Digital Dive

So … I’ve taken the plunge into DMR radio. I had an unused gift card on Amazon and sprung for a Tytera MD-380 hand-held radio. A ham just a few miles from me has put a UHF DMR repeater on the air. I ordered the radio today and Amazon says that it’ll be here tomorrow. Can’t wait!! (but I’ll have to!)

I keep reading online about how difficult the programming software is, so I checked it out. Maybe if you’re not used to it, but I’ve been building codeplugs for Motorola radios for more years than I care to think. Looks like a piece of cake to me.

I’ve been interested in DMR for a while now, but there was no local repeater within a reasonable range of my QTH. Lots of them to the north, south, east, and west, but none here at ground zero.

There are DStar repeaters near me, but I just couldn’t justify the cost. This little Chinese gem cost less than ninety bucks. Can’t beat that. And … it got pretty good reviews in the November 2017 QST.

I’ve still been keeping up with CW and FT-8 contacts on HF, and the NC QSO Party is this coming Sunday. I’ll be there on HF!

73 de Dick N4BC

Smith Charts

Ah, yes … I remember being in school and sweating bullets trying to understand and use Smith Charts. Plotting and drawing lines … HATED IT!

Last night, at our monthly club meeting, we were introduced to an elegant solution to my aversion … SimSmith by Ward Harriman AE6TY. It’s a Smith Chart software tool that is really impressive … and FREE!

I won’t go into more explanation here, other than to say his website also refers you to numerous videos and writings that explain its uses and and its operation. Check it out (using the link above) if you have any curiosity or any need for Smith Charts.


73 de Dick N4BC

FrostFest 2018

FrostFest was last Saturday, so I made my annual trek to Richmond to attend. It was clear, but cold, and waiting in the line outdoors to enter was not pleasant for me. I was bundled up in a heavy coat, and I was amazed at the people standing with me in just a T-shirt and seemingly comfortable!

The first thing I noticed was that the layout in the exhibition hall was different this year. All of the empty space was moved to the center aisle, making it a wide expanse and much easier to navigate than prior years. I was told the real reason was to allow less chaos with vendor vehicles coming in to offload equipment … evidently in prior years, navigating the narrower aisles was not pleasant.

One consequence of the wide open center of the hall was that it gave the impression of a smaller crowd this year. I read that the organizers have unofficially said that this year’s crowd was the largest yet. We’ll have to wait for the final count, I guess.

The only significant manufacturer there was Elecraft, but there were lot of second-tier vendors there, and LOTS of “tail-gate” individuals with tables. There was much nostalgic equipment there, and I did see quite a few “boat anchors” being carried out to waiting vehicles.

I spent most of the day attending the forums … DMR, Puerto Rico recap, ARRL, SkyWarn, and I did wander the sales floor several times, too. I actually didn’t buy anything this trip … my big purchase for the winter was a new IC-7300 on  Black Friday last year. I was looking for a shielded USB A-B cable, but didn’t see any, so I ordered one from Amazon when I got home.

It was a pleasant day, and worth the trip. I did take some things away from the forums, and I reconnected with several friends and acquaintances that I only see here every year at FrostFest. My congratulations to RATS (Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society), the club that puts all this together and coordinates this. Well done!!

73 de Dick N4BC