Amateur Radio Paging

Did you know that radio amateurs have our own paging network? Really, pagers, those slim devices that you carried on your belt back in the 1980s and 1990s. The devices with batteries that would last for weeks!

The Decentralized Amateur Paging Network was built by hams to provide the backend infrastructure to send messages to your personal amateur radio paging device. And if you’re running Pi-Star, you already have what is needed to turn your local hotspot into a POCSAG paging node on the DAPNET!

You also need need a pager. The AlphaPOC 602R seems to be a popular model that will work on the 70cm amateur band. The default paging frequency seems to be 439.9875 MHz and that is what Pi-Star will use unless you change it.

I wanted to play around with ham radio paging but, since I don’t have a ham radio pager available, I improvised. Isn’t that what amateur radio is all about? I wrote a python3 program to take inbound pages to my RIC (pager identification code) and send them to my email. I’ve shared the code on github and invite you to use it, comment, and contribute.

How can you use amateur radio paging? DX spots, APRS weather alerts, and solar activity are a few applications that come to mind. Share your ideas and be sure to send me a page via the us-nj transmitter group.

73 de K2IE

NJ-TRBO Adds CNJHAM TG 31340 to Select Repeaters

Thanks to Bob KC2CWT and Bill N2WNS for getting CNJHAM up and running on a couple of the NJ-TRBO system repeaters. Here’s an updated table of ways to connect.

D-Star Callsign RouteCNJHAM via Quadnet
D-Star ReflectorsXLX020A, XRF020A, REF020DXLX020A preferred
D-Star RepeatersNJ2DG-A
NJ2DG-C
W2RJR-B
Fulltime
Brandmeister DMRTG 31340CNJHAM
NJ-TRBO DMRTS1/TG 31340
PTT 10 minute timeout
Martinsville, NJ
 447.075
Wayne, NJ
 439.7875
Fusion YSFYSF 44977US CNJHAM
DTMF 44977
Wires-XCNJHAMDTMF 28255
Fusion RepeatersDGID 50Martinsville, NJ
 441.4
P25TG 31340Pi-Star
NXDNTG 31340Pi-Star
XLX DMRXLX020AEnable DMRGateway in Pi-Star
XLX YSFXLX020ASome Pi-Star config required

73 de K2IE

020 in 2020: An Update on the 020 Project Multiprotocol Digital Network

You may know it as CNJHAM, because that is how it all started. CNJHAM was first implemented as a lone StarNet smart group. CNJHAM then begat XLX020. Hardware transcoding was soon implemented and followed by links to Brandmeister DMR and YSF Fusion. In this new year, we’ve added Wires-X (for connection from Fusion repeaters) as well as P25 connections.

CNJHAM/XLX020A can be reached via the following methods:

D-Star Callsign RouteCNJHAM via Quadnet
D-Star ReflectorsXLX020A, XRF020A, REF020DXLX020A preferred
D-Star RepeatersNJ2DG-A
NJ2DG-C
W2RJR-B
Fulltime
Brandmeister DMRTG 31340CNJHAM
Fusion YSFYSF 44977US CNJHAM
DTMF 44977
Wires-XCNJHAMDTMF 28255
P25TG 31340Pi-Star
NXDNTG 31340Pi-Star
XLX DMRXLX020AEnable DMRGateway in Pi-Star
XLX YSFXLX020ASome Pi-Star config required

Jersey StrongWhatever the protocol, CNJHAM is Jersey Strong!

73 de K2IE

Siriusly, My Radio Listening Just Improved

I’ve been a Sirius subscriber since before it was Sirius XM and before Howard Stern first fled from teresstrial radio to the birds. I stopped being a regular commuter in 2013 and so my listening time shifted from the car to home.

At one point I mounted a small antenna to the side of the house and listened directly to the satellites. This was soon replaced by my Logitech Squeezebox internet “radio”. At some point, Sirius made some protocol change for the internet streaming that broke the Squeezebox app and there was to be no fix. So I switched to a Grace internet “radio”. Then came another change and the Grace could no longer be used.

I’ve been a Google Home smart speaker user for a couple of years and it always seemed odd that Google and Sirius had not partnered on a solution. Well, Happy Radiomas to me! In November, Sirius XM rolled out Google Home device integration. After setting up the credentials in the Google Home app, Sirius radio fun is now as close as saying “Hey Google, Play Spectrum on Siriux XM”.

Thanks Sirius and Google for making it easy to listen to Sirius in the same way that I listen to many other audio sources. If you are not using your smart speaker to listen to the radio, you’re missing out.

Former shortwave listeners, especially, can find a wealth of programming from around the world. For example, you can get the lastest news from the BBC or updates on the fire situation in Australia from Radio Australia. Make a resolution to explore this capability in the new year and you won’t be disappointed. You can even request, “Hey Google, play the latest Glenn Hauser’s World of Radio podcast.”

73 de K2IE

XLX020 Supports Direct YSF

XLX020 has upgraded to Luc (LX1IQ)’s latest xlxd (2.3.1) software. We now support direct connections via the Yaesu YSF protocol.

Luc is in contact with the distributors of Pi-Star and the OpenSpot to have this capability added to the dashboards. In the meantime, there is a simple change that you can make to your Pi-Star configuration to connection to XLX020.

You’ll have to be willing to edit your Pi-Star /etc/mmdvmhost file. Look for the [System Fusion Network] stanza. You’ll need to change the GatewayAddress to xlx020.k2ie.net and the GatewayPort to 42000. You’ll also need to change LocalPort to 0.

[System Fusion Network]
Enable=1
LocalAddress=127.0.0.1
LocalPort=0
GatewayAddress=xlx020.k2ie.net
GatewayPort=42000
Debug=0
ModeHang=20

See on you Fusion!

73 de K2IE

D74A and XLX Special Character Woes

A fellow New Jersey ham was having the hardest time using my XLX reflector. He could connect to a reflector module. He could hear conversations, but none of his transmissions were making it out over the reflector. Strangely, he had no such problems when using a DPlus reflector. His radio is a Kenwood D74A.

He uses a SharkRF openSpot2 as his hotspot. While helping to search for a solution, I remembered a thread I saw on the Pi-Star Forums. The author complained of not being heard on an XLX reflector via a D74A. The cause and the solution had nothing to do with Pi-Star, but rather it proved to be a quirk with the D74A and the XLX software.

Apparently the D74A allows any character to be entered into the Callsign Extension field. These are the 4 bytes following the “/”. While these characters were orignally made available to support reciprocal operations and portable suffixes, they are now commonly used to identify the type of radio being used. So my D74A callsign is setup as K2IE____/D74A (the underscores represent spaces). My friend’s radio had “@?” in the Callsign Extension field. These unexpcted characters seemed to cause the XLX reflector to ignore the attempted transmission.

The Icom radios support only A-Z and 0-9 in the callsign extension field. The D74A allows lowercase and special symbols too. Don’t use anything other than A-Z and 0-9 in the Callsign and the Callsign Extension fields and you won’t have this problem.

To make things more interesting, the ham who reported this issue is visually impaired. He relies upon the radio’s voice prompts. However, the Kenwood D74A voice prompting system ignored the @? characters completely, so he never had any idea that they were present. Another local ham who was alerted to the special character problem on the D74A spotted the issue and fixed things.

73 de K2IE

D-Star & DMR Interoperability

If you’re a fan of either D-Star or DMR, you have probably noticed the proliferation of multi-protocol gateways. These gateways, such as the XLX020 system, permit users of radios of one type to communication with users of radios of another type. Multiprotocol gateways help to defragement the amateur digital landscape.

However, there can be issues if the transmitting operator is not registered on both systems. Have you been on a DMR radio and seen the transmitting party display as radio id 0? They are a D-Star (or Fusion or P25 or NXDN) operator who has not registered a DMR radio number.

For DMR operators who have not registered with their nearest D-Star gateway, transmissions could even fail to pass through the D-Star gateway to connected D-Star repeaters.

Therefore, k2ie.net highly recommends that all amateurs using any digtial voice mode register for BOTH a DMR radio id and with a local D-Star gateway, whether or not you have a corresponding digital radio.

You can register for a DMR radio ID at http://www.radioid.net. Hams in Europe and Africa should register at http://www.ham-digital.org.

If you’re not sure of your local D-Star gateway, you can follow the instructions at https://www.dstargateway.org/D-Star_Registration.html.

73 de K2IE

K2DLS is now K2IE

My callsign has changed and we are migrating the blog over to http://k2ie.net. Please update all bookmarks that formerly pointed to k2dls.net.

I’ve been asked, “Why did you change your callsign?”

1×2 callsigns are hard to come by, especially one from your own call area. K2IE is an especially easy call for CW use. And, I was a friend and co-worker of the former holder of this callsign, Robert Norton. Unfortunately, Bob became a silent key well before his time.

Bob and I used to talk about radio and he encouraged me to get my amateur radio license. He also provided some insight into the hobby that I draw upon to this day. It is an honor to hold his callsign.

73 de K2IE

Duplex Hotspot Reliability Solution

So you’ve bought a new duplex MMDVM hotspot such as the one from N5BOC. You want to experiment with different DMR networks on each of the timeslots. You’ve set the recommended offset values in the MMDVM Expert settings. Yet every third or fourth PTT press results in a lost transmission. You’re so frustrated you want to throw your radio and hotspot across the room. Sound familiar?

I’ve spent a couple of months chasing down this issue, reading post after article on this subject. The consensus so far has been:

1) Update to the latest firmware.
2) Run the MMDVMcal procedure to minimize the BER.
3) Set the DMR preamble time on your radio to 960 ms.

After weeks of poor results, I came upon the solution that has worked for me (and for others) in a manual for the Anytone 878 produced by Bridgecom. Bridgecom recommends a DMR preamble duration of 100 ms.

1) Update to the latest firmware.
2) Run the MMDVMcal procedure (or enter the sticker offset
values for RXOffset and TXOffset).
3) Set the DMR preamble to 100 ms.

Well, I was testing on an Alinco MD-DJ5, a radio very similar to the Anytone 878. So I tried the preamble setting (called Wake Head Period in my software).

I have now achieved the mystical “five 9s” of reliability. I press PTT, I talk, my transmission gets received.

Ah, the sweet smell of success… And kudos to Bridgecom for the level of support that provide for Anytone 878 users.

This solution has worked so far with an Alinco DJ-MD5, a Motorola XPR, and a CS-700 (where I had to use 120 ms because the dropdown increments in steps of 60.). Oddly, my Hytera PD-365 does not support values lower than 360.

73

Greek Pirates on the AM Band

When I travel to other countries, I try to take out a few minutes to scan the AM broadcast band. I have observed that over the past few years I am hearing less and less. Sometimes there is nothing to hear but static and local noise. Many counties are completely abandoning AM broadcasting in favor of FM and digital (DAB). The urban environmental interferance levels don’t help things either.

A recent bandscan in Athens provided a nice surprise. The standard AM broadcast band was full of strong signals, most playing music. I settled on a strong station on 828 kHz playing a program of American standards and light fare. There were a few short announcements in Greek but I was listening as I fell asleep, so didn’t catch anything I could remember.

A bit of research the next morning showed that 828 kHz, and most other stations heard on the AM band in Athens, are unlicensed hobby stations. The Greek government does not seem to care much and these stations are providing a service.

If your travels include Athens, don’t forget to bring along an AM radio. You won’t be disappointed.