Asterisk Analog <-> digital bridge

Well, I’ve seen some new developments presented over the past number of months with respect to Asterisk and ham radio.  There’s a core bunch of guys who have worked on Asterisk and the app_rpt interface over quite a few years and it’s proven its reliability quite well.  With all of the new digital hotspots coming on-line it was only a matter of time where things became easier to interface from a purely software standpoint.

What does this mean?  Well .. I can take a basic asterisk installation (custom for ham radio purposes) and configure it to bridge, via software alone, to the ham radio digital modes.

My first foray into this is a well-published article from the dvswitch.org folks.  They have a good group discussion going on at: https://dvswitch.groups.io/g/main … I’ve used it recently to ask for help on the basic configuration to get it going.

So, what does this mean?  Well, I have a raspberry pi at home with an analog interface to a 2m radio on 146.475 simplex.  I use it to talk to other asterisk boxes and echo link nodes.  Works well.    With this new option, and using our VA4WAN hosting provider pegboardhosting.ca, I setup a new asterisk instance and configured it to bridge between an analog audio to a DMR format.  Connecting this to the brandmeister system, allows me to talk to other DMR folks in the world with my little local RF node.

With the software configurations, I can deploy a bridge between not just DMR, but also YSF, P25 and others — except not DSTAR.  Unfortunately, the DSTAR bridge requires a hardware solution to augment the software as there’s some proprietary stuffs in there.

So, it will be fun to see how much we can get going locally to offer bridges to the existing analog infrastructure and allow that older technology to interface with the newer technologies.  With our new RF sites coming on-line, we may well see this in the not-to-distant-future.

I’ll leave the bridge up as we test out some more functionality.  If you’re on the DMR English Canada talk group, see if we’re on.

73, Dan ve4drk

Establishing a new (to us) site …

On a cool summer Saturday morning (yes, the leaves are turning and it’s getting chilly out in the morning now) – our intrepid VA4WAN install team heads out to do yet another install.  Instead of just being a VA4WAN installation, we’ve reached out to other groups and are installing two large pole mounts to support a minimum of 2 other RF units  beyond our usual high speed networking system.  At the site will be a VHF unit (the return of VE4WRS from MRS!) and a UHF system (a new home for the local DMR system!)

You may not be familiar with this site.  It has been used by Prairie Mobile in the past as well as some other hams who have had gear up there.  A number of years ago, the site was dismantled and roofing repairs had occurred – then with no return of RF back to the roof.  With our agreements in place, 601 Osborne (re: Fred Tipping Place) will be a new RF environment for our ham group services.   The location is great in the south part of Osborne Village.  As I look across the horizon, there is little, if any, other high buildings around that would contain significant amounts of RF being emitted, so the receive at this site should be phenomenal – being 18 stories high – albeit there may be some shadow to the north from the city centre:

looking north’ish from behind

To mount these poles, we had some experts.  Our two certified climbers, Colin VE4CST, Derek VA4AFK and site expert Rob VE4CA along with jack-of-all-trades Jim VE4SIG who is prepared for almost anything and William VE4VR and myself.  (I’m mostly along to help with the grunt work while the pro’s do their job installing):

workin’ away …

It was great that we had some spare time to chat about various groups and activities and things we can do to help ham radio and keep it moving ahead.  My XYL (Michele) also provided us a lunch bucket of sandwiches, muffins, veggies and water!

Jim and I made a run out to pick up some odd parts that we needed (once we knew for sure what parts we had to use after final cuts/measurements/etc).  Traffic on a Saturday was nuts with all the construction – what should have been a 20 minute run took almost an hour! Oh well – we arrived back just in time for the crew to make use of the parts.

Colin and Derek doing their thing …

These are very thick and heavy mount poles (thanks Rob!) and took us all to hold it in place while they were being mounted.

Gettin’ ‘er done!

While we were only able to have enough time to mount the one pole, we’re all set to go back and get the other one setup on the north side fairly quickly.

With the new site and moving services to it, it will be a great opportunity to also explore new technologies and services to offer the ham community.

73, Dan ve4drk

Some further ham updates

Well, it’s been a “while” again – so I know I’m going to miss reporting on some interesting items – but will get to some I recall off the top of my head – at least I’m remembering something.
There was an interesting snail-mail package I received from BC. Seems that when I worked the BC QP a few months back I had not sent my logs, but did receive an email for me requesting I do so – I found it rather interesting at the time that they had not received one single log file from this province before (ever!), so I decided to send it in, with my low number of contacts.
Earlier a week or so ago, I received the following:

BCQP Cert

Which was completely unexpected!  (Note the low score – I made contacts with only 10 BC stations) … so .. next year .. hop on the bandwagon and listen in for these folks out west – they have a great website:  http://www.orcadxcc.org/   In case you did not remember, I do use VE4EV for my contesting callsign.

I also hosted a local meeting of Radiosport Manitoba – and my XYL made up some nice baggage-tags for our last meeting of the season:

Baggage-tag

Nice … oh yeah, there is a reverse side too with name/address 😉

Another interesting thing that’s happened locally — I’ve previously mentioned I run an Allstarlink.org RF site on 146.475 simplex (127.3 Hz tone).  It’s node is 45427 and is linked to our hub allstarlink.org site (47012) in our local datacenter.  It also supports echolink and is listed in the echolink directory  (node id is 817350) The RF site is on my own house in south St. Vital, but can be heard throughout the city pretty good.  (With continued expansion, we’ll have one at a better RF site soon).

On one of the ham-lists I subscribe to, the creator of the echolink program proxy/relay (PE1CHL – a callsign I recall from the 90’s NOS days running his software version of KA9Q NOS!) he was indicating they were looking for more NA-based echolink relays and proxies to service the local ham community.  (Local meaning NA-based)  A couple of hams in the US fessed up 24×7 resources to support this – including us local WPG ham guys.  Working with my son, Robert VE4RLK, who founded and runs a local internet hosting service here in Winnipeg for the past few years (pegboardhosting.ca), and utilizing his services he’s offered to our VA4WAN group for hosting ham services/sites, we setup an instance to support the echolink usage.

Immediately upon activating the proxies, it started seeing usage.  Once the admins verified the reliability, it was also added to the relay listings.  That really started bringing in echolink traffic.  After a couple of weeks, it is bringing in 30GB+ of network traffic.  It’s actually handling traffic from all over the world! (One of the nice features of pegboardhosting.ca is that there are no data caps or limits!)

One of the more recent interesting items with allstarlink.org is the added functionality of providing transport/gateway services for analogue/DMR/DSTAR/P25 systems!  With some added software (and with an added hardware piece for DSTAR), we can bridge the various modulations and inter-tie these systems together – now that sounds awesome – time to experiment again.  Certainly, the technology is new(ish) and can have growth pains, but hey, that’s what this hobby is all about – experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t – cool.

Speaking of brandmeister – I was on my DMR radio with my zumspot hotspot in DMR mode connected to brandmeister network and was talking to a ham near Ottawa on a local Yeasu Fusion repeater – now that was cool and seamless!

I’m running quite a few ham-systems on my local 2.3GHz VA4WAN connection – I really need to move to 5GHz and utilize the higher bandwidth – -latency is getting to be so-so – not bad, but it could be better!

Anyways, time to move on and get back on some more projects I’m interested in.  (SDR’s come to mind!)

73, Dan ve4drk

and a week later …

more good ham stuffs arrived lately – seems I’m getting a few things looked after and getting more in the mix.  Earlier this week – while I was away for a bit – a package arrived at the door and in it was a nice new 5v 6 line usb charger – each with 2.4amp!  woo hoo – that will take care of my continuing saga of power adapters/splitters for all these raspberry pi and other types of wall-wart units.  I might be able to plug in some other stuff!

saving plugs

this guy can power 6 raspberry pi’s and ancillary devices.

I’ve been following some of the digital interfacing modes recently – those that work with pi’s and the like.  I do have a mini-dv unit – which has sketchy programming interfacing at times – but I’ve seen some other types being produced within Canada.  Bruce VE2GZI has been producing a digital interface board and now a hotspot unit with a 10mw transceiver on it that fits onto a pi gpio interface.  So, I decided to pick one of these units up and check it out.  Seems I’m not the only one interested in it – he’s been hit with a deluge of orders and has to rework the process to ensure smooth operations.  But, I was earlier on in the order process so I was lucky to get one of the units sooner than not.  Arriving in the mailbox one day was the following:

package contents

a kit with a raspberry pi zero w (wireless) and a pre-populated sd-card with the pi-star software on it and the digital iterface rf unit with antenna.  This unit is a 70cm unit with 10mW output – so, nice to use around a local setting.  I will have to solder the gpio interface connector to the board – but wanted to at least get the unit up and running and check out the features – so I turn to a spare raspberry pi 3 and hook it all up.  Getting it onto my 44.135 local network on 2.3GHz and it’s all working fine.  I configure my settings, location, call, dmr id etc etc and hook it up to the local dstar repeater in town to check it out.  Lo-and-behold – audio coming through – so that’s cool.  Now I have to program my DMR radio as well .. as this thing supports not only DSTAR, but also DMR, Yaesu system fusion as well as P25!  So, more programming and setup to do, but it’s a functional system and will certainly open things up by being able to connect directly to a system/repeater.

Those that have an interest in running a pi zero wireless as a remote operation node and/or mobile on cell data, can certainly do it as it’s very very low power consumption – you can even run it off a battery for a long time!

More to come on that – once I get more tested and checked out.

In the meantime  – if you’re interested in these units -check out Bruce’s website at :  MMDVM Website and the Zumspot link itself is here:  ZumSpot

zumspot info

For those interested in taking existing analogue radios and making them perform digital miracles – check out their MMDVM board that attaches to a pi and provides this really really innovative function: MMDVM

What really makes all this “tick” is the great software produced to support all these new digital modes.  The ‘pi-star’ software is very very cool and is the software that allows you to control the units and interface boards.

wow – what a dashboard!

Now, this stuff is cool.  Not only do you get an easy-to-use dashboard, but you can also log into the pi and reconfigure what you want and automate what you want – that’s the great part about these units is that it’s so configurable it makes your life more fun for being able to image all kinds of cool interfacing.

Ah well – get your unit(s) while you can – with all the hype these days, there’s bound to be more and more and more interesting developments with computers and RF.

a shot of what i was playing with off and on over the day:

playing around

73, Dan ve4drk

 

DMR – take ‘n’ …

Seems Canada Post gave me a little present just in time for Christmas, on Christmas eve  — at the door later in the afternoon, I hear a ring, and outside was a package waiting for my signature.  It took a few weeks to get it (about 5 or 6 I think), but it was opportune.  New in my hands was the programming cable for my radio that I’ve had for a while not programmed …

xpr6550 Cable & Radio
xpr6550 Cable & Radio

While I’ve had this radio for a while, it was not very usable.  I did manage to get a charger for it (thanks Shaun) and verify it worked fine — I could not transmit on it was it was not programmed.  So, now that I have said programming cable, I took a stock code plug from the va3xpr site (thanks guys!) and used that as a template to set things up.

This radio has quite the heft to it – it’s solid that’s for sure.  Since I do have the remote speaker mic for it — and since I do not yet have a mobile digital radio (neither d-star nor dmr), I will use this one in the car for a bit with the external antenna and remote mic to see how it goes.

On another front, a local ham (William) is also new to digital radio – the dstar type and has a line on getting mobile power cables for the dstar radios we both have – so will be good to have an option on that as well.

So, all is good in radio land – now with UHF DMR radio #3 to try out 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk

DMR – take 3 (or some number greater than 1)

The opportunity to upgrade my current CS700 UHF DMR radio presented itself this past week  so, just had to … you know .. upgrade the radio.  So, now I have my CS700 to offer up to sale – hope to have another come in and try the mode out locally.

new(er) DMR radio
new(er) DMR radio

The radio has a few options that my 700 does not, so it should be more useful.  One thing I noticed, is that these CS700/CS750 radios do have quite a sensitive receive on them and work well compared to my other DMR radio.

73, Dan ve4drk

DMR – take 2

I’m getting more interested in learning this newer digital mode, so what best way than to dive in and get (another) DMR radio. 🙂  This one was being offered at a discount (from it’s already inexpensive pricing) from the folks at CS.  Now I realize it has mixed reviews, but it’s a great tool to try out different modes/operations.  Now I have two working units .. and another unit looking for a charger to figure it out more.

The unit I got was a Tytera MD380 UHF DMR radio …

MD380 basic entry level DMR radio
MD380 basic entry level DMR radio

It has all the basic offerings and some extra little quirks.  Funny thing about this unit is that it uses the same programming software as the CS700 model.  I still had to plug in (ie: lots of typing!) all the frequencies/groups/etc and make sure it works.  It came with two antennas . .a stubby and a non-stubby I’ll say – as it’s not the best antenna that’s for sure.  I have a dual-band antenna on the car which I’ll have to use this on for a bit a see how well it performs with 5 watts.

There’s some recent changes to the local DMR systems, so will try and navigate what is happening in that area to see how much coverage there is.  Interesting though, there are more guys getting involved in trying out DMR, so that’s good for the systems usage etc … lots to learn.  I really want to get more into the controller-side of things and understand the underpinnings, so, even more to read.

Timing is interesting on another front – the most current TCA from RAC just arrived yesterday and in it is an article by our local directory Derek, VE4HAY, describing the various digital modes that are out there, so I’m sure that will also generate more local activity.

I still have to meet up with more of the local DMR group and understand more of what’s going on… more to come there too.

73, Dan ve4drk

Another new digital mode .. well .. at least for me :-)

I’ve dabbled with the D-Star systems – both from an end-user and system administrator perspective and have learned lots about the system.  Mind you, there’s lots more to learn and figure out – but I know the basics – although I haven’t used all of them yet.  I like to try out the various modes to see how they work and how they would inter-operate with the ‘external’ world.

I’ve been following some interesting developments over the past year and such from the folks at Connect Systems .  Seems they (Jerry) is working on a new radio that does multiple digital systems at the same time.  Now that would be cool to have in one hand-held.  With the plethora of multiple digital radio systems coming on-line, how is one to keep up with so many different implementations!  Until this new radio comes out (which is supposed to support DSTAR, DMR, and further on would support Fusion and some others) I decided to learn more about another mode.  What best way to learn than to get yet another radio.  (I can hear the QRM already) 😉

So, a local ham was peddling his CS700 – a prior-generation from the folks at CS – but one that will at least let me experience the workings of this DMR mode and allow me the time to get to know it better to understand more of it’s workings.

New (to me) digital mobile radio
New (to me) digital mobile radio

Now, me with my interest in networking/etc – what better way to get digital communications than with another digital radio 🙂 … So — I have to now pick up and learn the inner workings of the control systems it talks to, the networking (or stand-alone) operations it performs etc etc … I know the basics, but there is always something to learn.

What would really be nice is to have a radio (ham hand-held or mobile) that has a built-in FPGA to allow us to program the device for whatever  mode we are interested in.  I’m sure it will come one day … would be nice to buy one radio instead of 3 or 4 or n …

So, from the DMR standpoint, from what I can tell there is more new activity in the realm of DMR in the city — will be good to get further involved and meet some of the players in that mode …

73, Dan ve4drk