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nakman
04-15-2013, 03:27 PM
I had this conversation about 3x on Saturday at the Ham & Eggs run. So let's have it again on these here forum, inviting others to pipe in with more comments.

The is specific to the entry-level amateur, who has been intrigued by all this talk of a "better than CB" communication solution for use when enjoying their Toyota 4x4. So congratulations, you've crossed the most difficult threshold already, that being awareness of ham radio. :D

nakman
04-15-2013, 03:30 PM
Your next essential step needs to be understanding the material. Not only will this prepare you for the test (which you must pass before you can transmit) but the terms and language used in the exam prep will make it easier to understand the different radio options. This has already been well laid out for you... just read this thread http://www.risingsun4x4club.org/forum2/showthread.php?t=5863 a few times and you're there.

I like the practice exams on www.qrz.com, but as you'll find there are others out there as well. Take a look at when the next test is available in your area by going here and typing in your zip code. http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session A typical exam path (one that most here have followed) is figure out when/where you want to take the test, then set aside some time to study up beforehand, until confidence with the practice exams is where it needs to be.

But you need to pass the test. You can't transmit without a call sign. you need to pass the test.

nakman
04-15-2013, 03:54 PM
So there are two basic types of radios that you should consider, as I see it; HT's and mobile rigs. Here's your layman definition:

HT's are handy-talkies, or hand-held radios. They are battery powered, they can clip to your belt, get tossed in a back pack, and are easily portable. They are the worst at transmitting (very low power, and poor antennas), some of the most difficult things in the world to learn to operate, they require tons of accessories to make them more useful (chargers, hand mics, battery packs, external antenna adapters, etc.) and are easily lost. But they're sweet for having around camp, spotting vehicles, and monitoring traffic. My opinion is everyone should have a cheap one, just because you can. Here's my favorite, the Yaesu VX-3r.

http://www.hamradio.com/images_manuf/H0-009061A.jpg

Mobile Rigs are dedicated radios you're going to bolt to your truck. These are superior to HT's in every single way, except that you can't easily rip them out of the vehicle. But they will receive better, transmit better, and are generally easier to learn to operate. Here's a picture of a Yaesu FT-2900, which is a rock solid, good quality mobile radio:

http://www.yaesu.com/ProductImages/FT-2900R_thumb.jpg


My recommendation/opinion: Spend your money on your mobile rig. Get a solid radio & a good antenna. If you still want to play, then consider an HT. But a cheap HT & a good mobile setup is infinitely superior to an expensive HT and a crappy mobile setup.

nakman
04-15-2013, 04:09 PM
We could spend more time on antennas than radios, as there's frankly just as much to learn. My recommendation is get lots of them :D and experiment, you'll probably get 2 or 3 before you decide on the "one."

The first thing you need to decide is what type of mount do you like: PL-259 or NMO. This is important since it dictates what types of antennas you can use, and can you swap them out freely. So when you look at antennas, note how it's one or the other. PL-259 is what your CB probably has, while NMO is a larger diameter, more like 1". Here is an NMO Cable:
http://www.gigaparts.com/parts/gpcpa/original/zdm-c213snmo.jpg

Here is a typical PL-259 cable:

http://www.theantennafarm.com/catalog/images/productimages/3D4M.jpg


Mounting your antenna has lots of options as well- on your bumper, your fender, rear hatch, your roof... each one has its own +'s and -'s, so what to do depends on your situation. THEY ALL WORK. NO MATTER WHAT IT'S GOING TO BE WAY BETTER THAN YOUR CB. So don't sweat this too much. However, you'll come to learn that there are in fact performance differences with antenna locations. Again, you may need to experiment, or better yet post up and start a thread about it... the group here loves these threads.

My setup? Side of the fender, passenger side. It's out of the way pretty much all the time unless I'm changing my air filter. It's the second best ground plane (best is roof). It's fixed to the fender so it doesn't smack the roof or roof rack when I open the hood (unlike a lip mount), a 1/4-wave antenna lets me keep in installed all the time and still get in the garage, and I keep a full-length antenna under the back seat for trips, and I rarely notice it while driving. It's my 4th location and the one I'm sticking with.

Crash
04-15-2013, 04:48 PM
Great thread, Nakman, and I look forward to the additions from the experienced ham folks. Thanks.

Fishy
04-15-2013, 05:44 PM
Great thread, Tim. I hope to learn more as I go. I'm pretty quick to call/PM/text Nakman whenever I have a HAM question. My setup and mounting location are where they are because I copied his. Nakman has offered to help with my setup (and others), lent me antennas to try, and been a steward to those of us new to the hobby.

DaveinDenver, who I've never even met has been helpful in answering my questions as well.

I am a total novice to HAM radio. I've had my license for about a year now. My setup is a Yaesu FT-7900, a Diamond NR72BNMO antenna, a cheap $10 speaker and a Gamiviti antenna mount. I purchased everything brand new from HRO and spent a little under $500. It's more radio than I probably need and I'm still not very familiar with it. It's one of those things that you need to use often to become familiar with. Every once in a while I fire it up and have a conversation, but I mostly use it on club runs.

The main reason I don't use it more is that its pretty confusing to me. I've been through the manual a few times. I even programmed some frequencies but I can't figure out how to pull them back up. I'm no stranger to talking on frequencies and I understand proper phraseology, but there is a lot of HAM radio talk that is way over my head. The more you understand, the more fun you can have.

All of that being said, I've become a HAM snob. I hate using the CB anymore. The sound quality between the two is equivalent to sitting in a quiet room face to face with someone, or a long piece of string and two soup cans.

nakman
06-26-2013, 11:36 AM
So I've agreed to host a "ham & chips" session at this year's 100's in the Hills event in Ouray.. which means a dozen 100 series guys will be looking to me for advice in how/why to get into Ham radio. Any suggestions? Any new epiphanies from any of the newer operators here?

smslavin
06-26-2013, 01:55 PM
My mobile is a Yaesu FTM-350 paired with a Diamond NR73B NMO antenna. Antenna is currently mounted on the driver's side front corner of my roof rack. I'm using the Diamond K550 antenna mount which lets my fold down the antenna if needed. It isn't motorized but I can reach it by sticking my hand out the window. I got the 350 so I could have APRS functionality and it gives my wife some piece of mind knowing she can look up my location on a web site.

I've got the main unit of the 350 mounted under the driver's seat and I hacked up a mount for the faceplate. I put it up on the roof just above the rearview mirror. I don't normally leave the mic plugged in all the time as I don't have anywhere convenient to store it. I need to go see if I can find a clip to clip it the visor or something.

For an HT, I have the Yaesu FT-270. I swapped out the rubber ducky antenna for Diamond's RHF40. There was a significant improvement in range and since the antenna is flexible, I can fold it up and still have it fit in either my ski or mtn bike pack.

Programming a Yaesu on the actual radio is like descending into the 7th circle of hell. Definitely pick up the the programming software and associated cables from RT (http://www.rtsystemsinc.com). HRO carries them. This will make your life much easier until you make a change on the radio, forget and then sync it with the software blowing away the addition you just made and scratching your head as to why the APRS is no longer working. Not that I've ever done that or anything...

I have maybe a dozen or so frequencies and repeaters programmed in. Evergreen and Thorodin can get busy and it's fun for me to just listen. I learn a lot that way. I've tried to program in repeaters that will give me coverage wherever I may take the truck so I also have a few added for the Durango/Telluride area.

<edit>
Forgot to add. The RT software is Windows specific so if you're a Mac person, like me, you have to wade into the world of virtual machines to make it work. It's not that difficult, you just need a copy of VMWare Fusion or Parallels. Since my day job has me working in multiple VMs pretty much constantly, I'm more than happy to offer help in getting that set up if anyone needs it.
</edit>

Rezarf
06-26-2013, 02:28 PM
Excited to see this develop.

DaveInDenver
06-26-2013, 03:00 PM
FWIW, the FTM-350 is handy because it has a mic port on the face and the body, you can use either although it's probably not a good idea to use both simultaneously. You can extend the jack using standard Ethernet cabling and a female-to-female coupler.

http://i00.i.aliimg.com/wsphoto/v0/347260276/CAT5-RJ45-Network-Cable-Extender-Plug-Coupler-Joiner.jpg

I hang my mic in an empty slot on the dash using one of Nakman's nifty dealies, with an Ethernet cable running from the body of the radio under the seat up to the console and the mic plugs in the middle with the cable headed down instead of up to the face. Some people have made a little bulkhead for the coupler so that the mic plugs into the dash like it's a factory option, although I have not gone to that length yet. Maybe on the new truck I will do that. Although I'm waiting to see what the FTM-400 looks like and costs, since the FTM-350 is discontinued.

I have the face mounted above my rearview mirror as well, with the control cable routed down the A pillar and under the door sill.

CHiRP works on the FTM-350 very well and I have converted pretty completely over to it for all my radios. It makes copying and pasting memories even between brands very easy, no conversion to CSV or anything. I still use the RT Systems cables, since I had most of them anyway. This set up also lets me use Mac OS X instead of Windoze. RT uses FTDI USB chips and editing the kext file to support all the cables is super simple.

Keith
06-28-2013, 12:19 AM
<edit>
Forgot to add. The RT software is Windows specific so if you're a Mac person, like me, you have to wade into the world of virtual machines to make it work. It's not that difficult, you just need a copy of VMWare Fusion or Parallels. Since my day job has me working in multiple VMs pretty much constantly, I'm more than happy to offer help in getting that set up if anyone needs it.
</edit>

Yes, please. All I have currently is a Bao-Feng UV-5R. I've managed to program in a few simplex frequencies and even got the Colorado Connection to work after lots of trial and error and some help from Marco.

I have the programming cable and supposedly you can get CHIRP to run on the Mac, but I can't get it to work. Perhaps I'll have more success with running it through a windows emulator...

So, what's a good, cheap windows emulator that will work for this?

smslavin
06-28-2013, 12:24 AM
So, what's a good, cheap windows emulator that will work for this?

VMWare Fusion (http://store.vmware.com/store?Action=DisplayPage&Env=BASE&Locale=en_US&SiteID=vmware&id=ProductDetailsPage&productID=165310200) is $50. Parallels (http://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/) is $60. My personal preference is VMWare.

DaveInDenver
06-28-2013, 07:16 AM
I have the programming cable and supposedly you can get CHIRP to run on the Mac, but I can't get it to work. Perhaps I'll have more success with running it through a windows emulator.
There is no need to deal with Windows or emulators here. CHiRP being a Linux application is a PITA to run on Windows, paradoxically, it's actually much easier to run it in OSX. In Windows using RT Systems software is easier to get going.

I assume your Mac is not seeing the USB cables? What brand cables are you using or do you know what USB chip it is using? I have used CHiRP to program a FTM-350, VX-6, VX-7, FT-60, IC-7000, FT-817 and FT-857 so far.

It's not difficult at all. I'm a Linux/UNIX geek so it was almost embarrassingly easy. If you can use a text editor and navigate with the terminal you can do it, too. In fact, you can do it through the GUI if you download native MacVim. Don't be tempted to use TextEdit, it will honk up the files and drop character turds in the file. You have to use a program that won't screw up UNIX-native XML files.

RT Systems cables, which I use pretty much exclusively, use FTDI interfaces. FTDI seems to have written support into the Windows driver but it does not seem they've made it into the Mac one nor does it seem Apple has done it either yet (at least as of 10.8.4).

FWIW, RT Systems use a VID of 0x2100 or 8448 as an integer and the PID varies by cable. As integers (which is what OS X kext need to be) the RT cable CT57B is 40530, CT62B is 40534, CT81B is 40538, CT29B is 40532, RTS01 is 40535 and CT63 is 40536.

At this point the cables should be unplugged.

I started with 2.2.18 of the FTDI VCP.

http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/VCP.htm

Download it and install it like normal. You probably should restart after installing it, although it's not strictly necessary.

At this point you have a choice, open a Terminal or download and install Vim and do it all in the GUI. The steps assume you are doing in the Terminal. You can edit the file in MacVim but you will have to use the Terminal at the end, so might as well do it the right way from the start.

http://code.google.com/p/macvim/

Once that is done, navigate to system extensions. If you are using MacVim, you can do it through the Finder. Otherwise type the following. BTW, in UNIX you can type the first character or two of a directory or file and press 'tab' to complete. That makes navigation MUCH easier, use it!

cd /System/Library/Extensions

It will make life a bit easier if you also:

alias ll='ls -al'

Now do:

ll | grep FTDI

The character between ll and grep is called the pipe, it's the character above the backslash on the far right of your keyboard. The pipe in UNIX allows you to stack commands, ll (actually 'ls') is list and grep is a search function. What this command is doing is listing (with modifiers of 'a' and 'l', which I had you do in the alias) and searching for FTDI. You can always type in OS X "man" (e.g. type "man ls" to get all you'd ever want to know about the listing function) to get information, this brings up the manual page for the function.

You should see:

drwxr-xr-x 3 root wheel 102 May 5 06:36 FTDIUSBSerialDriver.kext

If so, your driver install was successful and you can move on.

cd FTDIUSBSerialDriver.kext/Contents/

ll

You should see:

total 408
drwxr-xr-x 5 root wheel 170 Jun 13 16:24 .
drwxr-xr-x 3 root wheel 102 May 5 06:36 ..
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root wheel 206353 Jun 13 16:24 Info.plist
drwxr-xr-x 3 root wheel 102 Aug 8 2012 MacOS
drwxr-xr-x 3 root wheel 102 Aug 8 2012 Resources

Now type the following. You need to have root privileges to edit and do some thing, which is what "sudo" is for, it's superuserdo. You will have to enter the password of an administrator.

sudo vi Info.plist

This will open Info.plist in Vim, which is a text editor. I added entries for all the cables as well as a bunch of other stuff, like a TIAO protocol adapter for JTAG. As an example the entry for one of my cables looks like this:

<key>CT62B Radio Cable</key>
<dict>
<key>CFBundleIdentifier</key>
<string>com.FTDI.driver.FTDIUSBSerialDriver</string>
<key>IOClass</key>
<string>FTDIUSBSerialDriver</string>
<key>IOProviderClass</key>
<string>IOUSBInterface</string>
<key>bConfigurationValue</key>
<integer>1</integer>
<key>bInterfaceNumber</key>
<integer>0</integer>
<key>idProduct</key>
<integer>40534</integer>
<key>idVendor</key>
<integer>8448</integer>
</dict>

The things to note are the identifier key, idProduct (PID) and idVendor (VID).

If you're never used Vi, you type "i" to insert text (your prompt may change from a block to an underscore, or maybe not) and use spaces and not tabs to line up all the text. After you edit the kext file you need to save and exit from Vim. Type <shift> <:> to enter command mode and then type "wq" to save (e.g. write) the file and quit.

Now you need to load it into the kernel (kext is 'kernel extension').

sudo kextload /System/Library/Extension/FTDIUSBSerialDriver.kext

It will be unremarkable, nothing will happen. But now type:

ll /dev | grep cu

You will see

crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 18, 3 Jun 16 14:27 cu.Bluetooth-Modem
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 18, 1 Jun 16 14:27 cu.Bluetooth-PDA-Sync
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 18, 5 Jun 16 14:27 cu.Nokia2720a-2b-NokiaPCSu

Plug in your cable.

ll /dev | grep cu

You will see:

crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 18, 3 Jun 16 14:27 cu.Bluetooth-Modem
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 18, 1 Jun 16 14:27 cu.Bluetooth-PDA-Sync
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 18, 5 Jun 16 14:27 cu.Nokia2720a-2b-NokiaPCSu
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 18, 9 Jun 28 06:02 cu.usbserial-RTT9DVPN

DONE! That is the device driver for your cable. Now in CHiRP when you go to download or upload from radio you will see it under ports, use it.

DaveInDenver
06-28-2013, 07:32 AM
I can write the kext information into a patch file if it would help, although I only know the VID and PID for RT Systems cables. If you are not using them we'd have to figure out the info, which is not hard.

Plug in your cable (at this point it won't matter if you have a proper driver running).
Go to "About This Mac" in the upper left corner under the Apple menu.
Go to "More Info"
Press "System Report"

This will bring up a window with a whole ton of stuff.

Go to "USB"

You should see under the device tree a listing for your cable. Find it and highlight it. This should give you a bunch of stuff.

33555

This is where you figure out the VID and PID for a device that you then later plug into the driver.

DaveInDenver
06-28-2013, 09:31 AM
FWIW, a patch file to update your FTDI OSX driver to the RT Systems cables I have. This should cover most common cables.

It would be a good idea to back up the original first, though.

cp /System/Library/Extensions/FTDIUSBSerialDriver.kext/Contents/Info.plist ~/Info.plist.ORIG

Context (after installing FTDI driver) is:

patch /System/Library/Extensions/FTDIUSBSerialDriver.kext/Contents/Info.plist rtsys_cables.patch

This might or might not have to be run with sudo.

Reboot after and you should have access to the cables in CHiRP. If you have different cables LMK and maybe we can muddle something together.

Seldom Seen
06-28-2013, 01:09 PM
......I have used CHiRP to program a FTM-350, VX-6, VX-7, FT-60, IC-7000, FT-817 and FT-857 so far......

Dave, have you had any luck using CHiRP to reprogram your 8x7's to the new 60 meter channel?

Keith
07-01-2013, 02:08 PM
Alright, so I did some of those things, and... It works. Just programmed my Baofeng for most of the Colorado Connection repeaters and a few others around the area (in addition to the Rising Sun simplex frequencies and 146.520). I have a new antenna on the way from Amazon and hopefully I'll be in business shortly.

Now, as for the next step: I want to install a Kenwood TM-D710 in my truck... Because go big or go home, right? So, I want to put the Antenna (Larson NMO 2/70) on the driver-side fender. Can anyone recommend a good mount for that? One that is known to work in a Tacoma? I want it to mount to the fender and be able to open and close the hood w/o having to remove the antenna.

nakman
07-01-2013, 02:45 PM
Yup, I've got those. :)

DaveInDenver
07-01-2013, 04:13 PM
Gamiviti is about the best option for Tacoma fender mounts, just requires some slight custom fitting. Head & shoulders better than generic ones. They work best with NMO mounts.

But even though they are designed for Toyota, they will still flex a little and rub the paint on the hood. I put a piece of tape over the edge as a rub strip until I get around to drilling the hole in the roof. The thought of snaking the coax just makes me procrastinate for some reason...

Why have you decided on the TM-D710? Just curious if you're planning on using it for APRS since it's a lot of radio and the price reflects that. I run the FTM-350 in the old truck and have been seriously considering doing the Kenwood in the Taco. But you're talking $550 for the radio + $125 for the GPS-710 just to start (if you can even find the GPS-710, a lot of places are backordered). I really wish Yaesu hadn't discontinued the FTM-350 already. :-(

Keith
07-01-2013, 05:13 PM
I settled on the TM-D710 because I really wanted to be able to to cross-band repeat, would like to be able to do APRS eventually (and easily), and it gets really good reviews on eham.net.

Will go check out the gamiviti mounts...

Keith
07-01-2013, 05:18 PM
Yup, I've got those. :)

I just saw that gamiviti is in Broomfield... So, is that you?

DaveInDenver
07-01-2013, 06:37 PM
I settled on the TM-D710 because I really wanted to be able to to cross-band repeat, would like to be able to do APRS eventually (and easily), and it gets really good reviews on eham.net.
FYI, the cross band repeat function in most radios is not legal to use in the U.S. since it does not self identify. You can use it in half duplex as a range extender on TX but you must not allow the radio to repeat the other way. The Kenwood TM-D710 and TM-V71A both support half duplex cross banding, so good choices from that perspective. The Yaesu radios also do cross band but only full duplex, so you have to mess around with odd offsets to make them half duplex. It's actually not as useful because of the half/full duplex thing. Plus even the Kenwoods don't support remote controlling channels to shut down a stuck repeater. It's very easy to get a radio into an endless loop where it continually keys itself from the repeater tail, which is why most repeater owners explicitly say not to use cross banding with their machines.

nakman
07-01-2013, 07:43 PM
aye, 'tis I.

And I'd parrot most of the cross band repeat comments... it's cumbersome and really not that useful. Plus to be legit I'd need to be there at the radio, in which case I could just flip channels and relay whatever message was so important. Thoughts of hiking with the HT with a repeater in the truck quickly vanished when I realized I could likely just hit the repeater with the HT.

Keith
07-01-2013, 08:54 PM
Hmmm... So if crossband repeat isn't that useful... How useful is APRS? If everyone in the club was using it, it could be really handy... But if not... Then it's really just a novelty, right?

Going to order an antenna mount...

DaveInDenver
07-01-2013, 10:44 PM
I've only used cross band a couple of times but use APRS all the time. But there is a lot of discussion about the utility of APRS. Certainly seems HSMM-Mesh is much more useful anymore. But hard to beat the tactical application of APRS. I know hams use it when supporting events like big cycling tours to keep track of everyone. It frees up the voice channels from constant needing to let net control know where you are, they just see who's where. It's very handy for that.

DaveInDenver
07-11-2013, 08:41 AM
VMWare Fusion (http://store.vmware.com/store?Action=DisplayPage&Env=BASE&Locale=en_US&SiteID=vmware&id=ProductDetailsPage&productID=165310200) is $50. Parallels (http://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/) is $60. My personal preference is VMWare.
Another option to run a virtual machine is Virtual Box. The VM is free under GNU GPL but to run Windows you'd need a copy of it.

https://www.virtualbox.org

Rezarf
07-11-2013, 11:36 PM
This thread derailed on post 13 for the true noobs... just sayin' :hill:

Keith
07-12-2013, 09:56 AM
Well, I'm as noobie as it gets when it comes to HAM... So, let's see if I can get it back on track w/ a (hopefully) simple question... Or at least one where the answer will not involve Unix:

What size wire are you running to the radios in your trucks? I understand it's important to run pos and neg straight from the radio to the battery, but what gauge is sufficient? This question assumes a 50 watt max output power on the radio... So, 50 Watts / 12 volts = 4 amps and change, right? I'd think 12 AWG would be sufficient.

Jacket
07-12-2013, 12:09 PM
That sounds about right for mine - I think I used 10 or 12 AWG.

DaveInDenver
07-12-2013, 12:32 PM
Most 50W FM mobile radios draw around 8A~9A at full transmit power. Yaesu radios (and I think most others) come with a 14AWG sized harness, usually about 9 feet (1.5 meters) long and are usually fused at either 10A or 15A. Going 12AWG would be fine for most any mobile and is a good idea generally and especially if you power run is longer than 9'.

If you're installing something larger, a 75W mobile or 100W mobile you should bump up to 12AWG if you can swing it. The FT-2900 draws about 15A at full power.

HF 100W mobiles like the FT-857 will draw 20A~22A at full 100W transmit in some modes, so use 25A fuses and at least 12AWG and 10AWG is not a bad idea.

DaveInDenver
07-13-2013, 04:06 PM
Dave, have you had any luck using CHiRP to reprogram your 8x7's to the new 60 meter channel?
I'm not totally familiar with the 60m allocation, but CHiRP can access the 60m channels on my radios. There is a small check box called "Special Channels" and clicking it on brings up M-601 through M-605, which are the 60m channels on my FT-817. Can you give me a hint if you mean we have a 6th channel now. I understood the last R&O increased ERP to 100W and added CW and 60Hz wide or less digital modes, it does not seem the frequency centers changed.

Seldom Seen
07-13-2013, 04:30 PM
Memory M-603 needs to change from 5.368MHz to 5.3585MHz

Instructions found here (http://www.danplanet.com/blog/2012/02/08/update-your-ft-817nd-with-the-new-60-meter-channel/)

DaveInDenver
07-13-2013, 05:59 PM
Whoops, so it is. Didn't catch that change in the R&O. Just edited my file and it took fine in the 817 and 857 using regular release v0.3.1.

Seldom Seen
07-13-2013, 06:26 PM
Wanna help a brother out?