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DMR2Gateway

For the past year I have been running two MMVDM hotspot with Pi-Star connected to the same XLX reflector. One (Pi-Zero) was running on version 3.4 and was solely being used to be able to communicate in YSF mode to the XLX reflector, whereas the other one (Raspberry Pi 2B with MMDVM) was acting as DMR2YSF connected to the same reflector.

This provides me a possibility to check whether or not the reflector which I administer works as expected.

Until recently there was no option to upgrade version 3.4 on the Pi-Zero since there was just no image available. But somehow they managed to port a 4.1.5 version to Pi-Zero and provide it under the Beta section of the Pi-Star website. I immediately downloaded it and copied it to a microSD card, booted the hotspot and confirmed it to be working as expected.

On the second hotspot I was running a Spanish version; if I am correct this was the version that provided switching between rooms. As it was not applicable with the reflector I administer, since there is only one room we all use, I have decided to upgrade that hotspot as well. So I downloaded the 4.1.5 version, copied it to a microSD card, booted the hotspot and confirmed it not to be working. Whatever I tried I couldn’t get DMR2YSF working (even with the correct TG setting). I decided to upgrade to 4.1.6 to see whether or not that would make a difference but the answer was no. (By the way upgrading from 4.1.5 to 4.1.6 can be done by issuing a couple of commands directly on the commandline or by clicking the upgrade button at the top of the screen when you’re in expert modus)

Then it came to my mind that the XLX reflector would, by default, be able to transcode the DMR signal to C4FM and the other way around. With other words what would be the reason to transcode a signal from DMR to YSF on a hotspot with restricted hardware compared to the server the XLX reflector runs on? So I decided to switch from DMR2YSF to DMRGateway and thus send the data signal directly off to the XLX reflector.

For this to be working:

enter your 7 digit CCS7/DMR ID under general configuration

only enable DMR mode

toggle the Brandmeister Network Enable and DMR+ Network Enable switches to off

set the XLX master to the correct XLX reflector

set the XLX module to the correct module on the reflector

toggle the XLX Master Enable switch to on

make sure you have the DMR CC set to one that matches your HT

don’t forget to apply the changes

verify under Expert modus / DMR GW the settings for Slot and TG so this matches with the settings on your HT

And that should be sufficient. By the way if you don’t like the voice notification “Connected to XLX reflector…” you can disable this under Expert modus / DMR GW / Voice by modifying Enable 1 to Enable 0


FTM-300DE (2)

Memory channel management is a different kind of thing. It is a time-consuming task to select the channels and add assign them to a memory group, unless you use the ADMS software.

Another point to note is that if you rotate through your memory channels and you reach the last channel you have to turn the DIAL in the opposite direction yourself. So there is no jump from the last memory channel directly to the first memory when you turn the DIAL key to the right.

In my opinion, the set could have won a lot of points as a mobile set because it is standard equipped with Bluetooth. However, when I compare its implementation to an FTM-100 with BU-1 and BH-1 headset, I am somehow disappointed. When I use a parrot function to verify my audio it doesn’t sound very good. And then it doesn’t matter whether you use a standard headset or a more expensive one with noise cancellation. By the way, the headset must have a default PIN code of 0000; this is not a choice, so Yaesu again says farewell to the older headsets such as the BH-1 and BH-2, where the pin code is set to 6111 by default. The audio via bluetooth sounds a bit pinched, not clear and far from nice. In a silent shack it is still do-able, but the question is how your counter parts, especially if they are mobile, will respond to your modulation. A plus is that the standard PTT toggle works, so you have to press the PTT button once to start transmitting and once to stop transmitting.

In short, the FTM-300DE is a nice set, but there are plenty of areas for improvement that can easily be addressed with a firmware update.





FTM-300DE

When Yaesu released the FTM-300DE I was amongst one of the first in the Netherlands to receive the transceiver. As I used to own an FTM-400 and was still in the possession of an FT-1XDE, FT-2DE, FT3-DE, FT-70 and FTM-100DE, I was somehow used to C4FM. And I’m still happy with C4FM…

So what about the new set? That’s a question you might expect when you buy a model that’s just hit the market. And is it for me? That last question is a bit more difficult to answer, because it strongly depends on the requirements/wishes you have for a new set.

After playing around with the FTM-300DE for a few days, I think the audio sounds nice. In addition, I have the idea that the fan does not start as quickly and is a lot more quiet compared to the FTM-100DE or FTM-400(X)DE. The redesigned air funnel apparently does do its job.

It takes some getting used to doing without a touch screen, but once you get the hang of it, you can use it quickly, especially if you’re used to the FT-3DE two-way radio. Everything is “hidden” in a logical place in the menu in my opinion (compared to the other sets).

Since the release Yaesu has released new firmware two days before I received the transceiver. And so the first thing I did upon receipt was initiate a firmware upgrade. The upgrade consists of two parts, a MAIN and DISP. Only for the MAIN upgrade you have to move a mini switch, which for convenience is now placed in an accessible place (behind the display on the main body). The whole process takes less than fifteen minutes.

Then I tried to load memories from the FTM-100 or FTM-400 with the ADMS software. The software says you can import files, but all options were greyed out and unusable. After some testing I managed to import a file from the FT-3 and write it to the SD card (which was pre-formatted in the transceiver). In no time the memory channels appeared on the screen and I was able to write the changes to the SD card and read them into the set.

The question is whether this is a good mobile set or whether it is better to use it in the shack. My idea is that if you don’t want to change too many settings on the road and you remain “stuck” on a frequency or repeater, you have a great companion with the FTM-300DE. And if you do want to make a lot of adjustments while you’re behind the wheel, I recommend an FTM-400XDE. The screen of the 300, although easy to read, is still fairly small. In addition, the fast functions are hidden behind the F key, but there is an extra menu layer in between, unlike, for example, with the FT-3.




FTM-300DE (3)

Just a small nuance with regard to the use of Bluetooth on the basis of testing on a direct frequency and not via the parrot function.

Unlike with previous implementations (FTM-400/BU2, FTM-100/BU-1) the audio sent to your headset via Bluetooth does not depend on the position of the volume control on the set. That is an important difference, because you now control everything in terms of audio directly on the headset. Apparently this depends on the type of headset you’re using as well. Yaesu didn’t and up until now doesn’t follow the complete Bluetooth standards which causes some headsets to work as expected whereas others have their culprits when connected to the transceiver.

In order not to become very deaf immediately, I recommend that you set the volume on your headset to minimum. The sound can then be called acceptable and I must say, with a bluetooth headset in one ear and my other ear against the speaker of an FT-3, that it is intelligible. Now just to test with a counter station and then I think I can adjust my opinion regarding the set in a positive way…

For the past few weeks I’ve been using the FTM-300DE as a node with the HRI-200; unlike the FTM-100DE, the 300 gets less warm, even in the high temperatures of recent weeks. The transceiver could still be touched in a normal way, the fan has not made much noise and in that respect I am satisfied with the performance. But there is a big but…

If you start the set in Wires-X mode and start the software on your PC, you have the option to dim the display in 7 different settings. Even on the most dimmed setting (which I have used continuously), the display lights up and the frequency set in the Wires-X remains vaguely visible in the background. With the active VFO you don’t have such a problem because the display of the frequency is bright enough, but with the inactive VFO you can vaguely see the frequency used in the Wires-X software.

So you cannot completely switch off the display. So be careful with this!



Things change for the better (4)

OK, OZ6DMR is online and I can confirm it works; have heard multiple QSO’s within the Netherlands so that’s a good thing. I am not sure yet as to what the time-out settings are set but I need to test that out a bit more next month when I am again staying in the vicinity of Knuttpunkten in Helsingborg.

I just switched on my PD785G and activated the roaming function; I noticed it received a GPS fix and shortly after that another one. Great, so that’s still working. Now I do remember the Tracey Chapman’s song Fast Car, but this is fast, incredibly fast. Anyone able to travel faster than this? 🙂

Things change for the better (3)

A couple of months ago I reported Helsingor (Denmark) would get a new Hytera DMR repeater. Up until now it has been very quiet around this repeater, though I believe OZ6NOR (the sysop for this repeater) spent a lot of time getting things in place. 

On a regular basis I check the website (http://198.58.120.55/phpfusion/news.php?readmore=6) to see if there is any movement and last weekend I found out that the status changed into  “Driftstatus : Repeateren forventes at blive monteret d. 14 April 2015 !” which I do believe means something like the repeater will be installed on his final location April 14th, 2015. Which means tomorrow some signal should be heard on the frequency (434.6375 MHz).

I hope everything goes fine and by tomorrowevening I will be able to make my first QSO over this repeater via TG 204 to the Netherlands. One still has to keep his hopes after waiting for a couple of months…

Things change for the better (2)

I recently mentioned that in Denmark a new DMR repeater would be installed; unfortunatelly for a couple of weeks already the status is that the repeater is offline because it’s being moved to it’s definate location. So for the past weeks I’ve been bringing my PD-365 handheld transceiver but didn’t have any luck making a QSO.

So I decided to do it otherwise and bring the good old Icom IC-E92D and see if that would bring me luck. And so it did.

Across the Oresund in Helsingor there is a DSTAR repeater as well; OZ2RES can be reached with ease from my hotelroom, so I unlinked it and linked it to DCS007V where I could hear the end of a QSO on DSTAR or DMR or a combination of the both. DCS007V is the reflector linked to timeslot 2 TG 9 on DMR within the Netherlands.

Well if this is successfull why not try it on DCS007B; unfortunatelly I didn’t get any reply. So I unlinked again and connected to DCS007J, the Flevoland reflector. Since I live in Flevoland and know there are quite some enthousiastic DSTAR hams living in Almere I gave it a try and had a nice QSO with PD0POH. Great to see this works, so from my work location I can connect to my home town and have a QSO as if I was there. Excellent!

So as long as OZ6DMR is not re-located and on-air I can use good old DSTAR as well… Good to know!

Things change for the better

It has been a while ago I updated you on my hamradio related activities and there is a good reason for it. Since I spend most of my days in Sweden for work (to be precise the SM7 region) and there aren’t many (Echolink) repeaters in the near vicinity it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bring an HT with me. And using 3G/4G/Wifi to connect to Echolink is nice sometimes but for me doesn’t count for a real hamradio feeling; and for the ones who now immediately start about DMR and DSTAR I would like to say that for a real hamradio feeling for me at least one part in the chain needs to be wireless and that is the start- or endpoint…

So how can we change this situation for the better? As you might have read before last year I bought a PD785G, a DMR handheld transceiver with several options like GPS and roaming. Though I am very happy with it (professional build quality, audio, ease of operating) there are some disadvantages. If you only take hand luggage with you there are restrictions to things you can pack weight and size wise. Since the PD785 is rather heavy and requires a seperate charge bay it’s not an option to take it with me to Sweden.

Things are changing for the better since Hytera launched a new HT, the PD-365UC. Though it has some reduced output power (3W) compared to the PD-785G (5W) it is a nice compromise; the weight is only 160g and it can be charged via a micro USB charger so no additional charging bay required. But why did things change for the better then with Hytera launching a new HT?

OZ6NOR is busy installing a new DMR repeater (OZ6DMR) in Helsinggor, just across the Øresund, the water that seperates (part of) Denmark and Sweden. And if that new DMR repeater gets activated it will handle traffic for Talkgroup 204 on timeslot 1; so I should be able to contact the Netherlands via that repeater directly from my HT. I noticed somewhere to the south of Sweden (in Lund to be more precisely) there is also a DMR repeater but I guess the distance is too large from my HT to be able to work that one.

Anyhow I added it to my codeplug as well; you never know what will happen… And when I mention the codeplug I initially wanted to download a ready made codeplug from www.ham-dmr.nl ; before I tried to upload it to the radio I updated the firmware and as you might reckon the codeplug and firmware were incompatible. So I had to manually create a new codeplug myself. After having done so the new HT works fine. Batterylife is surprisingly good, audio quality is nice as well and it’s easy to use. So I’m happy; now let’s hope for the best with OZ6DMR…

Starting with DMR

I had my doubts; shall I buy a DMR radio or not? Is this the new development in hamradio? Will it survive DStar? And if I would buy a DMR radio would it be an handheld transceiver or mobile radio?

At the Radio Fleamarket in Rosmalen I’ve been looking at the Hytera gear as well as the CS-701, a reasonably priced handheld transceiver. I became more and more interested in the world of codeplugs, tone slots, color codes a.s.o.

And last Friday I’ve decided to go for an Hytera PD-785G.

First step before actually programming the transceiver is to install the USB drivers. According to the document three new devices should become visible in the device manager, but no matter what I tried only two devices showed up. And guess what driver was required for the firmware update…

Not being able to update the firmware means not being able to import a codeplug, a file containing repeater definitions and all kinds of settings.

In the end I found out that there is a DMR Facebook group with many helpfull people; since I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong I decided to ask a question and within the hour I got some suggestions like “Did you install the USB drivers?” and “Did you switch the HT to firmware update modus?” 

Aha, so there is a seperate firmware update modus. But how to boot up the handheld transceiver in firmware update modus? This morning after searching the internet I got an answer again via the Facebook group. Hold PTT, the alarm button (orange button on top) and switch on the transceiver.

Guess what happened when I did it? The missing device driver was installed and I was able to update the firmware and load a codeplug. Let the fun begin…

Not, because my ID was not registered yet on the global network. So I had to wait for it and like a miracle it happened within 15 minutes after the firmware update that I was able to receive some DMR users. Yeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaa!

So I am in learning mode now…  

Flex 1500

I once used to own an Icom IC-7000 but somehow I was disappointed in sensitivity; so I decided to sell the TRX and decided to move towards Software Defined Radio.

When checking the web you’ll find a lot of SDR TRX suppliers; both in kit form as complete product. A lot of these solutions use the onboard soundcard of your PC or laptop. Since I know from experience that laptops normally don’t have the best soundboard I wanted to have a soundcard independent solution.

As said there are a lot of different SDR TRX suppliers. To name a few:

  • the G Fifty-Nine concept of Genesis Radio; you can build your own 10W 160-6m SDR TRX in parts. When you check the photo’s it does like like a quality product.
  • Softrock has the Softrock RXTX Ensemble Transceiver kit; it can be build for one of the frequencygroups 160m, 80m/40m, 30m/20m/17m or 15m/12m/10m; unfortunatelly there is no overall solution that covers all bands.
  • Our German friends of Funkamateur offer the FA-SDR TRX, a 1W transceiver with a range up to 30 MHz.
  • Worthwhile to mention is the HASDR initiative of Henk Jenniskens (PE0SSB). He offers a clone of the FlexRadio SDR-1000; the kit can be expanded with a 25W amplifier as well. The TRX has a bandwith of 192 khZ and can be tuned anywhere between 0 and 65 MHz. The standard output power is 1W but as said there’s an amplifier as well. Unfortunatelly I don’t know if the kit is still available.

Since I know how I respond to failures while building a kit (throw in a corner and don’t look at it for a long long time…) I’ve decided to go for a Flexradio. The Flex-1500 is a 5W SDR TRX, bandwith 48 kHz and tunable from 0 – 54 MHz. The big advantage is that the TRX contains a soundcard itself. So the only connection between your PC/laptop and the TRX is a USB cable.

Another advantage of this concept is that it’s easy to make use of digital modes. The only thing you need to do is install an external program (like Virtual Audio Cable), create virtual audiocables and use them within PowerSDR (the software to steer the SDR).

The Flex-1500 is being delivered (or at least in my case) with two different versions of PowerSDR. First you need to install 2.0.2 beta and then upgrade to 2.0.5 beta. At this moment 2.0.6 beta is available but it somehow has problems when you want to transmit VAC signals.

Before first usage you need to calibrate the RX level; this is an automated process that takes care of correct signals on the S-meter.

When I decided to hook up the Flex-1500 to my Vista laptop the calibration process didn’t run very smoothly. Result: corruption in the EPROM and a maximum output power of only 0.5W. After consulting the technical support department of Flexradio the problems was solved very fast (excellent support!)

My experience with the Flex-1500:

  • the software isn’t clearly ready yet; previous versions of PowerSDR had the option to use VOX or show reflected power and SWR with the Flex-1500. In the contrary to it’s larger brothers (Flex-3000, Flex-5000) the Flex-1500 doesn’t have the hardware to fullfill these requirements so it had to be removed from the software.
  • by following the recommendations in the manual to get the best audio possible there’s hardly any TX power; you can easily increase the DX level to 10
  • some microphones don’t go well with the Flex-1500; my Yaesu MD-200 had this problem. Though the audio sounded very good there was an annoying beep. So I replaced the MD-200 with the standard handmike of the Yaesu FT-857.
  • excellent sensitivity

Up until now I mainly used the TRX for WSPR; with 5W TX power, an indoor 20m dipole I’ve had these results:

VU2LID (8018 km), WA7KGX (8051 km), W0OGH (8702 km), 7L4IOU (9274 km), PY4BL (9338 km), FR/F6AAO (9513 km) and 9V1AL (10467 km)

One of the next things I want to try is PSK31; based upon my experience with WSPR my expectations are high.

Always nice to try is monitor your own phonesignal on a different TRX. There’s some delay so start laughing while doing your best to speak as normal as possible…

PowerSDR has the option for selecting several audioprofiles; you can select a default DX profile but additional profiles like AM, Heil HC4/5 or even ESSB as well. And you can tailor every profile to your specific needs as well.

I was a little bit concerned about the effect PowerSDR would have on the CPU usage of my laptop. But there’s no need to worry. Sometimes overall CPU usage is peaking between 25 and 30% when using a Lenovo T-400.

The biggest advantage you have when using an SDR TRX is the software can be improved and possibilities added. It’s sort of upgrading the firmware of a conventional transceiver though in this case the “firmware” is contained on your PC or laptop.