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Author Topic: Need advice for portable ham radio  (Read 21379 times)

Posts: 0

« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2014, 11:05:08 AM »

Has anybody bothered to ask you what bands are you planning to use? If you aren't sure then what bands are there repeaters in your area? It won't do you a bit of good if you get a tri band rig with 6 meters and 220 if there is no activity in your area. I would start there first, then choose the radio that has the bells and whistles that you want. All of the choices out there are decent radios but an Alinco DJG-29 even though its a great radio with tons of bells and whistles will be nothing more than a door stop if there isn't any 220 or 900MHz activity in your area. See my point?

Jaime-KA3NXN 30+ years of hamming and still going strong!

Posts: 9

« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2014, 11:47:55 AM »

Hi Jaime,

Yup - Mark in an earlier reply suggested I check the repeaterbook site, and here are all the repeaters in my area:

There's no 220 but I do see two 927's.

As for what bands I plan to use, I honestly have no clue yet.  I'm just starting to study for licensing but the opportunity came up to get a ham radio as a birthday present so I want to take that opportunity now Smiley

I'd rather get a radio with lots of features so I later don't feel like I missed out on something.

I think packet data (connecting to a BBS) would be cool but not sure how often I'd do that it's more because I'm a bit of a geek and would be cool to see in action. I just got a reply back from Yaesu Tech Support where I asked if this unit supports that and they said:

"The VX-8DR is capable of packet operation using an external TNC and the CT-M11 cable. Please see page 12 of the owner's manual for connection information. The internal TNC is for APRS only."

Not sure how much an external TNC costs, but at least this unit is capable in some way to do this, so right now the VX-8DR looks like the best bet unless anyone has other suggestions (similar features but built in TNC for packet data?)

My only concern is it may be overly complex for me to learn (to program and use the radio) because of all the features... lol


Posts: 5483


« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2014, 02:25:40 PM »

Technically the Yaesu 8DR can't do packet at all - it just becomes a transceiver you connect a TNC to, just as you would any other HT.  The TNC built into my Kenwood D71 does allow for operator connection and I used it a few times but I recall it was a limited feature set TNC, so there were things it couldn't do that regular TNC's could.  Since you're using a laptop or desktop PC as a terminal anyway, there was little value to using the TNC built into the radio versus an external software or hardware TNC plugged into the radio.  So even having a functional built in TNC isn't really practical.

That presumes of course there's anything to connect to in your area.  There very well may be - there's a winlink node or two here plus a few guys like myself with TNC's on the air running PBBS's.  Not near what it used to be but it seems to be hanging in there, though there's little really happening anymore.  APRS is the primary use of packet now but that's not really a conversational mode per se.   You'll see position reports and you can send email notes to other users through APRS programs but it's primarily just schlepping position and weather reports around.  Using a fancy HT as an APRS radio is kinda overkill, usually that's relegated to very basic radios that have outlived their purpose doing other things.  You would need a hardware TNC (Kantronics, et al) or set up a software TNC on your computer (AGWPE), hook up your radio through a home made or purchased interface and run a terminal or appropriate packet software for what you're trying to do.  It's a lot of messing around just to see data scrolling up the screen or a little car icon move across the map as someone drives to work but you'll learn a lot doing it.  If the downlink from the ISS is on you can easily pick that up, but that will just be position packets too.

The APRS built into the 8DR requires an optional or external GPS unit and you can send/monitor position information with just the display on the radio.  No external computer/display required.  I think that has limited application as the range and battery life of an HT is kind of limited.  You could hook up an external antenna and battery but then it's not a terribly portable setup anymore.  Still useful in some cases but ham radio/APRS isn't like the cellular network with gateway stations every few blocks.  If you can't hit an i-gate you're talking to yourself.  I know with my Kenwood HT running APRS I can be looking at the node site on the mountain and I still have difficulty getting packets through, because just about everyone else is stronger than I am.

I did mention the learning curve but everyone's different.  I think a lot of it depends on the motivation of the operator.  Some lament that things aren't as simple as the days of thumbwheel radios, no memories, no scanning, WYSIWYG.  Some radios can get tricky though, with multifunction buttons that change depending on if it's a long or a short press in addition to what state the radio is when you start.  Unless you use these functions a lot they can be a pain to memorize.  You typically get the most used functions down and then end up carrying around a quick guide or user manual for when you get stuck.  Most radios today you can set up with a computer, with a spreadsheet-like interface for all the channels and frequencies.  That works great, as long as you have the computer with you.  But it usually works out the time you want to change something you're traveling or out walking around so you really need to know how to modify the most basic functions of the radio.

I don't think you're going to find too many people that will say the 8DR is a bad choice - it's your money.  I would recommend that no matter what brand or model radio you choose, get a spare battery pack to go with it.  They always crap out at the most inopportune time, and having a spare in your pocket is something you're going to want to have.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

Posts: 9

« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2014, 02:57:11 PM »

Thanks Mark!

I bit the bullet and ordered the Quad-Band Yaesu VX-8DR just now, will have it in my hands Thursday. Then I get to spend the next month or four figuring it out Smiley

I really appreciate your feedback and everyone else who replied to this thread, I know I'm jumping in early since I don't even have my license yet but I'll learn a lot better this way.

Thanks again!

Posts: 9930

« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2014, 08:38:55 AM »

The Alinco company makes a pair of multiband radios that between them , they cover 5 bands, and listen to more. One radio works on 220 MHz and 900 MHz ( the only hand  programmable 900 MHz rig) and the other does 2 meter, 440 MHz and 1.2 GHz. So buying these 2 radios , gives you 5 bands. Cool stuff. I love mine. Probably $400 to $500 new, I don't remember.

DJ-G29t 222/900

DJ-GT7T 2m / 440 MHz / 1.2 GHz

Posts: 884

« Reply #20 on: July 02, 2014, 09:20:30 AM »

If you sort the list by call sign you'll see that at least one of those 900MHz repeaters is in the same place and owned by the same owner as a few other repeaters (and the status is "unknown"). It is extremely likely it is a "full time linked" repeater with the 2 meter and 70 cm repeaters, assuming it is active.

One thing you'll find is that the directories tend to have a lot more repeaters listed than are actually on the air, but there are enough to provide a lot of coverage and activity.

Posts: 88

« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2014, 10:27:21 AM » might be a good idea for you to join a local ham radio club, and get an Elmer.

Posts: 116

« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2014, 08:42:26 PM »

I would start here. A wealth of basic information. Fun stuff to do with ham radio. ARRLs Amateur Radio Operating Manual

Next .. the Best antenna book available. Practical Antenna Handbook. This is a PDF copy. A paperback is also available from Amazon.

Posts: 8

« Reply #23 on: July 10, 2014, 12:48:24 PM »

Hello and welcome to amateur radio. 

I highly recommend a Yaesu FT-60.  It's excellent quality, not too complicated, and excellent price.

Buy it and start with it. It will serve you well for many years.

73's de Gene
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