DMR – Growing In Leaps and Bounds!

Note: Had a quick chat with Bob W2CYK the developer of RFINDER last night at the Peconic Radio Club monthly meeting and he mentioned that he’s got some new stuff peculating in his secret RFINDER lab.

I think we will all be pleasantly surprised and amazed at his next venture! Bob is an amazing guy with an array of software and hardware that brings the World of Repeater Directory Information directly to your fingertips. RFINDER is partnered with companies like RT Systems and other organizations around the globe.

Getting back to DMR or Digital Mobile Radio, during the short time that I have been involved with DMR, I wrote some code which I run on a Linux server where I track and reference the DMR database information.

When I began experimenting with DMR, the number of registered DMR Id’s maintained by the Motorola Amateur Radio Club was around 14k. At last count my database has around 55k entries in it!

Wow what an explosion! In just over a year, the number of worldwide id’s has skyrocketed.

As an Extra with HF privileges, I never thought much about DMR as a means of reaching beyond local repeaters. But as one Tech Ham friend of mine said, DMR provides a convenient way for him to communicate across the country and to places around the world for those with only 28 and 50 MHz at their disposal. DMR has provided a way to step out under the dismal HF band conditions of recent years.

If a digital repeater is unavailable, a Hotspot can provide a method of communicating with Ham’s around the world with DMR+ and BrandMaster networks right from the armchair in your home.

Depending on the radio(s) you have, it is also possible to reach out to other Hams using DSTAR, Fusion and P25 with one of these multi-mode Hotspots.  The Shark RF Openspot  is one of the most popular Hotspot devices around today.

Perhaps you will poke around the Web and explore the World of DMR.  73, Gary KE2YK

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!