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 want to.
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 do them.
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 codeplug technique.
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 around.
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, right?
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: rFinder, 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 talkgroups.
- 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 self-explanatory.
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 too.
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 this step).
To be continued in...
Bills Code Plug Stuff - Part Two: Twisting Its Tail
Jeff Hochberg - W4JEW
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