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!

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!