Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sending a text via ham repeater

Back in February I blogged about Voice Recognition for FM Repeaters.  This to my surprise made the July QST magazine.

I took this a bit further.  Now you can speak a spoken message over the repeater, and it will be converted to text and sent to the corresponding number that you entered on your DTMF microphone.

I made a very cheesy video, as video often explains it easier.  (I beeped out part of my number for some privacy, and you can hear my cellphone talking to the cell tower overloading my cheap microphone)

I am not going to give full details on how to do this here, as the point of this blog posting is:
1.) To show you that you can still implement cool stuff with ham radio..
2.) To encourage you think out side the box and mess with things till you stumble into a quick project such as this.

But to point you in the right direction, I will tell you that I created this using a combination of existing things that I have played with prior:

The repeater already has an IRLP board/connection.  This decodes the DTMF and invokes commands on the Linux computer that it is connected to.

Spoken message is converted using the Google Chrome speech input API that I explained in my prior post.

To actually send the text, I am using my Asterisk PBX coupled with a free Google Voice number capable of sending/receiving voice calls and text messages.  But you could just use a email / SMS gateway.

Special thanks to QST editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY for picking up my prior blog and putting it in print.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I haven't blogged in a while.

I have been messing with the low cost Raspberry Pi computer for some off-network ham  VOIP linking.

(The left-most (white FOB) is a CM-108 chipset; the Virtual 7.1 ch sound one is a CM-119, the LogiLink UA0053, and an unknown one.)

Adding a USB sound device is easy (as it doesn't have an on-board audio input), configuring the mixer and getting the sample rate stuff right so it works and sounds decent has been aggravating thus far.

I don't understand why it has to have custom configuration's defined/setup in .asoundrc, for various sample rates.  I am used to command line tools like play and record and sox just working with whatever I am trying to play.  

If you are in the same boat as me, these threads seems to offer some clues: 

For us hams you may want to check out these places to congregate:

And if someone comes up with a nice step by step how-to on the audio thing to share, please let me know!

This radioreference post seems pretty detailed.  Here the thread author is adding a USB sound device to provide an input for use with DSD.  However I wasn't successful with this either.

In the advent of cheap RF hardware, I have also been messing with GNU radio.  Alas, seems I don't really have a fast enough computer to run it well.  I was hoping a 3 GHz, P4 with be enough.

Never-the-less, while I seem to lack new topics, there are some older ones that perhaps someone in your local club can contribute to:

NWR SAME software decoder - Looks like someone has added EAS / SAME support to multimon


P25 Software Repeater -

Misc: - App to enable all wireless channels on Android. This might be useful for amateur networks.

And lastly, am I the only one that is disgusted with the series of QST articles on the variations of PL-259 installations? 

Sunday, October 14, 2012


For those of you who haven't discovered the NW-MESH Yahoo group, you ought to.

This group of hams into HSMM mesh networking in the pacific northwest region of the USA has made HSMM-Mesh on Ubiquiti devices happen.

It's not a pre-rolled firmware build yet.  But rather a step by step how-to on how to roll your own:

Configuring OpenWRT Devices for Operation on the NW-MESH Network via the GUI:

 You start by flashing OpenWRT, and then add in the OLSR module.

OpenWRT is very powerful.

This is ideal for those seeking a customized mesh network.  Idea for those seeking to use Amprnet IP addresses (44/8, 44net) rather than the 10/8 network that is pre-configured in the BBHN builds.  This eliminates the need to setup GRE tunneling as 44net is already connected. 

In this screen I am showing the add software tab, where you can add OLSRD
This screen show the available wireless channel bandwidth options.  Sadly 10 and 5 MHz/ half and quarter rates are not available without some editing of config files. 

This shows how to set a custom channel, you enter it as -1, etc.

(Note: The software says it's on a lower channel, but when you go to confirm this with a spectrum view, there is nothing there. Turns out the underlying kernel module, ath9k has to be modified, this fellow ham has documented how:

Available transmit power options.

This shows how to select the country code of 00 for world.

This is the status page showing -1 as 2402 MHz.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Other data devices

A few months ago I blogged about an interesting new radio prototype that was presented at Dayton, The Universal Digital Radio (aka UDR56K).

There was a recent Linux in the Ham Shack Podcast. In Episode #090 they interview John Hays, K7VE, of Northwest Digital Radio.

Here is a direct link to a MP3 of the podcast.

In the podcast; John gives us a better idea of what the radio is, and can be developed into.

A recent engineering update has been posted on the NW Digital Radio website, tells us that we can expect to get our hands on this one early next year if all goes according to plan.

As is, this radio seems to be in direct competition with the Icom ID-1. The ID-1 is over $1000 in price, and while this radio is a bit slower to move the bits, it's less harsh on the pocket book.

If you are looking for something faster than conventional data radios, yet more affordable than either the Icom ID-1 or UDR56K, then look at the Hope RF RFM12BP.

This is a half-watt, transceiver that covers 430.24 to 439.75 MHz, and supports data rates of 0.6 to 115.2 kbps. Priced less than $20.

Scott at Argent Data Systems says:
Programming them isn't the most friendly thing - There's no nonvolatile memory to store the configuration. We've got prototypes of an OpenTracker USB board with the RFM12BP - if you're looking for something easy to configure, that might be a possibility when we've got it ready.

John, G8BPQ has been playing with these modules and notes:

I looked at the higher powered (500 mw) RMF12BP, and ordered a couple for
experiments. But when I looked into the module in more detail I found it was
not compatible with the RFM22B, and is less flexible and more difficult to
program. I've since found the RFM23BP, which is a 1 watt unit that is
compatible with the RFM22B, so I've ordered a couple of them for testing,
and designed a board that will take either the 22B or the 23BP. Although it
is primarily intended for use with the Raspberry PI, it will also have an async port,
so it can be used as a standalone KISS TNC/Radio.

Friday, August 24, 2012

HSMM-MESH™ firmware ports

As announced by the QEX Magazine editor back in 2010, there are some groups of amateurs in Texas working together to implement a mesh network of HSMM nodes.

Think of this as similar to the D-Star network, but operating at a much higher data rate. The groups in Austin include ARES, Roadrunner Microwave Group, Texas Emergency Management, and Red Cross. There is also a fair amount of work being done in Dallas and Plano. Glenn Currie, KD5MFW, gave a presentation to a standing room only group at the Austin Summerfest this past Saturday, so interest is growing significantly.

The group doing the heavy lifting of developing software and hardware has been very busy over the past couple years. And there has been a large following.

Their custom ham radio HSMM-MESH™ firmware has been limited thus far to the Linksys WRT54G series of hardware.

There have been many requests to expand support for Ubiquiti devices and other hardware platforms. The WRT54G series isn't really in production anymore. But one can usually find them at thrift stores relatively cheap.

The Ubiquiti Bullet, Nanostation and other devices are readily available for about $75 each. Ubiquiti products use the Atheros chipset, where as Linksys WRTs, use Broadcom. Custom ham only channels and channel widths are possible with the Atheros chipset, but not currently available for Broadcom.

Fortunately Brian, KY9K of Yelm, Washington has come up with some development grade HSMM-MESH firmware that will support other devices:

HSMM-Mesh: Development Firmware with OLSRd v0.6.3
Mon Jul 30

I've uploaded my development HSMM-Mesh firmware to my server:

This is identical to the official HSMM-Mesh v0.4.3 release with two exceptions:

1) Integrates OLSRd v0.6.3 - fixes byte ordering in the secure module.

2) Domain changed from "" to just "us.mesh".

Since the new version of OLSRd fixes a byte-ordering bug that affects the WRT54G/GS units, this version will not interoperate with the official HSMM-Mesh release. The changes are all hidden under the hood and don't change the user operation.

The huge upside is that this version will talk to hardware from other vendors. I've got it talking to a Ubiquiti Bullet an a pair of D-Link DIR-825s on the bench right now.

If you've got time and some curiosity to spare, give it a whirl. Works great for every test I've done, but I'd like to get some extra eyeballs on it.


I fully expect this will become the default firmware image hams will gravitate to as they upgrade existing nodes.

In a related note. The Network World website has a recent entry titled "Home Wi-Fi routers could operate as emergency network, say scientists."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monitor Curiosity with Cheap SDR ?

Perhaps you have read about hams using cheap USB TV tuner dongles as a basis for software defined radio.

It’s a very neat project that opens the door to a whole bunch of radio experimentation.

Here is a hack-a-day blog that provides a pretty good getting started guide. It includes the ins and outs of setting up the GNU radio software.

Once you have that going, give it a test drive:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
>From: Trevor .
Date: Mon, Aug 6, 2012 at 4:47 PM
Subject: [FUNcube] 437 MHz - Curiosity - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Frequencies
To: FUNcube Group

My thanks to someone who emailed me earlier this evening.

Curiosity transmits around 401 MHz but the transponder on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has a CCSDS Forward Frequency in the 437 MHz Amateur-Satellite Service band.

We well know that 435-438 MHz is shared with the Military but 432-438 MHz is of course a Space SAR Band and I understand General Space usage extends beyond that.

This paper describes the operation of the MRO (see page 34 onwards)

73 Trevor M5AKA

Friday, July 27, 2012

IPv6 & Ham Radio

Back in 1998, Naoto Shimazaki, 7L4FEP described an idea for use of IPv6 over the amateur radio in a document he presented to a TAPR Digital Communication Conference.

"IPv6 has huge address space and it supports real-time traffic. IPv6 realize new applications. For example, managing IPv4 address is not easy. It is possible to encode our "call sign" into IPv6 address. It enables us to managing IP address much easier."

You can read the whole thing here.

A few members from the Mesa Amateur Radio Club of Arizona took this to code.

"Club Members Jacques N1ZZH and Vinnie N1LQJ have developed a method of embedding a 2x5 (7 Character) callsign plus up to 185 nodes, plus 1 universal bit and three reserved bits in the 2nd octet, and a 16 bit amateur radio identifer at bit 24 of an IPv6 /64 Subnet address."

They announced;

"Tools for encoding and decoding amateur radio callsigns, up to 2x4 & 185 nodes, from IPv6 /64 subnets with Universal bit support and Amateur Radio Flag at the 24bit. Experimental RFC to IETF is being submitted for this proposed amateur standard."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Frequency Coordination

This the only place in Part 97 that discusses the duties and authority of a frequency coordinator.

§ 97.3 Definitions.
(a) The definitions of terms used in part 97 are:
(22) Frequency coordinator. An entity, recognized in a local or regional area by amateur operators whose stations are eligible to be auxiliary or repeater stations, that recommends transmit/receive channels and associated operating and technical parameters for such stations in order to avoid or minimize potential interference.
Please note that it doesn't say it requires any recommendation of the FCC, the ARRL, or existing frequency coordinators, etc. So it doesn't say that there can't be more than one frequency coordinator in a local or regional area.

Here is something interesting I ran across in some recent ARRL Executive Meeting Minutes:

4.1. Mr. Imlay reviewed material he had circulated to the committee prior to the meeting with regard to a repeater coordinator dispute in Wyoming. He explained that while the longstanding policy of both the ARRL and the National Frequency Coordinators’ Council (NFCC) is that there should be only one recognized frequency coordinator for a band in a given geographic area, FCC rules and policies do not rule out the possibility of there being more than one. In Wyoming there are two coordination entities, each of which can claim recognition by amateur operators in the state. While the ARRL is not directly involved in frequency coordination, there is a Memorandum of Understanding between the ARRL and the NFCC and ARRL policy is to accept only information supplied by NFCC-certified coordinators for publication in the Repeater Directory. NFCC has experienced a period of inactivity, which has caused the current accuracy of its list of certified coordinators to be called into question. However, new NFCC officers have just been elected.

What bothers me is that most of the VHF-UHF bands are inundated with mostly inactive repeaters.

Where in Part 97 does it say that a frequency coordinator should be in charge of parceling out exclusive (both geographic and frequency) usage of 144 - 148 MHz (etc)?

It doesn't make any sense at all to be attempting to more finely regulate that all of the potential "repeater channels" on 2m, 70cm, for all of an area, are not actively in use.

Frequency coordination made sense 20 years ago when there was intense demand for repeaters and there weren't easy ways to do coordination without a slow, manual, group effort.

Back then the Frequency Coordinators newsletter was a good source to share/disseminate technical information regarding building a repeater.  Since then websites like repeater builder have taken over that aspect.

The technical justification for coordination has also greatly diminished.  The days of custom ground crystals and waiting weeks for their arrival went away when PLL gear took over the market.  Changing frequency isn't as big of a deal anymore.

It is interesting to note that repeater coordination has only been around since 1985? (per docket 85-22). It was prompted a number of repeaters causing interference to one another.

Now there's little, and falling usage of voice repeaters, and coordination can easily be accomplished with a wiki page listing who is responsible for a particular system that's operating on a particular frequency at a particular location.

Modern sites like Repeater Book allows you to update your own listing.  And that is the bottom line to most repeater owners.  Being listing with minimal fuss.

I and others had the unfortunate experience of the coordination body complaining that some aspect of the repeater isn't up to their standards. Perhaps it was a short distance move, or some other minimal system change. The communication had no merit as there was no other official station complaint. They just want to be the repeater police, and justify their existence.

I think that for the most part, a frequency coordination body has little service to ham radio these days. It seems most just likes making paper work for themselves.

I think their continued existence actually, actively Harms Amateur Radio by propagating a mistaken impression that repeaters on the air should be "rationed".  Yet in reality, their job is to accommodate.

When the repeaters are idle the majority of the time, the chance of interference is low, which begs the question why bother with it at all?

Since a receive tone is a requirement of coordination, you really seldom notice if you are prone to interference which may be affecting your fringe areas.

It should be easy for an individual, club, or group to put up more equipment to make better use of Amateur Radio spectrum. Instead, the coordination policies and procedures make it difficult to do so, and people walk away discouraged and disgusted from even trying to put up interesting systems on the air.

The problem is frequency coordinators have broken the bands into channels most fairly narrow in width, with conventional input and outputs. I think this image/model discourages potential other use, that may not fit the convention.

Take a look at CDMA Spread Spectrum, in the implementation of Cellular Telephony. We had tons of buzz about this in 80's-90's but it never went anywhere in ham radio. How could it? It's totally incompatible with the way we slice up the bands.

And even with conventional channels plans, there is room for determent. Shouldn't we try to accommodate a multitude of different experiences?

Lets say there are 5 available pairs in a given area. Three are already filled by conventional analog repeaters. There are two requests for pairs for D-Star. One request for a P25 (APCO 25) mixed-mode repeater, and one for DMR. How does or should these be doled out? Does the policy say the first requested, is the first filled? Does this help the hobby move forward, and provide opportunities to area hams for multiple mode exposures/experiences?

I think anyone who wants to put a system on the air - packet, D-Star, WiFi, P25, whatever, should simply monitor the band in question, find the quietest spot in the "repeater section" of the band in the geographic area you plan to construct the system, and put it on the air. Likely you won't interfere with anything. On the off chance that you interfere with a system that's actually used for more than ID'ing itself, then relocate. You'll find a place in short order.

In the past there have been FCC reports on interference situations.  They looked at the total history of both sides and at technical levels. The FCC takes all of this on a case-by-case basis. They do not automatically side with a coordination body. They take the total situation into account. billcross1.pdf

What you can take away from this is that the FCC regards repeater coordination as a volunteer thing taken on by the amateur community. They don't appoint  them, and regard repeater coordination as a self-enforcement or self-regulation issue. That talk by Bill Cross is a reaffirmation of policies they developed nearly 10 years ago. It also states that the FCC does not officially recognize any coordinating body.

When the repeaters are idle the majority of the time, the chance of interference is low, which begs the question why bother with it at all? Most of who participate really only primarily concern themselves with being listed. A way to advertise their systems.

Frequency coordination needs sweeping changes and to move forward. One of the purposes of a frequency coordinator is to recommend standard operating procedures.

The ARRL recently revised their outdated microwave bandplans. Now it's time for regional coordination bodies to adopt these, and put some thought into their coordination policies not only for microwave, but VHF and UHF as well.

(It's no wonder the NFCC has been dangling by a thread for years.)

It has been suggested: To start a 5-year phase-in plan for 6.25kHz channel centers and mandatory 2.5 kHz narrowband FM deviation on analog.

I also think we should have more shared non protected repeater pairs available on each band. While I am not a fan of more repeaters, I am also not a fan of unnecessary rules and other deturants that might prevent someone from experimenting. If someone wants the experience of trying to build their own repeater, and / or how a particular location plays, let them. Even if no one really uses it. Amateur radio is a playground for learning.

Thought should be given to creating digital repeater segments within each band. Just like we have sub-bands for ATV and packet, perhaps we should be doing this with digital repeaters? Hitting the scan button on an analog rig, and having it screech, and beep on a digital repeater right next to an analog one is less than desirable. Due to "crowding," this would have to be a process of clearing / reserving segments via a process of attrition over time.

I'd like to suggest repeater coordination newsletters should be a clearing house for sharing technical info from time-to-time. Again, ham radio should be about learning.

If you are still believing "tradition must continue,"  read on.

Local frequency coordination bodies guard their frequency database carefully.  They attach a copyright to the data (at least the format of it - legally speaking).  They sell the list to the ARRL for the ARRL's directory for a substantial annual fee. Both are copyrighted, so anyone else publishing repeater data either has to get their own (a daunting task), or illegally use copyrighted data (though some argue the validity of the copyright for the actual data). However, the irony is many coordination bodies put their data on the web for personal use.

You pay or donate to a frequency coordinator, and provide them with your data, that they copyright and sell.  I am sorry, but ham radio has always been a collaboration of people working together and sharing information freely, so this irks me as bad as the AMBE patented algorithms.

It's time to relax the rules, while the band activity is low, and allow a gestation period.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Bob Witte, K0NR wrote an interesting column for CQ-VHF's Spring 2012 magazine issue.

It's titled "TRBO Hits the Amateur Bands."

Its about Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) sometimes called MOTOTRBO.

He points out that its a new digital standard that is gaining traction on the VHF and UHF amateur radio bands. He reports there are over 90 DMR repeaters up and running in the U.S with more planned.

DMR originated as a European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) standard.

The DMR Association is the industry body promoting adoption of the standard and includes these companies as members: Harris, Hytcra, Icom, JVC, Kenwood, Motorola, Tait Communications, Vertex Standard, and Zetron.

DMR takes a novel approach to spectral efficiency. The bandwidth of the radio signal is nominally 12.5 kHz with two signals sharing the channel via Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA). Simply put, two mobiles working through a DMR repeater share the channel by cycling their transmitters on and off in a synchronized manner. This is similar to how some cellular-phone systems handle multiple phones operating on the same channel. The cellular-phone base station controls the synchronization of the various phones so they do not interfere with each other. Similarly, with DMR the repeater has to synchronize the two mobiles using the same 12.5-kHz wide channel.

"A DMR installation looks a lot like a normal repeater system but with the benefit of two channels built in."

For those totally unfamiliar with TDMA, I recommending checking out my older blog titled "Understanding Digital," where I reference some Hak5 videos on Pulse Code Modulation. And the following week, Time Division Multiplexing (TDMA).

These sort videos give a good tutorial on how this works.

But if you really need the nitty-gritty, the TDMA time slots are 30 msec in duration.
In the 30 msec slot, the transmitter is required to ramp up to full power in 1.5 msec, send data for 27 msec, then power down in 1.5 msec.

For further good reading and information, I suggest reading K0NR's article. I believe this is the first printed ham article on DMR.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yaesu Digital?

Back in September 2011 at the Tokyo Ham Fair Yaesu presented a new line of digital ham radios. Then a short time later in late 2011, a new page on the Yaesu website titled "The Dawn of Digital Communications in the Amateur Radio World" appeared.

So here it is, a FT-1DR:

Their PDF talked a lot about C4FM. So many hoped they'd use IMBE and let it work with P25 gear.

They also talked about DMR (compatible with MotoTRBO), and we know the Vertex Standard branch does have DMR radios like the VXD-720 DMR HT.

However, there are 3 tiers in the DMR standard (described in ETSI technical standard TS102 361):

DMR Tier I products are for license-free use in the 446MHz band.

Under Tier I, ETSI has also defined two Tier-1 protocols:

DMR Tier-1 protocol utilizes 12.5kHz FDMA <---- br=""> dPMR protocol utilizes 6.25kHz FDMA

Both protocols provide for consumer applications and low-power commercial applications, using a maximum of 0.5 watt RF power. With a limited number of channels and no use of repeaters, no use of telephone interconnects, and fixed/integrated antennas, Tier-1 DMR/dPMR devices are best suited for personal use, recreation, small retail and other settings that don’t require wide area coverage and advanced features.

DMR Tier II covers hand portables, mobiles and base stations operating in the VHF and UHF allocations for PMR.

The ETSI DMR Tier-2 standard is targeted to those users who need spectral efficiency, advanced voice features and integrated IP data services in licensed bands for high-power communications. ETSI DMR Tier-2 calls for two slot TDMA in 12.5 kHz channels.

DMR Tier III products will support trunking operation.

Most savvy hams are familiar with Tier-2. This is what the above mentioned Vertex/Standard VXD-720 uses, as well as MotoTRBO.

According to a Yeasu FT1D sales flier picked up at Dayton :

C4FM 12.5 KHz FDMA.

Peak data transfer rate 9.6 kbps.

It can send a 320x240 pixel picture using a camera speaker mic. (as eluded to on the universal radio page)

It takes 20 seconds to send the picture over the air at 320x240, and 4 seconds at 160x120.

Because of display limitations, it can only save it in JPEG format to the Micro SD card slot on the camera. It can't display it on the radio itself.

What is interesting is the radio has a USB connector. This is for accessing the camera speaker mic as a webcam, and for firmware updates.

So in effect it's not really compatible with anything other than the cheesy radios designed for the license free PMR 446 band in Europe. But never fear, keep your anticipating eyes open for the Yaesu radio that will be compatible with Tier-2 DMR:

---From Page 14 of the Yaesu PDF---
At this point in time, Vertex Standard believes the C4FM (4-level FSK) FDMA or TDMA are the most suitable selections for Amateur radio applications. In early 2012, we will release a C4FM (4-level FSK) FDMA Handy-Talky and a Mobile transceiver into the Amateur radio market.

After our initial introduction, we plan to introduce a C4FM (4-level FSK) TDMA (2 slots) or TDMA Handy and Mobile transceiver into the Amateur market.

This is from page 15 of the Yaesu pdf.   The receiver audio output is the same as the IC-92.  And that is my biggest grumble with the IC-92.  In digital mode you better be in a quiet room, close to your radio.  In analog, however the audio out is okay.

Friday, May 18, 2012

UDR56K-4 Universal Digital Radio

UDR56K-4 New Product Release
Posted on May 18, 2012

For Immediate Release

NorthWest Digital Radio Announces New Universal Digital Radio at Hamvention® 2012

Dayton, OH – NW Digital Radio introduced the UDR56K-4 Universal Digital Radio at the annual gathering of Amateur (Ham) Radio enthusiasts. The radio, which has been designed to support digital data and digital voice needs of both amateur radio emergency service teams and digital radio experimenters The radio will support data rates from 4800-56K+ bps with selectable modulation methods including GMSK, FSK, and 4FSK. The UDR56K will operate in the 70cm band (420-450 mHz.) at up to 25 watts.

Bryan Hoyer (KG6GEU), President of NW Digital Radio said, “The UDR56K is a radical departure from legacy commercial radio offerings and brings a new, open platform, to the Amateur Radio community by providing a stable, integrated, software managed radio for digital communications combined with a tightly integrated Linux based computing platform in a compact package.”

The radio, which measures 4×6 inches and is topped with an eye-catching red colored heat sink, has none of the usual switched, knobs, dials, buttons, or switches. It has one Ethernet jack, four host USB ports, power, and antenna connections. All radio functions are controlled by software, using either a web browser interface or custom application.

NW Digital Radio has already integrated the Radio Messaging System (RMS) and D-STARi gateway and controller software. They are also in talks with noted software developers to provide additional digital radio protocols and applications on the UDR56K platform. Common Linux applications are easily installed using package management tools or may be compiled for the radio. Some applications of interest to the amateur radio community have already been tested, such as AX.25 networking, gpsd, Xwindows, bluetooth integration, wireless 3G/4G broadband, USB sound, and others.

“As we have talked to amateur radio operators, who are interested in digital communication for emergency communication or the development of new protocols, vocoders, and networks, there has been universal excitement fot the UDR56K,” according to John Hays (K7VE), Director of Marketing. Mr. Hays further noted that “Many have said, ‘can we pay now, to be at the front of the line?’”

Mr. Hoyer added, “We think we have a winner in this design, and anticipate a series of new products from our company. We want to build on the resurgence of ‘do it yourself’ activity. We will put the Amateur back in Amateur Radio!”

This device is not offered for sale, pending certification and approval by the FCC.

The UDR56K-4 has an anticipated release in the 4th Quarter of this year, with a target MSRP of $395.

For more information contact:

Bryan Hoyer, CEO

John Hays, Director of Marketing

NW Digital Radio Corporation is incorporated in the State of Washington.
Friday Harbor, WA

D-STAR is a protocol of the JARL and is also a trademark of Icom Corporation.

I am glad to see things like this.

Pitty they are limiting themselves with the current FCC data constraints. I wonder if the speed would be upgradable if those change or for foreign markets.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More Band Plans and Comments

The ARRL just released a draft of their proposed 13cm (2.3/2.4 GHz) band plan.

They have been soliciting planned and projected uses of the amateur bands between 902 MHz and 3.5 GHz.

I applaud the effort, as this is long over-due.

You only have a few days left to comment on FCC proceeding number 12-91.

The FCC is asking for input on a number of items, including regulations governing data transmission that inhibit public service/emergency communications by Amateur Radio:

"Commission Seeks Comment on Emergency Communications by Amateur Radio and Impediments to Amateur Radio Communications" Dated April 12, 2012:

Submit comments here by May 18th:

To look at what others have submitted, search for proceeding number 12-91

If you don't plan to comment, then I at least encourage you to read what others have commented. Pay special attention to anything submitted from anyone in a leadership role (division director, frequency coordinators, club presidents, etc). These folks are supposed to be speaking on behalf of the amateur community.

Don't forget to thank them if they have done their part, or remind them if they haven't. Remember, things work better with input.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

5 MHz bandwith support for OpenWRT

A number of you are experimenting with 802.11 OFDM on 70 cm with the Doodle Labs DL-435-30 and/or Xagyl XC420M.

I've been asking around on this, and here is what I've been told:

1) Check out the openwrt code and set up the build environment:

Use this SVN repository: svn://

2) Build the openwrt code and make an image:

3) Install the image:

Patch reset.c as follows, either using this patch or by editing it directly:

4) Rebuild the openwrt code and make another image.

5) Install the image on two APs and it should work!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Someone asked me:
>How would one use this to call CQ ?

The simple answer is the same way you do/did with packet radio or any other digital mode.

Personally I haven't called CQ above 50 Mhz in years... but if you must...

Review how to embed messages in ping packets, and send a broadcast ping:

PATTERN=`echo -n "$MSG" |xxd -p`
/bin/ping -c 1 -p $PATTERN

 eth1: len 60 4b:42:39:4d:57:52->6b:62:39:6d:77:72 type = IP  
IP: len 42> ihl 20 ttl 64 prot ICMP
ICMP: type echo request id 54377 seq 0

Or perhaps you are seeking a voice QSO? Again, it seems much easier to plug in a pair of cheap Grandstream IP phones and dial the other end by IP address.

But if you must... review the CM-108 USB sound FOB.

The CM-108 FOB as detailed in the PDF is perfect for interfacing to FM rigs for repeater/simplex links.

Here I just wired an old microphone to a USB sound card.

The Ubiquiti Routerstation Pro has a USB port.

To get that USB sound to work review this:

Then install and use something simple like Speakfreely.

Or how about an IRC or Jabber server?

The correct answer is how do you want to call CQ?

Perhaps you are contemplating a pair of 70cm Doodle Labs DL-435 cards? May I suggest you do your CQ as amateur digital video with Laptops running NetMeeting. (or the Linux equivalent for those in-the-know)

Antiquated Bandwidth rules do not apply when there is a video component.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Customized D-Star Repeater

I have provided three simple bash example scripts. One says the time, another reports the weather conditions. And yet another will read back who was recently on your d-star repeater.

(I have since improved some of the quirky word concatenation from what is shown in the video.)

Special thanks to Kristoff, ON1ARF for his ambestream voice announcement toolkit.

Also to Scott, KI4LKF for his g2_link program.

To install this, first install ON1ARF's D-Star voice announcement toolkit, and download my premade AMBE library of files. (this also includes the three mentioned scripts)

To process DTMF; I suggest installing KI4LKF's g2_link program. (Alternatively ON1ARF's dtmf-rcq or a number of different DTMF decoding add-on options) Scott's g2_link will also give you the ability to connect to XFR and DCS D-Star reflectors. His g2_link program contains an easy to understand and modify to your liking shell script.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bandplans and Comments

Last month the ARRL released a draft of their proposed 9cm (3.5 GHz) band plan.

And just yesterday, 33cm (900 MHz).

They have been soliciting planned and projected uses of the amateur bands between 902 MHz and 3.5 GHz.

I was happy to see there are four 20 MHz wide slices for OFDM for 9cm.

When it comes to life above 900 MHz, the most prevalent thing out there that can easily be adapted to ham radio use is 802.11 network gear.

Ubiquiti, Xagyl, and Doodle Labs all have gear for 900 MHz (33 cm), as well as the standard 2.4 (12 cm) and (5 cm) 5.7 GHz bands. Ubiquiti has 3.5 GHz (9 cm) covered.

So its natural to form a band plan around what can be adapted for ham radio use.

From the ARRL board meeting notes:
4.1.4. At Minute 51 of its January 2012 meeting the ARRL Board assigned to the Executive Committee responsibility for periodic review of the National Broadband Plan Committee Report and managing the implementation of its recommended strategies. Steps being taken to encourage innovative and productive uses of the amateur bands between 222 MHz and 3.5 GHz include the updating of band plans for the four bands between 902 MHz and 3.5 GHz. The committee discussed challenges brought about by increased occupancy of the 1240-1300 MHz band by primary services, and promising developments that may lead to increased amateur broadband activity in the 3.3-3.5 GHz band.

The FCC is asking for input on a number of items, including regulations governing data transmission that inhibit public service/emergency communications by Amateur Radio:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Asterisk Radio Interoperability

Micheal VK3ZEA shows some interoperability.

Asterisk is a powerful open source VOIP telephony platform. There happen to be a few hams heavily rooted in the project. So naturally there is a module called app_rpt for integration of 2-way radio systems.

For more info see:

What Micheal is showing, involves some rather complex configuration. But much of the open source software that powers what he is showing has come along way. So I expect even further down the road, this will be child's play.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Daniel, VA7DRM read my blog about OpenBTS.

OpenBTS is an open source way to build your own GSM cellsite. My suggestion was, this is something hams should look into. We could build a Part 15 emergency cell tower that we could be part of our to-go kits that we bring when responding to emergencies when normal communications are disrupted. Providing seamless support.

Well, Daniel took that to heart, and writes:

After spending almost two years trying to get a test license to run OpenBTS, I realized that our time would better be spent making something that could work with all the spectrum open to us Hams. That's when I started doing research into making a new digital standard, something open, cheap, that would support time domain duplexing(TDD), and possibly use Codec2, as the DV codec.

Visit:, for more info on the HamCell project.

Currently the hardware is built around a ADF7021 and covers the 2M band. It has a max TX power of ~10W and a theoretical max speed of 25kbps.

He notes that most of this is still in the planning phase and any input or ideas are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coding schemes for digital modes

Jason Spence, KF6RGF writes:

Why don't more amateurs use coding schemes for digital modes? You don't have to transmit louder if you can transmit smarter. Recently, something called polar codes have been making the rounds in academia:

The idea behind polar codes provides a possible way forward for modems to maximize throughput over a noisy channel. Conveniently, they are much easier to implement than other schemes and simple implementations do not affect the design of the transceiver's analog parts.

But wait, you say. I can't just dump some power hungry DSP board in my solar powered packet node! I need something low power. Well, Freescale has been teasing us with a few details about this part for months now:

Hey, you say, I need something now! Well, TI has you covered:

$8.60 - 1x TI Launchpad
$20 - 2x AIR BoosterPacks

$28.6 gets you 2 modems which will do low speed packet over 300 meters for $14.30 each. They can use both the 440 and 900 mhz bands, and you even get protoboard space on each of the boosterpacks.

Why aren't more hams using these? Because the recommended tools cost $500 a seat to use the full capacity of the chips involved. Or do they?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Voice Recognition for FM Repeaters

Last year Google pushed version 11 of their Chrome browser, and along with it, one really interesting new feature- support for the HTML5 speech input API.

This means that you'll be able to talk to your computer, and Chrome will be able to interpret it. This feature has been available for awhile on Android devices, so many of you will already be used to it, and welcome the new feature.

If you dig around in the source code, you learn how the speech recognition is implemented:

Audio is collected from the mic encoded in FLAC format, and then passed via an HTTPS POST to a Google web service, which responds with a JSON object with the results.

Some Asterisk Telephony enthusiasts have been monkeying with this Google Speech API. This is how I first learned of it.

Interacting with a repeater thus far has been limited to DTMF to query the time, etc.

This API opens a whole new world to craft your own Siri like repeater system. Just set up a series of IF statements to grep/match the text returned.

You ask "What time is it?" It sees "time" and does a time lookup and speaks it back.
You ask "where is KB8ZXE?" it sees where and KB8ZXE and passes a query to and reports back that he was last 2.1 miles NorthEast of Green Bay".... etc

I've been experimenting with this on IRLP node/ repeater (147.075 MHz) here in Green Bay. It's really quite trivial to implement. I bet we are the first ham radio repeater to implement voice recognition.

Here is all you really need to get started:
 echo "1 SoX Sound Exchange - Convert WAV to FLAC with 16000"   
 sox message.wav message.flac rate 16k  
 echo "2 Submit to Google Voice Recognition"  
 wget -q -U "Mozilla/5.0" --post-file message.flac --header="Content-Type: audio/x-flac; rate=16000" -O - "" > message.ret   
 echo "3 SED Extract recognized text"   
 cat message.ret | sed 's/.*utterance":"//' | sed 's/","confidence.*//' > message.txt  
 echo "4 Remove Temporary Files"  
 rm message.flac  
 #rm message.ret  
 echo "5 Show Text "  
 cat message.txt  

Steve Ford, WB8IMY picked up on this blog and published it in the July 2012 issue of QST magazine.

{edit 2014}

This blog entry is over a year old is meant as a starting place for someone who has some Linux experience.  Since that time the Google speech API has changed a bit.  They block queries without a server key.

Step 0. Using an existing Google/Gmail account, join the Chrome-Dev Group.
Step 1. Create a new Project here (e.g. Speech Recognition)
Step 2. Click on your newly created project and choose APIs & auth.
Step 3. Turn ON Speech API by clicking on its Status button.
tep 4. Click on Credentials in APIs & auth and choose Create New Key -> Server key. Leave the IP address restriction blank.
Step 5. Write down your new API key or copy it to the clipboard.

Now for version 2 of the API you submit like so (replace with your API key):

 echo "1 SoX Sound Exchange - Convert WAV to FLAC with 16000"  
 sox message.wav message.flac rate 16k  
 echo "2 Submit to Google Voice Recognition"  
 wget -q -U "Mozilla/5.0" --post-file message.flac --header "Content-Type: audio/x-flac; rate=16000" -O - "" > message.ret   
 echo "3 SED Extract recognized text"  
 cat message.ret | sed 's/.*transcript":"//' | awk -F '"}' '{print $1}' | tail -1 > message.txt  
 echo "4 Remove Temporary Files"  
 rm message.flac  
 rm message.ret  
 echo "5 Show Text "  
 cat message.txt  

I have easily added code to existing IRLP and Allstar Linux computers.  IRLP or Allstar has the hooks to catch DTMF strings to invoke this application to record your spoken commands, and submit them for translation.  From there you can code keyword triggers a number of ways.  An easy example is to use grep.

 if grep --quiet time /tmp/message.txt; then  
  TIME=`date "+%l:%M %p"`  
  echo "the time is $TIME" | festival --tts   

Freely Available STTs:
Google STT

I highly recommend the "Building a Virtual Assistant for Raspberry Pi" book by Tanay Pant

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I have some sad news folks.

It's been a while since I ranted about the ARRL. I was reluctant to renew my ARRL membership, so I let it lapse for a while so I could have some time to ponder if it's worth it.

The decision I came to was, if I renewed, I didn't want the paper QST every month. I usually buy the CD ROM at the end of the year. So I was leaning towards the blind rate, which excludes QST. But that was only like $8.00, so why bother at all?

I ended up renewing as a guy who went blind from reading QST, but I added the QEX subscription. I'll have someone read it to me I guess. I am so sorry, folks!

About the only thing that interested me in QST as Steve Ford's Eclectic Technology column. I have never had in interest in contesting, and a near zero interest in HF.

So what does QST have to offer me? Next to nothing that I can't wait till the end of the year to browse on the CD.

Here is something that always catches my eye on the ARRL website:
Khrystyne Keane's column titled: "ARRL in Action: What have we been up to?"

I always have this hope in the back of my mind that today is going to be the day, the good old ARRL gets off its butt and does something out of the ordinary.

It's never really the case, the report by Khrystyne (who I know loves me so much) is really just a re-hashing of the mundane crap they did, in case you were asleep.

So I got to thinking maybe there is a report already from the Microwave Band-planning Committee Already that I missed. So I jump to the meat:

Nothing yet, but some other things catch my eye from various committee reports..

By the early 1990s, the number of FM repeaters peaked at more than 23,000 according to ARRL Repeater Directory statistics.

The FM expansion came to a sudden halt in the mid-1990s with the proliferation of inexpensive cellular telephone service. FM operators were suddenly handed a communication technology that was not only superior in terms of performance; it was private and came with no restrictions on content. As a result, the amateur FM user base effectively collapsed.

Today, with cellular telephone service dominating the personal communications arena, the vast majority of amateur FM repeater systems see little or no use at most times of the day. Some repeaters have boosted activity somewhat by using EchoLink or IRLP to provide transcontinental or even global linking, but according to reports from repeater coordinators, activity overall remains very low.

These committees are trying to develop arguments and recommend "strategies to defend amateur frequency allocations to the bands between 222-3500 MHz, in light of the skyrocketing demand for mobile wireless broadband spectrum."

It is hard to regain the "cutting edge" part of ham radio that we once had if Part 15 and commercial carriers push the envelope without needing a license.

In my opinion, we don't need more repeaters. That seems to have been observed above. We need more flexibility to use the bands above 2 meters for other things, like building data networks that aren't a joke. There seems to be plenty of under-used space on the 70cm band.

If the ARRL doesn't seek rewriting the rules, or re-doing microwave band plans, then please stop asking for our input or trying to appear as listening.

Keep in mind that sooner or later if you jokers can't regain that cutting edge, then how do you expect inactive hams to be concerned about band threats by large broadband cellular telco's? These guys will ultimately will turn underused spectrum into something useful and cutting edge.

But don't worry about that, concern yourself with that 4 MHz of HF spectrum as you have been. And don't forget to take offense, though what I type is likely the sad truth.

Lastly to the readers. Have you shared your views with the ARRL recently? They cannot operate to the members liking without feedback and Regular communication!

Here is an interesting observation from W9GB on QRZ:
If the 700,000 licensed US amateurs really cared about US spectrum allocations (especially above 30 MHz), then they should support a stronger lobbying voice. The ARRL with only has ~ 200,000 US members -- not even 50% membership of licensed operators.

This is why I did renew. I do care, and realize the current spectrum pressures are enormous. But at the same time, what does this observation say about the ARRL's relevance to a large portion of the hams?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Doodle Labs DL435-30 Reports

A few hams have bought the Doodle Labs DL-435-30 transceiver.

The radio is capable of about 6 Mbps of data throughput utilizing a 5 MHz wide channel in the under-used 420-440 MHz ATV sub-band.

These were first made available in November 2011, so tests have been somewhat limited. However here are some initial conclusions:

At 20-30 feet using a 6 dBi gain omnidirectional antenna a couple different ham groups have seen 1/2 mile to 3/4 of a mile usable non-line of site mobile coverage using a 1/4 wave mag mount antenna. Both reports were in moderate to heavily mature tree neighborhoods.

Keep in mind at this low of a frequency, the height of the antenna will play a role to clear the large Fresnel zone and improve the performance.

The fact that you are not competing with your next door neighbors WiFi, makes these boards great for HSMM. If you can find a few hams in your area interested in it, there are bunch of possibility's for an OLSR network built on these things. Eliminating internet costs at repeater sites, repeater linking etc.

I'd appreciate hearing from other hams who are experimenting with this board wishing to share their reports.

Here is a short video that Kyle, N0KEW made:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Minitor IV in the Ham Band

Our club repeater is capable of two-tone paging. It uses a CAT-1000 controller.

Many moons ago in the mid 90's we had some Minitor I's pagers re-crystaled for the repeater.

With narrow-banding affecting all public safety channels there will be scads of Minitor III and IV pagers out there, hopefully for cheap.

The municipalities will likely upgrade to the Minitor V as it's narrow band capable.

While the III and IV are frequency programmable, the ones that will be coming out of service will mostly be the 151-159 MHz subband (B) versions. My model: A03KUS9239BC

Never fear, if you use the engineer login function of the pager programming software (in Minitor4 PPS ver 1.8.1), you can edit the engineering data, and change it to a 143-150 MHz (A) bandsplit.  (the password is "Taipei")

As for the versions 159-167 and 167-174 I don't think these will lock down in the ham band.

This message thread on radioreference gives you good info in making your own Minitor Programmer. It gives you the pinout diagrams for the Minitors III, IV and V.

When I get a chance to test the sensitivity more in-depth I will edit this page with the results, and mods that I may deem necessary to improve the sensitivity.

Sensitivity is good. Near .4 uV

I haven't been able to track down a service manual, but this explains what to do if yours is not locking.

I have had success programming both M3 & M4's for ham freqs.