Feb 08 2015

NF9K DMR Repeater – New Home!


At 11:00am this morning, WA9FDO, N9DOO, K9DKC and I set about installing my DMR repeater in its new location.  It took us about 90 minutes to get everything put in, cabled up and tested.  This time also included relocating another unrelated feed line.

The 9dB gain antenna is sitting at 250′ and I’m getting 24W out of the duplexers, so that’s an ERP of about 120W.

Here are some pictures taken today and a new coverage map:

 


 

20150208_112313

Here is the machine and duplexers installed in the rack.


FullSizeRender

Here I am doing a quick test.  Thanks to K9DKC for taking this picture without warning!


antenna location

This picture shows the location of the antenna (inside the red circle).


Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 7.11.46 PM

This is what the coverage should look like.  I’m interested in hearing from you regarding its accuracy!


Feb 05 2015

NF9K DMR Repeater Talkgroup Configuration

Talkgroup Name Talkgroup ID Time Slot Status PTT-On Timer Hold-off Timer Notes
EchoIRLP 63951 1 Full-Time N/A 4 IRLP Node #8154/Echolink NF9K-L (815131)
Local-1 3181 1 Full-Time N/A 5 True local talkgroup on TS 1
Local-2 3166 2 Full-Time N/A 5 True local talkgroup on TS 2
DCI Comm-1 3777215 1 Full-Time N/A N/A Open wide-area NATS talkgroup on timeslot 1
DCI Comm-2 3777216 2 PTT-Activated 15 3 Open wide-area NATS talkgroup on timeslot 2
DCI Bridge 3100 2 Full-Time N/A N/A Wide-area NATS inter-tie for c-Bridge connected repeaters on timeslot 2
CA Statewide 3106 1 PTT-Activated 30 3 Ohio Statewide as distributed by NATS – NEW 2/10/2015
MA Statewide 3125 1 PTT-Activated 30 3 Ohio Statewide as distributed by NATS - NEW 2/10/2015
MI Statewide 3126 1 PTT-Activated 30 3 Michigan Statewide as distributed by NATS
OH Statewide 3139 1 PTT-Activated 30 3 Ohio Statewide as distributed by NATS
WA Statewide 3153 1 PTT-Activated 30 3 Washington Statewide as distributed by NATS - NEW 2/10/2015
TAC-1 8951 2 PTT-Activated 15 3 TAC-1 is a talkgroup distributed worldwide by NATS
TAC-310 310 2 PTT-Activated 15 4 TAC 310 is a North America English language talkgroup distributed by NATS
TAC-311 311 2 PTT-Activated 15 3 TAC 311 is a North America English language talkgroup distributed by NATS
TAC-E 123 2 PTT-Activated 15 3 Worldwide English TAC talkgroup distributed by NATS
Parrot 9998 1 PTT-Activated 1 0 DMRLink's Echo server for testing your audio
Audio Test 9999 2 PTT-Activated 5 2 NorCal's VU Meter (only works in Chrome) talkgroup for testing user audio

Jan 31 2015

January 2015 ARRL Technical Specialist Report

Well, 2015 is off to a running start…..

I’m happy to report that I’ve emerged with most of my sanity intact after going through he process to setup a Motorola Online Account in order to purchase the MotoTRBO (DMR) CPS.  I had to actually take a narrow-banding training course before they would grant me an entitlement for the 25KHz channel spacing in the software.  And then go through the whole process of getting my account updated to reflect said training.  But all is done now and I’m quite glad!

So the DMR adventure continues.  January found me removing my machine from the DMR-MARC network and joining with the DCI network.  Since we already have a high-profile repeater on the DMR-MARC network here in Indy and with the imminent move of my machine to a high-profile site only about four miles away, it just made sense.  Additionally, I’m all about offering up a rich DMR experience to Indy and the surrounding areas.  Assuming all continues on course, my DMR machine will be moving in the very near future to a tower site with a 9dB gain antenna at 290’….  Quite excited.

And with a new tower location comes…..  drum roll please…..  The awesome experience of performing an intermod study!   This particular site had ~99 frequencies and we needed to do runs out to the 5th order.  I searched high and low and could not find a decent free program to perform this type of operation on so many frequencies.  There were, of course, options costing several hundred dollars and up…..  At the end of the day, I received some much appreciated help from Jim Keeth (AF9A).  He was able to do some Excel magic that calculated everything I needed and had an output acceptable to the tower owners.  So hats off to Jim for the helping hand!

The DCI DMR network offers what they refer to as an Open IPSC (IP Site Connect) Master for people wishing to sample their network without committing.  This particular Master comes with a de-facto set of talk groups broad enough to give a prospective member more than a taste of what they have to offer.  So my repeater was joined to this “trial” Master and I set about reprogramming my inventory of DMR radios (no small task).

I wasn’t on the DCI network for too long before I realize that I was looking for something more permanent with a more customized feel as far as TG selection.  So I worked with Mike Shirley (NO7RF) and he built out an Indiana Master on his c-Bridge for those of us looking to join up.  Mike has been a fantastic resource and has been very responsive to requests/questions as I explored their network.

For those not familiar with Motorola IPSC, there is a hard-limit of 15 repeaters that can be connected together.  Two companies, BridgeCom Systems and Rayfield Communications have developed a software package called a c-Bridge.  This piece of software allows up to 45 peers on a single c-Bridge.

So I set out to acquire a c-Bridge and it was long afterwards I’d settled on their option for a virtual model instead of purchasing their hardware appliance.  So off I went to build a CentOS 5.10 (yeah, very old version) VM on VMWare ESXi.  Their documentation failed to indicate whether I should opt for 32-bit or 64-bit CentOS, so I went for 64-bit, which proved to be a mistake.  After installing the software package and attempting to start the daemon, it promptly failed.  A quick check of the log files showed some missing openssl libs.  Due to not being familar with their software, I was hesistant to upgrade the openssl pacakge in fear of breaking other dependancies.   At that point, I made a few inquiries and llearned that they are just now testing 64-bit.  So I rebuilt the VM with 32-bit CentOS and it’s up and running.

So that brings me current with the DMR techie stuff.  I now have the first DMR c-Bridge in Indiana and will be establishing bridge partner ships with NATS (DMR Core Talkgroup Server Project) as well as (hopefully) DMR-MARC and NC-PRN networks to offer a wide variety of TG options to those repeaters that choose to join up with my bridge.

I wrapped up January’s DMR efforts by participating in a presentation of DMR to the Michiana Amateur Radio Club in South Bend.  Tony Tolbert (W9AMT), Brent Walls (K9CFE), and Steve Jones (N9KYB) and I made the trek up north to present to ~40 people.  It was a great success and hopefully we’ll see a DMR machine pop up in that area in the not-too-distant future.

Ed (K3HTK) and I had a football/Geek out day where our major accomplishment was converting his EchoIRLP node from a micro-computer over to Raspberry Pi platform.  It was a great day, even if the football was a little disappointing.  I also sold Ed a DMR mobile to add to his shack, which gave me the funds to purchase an XPR5550.  Looking forward to playing with a new radio soon.  More on that next month…..

I’ve received some comments via email/my website surrounding DMR (I know, imagine that) and some future computer assistance to various Hams across central Indiana.

So I guess I’ll sign here and see about getting some French Toast supplies for Snowpocalypse 2015.

Jan 29 2015

ARLB004 FCC “Paperless” Amateur Radio License Policy Goes into Effect on February 17

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB004
ARLB004 FCC “Paperless” Amateur Radio License Policy Goes into
Effect on February 17

ZCZC AG04
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 4  ARLB004
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  January 29, 2015
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB004
ARLB004 FCC “Paperless” Amateur Radio License Policy Goes into
Effect on February 17

Starting February 17, the FCC no longer will routinely issue paper
license documents to Amateur Radio applicants and licensees. The
Commission has maintained for some time now that the official
Amateur Radio license authorization is the electronic record that
exists in its Universal Licensing System (ULS), although the FCC has
continued to print and mail hard copy licenses. In mid-December the
FCC adopted final procedures to provide access to official
electronic authorizations, as it had proposed in WT Docket 14-161 as
part of its “process reform” initiatives.

Under the new procedures, licensees will access their current
official authorization (“Active” status only) via the ULS License
Manager. The FCC will continue to provide paper license documents to
all licensees who notify the Commission that they prefer to receive
one. Licensees also will be able to print out an official
authorization – as well as an unofficial “reference copy” – from the
ULS License Manager.

“We find this electronic process will improve efficiency by
simplifying access to official authorizations in ULS, shortening the
time period between grant of an application and access to the
official authorization, and reducing regulatory costs,” the FCC
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) said. According to the WTB,
the new procedures will save at least $304,000 a year, including the
cost of staff resources.

In comments filed November 5, the ARRL had strongly recommended that
the FCC “give serious consideration to continuing a default
provision for sending an initial paper license document to new
licensees in the Amateur Radio Service, along with detailed, simple
instructions for how to make the elections set forth in the notice
relative to future modified or renewed licenses.”

The FCC said that applicants or licensees who include a valid e-mail
address under “Applicant Information” in the ULS will receive an
official electronic authorization via e-mail. New license applicants
who do not provide a FCC Registration Number at the examination
point will receive a printed license as well as an FRN and a
temporary password to access the Commission Registration System
(CORES).

The ARRL and other Amateur Radio commenters also worried that unless
a license document is printed on distinctive paper stock, its
authenticity could be questioned in such situations as obtaining
vanity call sign license plates. To address this, the FCC said the
watermark “Official Copy” will be printed on each page of an
official authorization that a licensee prints out from the ULS. The
WTB recently stopped using distinctive paper stock to produce hard
copy licenses and has been printing these on “standard, white
recycled paper.” The Bureau noted that the distinctive paper stock
it had used was six times more expensive than the plain recycled
paper it now uses.

The ULS License Manager now includes settings that allow licensees
to notify the WTB that they prefer to receive official
authorizations on paper. Once the final procedures go into effect
designating electronic access as the default, licensees can change
the ULS License Manager setting so that the Bureau will print and
mail a license document. Licensees also may contact FCC Support via
the web at,
http://esupport.fcc.gov/index.htm?job=contact_fcc_support , or via
telephone or mail to request paper licenses.

The FCC rejected as “outside the scope of this proceeding” an ARRL
argument that Section 97.23 of the Amateur Service rules be amended
to replace “licensee mailing address” with other alternatives,
including e-mail, for use in Commission correspondence. The rule,
which requires that any licensee mailing address be in an area where
the licensee has US Postal Service access, has precluded FCC
issuance of location-specific call signs in such areas as Navassa
Island (KP1) and some Pacific islands.
NNNN
/EX

Jan 07 2015

First HoosierDMR Net

The first Hoosier DMR Net was a success!  We had 15 stations check in and with Tony (W9AMT) and me (NF9K) as Net Control/Alternate Net Control respectively.

Please feel free to join us on Tuesday nights starting at 20:00EST on DMR-MARC Talk Group #3118 (Indiana Statewide)

What’s that?  You don’t have a DMR radio yet?  No problem!  CLICK HERE! for our live audio feed.  During non-Net times, the stream will be feed from the DMR-MARC TG #2 (North America).  During the Net it will be switched over to Indiana Statewide.  While listening to the net, you can post questions on our FaceBook Page and we will address them on-air.

 

Jan 02 2015

NF9K Technical Specialist Report – December 2014

So long, 2014!

Experimented with the AllStarLink radio linking network.  Setup a server with two nodes and replaced my EchoIRLP installation for a few days.  Unfortunately, the system did not perform as well as what I had.  There is no centralized documentation for AllStarLink which made troubleshooting and fine tuning quite difficult.  Additionally the server seemed quite unstable, locking up fairly regularly requiring a power cycle to bring it back.  The lockup was usually a result of restarting the asterisk daemon.  So this particular project has been shelved.  I suspect that I’ll revisit it down the road as I have experience with asterisk and had some interesting ideas for integrating IP telephony to repeater systems.

In the world of DMR, I traded for a new radio.  The Motorola SL300 is a slick little radio.  My thoughts (pros/cons) can be found here: http://volkswagen.websitewelcome.com/~atkinson/nf9k.net/?p=431

I had some discussions with an Avon Ham surrounding the CS700 HT.  He was selected for their beta program and we’ve been comparing notes between the non-beta and his beta unit as well as sharing my acquired knowledge on the CS700.

Additionally, I began looking at an alternative DMR network to the DMR-MARC.  DCI is very popular out west and since we already have a DMR-MARC machine here, in the interest of providing the richest possible DMR experience to Indianapolis area repeater users, I thought that might be a nice alternative.  I’ve reached out to some Ohio-based DCI repeater owners to discuss finding a master to peer with.

Lastly in terms of DMR, I spent a good deal of time experimenting with a wireless internet option (AT&T) for my DMR machine when it moves to it’s new home.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to share existing internet at the new location, so I’m having to come up with something on my own.  AT&T is NAT’ing traffic to their wireless devices resulting in the end device receiving a private (10.x.x.x) address, which is non-routable via the internet.  Also since the NAT’ing means I’m behind an AT&T routing, I’m subject to their access-control lists, etc., which is also proving to be a problem.  Next stop will be to check out the offerings from Verizon as I have a spare USB card in a drawer.

I was finally able to spend some much needed time in the shack during my time-off over the holidays.  I had a pretty decent check list beforehand and as the sun sets on my Christmas Break, I think I’m about 80% through it, so not bad at all!

Looking forward to what I’m going to learn and accomplish in 2015!

Jan 02 2015

DMR Streaming Audio

You can now listen to Indianapolis/Indiana DMR traffic via Broadcastify!  I’ve setup an audio stream using a CS-700 and NiceCast on my Mac Pro.

CLICK HERE!

This feed will normally be connected to the DMR-MARC Talkgroup #3 (North America) except on Tuesdays at 20:00EST when it will be connected to DMR-MARC TG #3118 (Indiana Statewide) for the weekly DMR Net.

Please check it out and let me know if you have any issues.

Dec 28 2014

AllStarLink Shelved

I’ve shelved the AllStarLink project for now.  I encountered too many issues that made me question the stability of the platform.  Issues would come and go without making any changes and the software would routinely lock up requiring a power-off of the server.  There are some neat features that they offer and I plan to revisit it down the road, but the distinct lack of centralized documentation and the fact that this solution is replacing a solution that it already in place and stable forced this decision.

Dec 20 2014

AllStarLink Network

I’ve decided to build an AllStarLink node.  I have a co-worker and fellow amateur who lives on the west coast where they use AllStarLink heavily.  In my desire to always bring something new and neat to the Indianapolis repeater front, I figured this might be a cool project.

What follows are my notes as I’ve gone through the setup.  One thing that is missing, IMHO, is a wiki with instructions.  Much of the process has been trial and error or google and read pieces on various other websites.  I believe the AllStarLink folks would best serve their community by making these resources easily locatable on their website.

Here is the process that should be followed.  Please note that the order is important.

  1. Register as a portal user here.
  2. Validation of your amateur license status and activation of your account may take ~24 hours.
  3. If you are content to be an AllStarLink user, you may stop here.  But if you desire to setup a server and node, continue on.
  4. Log into the portal and at the bottom of the account page, convert your account to a SysOp account.
  5. Log out and log back in.  you will now see a new menu.
  6. Create a server and then request a node.  The node request will take ~24 hours.
  7. Download the appropriate image for your needs here.  Note that the downloads were located in the lower right corner of the page at the time this article was written.  The rest of my instructions will assume you’ve chosen the Acid install and will be installing on a PC.  If this works out, down the road I plan to convert the setup to a smaller platform and will detail those steps then.
  8. Setup your firewall to forward port 4569/udp to the IP that you server will use.
  9. Plug in your URI (USB Radio Interface)
  10. Boot the CD.  Note that after you hit enter at the linux boot: prompt, EVERYTHING on your HD will be erased.  I say again, the install process will completely wipe your HD and install the AllStarLink linux distro and applications.
  11. During the install, I chose the option to use a static IP and ran into problems.  I configured everything properly, but notice that the phase1.sh script left /etc/resolv.conf empty.  Without DNS servers, even though I updated them in the static config, the install process fails.  If this happens to you, just update /etc/resolv.conf with a valid name server.  You can use the google NS of 8.8.8.8 if you like, I do.  After that, restart the phase1.sh script from /etc/rc.d.  Once you do this, the rest of the install will complete.

I’m using a Motorola Maxtrac UHF mobile as my link radio.  This particular radio is one with the 16 pin accessory connector.  If you’re looking for a similar setup, I highly recommend seeking out the 16 pin vs. the 5 pin units.  They are out there in increasing numbers and make an inexpensive option.  I used the service option of RSS to turn down the TX power to ~3W as the radio is in close proximity to the repeater.

Here are the details of the wiring interface between the Maxtrac and the DMK Engineering URIx:

Maxtrac Pin Number URI Pin Number Function Color
2 22 TX Audio Red
3 1 PTT Orange
7 20 Ground Bare
8 8 COR/PL (CTCSS) Detect Blue/White
11 21 RX Audio White/Black

 Please note that I used cable #Cable126 from ebay seller mre1032, so the colors I’ve listed here may vary.  This guy makes high-quality cables for decent prices.  This particular cable has all sixteen leads populated, because you never know what you might want to do down the road.  Speaking of all sixteen leads, remember that if you want the internal speaker to function on your Maxtrac, that pins 15 and 16 need to be connected together.  I did this inside my DB25 plug that connects to the URIx.

Dec 19 2014

New DMR Radio – Motorola SL300

Just received a new SL300 display radio today.  Here’s my initial thoughts:

Pros:

1). The form factor is really nice.  Very thin.  It fits nicely in the holster, which is a little bulkier than I expected, but I’ll know more tomorrow after I’ve carried the radio.

2). The active display is nothing short of cool.  It’s hidden until it’s on, then it’s hidden again.  It’s not as informative as an LCD screen, but there are give and takes for such a small package.  And with a little understanding of the icons the display is quite intuitive.  More so than I initially expected.

3). The antenna is extremely small.  This particular radio uses an active antenna setup that allows for a very small external piece.

4). The buttons are easy to use and after a little playing I find that I can manipulate the functions of the radio quite easily.

 

Cons:

1). This is the first Motorola radio that doesn’t allow direct cut and past between other code plugs and the the SL300 code plug.  This was a major disappointment.  Since this is a new radio, I’m hoping we see some firmware upgrades soon to resolve this and some of the other Cons that follow.

2). Digital contacts can only be FOUR characters in length.  I’ve seen mention of this on some of the boards, but it is very limiting.

3). No support for anything but alpha and numeric characters in various fields throughout the config.  No dashes, etc.  So when copying anything into the code plug that contacts a dash or # or anything other than a letter or number, the field is renamed to Channel 1, Channel 2, etc.

4). Channel names can only be 12 characters in length.  Any channel that you copy in over that gets renamed as noted above.

5). The channel clear tone evidently ignores the setting in CPS.  So any time a channel clears the radio beeps.  I find this behavior very annoying.  I actually got rid of my Hytera P362 because of this feature.  I’m hoping Motorola fixes this soon.

**** UPDATE ***** – The channel clear tone was fixed by upgrading to firmware R1.00.27

6). Inability to cut/paste contacts is a major drag.  They paste into the code plug just fine, but rename to 1,2,3,4, etc.  There are 124 contacts in Indiana.  I’ve tried cutting and pasting from various code plugs generated from the trbolnk.com website.  Hopefully this gets fixed soon, but I’m likely going to find myself typing in the contacts at least for Indiana.

7). While not a major, you are limited to 256 contacts with the SL300.  I just selected IN and OH on the generator and it wound up being 304, so I had to just drop back to IN.  No fix for this and I’ll learn to live with it, but I figured it was worth mentioning.  Beats the 32 contact capacity of the Hytera PD362.

So that’s pretty much it.  I’m sure I’ll learn more as I continue to play.  Any questions, please feel free to ask.  I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.

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