The James Ridge APRS digital repeater is now online. This digipeater adds enhanced APRS coverage to the eastern slopes of the Sacramento Mountains, to include James Canyon, Sixteen Springs Canyon, and parts of Weed. Previously the only available APRS coverage east of Benson Ridge came primarily from the Dark Canyon digi near Carlsbad, NM.
The digi operates on the standard APRS frequency of 144.390MHz and transmits at 5W TXPO into a VHF/UHF base antenna at 35′ AGL using a Yaesu FT-7800 radio, a RaspberryPi 3 running Direwolf, and a Signalink USB audio interface.
Several local amateur radio operators in Otero County have set up System Fusion simplex nodes utilizing the HRI-200 WIRES-X interface from Yaesu.
The HRI-200, when coupled to a compatible radio and a broadband Internet connection, provides a way for System Fusion users to connect to “nodes” and “rooms” outside the local area. Nodes and rooms are terminology used by Yaesu to denote individual and group endpoints to which users may connect using the WIRES-X system. For those familiar with Echolink terminology, WIRES-X “nodes” are similar in function to Echolink “-L” nodes and WIRES-X “rooms” are similar to Echolink Conferences, where many users may connect at once.
Thanks to implementation by Rick, N7SGT, and Justin, K5WAZ, I have been able to test various advanced features of System Fusion by accessing their HRI-200 enabled Fusion nodes from the FTM-400 radio mounted in my mobile station. The user interface of the FTM-400 makes System Fusion advanced linking a very simple and easy to implement endeavor.
Experiments I’ve conducted on air have involved remotely connecting a simplex node to rooms in Arizona, Texas, and even Moscow, Russia. In all three cases, digital audio passed over the connection seamlessly, and stations in Moscow were every bit as clear as local stations I’ve worked using C4FM. In addition to digital audio, Yaesu WIRES-X control software (which runs on a Windows computer connected to the HRI-200 interface) implements a type of digital “message board” which works similarly to an early 1990’s packet BBS system, but allows the upload/download of not only text messages, but also short digital audio messages, and even digital images to nodes and/or rooms in the system. All three types of messages are easily retrieved or uploaded using the FTM-400 WIRES-X interface.
Of the three major amateur radio digital systems I’ve used, System Fusion is by far the most user-friendly system of the three. D-STAR gateway configuration can prove a steep learning curve for new users, and that’s assuming the new user is able to successfully navigate the “registration” process to get entered into the official “Trust Server” in the first place. DMR “talkgroup” and “color” configuration is a language unto itself and presents a steep learning curve for DMR adopters. In contrast, System Fusion users will likely find using advanced features of SF systems fairly intuitive and straightforward. Backward compatibility with analog FM is also another unique feature of System Fusion hardware which may help smooth the “digital transition” for SF adopters.
Rick, N7SGT, has made his simplex node in Alamogordo available to all amateur operators. The node operates on a frequency of 146.460MHz, is operational daily from approximately 0700-2300 local time, and covers much of the Alamogordo metropolitan area. Please be courteous and drop any initiated links when concluding access of the node.
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.comSM1000 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.
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.
Several club members recently visited the Alamo Peak repeater site to investigate rebuilding the equipment shed that is currently housing the repeater:
The shed has been weathering it’s mountaintop location for several decades now and is need of replacement. The club is investigating several options as a suitable replacement, and budgeting calculations are well underway for the new project.
In addition to the new equipment shed, the club is planning on reworking the antenna setup on the tower at the Alamo Peak site:
A wind storm two winters ago torqued the standoff antenna mount for the repeater antenna, causing the whole assembly to be tilted approximately 10 degrees to the east. Several different options are being considered for the job, and a gin pole will be sourced for climbers to implement the fix.
Once the equipment shed is brought up to standards, the Club will be able to install the new Yaesu DR-2X repeater purchased for the site last fall. Stay tuned for progress on the site improvements as we work to improve our amateur radio service to the Sacramento Mountains and Tularosa Basin.
The errors with the new website’s DNS resolution have been corrected. The new DNS information will take up to 24 hours to repopulate DNS servers around the Internet. Once that information has disseminated, you can use the URL http://www.sacmtnsradioclub.us to access the club website.
The new website is currently experiencing DNS issues, causing it to be inaccessible, or to load very slowly if accessed. I am working with our webhost and our name registrar to get to the bottom of the problem and get things back on track. More to follow as I gather the info…
The Club is currently in the process of upgrading its linked repeater system to provide both analog and digital FM capability. In late 2017, the Club purchased Yaesu DR-2X repeaters to replace the current Kenwood TKR-750/850 units which have been in service for over 10 years:
The new repeaters provide traditional analog FM service, as well as seamless integration of Yaesu’s C4FM digital technology, currently marketed under the System Fusion label. In addition to providing crystal clear digital voice, the Yaesu system will also provide a 12.5kHz bandwidth digital data network with a data rate of 9600bps anywhere a user can access one of the system’s linked repeaters.
The current upgrade plan includes replacing the repeaters at all three current sites: Alamo Peak, James Ridge, and Weed Lookout. Digital back-hauls will be implemented between sites to provide site linking. In addition, the Club is currently investigating a partnership with the Otero County Electric Cooperative to provide 2m repeater service in the Timberon, NM area.
Stay tuned to this news feed for updates as we move out with upgrading our repeater system.
The website is hosted at Amazon AWS as a Lightsail instance using the popular WordPress CMS. The Lightsail instance allows the Club not only to host a website, but also run additional web-based services such as an IRC server, mail services, and other network-enabled technologies.