Jan 26 2017

AMPRNet Public IP Space

For those who are unaware, public IP space (44.0.0.0/8) is available to licensed amateur radio operators.  This space is available in standard CIDR blocks (/29, /28, /27, etc).  It can be utilized in one of four ways:

  1. Radio
  2. Tunnel
  3. Direct
  4. Children

For a detailed description of each of these types, please visit the AMPRNet website: www.ampr.org

In my case, I applied for an received a /22 block of IP’s, which amounts to 1022 usable addresses.  This space can be subnetted down to smaller blocked and distributed throughout your Amateur Radio IP Network as needed.

I chose to go the Direct route (pun intended) which utilizes BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) to host the IP space.  This process involved requesting an LOA from AMPR, locating an on-line cloud provider who will support BGP peering (I used www.vultr.com at the recommendation of a fellow ham), configuring a router (I used vyos, https://vyos.io/, on a virtual machine), and then configuring BGP for my space.

Once this was complete, I built a VPN tunnel to another router in my home network.  In this case, it was another vyos instance and established an OpenVPN tunnel between the two.  Once the VPN tunnel was up and running, I built out an OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) router instance to bring the IP block in via the tunnel.  Most ISP’s that service the home will not let you peer BGP directly, hence all of the above.

As the project stands right now, I have a dummy interface configured on my home router and I’m able to ping it via the internet.  The plan is to replace all of my public-facing internet resources that are dedicated to Amateur Radio with one of these AMPRNet IP’s.

It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of frustration getting all this up and running.  Special thanks goes out to Stephen Brown (K1LNX) and Brian Walls (KD9GFX) for their assistance in figuring out exactly how to do this.  Until today, this was merely an idea we’d all shared and now it’s a reality!

More to come…….

 

Jan 06 2017

NF9K ARRL Technical Specialist Report – December 2016

Received an email comment via my website looking for assistance in programming a 33cm Motorola MTX9250.  After a primer on topics such as personalities, CPS modifications for ham band use, he was off to the races with his shiny new HT!
Finished building and testing a Raspberry Pi based EchoIRLP node for Steve Jones (W9SMJ).  I’m still waiting to meet up with him to deliver the final product, but he will be pleased.  I know he’s looking to get his node connected up to Randy Fisher’s node that I built a couple of months ago.
Worked with Randy (K9MMQ) up in Ft. Wayne on a port-forwarding sitiuation through his Ubiquiti Edge Router.  I will say, having been a firewall guy for 20+ years, they way the lay out their ACLs is very misleading.  But we were able to get things figured out and connect him up to various nodes and reflectors as a test.  As Hanibal Smith would say, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
Traded out internet devices at my primary DMR site in Indianapolis.  The Verizon box that was over there keep loosing connetivity.  I’ve back on a USB device and a CradlePoint router, which proved to be rock solid.  I’d taken the Verizon box over because it had the ability for two analog lines to be added and I was considering dorking around with a digital auto patch.  Also replaced the cooked Astron PS on the amplified.  I found a contiuous duty switcher on Amazon rated at 50A, so we’ll see how it works out.  So far, so good.
Worked with an IL ham an his openSPOT.  He was very interested in connecting in with our network and joining our weekly nets.  In order to facilitate his request, I needed to follow up on some open connectivity items between Crossroads and BrandMeister.  Luckily those guys remembered our discussions from ~6 months ago and we discovered most of it was partially build.  So a little tweaking and we were able to provide the connectivity requested.
Another website comment from a mother of a new ham with a brand new TYT MD380.  They were having issues getting it programmed.  I guided her through the process and also suggested she join our FB group where she was able to get multiple people on board to help her.
Attended the Grant County ARC Christmas Party where I was presented with a lifetime membership for my technical contributions to their organization.  Very unexpected, but very honored to have been given something like that.
Bought a Tera 7400 DMR HT.  This is the unit that you see Powerworx advertising.  So far, I’m pretty impressed.  It’s a Chinese radio, of course, however, it’s quite solid.  I like the black screen with the white letters and much like the hacked MD-380 firmware, you’re able to download the global DMR contact database and store it on the radio instead of having to enter it into CPS or mess around with kludgy import processes.  Of the cheaper DMR radios I own (Connect Systems, TYT, Zastone, etc.) the Tera 7400 is my favorite.  I believe it retails new with programming cable for around $275, so closer to the CS750 in cost, but in all things, you get what you pay for.
Helped the guys up in Homer, AK with some codeplug changes on their MD-380’s.  Things are progressing well up there.  Excitement is growing and they are learning!  I sort of wish I was a little closer to the action, but I am considering a trip up there at some point.

Received a website comment from a ham asking for assistance in upgrading the firmware on his DV Mega.  He was unclear about the modification required on the board and where to apply it.  I was able to provide him a link with the information he required and he was good to go.

Received an email from a Bulgaria Ham asking to collaborate with the XLX DSTAR Reflector I have up and running.  He’s wanting to experiment with the inter-connectivity.  Sometimes it amazes me at the request I get for help and more so where they come from….  But they find me somehow and I think that is pretty cool!
Repaired a small issue with the IRC website wherein the logo disappeared.  Very odd, the only thing I can think is that a URL got munged during one of the automatic updates.  Luckily the fix wasn’t too involved and it was back pretty quickly.  The rest of the site was fully functional, just no logo.
Helped one of the Homer, AK guys with his openSPOT and an understanding of what was connected and what was not.  He quickly picked up on things and was up and running in no time.
Began tinkering with the Arcom RC-210 web interface software.  I built a Pi based upon Rasbian/Jessie and have it connected up to my controller and ready for the software installation.  Unfortunately there are no docs available currently, so you pretty much have to pull it down from GitHub and wing it.  I’d hoped to get to this while I was on vacation, but I didn’t get any further than setting the node up.  Perhaps I’ll have more to share next month.
With the only networked DMR repeater in AK connected to our c-Bridge we are currently the hub for the Alaska Statewide (#3102) talkgroup.  The AK guys are open to sharing it with whomever and have requested to get it linked up to Brandmeister so that they can get on with their hotspots.  I’ve completed the work on our side and am waiting for the BM guys to do their thing.  We’re close, but at last test, it’s not working.  Hopefully that will be resolved soon.
Started talking to some other hams about a P25 network throughout IN.  I already own two Quantars (one on 33cm the other one 70cm) and just purchased an AstroTac 3000 Comparator to function as the central hub.  As you will recall from previous reports, I had successfully linked my 70cm Quantar to a similar setup down in KY.  It sounds as if we might be looking to duplicate what they are doing down there for IN.  This could get real fun, real fast.  I’m looking forward to the collaboration and the learning as we bring the various pieces into play.
That’s it for December!  Whew!  See you next month!

 

Dec 05 2016

NF9K ARRL Technical Specialist Report – November 2016

November was not as radio active due to vacation, the Thanksgiving Holiday and an impromptu business trip to South Carolina for work.  However, I did manage to generate some activity, so here goes:
 Obtained four TYT MD-380 DMR radios, flashed them with the MD380Tools firmware, using a Raspberry Pi, and got them shipped up to four very excited amateurs in Homer, Alaska.
 Performed some administration work on the IRC website, updating some out of date information, publishing minutes, etc.  Also re-worked some forms in order to support different email addresses for the IRC staff.
 Donated an unused 30′ tower to another local ham.  The tower was originally donated to me, and I was able to replace it with a 55′ one, so I paid it forward.
 Setup my openSPOT to connect to a home-brew SharkRF server and utilized the openSPOT all the way down to Gatlinburg, TN, connected to a USB cellular modem via a CradlePoint router.  This made for a very portable and dedicated means of communication.  I plan to do some additional work with the SharkRF server software, but was impressed with what I’ve seen thus far.
 At the request of our repeater trustees, the Crossroads Talkgroup (#8710) was extended to the K4USD DMR Network.  I worked with W2XAB to setup the necessary c-Bridge CC links to make this initiative a success.
 That’s pretty much it for November.  Looking forward to the latter part of December and taking some much needed time off.  I hope to kick start some stalled projects during that time.
 I wish everyone a very safe and very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

Nov 01 2016

NF9K ARRL Technical Specialist Report – October 2016

I received a new firmware to test for the the scan bug that I reported in BridgeCom’s 220Mhz Mobile.  Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to apply the new firmware, but hope to shortly.  From reading the info provided, they’ve fixed part of the issue I reported, which was while in memory scan, power cycling the radio lands you in VFO mode upon power up.  I’d also ask about having scan start back up, specifically for memory scan, but that might take them some more work.
I got bit by the Astron loose screw bug.  For those of you who are familiar with the larger Astron power supplies that have the screws in the top of the capacitor, you’re familiar with this issue.  This particular amplifier powered the amp on my DMR repeater.  The loose screw cause things to get a little warm, but I believe it can be repaired and put back in service.  It’s on the bench now with hopes of returning to service soon.
Received a website comment regarding my BlueDV project.  I was able to answer the questions posed as well as provide some insight regarding firmware upgrades to the DVMega boards.  For those interested in reading more: http://www.nf9k.net/?p=698
Upgraded a fellow ham’s Pi-based IRLP node to include functionality for Echolink.  Also order pieces to build another pi-based EchoIRLP node for another ham.  Those pieces should start to arrive shortly and I’ll start working on building that up.
I received my SharkRF openSPOT box.  For those not familiar with it is yet another hot spot solution, but what makes it different from the others (DV4Mini, DVMega) is that is can transcode one digital format to another.  So it’s possible to carry on a DMR QSO using your Fusion radio, for example.  You can also do DMR <-> CF4M, etc.  Very cool little package.  I haven’t had much of an opportunity to dig in yet, but do have it up and running.  You can read more here: https://www.sharkrf.com/products/openspot/learn-more/
Fixed a small cosmetic display issue with the IRC website.  Still not sure why it occurs, but thankfully it’s not service impacting.  I suspect something to do with the way the template is coded and the various browers that visit the site.
Fielded an initial website question regarding the new Alaska DMR repeater (more on that in a minute) which lead to an email exchange and a primer on DMR and other technologies, including DV4mini and reflector linking, etc.  There are a lot of folks out there working on many of the same projects and it’s great to collaborate and share knowledge/experience.  This particular ham is working on an MMDVM project, which I have partially built myself….  If only there were more time in a day.
The crowing achievement of the month was the installation of a DMR repeater in Homer, Alaska.  This project has been going on for several weeks.  I was initially contacted by a Indiana Ham who had sold one of his DMR repeaters to a ham in AK.  He wanted to know if I’d be interested in helping them get started and if they could join our network.  The answer of course was a resounding yes.  After many emails and a few phones calls, the c-Bridge programmed, the repeater configured and tested and shipped to AK.  An XPR7550 was shipped from AK to IN for initial programming, so they could have an example to work from and to provide a nice tool for learning.  All in all, many hours were logged by myself and one other ham here in IN and the local Hams in AK.  It all came together on Saturday, October 29th at 16:30EST when we held our first DMR QSO to the state of Alaska.  Since then, every time the guys key up on any of the wide-area talkgroups, they are getting mobbed by people from all of the country and in some cases the world.  DMR contacts with AK are quite the rage.  I continue to receive emails from the locals on how much they are enjoying this new mode of communication and how interest in continuing to flourish.  They’re already talking about bringing another machine online!  The next step for me will be to prepare four TYT MD-380 with the MD380Tools firmware as well as a Raspberry Pi with the scripts necessary to install the upgraded firmware so that they can do it on their own.  This has been so much fun and just goes to show what can be accomplished when you have the right folks involved.  Truly a team effort and my thanks to those involved that helped make this happen.
Well, that’s it for this month.  I wonder if it’ll be snowing by the time we’re all doing this again?

 

Oct 07 2016

NF9K Technical Specialist Report – September 2016

Received a website comment from a local amateur looking to use DMR to communication back to Franklin, IN, once he moves to Texas. I was able to help him by by explaining how the various DMR Network inter-connect and what TG’s he’d likely be able to find in common.

Responded to another website comment and helped a local amateur with programming his subscriber ID into his radio. He was using a template provided by someone else, but couldn’t find the ID setting.

Another website comment regarding the downloading of available code plugs. Help out by providing some instructions on how to accomplish the task.

Successfully linked my recently acquired UHF Quantar to a P25 Network in KY/TN. The connectivity is accomplished by using a wireline card with the v.24 daughter board in the repeater or a third party adapter if you do not have the v.24 card. You then interface that with a WIC-1T serial interface card on a Cisco router. The Cisco router is then configured for serial tunneling which connects in my case to an AstroTac 300 Comparator. Very cool setup, and the Cisco stuff is right up my alley. I loved it when I my work and hobby’s cross over. The repeater is still on the bench, but will begin finalizing antenna/tower this month and get it up in the air and in service.

I took the time to support the Amateur Radio Parity Act. While it no longer affects me, I did live for a number of years under a CC&R and would love for those hams still burdened by such a situation to get some relief.

Purchased and assembled a BlueDV unit. A very cool/small DMR/DSTAR interface that uses Bluetooth to an Android device or USB connectivity to its control application. More info can be found here: http://www.nf9k.net/?p=698

Received an email from a California Ham looking for assistance in interfacing an XPR8300 to an RC210 controller. We discussed the limitations of such a configuration, many of which he wasn’t aware of, but the design is what they’re going to use for now. I help him map out the various lines he’d need to get everything going.

Ordered an SharkRF OpenSpot device. Hopefully that’ll be in before next months report and I can provide some first-hand info. In the mean time, the device supports DMR (Brandmeister, DMRplus), D-Star (DCS, REF/DPlus, XRF/DExtra, XLX), System Fusion (FCS, YSFReflector) networks. And the biggest thing is it supports cross modem modes, allowing you to talk with your C4FM radio on DMR, and with your DMR radio on System Fusion networks. I’ve seen this in action and think it could really open some doors for cross-networks or allow people who have invested in one particular mode to access others without buying additional radios.

Updated the IRC website with new meeting minutes as well as new repeater directories and the various associated download files.

Began working on a NOAA weather alert interface that can be used on the Crossroads DMR network. I have the solution running on the bench, but still have some logistics to work through.

Had some connectivity issues at two of my DMR sites. Cellular internet is convenient but not nearly as reliable as wired. And the more rural you get, the less reliable things are. But I’m happy to report that impact was minimal and everything came back online after being rebooted.

Began working on an out-of-state DMR collaboration that has some promising opportunities. Hopefully things continue to develop and I’ll have more to share in the upcoming months.

I believe that’s it for September… Oh yeah, besides the fact I’m now a year older…. 73 until next month!

Sep 26 2016

BlueDV – DMR/DSTAR Interface

The BlueDV is a very small and portable DMR/DSTAR interface.  The whole piece is actually a combination of two parts, the BlueDV adapter and the DVMega board.  More details on the individual pieces later.  What appeals to me most about this solution is the size, and the interface, which runs on an Android phone or tablet and connects via Bluetooth or you can connect it via USB to a Windows machine running the software.  Since the interface is actually on a separate device, there is no need to worry about finding your IP or remoting into the device to make changes.  All configuration is done via the application interface.

There are three pieces to the BlueSpotDV (DVMega, BlueSpot Board and Case):

1). The DVMega Board – This comes in two flavors, a single band (70cm) and a dual band (2m/70cm). While dual band, it’s only one band at a time, because it’s a single serial interface. I initially chose the dual band because I travel for work and I figured it might be nice should I end up somewhere that 70cm wasn’t allowed. However, in hindsight, the dual band has been more heartache than I expected. I had to solder a wire on, to upgrade firmware, very few images readily support the dual band capability. The Maryland DSTAR was the only one I found at the time. You can get the DVMega board many places, but I bought mine from GigaParts:http://www.gigaparts.com/SearchResults.html?search=dvmega

2). The BlueSpot Board – Now called BlueDV due to a lega issue. This board attaches to the DVMega and provides the capability of running it in dongle (USB) mode, directly connected to a PC. Or you can put it in bluetooth mode and connect it to a phone/table and run it that way. With the v3.04 firmware that was recently released you’re able to do DMR, DSTAR and C4FM (Fusion). You can get the board here: http://www.combitronics.nl/index.php…

3). Case – There are so many great projects out there for Raspberry Pi and other platforms, but rarely does one of the component manufacturers offer a case. In this case (pun intended) you can order a case along with your BlueDV. Since I was ordering from the Netherlands, I figured I’d just get a case as well.

Assembly pretty much went just like the pictures I posted. The DVMega snaps into the case, the light pipe attachment sits onto of the BlueDV and provides a nice resting spot for the DVMega. Then you snap the top on.

Hope that helps. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Sep 08 2016

Tytera MD-380 Hack (MD380Tools) – Updated (Project moved to GitHub)

By now, everyone has heard of the hacked Tytera firmware, but application of it was tricky at best.  Recently I discovered a script that when run from a Raspberry Pi, makes the process painless.

The script was written by WH6AV.  I ran mine on an original Pi 2, because that’s what I had handy.  The compile process would likely have been faster on a newer model, but was still not too bad.

I actually ran it on a Pi that previously ran Asterisk using the RasPBX image, so no special requirements.  I also ran it as root, since it runs through apt-get update/upgrade and running as root just made it easier.

Login via SSH and run following command:

sudo apt-get install git -y

Wait for installation of GIT to complete. You will be back at CLI, command line interface prompt. Type the following:

sudo git clone http://github.com/wh6av/md380-radio

Wait for cloning to complete. You will be back at CLI. Type the following to change into md380-radio directory:

cd md380-radio

To execute program, type the following at CLI:

sudo ./md380-update

Just walk through the options.  You may skip those that reference the MMDVM.  To do the initial flash, you need to put the MD-380 in DFU mode, which is done by pressing the PTT and Top Side Button together and then turning on the radio.  The LED will flash red/green if you are successful.

One interesting feature of the new firmware is that contacts are stored in a users.csv file on the radio’s file system.  So I plan to keep the Pi around to update the radio from time to time.

Inside the MD380Tools menu option, you’ll find options for changing your Subscriber ID (think DMR-MARC ID), which could be handy if you need to let someone else use your radio and do not have the CPS/cable handy.

Please let me know if you discover any cool features as I’ve just begun to play myself.

Sep 07 2016

NF9K ARRL Technical Specialist Report – August 2016

Built a couple of different Raspberry Pi setup’s for use with a DV4Mini.  I utilized the official 7″ Pi touchscreen and two different stands.  One of the stands required modification of the config.txt file in the /boot partition to flip the screen 180 degrees.  The second stand did not require any modification.  Next was the task of getting the dv4mini control panel to run on the Pi.  There are binaries compiled for the Pi’s ARM architecture, but finding the most recent versions can be tricky.  I discovered some bugs in the ARM/64-bit version of dv_serial.  It appears that binary was compiled against the wrong platform.  The good news is that dropping back to the 32-bit version appears to work.  The last part was figuring out how to run the package from linux.  This was accomplished by installing the mono package, which is a cross-platform .NET framework.  I will be documenting the process as well as posting some pictures to my website soon.
I attended another VE Session with the WD9BSA Group on August 18th.  We tested six people, with a total of 8 exams administered resulting in three new Technicians and 1 General Upgrade.  This particular session held some new experiences for me as it was my first one in the role of Team Leader.  It was great to learn a little more about the process and how the back-end things work.
Received an email from an Illinois Ham seeking assistance on programming his EFJ 5100 for 33cm.  We exchanged several emails and I believe that I have him headed down the right path.  I’m certainly he’ll let me know if he requires additional help.  The next step may be to arrange a team viewer session to help him out.
Performed a lot of c-Bridge programming activities related to the roll-out of the Indiana Statewide Talkgroup #3118 to the Crossroads DMR Network.  We still have a bit of work to do, but it was rolled out to several repeaters without issue.  Many thanks to Steve Jones, W9SMJ for making this available!
Received a website comment from a ham looking for help/understanding on how he could make a cross-country trip and utilize DMR.  I gave him a primer of the technology as well as the various networks that might be in play across his decided path.  However, I believe it highly likely that he’ll find enough TG’s in common during his trip to make it successful as far as DMR goes.
Worked with the Laurel VEC to establish the N9AG VE Team with them.  Being affiliated with both the ARRL and Laurel helps us make the most out of our testing sessions as well as reach out to different audiences that otherwise might not attend a testing session.
Resources from the N9AG, IEN and WD9BSA VE Teams are looking for a central spot to potentially host a monthly evening VE session.  More on this as our plans develop.
Crossroads DMR finally reached the point where it was necessary to upgrade our c-Bridge from the 15 peer license to the 30 peer license.  The folks at BridgeComm were great to work with, as always, and facilitated a straight forward upgrade.
Minor work still continues on the IRC Email server, investigating email bounces, etc., but I’m happy to report that these efforts have dropped down to basic administration!
I think that’s it.  I’m already working on some hopefully cool P25 stuff to report next month.  Until then….

Aug 05 2016

NF9K ARRL Technical Specialist Report – July 2016

July was an interesting month.  I was able to do some work, but traveled to SSF for work the last week of the month.  I took two HT’s along with me giving me Analog, P25 and DMR UHF capabilities.  It was a good trip, but not a lot of time for playing around.

I was contacted by another ham preparing for a Boy Scout’s Radio Merit Badge session.  He’d found me online and I was able to share the material that I had.  Hopefully this will mean some new future hams joining the ranks down the road!

Finished what I hope is the final tweak to the IRC email server.  It’s been challenging to find functional free solutions.  We’ve done extensive testing on the latest server software, Axigen for those interested, and it seems to be able to meet the needs of the organization.

Updated the IRC’s website with a new repeater directory and make some corrections in the web page coding to correct a display anomaly.

Received a donated XPR8300 DMR repeater with a blown PA for a project.  This repeater was put into place to front-end my EchoIRLP <-> DMR interface.  With the implementation of this machine, the talk group can now be fully policed by the c-Bridge instead of it having the ability to stomp on TS1 of my Indy DMR repeater.  Additionally, I still have one time slot for experimentation.

Speaking of the EchoIRLP <-> DMR interface, I received an email from a Washington State Ham regarding the now and how the interface was setup.  I was able to share some information with him as well as some advice on how he can access my existing node.

I also finally figured out my cron issue with the EchoIRLP node….  I know have a cron job setup to connect the node to the Good Morning Net.  The issue was I’d failed to establish required environment variables before my bash script was executed by cron.  With help, I was able to identify the need for the environment and a little tweaking to the crontab and I was golden!  Very nice to have this thing running!

Attended both days of the Indianapolis Hamfest.  This was the first time it was two days for as long as I can remember.  Ed, K3HTK and I, setup two vendor tables and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I’m not real sure if I came home with more stuff that I went with or not, but I did sell a few items.

While at the ham fest, I was contacted by a member of the Ham Fest Association to help them with an online web form for their online orders.  I through together a simple example and plan to continue to work with them to get things functioning the way they need.

Experienced a power supply failure on the amp of my Indy DMR repeater.  I expected this as the PS I was using was one of those small JetStream switching units.  It’s since been swapped out with an Astron 35A continuous duty unit.  The good news is that Ed (K3HTK) discovered a fried cap in the unit he pulled while I was out in SSF.  After hearing his report, I checked another unit that I had and sure enough, a fried cap.  So hopefully the unit I have can be repaired.  Ed has already fixed the unit he pulled for me.

That’s it for July…..  73!

 

May 09 2016

A good read….

ARRL Lab HT Testing

I know they are cheap and very tempting to those who may be financially challenged.  However, the old adage of, “you get what you pay for,” has never been more true.

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