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Digital Radio

There are many modes of digital radio these days such as D-Star, System Fusion (C4FM), DMR, P25, etc.  It seems like lately DMR seems to be the popular method, mainly due to the cheap radios that are available.  Interestingly though, each of the big three manufacturers seem to be sticking with their respective modes.  It is the off brand, cheap radios that use DMR.  Now that we’ve tried the big three, we have made some observations.  Icom’s D-Star has a very big learning curve on getting on the air. When you add to the fact that there are no repeaters in the reachable distance from Oklahoma City, it is virtually impossible to practice using them unless you have a hotspot in your home.

DMR is another mode that people seem to be using a lot lately.  It seems to work relatively simple though it also has quite the learning curve.  DMR requires the user to build a piece of software called a code plug that is not that easy to do from scratch.  Most people just get one that is already made from someone else, and then tweak it to to their purpose.  The problem with DMR, is these radios usually only have so many channels so you are forced to create multiple zones to accommodate more channels.  Another negative to DMR, is there is no VFO capability, and no standard calling channel for traveling.  If I wanted to go on a road trip to California, I would have to do some extensive research to find all of the repeaters between here and there, get their frequencies, color codes, etc, as well as communicate with them ahead of time so that I could have a code plug built before I left home.  It is my opinion that many will not be willing to go through the trouble.  Another issue is that if you want to know the call sign of the person on the other end, it will not show up on your radio without installing a third party hack.  It is like jail breaking an iphone to get it to show call signs on the other end.

System Fusion (C4FM), from Yaesu, seems to be the easiest setup out of the box though it has its own learning curve. The reason I say it is the easiest, is because you enter your call sign into the radio and it transmits it across the air to the other users.  The linking system, called WIRES-X, has its own issues, such as it requires a full Windows computer to install it.  Thankfully there are new, smaller systems, slightly bigger than a Raspberry Pi that are not huge power hogs.  Connecting to remote nodes are definitely a learning curve on navigating the menus. Once you learn them, it becomes routine.  One positive about WIRES-X is that a user can find out remote node information by searching their own radio.  You don’t have to know the node numbers of rooms because your radio will search for a menu.  Also System Fusion is the easiest to communicate simplex because you still retain VFO capability.  D-Star also has this ability but like DMR, you must pre-register an account  and activate it before you can talk through repeaters.

In the end, it is a personal preference, and people can make up their own minds.  We seriously considered setting  up a DMR repeater but over time, it just wasn’t what we desired.  We wanted the ability to communicate simplex across town, if our repeater went down.  For us, we decided to go with System Fusion.  While they are proprietary, they seemed to be the best fit for us.  This is not to say that we don’t like the other modes, but thought that C4FM was the best fit for us.  We try to use DMR on some of the local repeaters from time to time. The closest D-Star repeater is in 20+ miles away, and I can barely hit it with an antenna 80 feet high.  I am hearing good things about a couple hams working on D-Star repeaters to get one or two back on in the Oklahoma City area. I wish them well as it gives the local hams another options.

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WIRES-X

After a long upgrade process, we now have WIRES-X node number 33521 installed on our 443.300 MHz repeater.  We have removed Echolink and Allstar from this repeater as it stands right now.

The repeater is both digital C4FM (Yaesu System Fusion) and analog FM on auto detect mode.  When using FM, the tone has been changed from 162.2 Hz to 103.5 Hz.  The repeater also transmits a 103.5 Hz tone so that you can put your radio on tone squelch.  Sometimes the WX5LAW comes in on our frequency so adding the tone squelch will mute some of that signal.

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We’ll have to update our user guide to show the new node and instructions on how to use it.  Also to update the changes on the 146.700 MHz.  This has been a long road getting this setup and working because most of us are busy doing other things.  We just updated Repeaterbook.com and ORSI with the new information as well.

We sincerely hope you will enjoy using the new digital format.

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Countdown to W4DXCC

We received and were asked to disseminate an announcement…

September 21st and 22nd, 2018, Pigeon Forge, TN

Hello Friends and Club Officials

I want to ask that you pass along this announcement about this years W4DXCC convention onto your club members and friends, thank you in advance.

The 2018 W4DXCC DX and Contest convention and Ham Radio Bootcamp is set for September 21st and 22nd 2018 celebrating our 14th year..

It is time to make your Hotel reservations for this years convention. Go here to the Website Hotel reservation page Hotel Reservations<https://sable.madmimi.com/c/41704?id=28110.299.1.d61dffc55ea632fdb0273c2d5b33a9d5>

Convention Registration is now Open including Online Ticket Purchasing. You can make your ticket purchase anytime by going here Online Ticket Purchase<https://sable.madmimi.com/c/41704?id=28110.300.1.1682546bc53d03e740276119b781cc60>

Check out the Website and learn about the W4DXCC DX and Contest Convention. Go Here W4DXCC Convention<https://sable.madmimi.com/c/41704?id=28110.301.1.a397045f1ad73f56e063d071ae2a174f>

This year has a good lineup of presenters so make your plans now and be sure to bring along some of your ham friends. Program schedules will be posted as soon as they are confirmed by the presenters, coming soon.

Best 73

See you soon,
Dave Anderson, K4SV
Convention leader
Dave@w4dxcc.com

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IRLP is Back on 146.700 MHz

Recently you may remember, we took Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) nodes off our repeaters and replaced them with Allstar Link.  One of our interface boards (146.700 MHz) repeater was left with a hum.  We made the decision to put the IRLP node 3013 back on this repeater and leave the Allstar Link on the 443.300 MHz repeater.

We have not updated our user guide with the old instructions on how to use the IRLP for those that don’t remember. We’ll get to that as we have time.  At present, the IRLP and Echolink are on the 146.700 MHz repeater.  As usual, if you don’t remember the IRLP usage and control, just send an email to club at delcityars.com and we’ll send it to you.

Is anyone else enjoying this rain?  It is a true blessing.

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Allstar versus IRLP

We have recently converted our 443.300 MHz repeater from IRLP to Allstar Link.  We turned off IRLP node 3013.  We have started building a new Allstar Link node for our 146.700 MHz repeater as well.  I am looking at ways to see if we can salvage one of the IRLP nodes and have both connected to the repeater where we can choose which system to use.  There is a reason that we changed from IRLP to Allstar Link and it wasn’t because we didn’t want IRLP but rather our Internet Service Provider (ISP).

IRLP, like most linking systems use certain ports to communicate, whether it be audio or control signals.  Like systems, require the same ports.  If you are going to be able to run a node effectively on a local area network, you need to be able to change the node to a static IP address and then forward the necessary ports to that computer.  If you are going to have two IRLP nodes at the same location, you have to have two external (WAN) IP addresses.  This is because if packets arrive over the Internet and reach your router, you need to be able to forward it to the correct computer.  Unfortunately when you have two nodes, they both use the same port. The router cannot forward the same port to more than one computer at the same time.

For years, we have been paying for an extra IP address for this purpose.  Recently we received a letter from our ISP saying they would no longer supply a second IP address for residential accounts. If we needed a second IP address, we would have to subscribe to a business account.  A business account is more than double the price.

We were left with a decision to either shut one of the nodes down or try other options.  Allstar Link allows many nodes on the same computer, so it allows you to assign specific ports to each node. You can have each node using a separate port, eliminating the need for two external IP addresses.  We have one node working very well and a second node  under development.  I know we only needed to change one node but our trustee, W5QO likes it so much, he wanted to do both repeaters.

Many of the IRLP reflectors are also connected to Allstar Link. We have already verified that the WIN System (IRLP node 9100) is also on Allstar Link (node 2560).  The East Coast reflector (IRLP node 9050) is Allstar (node 27339).  The Alaska reflector (IRLP node 9070) is Allstar (node 27597).

Currently we don’t have a way to connect our old IRLP node in parallel with the Allstar Link node but if we can figure out how to do that, we’ll certainly do that.  Our 443.300 MHz repeater is now Allstar Link node 28941 and soon the 146.700 MHz repeater will be Allstar Link node 46810.

This will require a new user manual to be created so that people know how to use it.  I have started this project but not yet complete.  Once this is complete, then we’ll have to make some significant changes to our frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.  We’ll let you know when the new node is on the air.

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Our First Allstar Link Node

We’ve been working on a project for the last couple of weeks and now we can reveal it. Our 443.3 MHz repeater is now Allstar Link node 28941.  We removed IRLP from this repeater and used most of the same hardware to convert it to an Allstar node.

What drove this change was an email from Cox Communications that forced our hand.  Since we had two IRLP nodes, on the same Internet service, at the same location, it required us to have two external IP addresses.  The reason for this is two identical nodes require the same ports for control and audio.  When inbound calls arrive at the router, we have to have set pre-determined port forwarding.  The signal has to know which computer to go to.  Unfortunately we had two nodes vying for the same ports and you cannot forward packets to go to the same port on two computers.  This is why we paid extra for an additional external IP address.

Well Cox seems to have changed their policy on issuing out extra IP addresses to residential service accounts. They will no longer do it and will not grandfather you in, if you already have one.  They wanted us to subscribe to Cox Business Services account.  To do this would vastly increase the price for a service that we already had.  This is just not a feasible option.

As a result, we had to come up with an idea to maintain two nodes without using the same ports.  Allstar was a natural choice because they only require one computer (server) and can have many nodes attached to that one server, with only one external IP address.  We had already requested a node number several years ago but had never put a node together.  This situation forced our hand on doing something.  Since we already had most of the hardware on hand, we decided to build one.
As of yesterday, September 21, 2017, at 2:00 PM, node 28941 signed on the air.

Allstar is a completely different system and the operating procedures are not the same.  We are currently working on updating our User Guide to include operating instructions for our new Allstar node.  Many of the IRLP reflectors are now on Allstar Hubs, like the WIN System.  Where they are node 9100 on IRLP, they are node 2560 on Allstar.  We are hopeful that you will like using it and we are trying to quickly get some instructions on our web site.

Special thanks to our Trustee, W5QO for once again, hosting this site for us.  If you have any questions, please direct them to club [at] delcityars.com.

Thank you!

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Hurricane Irma Net

We have connected the 443.3 MHz repeater to the National Hurricane Center net on a listen only node.  This way you can listen to the coverage without risking interrupting the net if you accidentally keyed up the repeater.  If you want the visual of what is going on, this stream is being simulcasted on Youtube at this link.

Feel free to tune in and listen to the coverage. While the activity is more intermittent early on, it will pick up as the hurricane moves on land. If you would like to read up about this net and its activation, links, node numbers,  you can visit their page at VOIPNET.  We in Oklahoma tend to get excited about severe weather so we thought listening in on the net may interest some locals.

If you have questions, you can direct them to our Facebook Page or our Twitter account.