This request was sprung on the ham and medical coordinators a few weeks out form the event. Citing time constraints and the amount of push back from volunteers, eventually the required check was no longer required but not after some had already completed the investigation.

This year, the MS society required a background investigation and proof of liability insurance for SAG drivers. Though I was not transporting riders, I too had to submit because I was the shadow of an MS staff person for the event. The investigation service stated a ‘credit check’ would be part of the reporting, though the society said it would not be a factor for eligibility.

Like many organizations, the MS Society is going through its share of layoffs, reorganizations, and centralization. The Cleveland chapter had little recourse since the background check was mandated from HQ. I suspect this will become the norm rather than the exception in the legal, CYA, society we live in. It sure takes the fun out of doing a public service event and not sure I want to give up that much personally identifiable information again for a fundraiser event. Then again, Equafax hands out PII data to anyone who can gain access to their systems.

That issue aside, a real life threatening event happened. Ham and medical volunteers dealt with a roll-over accident involving one of the cyclists in the event, a utility pole, and a parked car – all because of an impatient driver. This happened in Medina County near Valley City. The accident was radioed in by a ham volunteer. Other hams were on scene along with the Northeast Ohio Medical Response Corps to triage the situation. NEOMRC is a group of volunteers who provide medial support services for events and nearly all are licensed hams. The injured cyclist was life-flighted to a nearby hospital. The driver, who caused the accident, left the scene. By late afternoon, the story was all over the local news: http://fox8.com/2017/08/05/cyclist-struck-by-car-during-race-in-medina-county/. Fortunately, no one was killed. Img: Brunswick Hills Firefighters.

ISS SSTV

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), a slow scan TV event was held July 20th and ran for 3 days. During these events, SSTV transmissions originate from the International Space Station as it orbits in space. No special setup is required to copy the images. To receive the best images, Yagi antennas on a tracking tripod is best. I just use my external VHF antenna and let the radio listen for transmissions. Images sent featured different ARISS activities over the past 20 years. Check out the images 34 images I received: http://www.k8jtk.org/2017/08/03/sstv-transmissions-from-the-international-space-station-july-2017-edition/. If you want to get started in SSTV, check out the links to my getting started tutorial of MMSSTV in that post. I will also be giving my SSTV presentation at the Geauga Amateur Radio Association meeting on September 25, 2017 at 7:30 in the Geauga County Emergency Operations Center. More on the meeting: https://geaugaara.org/.

2017 Eclipse & WSPR

I contributed to the radio sciences taking place around the solar eclipse. I didn’t get to travel to an area of totality or even take off work. Instead I worked a number of the special event stations in the surrounding days. Still have to send away for my certificate. Since I didn’t take off work or do anything unusual, my contribution to the “eclipse QSO party” was to leave WSPR decoding signals and upload the spots. Scientists are hoping to learn more about eclipses and effects they have on the atmosphere and radio propagation from those spots.

WSPR stands for Weak Signal Propagation Reporting Network. If you have WSJT-X installed, WSPR is included in that package. WSPR is intended to be a QRP mode because each receive and transmit window is 2 minutes. It works like a beacon network based on timed transmissions like JT65, JT9, and FT8. Each band has 200 Hz of bandwidth designated for WSPR. A transmitting station will digitally transmit their call sign, grid square, and dBm (power output). Similar to the JT’s, the signal report (DB), time difference between the two clocks, and drift are calculated by the receiving station. Decoded signals are uploaded as spots to the WSPR Net website. The data is crunched and used to draw real-time maps of propagation. More: http://wsprnet.org/

Technical Specialist Reports

In Technical Specialist news, Dave – KD8TWG held a “Test and Tune” night for LEARA. Communications and spectrum analyzers were brought in to tune radios that might be off frequency or show how much those Baofeng radios do transmit everywhere at once. Contact Dave or a section Specialist to bring this educational and eye-opening experience to your club meeting.

In addition, KD8TWG would like to thank everyone who came out and worked the 195th Great Geauga County Fair. Dave was in charge of the communications and networking for golf cart drivers who transported fair goers to and from their cars. Golf carts were equipped with APRS for location tracking. A WiFi network based on the Mikrotik NV2 protocol was built for two weeks. NV2 is a proprietary WiFi protocol based on TDMA in the 5.1-5.8 GHz range. The advantage of TDMA wireless is better throughput and lower latency in point-to-point or point-to-multipoint networks. Traditional WiFi is built on a Carrier sensed collision avoidance system where nodes transmit only when they sense the channel is idle. Dave points out, this is NOT mesh. Over the wireless network, they ran a phone system and IP cameras. The Sherriff’s Office was impressed with the video coverage and wants to run more cameras next year. By the numbers: 60 volunteers worked 1,284 hours, with just under 700 golf cart transports. Dave ate approximately 47,000 calories in fried food. Imgs: KD8TWG.

Technical Regulation Reform

An ARNewsline report (#2080) points out the FCC Technical Advisory Council is looking for opinions and suggestions to update existing technical regulations or to adopt new ones. “The FCC wants the council to single out any rules that are obsolete or in need of being brought up-to-date. The Council also wants comments on how the agency’s regulatory process on specific technical rules could become more efficient. The agency stresses that the issues being considered are those of a technical nature.” Thoughts or opinions can be filed in ET Docket 17-215 or with the ARRL. October 30th is the deadline. More: http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-technological-advisory-council-investigating-technical-regulations

Foxhunts

I’ve only participated in two Fox Hunts. The first time, I came in dead last. Second time, came in second. No idea how that happened because no skills were honed at all. The Ham Radio 360 podcast had an episode with Larry Jacobs – WA7ZBO talking all about Fox Hunts. Surprising to me was the Tape measure antenna is very popular even among serious hunters. As for gear, an antenna, attenuator, and radio are needed. In the absence of an attenuator, your body could be used to attenuate signals. Larry talked about some dos and don’ts. He encouraged hamfests to hold hunts to ‘whet the appetite.’ The most popular hunts are races with mileage and time restrictions to keep things safe. Don’t make the hunt too hard where participants get discouraged and don’t want to ever participate again. Always use public property. Use common sense and don’t be a wise guy. For example, a convention had the fox located near the hotel pool. When someone asked what everyone was doing with antennas around the hotel, someone responded with ‘a Soviet Satellite with a radioactive payload went down near here.’ Guests couldn’t check out of the hotel fast enough. The hotel asked this group not to return. While funny, don’t be that guy. Instead have ARRL handouts and pamphlets about ham radio when someone asks. The episode can be found at: http://hamradio360.com/index.php/2017/07/25/ham-radio-360-fox-hunting-transmitter-bunnies-too/

Last Man Standing & Frequency TV shows

Many have heard by now the Tim Allen show “Last Man Standing” was canceled by ABC and possibly looking for a new home. Tim Allen plays a fictional ham radio operator using the call sign KA0XTT. The show was popular among politically conservative individuals and ham radio operators. According to ARNewsline (#2069), talks fell through for the show and it will not be returning with new episodes. The show will soon be removed from Netflix as 20th Century Fox struck a deal with Hulu for exclusive rights to their catalog, which includes Last Man Standing. Hulu is a premium service for streaming TV and moves. Channels carrying reruns include: CMT, Hallmark, Freeform, and The CW. Also on CW was the TV spinoff of the move Frequency, it too was canceled.

TYT MD-2017 Broken Antenna Connectors

If you purchased an early Tytera MD-2017 DMR dual-band radio and the antenna connector broke, contact your dealer. This appears to be a first-run issue and TYT has shipped replacement connector parts to their dealers. Replacing the connector requires opening the radio and soldering. If you’re not comfortable, ask if the dealer will do the work or swap the radio.

Thanks for reading, 73, and Go Tribe!… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-August-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Yaesu and System Fusion. I’ve talked about it before and mentioned the DR-1X repeater promotion some time ago. My recent dealings are leaving me more disappointed in the quality of the offering. With the announcement of System Fusion II, I hope they take time to finally fix problems with their implementation.

Around the beginning of 2015, Yaesu, in an effort to get their digital mode into the ham radio market, offered a promotional deal for their Fusion repeater at a cost of $500 (~$1,700 retail). The logic behind this is the shaver and blade principal: sell the repeater for cheap and make up the cost in selling radios. The repeater is dual-mode capable (C4FM digital and analog) featuring high power (50W) transmitter, switched commercial power and battery backup, integration with an existing repeater controller, all in a standard 2U rack unit. Not only could a club or individual purchase a digital repeater for cheap, it wasn’t a requirement of the promotion to enable any of the digital Fusion features. This meant it could replace aging analog repeaters. I’ve even heard old tube repeaters were being replaced as a result. Now, I’m sure they hoped owners utilized the Fusion features but either way, the program ended up being a huge success. In the Cleveland area, there are about 10 in operation that I’m aware of. Yaesu brought affordable and a somewhat-hackable (AllStar, MMDVM) repeater package to the market.

Then came the complaints. First being the DR-1X is two FTM-400 mobile radios linked with a basic controller. For some reason, many are surprised by this setup and thought better radios should be used. This is a common design that D-STAR and DMR commercial repeaters also rely on. However, this setup had a problem; the radios used were not designed to operate high power. Either through component design or improper cooling, the radios are not capable of operating 100% duty cycle at 50W. I have not heard of this being a wide-spread problem with D-STAR and DMR repeaters running high power. Yaesu updated their promotional form and website to say “Duty cycle is 50% at 50 Watts, 100% at 20 Watts in a climate controlled environment.” To get 50 watts or more, external amplifiers are needed.

Automatic Mode Select was one of the great selling points – a single repeater could switch between digital and analog depending on the signal. But reports of repeaters in AMS where locking up in a transmit state. It was discovered when the repeater had a signal on the input (digital or analog), if another signal was detected of the opposite type, the repeater would lockup in transmit. To reset, the power had to be cycled. A work around was to set the repeater in either analog or digital only mode or install a remote power switch. To my knowledge, this was never acknowledged and was deemed to be “environmental site issues.” That might be true or related to reports of poor selectivity on the front-end of the repeater. Filters and firmware upgrades helped solve some of these issues.

Other known problems include: external controller support is complicated – at best, receive PL decode problems, repeater identifications being cut-off, and the firmware. The firmware is absurd. There are three firmware “channels” (or tracks) for the DR-1X repeater. Each completely separate and not compatible with the other – that is you cannot upgrade the repeater firmware from one channel to another. For reference, these are the 1.00b, 1.00f, and 1.10D channels. Upgrading to a newer version (on the same channel) requires taking the machine out of the cabinet, unscrew about 18 screws to access the data port inside, upgrade the firmware, and put it all back. It is nearly a two person job as the thing weights 22 lbs.

My club in Cleveland, LEARA, purchased a DR-1X. I got it on the air with some help from Bill K8SGX (a section TS). It was on the air at 20 watts in digital only mode. We didn’t have any issues. One of the club members suggested “let’s connect this to the internet.” This is where my perception of Fusion got much worse. As confirmed by Yaesu support, to directly connect an HRI-200 Wires-X node, the DR-1X must have firmware 1.10J or later. Owners with 1.00-anything firmware MUST ship the DR-1X back to Yaesu for an upgrade at owner’s expense. 22 lbs shipping plus box and insurance, it was not cheap. Specific situations may vary and return shipping is covered. They will not let you swap anything yourself because they felt upgrades where beyond most owners’ ability. Owners on the 1.10D channel just need to apply firmware upgrades.

To be fair, an RF link to the repeater can be established with any firmware version. This entails setting up a HRI-200 on a Windows PC with an additional FTM-100 or FTM-400 radio at a location with a strong signal into the repeater. This setup acts like a local user of the repeater. Transmissions from the Internet are transmitted on the repeater’s input. Local repeater transmissions are relayed to the Internet by listening to the repeater’s output frequency. LEARA decided to directly link the HRI-200 Wires-X device to the repeater. Other devices like an OpenSpot or MMDVM could be used but would not provide Wires-X access as it is a closed network.

I haven’t followed the radio issues too closely. There have been 2nd generations of two Fusion radios this far. The FT1-DR was replaced by the FT1-XDR and FTM-400 by the FTM-400XDR because the GPS chip used had problems locking on to signals. I have the FTM-400XDR and picked up a FT2DR at Dayton. Both radios work and get the job done but I’m not blown away by either radio. To put the 400 over the top, it would need to operate Fusion from both A & B sides of the radio, at the same time. I’m underwhelmed by the FT2 screen as it’s not very sharp. I’ve always found Yaesu menu groupings and labeling confusing. The much-loved bank link feature of their analog radios, such as the VX-8, is missing.

Word of warning to anyone using Yaesu Fusion radios and is especially important for repeater owners and Wires-X node operators, keep up-to-date with firmware and program updates! It has been confirmed in the Yahoo Group, every time an FT-70 radio is keyed on a Wires-X node with software version v1.2 or earlier, the Wires-X node will crash.

In addition to all these issues, no full specification has been released for Fusion or Wires-X. Meaning if Wires-X gets shutdown, all nodes are offline. With an open source specification, a new network could be developed or rolled into the FCS reflector or YSFReflector networks. In true hacker fashion, much of Fusion has been reverse engineered so it’s probably more of a reality than I know.

A Reddit posting appeared proclaiming “System Fusion II” is coming with an accompanying info graphic and FAQ posted on the Yaesu System Fusion Yahoo Group. The info graphic states ‘firmware upgrades will enable System Fusion II compatibility with all existing C4FM products.’ I gather this doesn’t mean the radio needs to be sent back to Yaesu. The FT1-(X)DR is discontinued but the FAQ reiterates all existing radios will receive a Fusion II firmware upgrade.

At the center is the new DR-2X repeater – which supposedly resolves most problems of the 1X – and includes many new features. Originally, Wires-X was not supported at all on the DR-2X. This was stated many times by Yaesu. The FAQ indicates the 2X will support the HRI-200 (direct connect) OR IMRS (Internet Multi-site Repeater link) option. It will not support both. The IMRS option sounds a lot like DMR IP Site Connect where repeaters are linked over the Internet using Talk group-like functionality. There is another promotional program offering a trade-in path from a DR-1X to a DR-2X for $300 without the site linking option and $500 with site linking. See the Yahoo Group as I don’t see this promotion information anywhere else.

DSQ (Digital Squelch, squelch code) is replaced by DG-ID (digital group ID). DSQ has caused controversy even locally because it is a global setting in the radio, not per channel. This is a real pain if two repeaters in the area choose different DSQ codes. I left it disabled on LEARA’s allowing any Fusion user to use the repeater. A DG-ID use-case example on a repeater: use the repeater locally might be DG-ID 71. To use two IMRS sites might be DG-ID 90, and all sites DG-ID 99. A DP-ID is a priority override or used for remote control of the system on the 2X only.

Fusion up to this point seems rushed, untested, and like most companies today, driven by marketing. The mentality being: ‘get it out now, fix it later.’ I really hope Yaesu gets their act together soon if they want Fusion to survive. This will likely require drastic business and management changes within the company. As I see it, Fusion survival requires fixing its perception, fixing the software issues, producing better quality devices/radios including extensive testing, and showing commitment to the community and developers by releasing protocol specifications or open-sourcing the technology.

Reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/amateurradio/comments/6t8t5z/yaesu_system_fusion_ii/

Yahoo Group (membership requires approval): https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/YaesuSystemFusion/info

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