Here are the terms I use:
Source - can be repeater, hotspot, other RF. The key is a "source" is
what you program your radio to talk and listen to DMR signals.
Contacts - Talkgroups and users programmed into your codeplug. Some
editors refer to TalkGroup and Contacts separately making TalkGroups
just talkgroups and Contacts just people type information. If yours
does this the hints here will still work.
Channel - part of the code plug where frequencies and color codes are
specified for a source. Almost all codeplugs refer to them as
Channels. There are other things in here too but primarily we are
interested in frequencies, color codes, talk groups here (also TOT
(Time Out Transmit), Admit Criteria, and power level - more on these
Zones are collections of channels - strictly for your convenience. You
need at least one Zone otherwise the radio cannot display anything...
it displays channels in a zone and you select the zone.
You can create channels that are not in zones... they are in the
radio, in your code plug. But not being in a zone means you cannot
select them, can't even see them. Another way to say this "they are
not in your way".
Zones are easy to create - and delete - so I only keep in a radio
zones I need - makes tuning things easier. Going to Florida? my radio
would have only zones with Florida repeaters. There may be 500
channels in there but the zones will only make me look through the 40
or so I have programmed for Florida.
MD380 type software - tip on creating channels.
So updating a code plug is not all that hard. Enter a Contact
(talkgroup or person) and that one entry can be used all over the
place. The real time consuming part of code plugs is creating the
First you have to go dig out frequencies, color codes, and the
talkgroups that you want to enter. Then enter all that information
over and over for each talkgroup. Admit criteria, power level, talk
time outs, all the other stuff you want to be not default.
For the MD-380 and other codeplug editors that look like it there is a
shortcut. It may not work on your codeplug editor but try it, if it
does it can save you tons (tonnes in Europe) of time.
First, enter your first channel for a source, be sure and get the
frequencies, color codes, timeouts, power levels, all of it correct.
Usually these editors want you to enter the data - no need to save -
but save anyway once you're sure you got it right.
Then in the "navigation pane", usually on the left, right click on the
one you just entered. If a popup menu appears you are probably good
to go, click Copy - the menu will then go away. Add new, right click
on the newly created navigation pane entry and "Paste". All you need
do is change the name and talkgroup for the new entry. All the other
settings are copied into it - you probably have to change the name and
On the 380 I believe the newly added channel gets a name like DCHn
where "n" starts at 1 and gets increased by 1 for each DCH created.
Since you are going to copy a correct one then add-paste-change a
channel, one at a time, you will never have but one DCH and that will
be DCH1 and be a the bottom of the list.
Sometimes, if I have the new channels written out, I may create one,
get it correct, then add add add add as many times as needed, then
go back to the first added one and paste paste past to get the
settings into all of them. THEN go back and change channel name and
talk group for each.
Find a way that works for you.
AnyTone (at least for the 868)
Neat trick here is the editor opens up in what looks like a
spreadsheet. It isn't, at least on mine I cannot edit it like a
spreadsheet, clicking a line pops up a dialog box - can't avoid that.
But from that sheet form you can RIGHT click your mouse to Copy and
Past lines here and there. So the 380 trick of getting one right then
copy-paste-change works, you just do the copy-paste from the sheet
One nice thing about the AnyTone software is you can leave spaces in
the sheet to break the channels up into blocks - makes it easier to
read. Those spaces get carried over into the radio, if line 200 is
blank then channel #200 will also be blank. With thousands of
channels in the radio you either have to have way too many channels or
way too many spaces between them to have a problem. And the clarity
of separating channels makes it easier to look at and work with.
Also in the right click menu for this codeplug editor is Cut... that
means copy and delete in one step AND that means you can rearrange
channels in the sheet.
Connect Systems (CS800D)
This is simple... the Connect Systems CS800D software looks
similar to MD-380 - the same navigation pane copy-add-paste
that works on this codeplug editor too.
Jeff suggested since I have been doing codeplugs for a while,
across several models of Chinese radios, and taught several people
how to do them, maybe I should write a "blog" on it.
First, I will try not to write long sentences like the above paragraph.
Second, I've never written a "blog" though I have written several
pieces for websites and traditional magazines.
Before I get into any nitty gritty I am going to put out a few points
that I will touch later. I write these things by creating an outline,
you don't get to set that outline; as I write each section the outline
is consumed. But these point in my original outline for this article
seem to need to be highlighted.
1) Do your own codeplug; they are not hard to do though they can
consume a lot of time, at least the first ones do. Once you
have one going the way you want you can add to it, copy it and
remove things. But you never have to START OVER unless you just
For my TYT-MD380 I am still using a version of the codeplug I first
built in 2016, more than three years ago. Adding a new repeater takes
about three minutes or less, new talkgroup 30 seconds or less.
People who tell you codeplugs are a deal breaker don't know how to
2) Keep them simple; leave advanced code plugs to people who want to
over complicate other things in their lives too. What I've describing
below is not rocket science, it does not need to be rocket science.
More numbered points as they become relevant... or I think of them.
Do your own codeplug!!!
I spent more than three hours with some guys one rainy Sunday
afternoon teaching code plugs. There were other things I could have
been doing, in retrospect it would be have much more useful for me to
be catching up on The Curse of Oak Island or something as both of the
walked out of the restaurant where we were working and forgot
EVERYTHING. Both left with working saved on disc codeplugs, add to
them as needed was all they needed to do. Mess up, reload the saved
one and try again.
One went out of state, downloaded a code plug from somewhere; when it
didn't work he emailed it to me and told me to "fix it". My honest
offer to help did not include becoming his first and sole DMR codeplug
resource for other people's not-working codeplugs. The issue was he
did not put the correct DMR Id in the codeplug. Fix that, try again,
still did not work.
I cannot see those repeaters from Atlanta so I could not test that.
Everything else would have been digging them out of the local websites
and checking frequencies, color codes, time slices, etc. Nope, I was
done with it.
The other guy almost immediately reloaded his radio from an old
codeplug on his computer, overwrote the working one with the same
non-working one he had before, overwriting the saved working copy,
then asking me for a copy. In this case I did not even have a
computer with me that day, they were using their own software,cables,
etc. I never had a copy to save.
Sometimes you just have to know when to give up.
3) KEEP COPIES of ALL your codeplug versions. Mine are named with a
format like: "20191001-SettingUpTripToTennessee.rdb".
Can you guess what I added/changed in there? Can you guess that I
did it around October 1st 2019? Why guess, name the file!
Unless you are running some old DOS 7 on a PC XT you can give your
files names that make sense. Even on DOS 7 "20191001.rdb" would
be better than "newfile1.rdb" or some other cryptic nonsense.
For multiple versions in one day added a letter a-z to the end.
Use the tools you have to work smarter, yeah?
Learn the tools you have too, not every piece of software on a PC
is a "spreadsheet" or "document".
Not hard to do your own
Its OK to get a copy from someone to learn from. My first radio was a
Quantun 2100P - an HT. The company selling it to me (Shelby Hamfest)
had Charlotte and surrounding DMR machines loaded in the code plug.
I had a working and lightly populated code plug from the start.
Learning codeplug was adding stuff to it, breaking it, reloading an
UNMODIFIED version and trying again... only broke it twice, yeah!.
See 3) above, copy save, copy save, etc. Break it ten times? get
frustrated but reload the codeplug you know works and try again. This
process is called learning by doing.
I have theories on learning based on IT training and other programs
I've been involved with - not important here but I may come back to
them in a later "blog".
Keep it simple and stupid
I've seen KISS described as "Keep It Simple, Stupid". That can not
be right - if you do KISS effectively you are something other than
stupid. It should be as I have it "Keep It Simple and Stupid".
Published codeplugs often get fancy as hell, sometimes fancy just to
be fancy as the author shows off; or tries to show some esoteric
Fancy may be OK for later but not when starting out. Keep it simple.
You don't need to have every DMR ID in the world loaded, some radios
can do it, some can't, no radio MUST HAVE them, so don't mess with
that at the start.
What do you need to get started?
Let me make up a term here: "source". A "source" can be a repeater or
hotspot. Both act very similar, at least as far as codeplugs go, so
where you see "source" from here on you can in your head plug in
"repeater" or "hotspot".
Of course you need the software, other than Motorola and perhaps
AnyTone most of this software semi-sucks, some worse than others, but
most of it is way substandard to what we are used to in the Windows
world. There are some shortcuts in each to cut down on repetitive data
entry, often not documented at all. You sometimes just need to play
After the software you will at a bare minimum need:
- Your DMR ID - you ain't going anywhere in the DMR network without a
an ID of your own.
- Contacts - talk groups you want to use - these are not specific to a
source. Talk group 3113 is for "GA Statewide"; your one 3113 contact
entry in the codeplug will be used by all sources wanting to get
into GA Statewide talkgroup.
One wrinkle in this is some DMR web sites will allow you to download
ALL talk group numbers, all of them - DO NOT! Talkgroup numbers are
common across many areas (GA Statewide is 3113 across most networks)
but other numbers may differ from network to network. So enter, by
hand, the ones you need and ONLY the ones you need. KISS again,
More on contacts later.
- Channels - This is the ONLY link to the source, frequencies,
color codes, and other particulars for a repeater or hotspot.
You get this information from the repeater lists on line:
RF Finder, DMR-MARC, K4USD, club websites, ask someone.
There are other sources.
Each channel is one source and one contact - for now. If you want
to access ten talkgroups on a source then you will end up with ten
channels, all referring to the same source, with different
- Zones - Strictly for YOU, to allow YOU to organize channels into
something making sense to YOU. The radio may have some
restrictions, a maximum number of channels per zone, not having the
same channel twice in the same zone, check you radio for any quirks.
Here are some suggestions I have heard on doing Zones:
- Each zone is a single repeater, a channel for every talk group on
the repeater and all in one zone. I have some set up this way.
Reason: when traveling to Florida I am in physical sight of the
DMR machine antenna in Titusville. So having on Zone name
"Titusville" with all the channels for that repeater makes sense.
- Each zone is an area. For me Orlando, FL, hamfest. I have a zone
called Orlando that includes some channels for the Orlando
repeaters, Kissimmee, Winterhaven, Ft Lee, Grovetown, and few
other repeaters I can hit from the area.
- Zones for a route or leg of a trip. This should be
The point is Zones are for YOU to set up your radio in a way that
YOU want. Guidelines are OK, but if a particular use of Zones works
for YOU then it is OK, if not change it till it does.
Suggested course of action
Collect what you need before you start, DMR ID, software, information
on repeaters near you, ask more experienced DMR folks, you will end up
with an Elmer as soon as you let a DMR person you are starting out.
By the time you are getting into the actual code plug you will already
know a source you want to access, its input and output frequencies;
you need its Color Code (CC) too, that'll be listed right along with
the frequency. Every repeater has a Color Code from 0 to 15.
In general you create (in order)
Contact - You need a contact for a channel, you can add all you think
you'll need all at once or one at a time. Doesn't matter
but you cannot create a channel for talkgroup till that
talkgroup's number exists in a Contact entry.
Channel - You need to access a source, every channel is a source and
talkgroup together. Remember the color code is set here
Zone - You need to add a channel to a zone so the radio knows
how to let you tune to it. Don't put the channel in a zone
then the channel never appears in the radio (I often forget
To be continued in...
Bills Code Plug Stuff - Part Two: Twisting Its Tail
Pi-Star 4.1.0 was officially released today! What's new you ask? Well, according to the official announcement:
"not much honestly, this process was focussed on fixing up the weird issues with WiFi on the Pi 4 mostly, and those seem to be behind us."
Truth be told, there are a lot of changes in the 4.1.0 release altogether. The "not much honestly" statement seems to be a reference to the changes between 4.1.0 RC-8 and 4.1.0.
I happened to log into one of my hotspots this morning to issue 'pistar-update' followed by 'pistar-upgrade' as I do once or twice a month. For those who are unfamiliar with the difference between the two scripts, 'pi-star update' simply downloads the latest packages from the Pi-Star repositories whereas 'pistar-upgrade' will apply major operating system upgrades.
Over the course of the past year or so, the wizards at Pi-Star delivered version 4.0.0 as a beta followed by a couple of Release Candidate (RC) releases. Version 4.0.0 was very short-lived and never saw a final release.
Then 4.1.0 started to appear on the Pi-Star website beginning with 4.1.0 RC-1 and it created some confusion as there wasn't an explanation as to why 4.0.0 was abandoned. Over the past several months, version 4.1.0 went through interative releases up until RC-8.
While the 'pistar-upgrade' script took care of upgrading my hotspot from 4.1.0 RC-8 to 4.1.0, I will likely re-image the SD Card to start off with a fresh installation. Linux is far better than other operating systems when it comes to handling major upgrades, but I still feel more comfortable starting out anew!
You can download 4.1.0 by visiting the Downloads section on the Pi-Star website.
Please check the settings in your hotspot to see which Brandmeister server it’s configured to use. If you’re using 3108, make an effort to switch to one of the other US-based master servers before May 30, 2020.
The 3108 master server is located in Atlanta so, from the standpoint of low latency/shortest round trip time, it likely provides the best results but only when communicating with others that also happen to be pointing to 3108.
It is also their “testing/staging” server. Brandmeister rolls out newer versions of software to 3108 before to 3101, 3102, and 3103. I’m not sure how they plan to test new code in the future. Suffice it to say, the most likely reason for this move is due to the operating expense. Space in data centers, Internet access, power, cooling, etc are not cheap! I’m not sure where Brandmeister gets their funding from - someone is paying a lot of money for the infrastructure!
What Should I Do?
Most of the repeaters and c-Bridges in the southeast use 3102 as their master server. My recommendation is that’s where you should focus your efforts on going forward.
The following information will give a bit more detail - general rule of thumb - pick the location closest to you for the best results:
Please let us know if you have any questions. The official announcement is below:
Brandmeister server 3108 being taken down effective May 30
Originally posted 03/05/2020
With some recent changes that have been made, we are planning on removing the 3108 Master Server. We plan on taking the server down at or around May 30th. The 3101, 3102, and 3103 masters have more than enough capacity to take the load. If people have any bridges, cbridge CC links, or OpenBridge connections, please open a ticket in the system under the BMUSA section and we will get you moved to another master.
Repeater Owners: If you had a cluster, let us know which master you move to so we can get a new cluster setup for you.
If you are using 3108 in your hotspot's Pi-Star configuration, change it.
Jeff Hochberg - W4JEW