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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner

Charles P. Cohen (VA7CPC) on May 6, 2009
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HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner

Charles P. Cohen VA7CPC

Introduction

I recently bought a Yaesu VX-170 – a "basic" 2m handie-talkie (or handheld transceiver, or just HT). Even though it's “basic”, the instruction manual is 82 pages long, written very densely, and each key has two or three functions (most of which aren't labelled).

I've been watching a VX-170 group on Yahoo!, and noted that many people who had recently passed their Technician exams found that manual to be incomprehensible. It's not that any individual section is difficult to understand. But the manual is “feature-oriented” – it tells you what the rig can do. It's not “user-function oriented” – it doesn't tell the new owner how to use the rig's features to accomplish the basic task that most people want to perform with a VX-170:

How can I program my VX-170 to use my local 2m repeater?”

This article tries to answer that question. Readers who are comfortable with their HT's can stop reading here. This article really is basic, and you already know everything I'm going to write.

But novice readers who own other brands and models of HT's may find the rest of this article useful. I've tried to distinguish the general principles and operations (which every HT uses) from the keystrokes needed to perform them (which are specific to the VX-170).

Like many other things in life, it's only “simple” after you've done it a few times. And it takes longer to describe, than to do.

Repeater Basics in One Paragraph

A repeater receives signals broadcast by a HT on one frequency, and re-transmits them simultaneously on another frequency. The re-transmitted signal is much stronger than the HT signal that was received. The repeater is usually located in the highest spot available, so its “line-of-sight coverage” is much larger than the HT's line-of-sight coverage. The effect is to give the HT much more power, and much more range, than it has on its own.

What You Need to Know about the Repeater

There are three things you need to know about your local repeater:

Its frequency. By convention, the “repeater frequency” is the frequency the repeater transmits on. Therefore, it's the frequency the HT receives on. And the repeater's “receive frequency” is the HT's “transmit frequency”.

Its shift (“split” or “separation” in the ARRL Handbook). The shift is the difference in frequency between the repeater's transmit frequency, and its receive frequency. By convention, the shift is positive (e.g. “+600”) if the repeater's receive frequency is higher than its transmit frequency. [And thinking backwards, the shift is positive if the HT's transmit frequency is higher than its receive frequency.]

Its tone, if it needs one. Some repeaters are “open” – they re-transmit every signal they receive. Other repeaters are “tone activated” – they only re-transmit signals which have a sub-audible “tone” added to them by the HT. “Sub-audible” means that it's outside the HT's voice passband – the tones are between 67 and 254 Hz. You can get the tone frequency from the repeater's owner, or one of its users. There are other ways of activating repeaters, but “tone” is the most common. It's formally called CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System).

I'll use a real Vancouver repeater as an example. Its description is:

VE7RBY . . . . 145.350. . .(-600). . . . 127.3t

That means it transmits on 145.350 MHz (therefore, your HT must receive on 145.350 MHz. And it receives 600 kHz down, on 144.750 MHz (therefore, your HT must transmit on 145.750 MHz).

The HT must transmit a tone of 127.3 Hz – otherwise, the repeater won't turn on.

Most 2m repeaters in the US follow a bandplan. The standard shift is 600 kHz, and it's +600 or -600 depending on which sub-band the repeater frequency falls into. The VX-170 (and most other HT's) “know” the standard bandplan, and have a “default shift” setting that gives a correct shift, if the repeater follows the bandplan.

What You Need to Know About Your HT

You don't need a full understanding of the manual to program the HT for your local repeater. But you need to know how to do these things:

1. Put the HT into “VFO Mode”. In that mode, the HT can be tuned to any frequency, and isn't limited to programmed memory channels.

2. Set the HT receive frequency (in VFO mode).

3. Set the repeater shift (frequency in kHz, and direction (+/-)).

4. Set the tone, if needed.

5. Store “VFO Mode” settings in a HT memory slot.

6. Assign a name (like “VE7RBY”) to the memory slot.

It doesn't matter what brand or model of HT you have – the requirements are the same.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Now we're ready for the details The “conceptual” steps are in black, and should work for most HT's. The VX-170-specific keystroke instructions are in blue.

Put the HT into VFO mode.

Press the “VFO” key.

Tune the HT to the repeater's transmit (listed) frequency. For the VX-170, since there's a numeric keypad, we'll use it. Without the keypad, we'd use the DIAL knob or UP/DOWN buttons to tune the radio.

Enter the frequency using the keypad, without the leading “1”. So “145.350” should be keyboarded as 4 5 3 5 0 .

Set the repeater shift, if necessary. For our sample repeater, the shift magnitude is the standard 600 kHz, and the direction matches the bandplan. So no action is needed on the VX-170. For “non-standard” repeaters, you will have to set the shift and direction using the menus.

Press “F”, then “4/RPT” to access the repeater shift direction menu item. Set it to match the repeater. Press “PTT” to save the setting.

Press “F”, then “0/SET” to access the menu. Rotate the DIAL knob to get menu item “SHIFT”. Press “F” momentarily. Rotate the DIAL knob to select the new repeater shit magnitude. Press “PTT” to save the setting.

Set the tone.

Press “F”, then “1/SQ TYP” to select the Squelch Type menu item. Use the DIAL knob to select TONE (or another squelch mode, if the repeater doesn't use CTCSS tones). Press “PTT” to save the value.

Press “F”, then “2/CODE” to select the Tone Frequency list. Use the DIAL knob to select the correct frequency. Press “PTT” to save the value.

If you have an antenna connected, and you're in range of the repeater, you can test your work.

Press the “PTT” switch. The repeater should hear you, and turn on for a few seconds. And you should hear it – the green light on the VX-170 (or whatever light shows that your HT is receiving a signal) should turn on for a few seconds.

You might even want to say:

This is XX9XXX, monitoring”

(which is the VHF equivalent of “CQ”), and see if anyone answers.

When you press the “PTT” switch, you should see the frequency display change to the HT's transmit frequency (the repeater's receive frequency).

Now that the HT is set up to talk to the repeater, you should save the setup in one of the HT's memories for easy recall. The memories slots are numbered.

Press and hold “F” for one second. If you don't accept the default memory slot, use the DIAL knob to select a different slot (you have ten seconds). Press “F” again to store the settings into memory.

For your sanity, you should assign a name (or “tag”) to the numbered memory slot. Use a meaningful name like “VE7RBY” or “MT MCK” (for Mount McKinley). The keystrokes to do that vary widely among HT's.

Put the VX-170 into Memory Mode by pressing the “MR” key. Rotate the DIAL knob to select the memory location you just stored into.

Enter a label for the memory – the instructions are on pg 31 of the VX-170 manual.

Press the “PTT” switch to save the label.

If you want to program the HT for another repeater, you must start at the beginning, and go back into VFO Mode.

You should be on the air now. Welcome to ham radio.


Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KB2DHG on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Don't worry newbies...
As a seasoned Extra class HAM I too have trouble figuring out these new fangled rigs and HT's...
Way too much in small packages...
And wait untill your eye sight starts to dwindle away!
Well, thank you for this informative article and hopefully it has helped many who otherwise would have tossed that HT into the river!
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by K4MC on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I have been running Icom and Kenwood VHF & UHF rigs for some time and have them down. Along came my gokit radio, the Yeasu 8800, with a whole different set of operating procedures. After working with it for a few days, it went back into the box and there ist sits! It was going to be for my "Go kit" but I don't want to have to learn on the fly in a shelter.

I'm going to stick with Icom and Kenwood both of which I can wade throgh the menus effectively.

Wendell
K4MC
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by K4IQT on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the article - I'm sure it will be helpful.

I've had a VX-2R for a few years now along with a more recent VX-150, and still have to get out the quick-reference card whenever I need to make setup changes. The VX-150 has a free downloadable application on the Yaesu website for memory management, and the older VX-2R uses a similar purchased application. I've not checked, but would not be surprised if the VX-170 also has a freebie configurator on the Yaesu website as well.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by K0BG on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Some might wonder how some one like http://www.niftyaccessories.com/ can make a decent living selling reorganized and well-written manuals. This article is prima facie evidence.

No! I don't own the outfit, but I wish I did!

Alan, KØBG
www.k0bg.com
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by W5JAO on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I recommend that anyone with a programmable HT go to this site & purchase the programming software ffor their radio for $15.00 us. works easy & easy like a spreadsheet
http://www.g4hfq.co.uk/order.html
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KB2WQT on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Good article and very true. I use an IC-T90A. Not the most difficult of all the radios to program but the instruction manual is 100 pages. When I purchased it I went for the computer programming software. Had the whole radio loaded and talking in about 30 minutes. I'm thinking of doing the same with my FT-817.

73

Mike
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KJ4AUR on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Owners of a VX-170, like myself, will experience low mic gain and modulation due to the waterproof membrane over the microphone which attenuates your voice. Often times it's necessary to "eat the mic" to get decent audio gain.

While some suggest disassembly and removing the membrane (which compromises the water resistance) there is another way to resolve this by adjusting the TX deviation in the Service Menu.

I have personally done this and the difference is huge. I am able to speak comfortably at a distance of 5 to 6 inches, whereas before, I had to speak loudly and "eat the mic".

I have confirmed I do not splatter wider than ~15 KHz, it's my understanding that the TX deviation is set to ~2.4 KHz and this adjustment sets it more closely to at/below ~5 KHz.

To do this:

Press and hold the PTT and MONI switches on the side of the VX-170 while turning the radio on. Once on, release PTT and MONI.
Press the [UP (MHz)], then [0 (SET)], then [2 (CODE)], then [2 (CODE)], then [MR (SKIP)].

If successful, the LCD will say SETRST. If not, turn the HT off and try again.

Tune to 146.050 MHz and set the TX power to LOW.

Hit the [F] key, then keep hitting the [MR] key until A03 appears in the top left of the LCD, it's in a small font, not the main display font. Turn the outer dial until the reading is set to DEV.3FH, the first means Deviation, the second is a HEX number that will change when you rotate the knob. Once set to DEV.3FH hit the PTT then the [F] key to save it. Turn off the radio and you're done.
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by NA4IT on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I think what the author has presented is good. New amateurs (and some old ones) have to learn the correct terminology, and then learn what terminology a radio manufacturer is using, and match them up.

That said, I have found Yaesu radios easier to learn how to operate, because of their menu labels on screen. I have run Icom, Alinco, Azden, ADI, and Yaesu, and found that within minutes, I could get the hang of the Yaesu, while all the others required reference to the manual.

I run a Yaesu FT857D mobile, and don't even have the manual in the truck! I also run a FT-450 (non AT) and a FT-8800R in the home shack, and rarely pick up the manual for those. I also run MARS and multiple forms of digital with all three radios. (Involves more settings...!)

de NA4IT
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by W7WAF on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
A quick comment on the “low mic gain”. Both of my VX170 radios came from the factory set to +-2.5 khz deviation. This can be reset to +-5 khz, look at mode set item 51 and make your selection.
73
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by AI8O on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I have found that the author hits upon several problems that keep occuring in manuals and software.

>>>>>>>>noted that many people who had recently passed their Technician exams found that manual to be incomprehensible.<<<<<<
Not just newbie techs have this problem! I am an Extra eligible for membership in the QCWA.
I have been programming police and Amateur HT's since the concept first appeared, and I still run into this problem.


>>>>>each key has two or three functions (most of which aren't labelled)<<<<<
At times there are functions that aren't documented at all, which you "know" from past experience with other HTs should be there.
You have to discover how to enable them by trial and error.
Sometimes you get lucky after fiddling with a radio for a while, and you get an understanding of the "TAO" of the radio. That is you get an intuitive understanding of the undocumented functions of the various keys because the designer tended to arrange the functions in predictable patterns.

>>>>>>>found that manual to be incomprehensible. It's not that any individual section is difficult to understand.<<<<<<<<
NO, I often find the manuals and software are written by persons whose English language grammar and composition skills are very poor; consequently written manuals and software error messages are incomprehensible.


>>>>>>>But the manual is “feature-oriented” – it tells you what the rig can do.<<<<<<
True, but many times to activate one feature some other function must be activated or in a certain configuration. Many times the manual writer doesn't tell you this,but has a cryptic reference to another section of the manual, and just assumes that you know this.

Still scratching my head,
Dan Yemiola
AI8O
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KE5WDI on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I found this article very helpful. I have the VX-7R and FT897 and am still learning both. I keep the manual handy in the shack and when an article like this or on the FT897 Yahoo group talking about a certain menu button, I break out the manual and the light bulb comes on.

Thanks for the article,

Danny
KE5WDI
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by N0AH on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Mix a a bunch of local repeaters with a variety of tones needed to crack into them and then come up with some of the most confusing menues anyone can think of, and you end up with dead repeaters throughout the country-
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by RHETTDUKE on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
GREAT Article.......the Vx-170 was my first rig as a new Ham 2 something years ago.......I wish I had this article then.

I own 4 different HT's and have "cheat sheets"and software for all of them but on occasion I will take 15-20 minutes and manually program a frequency or two.....just so the process will stay in my memory......no telling when you might need to program a radio and not have access to the nifty guides or software.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by N6AJR on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I have 10 or 12 different HT's all different, and I can never remember how to program them all. each has a different way to do it. Just keep the manual handy, they all need the same things, go to vfo, enter freq, select offset, select type of squelch, select ctcss tone, select a memory channel, save to memory, and the go to memory mode to use.


good luck, have fun, I usually use a HT about 2 times a year.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by K5END on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with the author.

Might I add that manuals DO contain mistakes.

This is a common problem.

For example, my Yaesu FT450AT does not match the manual that came with it.

 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by K8QV on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Everyone is a n00b with a new piece of modern equipment. Too many functions in too small a package.

Regarding HTs in particular, it seems each brand has its own quirks. Some find one brand easier to understand than others. I have used Icom, Yaesu and Kenwood models, and I can quickly figure out how to do anything on a Yaesu - most people can't. But give me an Icom, and I'm lost, even when referencing the manual. Icom and I just don't think alike. Kenwood seems a little easier to figure out than the Icom, but a bit harder than the Yaesu.

Good luck with your new toy!
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by WE4VB on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. One typo though...

That means it transmits on 145.350 MHz (therefore, your HT must receive on 145.350 MHz. And it receives 600 kHz down, on 144.750 MHz (therefore, your HT must transmit on 145.750 MHz). Should be 144.750 inside the parens as well.

73

Rick
WE4VB
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by OLDFART13 on May 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I have a VX7R. It's a great radio with lots of features that I will never use. I couldn't manually enter repeater freq, offset, tone to save my life. I program it with the software & cable from my laptop and that's all that ever goes in there.

The same with the FT857, I take my laptop out to the truck to program in and that's that.

Great article though.

Steve.
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KG8JF on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I have a brand new FT-60r and you can't even rely on the tech support people. I have a tone that beeps about 3 seconds after i key the mic. I want to make it go away. The instrucrion given me by Yaesu tech support is wrong. I thank the Lord for the reset function. When I goof it up the reset allows me to get back to a starting point. One of the big problems that most newbies don't fathom is that they have to be in the vfo mode and not the memory mode when making most of the changes.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KG8JF on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I must rephrase that statement about Yaesu Tech support. I cannot get the wanted outcome when I follow their directions.
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KJ4HYG on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the interesting article.

Now I need one just like it for the VX-7R. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to delete memories!
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by W6SZG on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I think there is a "typo" on the article that can cause confusion. In using the VE7 repeater as an example the article says HT must transmit on 145.750 right after saying the repeater receives -600 on 144.750
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KA1OS on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
"I have a tone that beeps about 3 seconds after i key the mic. "

Most likely you hit the Internet or WIRES button by accident (the '0' button). This happens to everyone with most of the modern V/UHF Yaesu HTs and mobiles. Tap the '0' button again and watch the WIRES icon disappear from the display. See page 49 of the manual. The book says 'press the key MOMENTARILY' (Crucial emphasis mine).
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by W1RKW on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Upgrade and chuck the HT. Get on HF. That's were there ham fun is. Do AM and enhance the ham experience more. Let the flames begin....
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by W1RKW on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Upgrade and chuck the HT. Get on HF. That's were there ham fun is. Do AM and enhance the ham experience more. Let the flames begin....
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by K0RGR on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the nice article -

I hate to admit that I don't program my rigs often enough to know how to do it in most cases. I am careful to include all the frequencies I can imagine needing in an emergency, but it would be nice to have 'quick guides' for all of them.

I spent Saturday setting up my son's new FT-7800. I am sure I've already forgotten how to program in the memories.

Usually, it's fairly easy to figure out how to get it into VFO mode, and most rigs these days do automatic repeater shift, at least on VHF. But setting PL tones can be challenging. Once you know that pressing and holding the TONE button DOES NOT let you set the TONE frequency (why, Yaesu, why?)and find the one that does, it's not too bad.

Frankly, I think our rigs are lacking in the ease of use area. The functions we need are all there, but without the book , they might as well not be.

I think I will make up some cards with the basic instructions, get them laminated, and tape them on the rigs, so that in a disaster, I can always set the frequency, offset, and tone.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KC0TJO on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I also own an FT-60R. I also have and FT-8800 in the car. I find the Nifty guides very helpful. I keep the one for the handheld in my wallet and the one for the mobile in the map pocket in the door of the car. The only Yaesu manual I like is the one for the FT-897D. It is worth getting the programming software for any Yaesu. I have found that whenever I try to delete a memory entry without the software I just end up creating a duplicate entry.


73 and good luck

KC0TJO
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KM3K on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
the code by g4hfq is the way to go.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by EX_AA5JG on May 7, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I don't know if I am smarter than the average bear or what, but I have owned most of the major HTs on the market and most menu driven rigs, and I never had trouble programming any of them. What are the rest of you doing that seems to lead to the problems in programming? I set up the menus for how I want the rig (or HT) to operate, program a few local repeaters into memory, and I am done.

Now the VX7R does have some really stupid features, like the icon editor, but I never use them so it isn't a problem. Programming an HT isn't rocket science.

73s John AA5JG
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by K5END on May 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
quote,

"Programming an HT isn't rocket science."

You are correct.

But sometimes it does take patience and a small investment of time to RTFM.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KM3K on May 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, the above postings are very right but the fact still remains that the g4hfq code is so much easier than punching those little tiny buttons. Plus you get the visual feedback of what you have done.
73
Jerry, KM3K
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by VE9AAE on May 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
What can I say.......; IC-2at.

Memories? Little map-tacked paper taped to the back. Low tech? For sure, and although it definitely won't meet everyone's needs it has all I really require.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by AC7CW on May 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I hate all the programmable / menu / multi function stuff, simply hate it. It's not that I'm not technically oriented, I worked in engineering for decades, write a lot of software even to this day... it's that I'm an American.. I like simple workable stuff. I test drove a PT Cruiser and within a minute I liked it... just the instrumentation needed and nice big pleasant looking and easy to read... it was designed for Americans, that is it's actual history, the Mercedes management got a guy to design something that Americans would love, and it worked... All this stuff we are exposed to is designed for Japanese people. They live in tiny little spaces and love stuff that is compact. The introduction of the flat screen TV was a huge advancement for them regarding space where they live...

I like the IC2-AT idea as stated above. The thing does what you want when you want it... I had an FT-8500 for a mobile rig, what a frigging nightmare. I would be driving, touch the wrong button on the microphone and the radio could not be used until I stopped the car and dug out the manual...

I'm going to be very careful in the future to never, ever, buy something that I basically will hate.. it's just a hobby, if I have some simple workable stuff to use it shouldn't bother anybody.....
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by 5R8GQ on May 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
W1RKW Wrote:
"Upgrade and chuck the HT. Get on HF. That's were there ham fun is."

>>> AMEN! HF is where the real fun is.

HT's have their uses, but so many new hams get their ticket, buy one, make a few QSO's with a guy across town through a repeater....and the radio ends up in a drawer.

 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KB3OGQ on May 12, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the article. I wish I had someone walking me through this when I was starting out.

Everytime I work an public service event, I break out my manual to review working with memories.
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by N4CDB on May 21, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
W5JAO wrote: I recommend that anyone with a programmable HT go to this site & purchase the programming software ffor their radio for $15.00 us. works easy & easy like a spreadsheet
***************************************************************************

Programming software is definitely a great benefit. However, I think it's very important for people to familiarize themselves with their manuals. Invariably you'll need to do something on your radio and won't have access to your software.

At one of our recent ARES meetings this year I did a presentation on this topic. We had hands-on exercises to get people digging into their manuals to change tones, manually set offsets, setup simplex freqs, etc. It sure helps to get some old hands to help out the newer folks.
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KJ4LNL on May 29, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Very informative article.

A lot of these manufacturers should hire their kids to write the operating manuals for their radios.

Too many companies get too caught up with impressive features, and in the process, they lose the essence of their product which is to be able to operate it without much hassle.

" I need the manual for my manual so I can operate my radio."
 
HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KJ4LNL on May 29, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
YAESU Mantra:

You
Avoid
Easy
Set
Up
 
RE: HT Programming for the Absolute Beginner  
by KJ4KKI on August 19, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
A bit late of a reply, but I agree the software is worth getting. It's super quick and easy to use. Plus, if I have trouble getting the radio to work a channel right or screw something up, all I have to do is to reload the frequencies via the ADMS software. I almost did not get it. I'm glad I did.

FYI, I've talked to the Yaesu tech support people twice and they were as nice as good be. One guy also said that it is o.k. to use the rechargeable Lithium batteries...that the statement in the manual was just for liability purposes. He also said it's fine to use aftermarket batteries if they are good quality...as opposed to their $65 ones.
 
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