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)

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.

To get started enter the following commands into a linux shell prompt:

  1. wget -N
  2. chmod +x md380-update
  3. 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.

May 07 2016

NF9K Technical Specialist Report – April 2016

I never, ever, want to move again! So much still in tubes, boxes, etc. With any luck, we’ll make the last run to the old place for the biggers stuff and can start thinking about getting it on the market.

I’m still getting settled in the new home and getting the shack back together.  As the shack is located in the lower level of the new home, coax runs are a bit of a challenge. As of this writing, I have a four inch hole drilled in the wall out to the brick. As soon as time/weather permits, I’ll punch through the brick and insert a PVC pass-through and get some antennas outside. Believe me, I’m ready.

I started down the road to convert my 33cm Quantar to P25. Alas, it appears that I need to upgrade the ROMs on my SCM, wireline card and my exciter module. Luckily, I’ve located a source for the upgraded ROMs and am working out a deal to get the parts or maybe just ship the boards off and let the guy upgrade the ROMs and align everything as neither of my service monitors do P25. Once this is complete, the repeater will join up with the Quantar Site Connect network. This particular network intrigues me because of its use of Cisco routers to make the connections. Serial Tunneling or STUN. Something new to me, and I’m excited to take what is normally the source for my daily bread and butter (Cisco Networking) and bring it into my favorite past-time.

One other similar crossing of my full-time with my hobby… A Motorola employee and fellow ham who maintains part of the TN statewide public safety network reached out for some Cisco asssitance in linking two of their sites via two routers and a serial tunnel. Very similar to the Quantar Site Connect. Due to the age of the gear they were trying to use, EOL (end of life) in 2008, I recommended either upgrading to something newer or falling back on another option for connectivity. As always seems to be the case with public safety, the funds were not there, so they stepped back to a fractional T1 for now. It was still a very cool opportunity to learn something about how they do things and I was honored to be able to lend my expertise.

Work continues on the IRC website/back end systems. The original email system proved to be less that expected, so we migrated to a different platform this past month. It’s always a challenge to provide feature rich functionality for zero cost. Luckily, I’m able to piggy back onto existing systems that I already use in order to make this happen. Of course, there is always more than one way to do things, so we’ll keep on it. I believe we will finally be able to put the email situation to bed. The repeater directory was updated and some miscellaneous posts to the website as well.

Investigated a local radio code plug issue for a local ham. After an initial look, all appeared to be normal and I continue to work with him to determine what might be the cause of the issues/symptoms that he’s reporting.

Two hams traveling through Indy reached out looking for a way to stay in touch back home via the Crossroads DMR network. Due to affiliations with multiple networks, in each case, we were able to find a common talkgroup to accomplish what they were looking to do. Very cool to be able to help out fellow hams in such a fashion.

Worked with a TN Ham on an interface of the AllStarLink network into a FreePBX system.  FreePBX is exactly what the name implies. It is an open source PBX (phone) system based upon Asterisk and running on linux.  I’ve used it in various capacities over the years, but this was the first real foray into Ham Radio, beyond what I’d done in the past with AllStarLink. Once our work is finished, endless possibilities exist from being able to dial into a repeater/talkgroup, etc., to trunking that traffic between sites via a SIP (session initiation protocol) trunk, etc.

I bought a couple of Stick PC’s. One by Lenovo and the other by Intel. I’m using these in the shack to control a unitrunker display and a local radar display. These things are pretty cool and about the size of a couple of packs of gum. Each has a quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, and 32GB storage along with a micro-SD slot. Both run Windows 10 out of the box. I’m still working on exactly how hard I can work them, but they are doing what I need. I am only able to get one RTL2832 SDR to work, but I hope that additional power to the USB hub will fix that problem. Now if I can only remember which box my USB hub power adapter is in…..

Consulted with a long-time friend who is interested in becoming licensed. We sat down over lunch and discussed the various aspects of the hobby and I’m happy to report that he’s planning on attending the WD9BSA Testing Session on 5/14. So hopefully next month I will report that we have new ham among the ranks.

Continued to experiment in various capacities with the DR-1X Fusion Repeater, DV4Mini, and P25. No major earth shattering initiatives or discoveries thus far, maybe next month…..

I think that about wraps it up.  Until next month!

Apr 07 2016

Repeater Frequency Changes

Due to our recent move from N/W Indianapolis to just west of Noblesville, I’m now located too close to some neighboring repeaters.  I’m working with the Indiana Repeater Council to re-coordinate new frequencies for the three machines located at my QTH.  Additionally the IRC is requiring PL tones based upon geography, so that will be changing as well.


Here are the proposed frequencies as of this point in time:

  • 70cm Analog: 444.625+, PL: 151.4 (Old Frequency was 442.850)
  • 33cm Analog/P25: 927.5375-, PL 151.4/NAC 293 (Old Frequency was 927.0125)
  • 70cm Analog/Fusion: 441.575+, PL 151.4/DSQ 69


Due to the frequency changes I’ll have to retune duplexers, etc.  I hope to start bringing the repeaters back online very soon.

Apr 04 2016

ARRL Technical Specialist Report – March 2016

I think Spring’s spring is frozen, because it certainly hasn’t sprung!  March was a very busy month for me, as we moved from the NW side of Indy to the Noblesville area.  Despite all of the move activities, I still found some time for amateur radio.  I’m still working on getting things setup in the shack and am currently operating a very modest setup off of a folding table.

Had an email Q&A session with one of our TS’s regarding DMR basics.

Resubmitted my repeater coordinations to the IRC.  Due to the move and the shift in distance, my 70cm and 33cm machines will be changing frequencies.  At this point, I believe we’ve identified new frequencies and are going through the process.  Additionally a new frequency was assigned for my fusion machine.

I finished up the IRC email server and successfully tested it.  All seems to be going well there.  We continue to work on the website to ensure that it’s up-to-date and useful.  The online repeater directory had been updated as of 4/3/2016.

Received in inquiry from a local ham regarding Broadband Hamnet and how much activity is in the Indy area.  Ed (K3HTK) and I have been unsuccessful in sparking any major interest, but perhaps this is an opportunity.  All big things start small….

Began the process of upgrading my 33cm Quantar to P25.  I’ve purchased the wireline interface board for the repeater and have the WIC-1T card for the Cisco router as well as the DCE cable.  Currently working on upgrading the SCM and Wirelink cards in order to support P25.  Once this is complete, the repeater will join the Quantar Site Connect network.  I’m really looking forward to exploring P25 and the new network.

As part of my P25 exploration, I’ve also had to do some research on P25 mobiles/portables.  I currently only have a single radio (EFJ 5100) capable of P25.  So when I move my Quantar to P25, I’ll be looking at the XTL line of mobiles to replace my Kenwood TK-981’s.

Making arrangements to help an Indiana Ham with the re-programming of his XPR6550.  Since he doesn’t have the cable/software, I’m going to meet up with him near the office one afternoon and get him squared away.

That’s about it for March.  Looking forward to some warmer weather and getting some antennas in the air at the new location.

73 until next month!  de NF9K

Mar 06 2016

ARRL Technical Specialist Report – February 2016

Spent a lot of time last month finishing the closing on our new home and preparing for the big move.  As I write this I’m sitting on the couch in our new place in Noblesville with some seriously sore muscles.  A lot done, but still work to do.  Despite all of the house action, I still found time for the hobby, so here we go:

Assisted a local amateur who tracked me down via my website with some DMR radio configuration.  With a little nudging in the right direction, he was able to program some channels on his own as well as the DMR Simplex configuration.

Continued work on the IRC website….  We continue to make improvements and have received a lot of positive feedback.

Bought a Yaesu FT2DR HT to play around with the Fusion repeater I purchased late last year.  Very interesting HT, and the touch screen is pretty slick.  Still working on learning the nuances of the Fusion Network.  I horse-traded for the HRI-200 box, which is required to connect the repeater.  After dealing with software issues, etc., I was finally able to get connected and stay connected.  Ed (K3HTK) and I are keeping our UHF systems connect via Fusion for the time being while we explore the options available.

Provided some DMR support for a new user out of Hartford City.  He had enough questions that we decided to get together on the phone to discuss.  Of course the questions he came with ended up spawning other questions.  I think we spent about 90 minutes on the phone, but he walked away from the conversation with a better understanding of how things work.

Received a comment via my website from a Canadian Ham.  He’d found my post about the EF Johnson 5100’s on 33cm and had a software question.  Pretty cool to get requests for help from outside our country!

Participated in a VE Session with the Boy Scouts on 2/13.  Shortly there after I was ask to teach a class in April for the Radio Merit Badge.  So if you’re a scout and are attending this years University of Scouting, look me up, I’ll be there!

Received my MMDVM board, which when combined with an Arduino Due will allow me to build a DMR Repeater out of two analog mobiles.  Due to our move, I unfortunately did not get to dig into this project in time for this report, so hopefully I’ll have something to share next month.

During the Month of February the NA Hytera DMR repeater owners split off of the German written and maintained DMRPlus network.  They are hopping on board with the BrandMeister folks, who have a vendor agnostic solution for DMR networks.  This changed the way some talkgroups were carried from the DMRPlus network.  I’m still hearing traffic from that side, so I guess time will tell what the future holds.

Setup a new email server for the IRC.  Once we’ve moved everything over, this will complete our transition of all online resources from the previous host/webmaster.

Answered some Motorola DMR Radio model questions from a Pennsylvania Ham.  He was confused by the various band splits available and was looking to get some answers before he made a purchase.

Started looking into AMPRNet who provides public IP blocks from a Class-A IPv4 address space that was set aside for amateur radio operators.  I requested and was granted a /22 block of IP’s that I plan to use for part of my IP network that are ham radio related.  You only have three options for delivery of your granted IP space and those include Radio, Tunneling or BGP (border gateway protocol).  I’m currently working on the tunneling optioin, but may setup a linux based BGP router and go that route.

Answered some questions from an NC Ham who discovered my work with the TransTRBO dispatch software.  I was able to answer a few of his questions and referred him back to the software author for the remaining ones as they were regarding a manner in which I have not used the software.

Learned about a new Raspberry Pi model coming out which has built in Wifi and Bluetooth!  And it’s still only $35.  Amazing.  Perhaps I’ll find enough time in March to try and pick one up and can share more next month.

Answered some questions from one of our very own Technical Specialists regarding DMR.  Answered them as well as additional questions that came up as they often do.  So we’ll see if we hear him on the digital side, but what am I saying he’s a big CW Op… The Original Digital Mode…..

Started the process to move my analog machines to Noblesville.  Unfortunately the >20 mile move has moved me within the 100 mile radius that the IRC likes to keep between machines, so I’m looking at having to change frequencies on both my 70cm analog and 33cm analog machines….  The 70cm frequency I’ve had since the late 90’s…..

That’s it for February….  73 until next month!

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