Changes are a comin’

We’re trying to diversify a little bit on MBARS here, Digital radio is just one tiny part of the whole electronics and hobby radio thing we’re all addicted to here, so we’re just mixing it up a little bit, as there’s not really enough happening in the DMR or digital voice part of the hobby to inspire me to pen many articles, the hobby is far bigger than just digital, We’re interested in a wider array of hobby radio and electronics.

I have added more areas, with more specific titles to reflect our other interests, and hopefully you’ll not be not forced to scroll and click around endlessly just to browse this (little) site of ours, with all the areas up the top instead, MBARS is only a 2 man effort, and i do most of the waffling and Quack does all of the Admin. If there are any menus or areas you think we should have, tell us !

So much content is on Facebook nowadays, so it’s a little hard not to be drawn into the Quagmire that is Zuckerberg-world (Giggidy) so please don’t expect a huge quantity of material on here, but we do like the idea of quality, and that is instead, what we will strive for, and that is also why joining is pretty much a slightly more tedious ‘send us an email’ type instead of the more usual email-loop – like you get on most other sites, though that may very well change, but it does keep out most of the spam, so there is method in our madness.

I’m no writer, or journalist, but when i have time (or the inclination) i do enjoy writing, especially on MBARS, but I found the digital radio bias rather restrictive, as i’m mostly a HF SSB Guy really, so I have added up some more categories up on the menu where hopefully you can jump to a particulat type of thing, instead of scrolling around, i found navigating the site a chore myself, so i need to make navigation easier and more straightforward.

Stick with us, and i hope we all can develop MBARS a little more, and take away some of the focus from DMR and cater to the far wider interests that we have, yet we still will stay mostly in the Hobby radio domain…


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


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.

Below: no idea about any of them, just FM sets, but they are excruciatingly ugly.

There are no more words  🙂
All work, text and images © GB7MB


TAC-9 logos for Motorola DP4800 / DM4600


Just because i was a bit bored, i thought i’d trim our TAC-9 logo’s and see how they would look as a startup bmp for the MotoTrbo sets.
The portable ones are a bit stretched out to fill the (little) screen the HTs have. They’re quite fetching i think.
Download>>   Download

All work, text and images © GB7MB

I’ll have the bleeping silent gas please Nurse …

funny bush
Well, i’m in my third week in this new flat, and ever since i moved in, there has been this loud, irritating CHIRP echoing down the stairway, from up at the extreme top of the house, it’s from an old smoke alarm, and it’s been driving me nuts since i moved in, and it’s so loud, it’s easily heard inside the bottom floor flat..
just like it’s supposed to be.

However, the battery was in need of replacement, but as a ‘proper’ smoke detection system was fitted afterwards, no-one bothered to remove this temporary detector. I’m not even sure how long it had been beeping away, but it was irritating beyond belief, every 30 seconds or so, all day, all night, i think the other residents had grown immune to it, but i hadn’t. and i didn’t want to either. I have good hearing.

Maybe it was a side-effect of the gas-leaks i had suffered earlier in the week 🙂 or maybe it was just a pique of (correctly directed) rage, but last week I’d had enough, and i was feeling quite poorly and so i decided that it was time to bring doom to this errant audio torture device, it was either ‘it’  or me.
There could only be one winner.

Problem was, the damn thing was about 15ft or 20 ft out of reach, and naturally, I had no ladders.. so what to do ? well i remembered i had a 18ft CB aeriel i never got ’round to using, so this was unpacked and fitted with various implements, but with several cable ties and gaffa tape, eventually ended up brandishing a blunt kitchen butter knife, and the plan was, of course, to direct much hatred towards this infernal device and save and restore the sanity of myself and the others in the building. First i needed to know if it really was a battery powered unit or wired.. the fire alarm inspection Guy said it was battery operated, (and that it wasn’t his job to ‘fix it – Thanks Hitler) anyway, as i am aweare of sods law, i remembered that it’s always wise to check for yourself before proceeding.

For a few minutes i turned into a caveman and ended up just poking (alright, hitting)  the thing with the long metal pole i had fashioned, but it was far too clumsy an exersize, but  it felt good though. A new approach was needed, and i asked my friend upstairs that if he heard a commotion just out of his doorway, to not worry as i was only attempting moderate violence, and i was glad when he appeared to assist, as there we were, both laughing at my feeble attempts to lever the door off..  my eyesight is poor also, so i needed help.  It must have seemed like a promising venture somehow, as a cell phone with a zoom was pressed into service, which helped a little, but we needed more, then your mate steps up – with a pair of binoculars. Excellent.

I manged to flip the cover of the evil smoke detector thing open, and great news, the binoculars revealed to my mate Vinni  (who was now on binocular duty) that the device was indeed battery powered, so i figured it was safe to proceed as 240v was nowhere to be seen.  I was even more impresed as he read the inspection date sticker out on the alarm and also spotted the pp3 battery clip. nice job.   The damn thing would, of course, not lever off the ceiling, and i didn’t want to scrape the decoration or i would end up using the same metal pole for distance-plastering then distance-painting, and i didn’t fancy that, as the knife on the pole was bent over at 90 degrees, to make a ‘prizing things off the wall’  hook thingy, anyway.. i got the taste for blood by now.. i felt revenge was in the air.. not gas.

An attempt to prise the pp3 clip off the distant smoke alarms’ tired battery was attempted many times, but failed miserably, as at about 15ft away, and with another human having the visual feedback… it was unlikely to succeed anytime soon. It would be easier trying to type with knitting needles while blindfolded.. so an executive decision was made to just hook the red & blue wires and use violence. This eventually worked. It felt good.

A hushed calm descended through the house, which was slightly un-nerving at first as our brains all tried to figure out what had happened to this noise, and how to re-insert the missing holes of reality that they had been blocking out every 30 seconds.
It almost seemed wrong.. like something was lost almost..

The silence..  i noticed other things that i had not heard before, things which previously my brain was ignoring too, like it was trying not to listen. I thought if only i could block out the rest of the audio pollution quite as easily. Almost since moved in here I had to have the AC fan running 24/7 here,  and i always shut the doors ’round the place too, in an attempt to attenuate the beeping noise. Maybe as a musician i’m a little more sensitive to sound.

So glad we that got sorted though, I find it quite easy in this kind of weather to have the mains powered fan running constantly as when i was being subjected to the 2 weeks of beeping, it acted like a kind of real world ‘noise gate’  – as with the interior doors closed, there was no beeping heard at all, and now, it cools the room down to comfortable levels.. and it’s cool, peaceful, and leaves me free to plan on getting some aeriels up here .. oh, and the other stuff you plan to do when you’re a geek in a new place..

All work, text and images © GB7MB


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


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

Join our IRC chat server

Here is a web link to out IRC chat server – clicking the link will bring you to a page where you see a box showing you some info, and we ask you to just change the 3rd entry down – where it says
Username: guest-  – just type something in instead of guest and you’ll be in.

There’s people who stay logged in all day, every day, for months, and then there’s some who just pop in occasionally.

We at GB7MB usually are logged in 24/7 – but we may be out of the shack, busy, or if its mealtime or night times people may not see you log in,  so we suggest you don’t just log in, and expect a instant reply, then quit if you dont get an immediate response !

GB7MB’s Trbo chat (Web version)

Android clients are simple and free, Here’s a couple we have used.

AndChat Free, simple and works very well.
TurboIRC  Good name ! – works well with our IRC of course.

on IOS, well, much less choice, but here are free IRC apps for the iPhone:

Mango Lite free IRC chat client   Worked well.
TurboChat IRC  Yes, i think its possibly the same Guy who made the Android one.

If you want IRC on your Windows PC try these:
Hex Chat free simple, easy, prob the best Windows one.

IceChat free, solid and very configurable. takes a bit more tweaking. i find the UI a bit ‘messy’

Mac OS X  (well, there’s only one you should use, and its superb)

Xchat Aqua and xchat Azure free a superb free  version on xchat – works on Leopard right up to Yosemite.

check your distro’s repo.  on Ubuntu based distro’s  open a terminal and type
me$   sudo apt-get install xchat
add your password and go for it. or use your package manager.

All the info you need to fill in is :
server name:
channel:          #trbo
port:                  6667

But we recommend you connect securely usung SSL on port 6697
you will need to ‘accept invalid SSL certificates’

this is not a security risk, as its a self-signed certificate, (not actually invalid)


All work, text and images © GB7MB

Why newer is not always automatically better

We offer a couple of codeplugs on MBARS here, as a sort of get-you-started thing, for anyone who gets a radio and it’s got one of those a poor or non-local codeplugs in.

All of our codeplugs are checked for programming errors, but time constraints do not allow for us to check every single bit of info in these codeplugs, thats why we ask you to check them once you open them.

When uploading codeplugs, we ask you to not just submit just a bare codeplug file, but to include some info about it, such as the CPS version used, and the author and a brief summary of the features you have programmed in, mainly to help other people looking for codeplugs, distinguish between one and another..  as just seeing codeplug1.cpg   and codeplug2.cpg  isn’t too much help is it !

Here’s a couple of things to ponder.
New code (software) is not automatically always better than the old software, previous versions will have had many users submitting feedback and has had errors or issues found and corrected. This is even true of CPS and Firmware too, Major CPS versions generally contain much new code, with smaller incremental releases being minor updates and fixes as you would expect. New code is just that, it could bring new features, but could also bring new errors, which you may or may not find.

Also if you’re a Radio Amateur, don’t feel the need to automatically upgrade to the newest CPS – or firmware. It’s not a Microsoft OS we’re talking about here, or an antivirus program. The fact is, that as Radio Amateurs, most of us still don’t use many of the more interesting features in the sets already, so we’re not too likely to notice many of the updated features and bugs that commercial customers would anyway – the prime focus for Motorola. Motorola software is well enough written nowadays that the difference for Amateurs between using old versions of CPS 10 or even earlier might not be too apparent, apart from the fact that Murphy’s Law applies and any secondhand MotoTRBO set you may buy has likely been programmed by a later CPS version than the one you have… typically !

Many of us Amateurs who are *forced* into using the latest CPS, do so because there is someone elses codeplug we want to play with, or we want to to help someone else out, or swap them with friends.

For example, if you have CPS 10.8 or 10.9 or 11 or whatever, and your mate has the CPS 10.5 – then he can’t open your codeplugs, he needs the same or later CPS as you, but you can open his older ones. Opening an older codeplug is ok in new CPS, but when you save them in the newer CPS you wont be able to open them in any version older, – they’ve been upgraded. You can go forwards, but you can’t go back !

Same goes for Firmware updates.
Also, the DM3600 and DP3600 series will be getting no new firmware updates – they are not supported models anymore, although to look at Ebay and see prices of old used DM3600’s going for the same or more than a new DM4600 it makes me shake my head, but I digress..  I’ve had bad firmware (on MotoTrbo) and its not funny.

I don’t know the final firmware versions for the DP/DM 3xxx series sets.  You may be on an older firmware, and there *may* be an update you missed, but i personally  wouldn’t advise it unless there’s a firmware bug you need fixing or a new feature you really must have.  Upgrading these things are all fine when it works, just be aware of the possible pitfalls, if it all goes tits-up, you’ll be making frantic phone calls to friends, loved ones, elderly relatives and Motorola dealers – and pricing up a Moto dealer or a clever friend to fix it, or worse, you’ll be sat admiring  your new paperweight.


All work, text and images © GB7MB


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