HAM Tech Thread (1 Viewer)

Somebodyelse5

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Feb 9, 2014
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Hola folks,

Thanks to @LongDuck I have been getting more and more into HAM and all the cool things you can do with it. Figured I would start a thread to compile some of the useful bits I've come across that might help get you going and get you enjoying the hobby. There is a ton of info out there and most of it isn't tailored to the offroad crowd... hopefully this will avoid doubling some effort and help everyone get out and play with comms.

Some great existing info that @LongDuck put together Here

What this thread will be running through:
  • What I run - Radio, Ant, etc
  • APRS (sending beacons with GPS/heading/speed/message)
  • SMSGate (sending text messages to cell phones)
  • Repeaters (how to talk real far away)
  • UV-5R Info

Feel free to ask questions, I will do my best to help! And if I am wrong somewhere, let me know, we can all learn together. I'm always willing to help install. My motivation is really just to get more friends on the radio so we can chat about land cruisers :rofl: I'm talking to you @CruiseLanderAZ @knewstance @Roosevelt T @geanes (added Gary because last year at HIH you wanted radio info!)
 
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Somebodyelse5

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Phx, Arizona
What I Run

Transceiver:
Yaesu FTM-400XDR
Speaker: DXE-281 (DX Engineering house brand)
Antenna: DMN-NR770HB 40.2"
Mount: Massive Metal hood mount from @reznunt

In my opinion, a VHF (Very High Frequency - 2m - 140MHz) / UHF (Ultra High Frequency - 70cm - 440 MHz) HAM radio is the best piece of safety/emergency kit you can get. I'll go on to say that a dual band radio, capable of kicking out APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting Service) beacons on one of the bands, is definitely worth the investment. For example, my Yaesu FTM-400 (picture below) has a dedicated B Band that can be set up to run APRS, which means at some user defined interval (3 minutes for me) my radio will send out a beacon on 144.390 MHz (in the US, this is the dedicated APRS frequency) that includes my GPS location, speed, heading, and altitude. The APRS beacons go out on their own all while you are chatting with your friends on the A Band.

All the kit above can be found at DXengineering.com and Ham Radio Outlet (HRO has a storefront over in Phx, they are very helpful, have tons of kit inside to play with, and I highly recommend stopping by)

Transceiver: FTM-400 has a detachable face place that can be mounted away from the main unit. Mine is mounted with a ram ball (face plate has a 1/4-20 hole) and suction cup. The main unit is mounted inside the glove box of my 100 series.
1585849085915.png

1585849796681.png


Antenna: DMN-NR770HB 40.2"
1585849860794.png


Antenna Mount: This is from Massive Metal and picks up the factory hood latch fasteners
1585849831649.png
 
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Somebodyelse5

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What I run continued....

Main Unit: Mounted in the center console, on the forward face. This is in my '99 UZJ100, Note the mic cable running up and out.
1585850163705.png


Mic Location: Mounted right on the side of the center console, under the arm rest.
1585850231809.png
 

Somebodyelse5

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Phx, Arizona
APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System)
So, you want to be able to passively send out beacons on your trail run or on your way to the store? This is how you'll do it. The link at the bottom of this post have more details and reading if you'd like to get into the weeds, but here is what you need to know to get things rolling.

Summary
At a high level, APRS is packet radio, meaning your radio sends a beacon as a "packet" of information out on 144.390 MHz (the recognized US APRS Freq). The packet can be received by anyone using APRS, but the best part is when your packet hits an "iGate" which is effectively an internet repeater. An iGate receives your beacon sent on 144.390 MHz and then uploads it to the internet at APRS.fi for the world to see. This packet of information can contain a short message as well as your GPS location, heading, speed, altitude... you'll notice that a lot of folks use APRS to broadcast their weather station details, weather balloons, or communicate with amature satellites (yeah, that's a thing). You can even send messages directed to specific callsigns (as long as they are active on APRS).

The biggest thing to note here, Sheriff departments and Search and Rescue teams often use APRS to coordinate their search efforts and keep track of where their team is. To me, that really is the major perk of APRS. There really isn't a better system to have on your rig in the event of an emergency. Granted a satellite phone could be better, but those ain't cheap and they require monthly subscriptions.

Some info on APRS callsign suffix recommendations:
  • -0 Your primary station usually fixed and message capable
  • -1 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
  • -2 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
  • -3 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
  • -4 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
  • -5 Other networks (Dstar, Iphones, Androids, Blackberry's etc)
  • -6 Special activity, Satellite ops, camping or 6 meters, etc
  • -7 walkie talkies, HT's or other human portable
  • -8 boats, sailboats, RV's or second main mobile
  • -9 Primary Mobile (usually message capable) (This is what we'll use most)
  • -10 internet, Igates, echolink, winlink, AVRS, APRN, etc
  • -11 balloons, aircraft, spacecraft, etc
  • -12 APRStt, DTMF, RFID, devices, one-way trackers*, etc
  • -13 Weather stations
  • -14 Truckers or generally full time drivers
  • -15 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
For example:
My mobile rig in the UZJ100 is KJ7GEM-9
My handheld rig is KJ7GEM-7


You also have the ability to assign an image to your callsign that will be displayed. These are fairly arbitrary, no one checks it, but it's a good idea to use something that is close to what you are (bike, car, ufo)

APRS.fi
APRS.fi deserves some discussion on it's own. If your loved one wants to check in and make sure you are safe, or you want to get out of a speeding ticket and provide speed data, you can give them your callsign and they can "track" you.. meaning, all other stations are hidden, and they can see your packets as they come in (including your messages). I believe the data is stored for 14 days unless you download it. I have message pre programmed in as:
  • All Safe
  • Broken down - Repairing
  • Broken down - Send Help
  • SOS EMERGENCY
Beacons
There are a few ways to get APRS beacons out, TNC's (Which are complicated), your mobile device (relying on cell signal), and a transceiver with APRS built in. Yaesu and Kenwood radios are currently the only mfgrs incorporating APRS into their mobile rigs. And for those about to APRS, you'll quickly find that the most functionality comes from a dual band radio, which unfortunately comes in the $400-$600 range (buy once, cry once! as they say).

Radio Details
After more research than anyone should ever do, I chose the Yaesu FTM-400XDR. I think it's the most affordable (relative to the Kenwood) radio that gives us offroad folks the most useful features. Since this section is APRS specific, here is what you need to know about the FTM-400 in regards to APRS:
  • Dual Band Tx + Rx with dedicated APRS available on the B Band
    • This means you can use the A band to chat on repeaters or with your buddies on the run while the B band kicks out APRS beacons
    • You have the ability to use UHF on the A Band, while the B Band operates APRS in VHF.
  • Most radios do not offer the dedicated APRS. The Kenwood TM-D710GA does, and was the next best option in my book, but the lack of touch screen means sending messages (see SMSGate in a later post) is not feasible.
  • Dedicated APRS means your transceiver comes with integrated GPS, yay safety! Which means you can have fun info displayed like a plot of altitude over time. Way points. Or distance from your buddies. An APRS beacon from a friend will display their bearing and distance from you.
Here is my radio, with the A Band (top) receiving from N70KN repeater in Apache Junction, and the B Band (bottom) set up on the APRS 144.390 MHz frequency. Note alone the top, the circle indicates automatic packed transmit, and the satellite indicates GPS position fix (this thing locks in fast).
1585941434604.png



If you'd like any help getting your radio set up to run APRS, I'd be happy to chat. There are lots of videos out there on setting up Yaesu and Kenwood APRS, so, no point in doubling effort.

Useful Links:
APRS.fi (Live tracking in your area)
APRS.org (General Info)
FTM-400 APRS Setup
APRS Callsign and Images
 
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Somebodyelse5

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Phx, Arizona
SMSGate - Sending SMS Text Messages using HAM + APRS

Do you want to send a text message, without having cell signal? This is how to do it. You can even receive texts on your radio, sent from a cell.

SMSGate is a service set up by enthusiasts that receives messages sent through APRS and then kicks the message out of a cell tower as an SMS text message to the cell number specified. The message will come from a SMSGate cell number as a regular text, with the callsign of the sender. You can respond to that message, like a normal text, and it will be delivered back to the radio along the same path. (That SMSGate number should not be posted on the internet to avoid spam). You'll often get your APRS beacon onto the internet in places you wouldn't expect, for example the back way to crown king, I was able to get my beacon to the APRS.fi website almost the entire trail. That means, along with my status beacons that include my GPS/Speed/heading/Altitude/status message, I could have sent a text message asking for help (or to find out what's for dinner) even without cell service.

Your radio should be set up to run on APRS (144.390 MHz) and have the appropriate settings (I'll have some basics in the APRS section).

Some command syntax
*Note: these are curly braces ----> { } and they should not be included in the commands
To send a message from your radio
@{cell number}? {your message}
*Note: The "?" is optional, but will make the SMSGate system respond with a confirmation that your text was delivered. This is nice if you are unsure if your APRS beacons are hitting a repeater.

Example:
@4805551234? I LOVE CSC


Sending a message from Radio to Cellphone:
1585890799021.png


What the confirmation of delivery looks like:
1585892059956.png


What the Message looks like when received:
1585891848682.png


Sending a message from Cellphone to Radio:
1585891885856.png


What the message looks like on the radio:
1585891984732.png



There are some other cool commands you can do if you link your callsign and your phone number, like setting up custom message shortcuts and sending someone a map to your location (it will send a aprs.fi link). Some links below if you want to dig in further.

Useful Links:
SMSGate
SMSGate Commands
 
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Somebodyelse5

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Phx, Arizona
Repeaters
So, you want to chat with folks real far away, this is the way to do it!

Some useful terms we'll be using:
Tx: Transmit
Rx: Receive
Simplex: Communicating with another station, on the same frequency (Both Tx and Rx) There is no offset, so you can talk over someone.
Repeater: A station that receives a signal on one frequency and simultaneously retransmits that same signal on a different frequency. The repeater transmissions are of often much higher power and typically use much higher towers. (Imagine, 5watt handheld hitting a repeater, that then broadcasts at 100Watts+)

When you use a repeater, you broadcast on one frequency and the repeater rebroadcasts on another frequency at a higher power and often from a more strategic location (line of site is key!). Each repeater has an output frequency, offset (70cm = 5MHz), offset direction (70cm = +), and Tone.

Example:
1585947014467.png

440.000 MHz is the frequency your radio will "listen" to
445.000 MHz is the frequency your radio will broadcast on (440MHz + 5MHz)
100 is the sub-audible tone that tells the repeater to let your broadcast in or "open" the repeater. (CTCSS)

This is where programming in repeaters can get tedious if you don't have a computer with the correct software. I use rtsystems software (it is so much cleaner than Yaesu's software) and well worth the $25 bucks... it has repeater book integrated and you can import based on a location and a radius.


Useful Links:
ARRL Repeater Reading
Wikipedia Article
Repeater Book (For repeater searches)
Repeater Route Mapping This site is currently down, but hopefully it kicks back up soon. It's a great tool
Repeater Book Route Mapping (The next best thing to^)
 
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Somebodyelse5

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Love the setup! I have to step up to APRS at some point.
Thanks sir. I’ll get getting an 80 mount from you eventually too. Happy to help with APRS if you need it. I just got the SMSGate working last night and it’s really cool. I’ll be posting more info on that tonight, need the sun to go down for good radio pics.
 
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i just bought a BAOFENG UV-5R handheld ham radio just to use on trail runs so i can know what is happening. I have a hard mounted Uniden CB installed but want CB and HAM possibilities depending on the run. just trying to figure out how to use it and what frequencies to program into it.
 

Somebodyelse5

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Phx, Arizona
i just bought a BAOFENG UV-5R handheld ham radio just to use on trail runs so i can know what is happening. I have a hard mounted Uniden CB installed but want CB and HAM possibilities depending on the run. just trying to figure out how to use it and what frequencies to program into it.

Awesome, the UV-5R is perfect for that. Have you had any luck programming? I can put a little section in here on how to get that radio set up and running if you think folks would like that. I have Chirp installed and would be happy to drop all the local repeaters in for you or help you get it set up.






The *Infamous* Baofeng UV-5R
*Place holder for UV-5R info and programming basics*

Useful Links:
 
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Nice setup @Somebodyelse5 . Is the faceplate for the Yaesu wireless? I don't see any wiring on your picture. If it is wireless, I take it that it uses batteries? Also, the mic is connected directly to the main unit? I'm trying to look at different setup to see how I want to set mine up in my truck when it's time to get a dedicated HAM. Thanks in advance.
 

Somebodyelse5

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Nice setup @Somebodyelse5 . Is the faceplate for the Yaesu wireless? I don't see any wiring on your picture. If it is wireless, I take it that it uses batteries? Also, the mic is connected directly to the main unit? I'm trying to look at different setup to see how I want to set mine up in my truck when it's time to get a dedicated HAM. Thanks in advance.

Thanks sir! I will get a photo of the other side and back of the faceplate, there is a wire that runs between it and the main unit but it's tucked away nicely in an inset groove and then along the split in the RAM extender/clamp before it dives under the dash by the A-Pillar. A Picture will explain this much nicer, I'll grab one shortly.

The mic is also connected directly to the main unit. I will send a labelled pic shortly.
1585890090395.png


and here is another photo of the wiring to the faceplate
1585890283170.png
 
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Stepmurr

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APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System)
Saving for later



Useful Links:
APRS.fi (Live tracking in your area)
APRS.org (General Info)
Nice thread. Might add links to the other CSC "How to get yer ham license" threads in your first post.

I was really excited about APRS back when I first got licensed, and had a separate radio & antenna that just transmitted APRS.

I go out by myself most of the time and wanted my wife to know where I was, so APRS sounded like the cat's meow.

I got my wife set up with the web pages to follow me around the country but we discovered that most of the time I was way too far from repeaters.

After a while she quit looking at the tracks because they just made her more worried, not less when I fell off the repeater grid every trip.

Eventually I quit running the second radio and figured I would eventually spring for a FTM-400 radio like yours. Mebbee sum day . . .
 

Somebodyelse5

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Nice thread. Might add links to the other CSC "How to get yer ham license" threads in your first post.

I was really excited about APRS back when I first got licensed, and had a separate radio & antenna that just transmitted APRS.

I go out by myself most of the time and wanted my wife to know where I was, so APRS sounded like the cat's meow.

I got my wife set up with the web pages to follow me around the country but we discovered that most of the time I was way too far from repeaters.

After a while she quit looking at the tracks because they just made her more worried, not less when I fell off the repeater grid every trip.

Eventually I quit running the second radio and figured I would eventually spring for a FTM-400 radio like yours. Mebbee sum day . . .

Great idea, I will definitely add them to the first post.

I'd love to hear where your trips took you and where the APRS fell off, it seems to be hit or miss and I'm continuously surprised where I AM able to hit an APRS repeater. Curious what your APRS rig was? do you remember power/antenna details?
 
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I also run the FTM-400XDR (x2, one is waiting to get installed into the LC200). I also run a Yaesu VX-8r with GPS, and a Yaesu FTD3R, run APRS on all and have been few a few years.

I'm in the middle of a RAM MOUNT (holy hell why don't they just sell kits?) build/confusing parts list for the rig for the 400XDR. I think I have figured out all the mounts/parts I will need (Im also adding on the Ipad Mini to the rig mounts). I'm going to provide a parts list when I am done and install instructions.

My biggest headache is where to put the antenna. I honestly don't like antennas in my face on the hood..but I am willing to go that route if it ends up being a cleaner install. I prefer antennas to be high and in the center of the vehicle for better ground plane.

I have considered a professional install for my rig....I barely have enough time to go get gas....lol This COVID-19 has my company hopping...can't hardly keep up.
 
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similar to mtn biker i got a baofeng uv82hp to have whenever i go out. still need to work on getting my technician license. i watched the ham radio crash course on youtube to program in channels using chirp.
 

Stepmurr

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Great idea, I will definitely add them to the first post.

I'd love to hear where your trips took you and where the APRS fell off, it seems to be hit or miss and I'm continuously surprised where I AM able to hit an APRS repeater. Curious what your APRS rig was? do you remember power/antenna details?
I meander all over Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, the western edge of Tejas, and the eastern edge of Kalifornia.

APRS works good around cities, but going east on I10 it would drop out between Tucson & Lordsburg, and again between Lordsburg & Las Cruces.

Going North from Phoenix after it lost signal it would be dead until near Flagstaff.

Worked great on Mt Lemmon :woot: - I remember showing @LandCruiserPhil the APRS tracks on my Blackberry up on Mt Lemmon one night long ago. Same night he told me about his friend that claimed he "had chopped more wood drunk than you will ever chop sober :cheers:".

I have an Argent Open Tracker that a friend from work helped me tune with a spectrum analyzer to work with my Yaesu FT-60R (handheld) 5 Watt unit and my Yaesu FT-8800R mobile 50 Watt max.

For a while I used the 5 watt around town and the 50 watt on road trips, but I discovered that the difference between 5 & 50 watts was about 10 to 15 miles.

Again, if I had a unit with APRS built-in I would transmit it all the time, but the hassle of two radios makes it less attractive for me.
 

Somebodyelse5

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I meander all over Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, the western edge of Tejas, and the eastern edge of Kalifornia.

APRS works good around cities, but going east on I10 it would drop out between Tucson & Lordsburg, and again between Lordsburg & Las Cruces.

Going North from Phoenix after it lost signal it would be dead until near Flagstaff.

Worked great on Mt Lemmon :woot: - I remember showing @LandCruiserPhil the APRS tracks on my Blackberry up on Mt Lemmon one night long ago. Same night he told me about his friend that claimed he "had chopped more wood drunk than you will ever chop sober :cheers:".

I have an Argent Open Tracker that a friend from work helped me tune with a spectrum analyzer to work with my Yaesu FT-60R (handheld) 5 Watt unit and my Yaesu FT-8800R mobile 50 Watt max.

For a while I used the 5 watt around town and the 50 watt on road trips, but I discovered that the difference between 5 & 50 watts was about 10 to 15 miles.

Again, if I had a unit with APRS built-in I would transmit it all the time, but the hassle of two radios makes it less attractive for me.

Las Cruces has some of my favorite food... I am from El Paso... so the one thing I am REAL good at, is eating mexican food.

That's interesting, I've tracked myself on APRS all the way up the i17 to Flagstaff and had my beacon show up on APRS.fi the whole way. All the way too and from Silverton, CO for HIH last year as well. I am not super familiar with the Argent stuff, is it a standalone APRS or does it piggy back with your mobile rig, and transmit with the mobile rig's antenna?

It's odd that you saw a 10-15 mile change in handheld vs mobile... from my drive way in Ahwatukee I am receiving direct APRS packets from over 150 miles away and hitting APRS igates with ease. With my handheld (Yaesu FT2D) I am hardly able to get an APRS beacon to an igate standing next to the truck, I need to climb on my roof or start hiking SoMo. My handheld can hit normal repeaters and Tx/Rx voice well, but not even close to as well as my mobile rig.
 
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Great thread, Sir - good information on some of the modes that aren't commonly in use. Here's some about me;

What I run -
Radios;
Kenwood TM-281a in the LandCruiser
TH-K20a handheld
TM-v71a Base Station at the house. All are mobile, portable, and battery capable for getting them out and about.

I have been using my HT for "QRP" which is minimum possible power to make contacts, and it's not unusual for me to go "QRP-milliwatt" talking to repeaters around the valley. This is operating at less than 1 watt output power and still getting through. I don't really know how I got into it other than getting a kick from using the lowest power setting on my handheld with a 1/4w whip antenna and talking to people from the 300ft foothills near my house. I hike to the top and spend a few hours up there just making contacts and seeing how far I can reach... For some reason, people on the air get really excited when you tell them you've climbed a mountain to talk to them with a handheld and less than 1w, and I make a lot of contacts!

Antennas around the house include several home-made copper-pipe J-antenna's up about 20' and in the middle of a tree in my backyard due to HOA rules. I buried a cable that runs from there into my radio room, and can swap equipment quickly to play with different arrangements. On the LandCruiser, I moved from a 5/8w to 1/2w on the front bumper which has worked out really well. The 5/8w requires a significant ground plane, while 1/2w doesn't - and reaches out better on club runs. I mentioned the 1/4w whip Comet antenna on the HT, which is far better than a rubber duck.

Base station at the house runs dual-band Aircraft (monitoring Deer Valley Apt) on one side and 2m or 70cm on the other side, depending on what I'm doing. I still enjoy listening to traffic pattern and approach / departure for DVT, as that's where I did most of my flight training. I'm a member of the West Valley Amateur Radio Club, and can be found on their Net Control Meetings almost daily. I also have friends on the Superstition Springs Amateur Radio Club, and talk to those guys on occasion, as well.

Glad to see many of us are doing more with HAM that just when we're sitting in our rigs,
 

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