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Sunday 30 October 2016

Channel 5's 'Nightmare Neighbour Next Door' programme, 27/10/16

The programme broadcast on Channel 5 noted above I decided to watch as it featured an Amateur radio operator who has been in the hobby for 60 years, currently holding a full licence with the callsign M0PAM, the programme depicted his struggles with his neighbours after erecting an antenna.

The programme highlighted more negativity, particularly towards the Amateur radio operator from 2 particular neighbours, one immediately next door and one who was "the voice of the residents" but in my view was a stuck up pompous old woman with nothing better to do than make an innocent person's life a living hell (if she reads this she can whinge all she wants, I am on the side of the Amateur radio operator and feel that an injustice was done).

So, the usual claim of TVI was cited and the programme said Ofcom were called, the Amateur operator said Ofcom engineers did tests and found nothing to cause interference to television was being produced by the equipment, of course Amateur operators will do their best to keep interference down to a minimum, that's why filters are fitted if they need to be, a second claim was cases of cancer as a result of the antenna in use, I feel and believe that the chances of getting cancer from that antenna are nil, compared to that of holding a mobile phone to your head.

The programme ended with M0PAM being forced to remove his antenna after the council planning department refused permission, those who had made his life terrible for years had won by default, all this from a lack of understanding of a very enjoyable hobby, and something this particular operator had invested in heavily, his shack has more expensive gear than mine, he was shown afterwards screwing a mobile antenna into a mount on the rear of his car, and afterwards shown operating again in his shack, possibly he had run a coax to his car, best part was is that it showed he was not going to give up his hobby because of obnoxious neighbours who don't understand the hobby and had no willingness to learn about the positives.

I do not like to see fellow amateur operators be treated badly, unfortunately it is thanks to Channel 5 where I am now fearful for people questioning what is outside my flat as I intend to start operating HF (at least 10 metres to begin with as I have no other HF gear)  with the construction of a magnetic loop, and I cannot say it is for Amateur radio, and get a better antenna for 2-meters in the form of a groundplane antenna which I have built today which again I cannot say is for Amateur radio, thank you very much Channel 5, you've made the lives of hundreds of Amateur radio operators more difficult, expect the wrath of Ofcom yourselves, many Amateur operators will be complaining to them.

Needless to say the RSGB were NOT invited to collaborate with Channel 5 on production of this programme and have been in contact with Channel 5 and at time of writing are awaiting a response, the full information on the RSGB statement is available here.

Having seen the plight of M0PAM, how many more operators are suffering at the hands of their neighbours? It is very very worrying, what I have always emphasised is that Amateur radio can be relied on when everything else stops working in times of disaster or other national emergencies.

If you are looking to get into the hobby and have watched this programme, please do not fear, it is a wonderful hobby, get yourself down to your local club, you'll find Amateur radio operators to be a friendly bunch and a lot will have had some kind of a dispute with the neighbours at some point in time.

As for Channel 5 and the two women featured in the programme doing all they could to get M0PAM off the air, you all should be ashamed of yourselves, let him enjoy his hobby in peace.

73 de M6RSQ
(proud to be an Amateur radio operator since March 2015)

radio mic to computer... follow up 2

Again I come back to the radio mic to PC project, after much Google searching I could not find any other way to get the PTT to key Echolink so instead opted to use a Teensy 2.0 like the American station that did this and use his idea, which may be minus the red LED for now as I've not got one spare that might be usuable.

I was hoping to test the microphone as it is on air last night on GB3IR but no one returned, as the audio coming back from Echolink seems to be relatively fine as long as the mic isn't too close, I may also modify the desk mic as well, though I simply need to put a 4-pin plug on that.

I have ordered the Teensy 2.0, and the American station KK4JDO posted the code he used onto his own blog so I can pick it up from there, it just leaves me to run one wire from the "TX" pin to the Teensy board as well as a ground wire, and set the board to run as keyboard, this should then key Echolink when I press the PTT button, the Teensy 2.0 runs from the USB so I don't need to run out any more power wires.

Once that's all done and tested all it leaves is to fill the computer side hole with black Sugru as I made the hole bigger than what I wanted (oops).

More to come

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 29 October 2016

Realistic PRO-53 Patrolman scanning receiver

I came into possession of a Realistic PRO-53 scanning receiver on Thursday evening, looks in reasonably good condition and works fine, it is a bit old mind and it needs crystals to set what it can pick up, inside there are 8 sockets (on this they are all occupied), and 8 matching switches to switch between VHF Low, VHF High and UHF.

This example covers from 68-88MHz, 144-174MHz, and 430-490MHz, it could be made to pick up PMR446 as a modern example (which did not exist in the 1980s when this thing was made), but possibly not on frequency, 2-metres and the VHF marine band are other options as well as 4 metres, this all depends on what crystals are plugged into it, looking at a manual for the American market version the IF is 10.7MHz and the crystals resonate on the 3rd overtone to get the frequency you want, the ones fitted currently are marked with the 3rd overtone frequency, the crystals are HC25/U.

I did a short range test with my Pofung GT-5 on low power on 145.400 and it seems to receive fine at such a short range, as it's highly unlikely I'll find a crystal with the correct 3rd overtone for GB3IR's output, I may not be able to use it to monitor the repeater, it appears to have 145.600 as a frequency which I believe is RV48 repeater output, it has the input for RV48 as well, neither of which are of use in this area as no repeater nearby operates on RV48.

This one has some simplex channels in it and some VHF marine channels as well, though all it takes is a crystal swap to change these, though actually finding crystals for it is proving a little tricky with it being an old unit.

When I came into possession of this radio the mains plug was to an older pre-1984 version of BS1363 and was improperly fused, I went to Maplin to get a new plug and fuse yesterday, I was also about looking to bring the antenna connector to a modern standard but was not sure of the impedance of the unit, so scrapped the idea for the time being, the socket is the same as some pre-Fakra car radio antennas, and I was hoping to swap it for a BNC instead as that should fit with no modification, though it has an internal antenna that works just as well.

As a tinkerer and a huge fan of older technology I think this makes the perfect addition to my shack, and is also the oldest piece of radio gear I own, and I hope to have fun seeing what I can make the radio do, the only downside is that it is an FM receiver rather than multimode receive, but that's OK.

I'll keep you posted on this

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Thursday 27 October 2016

Another Baofeng DMR?

With the DM-5R now being confirmed as a real radio and examples of it out there in the wild and a US$10 upgrade to make it work with Tier 2, it seems Baofeng may be releasing another DMR that will work with Tier 2 out of the box, the DMR-82UV, again dual-band, based on a UV-82, which in turn forms the basis of the GT-5.

Again this information was found on Delboy's radio blog and he had found it in turn on an external site that he had to translate from Google, the site showed a picture of a pair of these HTs, showing a vastly different display to the rest of the Baofeng range, though to me it looks much the same as a stock UV-82, though a stock UV-82 has the UV-5R display in it.

Price? Well early reports suggest less than €100, this is from Delboy's source, this one seems like a more viable alternative than the DM-5R but I would consider buying both to see how they fair, all Baofeng HTs are generally cheap, and both these are likely to get you onto DMR for sub-£100, however I still maintain the best one to go for is the well established TYT MD-380 (or the newer MD-390), though it is 70cm only whereas the Baofeng HTs are dual-band though I do not know if any DMR activity takes place on 2-metres here in the UK, though these HTs can do FM as well so all is not lost.

I suspect that as time progresses with Baofeng DMRs is that they will become popular with those wanting to use DMR and cheaply, I maintain my position as being more of a fan of System Fusion as it sounds better, is less of a hassle to set up for both repeater and station side, and it coexists with FM much better due to the AMS on the current available radios for it (all Yaesu of course but maybe one day a radio will come along by someone else that works with it), though I do want to play a little with DMR to see what's what with it, I still maintain an aversion to D-STAR to keep out of the way of Chance Callahan KD0MXN until the FCC do something about his many breaches of Part 97 of which they are aware of.

Well on this latest development from Baofeng I will let it play much like I let the DM-5R saga run it's course and I will post any notable updates

73 de M6RSQ

Tuesday 25 October 2016

radio mic to computer... follow up 1

So yesterday I wrote about interfacing a radio mic, specifically the microphone supplied with the TTI TCB-550 (Model number AMC-5011), as I'd wired the inteface with Uniden wiring the mic remained unmodified and would work as normal with a CB radio.

I removed the grey cables used for the test set, and built the unit into the box, the mic in at one end (any Uniden wired mic will plug in here, Cybernet wired ones won't, the connector is identical, just the pins used differ), inside the ground connects to the pre-amplifier board, the audio connects to two points, the pre-amp or a switch to bypass it, the TTI mic sounds better with the pre-amp bypassed as it turns out but it is there should other impedance mics need it, the TTI AMC-5011 is 1kΩ)

Output to the computer is renewed, in the shape of a stereo phono to TRS with the phono ends cut off and the tip wired to the switch common and the sleeve wired to the pre-amp ground, a red wire connects the pre-amp output to the switch, a small toggle switch that is mounted to the side of the box.

Tests on Echolink showed promise with the pre-amp out of circuit for the TTI CB mic, in circuit the audio was bad, suggesting pre-amp with this mic is not really needed, my next test will be a live on-air test on Echolink, preferably through GB3IR but at time of writing it is not currently connected to the Echolink system.

There is still the matter of keying up Echolink when I actually press the PTT, of course this is a job I'll have to deal with another day, the pre-amp board is also temporarily fixed in with hot melt glue, this will be renewed with nuts, washers, and bolts when the PTT control circuit gets added and the unit can then work as I would like, a real radio mic on an Amateur radio linking system, I know there is no RF involved at my end but in the shack making calls to another station using a computer mic is just awful.

73 de M6RSQ

Monday 24 October 2016

Interfacing radio mic to computer

Having called at Maplin Electronics today to pick up an IC and a battery for a kit my Intermediate tutor had given me to build (the kit was missing the IC which I believe to be a PLL IC), I also bought another Velleman kit, a mono pre-amplifier, and a 4-pin CB mic connector of the type found on the radio.

I built both kits this afternoon, the kit given to me by my Intermediate tutor worked first time with the replacement IC, the second kit, the pre-amp, also worked first time but required 12V DC in order to work so I connected it to my bench supply used for my radios, first was power up and connect to computer, seemed fine, next was connect a CB hand mic, for this I used the stock microphone from the TTI TCB-550, the only 4-pin CB mic I had that is wired for Uniden CBs (though TTI is not Uniden), for testing purposes all the connections were made with terminal blocks connected over the board's connector pins with the wires attached.

The test setup consisted of the TCB-550's microphone, virtually unused since I bought the radio it came with, connected to a long grey cable, though shielded I suspect was picking up noise and the wires contained inside are very thin so probably not ideal for this, a red and black wire for power, and the line-in lead salvaged from the remains of what was the PMR446 FRN gateway that I no longer operate since getting my license, connected to the mic port on the front of the computer.

Initial tests were noisy, possibly owing to how the test rig was set up, and maybe also because the tip and ring in the computer end are shorted together though I cannot be sure if this is a cause yet, especially considering the onboard sound card of the computer is Realtek HD audio, which is capable of reassigning the ports, plug something in and it lets you pick what it is.

As the machine is equipped with an older C-Media soundcard I will use this on tests tomorrow if possible and I have time.

The only outstanding matter is getting the mic to key Echolink when the PTT is pressed, I cannot do this by connecting the TX/RX from the mic up to the computer, they would need to be able to send a signal to Echolink and from what I understand the only way for a PC user to key Echolink is via the keyboard, only radios when in sysop mode can do so with other hardware.

I have seen an American operator use a Teensy 2.0 dev board to do this and the circuit looks simple enough, trouble is that dev board is hard to find in the UK as I have only found the larger version of the same board, though it can emulate a keyboard and thus code can be written for it to press the spacebar when the PTT is pressed and obviously send the keypress again when the PTT is released, this could be an option unless I find another one in the mean time, but for now I have to remember to press the spacebar.

As I had an enclosure that I was going to initially use for building the electronics for a "whistling dipole" for DF, I made the decision to use it for this, the mic connector will be fitted to one end of the box, the connection out to the computer at the other end, I also thought that I should add a switch to take the pre-amp out of circuit for microphones that don't require it, most powered desk mics for instance have their own pre-amp and should theoretically work fine.

I have, for ease of using the TTI TCB-550's mic done the wiring side on this for Uniden CB mics, so the microphone from the TCB-550 should still work as intended with the radio, I have a pre-amplified desk mic that I originally bought to use with my Moonraker FA5000 as I felt the stock hand mic supplied with it was utter rubbish, this was originally fitted with a 4-pin plug but this was then replaced with a 6-pin plug, as I originally used the TCB-550 as a CB gateway for the Free Radio Network on a part-time basis, I should have a spare 4-pin plug somewhere to allow this mic to be used with the "adaptor", of course I'll have to put a multimeter onto the wiring of the desk mic to find out which pin on it does what..

I will post more on this as it develops.

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 15 October 2016

Baofeng DM-5R, evidence beginning to circulate around the Internet suggesting it is a real radio

Having had a search across the Internet to try and get to the bottom of the whole DM-5R saga I have found information across the Internet suggesting it exists, a Dutch Amateur operator put up an unboxing video on to YouTube and a British person had ordered one to find out if it was indeed real or not, something I will be following up in the next few days.

It is beginning to look like it in fact does exist and Baofeng have made it, however I don't feel foolish for dismissing its existence because it looks so much like a UV-5R to be believable, most DMRs have a larger display, not the sort seen on the UV-5R, the radio is not of much use to me until of course it supports Tier 2, sure I could use analogue but I would be better off just buying another HT, which I did anyway with the GT-5 to replace my UV-5RC Plus, happily as the DM-5R is so much similar to the UV-5R I can theoretically use my battery eliminator on it and swap the battery to the UV-5RC Plus, I plan only to order this radio when the firmware is modified to support Tier 2, this could be a while.

So, it looks to me like this radio may well be real after all.

73 de M6RSQ

Update: YouTube user 'Ringway Manchester' has got hold of this radio, he has done an unboxing and also gone through the radio's menus, there are DMR related items in the menus, I am satisfied this radio exists, thus closing the saga of the Baofeng DM-5R, I will wait for the firmware to support Tier 2 before placing an order, as it is not really much use to me as Tier 1


On Thursday at the Amateur radio club I found out a little more about repeaters, with some emphasis on GB3IR as it was the keeper of this repeater giving the talk.

I found out the purpose of the cavity filters, though I knew already they had some role in allowing the transmitter and receiver to happily operate 600kHz apart, a bit about the repeater logic, in this case from GB3IR mk1, which was the demo repeater for this presentation, GB3IR mk2 was also there though this was not shown and I believe does not transmit, other bits of equipment shown was a cavity filter, which is quite large, and a circulator, which I believe there is one fitted to the current GB3IR,

The logic was also demonstrated to allow the repeater to be shut down remotely, the codes to do this were changed on the logic for obvious reasons, though it was also mentioned that a requirement was that the repeater can be shut down physically as well.

A bit of history in how GB3IR came to be was also explained, as at the time of it's conception as an idea GB3HG had been running for some time and GB3CD had just gone on air, the repeater was unique at the time in having connection to both IRLP and Echolink, CD has since got Echolink and WIRES-X as time and technology moved forward, HG remains unconnected to Echolink and IRLP at this time.

So, I'm not going to bore you with all the technical details on repeaters, it is quite a big topic.

And on the subject of repeaters I monitor GB3IR most of the time, if I am on and I hear you I'll reply if I can, if I am /m be aware that I have not got a handsfree mic yet so may not reply quickly if traffic conditions do not permit.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 9 October 2016

System Fusion net

So earlier in the week I had been invited to take part in a System Fusion net on 2-metres, needless to say I obliged without any thought, 5 of us in all and members of the club, we're on for about an hour at most.

As I have my FTM-400XDE configured to show volts instead of the clock as my car has a clock built into the stereo, I kept an eye on the battery to ensure it didn't drop below 12 volts DC, happily it did not do so and I started the car twice for 10 minutes each time to ensure that the battery kept charged, I had my jump starter in the boot just in case.

This has set my best distance for simplex on C4FM to 17 miles, not sure how well this would have been on FM but we all heard each other no problem, we hope to repeat this next week if possible.

My thought is that I have invested in System Fusion I may as well use it, the audio is brilliant for a digital mode (I've heard DMR audio and it doesn't sound that good), it sends your callsign and distance to the other stations (assuming your GPS is on or lat/long is set properly in the radio), and of course with the WIRES-X, which I have used briefly on GB3CD, you can speak to stations all over the world, I highly recommend it to anyone in Amateur radio, it does mean buying Yaesu equipment but it is worth the investment and I'd certainly like to see more people use it, especially in my local area.

This is the first time I have been involved in a net on System Fusion, my first and previous contact was over WIRES-X via GB3CD, currently offline at time of writing, though the repeater itself is still C4FM last I checked.

Anyway, it is close to my bedtime at time of writing so I'll bid you all farewell for now

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 2 October 2016

The saga of the "non-existent" Baofeng DM-5R continues

Indeed it does, it is still advertised for sale on Radioddity, and the price has gone down to US$69.99 at time of writing and there are now "photos" of not only the radio but the contents of the box, and the radio is advertised as being only compliant with DMR Tier 1 rather than both Teir 1 and 2 as before.

I am beginning to think Radioddity are trying their hardest to convince people that this radio is real and to part with money, I have seen no evidence on other websites or YouTube that it exists, the most I found was a video of someone here in the UK finding the radio on QRZ Now and also believing it to be fake, until I see a working example in the hands of the Amateur radio community and they are not affiliated with Radioddity or QRZ Now then I will be satisfied that the radio exists, I don't imagine Baofeng would ever build a DMR into the same case as a UV-5R, and I know Wouxun have released a DMR, but I still stand by what I said about if you want a cheap DMR at this time, buy the TYT MD-380, and although I like System Fusion over the other digital systems I don't mind playing with the others (except D-STAR due to its use by Chance Callahan KD0MXN until of course the FCC revoke his licence for his many breaches of part 97) just to see how they fair over System Fusion, though I have already heard audio from both DMR and System Fusion and consider Fusion to sound better,

Anyway, I also stand by that if the radio is real there will be one in my shack, once they support Teir 2 as it would not really be good otherwise for a Teir 1 only radio when the competition already support Teir 2 along with the Motorola gear that DMR is compatible with (it's essentially MOTOTRBO).

Curiously, Baofeng is NOT listed as a manufacturer on the DMR Association website either, further making me believe the radio is fake.

73 de M6RSQ

APRS with Baofeng UV-5R, follow up

Now that I have got an ideal replacement for my Baofeng UV-5RC Plus since the battery keeps falling off it, in the form of the Pofung GT-5, I can now make progress on the UV-5R APRS project I am working on.

So, the only Bluetooth TNC I can find is the Mobilinkd TNC2 from across the pond, this would consist of the unit itself and a short jumper cable to connect it to the UV-5RC Plus, I intend to use my Samsung Galaxy S4 with APRSDroid for this as before, as there should be no audio issue over the Bluetooth like the direct connection to the radio as I previously attempted.

Already having APRS in the car I of course want to expand on where I can use it, having a UV-5R and this unit in a backpack and the spare phone (which won't be connected to the mobile network as I would not need this except for Google Maps) would work well, I sometimes walk places and sometimes have a HT with me, I don't always use the car.

Prior to this I'd need to reprogram the UV-5RC Plus to only operate on 144.800, not a difficult thing to do with CHIRP, as far as I can tell it's just a case of programming it into one of the memories and disabling the menu and a few other things.

This should be the next thing on my list, though I may also need a ferrite, as apparently some Baofeng radios have an issue where if RF gets into the mic line it can latch the PTT, which I suspect my UV-5RC Plus may have, but I can obtain ferrites locally

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 1 October 2016

National Hamfest 2016... post Hamfest

So the National Hamfest is done for another year, and I did not come back empty handed, to replace my Baofeng UV-5RC Plus (as the battery keeps falling off it and for that reason I'm converting it to be used as an APRS radio as I can simply strap the battery on with a rubber band and deactivate the keypad) I picked up another Baofeng, this time a Pofung (Baofeng's newer name) GT-5, a radio that has a unique feature, two PTT buttons, one for each frequency/preset displayed), the RSGB Radio Communications Handbook for £20 with a free backpack, the last one they had too, a free cap off Yaesu (who were in attendance and me being me forgot to ask them about any upcoming improvements to System Fusion, and a LED badge (with blue LEDs) that I programmed with my callsign initially by hand, but since returning home I've managed to program it using the computer so it shows my callsign and name.

The GT-5 radio had charge in it out of the box, it did also come with a 2-pin EU plug rather than a 3-pin UK charger plug but there was an adaptor provided to allow it to plug in, though I've not connected the charger up.

What I did note is that the ARRL (the American Amateur radio organisation) were there, their membership was £60 for one year, and being an American organisation I'd have had to pay that out in one go if I were to join them, trouble is is that Chance Callahan KD0MXN is a member of ARRL and thus receives their QST magazine, which I suspect they publish a list of new joining members in much like RSGB do in RadCom, and if my callsign appeared in there then he would again accuse me of stalking owing to his delusional beliefs about me and possibly attempt to have me ousted from the hobby as soon as possible, it is for this reason and the £60 fee that put me off signing up for a membership of the ARRL, though I may consider it if the FCC finally revoke KD0MXN once and for all after my reports to them earlier this year and several reports to them since then.

Also in attendance were Ofcom, much to my surprise, I decided not to bother them and keep out of their way, perhaps they wanted to advise on their new licencing portal, which I am not a big fan of but find it works OK.

The traders present were otherwise consistent with last year, the GT-5 was purchased from Moonraker as they had them and several other Baofeng radios (including the Intek brand one that can do 8 watts) for a reduced price, I picked the GT-5 as it seemed rugged over the GT-3 and most other UV-5R derivatives.

So, what else to report? Nothing really, another great Hamfest and I plan to do it again next year, perhaps with a little more money to spend

73 de M6RSQ