Pi-Star Configuration for XLX020

Some simple changes must be made to the configuration of a Pi-Star based hotspot before it can access an XLX Reflector. Thanks to our partner in the “020 Project”, Scott <KB2EAR>, who helped with following guidance.

To connect to XLX020 via DMR you must configure your Pi-Star hotspot to use DMRGateway. Before you begin, make sure you hit the update button on the Pi-Star menu.

If you have not yet enabled DMRGateway, you will find the DMR Configuration looking something like this:


To enable DMRGateway change DMR Master to DMRGateway (very top entry).

Click apply changes and wait for the menu to come back up. Next change XLX Master to XLX_020. XLX Startup Module will usually be either A (Central New Jersey) or C (Beyond New Jersey, including REF020A & Peanut users). Turn on the XLX Master Enable slider.

Click apply changed. Once the configuration above has been applied you should be ready to go. Next, program the radio.

To talk via DMR on an XLX reflector, you’ll need to use a channel programmed with TG 6. Also set up a receive group list with TG6 so you will receive signals from the hotspot.

If you want to move your hotspot between reflectors and modules, commands are sent via a private call. These should be entered into your digital contact list.

6 Group Call - Talk on the XLX Reflector
64000 Private Call - Disconnect Channel
64001 Private Call - Switch to Channel A
64002 Private Call - Switch to Channel B
64003 Private Call - Switch to Channel C
64004 Private Call - Switch to Channel D
64005 Private Call - Switch to Channel E
64006 Private Call - Switch to Channel F
65000 Private Call - Query Status
68020 Private Call - Connect to XLX Reflector 020

XLX020A is the gateway to the CNJHAM/XRF020A/REF020D network.

XLX020C is the gateway to the Peanut/XRF020C/REF020A network.

See you in 020 land.

73

The “020” Reflectors

D-Star users have long known about REF020. Reflector 20, as many call it, is one of the original D-Plus Reflectors. A number of repeaters in the New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania region link to it, including powerhouse K3PDR in Philadelphia and NJ2DG in Martinsville, NJ. It was recently relocated to the cloud by its operator (Scott KB2EAR) when when the site where the server was housed became unavailable. Historically, the busy channel tends to be REF020A.

During the weeks that Reflector 20 was down, I started exploring D-Star smart groups as a way to get together on the air with some of the folks that I talk to regularly. Smart Group CNJHAM was created on the QuadNet array.

Smart Groups can be a bit confusing on repeaters if you don’t know what group is being used as you come into range. My friend Ray <W2RJR> is playing with a low profile Pi-Star based repeater so we decided that repeater use would be simpler if it could connect to a reflector. Then the only destination route needed is CQCQCQ. So XRF020 was born.

Initially, there were challenges getting XRF020 getting listed in the right directories. You see, there is supposed to be one XRF directory that is authoritative, but not all gateway systems seem to pull data from the same place. Pi-Star uses one list, OpenSpot another, and DV4mini yet another. OpenSpot listed XRF020 right away. DV4mini uses the XLX list and you could have an XRF and XLX using the same number, which is “interesting”. Pi-Star took weeks to list XRF020 until I went to the “top guy”. Then it was handled immediately. Once I learned that XLX reflectors self-register, XLX020 was born.

CNJHAM - Our Central New Jersey smart group conference
REF020 - The original D-Plus Reflector 20 operated by KB2EAR
XRF020 - An XRF Reflector that speaks D-Plus and DCS as well as DExtra
XLX020 - A multiprotocol reflector that bridges digital modes

Here is the lay of our digital land.

Smart Group CNJHAM is where a few of us in the Central NJ area meet up daily. It is more or less our local digital intercom, but you are welcome to stop by and say hello. You can also say hello via XRF020A and XLX020A, as well as REF020D. They are all linked. The NJ2DG-C repeater is linked to REF020D, so you can get in that way too.

         CNJHAM <==> XRF020A <==> XLX020A <==> DMR/YSF
|
REF020D

If you’re an REF020 user, then you’ll want to know that REF020A is linked fulltime to XLX020C. You can connect to the XLX side of things via DMR, D-Star, or YSF. You can also get in via PA7LIM’s Peanut.

             REF020A <==> XLX020C <==> DMR/YSF/Peanut

See you in 020 land.

73

April 1 DMR Security Update

A new security implementation for DMR repeaters has been announced.

It is called “Color of the Day”. The color code will be randomized and rotated daily to ensure that only those with the correct seed will be able to access repeaters. To get the seed you need to make a Paypal donation to the Amateur Radio Security Cabal Inc. This is a not-for-profit organization of amateurs interested in security and is located in Lichtenstein.

For further information please Google “Aprilscherz”.

Setting up a STARnet Routing Group

Last month I wrote about callsign routing in a D-Star environment. I mentioned that it is possible to create your own Starnet routing group for you and your friends to chat on. If you’re running Pi-Star, here is how to do it.

On the Pi-Star Expert Editors menu, select ircDDBGateway. This component (written by G4KLX) of the Pi-Star distribution contains the Starnet server. Starnet uses callsign routing to set up a group which can be subscribed to by any valid user on the same network. In this case, we’re using the default network run the the QuadNet team (rr.openquad.net).

You’ll have to pick a name for your group. The ideal Starnet group name is not a valid call sign and is 6 characters long. This leaves room for a space and a subscribe/unsubscribe character. So it looks like this:

MYGRUP   -- Group name

MYGRUP A -- Subscribe to MYGRUP

MYGRUP T -- Unsubscribe to MYGRUP

In the ircDDBGateway config, you’ll need to change the following:

starNetBand1       A
starNetCallsign1 MYGRUP A
starNetLogoff1 MYGRUP T
starNetInfo1 What my group is about

You’ll see some other Starnet options but it is ok to keep the defaults for now. Once you know what you’re doing you can tinker further. You can even setup multiple groups. There is also an option to link your Starnet group to a reflector, but please do not do so without the permission of the reflector operator. But if you want to test this, you can try XRF020E, which I have reserved for experimentation.

Note: The address of XRF020 is not yet current in the Pi-Star file listings, so until it is updated you’ll have to manually edit /root/DExtra_Hosts.txt with the following:

XRF020        xrf020.k2dls.net L

Once you see your group listed in the QuadNet directory under Legacy STARNet groups, you can set your D-Star destination call (URCALL) to MYGRUP and chat away. Just remember that MYGRUP is an example only, and you’ll need to pick your own unique name that is not already in use.

You’ll also likely have to forward port 40000 (the ircDDB port) on your router to the internal address of your Pi-Star installation.



It may not be like having your own private repeater, but for many D-Star hams, it is the next best thing.

73

Adventures in Callsign Routing

Callsign routing has been around since the earliest days of D-Star. It has also been little used. However, with the proliferation of Pi-Star based hotpots, callsign routing and D-Star have been given new life. Your Pi-Star installation includes a piece of software called ircddbgateway. It truly is a gateway to a whole new way of looking at D-Star.

The first piece of the puzzle is to get comfortable with callsign routing. I invite you to give me a direct call on my D74A HT. To do that, you’ll need to configure your radio with a memory that is setup to use your Pi-Star as a gateway. While that is outside the scope of this article, the general idea of the D-Star configuration (using the ficticious callsign N0TME) is:

 R1: N0TME B ; For a B (70cm) module
R2: N0TME G ; To use as a gateway
MY: N0TME ; My callsign

Now for the fun part. Normally, you’d use CQCQCQ as the destination callsign. This is the standard if using a repeater or a reflector. But, you COULD put a callsign in that destination field. Put “K2DLS P” in the destination and if I’m around, I’ll answer. Note that the P identifies my portable and must be in the 8th character position of the destination (UR) field.

There are also destinations that are not individuals, but are Smart Routing Groups. Try DSTAR1, for example. That is a very active routing group operated by the folks at QuadNet and it offers a lot of multiprotocol connectivity. There is even a net where users check in from D-Star, DMR, and Fusion and everyone can hear everyone else! Be sure to disconnect when you’re done (DSTAR1 T).

You can also configure your own legacy Starnet group on your own Pi-Star for you and your friends to chat on. This can be found on the expert menu for ircddbgateway. We’ll talk more about this in a future post.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for your call.

Turn off HDMI on Pi-Star (Easier)

Here’s an even easier way to turn off HDMI on your Pi-Star image running under Raspbian. If you’re running one of the Pi-Star 4.0 release candidates, the tvservice command may already be installed. You can check by issuing the following command:

which tvservice

If it is installed, just add the HDMI off command to /etc/rc.local.

# Turn off HDMI
/usr/bin/tvservice -o

If you’re running Pi-Star 3.x, I learned that you can install tvservice from a .deb package.

sudo apt-get install libraspberrypi-bin

For some reason this did not turn up during my initial searches but was pointed out over in the Pi-Star Forums by Dennis (W1MT).

It also seems that Andy (MM0MWZ) is considering adding a button in the future which would allow turning off HDMI from the web interface.

Turn off HDMI on Pi-Star Image

It is common practice on headless Raspberry Pi computers to turn off the HDMI to save some power. Even without a monitor attached, the HDMI hardware seems to draw ~ 50 ma of current. However, in the interest of saving space in the image, Pi-Star (as distributed) lacks the necessary tvservice command to turn off the HDMI hardware.

This command is part of the Raspberry PI “userland” package, which for some reason is not packaged as a .deb. So you’ll have to grab the code off github, but it is pretty easy. Before starting, make certain that you have expanded the filesystem of your image to fill the SD card.

sudo pistar-expand
sudo reboot

After the reboot, do the following:

rpi-rw
git clone https://github.com/raspberrypi/userland
sudo apt-get install cmake -y
cd userland
./buildme

Add the libraries to the ld.so search patch by creating a file named “userland.conf” in /etc/ld.so.conf.d. In that file add the following line:

/opt/vc/lib

Next, update the ld.so search path:

sudo ldconfig -v

You can now run the tvservice command:

## Status
sudo /opt/vc/bin/tvservice -s
## Turn off HDMI
sudo /opt/vc/bin/tvservice -o

All that is left to be done is to add the HDMI off command to your /etc/rc.local file so that it will run every time the system boots.

Baofeng UV-3R+ Repeater Offset Broken

I was recently in search of a small, low power HT that has dual band (2m/70cm) capability. A bit of interwebs reading pointed me in the direction of the now discontinued Baofeng UV-3R+. For less than $25 each, including slow boat shipping from China, I grabbed a pair from Ali Express during the recent 11.11 sales.

The form factor of the radio is just right for my XYL’s purse, so she will carry it as an emergency radio. She also has a tiny Puxing PX2R purchased years ago via eBay, but it is UHF only and we wanted dual band capability so that she could hit KC2GOW’s new machine near her work QTH.

However, programming via software was quite difficult. It turned out that both the native software and CHIRP fail to adequately handle repeater offsets. A bit of reading came up with a couple of references to using .006 MHz rather than .600 as the VHF offset and then using .05 rather than 5.0 as the UHF offset. As you can see, the value has been shifted two decimal places to the left. Anyway, this is how it works with CHIRP.

Even worse is Baofeng’s own software, which requires entry of separate transmit and receive frequencies, rather than an offset. So, for a repeater which transmits of 146.76 and receives on 146.16, the Baofeng software needs a transmit frequency of (146.76 – .006) or 146.754 MHz.

OK, the radio is cheap. It is worth what I paid. But it is no Yaesu or even Alinco. Caveat amateur!

OBi in Trouble?

OBi, now owned by Polycom, seems to be in the midst of a major technical failure. Users are unable to provision both newly purchased devices as well as re-provision existing devices to correct issues such as the inability to receive Google Voice Calls.

OBi 202 Device

OBi markets devices that provide the capability to have Google Voice ring an actual hardline telephone. In recent weeks, according to posts on their user forums, their provisioning process via the obitalk.com portal has been regularly failing.

Numerous tickets opened by users have not been resolved. If you were thinking of purchasing an OBi device, while I normally recommend them highly, I’d think twice until this is resolved.

In one support thread, SteveInWA — who is a “Hero Member & Beta Tester” states that, “According to Polycom, they are continuing to investigate this problem; it is intermittent, and so meanwhile, their recommendation is to keep trying, and it should eventually work.” This was posted yesterday morning, so there seems to be a distinct lack of progress.

Google’s Fake Weather

Where there is “Fake News”, is “Fake Weather” likely to follow? Google doesn’t seem to know where I am. At least the Google News homepage no longer knows. Allow me to explain.

I use Google News as my web browser homepage. For many years, near the upper right hand side of the page there has been a box that presents my local weather forecast. Some weeks ago, the box started presenting the weather for another part of my state. I provided Google with web feedback and some days later noticed that the caption changed to “Your Local Weather”.

A number of days passed and we were experiencing the umpteenth heatwave of Summer 2018. However, the outside temperature reported by Google appeared to be way too mild for our local reality. I clicked the link below, which took me to weather.com, and learned that Google News thinks I am in Dearing, KS. Interestingly, this is near the geographic center of the continental United States and is often used to represent a geographical location for the USA when no other details are known.

On the other hand, my Google Home devices all seem to know my location and report the correct weather (well, their understanding of the correct weather) for my location. Chromecast, however, is as confused as the Google website.

I’ve reported this issue via the Google web feedback mechanism and hopefully I will again be able to get my real weather instead of Google’s “Fake Weather”.

In the meantime, I am living the dream. Google is doing a bad job of tracking me and I can always claim I was in Dearing, KS should the need arise!