Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Self Contained DMR Portable/Mobile Operation

Invariably, it is necessary to head out on a mobile trip in a hurry and piecing together a system for DMR operation in the West of Ireland and beyoned can be a nuisance. With this in mind it was decided to put together a "kit in a box" system for rapid deployment. 

A perfect sized case was procured from the ailing Maplin store which was just right for purpose. The unit needed to be self contained with its own power supply. As most of the items run on 5 volts it was easy enough to get a small 15 aH unit from Ebay. The easiest hotspot to run under the circumstances was was the SharkRF Openspot. A small Vodafone "pebble" mobile data WiFi was more than adequate for needs and also came in handy for use with the Android Tablet. 

Unfortunately the Openspot needs a direct Ethernet connection as opposed to the DVmega which operates direct from WiFi. The most practical way around the Ethernet problem was the use of the mobile router from TPLink, the TP-LINK TL-WR802N. It is an excellent solution. Any router will do but this one was small enough to fit in the box the box.

For good measure, a handheld fitted nicely into remaining space.

The Vodafone Pebble is perfect for use and seldom drops out unless in a totally obscure environment. Once out of the range of a Repeater or Gateway, it is easy enough to switch over to hotspot operation. 

This system has been used in conjunction with the UHF  Motorola DM4600 system on long journeys and has given consitent results throughout. As the infrastructure for DMR Radio is only in its infancy this is the ideal solution to Mobile operation where DMR Repeaters are few and far between.

Operation on Yaesu Fusion is possible and requires the tablet to switch the hotspot over the the Yaesu Fusion operating system. Always hand to have the mobile phone or tablet at hand to link into the Hotspot and review its parameters.

This system has proven  itself on many occasions and is a vital part of the outdoor persuits.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Getting Ready for Action on Digital Radio

After rigorous testing, the Galway DMR Repeater, on 70cms, and the 2 Metre Multimode Digital Gateway are ready for re-siting to their high spot on the west side of the City. 

The Gateway was placed under test last November, 2017, and has withstood 24 hour operation since without any software crashes. The Gateway has operated on Yaesu Fusion and DMR although there is a possibility of D-Star and P25 further down the road.

The 70cm DMR Repeater was procured in May and has undergone tests throughout June but was off air due to the EI5DD annual holiday to the UK. The repeater is now back on air as of mid September with a review of Parameters and is undergoing a soak test until it is ready to go on site. The antenna system will be a vertical co-linear for the 70cm repeater and a folded dipole for the 2 metre Gateway.

Aengus, EI4ABB, kindly tuned up the cavity filter shown below in situ. Due to the 50% duty cycle of a DMR transmission the Procom filter is not subjected to too much heating from the transmission. This in turn does not causedrif t making life much easier than on an analog system with full duty cycle which generally renders this type of cavity filter unsuitable.

In amongst the items collected over the years, a fine ABS case, just the perfect size to house the equipment was found.  EI3IS, made a shelfing unit suitable to accomodate the gateway with a fan underneath to cool the Motorola GM 350 transceiver for the Gateway. 

A seen above,  this is is nice and compact and saves a lot of carrying around. There is adequate cooling on the heatsink of the repeater and operation at 40 watts will not stress the P.A. The Gateway will run at 20 watts on 2 metres on both DMR and Fusion. 

The Gateway operates on Slot 2, colour Code 1 and the EI Talk Groups 2722 and 2723 are static which means any activity on either channel will be retransmitted.

The Repeater will work on both Slot 1 and Slot 2, Colour Code 1. Both time slots can operate independently and simultaneously. Effectively this is two repeaters operating from the same box so becomes great value for money.

Both systems will be connected via Ethernet cable to a Three Mobile 4G Router which is more than adequate for the amount of data useage. 

Full control of the Gateway is possible through a remote connection and it is even possible to update the pi-star software by this means. 

The repeater power is controlled by a GSM switch, see below, to power it on or off in the event of any hang up or failure. On switch on. the Repeater will automatically re-boot. So far it has not been necessary to do a reset. 

Whilst DMR and digtal radio is in its infancy in Ireland, it is necessary to get the infrastructure up and running to facilitate newcomers to the hobby. Galway currently has ten operators with DMR equipment and eleven Yaesu Fusion operators. Hopefully there will be more interest with the new facilities available. 

A second DMR Repeater has been procured to be located in the middle of County Galway which will considerably enhance the total DMR coverage in both the County and neighbouring counties. The facility to roam between the footprints of both repeaters will be posssible allowing seemless operation between both. 

There are currently two DMR repeaters in the Waterford area with the possibility of a third in the near future. Galway will eventually have two. There are applications for a DMR repeater in hte Mullingar area, Dublin and possibly Dundalk.
The Mayo area will be setting up several low lying installations on air to cover a wide area of their county so the West of Ireland will see plenty of activity  over the next year.

Note that TG 2724 is linked from DMR to Yaesu Fusion so those wh o do not have Fusion equipment can access the DMR system and those on DMR will be able to communicate with Fusion users. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Radiotone RT4 Handheld

The Radiotone RT4 is the most recent internet radio available from Martin Lynch & Sons. It is basically an Android Phone with a PTT button on the left hand side and a Motorola style speaker microphone socket on the right hand side. It comes with a 4,200 mAH battery which gives it a good operating period with each charge. 

Accessories include a Speaker Mic, and a charging cradle which can be stuck to the windscreen using a suction mount. The suction mount is large and well able to support the radio.

Some say that this radio resembles a Motorola handheld radio, however, this comparison is like a silk purse and a sow’s ear and total poppycock. Whilst the case is relatively tough, it would not stand up to the abuse of being dropped or knocked about and it is an unnecessarily big old Hector of a radio. The volume control feels cheap in comparison to many of the Chinese DMR handhelds as does the casing. Tytera radios have a much better feel by comparison both on the controls and their casings. If the word Motorola had never been used it would not have arisen in this review.

As a mobile phone and for data usage, the RT4 is open and can connect to any network. It sounds good and has a loud ring. As a mobile phone it ticks all the boxes. There is even a front and rear pointing camera.

The battery has a reasonable charge when taken out of the box. A small stubby antenna is included but this for GPS reception and has no part in cellular reception. A SIM card with data facilities is required to set up the communications via Internet.

On switch on the RT4 goes through a start up of the Android system. A few Apps are installed already such as Zello, WattsApp, YouTube, which can be uninstalled. Apps such as Echolink for Android, Teamspeak 3, and APRSdroid are useful and there is ample space for them and a few more if necessary.

As with the Inrico TM-7, it is necessary to register with the International Radio Network. Once the network key has been issued,  it is a simple procedure to set up and activate the network. Echolink requires a copy of the licence to be submitted before access to the Echolink network. APRS does occasionally require a copy of the licence before it can be activated. The APRSdroid program requires a minor payment to download but this will not break the bank.

The recent versions of Zello seem to launch if the PTT is depressed in EchoLink or Teamspeak 3 operation. Zello is more of a general purpose program for communication so it is best to dispense with it if not really required. It is possible to use the RT4 as a portable hotspot which may be of use whilst out in the field.

The audio on transmit and receive is clear and crisp and operation of the radio is no different to the use of any other handheld once established in a chat room.

As one can use a mobile phone SIM with data, it is possible to use the RT4 as a mobile WiFi hotspot which makes  it a useful tool when out in the field. Perhaps for use with a tablet or better still to provide internet for a mobile Digital Hotspot.

So what are the advantages?

Internet radio is not dependent on line of sight or a repeater, or enhanced propagation for reliable communications. The communications are not impaired by QRM, Contest Operators or those who like to tune up on top of others. Basically it is a gentlemen’s operating system as there are no hassles. Abusers are transferred to the "naughty room" for their transgressions. They can exit  this room but if they should find themselves in there on a frequent basis they will be removed and barred altogether.

It is possible to link into hubs with Repeaters, EchoLink, and Digital modes of operation which are connected to a common group area on Teamspeak. These areas include the UK Hub, the Scotland Ireland Hub and there is also a London Area Hub to mention but a few as there are many more. This ensures plenty of activity most hours of the day. There are other Networks to join, each of which have many group contacts. The International Radio Network hosts many groups and always quite lively. A More recent network is the World Hub which is currently under development. There will be a Scottish Irish Group and a London South East Group amongst others. Early tests have given good results with clear audio. This network will be in full operation by August 2018 and will be linked into many Amateur Networks.

This is a shot of the screen of the RT4 using Teamspeak. Generally one is directed to the welcome channel once linked onto the International Radio Network. Once membership is approved, it is possible to join any of the other channels available. To join a group one just has to touch the screen over the group name or, better still, use a stylus as used on an Android Tablet. Your callsign will appear in the group as a result. Indeed the screen is a tad small to manipulate with the end of a finger unless under 2 years  old. Use a stylus if you have difficulty.

The only disadvantage is that if the cellular network should go down or cellular reception is poor then communication is no longer possible. 

Some say that this is not amateur radio, well perhaps not in the strictest sense but try it first and see what you think. Certainly it is not utilising amateur frequencies although a license is required to use the amateur facilities in Teamspeak 3. One does communicate in the same way as an Amateur so therefore can be likened to Amateur Radio. Who really cares; it has a place in communications. Would one poo poo a marine radio just because it is not operating on an Amateur Frequency? If you are a Radio Operator you would operate this system as a Radio Operator.

Of course, there are many Amateurs who would forget their pathway into the hobby. It is generally these guys who are the first to jump up with the cry of “it is not real radio”. Get a life lads! Many Radio Amateurs work DX following cluster entries. They are not really working it as somebody is telling them where to look. Surely the fun is in the hunt. A proportion of Radio Amateurs are black box operators and haven’t a clue what’s in the box, or how it works, so this system is ideal for them. Amateur Radio has deteriorated over the years so please do not sneer at new ideas. Incorporating new technology is what we do as Radio Amateurs. This surely can’t be as bad as FT8 operation where it is possible to work DXCC whilst reading a Dan Brown book as the computer does all the operating and communicating. How interesting can it get?

Aside from the amateur radio aspect of this radio, if fitted with Zello, there are a lot of possibilities to keep in touch with family members all over the world who can all link into one talk area. Teamspeak 3 has many areas where one can set up a temporary private room for chats. These are private as there is a requirement for a password to get into them. Bear in mind that probably the younger generation have been communicating over this type of system with group chats whilst playing World of Warcraft and many other team games.

In conclusion, there is a wealth of communications opportunities that can be exploited via this system with Amateur Radio being only one of them. If one was operating a Taxi Radio, Marine Radio, or any other RF Radio, they would not give a second thought to operating using correct radio procedure. Why would this be any different? It is a practical system to use and will keep one in touch with other operators. The RT4 would complement the Inrico TM-7 system described earlier on this site.

Click HERE for more information on the International Radio Network

 Click HERE for more information about the World Hub

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Anytone AT-D868-UV

The Anytone AT-D868-UV is a VHF and UHF hand held radio with both Digital DMR Tier I and Tier II and Analog capabilities. It offers a total of 4,000 channels (Analog and Digital), 10,000 Digital Talk Groups and up to 150,000 contacts, as well as multiple DMR ID numbers for a single radio. Retailing at £139.95 from Martin Lynch, the AT-D868-UV is extremely good value for money.

The radio comes with a short stubby dual band antenna and a charging cradle. The short antenna is adequate for normal use but the use of a longer 40cm Diamond SRH-771VHF/UHF Handheld Antenna is much more practical.

The AT-D868-UV is easy to program and a Word document is available on-line which is easy to follow. The Anytone codeplug is slightly different to other units to program but it does not take long to get used to it. The code plug program is easy enough to use  but it does differ from the Tytera and Motorola approach. The first few entries did take time as the program was a little unfamiliar but, after the first ten had been programed it was eaasy to get into the order and rhythm of the program.

Starting from scratch, the Talk Groups are programmed in first.

It is necessary to type in the number of the TalkGroup, Give it a name and also define the type of call which in most cases will be a Group Call.

Setting up the Channels and defining mode and frequency is the next task using the screen below:

As with most CPS programming the Channel Name, the Channel Mode and the frequency is required. If Analog modes are used it is possible to define the squelch type and tones required. 

With DMR channels it is necessary match the channel name with the Digital contact or TalkGroup, set the colour code and TX permit. This rig also requires the Radio ID to be defined for each contact. It does default to the first on the list so it is not a problem. It is however possible to define the ID of the radio for specific channels. If you are on holiday this may be a useful facility.

Lastly the zone has to be defined and appropriate channels assigned to it.

The creation of a Zone and the addition of channels is a simple task and much like any other radio.

Whilst not really required, a Scan List and/or a Receive Group List may be created if the listening to or monitoring of multiple channels is required. 

The radio has been put through it paces and the first thing to note is the good quality of audio from it. Secondly, the receive side is sensitive on both DMR an Analog Channels. The first test was with the 70 cm GB7NS Repeater located in Caterham and some 8 miles from the G4GFC QTH. The path was not line of sight and there were many obstructions in the path as the G4GFC QTH is surrounded by woodland. It was possible to access the Repeater using low power and a good report was received. Using the Diamond SRH-771 antenna resulted in an increase in received signal. GB7EP and GB7AK located at Epsom and Barking, north London were not workable, however, walking to a higher location would have made this possible. The G4GFC QTH is located behind hills in the direction of GB7EP and GB7AK. GB7AK would undoubtedly be the repeater of choice whilst pedestrian mobile in London by virtue of its location.

The stubby antenna does not really do the radio any favours but, the addition of a longer antenna such as the Diamond SRH-771VHF/UHF Handheld Antenna is a vast improvement. This a matter of taste really as the longer antenna gets in the way but it is way more efficient. It is really down to the type of work you wish to use the radio for at the end of the day. There is no doubt that the existing antenna will work from point to point over a clear path and from high ground the longer antenna will undoubtedly prove its worth.

The radio has a high quality plastic case and it does not feel as though it will fall apart if accidentally dropped. 

The battery capacity is excellent at 2100 mAH for normal use obviously consant use at 5 - 7 Watts will reduce the battery life before needing a charge. 

As a dual bander, this radio would definitely be my first choice as it ticks more than most of the boxes and well worth the money. The code plug software is easy enough to use although it is slightly different to its competitors

A Code plug for this radio can be found on the Galway VHF Group Facebook Page.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Galway Regatta 2018

The 135th Galway Regatta, organised by the Galway Rowing Club, was held on Sunday 17th June on the Menlo Straight on the River Corrib. Over 180 crews representing clubs participated including Athlone, Colaiste Iognaid, CCRC, Galway, Grainne Mhaol, Shannon, St. Joseph’s College, Tribesmen,  Lady Elizabeth BC and Lagan Scullers Club will race in Masters and Junior events, many of whom were gearing up for one of the biggest domestic events of the year, Cork Regatta at the National Rowing Centre, the following weekend. The Galway Regatta took place on a 700-metre, 3-lane “sprint” course, with races run from 9am Sunday morning until after 5pm that evening.

Tom EI2GP was at the start line with Enda EI3IS on the slips and Steve EI5DD at the finish line in the Secretary's station / Control Centre. 

DMR radio was used for the entire operation and proved its worth with very clear and crisp audio even at low power levels. Another advantage of DMR is the longer battery life which was apparent as the day wore on.

The races were started in the order as listed on the race timetable. Tom EI2GP would confirm the crews in the race and would call when the race was started passing information about crews,lane changes and the umpire with the race to ensure that crew were correctly identified at the finish line.

As the crews came over the finish line, Steve EI5DD would confirm the winning crew and pass information about the crew's place in the semi final or final.  Constant updates were made during the race. 

Enda, EI3IS, was located at the slips and was able to ascertain whether crew were on the water and heading to the start line. This was particularly helpful if there were any delays so that the race could be held until the crews arrived at the start line.

If there were any crews missing for a race it was possible to get them on the water quickly after consultation with Enda, EI3IS, on the slips. Some crews may decide not to participate at the last minute so this information was also transmitted to avoid any delays.

This year there was only a light breeze which made life easier. If there were any incidents on the river it was possible to summon help over the radio system. Civil Defence were present if there were any injurys.

As a result of the good weather, the races managed to run on time although this did put pressure on crews to make it to the start line on time to avoid disqualification.

As often happens during the races, it is necessary to change the times of the races to facilitate those crews which need to participate in several races. This is quickly rectified by communication with the start line where a new order can be imposed. 

A constant flow of information has to be transmitted that messages have to be passed with minimal chit chat or delays. Tom, Steve, and Enda have been running this event for the majority of years since the 1980s so it it is well practiced. 

Detailed logs are kept and in the unlikely event of the computer crashing, it is possible to recover the information transmitted and times of races. Thankfully this has only ever happened once in our time. We were able to piece the finals together during the lunch break and transmit them to the start line.

Nowadays, the paricipants for the finals are written in on the race program by the radio operator as well as entered on the computer by the Secretary each time the races finish which saves a lot of time later in the day. Immediately after the the race is finished this information is transmitted to the start line. This gives us a little more time to relax in the lunch break.

Whilst this is a very busy day with non stop operation, it is one of our favourite events as the operation is flawless and the team works well together as the activity is well practiced. Each transmission is short and to the point. No radioese or irrelevant chat creeps in on this event as messages have to be short and snappy to keep the timetable on track.

DMR or Fusion work well on this event so either may be used on future operations. DMR is preferable as the battery capacity is greater due to the half duty cycle nature of DMR transmission with consequent increase of battery life - no need to carry spares!

Castlebar 4 days Walking Festival 2018

Steve EI5DD and Tom EI2GP assisted with the communications for the 30 Km rambles from the 28th June to the 1st of July. The marshals of the ramble were supplied with PMR radios and they communicate amongst themselves and with those at ground level providing support. Tom, EI2GP,  assisted with the marshalling of the ramble whilst Steve EI5DD was in a support vehicle at ground level.

For the last 25 years members of the Galway VHF Group have assisted with this event. The Marshals on the ramble have operated PMR systems over this period of time and have become seasoned radio users. The amateur radio presence is to provide a back up should an emergency arise. The logistics of support to bring any casualty down from the hill are dealt with via the amateur radio links thus leaving the marshals to continue with the walk.

There were a number of crossings on a busy road in the Mulranny area and co-ordinating with the marshals, it was possible to advise when the road was going to be clear for a crossing to be made. It is impressive to see how well the radios are operated under the circumstances.

The map above shows the areas covered according to APRS.FI  over 5 days including the transit from Galway. The cell signal was good most of the time so the TM-7 was able to resister the points along the distance of travel. There were two trips out along the Newport road, with one close to Crossmolina, and on the last day there was a loop around the immediate Castlebar area.

Rambles were located close to Newport, in Mulranney, on Achill Island and the last day in Castlebar. The scenery on these walks is only magnificent and of course always looks a hundred percent better in excellent weather conditions.

Twenty five Taiwanese walkers participated in the 4 Days walks. They were always in great humour. They never complained about the heat. Their hats were just the job to keep the sun of the back of the neck.

There were particpants from 28 different countries with many returning on an annual basis. Four busses were required to ferry the walkers to their rambles. One thing that is very noticeable is the camaraderie between the partcipants from all nations. New walkers are very quickly given plenty of encouragement and many new friendships are made on the hillsides. 

                              Image may contain: 1 person, standing, crowd and outdoor

Both DMR and Yaesu fusion were tested on the amateur radio side of the operation. Naturally these worked well between the operator on the hill and ground level. The support team were never too far away. It is possible that we may acquire DMR licence free sets for operation on the walks by the marshals in future events.

John Cresham - one of the support team at ground level taking a well earned tea break

The weather was extremely hot, with the tar melting off the road surface. On the first day of walking there was only one walker experiencing dehydration as a result of the hot weather. It was essential that adequate water was carried into the hills. The following 3 days expereinced no major problems apart from one who slipped and suffered a few minor scratches.

Pictured above is a good friend Bert Oderkerken ex Dutch Army who turns up every year and has become an honourary marshal - he operates a Radio as a sweeper. A really good radio operator. Bert is dedicated walker who has walked at almost all of the International walks.

 Some excellent scenery experienced during the 4 days walks

At the end of the fourth day, medals were presented to those qualifiying for Intenational Marching League Awards and those qualifiying for Castlebar Awards.  Following the presentations, a dinner was held followed by a "blisters ball". This is well attended and a group "Brown Sugar", consisting of two walkers, play some excellent music for the evening to conclude the Four Day walks. A great night for the fairwells and plans for next year.

Special thanks to the Castlebar International Four Days wallks for the pictures used in this article.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Connemara Ultra Marathon & Emerging Technology

On an annual basis, the Galway VHF Group provide communications for the Connemara Ultra Marathon. This generally occurs on HF using 80 metres. We were minus two key personel this year, Arthur, EI7GMB, and Gerry EI8DRB. We normally run two HF base Stations. One in the Maam Community Centre at the bottom of the Maam Valley and the other at Peacock's at Maam Cross.

As seen from the map the terrain is not VHF Friendly so HF has to be employed. The Use of 5 MHz NVIS would be out of the question as it is unlikely that anyone in the group would go out and purchase such a mobile antenna. From a base perspective NVIS would be possible. For the area covered, 80 metres Ground Wave is sufficient and adequate for the majority of the course.

This year, given the reduction in operators, it was necessary to put into practice some other means of communication based on observations from previous years. APRS was one idea, DMR via Hotspots, and PTT over Cellular using the INRICO TM-7 was used with reservation.

The Maam Community Centre

The first task was to set up the VHF antenna and secure contact with the Medical Centre at Maam Cross. The antenna was a VHF colinear on a Fibreglass hoisted into a tree. Not the best but it did work fine.

The next task was to set up the HF antenna as soon as possible. The dipole antenna was mounted on a fibrglass pole secured to a fence post at a good height. This only took about 10 minutes to set up. As good strong signals were received on 2 metres in Maam Cross we decided to make this the primary frequency for that location HF was only used if here was a need. There wasn't on this occasion.

The ends of the dipole were secured to a flagpole at one and and another fibreglass pole at the other. It was surprisingly easy to set this one up.

A picture of John's bottom. I guess he was making last adjustments to his HF system before going mobile. The mobile whips are excellent if the earthing is ok in the car, but if it is poor, the tuning is difficult. A quick call to Tom in Maam Cross and confirmation of good clear signal was made.

The Base Station was a CODAN commercial HF system set up on 3750 KHz. The DMR rig was connected into the system via WiFi and also the DV4 Mini. C4FM was used on the FTM100 in the background.

All stations were now up and running and in contact. Joe set off for Leenane. Steve was through Leenane at this stage and heading for the Inagh Valley to the start of the Full Marathon. Communication via DMR and the TM-7 proved succesful with crystal clear audio on both methods of communication. Joe's car had the FTM100 on C4FM and also the Inrico TM7 in the foreground. A GD-77 handheld was in use as well.

Steve, EI5DD, had the Inrco system, the FTM 400 on C4FM, and also a Motorola DM4600 for test throughout the event. The TM-7 had APRS Droid installed and sent position reports at intervals.

The portable, self contained Hotpspot system with Power pack, Cellular WiFi, Router with Ethernet  Port for the Shark RF Openspot and a spare UHF handheld just in case (sic). 

The full marathon started on time with a huge number present. Behind these runners, were the ultra marathon runners.

At he very back of each section of the marathon, were the Order of Malta Ambulance and the a mini bus to look after anyone in difficulty of those who wished to drop out at any point. 

In Leenane the first of the runners were beginning to arrive from the Full Marathon. 

The weather was not wonderful with some heavy showers here and there but it was not too cold. There were probably only a couple of cases of hypothermia this year and very few injuries. The above runners had approximately 10 more miles  to run but the last few miles were up hill to the finish. 

Once the last of the walkers/runners had passed the point shown above the net transferred to C4FM as all cars were now in range of the centre. The HF operator still communicated on HF whilst checking 5 miles back to see if there were any stragglers. 

As always it is far easier to take equipment down than put it up. The HF antennas were removed and the station packed. The last of the runners passed the Centre and any other communications were now confined to VHF. 

The Medical Centre was established at the finish line. Many of the runners were suffering from exhaustion but a rest and some high energy drinks slowly brought them round. Some started to feel cold once they stopped running and needed to be wrapped in foil blankets to bring up their temperature. 

What did we learn from the day? 

1) HF is still the most reliable method of communicating through mountainous terraine.
2) The Cellular network was good as there was an almost continuous strong signal in the Connemara area.  This was a surprise but bear in mind, the TETRA system had worked perfectly for the Order of Malta.
3) DMR worked well and there were other interesting possibilities for this system.
4) PTT over Cellular Networks was perfect and vey clear. It has a place in the scheme of things.
5) Forget 2 metres. At best, it was useful up to 7 Kms and occasionally gave us a surprise but not enough to warrant reliability.

We thank the team Andrew EI3FEB Net Controller, Tom EI2GP on standby at the medical Centre, John EI1EM for his constant access to base on HF, Joe EI3IX stationed in the Leenane area and Steve EI5DD mobile between the Inagh Valley and the finish line. We thank Mark Bannon, EI6HPB, for coming along to view our activities and assist where required. We will have plenty of work for him in future! He made a few useful contacts whilst out and about. It was good to work with the Order of Malta and the Bike Marshals on this event.

The various methods of communication were rigorously tested and we now know their limitations. A check of the APRS map shows the coverage from the Inrico from the APRS signal emitted via Cellular data. Note, that it was not covering the first part of the Marathon as EI5DD/M did not follow the section before the Full Marathon. It would have, undoubtedly, covered that area if  this area had been travelled.

The map shows the track from the start of EI5DD's Journey from Galway to the event and back home. APRS proved the effectiveness of the Cellular data system and hence the TM-7's efficiency and also the potential of DMR. Perhaps APRS Driod for Mobile Phone should be a must for all participating.

It would be unwise to just go in blind to such an event and presume that the Cell network would work perfectly in mountainous terrain. A very wise thing to check the area first. Our Group always have the areas checked out beforehand and in many cases we would be stomping over old ground.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Tytera MD-9600 Dual Band, Dual Mode Transceiver

The Tytera MD9600 VHF - UHF mobile transceiver operating in both Analog FM and DMR mode. Operation is from 136 - 174 MHz and 420 - 480 MHz. RF transmitting power is around 46 - 50 watts on VHF and appox 45 watts on UHF. The display is clear and sharp. The advanced TDMA technology and DMR Tier II is compatible with Motorola TRBO and DMR Tier II. There are 250 zones available with 16 channels for each Zone. Advanced features include CTCSS/DCS, channel scan, priority scan, short text message features, DTMF mic and VOX. The radio is available as the updated latest series II from Martin Lynch & Sons. Series II has addressed all of the issues that were present on the original model. The  reviews would seem to praise this radio at the end of  the day. The Retevis RT 90 is exactly the same radio rebranded. 

What is in the Box

The Tytera MD 9600
The mounting Bracket
12V Power Cable
User Guide
Driver and Software CD
Programming Cable

The MD9600 was specifically designed with the Radio Amateur in mind. The radio is capable of running full power as it has a heavy duty heat sink and built in fan. Anyone who has a Tytera Dual Band Handheld  radio will be relieved to know that it is possible to import the existing code plug to get the radio on air quickly.

The receiver has very good sensitivity on both analog and digital modes with good clear, loud and undistorted audio. Whilst not a big deal, in my opinion, the audio is a little on the treble side but when an external speaker is added the quality is a great improvement. Most mobile radios suffer from this problem so really nothing to worry about.


The power levels are consistent across the ranges 136, 174 MHz and 400 - 480 MHz. The radio has four power settings on VHF 5, 8, 18, and 45 Watts, and on UHF 5, 9, 16, and 40 Watts.


The MD9600 is fully upgradeable and from time to time new upgrades become available and this process is easy enough to perform. This essentially keeps the radio up to date.


Like all DMR Radios, this one has to be programmed with channels of choice. This is not an onerous task and following conventions on the EI5DD website it will be easy enough with practice. Start simple with a handfull of channels on each Band and then expand. The important thing is to get it up and running as quickly as possible. If you are not willing to program your own radio, it should be possible to obtain a Code Plug from your own coverage area. Do not be afraid to ask as most operators are only too glad to assist another on the air. 

Whilst it is possible to program from the microphone keypad, this is fine in an emergency but cumbersome and frustrating in normal useage.


The latest Software and Firmware packages may be downloaded  >>> Here

Where possible keep the radio's Firmware up to date when updating the Firmware download the most recent version of CPS as well.

This is an excellent radio which ticks all the boxes as  high quality mobile radio. The issues encountereed in the earlier series of MD 9600 have been resolved.

If you wish to change the colour of the LED backlight for the screen  >>> Here

Notes on Programming the CPS for this Radio may be found on the EI5DD Pages >>> Here

A Code plug for the Galway area will shortly be available from Steve EI5DD

Monday, April 16, 2018

The IRTS Weekend Hosted by the Galway VHF Group 2018

It was very much by accident that the Galway hosted this, the 86th Annual General Meeting Weekend of the IRTS. It was to be held in Cork but they decided against it and passsed it over. The Galway VHF Group put their name forward at the last minute following a brief call to the GalwayBay Hotel. This is, in fact, the 4th IRTS Function organised by Steve EI5DD. The first was in 1985 in the Warwick Hotel, Galway (sadly the Warwick closed in 2008), the Second was 1992 in  the Royal Hoey Hotel, Athlone, the Third in the Galway Bay Hotel 2014 and this one in the Galway Bay Hotel for 2018. The service and facilities were excellent as on the previous occasion.

On Saturday the 14th at 2pm a series of talks were given on the Following topics. "Getting Started with Digital Radio" by Steve Wright, "The 7Q7EI Dxpedition", by Enda Broderick EI2II, "The FT8 Digital Mode" by Keith Wallace EI5KO, and "Having fun in Space" by Graham Shirville, G3VZV. The talks were of 45 minutes duration and saw a good attendance and great interest. Special thanks to all of the lectures who presented their specialist subjects.

 Steve EI5DD lecturing on DMR

 Enda EI2II and Pat O'Connor EI9HX lecturing on the 7Q7EI  Dxpedition

 Keith Wallace EI5KO lecturing on the FT8 Digital Mode

 Graham Shirville G3VZV lecturing on Satellite Operation

The Annual Dinner took place at 7:30 pm and this was attended by 69 people. The food and service was excellent. It was a shame that a number had booked tickets and didn't show which placed a burden on our group given that we had to book for 75 and naturally the Hotel held us to this number.

Steve, EI5DD, welcoming the guests

Steve & Hilary Wright

John Anderson, MI0AAZ,  and Mary 

Joe Fadden, EI3IX

Tom Rea, EI2GP, and Loretta
A view of the function room

IRTS President Gerry Gervin EI8CC

A really great night was enjoyed by all following the excellent meal. A quick draw for spot prizes toook place which added to the fun of the evening.
The following day was devoted to the Rally and AGM so it was an early start to ensure that the tables were marked and ready for their traders. One had to ensure that nobody encroached on the allocation for a neighbouring trader.
Early Morning and the traders just arriving. Mike EI0CL was the first in and had a huge stand 

 Joe EI3IX at the Mayo VHF Group Stand

Steve EI5DD and John Anderson MI0AAZ at the Brandmeister Digital Radio Stand

Mark Bannon and John Anderson in deep discussion about DMR Repeaters
 Raymond Long - Long Communications

Philip Hosey and the Region 8 RSGB team manning the RSGB stand

Jimmy Kelly, running the Mayo Radio Experimenters Club Stand

Jimmy Kelly and Padraig Baynes 

Two rogues Mike EI0CL and Steve EI5DD
This and the next 7 Pictures show a sample of Mike, EI0CL's, goodies

Peter Green EI2IU

  Arek, EI9GWB, selling customised shack accesssories see items below

A handmade Shack Sign made for EI5DD

Sean with his 2nd hand commercial radio products

 The IRTS Stand manned by Pat Fitzpatrick

Silent Key Equipment at the end of the IRTS Stand

During the Rally CW tests were run by Dave Moore, EI4BZ, and there were two applicants who passed with ease. The Annual General Meeting of the IRTS took place at 2pm and the rally closed shortly after this time. It would be appropriate to thank all of the traders and Radio Clubs who were kind enough to attend and make this rally so successful. There was an excellent turn out for this rally. The proceeds of the weekend will be going towards our new DMR Repeater, antenna and feeders.

 The AGM in full swing

 John Brown EI7FAB receiving his trophy for the 1296 MHz contest

Steve EI5DD receiving the Kevin Freeney Trophy for Experimentation and Innovation. This was for time devoted to the promotion of Digital Radio both locally and Nationally.

This was a really enjoyable weekend and we thank the Galway Bay Hotel for their excellent service through out he weekend and during the organisation of the event. Special thanks to all those who attended the lectures, the AGM dinner and the large crowd from far and wide who attended the rally. We also thank the traders who put on a great show and contributed to the huge success of the Rally.

We thank Joe EI3IX and Joe EI7GY for their pictures shown above.