DMR Montana News

7/5/17 Long overdue MD-380/390 sample codeplug available for download & next event support

Addendum 7/06/17. Latest version of the MD-380/390 sample code plug version ending in B is the latest download. It includes two additional complete zones, Washington PNW and Idaho PNW.


-MP & BH Next event for communications support is the Elkhorn Endurance Run on August 5th. We will separate from the digital and analog network, both the Mac Pass and the Boulder Hill repeaters starting the evening before the run. Members of the Capital City ARC are providing the communicators and communications management, and will be the hams you hear on these two repeaters.

-Bozeman News from Neil KL7JGS: Very soon, the first of four planned DMR on BrandMeister repeaters will be installed and turned-up in the Bozeman area. High Flat, the high ground with lots of commercial towers southwest of Four Corners, is expected to be on the air soon, possibly this week. Supporting this activity is main reason I am making available an incomplete sample codeplug for the MD-380/390.

-MD-380/390 Available for download is the latest MD-380/390 sample codeplug. Of note, it is not complete but I needed to get it out this week. This early release worked out for me because at 640 channels, I really needed to break it up into two projects. You will see zones for all over the Western USA but so far, only about half of these zones work. Zones that are complete and working today include all of the Montana zones except Bridger Ridge (waiting on a freq pair), the analog FM zone, the hot spot zones, along with Hawaii & New Mexico. Other zones may have some working channels but are incomplete or have invalid information in their channels. The zone and channel layout that you see is complete and correct and what we intend for you to have when the codeplug is 100% finished.

What it does not have: scan lists and completed zones for several surrounding states. So with this new codeplug, you can take your radio on a vacation to Missoula and Hawaii but not on a Las Vegas trip.

Given that there is still work to be done, I suggest only the following hams download and install it:
-You live in Bozeman, have an MD-380 or MD-390, and need a codeplug right away to operate on High Flat as soon as the repeater is turned-up.
-You are traveling to Bozeman soon and want to operate on the new High Flat site.
-You are in the DMR coverage footprint of any of our MPRG repeaters and want to have the new BGV (Bozeman Gallatin Valley) talk group in your normal zone so you can talk to the hams in Bozeman.
-Ditto for Hamilton. I dropped North America and added BGV to the Hamilton zone.
-You are a daredevil and are willing to load this new codeplug to help find channels that don't work. If you find things that don't work but are supposed to, please let me know via e-mail.

There is more risk than normal because I used both the Tytera 1.32 CPS and also a CPS called "MD-380 & MD-390 Code Plug File Editor by G6AMU" to create the file. It loaded into my MD-380 with no errors but that is no guarantee that it will work in your radio.

One major change from the previous version codeplug: In both of the Hotspot zones, the transmit and receive frequency in 31 of the 32 channels is now 440.0125 MHz. If your DV4mini/DVMega/openSpot is on the previous frequency, you will need to change the transmit and receive frequency in the 31 channels in the codeplug or change the transmit and receive frequency in your hotspot. We are hoping that this new frequency is unlikely to clash with anything as you travel around Montana. Sure, your hotspot puts out only 10 mW of RF but your MD-380 on low power is at 500 mW, which is plenty to interfere with a repeater input so we need to be careful.

As with the other sample code plugs, at a minimum, you need to change the Radio ID in General Settings to your number. Have a backout plan so you can go back to your last working codeplug if this one doesn't work for you. Use at your own risk.

Directions for those new to this: In the Hytera Customer Programming Software (CPS), under General Setting, you need to change Radio ID to your Radio ID number. You probably want to change the call sign in Radio Name to your call. Farther down on the right under Intro Screen, you might want to change Intro Line 1 to your name and call or other such text. Line 2 I suggest leaving so its easy to see what version codeplug is loaded into your radio. Optionally, at the top left under Alert Tone, you might want to uncheck CH Free Indication Tone. This is the really loud tone you hear during conversations every time the talker unkeys. This tone is at maximum volume and there is no way to reduce it so I uncheck the box for my MD-380. If you like/need a go-ahead beep, then leave this checked.

Also for the new to MD-380/390: Side buttons. There is one above the PTT button and one below the PTT button. What they do is determined in the CPS.
Upper button short press: Toggles between scan on and off for channels with scan lists. This won't do anything with the latest codeplug because none of the channels have a scan list.
Upper button long press: Zone select.
Lower button short press: Toggles the selected channel between low and high transmit power.
Lower button long press: Toggles the selected channel between repeat and simplex.

Design criteria for our sample codeplug: Many things are possible but what you see in our MD-380/390 code plugs, past and present, exists to support the following ideas. First, the sites, zones, and talk groups are oriented toward Helena-area hams, so they can operate on all of the Montana DMR BrandMeister repeaters, even those that don't belong to our club. Talk groups exist in MPRG zones so Helena area hams can talk to hams on those other club repeaters, including Hamilton and Bozeman. When a Helena-area ham travels to Hamilton or Bozeman, the zone for those sites have channels with talk groups allowing communications back to Helena. Second, there are additional zones so Helena-area hams can travel to surrounding states, operate on DMR repeaters in those areas, talk to local hams and also talk back to Helena. In some zones, the repeaters belong to networks that are not BrandMeister but there is some cross-over to BrandMeister such as with the TAC talk groups and the Statewide talk groups. Two zones, Rocky Mountain Ham (RMHAM) in Colorado and Wyoming DMR Project have no path to BrandMeister but those sites were included so travelers from Helena can at least talk to local hams while visiting those areas. When those areas have more BrandMeister network repeaters, we may drop RMHAM and Wyoming DMR Project and add BrandMeister repeaters. Our sample codeplug is rich enough with zones/channels/talk groups such that it is useful even for non-Helena-area hams. Some day, Bozeman will have their own sample MD-380/390 codeplug customized for their needs but today, as is, the latest MPRG sample codeplug will be immediately useful to hams in Bozeman so they can operate on the new High Flat repeater as soon as it is turned-up.

If you have any suggestions for the MD-380/390 sample codeplug that you think will be of interest to the whole group, please pass them on to me. For customization to suit your personal needs, go ahead and make changes to your copy of the codeplug. As of when you download the sample codeplug, it is yours to modify as you see fit. Only 640 channels are spoken for, leaving you 360 channels to fill with your own stuff. Have a good time making changes and trying new things.


6/10/17 Missoula University Mountain DMR Repeater installed & June events

Two events this month. First, we are supporting the Trail Rail Run with the Lookout Pass repeater on June 10th. Given that the Lookout Pass repeater and the University Mountain repeater in Missoula are joined at the hip, the University Mtn/Lookout Pass pair will be isolated from the rest of our EchoLink network starting the evening of June 9th and left separated until Sunday morning. This event typically runs until late Saturday evening so it makes sense to leave things for their use until morning. On June 24th, the Badger Pass repeater near Dillon and one of our conference servers will be used to support Ride Around The Pioneers In One Day (RATPOD). Much like the Trail Rail Run, the RATPOD course includes a lot of miles that has no cellular phone coverage. In Montana, Ham Radio still has a role supporting our community events.

-UM The morning of June 10th on University Mountain had the perfect ham radio installation weather. Its was a cold 37 degrees with wind, rain, and sleet. Visibility on the mountain was ¼ mile in fog. The plan was to replace the existing Motorola MSF-5000 repeater with a Hytera RD982 repeater and have it operate dual-mode but only with EchoLink networking. It was a lot of work but we finally got the repeater installed and working. Tom brought along his Verizon MiFi router that was originally purchased for use in his 5th wheel RV to test for 4G signal strength and throughput at the site. You would think that a mountain top radio site with a great view of a big city could be assumed to have strong signals from multiple cell sites but that is not so. The nearest Verizon cell site is a very short distance from this site but it doesn't provide 4G LTE service. The MiFi router works only with their 4G service, hence the need to test. To our surprise, even with the door on the equipment shelter closed, there is just enough 4G signal to allow the router to work. After connecting a Cat 5 cord from the repeater to the router, we were able to communicate across the BrandMeister network and found that the internet service provided by the MiFi box worked well for the repeater. Not sure what Tom is going to tell his XYL about the lack of internet access from their RV but he decided to leave the router at the site, at least for now, so the new repeater has full networking. BrandMeister for DMR and EchoLink for analog FM.

Yes, this installation took place while the Trail Rail Run was using the system yet our work didn't affect their use of the Lookout Pass repeater. Keeping analog and digital separate allowed for this. If you are interested in the details, ask Tom on the air how this was possible.

You probably noticed that in the latest MD-380/390 sample codeplug, there is no University Mountain zone. Both Missoula University Mountain and Helena North Hills repeaters are on the same frequency pair and color code so for now, just use your N Hills DMR and N Hills DX zones when in the Missoula area. The future (overdue) codeplug will have two Missoula zones, just like the other MPRG DMR sites, so you won't have to remember which sites share the same frequencies.

5/14/17 Badger Pass site to N7YET Larry's house microwave path installed

-BP A microwave path consisting of two Ubiquiti PBE-500AC-ISO radios were installed today connecting the Badger Pass site to the internet at N7YET Larry's house near Dillon. The Badger Pass repeater is now logged into the BrandMeister network allowing world wide DMR communications from Dillon and surrounding areas.
-BH On 5/11, an EchoLink PC to Hytera RD982 interface was installed on the Boulder Hill repeater. Boulder Hill is now fully networked, analog and digital.

4/30/17 Badger Pass DMR Repeater Installed

It was a cool and breezy morning but Tom made it to Badger Pass with a new Hytera RD982 repeater and got it installed. Like the other DMR sites, this repeater is set up to operate Dynamic Dual-Mode so it will support analog FM with EchoLink networking and DMR on the Brandmeister network. EchoLink service will continue to be provided from the control station at Larry's N7YET house. No BrandMeister networking for at least a couple of weeks until the Ubiquiti microwave radios arrive from the vendor and is installed. Of note, the existing MD-380/390 sample codeplug has two zones for Badger Pass so you are able to operate on the site today.

3/14/17 Correction to WorldWide TG Net time, Badger Pass news

-NH I should have stated the net time in UTC. It is every Saturday at 1600 UTC. With the time change, the World Wide net is now Saturday 10 AM local time in Helena, scheduled static on the North Hills site.
-BP The new Badger Pass Hytera RD982 repeater is undergoing burn-in testing at the MPRG Henderson Workshop. We expect it to be installed at the Badger Pass site early April, road conditions permitting. Initially, it will operate Dynamic Dual Mode but only analog EchoLink will be networked. digital DMR will be stand-alone for now. Once a suitable IP microwave radio is purchased and installed, the repeater will be attached to the BrandMeister network. We expect a new sample codeplug for MD-380/390 to be available soon so you can operate on Badger Pass during your travels to Dillon.

2/19/17 Worldwide talk group is static on North Hills for the WW Net

-NH Taking advantage of the new sysop control panel and its capabilities, Tom WR7AGT configured North Hills BrandMeister to make the Worldwide talk group, TG 91, as static but only during the weekly Worldwide net. This is every Saturday starting at 9 AM Montana time. The Worldwide talk group is scheduled to be static from 9 AM until 10:30 AM but only on the North Hills site. If you wish to participate in the net from any of the other sites, you will have to kerchunk Worldwide on your radio to activate the talk group then kerchunk every 15 minutes for the duration of the net. Worldwide is configured in our radios to use time slot 1 so time slot 2 on North Hills is free for normal use during the net, typically MPRG1 and Montana Statewide talk groups.

1/30/16 Toston now has EchoLink networking

-TS & BH On a warm and sunny Monday afternoon, I traveled to Toston with Don W7MRI to install and test the new Hytera RD982 repeater to PC interface. It works just fine so Toston now has EchoLink networking when operating analog FM in addition to the existing BrandMeister networking when operating DMR. We are waiting for the snow to melt on the road to Boulder Hill so we can drive to the site and install one of these new interfaces on its Hytera repeater. For now, Boulder Hill is operating Dynamic Dual Mode but only DMR is networked so analog FM operations is isolated to that site.

11/16/16 Sample Code Plug change for MD-380/390 (plus 11/23 update to the change)

-If you already grabbed 161116a, then just stick with it. The current version is now 161116b. I found that the file name in your radio display when you first turn it on did not match the 161116a name of the file. Second, I added Tim KB7DFK and Bill KG7SYW to the Digital Contacts list. There are no other changes between the a and b version of the 161116 codeplug.

-Recently, I discovered that the two zones for Boulder Hill didn't work. The four Boulder Hill channels in the Helena Multisite zone work but none of the channels in the two dedicated to Boulder Hill do. There was an error in the code plug, 28 of the channels have the wrong color code value. This has been corrected in the sample codeplug filename ending in 161116a. The correction to the color code number in the two Boulder zones is the only change. If you intend to use the two Boulder Hill zones, then you need to download and install this latest sample code plug.

-I think the MD-380/390, like most newer radios, is as much computer as it is radio. Just like with your computer, when making any major change, have a backout plan in case you encounter an unsolvable problem during the upgrade.

-If you notice any errors with this and future sample codeplugs, please let me know what you find. If you have suggestions that might make the codeplug more friendly or useful to Helena-area hams, let me know about those ideas too. Yes, we promoted the sample codeplug availability as an opportunity for you to learn and make changes to your programming but there are no deliberate errors and ideas that apply to everybody are welcome. One suggestion that we are already kicking around is creating a simplified codeplug with only 1 zone for each of the five Montana sites and nothing else. As in we keep the existing super-deluxe codeplug updated and available and also make a simplified one available for download for those that don’t need all the experimental stuff or out of town stuff.

-MP This past Sunday, Don W7MRI and his Tektronics oscilloscope traveled with me to the Mac Pass site to work on the EchoLink interface. Much troubleshooting later, he found that the MOSFET used to indicate active COS toward the EchoLink computer was defective. Once replaced, the analog CTCSS detect line from the Hytera repeater is able to send 12 volts to the PC RS-232 CTS line when it receives an analog signal with the correct PL tone. This positive control as opposed to VOX detection of analog voice has eliminated the problem where low level audio would be sent to the EchoLink PC when there was DMR activity on time slot 1. This low audio and constant beeping would be heard on the analog-only repeaters and also on home EchoLink stations connected to one of our conferences.

10/12/16 Toston DMR repeater is on the air

-The Hytera RD982 DMR repeater is back from Hytera, audio issue has been repaired. Today, it was taken to the Toston site and swapped with the existing Motorola MSF-5000 repeater. Although the repeater is operating in dual mode, only DMR mode is networked. Analog FM is single-site until we nail down an interface design for the connection from the RD982 to the EchoLink computer.

-We are up to revision e for the MD-380/390 sample codeplug. Only changes are additions to the Digital Contacts. There were already two zones of Toston site (standard and DX sets of talk groups) as well as four talk groups in the Helena multi-site zone.

9/22/16 Toston DMR repeater update + minor Sample Code Plug Change for MD-380/390

-Latest MD-380/390 sample codeplug is now 160904d. I added a few more entries to the Digital Contacts. That is the only difference between 160904, 04b, 4c, and d.
-The new Hytera repeater for Toston has a one-way audio on its IP issue. Unit was sent to Hytera for repair so there will be a delay in getting Toston converted to DMR.

9/4/16 New Toston DMR repeater + Sample Code Plug Change for MD-380/390

-Latest MD-380/390 sample codeplug is now 160904b. I added Dale and 4 hams from Hamilton to the Digital Contacts. That is the only difference between 160904 and 160904b.
-After some intense negotiation, a used Hytera RD982 was purchased for the Toston site. It has been shipped and we expect to have it on the air soon, within the next two weeks probably. To support the new repeater, which will replace an existing Motorola MSF-5000, the Hytera MD-380/390 sample codeplug has been updated to include the Toston site. The Missoula zone was changed to Toston, other zones were rearranged to make more sense for the repeaters that we do have, and the Helena Multi-Site Zone was changed to include Toston. This latest codeplug version ends in 160904. If you intend to operate on the Toston repeater in digital mode, you need to grab this latest version. The Worksheet has been updated to reflect all of these changes. Please observe the usual precautions before downloading and installing this version codeplug into your radio. This codeplug was made with CPS version 1.30 and stuffed into an MD-380 with firmware version 3.008. Use at your own risk.

9/3/16 Hamilton DMR is now on the BrandMeister Network

Jim KG6MQE successfully moved his Hamilton repeater from the Rocky Mountain DMR network to BrandMeister. Hamilton is a zone in the MD-380/390 sample codeplug so if you are traveling in the Bitterroot Valley, you can say hi to the Hamilton gang on Local and on Montana Statewide. From the Helena area, you can reach them on Montana Statewide. If you are in Hamilton and want to talk to Helena on MPRG1, please remember that on the Hamilton repeater, MPRG1 is dynamic so it will require a bump every 15 minutes to continue monitoring for Helena-area activity.

8/31/16 Update to the Update, MD-380/390 Sample Code Plug (plus new error correction)

-After posting the new codeplug and sending out the e-mail notice earlier today, I found a new problem. Any channel with talk groups MPRG2 or Las Vegas Local has a blank in the Contacts pull-down so those channels won’t work. The latest codeplug with this error corrected is 160831b. If you already stuffed 160831 into your radio and are not concerned about using MPRG2 or LV Local talk groups, then stay with what you have. Otherwise, grab the new one with my apologies. This new issue was caused by my cleaning up the Digital Contact list without going back and dealing with what I should have known would happen. Rest of text below from earlier today still applies. Especially the third paragraph.

-The MD-380/390 sample codeplug ending in 160829 had the incorrect frequency and color code for the Hamilton repeater. Those two items have been corrected for 160831. Those two items and the version number in the Intro Screen, along with some minor changes to the Digital Contacts list are the only changes between 160829 and the latest 160831. If you are not traveling to the Bitterroot Valley soon, then there is no rush to grab the latest version if you already have 160829 in your radio. Thanks to Tom for catching the error. The frequency and CC was wrong in the Worksheet also, which has been corrected. If you don’t already have 160829 in your MD-380/390, please read the 8/29/16 news to help decide if you should upgrade past that to 160831.

-I added the Digital Contacts to the Worksheet. Note that there is a lot of fluffy padding among the first 35 contacts. Once downloaded to your PC, the sample is now your codeplug so feel free to change the bogus entries to those that make sense for you. But, whatever you do, don’t delete anything. Make in-place changes or you could break all of the channels. We are up to 256 channels in this codeplug.

8/29/16 Update to the MD-380/390 Sample Code Plug

- The new version ends in 160829 and is available in Downloads. The downloadable worksheet has been updated to reflect the Zone and Channel changes. This codeplug was made with CPS version 1.30 and stuffed into an MD-380 with firmware version 3.008. Use at your own risk.

- Two major changes have been made to the MD-380/390 sample codeplug. First, with the Hamilton repeater switching to the BrandMeister network at any moment, the Hamilton Zone has been changed to reflect the BrandMeister talk groups that are most likely to be used by a Helena ham traveling in the Hamilton area. It is expected that the Hamilton group will be using Montana Statewide and Local for most of their Hamilton area comms. Second, a new zone was added named Helena Multi-Site. This zone has four commonly used talk groups for Mac Pass, North Hills, and Boulder sites, all in one zone. It also has an FM channel for the three sites and knob position 16 is DMR Simplex. The idea of a multi-site zone containing the three Helena DMR sites is to simplify changing sites as you are driving around the area. Helena area road traffic is busy enough, you don’t need to be fumbling with a zone change as you drive from Mac Pass coverage into North Hills coverage then south into Boulder Hills coverage. There is one scan list that contains all 16 channels of this new zone. There has been a discussion as to if three scan lists, one for each site, or one big scan list makes more sense. I don’t know so try it and let me know. One advantage of a single scan list for the three sites is you don’t have to remember to switch sites as you drive from coverage area to coverage area. The scan will catch traffic on Boulder, for example, even if you have a Mac Pass channel selected. The disadvantage of one list is when you are in an overlap area, which there is a lot of for these three sites, the scan could stop on traffic on the third best site instead of the first best site for your location. Again, let me know how this works out in real life radio use.

-One minor change is in General Settings, Intro Screen Line 2, I put the text “ver 160829.” Previous codeplug versions had “Helena, MT.” If you choose to leave the codeplug version number, when you first turn on the radio, it will be easy to determine the version of sample codeplug you are running which may help with troubleshooting.

- As with any other codeplug work, please take the time to save what you already have in case you experience problems with the new codeplug. I already have one report that the previous version pulled into the Tytera CPS has a portion of the General Settings page missing. It is probably a mismatch of CPS versions but this is a great example of what can happen with CPS software and radio firmware that are both constantly evolving.

-MP As of 8/28, the 147.100 MHz Yaesu DR-1X repeater at Mac Pass is in Automatic Mode Select (AMS) mode. This means the repeater will switch between analog FM and Yaesu C4FM on the fly so you can now try and compare the two modes. There is actually three things to try, analog FM, digital narrow (DN), and [digital] Voice Wide (VW). Until yesterday, the repeater was in Fix FM mode to accommodate the Yaesu WIRES-X networking, which is no longer enabled.

8/22/16 Correction to an earlier posting + Pronouncement by the MPRG Council of Elders

-Correction to the 7/13 New Code Plug entry regarding Hamilton. They are part of the Rocky Mountain network, not DMR-MARC. They don’t have a TAC TG cross-connection to BrandMeister so it is not possible to communicate from the Hamilton DMR repeater to the Helena-area DMR repeaters. The rest of the paragraph is valid.

-CoE It has been decided to remove the Yaesu WIRES-X networking from the Mac Pass 147.100 repeater. This will allow the repeater to operate in Automatic Mode Select (AMS) where it can switch between analog FM and Fusion C4FM digital as needed. Given how little the networking is used, it was decided that the repeater would be more useful to Helena-area hams if it was stand-alone but able to switch modes rather than the current situation where it is fixed in analog FM mode with networking. The next technician that travels to the site will make the change to the repeater.

8/20/16 North Hills Trip report + Boulder Hill update

-NH 8/20 We connected two deep cycle batteries to the Motorola battery revert power supply. With the low standby current draw from the Hytera RD982 when it is idle, we expect 4 days of run time from this plant. A wi-fi access point was added to the LAN. Testing shows that it provides coverage inside the building as well as the rest of the site anywhere within the fence, including by the outhouse. Given that the outhouse is an all-metal structure, the door must be left open if you wish to use the outhouse and access the internet at the same time.

-BH 8/18 The original duplexer was replaced with a different brand and model. This resolved the elevated SWR as reported by the repeater via RDAC.

8/13/16 Update to the MD-380 Codeplug for the new MPRG2 Talk Group

After much testing and discussion, we are now sure that the talk group we call MPRG2 will not work the way we had intended. This is the MPRG talk group number 31301 but configured in your radio for operation on TS1. This is in contrast with MPRG1, which is still TG 31301 but on TS2 static on all three repeaters via BrandMeister. On a given repeater, you can use the same TG number at the same time on TS1 and TS2, resulting in two separate conversations, but only on that one repeater. Testing has shown that if you initiate a group call on TG 31301 on TS1, your conversation is on TS1 only on your repeater. BrandMeister networks the conversation to the other two MPRG repeaters but the call appears on TS2, because that is the way it is configured in the BM network. In addition to causing confusion to those using TG 31301 in the Helena area, this doesn’t give us the capability to have two simultaneous conversations using the two time slots on the MPRG repeaters. Given that we still have a need for a static talk group that is more than Local (one repeater) and less than Statewide (all BM-networked repeaters in Montana) at times when TS2 is busy, we are taking the following action: 1) Tom has asked Robert N5QM, the administrator of the BrandMeister Master Server we are associated with to configure for us TG 31302 as MPRG2 static on TS1 on all three MPRG repeaters. 2) I will update the MD-380 Sample Codeplug so the channels named MPRG2 will be configured with the new talk group number. The file name will end in 160813. 3) I will update the shortcut to Hoseline http://hoseline.wr7hln.org to include TG 31302.

Note that the new talk group will not work across the three MPRG repeaters until Robert has completed his configuration work in the Central US 3102 BM Master Server. Review: Existing MPRG1 TG 31301 is on TS2. The new MPRG2 TG 31302 is on TS1.

Additional thought: Especially if you have done a lot of customizing of the MD-380 sample codeplug, it might be easier to modify your existing codeplug rather than download and customize the new one. Make a new entry in Digital Contacts for 31302 and label it MPRG2. In the five zones with MPRG2 channels, go to each those channels and in Contact Names, pull down the new MPRG2 then verify Repeater Slot 1 is still selected. Those of us with DMR hotspots have the same change to make in the Hotspot zone.

8/11/16 Boulder Hill Trip Report

The RigExpert AA-600 test set we borrowed from Don W7MRI confirmed what we saw with the Freedom 8000C, an impedance bump in the ” Heliax 18 feet from the duplexer end. In addition to this, the N-connector at the top showed signs of long-term water intrusion including green and black corrosion on the center pin and on the outer conductor. The RigExpert also showed that the SWR from 440 to 450 MHz was high, as measured at the duplexer end of the Heliax. The entire run was replaced with new Heliax and new connectors. Both TDR and SWR tests now show no bumps and low SWR across the band.

7/31/16 North Hills Trip Report + Boulder Hill news

-NH At the Helena North Hills site, the Motorola MSF 5000 has been removed and the Hytera RD982 has been installed. It is operating in Dynamic Dual Mode with EchoLink and BrandMeister networking available. Getting the Ubiquity microwave radios working was a multi-day exercise. Ask Tom or Bill for details. Although the Mac Pass site has incredible DMR coverage, local terrain blocks coverage to a small area of Helena. Unfortunately, that small area is the most densely populated part of Helena including Downtown and the State Capitol. North Hills DMR covers those two areas very well so grab the latest MD-380/390 codeplug and start using the new North Hills DMR capability from Downtown Helena.

-BH From a few days ago: Tom detected an SWR problem with the UHF repeater antenna system at Boulder Hill. The PD-1151 antenna itself tests OK, so says a RigExpert return loss test set. The Andrew ” Heliax, on the other hand, shows a fault 18 feet from the repeater end of the cable per the Freedom 8000C cable test function. We could not find anything during visual inspection so the plan is to replace the entire run with a new piece of Heliax. The repeater is needed to support a special event (Elkhorn foot race) next weekend so we need to get this work done soon. Separately, the Boulder Hill repeater is still BrandMeister-only networked. EchoLink capability is still not available.

7/16/16 Mac Pass and Boulder Hill Trip Report

-MP EchoLink interface installed. This is the direct connection from the Hytera RD982 DB-26 connector (yes, 26) on the back of the station to the Dell PC running EchoLink client in Sysop mode. There is one unresolved issue regarding the PL detect line not able to activate a 4N25 optocoupler so we are running the repeater to PC direction in EchoLink’s VOX mode for now. PC to repeater is able to drive a 4N25 so it can PTT the repeater via the DB-26 PTT pin just fine. EchoLink is working OK in this mode so the Mac Pass 444.1 repeater is operating 100% dual-mode with independent BrandMeister for DMR/EchoLink for analog FM networking as we had planned. This same dual independent networking will be set up for Boulder Hill and Helena North Hills too.

-MP EchoLink/WIRES-X Dell computer is now connected to the Mac Pass MPRG LAN via Cat 5 cable. This replaces a wi-fi connection.

-MP New battery charger was installed on the Yaesu DR-1X repeater battery. The original failed sometime before the 5/19 trip.

-BH Removed the Motorola MSF-5000 repeater and replaced it with the new Quantar cabinet containing the Hytera RD982 and its Motorola power supply. Moved the duplexer from the site equipment shelf into the cabinet with the RD-982. Connected the repeater to the Boulder Hill LAN, BrandMeister networking works OK. Testing with the MPRG Freedom R8000C service monitor indicates zero desense.

-BH EchoLink PC turned off. We need to order parts and build a new interface for the Hytera repeater to EchoLink PC direct connection. Until then, Boulder Hill will be BrandMeister networked only.

-BH Other open issue is the power pole connector on the battery plant to power supply cable cracked and fell apart. Tom has spare connectors and will visit the site within the next few days to make repairs and get the battery plant connected to the charging power supply.

-Next activity is to install the Mac Pass to Helena North Hills IP microwave radios. This includes installing a new Cisco router at Mac Pass and a new Ethernet switch at North Hills. After North Hills has IP access to the Internet, we will replace its Motorola MSF-5000 repeater with a new Hytera RD982 repeater.


7/13/16 New MD-380/390 Code Plug Available

A new sample codeplug for the MD-380/390 is available in Downloads. You may want this if you plan to operate DMR on the new Boulder Hill repeater and soon to be installed Helena North Hills repeater. Also, grab the Zones & Channels Worksheet just below this download. Then, you can make an informed decision about stuffing a complex codeplug in your MD-380/390. After reading this blog entry and looking at the worksheet, you might decide that it makes more sense for you to add new zones for Boulder and North Hills onto the original MD-380/390 codeplug rather than using the new one.

Revision control: I replaced the codeplug file name ending 160712 with a file name ending 160713. The only difference is the Digital Contact entries for 3130035 and 36 for the MPRG Loaner portables. If you already have the earlier version, there is little reason for you to grab the new one.

Manage your risk: This codeplug was made on the latest CPS version 1.30 and stuffed into an MD-380 with the latest firmware version 3.008. Use at your own risk. Especially if you have a customized codeplug that you spent a lot of time developing, be sure to save a copy of it in case you have to go back to it. Even if you are running a minimally altered version of the original sample, save a copy anyway. You need to have a backout plan in case this new codeplug for some reason doesn’t work for you.

Chart of the zones and channels: I will make available for download, right under the codeplug download, a pdf chart showing the zones and channels. That will help with understanding what the codeplug contains.

Much like the original, this new sample codeplug has examples of what you can do with the MD-380. This includes mixing DMR and analog in the same zone and having more than one site in one zone. A channel can be a Private Call, as shown by the Parrot channels.

Code plug contents: This new codeplug has way more sites and talk groups than the original version. In addition to containing two zones for all of the current and future MPRG DMR repeaters, it has a zone for Hamilton, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas. There is a conventional zone and a hotspot zone. The channels in the zones were laid out with changing to the most commonly used talk groups without looking at the display, to accommodate operating while driving. In all of the MPRG zones, channel 1 is MPRG 1, channel 16 is DMR Simplex, and channel 15 is analog FM of that repeater. There are two zones per repeater because one wasn’t enough to accommodate all the talk groups and functions that we want to make available for your testing and evaluation. This gives you plenty of room in the zones to customize the talk groups to match your interests. For example, All Call 1 and All Call 2 might be something you experiment with briefly but then decide to change to Ethiopia and Thailand because you actually talk to people in those countries and have little need to make announcements to all DMR hams in Helena. Parrot is handy for testing while driving if there is nobody to talk to but that eats up a precious channel. Maybe you will change Parrot to Siberia because you can access Parrot from the Digital Contacts list. The two MPRG zones per site are organized, sort of, as normal and DX talk groups. There is some redundancy within DX so you can scan the commonly used local talk groups and also scan for DX traffic. If you don’t want to monitor MPRG1 while listening for DX traffic, then you can change those redundant talk groups to something else of interest.

Warning: While we are discussing customizing the codeplug to match your interests, I have one warning to keep you from suffering major unhappiness. In the Digital Contacts, the first 35 positions are stuffed with individuals for Private Calling. 36 to the end is talk groups. If you add an entry to the bottom of the list, no problem. Changing an existing entry is OK. But, if you delete an entry, you will have to go through every channel to change Contact Name to the correct contact. There are 15 zones each with 16 channels for a total of 240 channels. It takes a while to go through them all to fix boo-boos so avoid the Digital Contacts mixing up issue if you can. Of note, this is the only codeplug change I know of that doesn’t automatically rearrange itself in the CPS so I am hoping that a future CPS or firmware will do away with this problem. About the first 35 positions, there is a lot of padding there to reserve the space for your future Private Call needs. You can carefully change the padding as you replace those entries with people of your choice.

Hamilton, Montana DMR: Be advised that the Hamilton DMR repeater is connected to the DMR-MARC network, not BrandMeister, so you should familiarize yourself with DMR-MARC rules before operating on Hamilton or any other DMR-MARC repeater. For example, DMR-MARC doesn’t want text messages, private calls, and GPS position reports on their network due to technical limitations of their network. The talk groups on a DMR-MARC repeater is limited to what they arrange with their c-Bridge operator and it is usually a small list. Hence, the repetition of Local on the Hamilton zone, so there aren’t any blank channels. The one talk group that we have in common with Hamilton is TAC 310, which is dynamic/user activated at both ends. So somebody will have to bump TAC 310 at this end and you will have to do the same on the Hamilton repeater to allow for Helena to Hamilton communications.


7/7/16 Mac Pass Visit

-Updated Yaesu DR-1X repeater is on the air with WIRES-X networking. It is in Fix FM mode for now.
The repeater itself works fine in AMS (Automatic Mode Select, digital or analog on-demand). WIRES-X works great in FIX FM or FIX DN. But it doesn’t work in AMS. So it will be left in FIX FM until I can sort out the WIRES-X/AMS issue.

-Testing of the Hytera RD982 have shown that everything we need (audio in/out, PTT/PL detect) to connect it to a PC with EchoLink software is available on the DB-26 connector.


7/6/16 Update for Multiple Activities

I haven’t been posting as things have occurred so this is a lump of multiple days activities.

-Two more Hytera RD 982 repeaters are on order. One is for the Boulder Hill site, the other is for the Helena North Hills site. I expect Boulder Hill to be running and on the BrandMeister network by the end of the month. North Hills will be on the air around the same time but internet access has not yet been installed at the site so I can’t tell you when it will be networked to BM.

-At the Mac Pass site, the 100 watt power amplifier from an MSF 5000 has been removed. We were experiencing intermittent desense and also the power output level never did settle down, it wandered over a wide range. We have been running the Hytera RD 982 at 50 watts into its filter (half of a duplexer) and have since experienced excellent performance.

-I was unable to resolve the EchoLink Desktrac audio issue so it has been disconnected. For now, please use the Helena North Hills site for conversing across our EchoLink network. I have parts to build a direct from the EchoLink PC to the Hytera repeater interface and expect to have that working soon.

-The Yaesu DR-1X repeater for Mac Pass is back from Yaesu. I expect to have it installed and on the WIRES-X network soon.

-Talk Group Plan has been updated.

-Information added to Resources & Links for upgrading the Tytera MD-380 firmware.


5/19/16 Trip Report Mac Pass

Executive version: The Hytera UHF DMR repeater (444.100+ PL 131.8) is on the air at Mac Pass and is working well, digital and analog, locally and across the Brandmeister network. There is one issue involving EchoLink, explained below.


-The drive to the top in Tom’s new F-350 was uneventful. We were expecting problems with snow but other than the usual small glaciers, the road and surrounding land was dry.

-The two UHF antennas tested good on the network analyzer. The MSF-5000 repeater has been acting up and eventually its transmit signal became very weak. Remote testing pointed to the repeater PA as the culprit but we didn’t know for sure until after the antennas were tested. That MSF-5000 station is now retired until Tom decides to put the effort into troubleshooting and repair.

-The original duplexer cabinet was not deep enough to properly support the Hytera repeater cabinet so a spare Quantar cabinet is now the duplexer cabinet. On top of the duplexer cabinet is the new repeater cabinet.

-There is 1 unresolved issue. The audio from the Desktrac to the EchoLink Dell computer is distorted, low, and has noise mixed in. I will resolve that problem on the next trip to the site. For now, Helena area analog operators might want to use the North Hills repeater instead of Mac Pass for across the network conversations.

-The *MONTANA* EchoLink conference server is now operational at Mac Pass. This is the same Raspberry Pi that was running as the *MONTANA* conference at Tom’s Henderson condo until he returned to Montana a few weeks ago. It is now completely automated, not requiring any human actions for it to run for many years, we hope. If it works without intervention for the next 6 months, it will be returned to the Henderson Data Center for permanent installation.

-The Yaesu Fusion repeater (147.100+ PL 100.0) is in a box, ready for shipping to Yaesu for firmware upgrades. I will get it sent in tomorrow then back to Mac Pass as soon as it is returned from Yaesu. It will be operated in AMS (Automatic Mode Select) mode, where it changes between analog and digital as needed.

-To clarify, there is no cross-over between our EchoLink network and our Brandmeister talk groups. Operate analog FM on the Mac Pass UHF repeater and you will be heard on our seven-site EchoLink network. Transmit on a DMR talk group and you will be networked to the world via Brandmeister.


Not part of the trip report:

-I found that my Kenwood SMC-33 speaker-mic works on the Tytera MD-380. I see TYT brand speaker-mics on e-Bay for $25. Parrot says I sound marvelous so I am sticking with the Kenwood mic.

-We are using a Motorola Desktrac with a 2 watt transmitter as the FM analog connection to the EchoLink computer at Mac Pass. The Desktrac and EchoLink are blind to the DMR transmissions of the repeater so it is dominant and can transmit at any time, resulting in your DMR operation being interrupted mid-conversation. If an analog conversation is taking place and you try to initiate a DMR call, it won’t work for two reasons. Your signal at the repeater is probably weaker than the Desktrac’s and even if you have a stronger signal, the Hytera won’t switch modes in the middle of a transmission. That applies to digital and analog. In the case of the Desktrac transmitting EchoLink analog in the middle of your DMR transmission, the Hytera repeater won’t switch modes but it won’t be hearing your DMR signal anymore because of the strong signal from the Desktrac. This means Helena-area DMR pioneers will have to tolerate some interruptions to DMR operations. It shouldn’t happen that often given the level of activity on our EchoLink system but it can happen. Ok, Murphy’s Law says the few FM transmissions that occur during the work day will happen exactly when you want to operate DMR. I can’t fix Murphy.

-For the Helena crew: Thursday 8:30 PM is the beginning of the Hytera net which is held on the Hytera USA talk group. This TG is static on TS 1 so you don’t have to do anything to hear it on Mac Pass.

-I made an easy to remember URL to get you to the Brandmeister Hoseline scanner for our two main talk groups in one step: http://hoseline.wr7hln.org
Once there you can add to or replace the talk groups that are being scanned. Users of Firefox may experience issues with Hoseline showing “offline.” It seems to be related to the certificate that the web site is using. I have zero problems with Hoseline using Safari on a Mac. This evening, I expect that the entire Helena group will be on TG 31089 for the net.

-I am sticking with my original suggestion that you not buy a DVMega/Pi for DMR right now. It is a mature product for D-Star but is not for DMR. Recently, I found that it changed from Montana Statewide as static and all other talk groups as dynamic to all talk groups are dynamic. That means I have to kerchunk every 15 minutes to activate a talk group, which is not practical for all-day monitoring of talk group calls. I have not made any changes to my hardware or software and I have not seen any announcements about the change on any of the Yahoo Groups that I am subscribed to. The mmdvmhost software is in active development and unexpected changes are going to happen to the early adopters. So get one if you are OK with using beta software but stay away for a while longer if you are expecting a finished commercial product.

The digital adventure begins,

Mike
KB8ML


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