Never mind the fugly, feel the er, quality..

cap

Yes, that’s a real photo of a real chinese electrolytic someone found during a repair.

I’ve not been doing much radio lately, as life kind of got in the way and my interest in amateur radio is somewhat on the wane, but every now and again it’s good to raise your head from out of the trough long enough to taste the cool summer breeze, as i do, i notice a new email from China in my inbox, i wonder if the air is as fresh over in Quanzhou, Yes, it’s another Chinese radio for me to purchase, or not, this time it’s DMR (TDMA) and it’s a Wouxun, it’s the first DMR Wouxun i’ve seen, and the previous FM set whatever it was was, probably wa the best selling (useable) dual band HT after the ‘christmas cracker quality’ Baofengs which hit the streets, so it slightly caught my attention. It kind of goes without saying that the Wouxun i foolishly bought, shuffled off it’s mortal coil after a only couple of years, after randomly crashing, rebooting, reverting to the default mandarin and forgetting everything. dreadful. At least it was a one minute job to re-upload the frequencies back in the set via the USB lead, Worse still was the Yupiteru 7100 scanner which lasted about the same span, then randomly crashed and burned at random moments too, and occasionally forgot it’s nearly 1000 memories. No USB programming there, that got old really quickly, so sold it as scrap, which reminded me of several Yaesu’s having done the same to me since i was a kid SWL, leaving me fed up and with a broke radio, not good enough.

I moved over to Motorola hardware several years ago and have never been let down with their solid hardware (just their occasional crappy DMR firmware) Yaesu have let me down hundreds of pounds for years, and forced me away with bad gear and worse after sales support, so obviously won’t be buying Yaesu or any of the other Ham names anymore, besides which, i think It all looks like it comes from the same Baofeng factory anyway. I love my FT 101 ZD, probably the best HF rig Yaesu Musen ever made, i love the build quality, but i will get rid soon, as i don’t use HF anymore.

Bad experiences aside, i must say I’m quite pleased that the Chinese manufacturers are now making DMR, obviously the quality is not the main priority when they’re knocking these things out en masse, and predictably the programming software is crap too, thank goodness then for Chirp the open source CPS that does a few other (not just Chinese branded radios) and hooray, i don’t have to even use Windows. Thank goodness for that. 2016 huh.

The firmware in the Chinese sets is often poor, but somewhat shockingly, even Motorola screws up firmware releases, the affected Gen2 MotoTRBO Motorola sets crashed and rebooted if you set the DSP and scanlist in certain combinations, and as if Moto didn’t learn by that mistake, the code monkeys at Motorola recently released a firmware which stopped the sets going into transmit mode. Nice job Moto,  but hey, why bother actually testing this stuff ?   I am available as a beta tester, email me for my details Moto.

If you’ve got a Chinese radio you may have the added bonus of fixed, naff, and quiet TX audio too, which seems to be getting solved nowadays, and with some recent Chinese DMR sets, there is talk of slot timing issues which slightly worries some DMR repeater keepers (but which Amateurs measure the slot timing accuracy and rise / fall on TDMA sets anyway ?) – these sort of things should be sorted out, if only they spent as much refining these things as they do with bloody cell phones.. but i digress, there seems to be little evidence slot-timing issues are much of a real world problem at present for Amateurs, my guess is the MotoTRBO repeaters are perhaps adjusting their tolerance ‘on the fly’ in these circumstances, but i’ve no proof..

You do get what you pay for of course, and the Chinese sets and Motorola are of course aimed at 2 different markets, and i hope the Chinese manufacturers one day could open-source their software and get the community to do some of the bug testing and development for them, but maybe the Chinese manufacturers are protecting their own IP (insert: irony) or maybe they’re reluctant to anger DVSI and Motorola’s legal department.  Only joking 🙂 – well,  it’s not stopped them making clones has it, and if it’s not all fake cell phones, and dodgy copies of Windows98 in China, let it be known there were or maybe still are some fake Apple “STOERS” (sic) over there, apparently even some of the employees thought they were actually working for Apple… You can’t make this stuff up can you..  Hopefully the chinese manufacturers will use their famous ingenuity to embrace a emerging market (us lot) my guess is that maybe there aren’t the numbers in the hobby to justify them spending on such R & D..

do know however, that exactly what the hacking / Ham community needs are people like Travis Goodspeed there in this Youtube presentation over at ShmooCon giving a presentation of his now famous firmware hack of the Chinese TYT MD380 handheld.. and there needs to be more of this. This retro looking website might be interesting if you’re interested. Travis’s blog is interesting too, even if it seems he’s not updated it for a few years.

After seeing this brand new shiny Wouxun KG D901  i was reminded of something else the Chinese HT designers should fix, less important perhaps, it’s the look of some of the sets, this bugs me way more than it should, appearances are of course subjective, but to me, the vast majority of chinese radios seem plain Fugly  indeed, some look like they’ve gone out of their way to make them as ugly or as infantile as possible, and some look like they’ve just dropped out of a clown’s arse, stop making them look crapkeep it understated and tasteful, I’m not asking for Johnny Ive  to design the bloody things (i mean, it wouldn’t have any buttons would it ?) but make them look like a proper radio, not something that is so ugly you’re likely to get beaten up for just having one at the next radio rally.

Amazingly this DMR Wouxun has a variable mic gain (must have given the designers sleepless nights) but still, they have 16 channel max scan lists ? – not all DMR sets are so limited, so any arguments about scan speed and missing calls ‘because of large scanlists’ is based on an incorrect premise, that such large lists increase likelihood of missing calls, well possibly, do dealers programme huge scanlists into commercial users systems, instead of only just what they need ?  

Somewhat refreshingly, there are occasional breaks from this ‘tradition’,  as an example, I do like the huge number of contacts you can add to the Connect Systems HT (a few thousand i think it is) – they’ve gone that extra step, which makes it better for masochists who like keeping full contact lists, it seems like Jerry as Connect Systems checked his email, and took notice, and i do understand that there are limitations on what can be done with the hardware and firmware, but it looked interesting and it peaked my interest originally, but i thought the CS700 seemed quite overpriced when compared to what North American buyers were paying, as it’s still a chinese HT, and i refused on principle, I’m an Amateur and i’m tired of pointless restrictions, life’s too short, and if you’re charging Amateur prices, give Amateur facilities.

Some advertising burb even suggest the TYTERA / TYT MD 380 are a copy of the Motorola DP4800, er, no.
I know the TYTs are popular sets, i might even try one, but damn, they need a bit of a makeover, they’re not like a DP4800 other than the keyboard is under the display, the proper place for it. I only just forgave Motorola for making the nice but FUGLY DP3600 and then replacing it with a model that *is* pretty, and screwing the pooch by neglecting to fit an SMA on it – (unless you pay another couple hunded pounds for the blue ATEX model) Yes, Motorola, you suck too, Hams buy your gear too, Moto, and some are about to stop, but to be practical, I require a VFO and other amateur features on my sets now,

know Moto are not consumer Ham type sets, but i’m already tired of the DP4801’s lack of SMA and lack of real FPP ond no VFO’s and real FPP, it’s not even a real option for us in the west, and vendor lock-in is bad for buyers, if only they recognised it, and If i find a DMR HT with the features below, my DP4801 will be on Ebay and i’d likely buying a HT with hackable firmware. for me a useful DMR HT needs:

  • SMA aerial
  • standard 2 pin TRS (jack) or something stronger / more pins features, non proprietry but Moto style.
  • scanlist not limited to 16ch
  • open source firmware / programming software for general hackability, so we can avoid the hateful chinese CPS
  • obvious mic gain & other standard features in radio menu you’d expect to find in any other radio
  • RSSI
  • Full FPP including up/down VFOs and full TG creation without PC. ALL TG rx like the hack for the TYT / Tytera / Retevis MD380 sets
  • doesn’t look like crap, good font and display on set too.
  • rugged

There may be more, like not being overpriced, but that’s obvious, and i don’t mention roaming, though i use roaming on our TAC-9 repeaters, and so think it’s very useful, MotoTrbo compatible roaming would be a sure winner in non-Moto sets, but i can live without it. I do wish the HTs were as pretty as the Moto’s however, below are some of the ugliest HTs i’ve ever seen, apologies if you own one, actually no, but why can’t they make them look less crap ?

wouxunDMRAbove: Wouxun DMR
Below: three Hytera’s. Hytera, you should be ashamed.

hytera_pd355_face_onpd365-500x500Hytera-X1E-GPS-UHF-5-Watt-Analog-Digital-Two-Way-Radio-6-Stueck-705423693--large
Below: no idea about any of them, just FM sets, but they are excruciatingly ugly.

shit1shit5
H-133439-1-5-new-launch-uhf-hot
shit3
HTB1ZHedJXXXXXXZXXXXq6xXFXXX8
Teamup-Chinese-two-way-radio-factory-low-price-T37
There are no more words  🙂
-Hax-
All work, text and images © GB7MB

 

MB and UZ last heard lists

We were asked by some folks at Blackpool rally to add a few links to the last heard pages, the web pages where you can see who’s been using the repeater and what their rough signal quality was like into them.
So here we are, First link is to the Phoenix last heard list for GB7MB:

GB7MB Last heard list   (these links open in a new browser tab)
and GB7UZ below,
GB7UZ Last heard list

So .. Hope that helps..

–Hax–
All work, text and images © GB7MB

Introducing TAC-9

tac9-a 1 not bad nn
Now just what are they on about over there in the Bay area ?
– and what’s all this TAC-9 business about anyway ?

We largely started GB7MB to help ourselves, a few radio geeks up here, communicate between each other a little more easily on handhelds whilst we were out and about, and perhaps, even drum a little more activity in the area, and to experiment and to have a bit of fun doing so into the bargain, and we were actually quite delighted when quite a number of other local Amateurs joined in with the DMR fun too, Great stuff. The more the merrier !
Results with GB7MB weren’t quite as great in some areas as we had hoped, largely due to a mixture of site restrictions and the local terrain, after all, this is perhaps the lower end of the Lake District, and it’s certainly not the flat VHF friendly terrain of Norfolk and other flatter VHF friendly areas we might wish to live in, even a local towns’ commercial system uses two repeater sites to cover one town – and and we would like to cover the whole area if we could…

So, GB7UZ came on air over Easter, it’s at a private site in Lancaster, it’s a MotoTRBO repeater, one of the new SL series, and it’s carrying the same talkgroups as GB7MB,  the new repeater’s output frequency is 439.500 and it’s input is 430.500, all colour code 1. Yes, feel free to set roaming up between UZ and MB – both repeaters are set to beacon (nothing like CW id!) to aid roaming.

Our two UHF  MotoTRBO repeaters are not completely seperate however, the one slight difference is that Talkgroup 9 local is linked between them both – how this works is you simply transmit on Talkgroup 9 slot 2 one on repeater and you are coming out of the other repeater at the same time, so if you cant get in to MB and your friend cant get into UZ .. you can both have a QSO as if it were the same single repeater. This is what we are working towards in the area, Total Area Coverage on Talkgroup 9, hence, TAC-9.

Referring to GB7MB local slot2, Talkgroup 9, (apart from being a bit of a mouthful), is less important really, as it is much the same as GB7UZ local slot2, Talkgroup 9  – and TAC-9 is far easier to say, and maybe more acurate too, and will become even more so as we test, build and expand the system over time, because calling on TAC-9 will involve your voice coming out of more than just two DMR repeaters, maybe on a different band or different mode somewhere in our local area… – that’s if we get to where we want to be with our other plans.
The next plan being discussed is to possibly add a 10m FM repeater into the TAC-9 system and possibly a 6m FM repeater too, and hopefully another digital gateway into the system too, in order for us to all experiment and provide access to a common place to chat between users of different systems, some of whom may not have DMR or 10m FM, but may still want to join in with other users who only have (say) a 6m HT or whatever, maybe giving them chance to actually use that dusty old 6m FM HT you’ve been meaning to use, but have instead, had sitting gathering dust in the shack for years.. and use it on the interlinked TAC-9 system !, of course as for the DMR side of things, these interconnections will only be local, on talkgroup 9 local, and not networked or routed across any other talkgroups or networks at all.

That’s the plan, or something like it anyway, and who knows, it might even be a bit of fun 🙂

-Hax-
All work, text and images © GB7MB

GB7UZ (Lancaster) operational, and Linked to GB7MB on TG9 (TAC9)

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To aid coverage of our existing GB7MB repeater around the Bay area, another DMR  MotoTrbo repeater was set up in Lancaster, the date of NoV Issue was on 16th Mar 2016, and it seems to help in some places wher MB was struggling, due to local terrain and limitations we have for sites.

GB7UZ is, Like GB7MB, connected to the Phoenix UK DMR c-bridge, and ‘Talkgroup 9, slot 2’ on both repeaters is linked.. how it works is very simple, and you dont need to do anything at all, You can have a QSO with one station on MB and the other person on UZ. There are further additions planned for expansion to the system, in order to give Total Area Coverage.. maybe on other bands and modes, as the spirit of Amateur radio is experimentation, and so watch this space.

-Hax-
All work, text and images © GB7MB

North America Mototrbo CPS 12 build 642 bug.

Motorola released a caveat for North American users of CPS_12 build 642..

Motorola issued a ‘Field service bulletin’ because there is a serious issue some users are experiencing where after writing back to the radio using CPS 12 build 642 you lose ability to PTT. not good.
It concerns subscriber units running the 2.4a and 2.4b, CP200d, CM200d, CM300d r01.01.11 and r01.01.20,and xpr 2500 3000, 7000 and 5000 with r02.40.11 and r02.40.20
The EMEA firmware 2.50.04 is said to be ok (so far) as for the CPS, I believe there is a bug fixed version coming soon for NA, and the same for EMEA .. so i hear on the grapevine.

Lets hope the same affliction doesn’t affect EMEA users when moving to MotoTRBO CPSv_12.. it does seem to me at times that the quality normally associated to the Motorola world doesn’t apply to the CPS or firmware, instead bugs are not uncommon in their releases which is a very poor show Moto.. we wish the bitware was as good as the hardware, hopefully public service equipment gets more thorough testing…

If you’ve any CPS 12 bugs to report, feel free to let us know, and once again, especially for Amateurs eager to jump to new CPS or firmware, if the firmware or CPS doesn’t offer any ‘must have’ features, think about why you’re ‘upgrading’ living with buggy firmware can be a pain for Radio Hammies, but could be life or death for commercial users, if you get afflicted you will need to rollback *if you can*, and not everyone has capability to do so either, so if it aint broke… don’t fix it.

-Hax-
All work, text and images © GB7MB

MotoTRBO 2.4a updates


A few nice additions, probably of interest to most Amateurs is the Text to speech and the RSSI tweaks. The Text to speech will be a great leap forwards in accessibility for blind and partially sighted users.
For more info, have a look at twowaydigitalradio.com’s very nice slideshare..
here below is the updated RSSI calibration slide.

Happy bug hunting…

rssi


Hax
All work, text and images © GB7MB

Some good links..


Our Friends over at GB7HM – Hope Mountain
www.GB7HM.uk

DMR Users Forum
www.dmrusers.co.uk/

cc-3.net   London DMR-MARC and C-Bridge
www.cc-3.net/

GB7MB (us)  Facebook Group                                 
www.facebook.com/groups/gb7mb/

UK Digital Hams (professional digital voice modes only no dstar/Fusion)
www.facebook.com/groups/UK.P25.DMR.MotoTrbo/Hax
All work, text and images © GB7MB

Dial-a-repeater !

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Direct Dial – as it’s known, is available on GB7MB – but what is it ? well, it’s good news from the Guys who run the kindly run the British c-Bridge over at www.cc-3.net and good news for British DMR-MARC Repeater users in general.
Quite simply, it allows you to direct your call to a specific DMR repeater – rather than ‘lighting up’ all the other repeaters inbetween, As you know, we have two timeslots (channels) on a DMR repeater, and so, careful selection of talkgroups must be chosen in order to make best possible use of both repeater channels (slots) ..  leaving a slot on the repeater available to locals at all times, while at the same time providing non-local connections. Being able to chat to your friend on another DMR-MARC connected repeater (without tying up any other repeaters) is a sure win for DMR-MARC users in the UK.
The talkgroup times out after 5 minutes, so does not constantly relay unwanted traffic to your home repeater.

This ability is enabledand you can now add these new talkgroups to your codeplug now.
GB7MB is TG 915

For the full list of Talkgroups to program in, visit the DMR USERS Forum.

Hax
All work, text and images © GB7MB

Updated (Feb 2015) Get a DMR-MARC ID


Bit of an update on the previously linked “Get a DMR-MARC ID” post here on Facebook.. The original link is invalid or broken (again) so you can use this link to get your ID.. Get Your DMR-MARC subscriber id number here below:

 Click here to get your DMR-MARC ID number

if you are not near a DMR repeater – – in the form, Home Repeater, you can enter any repeater .. Of course we type GB7MB in there..  🙂

Hax

All work, text and images © GB7MB

Monday 9th Feb 2015 – UK Wide goes slot 1 only

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On Monday, you might notice a little UK wide confusion … to be more precise, the keepers of almost all UK DMR-MARC connected repeaters have decided to carry only UK Wide TG 235 on slot 1 and drop UK Wide TG235 on slot 2.

GB7MB was an early adopter of this idea, because, as previously mentioned, it was seen shortly after GB7MB came on-air, that the system was unuseable for long periods, being unavailable to local users and giving the “Channel Busy” error, and then beeping at you annoyingly, because slot 2 was busy with non local traffic.   Absurd..

It is a little like keeping your front door open and letting anyone use your house regardless, while you try to carry on living there, you won’t get chance to sit in your own chair, make a cup of tea in your own kitchen, or sleep in your own bed at night, but you’ll still have to keep paying the bills….

As is often stated, GB7MB is here for us, the local users first and foremost, that’s it. anything else that DMR-MARC can offer, and that *may* be beneficial, like TG8 roaming, is great, but all that is all purely secondary to its primary function, if it adds features to GB7MB fine, if it hinders, well, you get the picture.

So go into your DM4600 DP4800 menu & change UK wide 235 to slot 1, or if you have not read our FPP article (shame on you) get your CPS or prgramming software out and change your UK wide TG 235 to slot 1 only…

Oh the picture ?  it’s just two slots..

All work, text and images © GB7MB

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