Category: amateur radio

Field Day 2018 Notes

So this was my first Amateur Radio Field Day in years. I got there around 11AM and stayed until about 5:30PM. I couldn’t get there for the test session at 8AM though – I’m told there was only one person who took the test.

Here’s the setup:
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That was the 6m band setup. I was somewhat chagrined that there was no CW work this time round. Perhaps next year I sort of prefer Morse Code for contest work. And a decent set of headphones. That’s a must for CW.

Got to be the person responsible for logging 20m band contacts. Then I got to work 40m phone. And being 40m requires a general or above – I was good with my extra class license.

I did get to show I was an amateur radio dinosaur though – and instructing in the fine art of noise reduction using the old Squelch control and then the Noise Reduction button on the Kenwood TS-2000. DSP noise reduction is interesting. I do like the radio though and may purchase on in the future.

And as is the case with lots of things, even with food being there we only got about a dozen or so people there today. Even got to experience drift in phonetics – with a Mike/Mario swap. Didn’t say anything though just chalk it up to personal flair I guess.

Got to see the rooftop setup for PEMA – all I can say is first they’ve got a decent set of antennas and the grounding system for lightning arresting is awesome.

Did see some old friends – there’s Brian K1PVD who I know from my years at the Attorney General’s office – he was doing IT for the RI State Police. Then Mike N1BEE .

 

Field Day 2018

So this year I’ll be visiting the PEMA field day activities. It should be interesting as I haven’t been to a field day exercise in many years.

Probably because I let my membership in W1AQ lapse. And I sort of went quiet in the hobby for some time. I mean the net and it’s fun sort of diminished the value of being on the radio as much.

But I find myself at least clipping the radio on my belt and listening. Occasionally throw my call out and talk to a few folks. I forgot how fun that can be.

I should go dig out my VE creds – they’re doing a test session but at 8AM on a Saturday is a little too early for me.

And I have already programmed in the simple frequency on my Yaesu VX-7RB: }
1366197

Finally problem solved

So on my MD-380 I had put the New England code plug on it. But I noted nothing in RI was included – no zone, no repeaters nothing.

So put in a bunch of repeaters – except years of experience bit me in the ass. You see I had known for example that 449.225 here in RI used to have a CTCSS code of 67.0 – not anymore. It changed. I was wondering why I could hear conversations on the repeater but could never trip the repeater myself. Wrong CTCSS. Teach me to check the online repeater directory next time.

That’s been solved so now the Quahog Net aka N1JBC Net is active on my MD-380 and one of the nodes on the KA1RCI net – one in West Greenwich, RI which is roughly 25 miles from here. I get perfect coverage from that baby here in Providence – so on 5W PEP on 70cm band I can hit a repeater 25 miles away from where I am.

But then I shouldn’t be surprised – one place I lived I was on the fourth story of the building and I could easily hit the Boston based repeater some 45 miles away.

MeOnTheRadio

Did my first EOC Staffing for Emergency Management

So this morning I did a couple hours at the Emergency Operations Center alternate over the police/fire/commissioner HQ. It was interesting first I hadn’t realized how many cameras were all over the city.

Second there were fire, police, PEMA, and three amateur radio people there.

Devil of a time getting a Kenwood TS-2000 to change it’s tuning increment so we could  monitor the fire departments frequencies. Apparently it needs the MARS mods to work properly.

 

 

Joining Providence Emergency Management Volunteers

So I signed up for PEMA (Providence Emergency Management Authority) RACES-amateur radio.

And then I realized – the battery on my Yaesu VX-7RB is flat. $37 has a new on on its way.

Gotta find my B580T – it’s in a backpack somewhere in this house.

My TYT MD-380 is on my belt right now.

I told them I’ll start in May but there’s a meet next Saturday morning. So I may just introduce myself there.

 

 

 

Amateur Radio is Declining in the U.S.

I know how the ARRL likes to cite that membership in the Amateur Radio community is up. But I know that the Amateur radio  in my community of southeast New England is dying very slowly.

Case in point, a radio club I’d belonged to 20 years ago.  It had over 50 members now it’s down to 17. Lots of the membership are silent keys (SK) now. So the clubs dues which were $50 annually went up to $150 annually.

A fellow amateur and I have been discussing what could be done. We realized that a bunch of us are Extra class and hold our volunteer examiner credentials. So we were saying the club should do some test sessions.

I went further said we should do classes – and the thing is you can charge for classes. All of us have gobs of experience in RF, InfoTech and InfoSec. In fact it struck me, back when DefCon 401 was active many of us had our licenses. So why not a blending of the two – I also mentioned in the classes we could do more than just teach to the tests, we could delve into the theory. And it hit me, since DefCon401 is pretty much defunct – maybe start that up again and do presentations at the clubhouse.

But alas, DC401 was mostly alumnus of Verisign/SecureWorks/Dell. Maybe time to get new blood in there.

Got my TYT MD380 all programmed

Found the New England code plug for the radio. A code plug is basically a file with all the zones, repeater, simplex, etc. broken out. Plus I can add zones too.

That makes it really easy to program. Just open the code plug, connect the radio and write the data. Simple. Finding that New England code plug was hard though. Just go to the New England Digital Emergency Communication Network (NEDECN) and once there click on the DMR Downloads link on the left. Then click on DMR Code Plugs, and then Tytera (Which is TYT) and then select your code plug for either VHF or UHF. Then open the MD380-G software and then File/Open the code plug you just downloaded.

Connect your radio to the computer using the USB cable. Then Ctrl-W to write the code plug to the radio. So I now have MA, NH, ME and VT in my radio. And I’ll edit the code plug to hit the two DMR sites here in RI, one in Smithfield which is about 10 miles from me, the other in Bristol which is also about 10 miles from me as the crow flies.

And it works for me as I commute into Boston daily. So I’ll keep the MD380 with me too.

***UPDATE***

I had to program my call and DMR ID into the radio. It’s in the general settings.

A new DMR radio

DMR is Digital Mobile Radio so that last part is redundant.

Anyhow I’ve been watching with amusement the whole digital sphere coming to amateur radio. First Icom embraced D-Star or Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio. Nope. Yaesu went with C4FM – this is close to the standard used by public safety’s APCO P25. But doesn’t interact with it. It’s essentially in a silo.

And finally there’s DMR. I chose DMR because there are more DMR radio manufacturers than there are C4FM or D-Star.

Now getting my mind wrapped around how DMR works is interesting. It’s got a lot of features in common with APCO P25 for example. There are talk groups, contacts etc. So it’s a blending of amateur radio and elements of the PSTN or Public Switched Telephone Network.

Yet another new radio

This makes three that I own.

The inventory as follows:

  1. A Yaesu VX-7Rb does 70cm, 1.25m and 2m translation from 400-480MHz, 222-225MHz and finally on the 2m side it’s 144-148MHz.
  2. A Baofeng B580T does 70cm and 2m
  3. And all new a TYT MD-380 70cm DMR radio

I’ll be very honest here I like the MD-380 – it’s a very solid radio. The entirety of it cost me $100 but for an HT that does digital that’s pretty impressive. It comes with battery, metal belt clip, two antennas one stubby the other a whip, and charger stand and plug adapter as well as programming cable and software. It also comes with a fairly comprehensive manual even if it is in Chinglish. As an example of the latter it’s on the very first page where it states:

To Customers

Thank you very much for using TYT our two-way radios. This product has a newly developed function menu and humanism operation design, making it easy to use.

The humanism operation design bit really gives it away. And Chinglish if you’re wondering is original Chinese translates into English where certain things just stick out, like the above.

Once it’s charged up I’ll install their software, see how crappy it is and then go with Chirp instead.

tyt-md-380

New Oscilloscope coming

So I have been looking to replace my venerable old Tektronix 465 20MHz oscilloscope. The Tek 465 is a heavy beast and the limited bandwidth sort of makes it less useful. Granted it is a dual channel scope. I’ll put it up on Craislist for $10 and see if I get any takers.

I’ve looked at Owon, Rigol, and a few other vendors. I settled on the Rigol DS1054Z. It’s a 4 channel 50MHz scope. And the hack is already out there to turn it into a 100MHz scope with a simple procedure.

For $399 it’s not a bad deal. Be very useful for some of the radio and oscillator projects I’m planning on building too. Plus two advantages it has over the Tek 465: the first is a 7″ color display, and then the two extra ports. Also has USB, and network connections too. Plus the form factor – it’s about 1/4 the size of the Tek 465 and weighs considerably less.

click to see bigger version

Just for comparison here’s a Tek 465 with the covers off. It’s huge and heavy.

The Rigol weighs all of 7 pounds. The Tek 465 tipped the scales at about 25-30lbs. So you can see how the Rigol will be a better scope for me.