This is a re-posting of an article originally found on the Maine-DMR.org website.
Understanding how talkgroups work, especially when there's contention for two timeslots, is often misunderstood and not explained properly. The author does a great job of clearing things up and I didn't see any need to reinvent the wheel!
I thought the article was fascinating!
Jeff Hochberg - W4JEW
By Tom Marshall - AA1SM
The DMR network in Maine is part of a worldwide system of repeaters. It is a more complicated system than the analog systems we have been accustomed to using. This complexity presents us with the challenge of how to best design and integrate our Maine-based DMR network with our neighbors and with the world. One of our objectives is to design our system so that our users are able to communicate without troublesome interruption, and this design must strike a balance between this objective and the overall flexibility of the system. In order to comprehend the tension between these competing objectives, it is helpful to understand how talk group priorities are established.
The goal of this document is to explain what talk groups are and how talk group priorities are established at the level of the C-Bridge. In order to understand talk group priorities and how the C-Bridge actually establishes talk group priorities, it is essential that one understands how holdoff timers (HOTs) function.
A C-Bridge is a server which directs audio from a single repeater to other repeaters in the system based on a set of rules. These rules can be changed at will to accommodate the needs of the users of the system. It is very flexible, but with flexibility come some compromises.
A talk group (TG) is established when a group of radios have been programmed to communicate with each other. Each talk group is assigned a unique number. The Maine statewide TG is assigned the number 3123. In a single repeater system, Radio A could communicate with Radio B through Repeater 1 as long as TG 3123 was programmed into a channel on each radio. The repeater is “dumb” in this scenario, it merely passes the audio from its receiver to its transmitter, and the real work is being done at the level of the radio. If the incoming audio is not preceded with the TG 3123 code, the receiver’s speaker will not un-mute, and you won’t hear the call. It’s much the same as trying to listen to an analog repeater with the incorrect “PL squelch” code programmed into your radio. The signal is present, but you won’t hear it.
In a system with multiple repeaters, the C-Bridge determines if and when audio from Radio A on TG 3123 (or any talk group for that matter) talking though Repeater 1 is passed to another repeater, Repeater 2, so that Radio B which is listening on Repeater 2, can hear the audio on TG 3123. The situation becomes more complex when radios are programmed with multiple talk groups. Since you cannot have two audio streams from two different talk groups flowing simultaneously on any time slot (TS) to any individual repeater, the C-Bridge will prioritize one talk group over another by using hold-off timers (HOTs).
The philosophy of the prioritization is that higher priority will be given to the talk groups which utilize the least number of repeaters. For TS2, the Local talk group (TG9) has the highest priority since it utilizes only one repeater. Maine SW (TG 3123), New Hampshire SW (TG 3133), Region NNE (TG 8), and New England Wide (TG 3181), follow in decreasing priority because each utilizes an increasing number of repeaters.
Let’s look an example of how hold-off timers create talk group priorities. In this example, it is assumed that each radio has its receive group set up to listen to all TS2 talk groups, that each repeater has been set up at the C-Bridge level so that it can potentially pass audio to and from all TS2 talk groups, that hold-off timers start counting down as soon as you start your transmission, and that each hold-off timer is set for 5 minutes.
WA1YEW through the New Sharon repeater starts transmitting at 9:00:00 on ME/SW and ends transmitting at 9:02:00. Hold-off timers (HOTs) for the lower priority talk groups, NH/SW, Region NNE, and New England Wide will start counting down from 5 minutes as soon as WA1YEW starts transmitting and will have a value of 3 minutes and the end of the transmission. These HOTs on the C-Bridge will prevent the New Sharon repeater from receiving or forwarding any audio to/from NH/SW, Region NNE, and the New England Wide talk groups. Therefore, ME/SW would have priority over these other talk groups because the lower priority talk groups would not be able to interrupt the conversation on ME/SW.
N1EKK answers WA1YEW through the Augusta repeater on ME/SW at 9:02:00 and ends the transmission at 9:04:00. Hold off timers for the lower priority talk groups, NH/SW, Region NNE, and New England Wide will start counting down from 5 minutes as soon as N1EKK starts transmitting and will have a value of 3 minutes and the end of the transmission. Just as with New Sharon, these HOTs on the C-Bridge will prevent the Augusta repeater from receiving or forwarding any audio to/from NH/SW, Region NNE, and the New England Wide talk groups.
At 9:04:00 WA1YEW could start transmitting on ME/SW and continue the conversation. This would restart the HOTs at 5 minutes on the New Sharon repeater and the process would repeat itself. What if at 9:04:00, WA1YEW wanted to switch to NH/SW or Region NNE or New England Wide to start another conversation? WA1YEW would have to wait another minute, until 9:05, for the HOTs to count down to zero. Similarly, N1EKK would have to wait until 9:07 on the Augusta repeater until NH/SW or Region NNE or New England Wide would be available.
In the above example, the HOTs for Topsham were never activated because no one transmitted through that repeater.
Let’s say there was a user of the Topsham repeater, KY1C, that was not interested in the conversation between WA1YEW and N1EKK on ME/SW and instead wanted to use the Local TG on Topsham to communicate with another operator, K1JJS, on the Topsham repeater. Is this possible? Sure it is, but we will have to alter the times on the table just a bit. WA1YEW and N1EKK are (very) polite operators, so they leave a 10 second pause between transmissions so other people can join the conversation or use another repeater in the system.
In the above example, at 9:02:05, KY1C is able to transmit on Topsham on the Local TG because N1EKK left a ten-second pause. Once KY1C transmitted on Local through the Topsham repeater, it activated HOTs for ME/SW, NH/SW, Region, and N-E-W for Topsham at the C-Bridge. The C-Bridge will not pass audio to or from the Topsham repeater for these TGs for 5 minutes, the 5 minute time period starting at the initiation of the last Local TG transmission on the Topsham repeater. Now the Topsham repeater is totally isolated from any conversations on TS2. Meanwhile, WA1YEW and N1EKK are enjoying an independent conversation on the Augusta repeater and any other repeaters in the system which have ME/SW as a TG can listen to the conversation. Any users on the Topsham repeater would have to wait to use or hear any other TG on TS2 until the 5 minute HOT timer expired which would be 5 minutes from the initiation of K1JJS’s last transmission, at 9:08:15.
Hold off timers are a compromise. If you set them too short, other talk groups can interfere with your conversation. If you set them too long, you might be sitting around for a few minutes unable to use a talk group that you want to use.
Here is another situation to consider. You are sitting at your kitchen table enjoying your morning coffee with one hand on your coffee cup and the other grasping your brand new CS 751 HT. You make a transmission on ME/SW on the Augusta repeater. No one answers. You change to NH/SW and make a call. Your receiver is silent. Sensing people in NH and ME may not want to talk to you, you try Region NNE. Still, no luck. Exasperated, you try New England Wide. The silence is deafening. Are you unpopular? Maybe, but what is really happening?
When you keyed up ME/SW on Augusta, you activated hold-off timers for all of the lower priority talk groups which include the NH/SW, Region, and New England Wide talk groups. Assuming all of this took place within 5 minutes of your initial transmission, each time you transmitted on NH/SW, Region NNE and New England Wide, the only repeater transmitting your audio was Augusta. So, now you’ll have to wait for the hold-off timers to expire to talk on these wider yet lower priority talk groups.
Finally, to answer the question, “Why do other talk groups interrupt my QSO?”. People have observed that the NH/SW talk group has been infringing on the ME/SW talk group. What I think is happening is that the hold-off timers are expiring. Let’s say that three people are using ME/SW for a QSO on three different repeaters. Hold-off timers are currently set for 5 minutes. Ham #1 talks for 2 minutes though repeater #1. Ham #2 talks for 2 minutes on repeater #2, and Ham #3 talks for 2 minutes on repeater #3. Six minutes have gone by, therefore the hold-off timer on repeater #1 has now expired for 1 minute. If, when Ham #3 stops transmitting, there is an active conversation on NH/SW or Region or New England Wide, it will be heard on repeater #1.
Should we increase the length of the hold-off timers to prevent this? Maybe, but, referring to the previous example, you may be sitting at your kitchen table with a cold cup of coffee by the time you'd be able to make a transmission on a wider talk group.
With the rapid growth of the number of DMR users and the DMR network in Maine, the time slot traffic loading will require ongoing evaluation. If changes are necessary, they will be made in a collaborative fashion with the repeater owners to support the local users and the quality of communications within the state of Maine.
The MOTOTRBO System Planner can be downloaded off the Internet. Just do a search on your favorite browser, you can’t miss it. It is 520 pages and not a quick read.
Go to Rayfield Communications and download the C-Bridge manual. It is128 pages long.
Thanks to KY1E, KY1C, KM3T and NE1B for their editing and advice on this article.
See you on the radio.
DISCLAIMER: Georgia DMR is not responsible for any issues caused by the installation or modification of software on your hotspot! Additionally, we did not develop any of the solutions under discussion in this post. You can tell us about your experience, but the onus is on you to report bugs to the developers through official channels (i.e. on GitHub - not here).
I'm in love! I just installed F1RMB's Pi-Star DV Dash project on one of my hotspots. It has some really nice enhancements!!!
Pi-Star is incredibly feature-rich but, let's face it, the UI needs help. It's been largely unchanged since it's inception. Sure, new functionality has been added to the distribution and the UI was extended to allow users to configure new settings, but the rest? Yawn...
Sorry to be so critical. I've been working in the IT world for 25+ years. I stare at a computer screen every day and encountered incredible UI designs (i.e. the top of the heap) and HORRIBLE UI designs (i.e. the bottom of the heap). Pi-Star falls somewhere in the lower half. It's functional, but there's just so much more that could be done to make the user experience better.
Take a look at what the folks at SharkRF have done. Their UI is designed for simplicity. It gets the job done quickly and easily. It even looks pretty good from a mobile device!
Sure, their solution isn't quite as configurable as Pi-Star, but they're not trying to be everything to everyone.
Pi-Star's web interface looks absolutely abysmal on a mobile device! There's no good excuse for it either. It's not that making improvements isn't possible. Either it's not a high priority for them, or they just don't care.
Marshall Dias (W00TM) did a great job with Pi-Star Mobile! He extended the Pi-Star Dashboard by creating a set of web pages that are formatted for smaller form-factor displays. He went the extra mile by creating a really slick Live Caller display that, when you turn your mobile device on its side, the page is reformatted such that you get a beautiful landscape view with large characters and he even created a script that automatically populates the station's name and location. For the longest time, Marshall abandoned Pi-Star Mobile. The most recent version is 1.40 and it does not support versions of Pi-Star newer than 3.17. At one point a while back, Marshall pulled the project from his website for a long time.
I reached out to him a few times and, according to his response, I "inspired" him! Since I last looked at his site, he added screenshots of a preview build of Pi-Star Mobile 2.0 and, if you buy a license for 1.40, you will receive version 2.0 at no additional charge.
Marshall made Pi-Star 1.40 available on his website and is charging $25.00 for a license.
Why can't Andy Taylor and team build something like Pi-Star Mobile into the main Pi-Star distribution? There's absolutely no reason he can't. He just hasn't.
Thankfully Daniel Caujolle-Bert (F1RMB) realized the shortcomings in the Pi-Star Dashboard and released his own version of the Pi-Star Dashboard:
At cursory glance, Pi-Star DV Dash doesn't look all that much different than the default dashboard included with Pi-Star but there are some really nice touches:
There's probably quite a few other little tidbits but since I primarily use my hotspots for DMR, I wouldn't see anything related to D-Star, NXDN, P25, YSF, etc.
Hopefully Andy knows about this project and gets some ideas!
Installing Pi-Star DV Dash
As long as you're comfortable with doing work via the CLI (command-line interface), you'll be fine. This is one of the easiest installations you'll find in the Linux world. If using the command-line makes you uncomfortable, either ask someone for help, or just enjoy the pictures!
I STRONGLY recommend using an SSH client (i.e. PuTTY, Terminal, or my new favorite...KiTTY - a PuTTY derivative). Since you'll be making changes to the web interface, it would not be very wise to use the SSH Access tool built into the Pi-Star Dashboard.
What's the first thing you should do before you make ANY changes? That's right...BACKUP your configuration! Again, we cannot be held responsible for any changes you decide to make to your hotspot.
Once you SSH into your hotspot, begin by putting the filesystem into read/write mode:
You should see the login prompt change from:
pi-star@pi-star(ro):~$ TO pi-star@pi-star(rw):~$
Next, I created a folder to use for storing the installation script:
mkdir dv-dash && cd dv-dash
Download the installation script directly from Daniel's GitHub repository:
wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/f1rmb/f1rmb-pistar/master/f1rmb-pistar -O f1rmb-pistar
Make the installation script executable:
chmod +x f1rmb-pistar
Use sudo to become root (you'll be prompted to enter your password):
You can view all the available options (make sure to enter the dot and forward slash):
Install Pi-Star DV Dash (make sure to enter the dot and forward slash):
The author recommends running the command to upgrade Pi-Star several times until you receive the message "You are already running the latest version". Keep in mind that installing the new dashboard makes changes to the repositories (repos) that Pi-Star uses to download updates - it changes from the official Pi-Star repos to one that Daniel maintains. If this were not the case, the official Pi-Star upgrades would overwrite all of the custom code in Pi-Star DV Dash.
You can revert back to the original dashboard at any time:
As long as you backup your config, you really have nothing to worry about damaging unless you've done a lot of heavy customization to your hotspot. The worst possible scenario would be having to re-image your SD Card and restore from backup that way which you should always be prepared to do anyway! You never know what can happen when you rely on Micro SD-Cards for storage!
Enjoy the experimentation and let me know what you think!
We had a few people ask about some of the underlying mechanics of DMR networks as well as the differences between using DMR on repeaters vs. hotspots. This is a topic that has many different facets and, as such, is something that will be covered across multiple articles.
Ferrell Brown (KE4QDC) was kind enough to send me a link to an article written by Daniel Moses (K9NPX - Farmer City, IL) that does a great job of covering why certain considerations need to be taken into account when using DMR.
Pay special attention to the "3 talk 3 rule". :-)
This post is to help those new to digital and DMR get started
By Daniel Moses - K9NPX
So I'm a fairly new HAM and fairly new to digital. There's definitely a bit of a learning curve but it pays off in the end. Once you learn digital you can easily work contacts around the globe. I got my ticket about two years ago but haven't used it much until I recently discovered digital. I'll go over some of what I've learned and hopefully help others get on the right talkgroups and make some good QSOs.
Radio etiquette is a little different for DMR. It's usually bad practice to key up a repeater and not say anything. However this is required with DMR. When making a call you want to key the talkgroup once to make sure it's linked then wait a few seconds to make sure the talkgroup is clear before you transmit so you don't talk over an existing conversation.
The 3 talk 3 rule
Unlike analog, digital has a buffer. Transmissions tend to get cut off at the beginning and end if you don't follow this rule. Basically you want to key the radio, wait 3 seconds and then start to talk. You also want to wait a few seconds after you're done talking before you un-key the radio to make sure your transmission doesn't get cut off at the end.
Talkgroups are group calls, think of them as chat rooms. Once you're connected to a talkgroup you can hear all conversations on that channel. Talkgroups are generally split up by location. 91 is Worldwide, Nationwide 3100 is North America, 3169 is Midwest, 3117 is Illinois and so on. There are lots of other talkgroups for different groups as well TGIF, The Guild, TAC 310. There are over 1,000 talkgroups available on Brandmeister. The Pi Star website has a nice lis here.
There are other networks but Brandmeister seems to be the most used. The Brandmeister servers route calls between repeaters and hotspots. Repeater book will usually tell you if a repeater is Brandmeister linked and what static talkgroups it has. Static talkgroups are talkgroups that are always linked however if someone is using a different talkgroup on the repeater or hotspot you will not hear traffic from the static talkgroups. After a set amount of time it will usually revert to the static talkgroup.
Repeaters vs Hotspots
Once you have a hotspot properly setup there is little difference between using it vs a repeater. The main difference is that when on a repeater you have to keep a watch for other users and share the repeater. Here's a list of things to know.
Even if there is a statically linked talkgroup if another talkgroup is in use it will override the static talkgroup so always make sure you key up once and listen for other traffic before starting your transmission. If the channel is clear you can then announce your callsign or any other transmission you wish to make. Remember to pause before and after your transmission. To use a dynamic talkgroup just select it in your radio, key up and listen for traffic. Most repeaters have a timer for dynamic talkgroups and will return to the static talkgroup after so many minutes of inactivity.
Just remember to be polite and practice good operating procedure and you'll be talking around the globe in no time. A few good places to start are
Hope this helps you get going, 73s K9NPX
A few points to add to Daniel's article:
"Hotspots only use one time slot"
That's not entirely valid anymore. There are several duplex MMDVM boards on the market (i.e. N5BOC and Zumspot) that allow for two timeslots. You can have a static talkgroup configured on timeslot 1 and another static talkgroup on timeslot 2 and they will never interfere with each other. And the MMDVM boards used in repeaters (i.e. RepeaterBuilder.com's STM32) support duplex.
Brandmeister does not care about which talkgroup you want to connect to from your hotspot, nor do they care about which timeslot you use to connect to any of the talkgroups.
Repeater operators have a challenge that many hotspot users do not recognize in that their services are consumed by a larger population whereas a hotspot user only has to be concerned about their own use. In reality, there are only two timeslots available on a repeater. When both timeslots are in use, then it doesn't matter how many talkgroups you can connect to, there's no way for others to use the repeater. Owners have to balance availability and usability. It's something a lot of hams don't like but it's a reality that must be addressed.
Case in point, one of the local repeater operators has their repeaters are connected to Brandmeister. They use an MMDVM board designed for use in a repeater in conjunction with a pair of Motorola mobile radios (GM300 radios if I recall correctly). A while back, they had someone that thought it would be fun to key up on TAC310 on both timeslots. That individual would key up on TAC310 on timeslot 1, then key up on TAC310 on timeslot 2. As soon as the inactivity timeout was about to expire, they simply keyed up TAC310 on timeslots 1 and 2. Guess what? That created a condition that is referred to in the security world as a "Denial of Service". If you wanted to use another talkgroup when this person was having their fun, then tough...you couldn't.
That's not a good experience!
My understanding is the operator reached out to the person and asked them to stop - thankfully they did.
By default, repeaters that are connected to Brandmeister also don't care which talkgroup you want to use, nor which timeslot you use. I don't feel that it's safe to assume that automatically applies to ALL repeaters on Brandmeister.
Case in point, I was in Las Vegas earlier this year and wanted to use my DMR radio to connect to the Georgia talkgroup so I could participate in the net. Despite there being several DMR repeaters connected to Brandmeister, there was only one that would allow me to connect to Georgia TG 3113 and I could only do so on one of the two timeslots.
Many repeater operators use an additional piece of software that allows them to whitelist the talkgroups they allow. It's extremely common to find repeaters that restrict which talkgroups you can use and which timeslot you can use them on.
You can read more great content from Daniel on his website:
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 another time)..
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 Channels.
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 TalkGroup/Contact items
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 Paste 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 form.
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 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
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