Oct 21 2014

DMR Repeater Update

The repeater is up and running on the bench running at low power into a dummy load.  It is currently peered with Randy Fisher’s 443.100 machine in Ft. Wayne to take part in their initiatives for a state-wide system.

 

I’m hoping to get the external antenna up at the QTH this weekend.  The antenna and mount should be here this week.  There is also the possibility that the machine may move to a much higher profile site, but that is still developing.

 

I’ve programmed up my SL7550 for it and while I’m home, I will be monitoring the various talk groups via my machine.  So far, so good.  It’s humming along.

Oct 20 2014

New DMR Radios

I’m the happy owner of the following Motorola DMR Radios:

  • XPR7550
  • SL7550

 

As I get some time, I will post a “review” thread on each.  Right now I have the XRP7550 programmed up for the DMR-MARC repeater (W9AMT) and the SL7550 is programmed up for both the W9AMT machine and my machine running on the bench.  As I continue to work out the details I will be updating code plus appropriately.

Oct 19 2014

New DMR Repeater

I will be receiving a Motorola XPR8400 this week.  It’ll spend some time on the bench, but as soon as I can get an antenna up and duplexers tuned, I’ll be putting it on the air.  Right now, my network affiliation is up in the air, as I’m not sure if I’m going to hop on board the DMR-MARC network since we already have another high profile repeater there.  I’ve been looking at the DCI network.

 

I will update this post as I make progress.  I intend to get the repeater up and running and joined to the network, but will likely run it from the bench into a dummy load for a few days while I work out any bugs.

 

Frequency coordination is also pending and subject to change.  See the repeater info page for details.

Oct 17 2014

Kirisun DP770

As part of my exploration of DMR and my quest to play with as many radios as possible, I picked up the Kirisun DP770 from ebay.  Overall the radio has a solid feel.  The CPS is freely available, but be careful as the manufacturers website only has 1.5x posted, yet other hobby sites have 1.8x.  I had issues initially with the 1.5x which were resolved by the 1.8x.  Just odd that the manufacturers website had an old version.

 

The display was nice, but I noticed that when scanning, the radio would lock onto an active talk group, but the radio would not display the unit ID.  It displayed fine when not scanning, so I’m guessing this was a firmware bug of some sort.

 

One cool feature is that the entire configuration can be exported to an XML file and you can freely edit it, and then import it back in.  This makes it nice for making bulk changes such as adding a large number of contacts and or zones/channels.  But, as when editing any XML file, BE CAREFUL.  One comma in the wrong place, and the import will fail.  So using proper caution, this is a good avenue for configuration.

 

The DP770 uses the same programming cable as the Motorola XPR6550.  Since the seller failed to ship my radio with the cable, that was a major plus, as I already had the cable on-hand.

 

Ultimately I returned this radio to the seller.  Since they were having issues providing all of the items that were included with the auction and the radio ID display behavior while scanning that I noted above, I just didn’t care to keep the radio.  Additionally, as I understand it, Kirisun has been purchased by another company, so at this point, it’s a real unknown as to what the future both for the radio as well as development/support.

Oct 13 2014

Hytera DMR Radio Reviews

I have three Hytera DMR radios.  The MD782G Mobile, PD782G HT and the PD362 micro-HT.

 

MD782G

This is a nice mobile.  Unlike the XPR4550 is has a color LCD screen, affording you a little more information in an easier to read format.  Beyond that, the radio is very similar to the XPR4550 in form factor and feature set.  I plan to make this my primary mobile in my vehicle and put the XPR4550 with it’s separation kit in the XYL’s car.  There is also a remote separation kit for the MD782G, but it runs ~$300.  I’m not sure why it’s so expensive.  I plan to investigate at some point.

One slightly annoying think is that the Hytera’s all display an “End of Call” notification when the repeater closes squelch.  Even though you don’t hear the squelch close, it’s the best way that I can explain it.  On your traditional analog amateur repeater, we’re used to hearing the courtesy tone followed by a short squelch tail.  Imagine that at the end of the squelch tail the radio would display “End of Call.”  It also beeps when ending the call, but I was able to find a software setting to turn that tone off, which makes this notification significantly more tolerable.

The programming cable for this radio ran me ~$50, but I think I could have bought it for a little less, maybe $35ish.  YMMV.

 

PD782G

This is basically the portable version of the MD782G.  Very similar to program and very similar in feature set and operation.  Right now this is my primary DMR carry HT.

Like the MD782G, the programming cable for the PD782G ran me around $20.

 

PD362 – Currently For Sale! ($275 + FedEx shipping for radio, programming cable, CPS, charger and holster)

This is the micro-HT.  It is slightly bigger than your average cell phone.  Very nice little package.  However, smaller package in this case equals less features.  The shortcomings as I see them:

  • Only two RX Group Lists.  So even if you’re not scanning you’re pseudo scanning because the channel you’re on will receive any talkgroup that is in the RX Group List.  In the other radios, you’re allowed multiple RX Group Lists, allowing you to place each talkgroup in it’s own list and assign that to a given channel.  Thus if you’re not scanning and are sitting on that one talkgroup, you’re going to only receive that one talkgroup.  I don’t know if this is a hardware limitation or a firmware limit and if anything can be done about it.
  • The end of call tone cannot be turned off.  You can work around this by turning all tones off, but then you lose keypad, talk permit and all other tones.  I’ve done this in hopes that they will develop a firmware update to allow more selective control of the tones.
  • No nuisance delete option when scanning.
  • For some reason this radio used a special CPS as opposed to the MD782G and the PD782G which use the same CPS.  It is somewhat limited and does not allow the import of contacts like the previous two radios.

Those are my two biggest complaints with the radio.  Beyond that, I love the form factor.  The belt clip could be improved to have a spring loaded clip vs. a molded one.

The programming cable in included with the radio.  So once you locate the CPS, you’re ready to go.

 

Hytera CPS and Firmware are freely available from dealers as I understand it.  But you have to find a dealer willing to give it to you.  You cannot download it form their website without becoming a partner and the qualification for partner requires credit applications, minimum purchases, etc.  Not something the average Ham is going to mess with.  As with Motorola the CPS can be found in the wild as well as the Firmware upgrades, but it does take a bit of searching.

One cool feature is the ability to import a Excel contact list into the software.  There are some nuances to preparing the contact list, but once you do it, it does make it easy.  I have a spreadsheet used to prepare the contacts I pull from the N6DVA website.  One important note:  In you want to import 50 contacts, then your exported spreadsheet must also contain 50 contacts.  Otherwise it just won’t work.  And no error message is generated to tell you why.  I wrestled with this for a couple of days before getting it all figured out.

While the Hytera CPS does all some copy and paste operations, it’s not nearly as nice as the MotoTRBO software.

Oct 13 2014

Motorola DMR Radio Reviews

As mentioned previously, I have two Motorola DMR Radios.  The XPR6550 HT and the XPR4550 Mobile.  Here are my thoughts on each:

 

XPR6550

I have nothing that I dislike about this radio.  It is a compact rugged unit that has all the features that one could ask for.  If I could ask for anything it would be a larger display, but then one could just say, go buy an XPR7550 (albeit at twice the price!).  The unit I have has an IMPRES battery and charger.

I paid ~$60 for my OEM programming cable.

 

XPR4550

Again, a real rock solid mobile.  It is rather larger, though so mounting might be a bit of a challenge.  I was able to locate a remote separation kit for it, however.  Be careful if you’re shopping for one, because the remote mount comes in two pieces.  The head mount and the remote radio face place and a cable kit.  If you look carefully you’ll find package deals with both pieces going for about the same price as the single kit.  If I had to pick something I didn’t like about the XPR4550, it would be the orange emergency button is on of the regularly programmable function buttons.  After nearly 20 years as an LEO, I purposely do not program the orange button on any of my radios, because it has been instilled in my that it is an EMERGENCY button and that’s it.  However, there is a button kit out there that will allow you to re-purpose that button for something else.  I think the kit cost me less than $10 shipped.

The programming cable ran ~$50.

 

The only downfall to these radios, is the same that befalls all Motorola radios.  The requirement to purchase a CPS license to program them.  While you can find copies on the wild internet, these are not legal for use and as of CPS 8.5, they only program narrow band.  So if you plan to mix analog repeaters with your DMR channels, you’re stuck at 12.5KHz spacing.  You can get an entitlement key to enable 25KHz spacing, but part of that process is verifying that you have a valid MOL account and a valid/current CPS license.  At last look the MotoTRBO CPS was $265 for three years of coverage/support.  So purchasing the MotoTRBO software will allow you to download CPS updates, firmware updates and get support for a period of three years for the entire line of MotoTRBO gear.  When you think about it, that’s less than $8 per month.  But when some manufacturers give away their software, that has some appeal.

The Motorola CPS does have a very good copy and paste operation, making it easy to move configuration items between radios.  Out of all the radios I’ve played with thus far, the MotoTRBO CPS is superior.

Another Motorola CPS note:  Once you write to a radio with say v10.0 of the CPS, all earlier versions can no longer read the radio.  This is important to remember when purchasing a used radio online.  It’s always good to know what version of CPS is was last programmed with.  Of course, with a legal license for CPS, you can just go to the Motorola website and download the needed version.  As with anything, the most recent isn’t always the best.

Oct 12 2014

CSI CS-700 Review

The CS-700 by CSI is a very capable radio and at a price point of $180 is perfect for someone looking to explore DMR.  The $180 price is only available directly from CSI and only to licensed amateurs.

 

Another bonus of the CS-700, the USB guts of the programming mechanism are in the radio, not the cable.  So while you fabricate your own cable, I would highly recommend buying one when you order your radio for the whopping price of $5.  Programming software is freely available on the CSI website.  There is a YouTube video on the programming process.  It is quite well done.  You can find it here.  I purchased my radio while on vacation, and downloaded the software from their website.  Following the directions in the video, I had my code plug ready before my radio ever arrived.  My radio was waiting for me when I got home, and I dropped my code plug into it and I was on the air.  This is a bit different because Motorola requires you to read a radio before programming it.  You can’t just create a new file.  This was a welcome change.

 

For those familiar with the Motorola XPR6500 series, you’ll notice a lot of similarities.  From the startup and power down messages to the tones played for each of those actions.  The menu is practically identical to the 6500 as well.  The radio is not a Motorola, however.

 

Battery life is good and the radio comes with a drop-in, rapid charger.

 

The best thing about this radio, is you can get support from a Yahoo Group or directly from CSI.  When I ordered my radio, I spoke directly to Jerry Wanger, CEO.

Oct 05 2014

DMR radios I have experience with

In my exploration of DMR, I’ve owned the following radios:

 

Motorola

  1. XPR6550
  2. XPR4550
  3. XPR7550
  4. SL7550

 

Hytera

  1. PD362 – For Sale: $275
  2. MD782G
  3. PD782G

 

Connect Systems

  1. CS700 – Amateur Radio Operator price is $180 direct from CSI.  If you’re a licensed Amateur, do not buy it anywhere else and pay more!

 

Kirisun

  1. DP770

 

As I get some more experience and use these radios in various ways, I’ll post more about each one.  If you have any questions about a particular radio, I’m happy to answer what I can.

Oct 05 2014

NF9K September 2014 Technical Specialist Report

September was a bit of a slow month due to our regular vacation to Gatlinburg, TN and a business trip to South San Francisco.  However even with losing two weeks out of the month I still found some time for experimentation.

 

DMR, or Digital Mobile Radio, is a new mode that seems to be growing like wild fire.  Others may recognize MotoTrbo which is Motorola’s take on DMR.  While stlll maintaining basic compatibility with non-Moto gear, there are features that may not work when using non-Moto radios with Moto repeaters.  However, I have yet to find any such incompatibilities.

 

Indianapolis got it’s first DMR repeater online while I was on vacation.  It’s a UHF machine on 441.200+ (Color Code 1) and has fairly good coverage.  As this repeater participates in the DMR-MARC network, it is a Motorola Repeater.  The DMR-MARC Network currently only allows Motorola repeaters (XPR8300, XPR8400, etc.) to join because other manufacturers (Hytera for example) do not have a compatible version of their IP Site Connect.  Additionally the MARC stands for Motorola Amateur Radio Club, so even if a Hytera repeater were compatible, I’m not sure the politic would allow it to join, but there are talks of trying to do just that.

 

The interesting thing about DMR is that it takes a standard repeater frequency pair and splits it to two time slots via TDMA.  So a stand alone repeater is capable of carrying two simultaneous voice/data channels at one time.  Those times slots can be further split up into talk groups, although only on given talk group can be active at a given time.  The standard offering here in Indiana looks like this:

 

TS1:

TG1 – Worldwide

TG3 – North Amertica

TG13 – Worldwide English

TG310 – TAC-310

 

TS2:

TG2: Local

TG719: Eastern Indiana

TG3118: Indiana Statewide

TG3169: Midwest Regional

 

For this who are carefully playing at home, you’re probably wondering how two time slots and eight talk groups work.  The answer is as you suspect, only one talk group can be active on a time slot at any given time.  So while tie model is a based a bit on over subscription, what I see happening is that the broad contacts are made on TS1 and perhaps then transitioned to TS2.  I’ve been playing with DMR for the last two weeks and have found it enjoyable and rarely have I been “bonked” when trying to use the system.

 

I’m currently working with several radios including:

Motorola XPR6550 Handheld

Motorola XPR4550 Mobile

Connect Systems CS700 Handheld  (Available to licensed amateurs for $180)

Hytera PD362 Mini Handheld

Hytera MD782G Mobile

Hytera PD782G Handheld (still on it’s way)

Kirisun DP770 Handheld (still on it’s way)

 

My experience has shown the mode to offer very reliable and good quality voice with great range.  I’ve done a lot of ops from an HT with a stubby duck inside of a car miles from a repeater with great results.

 

For those of you who might be experimenting, I’m usually monitoring the Local TG2 on the W9AMT repeater.  And in the spirit of things, if you have any questions regarding the mode or specifically any of the radios I’ve worked with, please feel free to let me know.  I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.  I’m also updating my website on a regular basis with my findings.

 

Let’s hope by this time next month we’d not putting down the HT’s and picking up the snow shovels!

Sep 27 2014

Radios for Sale!

Clearing out my inventory to make room for some new DMR gear.

 

Wouxun KG-UV6D

 

Kenwood TK-481-1 900MHz Radio

 

Motorola XTS 3K/5K Advanced XTVA

 

Motorola Saber 2 UHF

 

Motorola HT-1000 UHF (2)

 

Motorola DTR 550 (2)

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