Amatuer Radio Blog

As usual, it’s been a while since my last amateur radio post. Not to fear, there is plenty of activity going on in the amateur radio sphere, and I’ll post a few articles detailing just what has been going on lately.

First off, my amateur radio nets Google Calendar, available from this site, has been updated with all the known radio nets from the ARRL New Mexico Section.

Next, I purchased a new VHF/UHF/23cm base station radio, the ICOM IC-9700. This new radio is very specific to amateur radio and it won’t operate on other radio services such as commercial bands and GMRS bands. That’s OK, as this radio will do multiple modulation modes (AM, FM, USB, LSB, CW) as well as D-Star digital voice and data modes. It supports a 128kbps data rate when on the 23cm band. It is also do cross-band satellite modes. It’s a very capable multimode radio. Expensive, but worth it.

I’ve been using the new ICOM radio a lot in D-Star mode, and it’s rekindled my interest in digital radio. I’m able to connect with the D-Star repeater on Sandia Crest (sponsored by the Sandia National Lab Amateur Radio Club) but I am not able to connect with the Upper Rio FM Society D-Star repeaters as those repeaters are down in the valley on the west side of the mountain. The Crest Repeater will allow me to link to REFXXX reflectors (Official D-Star reflectors), but not to one of the other types of available D-Star reflectors. As a result, I considered using my Pi-Star RF hotspot to access those other networks.

I had forgotten the administrative password to my Pi-Star hotspot, and so I was unable to get it to work with D-Star: it was configured only for DMR radio. Because of that I looked at the OpenSPOT4 hotspot. The Pro version of the OpenSPOT4 has a built-in digital voice chip that allows it to transcode digital voice for D-Star to DMR (ETSI Digital Mobile Radio) and to C4FM (Yaesu System Fusion) codecs. A local ham was selling his OpenSPOT4 Pro and I took him up on his offer. Now, I can use my new D-Star capable radio to talk to Yaesu (C4FM) and DMR digital networks as well native D-Star networks.

I reflashed my Pi-Star hotspot with new software so that I could finally reconfigure it. I had decided to semi-dedicate the OpenSPOT4 Pro to D-Star digital radio usage and continue to use the Pi-Star for my DMR digital radios. I discovered that Pi-Star is no longer actively being updated, and that a fork of Pi-Star exists which has new features and is being actively maintained. This new fork is called WPSD and wow is it slick. I’ll cover that in more detail in another post. WPSD runs a bit slow on my hardware, a Raspberry Pi Zero.

To speed up WPSD, I went ahead and ordered a Raspberry Pi 4B with 4GB ram. I’ll need to find a project for the Pi Zero to put it to use. The Raspberry Pi 4B should be here in about a week.

I’ll cover the topics presented here with more posts in the coming days.

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