Keane KD8AOZ organized a class to show good use of 2m radios at All Hands Active on Sunday. Larry KD8MZM and I were there.
First up was programming the Baofeng UV-5R with Chirp. We noticed that the version of Chirp you get when you download the package from apt-get is very old (0.1) so we pulled down a new fresh copy from source from the distribution site, chirp.danplanet.com.
I showed folks how to use the Repeaterbook interface in Chirp to program a bunch of channels quickly, which was much less tedious than hand-coding them into the Baofeng or typing them into tables in Chirp directly. It does mean that Repeaterbook needs to be kept accurate and up to date.
Once we had three working radios we went to the top of the Liberty Square structure to see what we could see. Here I was able to try out a better antenna than the stock one on my radio, and also to get some altitude to help try to reach more distant stations. As it turns out, the top of that structure has a metal covering over the railing structure, which Keane pointed out would be useful to improve reception. I held the rig parallel t the antenna and keyed up the WD8IEL repeater run by the Chelsea Amateur Radio Club, which is about 15 miles away. It came through loud and clear - a much improved result over the normal reception!
All in all a good outing. I am planning to get a better antenna!
I have been having intermittent problems reaching the W8UM repeater, and that's been puzzling. The repeater is located on top of the Dennison building less than a mile from my house, and it's always been easy to hit it. I shrugged it off as a transient problem but it lingered.
The UV-5R has a channel mode, where it can display either a channel name or a channel frequency. I usually set the A channel to be a frequency readout and the B channel to be a name readout. Much to my surprise, when I was working through the frequency side of things, I saw a 136.025 Mhz frequency assigned to the slot where W8UM's 145.230 Mhz should be.
A little bit of Googling later located this helpful page
I'm preparing to take the General-Class license exam at the next opportunity. It took me about a day of thorough study without much else going on to get to the point where I hope to pass it.
Study has been with Ham Test Prep by Iversoft, and Dan KB6NU's No-Nonsense Study Guide. The Ham Test Prep app for Android got me to about 75% right, and it was reading Dan's uncomplicated writing that pushed me toward figuring out the ones that I didn't know or couldn't memorize.
The one piece I don't understand (yet) is Ohm's Law, which shouldn't be that hard (but there it is). It took a while to get the right stuff burned into my brain about components in series vs components in parallel.
Still to do, in approximate order:
* obtain two or three suitable routers
* flash those routers with the software
* determine a reasonable antenna strategy
* identify locations to connect
* identify a source for more equipment
* find more hams within connection range of the places I have equipment
* write up the findings
I was running the KA9Q software for internet connections long ago (at least as early as 1988), so how hard could this be? (Plenty hard! Also plenty fun!)
This list of Echolink commands should be helpful if you want to do more than listen to a repeater. Note that repeater operators can and will change any of these codes.
To switch a Baofeng UV-5R between high power (5 watts) and low power (1 watt), press the octothorpe key ("#") briefly. The "L" character will light on the display if you are operating low power. A long press of the octothorpe key will lock the keyboard or unlock it.
The current version of Chirp is 0.4.0. I updated my radio so now it has channels 1-70 with a bunch of gaps, and added Monroe County, Lucas County (Ohio), and Marquette County repeaters to my setup. Alas, the programming I did managed to get the receive frequencies correct but did not properly get the repeater offsets. I don't know exactly what happened, next time I'll go back and sort it out.
We went to a Mud Hens game (it was a good time, and they won). I wasn't able to find the Lucas County, Ohio Skywarn repeater. We had a little light rain in the first two innings but it cleared up and was a beautiful night.
I had a tour of the U of Michigan Amateur Radio Club shack on the UM North Campus in the EECS building, and joined the club this weekend. Dues are $20/yr; it's open to University of Michigan students, staff, faculty and alumni.
The next step is to get checked out on the equipment so that I can operate everything that I have a license for. The first order of events is to learn how to operate their very nice 2 meter base station, complete with an adjustable antenna. I'm expecting that I'll get better reception and better transmission than with my Baofeng handheld.
The club call sign is W8UM. As of this writing there are about 35 members, and I'd like to see that number increase.
I had my Baofeng UV-5R out and about with me today, monitoring W8UM and N8DUY. W8UM is the U of Michigan Amateur Radio Club 2 meter repeater on 145.23 Mhz, and N8DUY is the repeater on 145.15 Mhz that has the local Skywarn net.
N8DUY sends out a signal in morse code every 15 minutes (did I tell you I'm learning Morse, mostly so I can decode these tones) and so it was an interesting punctuation to a meeting I was having where radio communications was part of the conversation.
This evening I kept the Baofeng on and heard KD8YYI giving a call over Echolink, so I joined in on 2m and started to talk. Alas, the battery in my Baofeng seems to cut out on long transmissions at the end of a day of monitoring. I switched to Echolink on my Android phone and we had a good conversation. KD8YYI is from the Cincinnati OH area and he was just getting started on Echolink, so I invited him to join the Sunday night net at 8:00 p.m. on W8UM-R which routinely has calls from Hawaii, Houston, and Boston in addition to the Ann Arbor area locals.
The Baofeng UV-5R radio has a keypad lock function. If you press and hold the # key, the radio will say "lock", and the keypad will mostly be disabled. Mostly disabled, because the red CALL key will still turn the FM broadcast radio on and off, and PTT will still key up the radio, and MONI will still disable squelch. Press and hold the # key again to unlock.
How did I find this out? I was bicycling across the Diag and tried to tune in WCBN 88.3 FM, and found instead that my radio was just making a high pitched beep and not doing anything when I went to adjust the frequency. It took digging out the manual at home and looking around for a bit to find the magic lock / unlock sequence.
The sign that your keypad is locked is a little lock symbol just to the left of the battery status. This image (via Amazon) shows the screen with all LCD displays on.
Note that turning the radio on and off does not reset the keypad lock!