Rapberry Pies and DVMega / Bluestack HotSpot Toys!

My Raspberry PI / DMR Stack

Been spending a lot of time on DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) these days. Recently ordered a DVMega / Bluestack Node and have been having a ball chatting with people all over the World.

As a matter of fact I had a very nice TAC311 QSO with HL5KY in Korea on 2/4 @ 22:20 hours.

The black PI is a PI3 Mod B where I run my Web Server, custom firmware for the Tytera MD380 called MD380 Tools and do some crazy Java Coding.

The clear PI is a PI2 and I experiment with all kinds of code like the unsupported BlueDV console for the BlueStack Node.

And of course the top of the stack is the HotSpot. Right now the console is an Nexus 7 tablet running Andriod with the BlueDV console. Pleas note my HIGH TECH way of keeping the STACK together!!!

If you are interested in finding out more about DMR, you can listen to DMR Ham Radio Operators talk on the various talk groups. A good place to start is to listen to talk group 3100.

Most of all have fun! 73 KE2YK

 

 

 

Quick Review – Wouxun KG-UV8E Tri Band HT

Wouxun KG-UV8EBought the Wouxun KG-UV8E based on the good experience I had with the KG-UVD1P.

The Color display is very good and rather large for an HT.

The 2600 mAh battery life is exceptionally good and does not drain when powered off as the KG-UVD1P does.

A group of us locals have access to a 1.25 meter repeater and performance on the band is very good even on low power.

The channel / VFO Knob gets tight in spots and the screw holding rubber side cover was so loose it was ready to fall out.

Very loud reception causes the speaker to be distorted.

After purchasing the radio, I found out that there is and E and T version. The difference is that a factory reset of the E version causes the firmware to reboot to Chinese while the T version reboots to English. Of course flipping through the Ching-lish manual will save your day with the E version.

Since I only had an old (pain in the ass) Prolific chipped programming cable I also purchased the Red programming cable. The Red cable was hassle free with Windows 10. No monkeying around with the old drivers from the stone age as is the case with the old Prolific chip. Unlike the expensive RT Systems cables, the red cable was around $15. By the way, the Red cable also works for Baofeng and I’d imagine some Kenwood HT’s as well.

Again no radio is perfect but for the price it was a decent buy for the additional 1.25 meter band. If you are looking for specs or videos, Google it. There is no point in regurgitating the same information that’s already available on countless other Web sites.

A New DV4mini Arrives On Scene

DV4mini USB StickWireless Holdings sells leading edge modules and accessories to Ham Radio operators. Wireless Holdings has been in the digital gadget market over 40 years, and leverages a network of professional engineers to bring the latest digital gadgets to the market.

Why would anyone be interested in a DV4mini USB Stick? First I should explain that the DV4mini is a miniature, low power transceiver which you can use around the house or portable with any HT capable of one of the four digital modes. DSTAR, DMR Plus, Fusion or P25. Download a copy of the DV4mini manual for more detail.

In my case, even though  I live in an area tightly packed with analog RF, there are no digital repeaters close enough to reliably access with an HT. Unless I connect my CS700 to my roof antenna, I cannot reach the DMR TRBO repeater in my area. Visit DMR-MARC if you want to know more about TRBO for Ham Radio.

So using DMR with the DV4mini (although not TRBO) gets me connected to the digital world using DMR Plus (Hytera systems). I cannot speak about DSTAR, Fusion or P25. My only experience has been using DMR Plus. I don’t spend a lot of time with the DV4mini however I had the pleasure of having a QSO with a Ham from Japan a few weeks back.

My 70cm DV4mini has worked flawlessly since I purchased it some months ago. As I mentioned in a prior article, I built up a Raspberry Pi with the necessary software to run the DV4mini console. If anyone is interested in my notes about building up the software necessary to run the DV4mini Console and other Raspian Jessie ramblings,  stop by my homebrew Ham Radio Forum.

Recently I received an email stating that Wireless Holdings will start selling the DV4mini  in a 2 meter version. Just in time for Dayton Hamvention!

73, Gary KE2YK

 

Andy KB1OIQ’s Ham Radio Apps Update

ARRL Centennial Challenge Coin Art FINAL

IMHO, one of the things I enjoyed most about the ARRL Centennial Convention in 2014 were the Amateur Radio related forums I attended on a ton of different topics.

One of the forums I attended was Andy’s KB1OIQ’s presentation on his remastered version of Amateur Radio applications running on Ubuntu Linux.

There are a bunch of these remixes like ShackBox floating around but I really enjoyed his presentation and his dedication to his project. Back then I downloaded and ran the version available at that time. It seems that his work continues to be popular since the current SourceForge page shows that he’s had almost 700 downloads just this week.

Tux

TUX

Andy now has both a 32-bit and 64-bit version which contain a host of Ham Radio software like Fldigi, NBEMS, Gpredict and many more. Andy’s version 19 matches up with the Ubuntu 14.04.4 LTS release.

As with Andy’s past versions, the GUI desktop is customized with menus for Amateur Radio use. Andy has gone through great pains to make the distribution lightweight so that it will also run on older computer hardware.

Interested? Hop over to Sourceforge and grab Andy’s latest download!

Quick Review – New 2016 Baofeng UV-3R

Recently I picked up a new car and decided that I am done with installing mobile radios, cables and antennas as I had over the past 30 years. I don’t commute any longer and just don’t spend that much time in the car so my thoughts turned to the idea of grabbing a cheap HT to throw in the glove box.

 

2016 UV-3R

After owning the original UV-3R, I was skeptical about grabbing the new Dual Display UV-3R 2016 version. Remembering back to my original UV-3R, it’s problem was rejection of unwanted signals.

The area around my QTH is densely packed with radio signals. However, the advantage of signal density  is that there are plenty of 2/70 cm analog repeaters to choose from. As a result the 2 watt limitation of the new UV-3R presents no problem for me.

 

Specs:

Go here if you want detailed Tech Specs. Basically, for around $30, it’s a 99 channel dual band, dual display 2/70cm HT in a small ‘credit card sized’ form factor with a 3.7 volt 1500 mAh Li-Ion battery.

Operating:

The Dual Band Screen of the new UV-3R is an asset. Manually programming the radio is pretty easy but if you are going to add tons of repeaters or fire/ems frequencies, grab a programming cable and use the free CHIRP software.

Navigation:

The radio has a couple of basic issues. There is no keypad so it takes extra effort to program the radio and to navigate around to change simple settings like the squelch level. The FM Radio has poor reception. But who buys an HT to listen to FM Radio anyway.

Audio:

The on-board speaker is loud with no distortion. If you plan to use earbuds you will notice that the audio is muffled and the gain is somewhat reduced .

Antenna:

In general, any rubber duck is nothing more than a Dummy Load but at my QTH hitting the local repeaters presents no problem with the stock antenna.

Just a word on HT antennas, there are tons of knock off rubber duck antennas on the market. Buyer beware when looking for a replacement because you may end up with an antenna that performs worse than the original!

Scanning:

The UV-3R scans EMS and Fire frequencies fairly well. Using CHIRP, you can easily select which frequencies to scan.

Battery: 

No complaints. With normal use the HT ran for a full day.

Manual:

Go here to grab your copy.

Summary:

IMHO, for around $30, how can you go wrong? This little GEM is a great little grab-n-go HT.

DV4Mini Dongle

DV4mini HotspotLook! In the Shack! It’s a Memory Stick, it’s a Wireless Card. NO it’s SUPERDONGLE! Yes SUPERDONGLE, able to leap huge RF gaps, more powerful than a 10 KW Amp, faster than….

Okay Okay, so it’s just a dongle but it’s sure packed with features!

The DV4mini is a very small but also very capable USB Stick that can expand any system running Windows or LINUX into a Hotspot for the D-STAR, DMR, C4FM and APCO P25 modes.

The DVmini is a powerful 32 bit micro controller, a complete 70 cm transceiver and a modulator/demodulator for GMSK and 4FSK and a USB interface.

One nice feature of the DV4mini is that it does not require external power. The unit gets powered from the USB interface. For some of us that means less complicated portable use.

Another feature is the included software package which is easy to use and easily links with DSTAR, DMR+, P25 and Fusion reflectors.

There are many Hams who have DV radios but are out of range of the nearest DV repeater. DV4mini to the rescue! The DV4mini creates a hotspot with minimal resources and provides access to many DV networks.

The Code Plug:

Assuming you have your associated Channel and Zone set up in your radio to operate the DV4mini hotspot, you should be ready to go with setting up the DV4mini software.

For DMR+.  My Hytera PD-362 DMR HT is set up at 436.000 tx and rx (default for DMR+ in the software), Talk Group 9, low power and TX Admit set to always allow.

HYTERA PD362 Channel For DV4mini

 

Setting Up The Mini:

My Dv4mini was up in running in a matter of minutes. Yes, I did scan through the manual first.

Presently I am only working the DMR+ systems. Some may ask, what is DMR+ as opposed to DMR?Simply put DMR+ is the Hytera network (more widely used in Europe but growing rapidly in the US). DMR is the TRBO-DMR network. To my knowledge the two networks are incompatible for a number of reasons. Hytera DMR+ is more ham radio friendly in that repeaters can directly interconnect without expensive bridging equipment.

Once again, my old Windows 7 Lenovo T60 Laptop came in handy.

The first thing to understand is that the DV4mini software is no longer supported on XP. Since XP is also no longer supported by Microsoft, security vulnerabilities would not be something I’d want in my shack anyway. However, if you insist on using XP it is recommended that you flash your stick with the older version 1.4 firmware. Read the manual to find out how to flash your stick….

As the software download Web page states, the first software package you need to install is VS2013 redistributable package from the Microsoft Web site. This is nothing more than a run time version of Visual C++. The 32 bit version is required even if you are using a 64 bit Windows O/S.

Now download the Windows software and perform a normal windows style install. A desktop icon will be created as part of the install process.

Next, connect the antenna, insert the unit into the USB port and start the software. In the status window you should see that your DV4mini was found.

Configuring The DV4Mini Software:

On the DV CONTROL PANEL, for DMR+ I entered my DMR id, call, grid square and location. DMR+ as my DV option and reflector 4639 USA-Nationwide.

DV4mini DV Control Panel

Now to the expert panel where I checked the auto-connect option and set my DMR Master to USA-EAST. Select the DMR Master closest to your QTH.

There are two other settings to pay attention to on the EXPERT PAGE.

QRG which is the offset in HZ between your radio and the DV4mini transceiver. Depending on the radio you use, you may have to adjust the QRG and ask for a few radio checks to insure your packet loss has been minimized.

The transmit buffer size is dependent on your network. I have had success with this set at .25 since I have a high speed network here.

DV4MINI EXPERT PANEL

Final Thoughts:

The Dv4mini is an excellent way to get on the DV networks. It is reliable, easy to upgrade and operate. There are a number of additional features that you will discover as you work with the unit. Again, I am only working DMR+ so I am sure you will learn more than I have when you explore the other DV’s.

My experience shows that you need to operate a distance from the DV4mini so that you don’t overdrive it. One ham I spoke to used foil to shield the unit.

Interested in getting one?

In the USA, visit Wireless Hold

Videos about the DV4Mini and links to the manual and software can be obtained at the bottom of the Wireless Hold home page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Dog – New Tricks? Digital Mobile Radio

DMR Old Dog - New TricksThere are times when I feel that no more info can be squeezed into this old brain. Dragging an old CW operator kicking and screaming into the 21st century is no easy task.

Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) is not a new technology but it sure is for me. A local group has been using DMR technology for around a year now.

The DMR-MARC Networked Repeater Map shows there is only one networked DMR repeater system in my area. Luckily (so I thought) the system is within range of the home QTH.

Connect Systems sells high quality DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) HT’s for a very reasonable price. I recently received my Connect Systems CS750 HT. Connect Systems radios are basically Motorola-like quality with a very solid desk charger and 1700 mAH LIon battery. The CS750 model is both DMR and Analog for the 70 CM band.

Connect Systems offers an optional 2000 mAH battery and hand mic. The unit is shipped via 2 day priority USPS mail and is nicely packaged in a quality Connect Systems box. The box includes the CS700 user manual (yes CS700), radio, 1700 mAH battery, rubber duck, desk charger, wall wart, quality belt clip and hand strap.

The CS750 is so new that there is no specific HT user manual just yet. However, there is enough similarity between the CS700 and CS750 keypad, knobs and switches to make the CS700 user manual useful. The user manual only covers the HT itself, not the software or programming.

BE SURE TO ORDER the optional programming cable. IMHO you won’t get very far without it. The CS750 programming software and PDF CS700 user manual can be downloaded free from the Connect Systems Web site.

Most of the local Hams I know who have decided to learn/experiment/use DMR have purchased the Connect Systems CS700. One reason most locals decided to purchase the CS700 was that they shared a common codeplug for uploading into the HT.Connect Systems CS700

Once you file for your unique DMR ID, (scroll to the bottom of the page and select user registration) it’s easy to make a few quick changes to the CS700 configuration and have the HT up and running. Later on, making a backup copy of the codeplug and then customizing channels, zones, scan lists, contacts, etc is very simple.

Since the CS750 is a new radio with updated firwmware, I decided to order the CS750 rather than the CS700. Be aware that Connect Systems is working on a translation program so that a CS700 codeplug can be used within the CS750 software program. However, there is no ETA at this time. The translation program would have saved me hours.

Should you find yourself in my exact situation: REMEMBER TO DOWNLOAD FROM RADIO ONE TIME BEFORE MANUALLY ENTERING ANY DATA!

Why? Because if you don’t you will find out that the CS750 software is preset to the profile of a CS650 HT. Are you saying; So what? Well, don’t do what I did.

I entered all the data manually and then as the last step began entering the ZONE information. When I attempted to enter the 3rd Zone I was SOL! Why? Because the CS650 firmware/profile has a 2 Zone limit.

At that point I was furious! I called Connect Systems (who by the way have OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE) and told them about my dilemma! Of course I knew what the answer was going to be. There is no way to “TRICK” the software into making it look like a CS750. SO BE SURE TO DOWNLOAD FROM RADIO once before manually entering your data! There is NO WORKAROUND!

Here’s my WORKAROUND! I temporarily set up a second monitor in the shack and loaded the CS700 software/codeplug on one monitor and the empty (downloaded from radio) CS750 software on the other. This gave me a reasonable way to view and manually enter the channels, contact list, scan list, zones and special configuration values into the CS750 software line by line.

By the way Connect Systems does offer a translation program to transfer ONLY the contact list between the CS700/CS750 software. Contact Connect Systems if you are in this exact situation and have a large number of entries on your contact list.

After about 4 hours of hand programming the CS750 was up and running, sort of… After uploading the newly cobbled codeplug, the screen on the HT said un-programmed and gave off a loud beeeeeeeeeeeeep! Perplexing. The software and radio both said that the upload was successful.

Here’s what happened. This is not unique to the CS750 by the way. Others have had the same experience. Stick with me here! Lets say you have a Zone, Zone 1 with 10 channels assigned to it. After uploading, the un-programmed / loud beep happens because the radio is sitting on an empty channel, in our example say it’s Zone 1/channel 11. Just turn the channel knob to a programmed channel and you are in business. Of course you can then use the keypad to go on your merry way. This situation is unlike any other HT I’ve owned over the past 30 years and it sure caught me off guard.

After all was said and done I was very unhappy with the performance of the CS750. Local Hams around my area who own the CS700 were able to open the DMR repeaters and unfortunately I did not have the same level of success. So, I contacted Connect Systems and they were apologetic about my CS750 experiences and had no problem processing a refund. So, after all of that, the HT is on its way back to Agoura Hills.

Again, Connect Systems is an outstanding company who stands behind their product. Customer service and support is EXCELLENT! In this day and age, any company who has a human answer the phone DIRECTLY is a HUGE PLUS in my book! I do expect to have a CS700 hanging around the shack in the near future. Stay Tuned!

County Comm GP-5/SSB Handheld HF Receiver Video Review

Video By W2AEW

Specs Are Found Here

 

Digital Voice? A Replacement For SSB?

According to this article, Amateur Radio is now transitioning from analog to digital voice. This is similar to the 1950’s – 60’s transition from AM to SSB it goes on to say. Suppose one company held the patent for SSB back then and forced you into their technology. Amateurs would be under their control indefinitely! As we all know, that is going on with digital voice right now.

Enter FreeDV. FreeDV is a GUI application for Windows, Linux and MacOS (BSD and Android in development) that allows any SSB radio to be used for low bit rate digital voice.

Find out more about FreeDV Here!

 

 

And Oldie Goldie – The Hot Water 8

Our Heathkit HW8A few weeks back my good friend John, WA2KSM offered me the use of a true oldie goldie! This old Heathkit HW8 CW QRP rig was so clean inside and out that it was hard to believe its age. No scratches or dings anywhere!

As you might imagine, the band control push buttons need cleaning but that’s about all the TLC it needs.

Not having a way to cleanly match this little gem to my G5RV, I purchased the “World’s Smallest Standalone ATU” from Elecraft.

Elecraft T1 Autotuner

Since I have owned Elecraft gear in the past and now get great pleasure from my KX3, I had no doubt that the T1 would be the right choice for the HW8. My assumptions were right. Tuning is a breeze and performance is all I’d expect from Elecraft.

The 20 meter band has been weak over the summer but I have already made a few contacts on this beautiful old QRP rig. Since I have the original manual, some of this winter will be dedicated to going over the entire alignment procedure.

If you are into QRP or low power operation and are in need of a portable Auto Tuner, take a spin over to the Elecraft T1 site for all the specs!