Blog Responses

I know some people don't always agree with my blog posts, especially when it comes to the DStar, DMR, Fusion, P25, etc. discussions. Everyone has their own favorite digital voice method.

Now I approve or reject the comments people make not because they disagree with my opinion, but because they may not really add to the discussion, they are promoting equipment purchases from a particular vendor, or they are offensive.

For example, the other day I received a post that referred to the users of a particular digital voice method as.....well let's just say, that person referred to them as participants in the Special Olympics.

This is so wrong on so many levels. First, just because you do not like a digital voice method does not mean you have to make fun of those users with derogatory comments. You can rip up on the digital method, but making fun of people and tearing them down because they use something they like is really sick in my opinion.

Second, it was extremely offensive to those with disabilities. My wife works with special needs children and making fun of them was very offensive to her.

I understand that not all amateur radio licensees have the proper maturity to conduct themselves appropriately, but let's try not to make personal attacks and make fun of people going through life with severe challenges.

DMR in North Carolina

Well I decided to bring the DMR radio with me to Surf City/Topsoil, North Carolina during vacation. I elected this radio instead of DStar since there are more DMR repeaters in North Carolina than DStar repeaters. In fact, with the number of DMR repeaters shown in this and the surrounding state, I thought DMR must really be popular.

I had all the DMR repeaters programmed into the CS750. So I was well covered. While I thought I would be able to hit Jacksonville, NC and Wilmington, NC repeaters from the beach area, I was only able to hit the Wilmington repeater.

The first night I got here, I had a brief conversation with a couple of gentlemen on the Southeast talk group. But since then, in spite of repeated calls on Southeast and the local talk groups, I have not received any calls or heard but a few brief conversations.

I really thought there would be a lot more activity on DMR in this area given the number of repeaters.

Continues to demonstrate that if you want to get into digital, and actually have someone to talk to, get a DStar radio for now.

DMR so far

I have had DMR for almost a week. A big thanks to Dan, KC8ZUM, for helping me get started with a simple code plug (radio programming) that got me up and running on one local repeater. It helped me understand and learn to program these DMR radios.

I have now programmed in all the Ohio DMR repeaters and posted my code plug on the CSI DMR radio groups on Yahoo in order to help others. I will continue to program in repeaters in other states as I get time. Frankly, DMR programming is a bit laborious.

In any case what I can say is that DMR has advantages and disadvantages to other digital voice modes. When I get some time, I intend to create a spreadsheet outlining the pros and cons as I see them.

Here is my biggest disappointment. It is hard to find anyone on the radio to talk to. The North American timeslot I was told is the busiest. It is very quiet. For a mode that proponents claim is exploding with growth, it is awfully quiet. I've even called on the Worldwide and Worldwide English timeslots without success. Called on local, not a soul responds.

Now I have had a few conversations on North America, but if I were creating my own impressions of DMR on use alone, my guess would be that only 20 to 30 people even owned a DMR radio.

Where is everyone? Maybe I just cannot hear them over the sounds of crickets chirping.

DStar versus DMR - First Impressions

Well I like to experiment with new things in amateur radio. While I continue to voice my disappointment with the lack of a united digital standard in amateur radio, I have resigned myself to the belief that we are going to have multiple digital methods in use for sometime until the market, if ever, determines which digital method will win out....which of course may never happen in the foreseeable future.

Since the price of new DMR radios has come down quite a bit, mostly because of the cheap Chinese radios, I decided to order one. I did not actually place an order until we had a few DMR repeaters in the area. I mean why buy a radio without anyone to talk to?

I ordered a CS750 which is a Chinese built radio by Covalue and marketed by Connect Systems in California. Connect Systems is also the company trying to produce the CS7000 which promises to support both DStar and DMR. The reason I purchased this radio is because it is low cost and second, because Connect Systems will service it if there is an issue with it.

So here are the first impressions with a radio and digital method I have used in less than 24 hours.

First, I have been told that DMR adoption is exploding with repeaters and users. Not my experience. I was told by a current DMR user that the North American talk group was one of the busiest. Not many people answering calls and not a lot of activity. I had a few QSOs, but compared to DStar Reflector 30 (which is just a regional reflector), there is no comparison. I have not found any activity yet on the DMR Midwest talk group or any of the local talk groups. In other words, where is everyone?

Second, audio quality between DStar and DMR is about equal. I really do not hear any significant difference. I will give to DMR that it seems to recover faster than DStar which means you do not hear the "R2D2" sounds when DMR becomes marginal.

Third, programming DMR is laborious in my opinion compared to DStar. With the newest generation DStar radios, about the only thing you need to program is your call. All the current DStar repeaters are pre-programmed into the DStar radios and the newest DStar radios have a GPS which will locate the closest DStar repeater for you. No guessing when traveling. DMR does not seem to have the ability to have such a function. I do not see anywhere where you can store the GPS coordinates of the DMR repeater.

The software that came with the CS750 is not nearly as easy to use as the Icom DStar programs or even Chirp. When I tried to import repeaters and contacts into the CS750 software, instead of appending the new contacts and repeaters to the existing contacts and repeaters, it just overwrites what was already there. This means I have to really do the cut and pasting with Excel first before trying to do the import. Yikes, more work.

Fourth, DMR does not seem to have the ability to let users build their own repeaters like you can with DStar. So as I understand it, the cost of a DMR repeater is about $1,800 minimum. I am not sure if that includes the networking gear to allow it to connect to all these various talk groups. Yes, you can easily build your own DStar repeaters and some have done it for a few hundred bucks.

Fifth, as far as I can determine, I also do not see an ability to use an external program like D-RATS to send digital messages and data through the radios. Maybe that is coming. We'll see.

Sixth, there does not seem to be a way, or maybe any availability, to provide hotspots. This would allow someone who does not have a local repeater to still be able to access talk groups from home, car etc.

Finally the biggest issue is the use of a registration number instead of a callsign. So when a user is transmitting on DMR, you do not see his or her call, you see a number. We are hams, we have calls and we use our calls. Surprising that DMR could not be modified to use a call instead of these registration numbers. Now you can get the call to display instead of the registration number, but that requires you entering in the user call along with the registration number into the contacts list. It's all manual. With DStar the call is always displayed.

So in quick summary, while DMR is useable, it is not nearly as ham friendly as DStar. That's because DStar was created for hams, but hams. DMR was created by commercial interests for commercial users and we hams are trying to make it work for us.

I will continue to use both and report on my experiences and findings in the future.

Dayton Hamvention 2015 has come and gone

Another Dayton Hamvention has come and gone. While the weather was warm, there was still the usual rain. Not too bad though as it usually came later in the day on Friday and Saturday.

I did not get too many pictures this year. Just take a look at some of the previous years picture I have on the site to see what it looks like at the Hamvention. But what pictures I did get are pretty funny.

I attended this year with Rod, WI0T, and Russ, WB8ZCC, but Russ only made it on Saturday. Seems he came down with one of those 24 hour bugs on Friday. We all ran into an old friend from the UK, Rod, G3KEL. We met Rod about 10 years years ago at the FDIM get together which runs in conjunction with the Hamvention. Rod missed the last two years so it was good to see him return.

As for new products. Elecraft introduced their new K3S which has more improvements over their previous K3. Nothing really new from TenTec, Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood that has not already been introduced.

CQ Magazine actually made it there and they sure scaled down their booth to a tiny single unit. Some new subscribers asked when they would get their first issue and I heard them being told "about 6 weeks." Think those new customers might be surprised. I did enjoy watching some other current subscribers having lively discussions about delivery and refund issues.

The folks working on the FreeDV/Codec 2 were there showing a small box that will allow encode and decode of FreeDV digital voice without the need for a computer. $200 bucks but the creator did not feel the need to bring them to sell at Dayton! Seriously, that was a bad move. WI0T and I would have each bought one on the spot.

Algoram was showing off their open HT platform. Only issue there is you have to use it in conjunction with your smart phone! That alone turned me off....on to next booth for us. Give me one piece of hardware to carry, not two.

AES was absent again. So that left more business for R&L, HRO, Main Trading, and the rest of the retailers. AES just not what it used to get back in their glory days.

ARRL had a nice exhibit as usual and they always had a number of visitors.

DStar forums were always packed, but folks, quit mixing the newbee information with the information for more experienced DStar users. How many times must we have to listen to the basics presentation!

Good news is that there are now over 3,100 DStar repeaters in the world and still growing. So when people say DMR and Fusion are growing, well they have a long way to go. So if you want to talk to someone no matter where you travel, you might want to get DStar.

DStar's open platform is clearly demonstrated at Dayton. Plenty of add-ons and even non-Icom radios. You won't find things like DVAPs, Hotspots, etc. for DMR and Fusion. While DMR and Fusion may have slightly better audio due to using about twice the bandwidth, those other digital modes still do not have the flexibility of DStar.

The flea market was the usual disappointment. Mostly consists of equipment that should be in a landfill somewhere or recycled for the metal and plastic. Prices for dirty old crap were high. I mean you might as well spend a few more bucks and get new equipment with a warranty.

BTW, some of the vendors inside were selling those Beofeng dual-band handhelds for $29 with charger and battery! Who says ham radio is expensive?

Ham Radio Deluxe confirmed that JT-65 will be added soon to their DM-780 application within HRD. HRD just gets better and better. It's a bargain for what it does and the number of radios it can support. Buy it and pay the annual's worth it!

The big news are the flyers around the Hara Arena saying some remodeling will be taking place for 2016! Great news as Hara is really bad looking. It almost appears that maintenance is just not being done. In one area inside we noticed the roof leaking. More good news in that the air conditioning appeared to be working. So while it looks bad, at least it was reasonably comfortable inside.

All in all, we had a great time and look forward to the next Hamvention in 2016.