Visiting Family

In today’s world, I think that many people forget the simple things. The experiences that bind people together and make those memories that last a lifetime. Most of us chase the money and possessions and forget the simple. This is the trap I fell into for a long time.

I have always valued my family and friends. I have always enjoyed their company and doing things with them. However, this was not a priority for me. It always worked and the next toy. I have changed this.

Now you will find me taking more joy in hunting with friends and family. You will find me reading with my Son. Holding my wife’s hands. Experianing time and closeness. Talking about topics of interest.

This makes me smile.

DMR D-Star C4FM YSF oh my

When I recently started back into ham radio I was really excited about the VHF/UHF digital modes that are linked to the internet. The promise here is you can talk with your friends across the country on your local repeater. Or you can keep in touch with your friends from your home repeater while in another country. However, there is a bunch going on that makes it hard for people to get there heads around the digital modes and which radio to get.

DMR

The first mode we will take a look at is DMR (Digital Mobile Radio). DMR is an open standard and gained popularity with commercial applications with companies like Motola. The radio uses talk groups (TG) and there are tons to chose from.

Since DMR really got it start in the commercial world where companies would take orders for organizations and configure several radios at once and configure the talk groups for those radios. Once the radios made it to the HAM space, this programming became more difficult.

To program a DMR radio, typically, you need a code plug. Once you have made a code plug, you can use it to easily program hundreds of radios. This does not lend itself to HAM radio operations in emergency operations.

There is a major plus to this technology. While you can get expensive Motorola and Hytera radios, most are inexpensive radios made in China like the TYT. In fact, the MD-380 is under a hundred dollars and is almost the standard in HAM radio for DMR.

Pros:

  • Cheap radios are available
  • Voice quality is good on DMR radios
  • VERY active community
  • Code plug downloads are made available by many repeater operators

Cons:

  • Code plugs can be hard to make for people who are new
  • Mostly UHF repeaters so range is an issue

D-Star

D-Star was designed for HAM radio in the late 90s by the Japanese Amature Radio League. D-Star is the first digital radio mode that was specifically developed for amateur radio. Currently, the radio options are limited to Icom and Kenwood being the only radios using D-Star at the moment. D-Star uses reflectors that that repeaters can link to. The user can transfer a repeater to a reflector to temporarily communicate on that reflector.

Since the radios used in D-Star primarily made by high-end companies, they are of great quality. Most are extremely simple to program and easy to use in emergency operations. However, in some locations, it can be hard to find a repeater for D-Star since they are expensive.

D-Star also has messaging and data abilities. You can send pictures to people using D-Star as well as set up a radio-based network. All of this makes D-Star really attractive option. Lets also not forget that the voice quality is amazing as well.

Pros:

  • Great audio quality
  • Lots of reflectors
  • designed for amateur radio
  • Quality of radios very good

Cons:

  • Expensive when compared to DMR
  • Few radio manufacturers

C4FM/Fusion/Wires-X

This one is the newest playing in this space. It was created by Yeasu and is currently only offered on their devices.  This is not as bad as it might seem since they have lower cost units. This makes access to this technology much more approachable. Than D-Star at the moment.

There are some major drawbacks. One is that since it is new there are fewer users on the reflectors. However, I think this is changing quickly since Yeasu is pushing and several repeaters in my area are switching over quickly. The other problem is that while they will implement the Fusion/C4FM portion they are not implementing the Wires-x and that limits the ability to reach and link with other repeaters.

The major pluses here is the data speed and voice quality. I think these sound phenomenal! The modes also auto switch from DV to FM as needed.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive radios available
  • Growing fast, but not DMR fast
  • Great data speeds
  • Great voice quality
  • Designed for HAM radio

Cons:

  • Not as many repeaters available today
  • Some are not connected to wires-x
  • Only one company making radios

Wrap Up

These newer digital modes make it easy to talk worldwide for people with a just general license with outstanding voice quality. The downsides are what to choose. Currently, my hope is that Yeasu/Fusion/Wires-x will take off more than it has, but I still have an Icom with D-Star as my main radio.

The best thing to do is buy what you have the most repeaters around you. You might also get a hotspot to augment the repeaters. This basically makes a small lower powered reporter that will follow you. I might decide to do a hotspot comparison later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress on the 500 words a day

Recently I have started the 500 words a day challenge. I started this to force me to create and dump my thoughts. This is designed to be empowering and force the creative juices flowing. Since I have started I have put in a lot of quick work on this blog, but even more, work has been put into other things.

The main thing has been my journal. I now take time to write in my journal every day, mostly at the end, to self-reflect. This has allowed me to find areas that I have fallen short in productive and personal relationships and take steps to fix those.

The area that has not gotten enough attention from my part is my movie. I really want to finish writing this. Not because I think a studio will ever make it, but I just NEED to finish it. I need to find a little more time to work on this more as time goes on.

 

My Ham Radio HF Gear

Since I just started back into amateur radio I thought I would do a quick post of my gear. None of this is the ultra-massive and beautiful shacks that some Hams had, but so far it is working really well for me.

Antenna

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My antenna is very simple. It is a G5RV mounted in my attic. This is not ideal because more than half of the antenna is just laying on insulation in the attic since I ran out of room to full string it out. That being said I have had some good QSOs into Russia, Cuba and Italy.

I plan on trying out a Magnetic Loop antenna to see if I can get better performance with that in the conditions I have to offer. I am actually really hoping this antenna will do the job, but a little worried about its bandwidth.

Radios

ICOM IC-718

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The ICOM IC-718 was my first HF radio and came highly recommended from the community. In fact, I still use it! This is the radio that I plan on building a mobile communications platform around it so I can participate in field days and such. Love this tough little guy.

ICOM IC-7300

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I just recently updated to the IC-7300 as my main radio. This is ICOM’s entry into the Software Defined Radio (SDR) market and it took it by storm. Far cheaper than other rigs available and packed with features. I am still learning this radio and I am sure I will do a full write up later.

Stay tuned for a shack tour….. Once I have it tour ready.

Need an antenna solution

I am really enjoying my time back into Ham radio, but I am getting a little frustrated. I am going to have to do more research to find an antenna solution that will work with my limitations. If anyone has a suggestion besides move please let me know.

Playing with FT8 Digital Mode

I decided to play with some digital modes on the HF bands. This was interesting and very different from the things I have done before. While most people think of Ham radio as just voice and a bunch of noise, FT8 proves them wrong.

FT8 is great when the bands are in bad condition or you are running low power. The main point of this mode is to make DX contacts in horrible conditions. At this is shines above just about all else I have used.

FT8 does have its downsides. It is not really made for conversations or passing information. It seems best suited for those that are wanting to fill a log book. But it should not be overlooked how easy this is for new people who often struggle with getting started an need that little bit of extra motivation. While it is helping new HAMs get their feet wet it also teaches about band propagation. All this without being punishing.

There is another thing that makes this mode really fun and easy for new Hams. If you use WSJT-X and connect it to your radio. You can make the connections, almost, automated. Then you will need to be able to log those connections. I use JTAlert to log the connections and that is also automated. Pretty simple to setup and work.

Just to give you an example of how good this is. I don’t have much room in the attic to put an antenna and I cant put one outside because of HOA. That means I have a hard time getting out and receiving. FT8 cuts right through and allows me to make DX contacts.

If you are new to Ham radio HF and digital you should give FT8 try. It is really rewarding and fun. It is also much faster than other communication on the HF bands. I am going to put up a tutorial on how to connect this to your radio soon. So keep an eye out for that.

73

Fall – An Excellent Time Of Year!

One of my favourite times of year is Fall. When I was younger I didn’t appreciate this time of year the way I do now. Back then I was more interested in summer. But that all changed.

When I was a younger I longed for the days of summer. No school, swimming pools, girls in bikinis, and summer parties. Those were the things of every young man’s dream. Those southern summer nights were amazing. Cruzing with your friends meeting new girls, You always had a summer romance, fling or two. The heat didn’t bother us at all! In fact, it just meant that girls were going to be dressed in less. Summer seems to be made for the youth.

Now as I have gotten older I really appreciate the birth of spring and fall. That magical time of year when mother nature shows her true beauty. The fall colours were there all along just hidden underneath, waiting to show how beautiful the trees really are. The temperatures are dropping and there is a crispness in the air. It seems that mother nature is sitting, fighting off the bleak winter months with one last push of amazing beauty. The smells! Pumpkin spice everything.. ok well maybe that is not so great. But there is a smell to fall. Just before the cold of winter sets in and the holidays show up.

As beautiful as fall is it does lead to the death of winter. This is the point where mother nature goes silent for a bit and waits to wow us with another beautiful show in spring!