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ALAMO DIGITAL GROUP UPDATE

The Alamogordo Digital Group gathered at Plateau Espresso on Scenic Drive this afternoon to catch up on the latest in digital happenings around the Tularosa Basin and beyond.

Larry, WW6USA, brought a report on some complications on the D-STAR network resulting from the release of the Android app Peanut, which allows users to access D-STAR reflectors without the use of a D-STAR radio. Apparently some bad actors on the system have led to some D-STAR reflectors banning users of the app altogether due to issues such as inappropriate language and on-air behavior. Further issues have emerged on D-STAR networks as Peanut traffic is not routed to all network participants, causing broken 2-way communication in some cases. Larry indicated the best way to continue accessing D-STAR networks is via a D-STAR repeater, or a D-STAR hotspot when used with a D-STAR radio.

Rick, N7SGT, updated the crowd on his prolific use of a variety of digital voice hot spots. As an experienced digital voice user in all three major systems (D-STAR, DMR, and System Fusion), Rick reports he is spending most of his time these days on Fusion reflectors due to Fusion’s ease of use compared to other digital systems. Rick also reported on a project which allows a direct microphone connection to a Yaesu HRI-200 WIRES-X box, eliminating the need for a Fusion radio to access the WIRES-X network.

Bob, W5QCP, reported on utilizing an SDRPlay device to tap both the IF and RF output of his FT DX-3000 radio. Bob reported that when utilizing the IF Out tap on the back of the DX-3000, he was able to observe the 9MHz IF spectrum using SDR software; however, Bob noted when using LSB the tuning and spectrum displays were inverted, causing non-intuitive display of the received spectrum. When he switched over to use the RX Out tap on the DX-3000, Bob noted everything returned to conventional use and the SDRPlay was able to process large swaths of spectrum at a time.

Cliff, W7CGA, inquired about the Sacramento Mountains Radio Club placement in ARRL’s 2018 Field Day event; however, no logs for the event were submitted by the club, so the Club’s participation in the event was not reflected in the official ARRL scores list.

Kurt, KE7KUS, reported on the status of the Alamo Peak repeater replacement project, and provided a brief overview of the MMDVM-Pi modem which is planned for installation at the Alamo Peak site. Tangent to this discussion was the use of 2.4GHz microwave downlinks to connect the site to allow Internet linking into PiStar-supported digital reflectors. Kurt also brought along a rowetel.com SM1000 FreeDV digital voice interface:

http://g01.a.alicdn.com/kf/HTB1c2k1IpXXXXahXXXXq6xXFXXXg/SM1000.jpg
SM1000 FreeDV Digital Voice Interface

The SM1000 is a hardware solution which allows users to easily operate FreeDV digital voice mode on HF using simple cabling to connect the device to microphone or accessory jacks on virtually any equipped HF radio. Once connected, the SM1000 can function as a standalone speaker-microphone, or provide ports to connect external speakers, microphones, and PTT actuators. While discussing the SM1000, Kurt also provided a brief overview of the various FreeDV digital voice modes, including FreeDV 1600, 700D, and 2200 and some of the amazing work that David Rowe and the volunteers of the FreeDV project have been doing in bringing open-source digital voice to radio amateurs.

Overall, the meeting was a great time of fellowship and a great update on what’s going on in the world of digital amateur radio. For more information on the Alamo Digital Group or to be added to the group e-mail list, contact Kurt, KE7KUS, or Rick, N7SGT.

YSF REFLECTOR & GATEWAY SOFTWARE

Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX, has put together a small software toolkit to allow users to put together their own YSFReflector and an additional toolkit to allow users to use standard WIRES-X commands from Yaesu radios to access these reflectors (rooms in Yaesu WIRES-X parlance.) 

YSFReflector allows one-to-many connections, creating functionality similar to IRLP reflectors, DSTAR reflectors, or EchoLink conference servers, for those familiar with the concept.  This functionality has become popular with the advent of “hot spots” such as the ZUM Radio ZUMSpot:

ZUM Radio ZUMspot Kit
ZUM Radio ZUMSpot Multi-Mode Digital Voice Hotspot

Another popular “hot spot” is the openSPOT2 from SharkRF:

openSPOT2 Multi-Mode Digital Voice Hotspot

Devices such as these have created the ability for end-users to easily and affordably access digital voice networks with nothing more than a small hand-held radio and the “hot spot” device.

Software such as YSFReflector facilitates “meet-up” points where digital voice users can QSO with one other outside the traditional coverage areas of local repeater systems.  Reflectors are often organized by geographic area discussion topic, allowing amateur operators to quickly and easily find communities of interest.  A current list of YSFReflectors can be found here.

Alamo-James Analog Link Update #2

After several attempts to get the link back on the air, we are moving closer to success.  Extensive experimenting has shown that using a pair of DR2X repeaters for the system/link radios is not a preferred solution due to full-duplex looping issues on the link.  As such, we are returning to the classic configuration of a DR2X 2m radio and a Maxtrac link radio.  We had success keying this configuration on Saturday; however, we are still attempting to resolve the best way to pass audio between the machines.

On a related note, there is a possibility that we can add multi-mode digital voice to the Alamo Peak repeater with minimal cost:

Zebra MMDVM Pi3 Case - Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and MMDVM Pi ~ Black Ice - C4Labs
The MMDVM-Pi Digital Modem

MMDVM-Pi is a multi-mode digital modem which uses a Raspberry Pi computer and a simple $99 Pi-Hat to enable a radio (or repeater) to function as a gateway to DSTAR, DMR, System Fusion, NXDN, and P25 digital voice networks via the PiStar software interface.  With an Internet uplink to the Alamo Peak site, the repeater can be used by digital radios on any of the above networks, bringing a tremendous capability to the Alamo Peak repeater.  Additionally, initial research indicates that it may be possible to link all three system repeaters to take advantage of the capabilities of this digital modem.  Stand by for updates as we investigate the possibility of integrating this modem into the Alamo Peak repeater.

Alamo-James Analog Link Update

The analog FM link between the Alamo Peak and James Ridge repeaters has been tentatively restored. Full testing of the system has not been accomplished, so fully functioning operations have not been verified; however, the comm paths I could test from Alamo Peak were checked this afternoon. The following results were observed:

1) Transmissions into the 147.220MHz repeater were re-transmitted on the 440MHz link w/ the proper PL tone.

2) Transmissions into the 147.340MHz repeater were re-transmitted on the 440MHz link w/ the proper PL tone.

3) Transmissions directly into the 440MHz link machine at Alamo are repeated on the 147.220MHz repeater.

I was unable to test an end-to-end transmission from Alamo-James or the reverse on 2m due to reception/transmission limits at the site from HT/mobile transmitters, so if anyone is able to verify the link is working, please send me an email detailing the experience. Also, I was unable to test the Weed repeater as part of the link, so any feedback on the whole linked system would also be appreciated.

I left the Alamo Peak 2m machine configured as an AMS repeater, so C4FM users should still be able to utilize Alamo; however, a functioning digital link from Alamo to James will be a bit more of a technical challenge…one which I continue to pursue.

Once I verify that the link is working again, I will replace the Kenwoods at James Ridge with the other two Yaesu machines, which will bring stand-alone C4FM capability to James in addition to Alamo Peak.

Once Alamo and James repeaters are swapped out, the plan is to install a 2.4GHz microwave link from James to Weed and upgrade the Weed repeater to a C4FM machine. With that configuration, we should have a working C4FM link between those two repeaters, as well as traditional analog linking.

In parallel, I am working to install an HRI-200 WIRES-X interface at Alamo Peak and downlink to a low-level internet connection. This will bring the Alamo Peak machine a capability to internet link to other YSF nodes/rooms around the globe. In conjunction, I will also establish an SMRC “room” which works in a very similar manner to a packet BBS – it provides a central place for C4FM users to connect to view news/message traffic, pictures, and voice memos which can be uploaded from any user to be viewed by all in the “room”.

Thanks to all for your patience as we work to put the system back together. It’s been quite a journey, but we’re slowly making progress.

Alamo Peak Repeater Online

The Alamo Peak 2-meter repeater has been returned to service as of this afternoon. The link to the rest of the SMRC system is still being configured, so the machine operates as a “stand-alone” unit until the remainder of the configuration is complete.

The old Kenwood TKR-750 machine has been replaced with one of the new Yaesu DR2X repeaters, bringing C4FM digital voice as well as traditional analog FM voice to the mountain. As such, a few things have changed with respect to accessing the Alamo Peak repeater:

1) The repeater retains analog FM repeat capability; however the PL tone on the machine has been changed to 151.4 Hz. If you have a radio with a programmed channel to access Alamo Peak, please re-program your radio to accommodate the new PL tone. In addition, the repeater now has a PL tone of 151.4 MHz on the repeater output, allowing users to implement a tone-coded squelch setting on their radios.

2) The repeater now has C4FM digital capability. To access the C4FM service, the normal repeater frequency pair is used, but with a DCS code of 051. The repeater is currently set to AMS mode on the input, so the machine should match repeat either type of incoming signal.

We are working on restoring the link to the rest of the SMRC repeater system; however, due to some technical limitations, the fix for the link is still several weeks away.

Users noting any problems with the new Alamo Peak repeater are requested to contact one of the club officers, or a member of the repeater maintenance committee.

2018 ARRL Field Day

Come join the club as we participate in the 2018 ARRL Field Day operating exercise.  Field Day was established by the ARRL as an operating activity designed to encourage amateur radio operators to refine their skills and portable stations to be ready in the event of an emergency where operating from an improvised station is required.

This year, the club will be participating from the old Cloudcroft baseball field located north of downtown Cloudcroft:


View Larger Map

To locate the operating site, from Hwy 82 in Cloudcroft, turn north on Mescalero Avenue (just west of Cloudcroft High School) and proceed all the way up the hill.  At the top of the hill, the old baseball field and the operating site will be on your left.

Station setup will begin around 8:00am on Saturday, June 23.  Operating activities start at 12:00pm and continue until 12:00pm on Sunday, June 24.  There is plenty of room for overnight camping, and radio activities go on all night, so feel free to camp out and make a weekend of it!

The club will operate multiple radios for Field Day this year, utilizing HF SSB, digital modes, and CW.  Extra class control operators will be present, so you can operate the entire spectrum of available amateur frequencies & modes.  Amateur radio license testing will be conducted both Saturday & Sunday.  Contact Michael Reinecke, KG5DAC, for times and details.

If you’ve been thinking about getting into amateur radio, are looking for a different and fun weekend activity, or need to upgrade your current amateur radio license, come out and join us for a great weekend of radio operating!

Saturday Night Net Status

Due to the lightning strike at Alamo Peak, the club’s regular Saturday evening net at 7pm will be suspended until the system is brought back online.  Check back regularly on this website for up-to-date information on the Alamo Peak system repair.

Alamo Peak Status

The Alamo Peak repeater is currently offline due to a lightning strike on the mountain this week.  Bill & Mickey visited the site this morning and investigated the problem.  The solution will require replacing both radios at the site.

I am currently building a repeater pair using the new Yaesu DR2X machines which will replace the Alamo Peak radios.  I will also build a pair to replace the James Ridge radios.  This will finally bring C4FM to the Alamo & James machines.  The analog FM link to Weed will remain operative, but ultimately the Weed machine will also be replaced with a C4FM repeater bringing the whole system up to 21st century standards.

Until the Alamo system is rebuilt and the new equipment installed, that machine will be down.  The James & Weed machines remain operative.  Expect the Alamo machine to be  down for at least two weeks before we can get back up to the site and swap out the hardware.  In the meantime, the 145.230 MHz machine on Benson Ridge, the 145.350 MHz Mega-Link machine on Long Ridge, and the 147.000 C4FM machine in High Rolls are viable substitutes for the Alamo Peak system.

2018 Cactus To Cloud Update #3

Final preparations are being made for the race this coming Saturday.  As of this post, I have 4 volunteers to occupy aid stations:

AID 1/6
7:30am – 1:30pm – Craig, KG5VIN
1:30PM – 7:00PM – LARRY, WW6USA
AID 2/5
8:15AM – 1:00PM – BOB, KF5VLJ
1:00PM – 5:30PM – Bob, KF5VLJ
AID 3/4
8:45AM – 12:30PM – Mickey, KG5DAC
12:30PM – 3:00PM – Rich, KB2MEZ
NET CONTROL
7AM – 1PM – RICHARD, KG5EKP
1PM – 7PM – RICHARD, KG5EKP

 

I am still planning on sweeping at the least the loop after Aid 3/4 due to the potentially exhausting conditions and lack of aid support along that portion of the trail.

The Pre-Event Net will still take place Friday evening at 7PM on the linked repeater system.  All volunteers are strongly encouraged to make that net.  I will issue comms guidance for event support by Wednesday evening to allow newcomers to review the planned procedures so they can bring questions to the Friday evening net.

Thank you, in advance, to all the volunteers who are making this event possible.

2018 Cactus To Cloud Update #2

As previously reported the 2018 Cactus To Cloud race has been altered and is now the 2018 Cloudcroft Ultra 53k / 10 miler.  The race will begin at 7am and conclude no later than 7pm.  The new race course starts at Zenith Park in Cloudcroft and ends there as well.

AID STATIONS

There will be three aid stations, which each runner will pass through two times…once on the way out and once on the way back.  The aid station locations are as follows:

Aid 1/6:  Rim Trail Entrance #2 near MM1 on Sunspot Highway

View Larger Map
Aid 2/5: FS Road 636 (right off Sunspot Highway just past the old Snow Play Area)

View Larger Map
Aid 3/4:  Rim Trail intersection with Alamo Peak Road

View Larger Map
AID STATION TIMES

Due to the relatively quick nature of the course through Aid Station 3, I’m suggesting the following times on station:

AID 1/6:  On station by 7:30am.  Expect first runners by 7:45am.  Cutoff time into Aid 6 on the return trip is 6:00pm.

AID 2/5:  On station by 8:15am.  Expect first runners by 8:30am.  Cutoff time into Aid 5 on the return trip is 4:30pm.

AID 3/4:  On station by 8:45am.  Expect first runners by 9:00am.  Cutoff time into Aid 3 on the outbound trip is 11:00am.  Cutoff time back into Aid 4 on the return trip is 2:00pm.

All of the Aid Stations are accessible by vehicle, however, Aid 2/5 is on a fairly small twin-track road with no room to turn around, so you may have to park your vehicle and walk in about 1/4 mile to get to the station itself.  (This is the station Bob Good usually mans every year).

AID STATION/NET CONTROL MANNING

Due to the potentially long times at the aid stations, I’m suggesting we break up the manning periods into two blocks:

AID 1/6:  First block – 7:30am to 1:30pm.  Second block – 1:30pm to 7:00pm.
AID 2/5:  First block – 8:15am to 1pm.  Second block – 1pm to 5:30pm.
AID 3/4:  First block – 8:45am to 12:30pm.  Second block – 12:30pm to 3:00PM.
NET CONTROL:  FIRST BLOCK – 7AM TO 1PM.  SECOND BLOCK – 1PM TO 7PM.

 

If you are interested in manning an aid station, please email me at my callsign at gmail.com and let me know which block(s) you are interested in staffing.  If you want to staff both blocks at an aid station, that is fine…just let me know.

I’m still looking for Net Control manning in Zenith Park.  It’s an easy job, there’s great food, and lots of great folks to hang around with.  I’m planning on running most of the course, particularly the loop from Aid 3 back to Aid 4, as that is a very difficult trail and will be run in the hot part of the day with no shade and steep terrain.  (Sounds fun…feel free to join me!)

I’ll publish a race bible as soon as I get one, so we have more complete information about the Aid Stations, but the above info should get us started.  Pick your participation, and please send me an email ASAP so I can identify if we have any coverage gaps.  All timeslots at all aid stations are currently open, so feel free to pick the time/location which best fits your schedule.  When you email me, please also email me your preferred T-shirt size so I can get the order back to Cindy ASAP.  Request you email me no later than right after the net this Saturday night.

Thanks to everyone in advance for supporting this great event and flexing with the last minute changes.  Let’s get ready for a race!