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

XLX Support Updates

There are a couple of big announcements to make in terms of support for the XLX reflector world this week.

The first development is that Kenwood has released firmware version 1.09 for the popular D74A handheld transceiver. Among the improvements contained in this release is direct support for selecting XLX reflectors by name on the “Link to Reflector” menu.

The second development is that Andy Tayor <MW0MWZ>, developer of the extremely popular Pi-Star hotspot software distribution for the Raspberry Pi, has made a change that allows the radio operator to directly select an XLX reflector. Previously, you would have to make a local host table override entry for an XRF or DCS reflector in order to make this work.

06-28 Alert: After some more testing, it seems that the Pi-Star change to allow connection via the XLX name isn’t working properly. Testers experienced one way audio with the initiator of the connection not hearing the remote end.

07-11 Update: XLX Linking is now working, with some tweaks to the ircddbgateway config. See this thread on the Pi-Star Forum for more info.

XLX reflectors just got a whole lot better thanks to these updates!

73 de K2DLS