Tag Archive: Ham Radio

Svxlink during buildNever one to leave well enough alone, I have undertaken the build of version 3 of the N0NOE-R EchoLink machine.

The goal of this rebuild is two fold:

1.) Convert the machine into a full fledged cross band repeater with EchoLink capability.

2.) Use the new platform for providing wider coverage and additional services to the club and the community in general.

To accomplish this we will replace the computer with a different one that will be running Debian Linux v8, and the SvxLink package.  SvxLink will provide the core controller logic for the cross band repeater and will also implement the EchoLink functionality.  Can you say “So long Windows 7 and the windows based EchoLink software”?

I admit, this is somewhat outside my comfort zone as I have most always been a Windows oriented consultant.  I don’t think my MCSE certification is going to help me much here!  I’ve played with Linux in various flavors before, but never committed anything to it that would become a “production” system.  Hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew! 😀

It will be a bit of a challenge as I prefer to disrupt the existing EchoLink box as little as possible.  The new machine will reuse the existing 2 meter radio, it’s digital interface and the existing power supply.  My intention is to put the new machine in place first with the existing radio being used and get the EchoLink function up and running again asap.  Once that’s sorted out, we’ll begin to add other features like the 440 radio, cross band repeat functions, etc.

As you can see in the picture above, I’ve started to put the necessary pieces in place.  On the new computer, I’ve installed Debian 8, installed all the prerequisites for SvxLink, and downloaded and compiled the current master source distribution of SvxLink.  In addition, I’ve taken a Raspberry Pi and loaded the current Raspbian operating system onto it, and downloaded and built SvxLink on it.  You may ask why I’m doing that.  Well, one of the things I’m looking to test in the near term future is the ability to add inexpensive remote receivers and transceivers to the repeater system linking them to the main machine through the internet.  SvxLink will give us this capability, thus the choice to use it in this iteration.  To make secure connections through the internet, we will use OpenVPN on both the base computer and all the remotes.  To this end, I’ve installed and configured OpenVPN on the main server machine and tested it with a couple of different laptop computers as clients.

We’re only a few steps down the line, but at least the project is moving.  My goal is to have the new machine in place and running the EchoLink within a couple of weeks.  The additional functions and features will be phased in over time as the required resources become available.

For anyone who might be interested in the capabilities of SvxLink, here’s a place to find out more about it:

http://www.svxlink.org/ .

Wish me luck! 🙂


Just a quick shack update picture with the vhf and uhf twins sitting side by side! 🙂

Shack picture as of 1/3/2016

Shack picture as of 1/3/2016

Whew!  I nearly gave up on this project several times.  I can’t believe how long it took before I finally got it working right, but the EchoLink project is on the air and functioning the way it should.  The audio is still a little low.  Maybe we can find a way to boost it a little more.

I always seem to get tripped up by the less than obvious solutions.  For example, the audio delivered back through the Internet to the end user was terribly distorted and I couldn’t figure out why.  The solution?  Turn the volume slider on the microphone input all the way down.  I would have thought that would eliminate the audio altogether, but no!  Instead it took out all the distortion.  Go figure!

Anyway, there’s still more to do.  As you can see, it still needs some tidying up! LOL


MT2000Ok, I admit that I didn’t read up on how to do this before I tried.  I guess it’s that typically male characteristic of “we know how” that got in my way once again!  (Don’t you think that at some point I’d learn?  Go figure!)

A while back I acquired some Motorola MT2000 radios for literally a steal.  I got a programming cable and found the software to program them and dutifully loaded them up with a bunch of ham radio repeaters, simplex frequencies and some public service frequencies to which I like to listen.  Easy peasy!!  I even created a scan list in the unit that included the public service channels so that I could use the radio as a scanner as well as a Ham HT.  (Yep, I even remembered to program one of the buttons on the HT to turn scanning on and off!)

But having done all that, I could NOT for the life of me get this radio to scan.  I think I tried every scan option I could find in the programming software, but alas, no joy!

Today, I decided I was going to fix this problem or else.  After all, scanning the public service channels was one of the key reasons I wanted the radio to start with.  So with noone around that might have ever done this before to ask, I turned to the one source that I was certain wouldn’t let me down:  Google!

I love the way you can just ask Google a question and more often than not, it will find the right answer for you.  Sometimes you have to phrase the question just right to help Google hone in on what it is you want to know, but mostly it just works.  I love things that just work!  In no time flat, I had the answer to my dilemma.

It turns out that just creating the scan list is not enough.  One must go back into the programming of each of the channels (personalities) that you’ve defined and tell the radio which scan list you wish to use if you invoke the scan function while the radio is tuned to that channel.  It’s not hard, it’s just not obvious when you first create the channel itself, hence I never noticed that it hadn’t been set.  In my situation, I only have one scan list, so I just changed each channel to scan list number 1 when the scan function is started.

To give myself a bit of a break here, it seems a little odd if you’ve not worked with commercial or public service radios very much.  But after reading some explanations of why it’s set up that way, it makes perfect sense.  For my use, it’s a simple thing now to scan public service channels while still being tuned to my favorite repeater.  And my cheapo MT2000’s have become much more valuable to me because they scan at a much faster rate than your average Chinese HT (meaning my Baofeng!)

If only I’d looked it up earlier, I’d have been happier earlier!  Gee, it seems like I’ve had people tell me that before.  Maybe old dogs CAN’T learn new tricks after all?  LOL



Two dead hard drives in a row??  Seriously???  Something is really WRONG with this picture!

I’m beginning to think that the Gods of EchoLink don’t want me to complete this system!  I mean, cmon!  I know other people who slap stuff together with little thought and it always just works!  My deliberate approach is suffering though by way of lack of results.

Tomorrow I’m ordering two hard drives from Newegg and if they both fail, I’ll give up and take up gardening! (Yeah, right! Like I could grow anything!! LOL)

Motorola Lust

MaxtracI admit it!  I have a THING for Motorola radios!

I started with one:  A simple VHF Maxtrac that I use as my primary 2 meter radio.  It’s simple to use, works extremely well, and I get great audio reports from other hams when I use it!  Best of all, as a used radio, it was very inexpensive.

But then it started.  I wanted another Maxtrac in UHF.  Then another in VHF to use as an EchoLink node.  Then a slightly newer CDM1550 to use as a mobile radio in the car.  And then a slightly newer Radius in UHF because it has a nice DTMF microphone that I’ll need to control the EchoLink.  Will it never end?

I guess not!  I just acquired 3, that’s right THREE, MT-2000 Handi Talkies!  Why?  Because they were extremely cheap, they are rugged (read that as nearly indestructible!), and you see, I have this… ummm… errr… problem now! SMH

If you see me at a Hamfest casually browsing someone’s Motorola radio collection with that certain gleam in my eye, PLEASE, drag me away and try to talk some sense into me!  Or if you catch me searching Ebay for Motorola radios, please distract me with something shiny.  Clearly, I need help!

Ok, so a while back I decided I wanted to build an EchoLink node.  After discussing my plan with my friend Paul (AA0GB), he got fully behind my building the node and setting it up to work on our favorite repeater.  Paul has been a gem, encouraging me, helping me get the parts I needed, showing incredible patience with me and I admit, I have taken a LONG time to get it to work correctly.

Finally, about a week or so ago, I got it working properly.  I was overjoyed, and even wrote a Facebook post about it, but still didn’t complete the work.  Two days ago, I decided that I would get it finished, and of course, Murphy and his Law decided to squash my project.  The computer that would run the EchoLink died.

After beating my head against the wall for a couple hours in frustration, I finally calmed down and did some troubleshooting.   The hard drive died in the computer and would no longer allow it to boot.  After a little re-engineering with my other computers, I made a hard drive available and proceeded to rebuild the system.  I’m now back at the point I was before but I think I’ve learned a lesson or two here.

First, testing is a good thing.  I could have rushed this system into service only to have it fail shortly after going live.  Second, be cautious when using used critical computer parts.  Having done this sort of stuff for most of my professional career, you’d think I would have known better and paid more attention to these two lessons.  But I guess I was just trying to get it moving along.  Oh well, no lives were lost and with the exception of Paul’s waning confidence in me, I’m no worse for the wear! LOL

We’ll be putting up the EchoLink node hopefully sometime this week for general public use.  If you’d like to use it, look for node N0NOE-R.  It will be tuned to the 146.805 repeater in Sullivan MO.

P.S.  I’ll be putting a list of DTMF commands that you can use when connected to N0NOE-R in a separate page here on this website when the node is actually up and running.  Check back later for that information. 😀