MIRA Meeting Presentations and Lunch – March 20th, 2018

Don Discussing Field Day 2018                                Terry ‘Adjusting the Magnetic Poles’

Group Lunch at Thalassas

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Hospot? ZUMspot!?

Hotspot? ZUMspot?!?

I have been trying out a new gadget of late. A ZUMspot Multimode Digital Hotspot. It is a Raspberry Pi hat (small board that plugs into a Pi Zero, Pi2 or Pi3). This is one of several Hotspots available.

I heard about these while listening to an episode of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast last fall (http://hamradioworkbench.com/hrwb034-digital-radio-roundtable) and on a whim ordered one from Bruce Givens VE2GZI at  http://zumspot.com/ . I got it just as they started making them with unobtanium, although I understand that this has since eased up a bit. I ordered the kit and with taxes, shipping etc it was around $140.

I should mention that there are some illegal knock-off boards available.  If you decide to pick up a Hotspot spend the extra $ to get an official unit to support the developers and save yourself some headaches.

Why did I get one

A couple of reasons

  • I have a Yaesu FT1XDR which aside from FM has Yaesu’s System Fusion (YSF) mode onboard
  • We have no digital Fusion repeaters nearby
  • I know almost nothing about Hotspots, YSF or the other modes
  • I’m retired and have to keep the grey matter warm.

What does this thing do?

The ZUMspot is a small board that sits on a Raspberry Pi Zero (or Pi2 or Pi3). It incorporates a Multimode digital voice modem and a 10mW UHF transceiver that operates YSF, DMR, YSF2DMR, D-Star, P25 and/or NXDN modes. The mode available have been expanding, YSF2DMR and NXDN are recent additions via software updates.

Basically, the unit is a go between my radio and the internet to connect into the digital system(s).  With no Fusion repeater nearby I can still access the network.  Think of it as my own tiny personal digital repeater.  I’ve heard people using them in their vehicles with cellphones as the internet link for mobile operating as well as people in less radio friendly areas like nursing homes or don’t-you-dare-put-up-an-antenna neighbourhoods.

What do you need apart from the ZUMspot?

First you will need a schwack of patience, or maybe that’s just me. Not only is this a new world of modes, software, acronyms and gadgets; it seems to be an evolving one as well.

You will need a radio capable of operating one or more of the modes although with a YSF or DMR radio you can work the other using the YSF2DMR mode. A basic FM HT will not work. I hear musings that this may someday change but that could be a while off.  It is also preferable to have a low power setting if using the unit nearby. My HT goes down to 100mW.

For a program to control and update your Hotspot, Andy Taylor MWØMWZ, has developed a fabulous piece of software: PI-Star. This fellow really needs an award for the work he has put into this.  I had some false starts but determined it was a PEBCAK issue and finally got it resolved.  The program loads on your computer and connects to your Hot spot via the Raspberry Pi WiFi.

If you do not get a kit, you will need a Raspberry Pi, a power supply and an antenna for the board. You can also buy or print a case for the unit. If you want a screen, it is capable of having a small screen attached. Nextion seems to be a popular choice.

Notes so far

It is not plug and play, but that is half the fun.

Digital does not sound like FM.

It can take some time to figure out which rooms are active.

Terminology seems “fluid’: Room? Talkgroup? Reflector? Repeater? Nodes?

Knowing LINUX is an advantage – well, I should know it anyway

My HT has features I never really thought I would use. Going to need a cheat sheet.

Updates are one thing, Upgrades another.

I’m not, and never will be an expert, and that will just have to be OK.

Further reading?

An excellent resource to setting up the ZUMspot and configuring PI-Star is web page:

https://www.toshen.com/ke0fhs/zumspot.htm It has been my go to resource for getting things going.

KEØFHS’s page on Hotspots in general https://www.toshen.com/ke0fhs/hotspots.htm

Pi-Star  http://www.pistar.uk/index.php (although KEØFHS’s page above covers it well)

There is a PI-Star user’s group on Facebook.

VE1CRA web page:  http://ve1cra.net/main/zum.html

W1MSG has a very good set of videos by for PI-Star, ZUMspot etc on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcjYjtognBaSAa-ZLk3EU2A

And lastly for those who made it this far….

ZUMspot connects into the APRS network. Go to APRS.fi, type in VE7VJ and you should be able to find my ZUMspot as VE7VJ-R when active.

Schwack: more than a swack. As in “It’s a big fire. I need a Schwack of hose”

PEBCAK: Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard


Larry VE7VJ

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Satellite QSO

For anyone wanting to try their hand at a satellite QSO there is a new LEO Sat up and activated (November 2017) which is fairly easy to work: AO-91 (43017, FOX-1B)

This past week I made contact with WC7V in Montana while walking on a beach near Tofino. I used my FT1XDR with a Diamond SRH77CA dual band whip.  I made a contact from my yard a few days earlier but sadly forgot the callsign of the station by the time I found a working pen.  I now have a voice recording app which I keep running on my phone during a pass. This makes logging easier as I do not have to fiddle with writing anything down or remembering info while portable. Sitting at a desk might be different.

Passes are only a few minutes and the Sat can be busy so contacts are brief. Exchanges consist of your call followed by the first four digits of your maidenhead grid. A useful Android app for determining your grid is ‘Easy QTH Locator’.  My grid here in Little Qualicum, and most of central Vancouver Island, is CN79. So for me it is simply  “VE7VJ CN79”. You do not call CQ.  It is a good idea to listen to several passes before jumping in.

To track passes I’ve been using the “OSCAR” app for Android (free) which can show passes several days ahead. I look for one that will be high in the sky. The pass for the QSO above peaked at around 80 degrees.

NOTE: the tracking apps/sites can be persnickety when it comes to searching. Some will find “AO-91’ but not ‘AO91’. If you are having trouble try the NORAD ID:  43017

The frequencies for AO-91 are: uplink of 435.250 MHz (67.0 Hz CTCSS) and a downlink of 145.960 MHz.   Receive can be left at 145.960 but the xmit must be set as the table below to allow for the Doppler effect. I have only programmed the Approach, TCA and Departure.  You may have to move your handy antenna around to get a clear signal, I had mine almost horizontal. You can also buy or build a small Yagi. An online search will find several designs.


Frequency list for AO-91

Memory Your Transmit (Sat Uplink) Frequency

(With 67 Hz Tone)

Your Receive (Sat Downlink) Frequency
Acquisition of Signal (AOS) 435.240 MHz 145.960 MHz
Approaching 435.245 MHz 145.960 MHz
Time of Closest Approach (TCA) 435.250 MHz 145.960 MHz
Departing 435.255 MHz 145.960 MHz
Loss of Signal (LOS) 435.260 MHz 145.960 MHz

Good luck!

Larry VE7VJ

Some useful links:

YouTube – just type “AO-91” in the search. There are lots of videos.

FM Satellites: Good Operating Practices for Beginning and Experienced Operators


Online satellite tracking


 Online Maidenhead grid locator map




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Feb 8, 2018 -The Trainers

The appreciation luncheon for the instructors that took part in the training for the new hams Basic Course.  Held on Feb  8, 2018 at the Thalassa Restaurant in Qualicum Beach.

Nine students took the course and five have passed the exam, three with honours.  In addition, one student who could not attend the classes passed with honours through home study.  Two of these students have  their callsigns and one is already on the air.

Congratulations to these new hams!

Clockwise are: Don VE7AX, Len VE7XLH, Terry VA7EDX, Dave VA7QED, Syd VE7PI and Tony VE7AJN.

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If you are a frequent visitor to this website, you will note that it has been minimally maintained over the past few months (meaning “not very well kept up date”).  We are trying to do better.  We continue to be grateful to John, VA7PX for his work in setting up the MIRA website.  We think it is an important tool for our club and will only grow in popularity and value to our members.  The problem has been that we lack John’s skill and comfort with the Word Press program which drives the site and in John’s absence we have had to face – as the saying goes – “a steep learning curve”.


Aside from the website, our club (MIRA) is doing well. Membership is growing – currently about 50 active members who share a wide variety of interests related to amateur radio.  We meet regularly over coffee on Saturday mornings and at our monthly General Meetings on the third Saturday of each month.  Also, all amateurs are invited to check in to our Sunday morning UHF/VHF net at 0900 local time.  We currently use the VE7SYD repeater high on Mt. Arrowsmith on 442.275 MHz with a 136.5 tone.


Our February 3, 2018 General Meeting featured “show and tell” presentations on:  Qualicum Beach antenna tower issues and a possible mechanical solution which allows for easy tower lie down, a Ballenas Secondary School cube satellite project,  a demonstration of an “electronic spoon and fork” designed to compensate for the shaky hand challenges some of us face (amazing device!).  At recent meetings we have also enjoyed Syd, VE7PI’s slide presentations on his travels to China and last year to central Europe on river cruises. Terry, VE7EDX has shared an amazing PowerPoint on his experimentation with Software Defined Radio.


The MIRA Executive Committee is undertaking to survey our membership regarding their level of interest in the many diverse facets of amateur radio in order to try to better meet the needs of our members.  It is really a long and interesting list:  Experimentation, Home Brewing, Rag Chewing – on and off air social activities, Outdoor Activities needing communications – boating, hunting, fishing, RVing, Emergency Communications and Preparedness, Public Service, Traffic Handling Nets, Local Adventure such as Summits on the Air, Big Time DXpeditions, DXing, Award Hunting, Contesting, Collecting Vintage Equipment,  Field Trips of interest to radio amateurs, ARRL Field Day.  What a great hobby – something for everyone!


Once again MIRA has offered a training course leading to the Canadian (Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development – ISED) Basic Amateur Qualification.  Under the leadership of Tony, VE7AJN, the course has run from October, 2017 and is just now (early February, 2018) coming to an end with about ten successful candidates who have worked very hard on alternate Saturday mornings and some Tuesday evening make up sessions.  Congratulations to all.


As well as our regular coffee and meeting schedule MIRA holds two major social events each year – our Christmas luncheon and our mid-summer Barbecue.  Lots of fun and great food.

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Operating on UHF and VHF

Since our hand held portables are battery operated and are relative short range equipment not many of us carry our radio with us all the time.  If we are getting together for some purpose we agree to monitor a specific channel then the group can talk to each other as necessary.  The international calling frequency is 146.520 MHz simplex and some might monitor this frequency. The protocol is to move off this channel after making an initial contact to leave the calling channel clear for someone else.  I think most of use when we have our radio on will be monitoring one of the local repeaters such as VE7RFR, VE7RPQ, VE7SYD or VE7PQA  or maybe scanning all four.

73s de Len Hooper VE7XLH

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Programming Your Hand Held (HT) Radio

Do you feel comfortable programming your hand-held (HT) so that you have all the settings for the repeaters in memory? We do that so that we don’t have to fumble around setting frequencies and tones when we need to switch operations.

You can find another ham with the same equipment, but the chances are that they will be wondering about the same problems as you – we don’t use the features on our radios often enough to become proficient.

I recently spent several frustrating hours with an ICOM HT. It’s a dandy little radio but a “bear of beast” to program. Even following the instruction book word by word did not produce good results. The internet indicates that the model I have is one of the easiest to program! So I wonder what some of the others are like!

Before I was about to give up I found that it is possible to purchase after-market cables for most brands and models. With drivers for the cables, and software, programming my HT and my Yaesu base station each took about 15 minutes. I have all the repeaters in Central Vancouver Island and on the Sunshine Coast entered into the radio memories.

Suddenly my equipment has become versatile, flexible and useful. What a joy! And if I need to amend the file I have it on my computer and can amend and update anytime.

The company RT Systems based in Broomfield, Colorado produces US-made products. Look them up online. I have purchased the software and cables for both of my VHF/UHF radios and am more than pleased with the service and quality. The downside though is that they are priced in US$ and the shipping is expensive.

 I tried the freeware Cricket and a cheap cable purchased through Amazon. I wasted my money there – it simply didn’t work – and I advise against it. Some people report good success but I had a dismal failure with it.

 So if you are frustrated trying to control your gear – here is an alternative to try. It will help you become more radioactive!

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Weekly Club Net Moving to UHF

As of Sunday January 29, 2017 MIRA will be changing venue from VHF to UHF for the 9:00 am net.  After reviewing the results of 9 weeks of testing VE7SYD it was decided at the recent executive meeting to make this major change that will result in members being able to hear net control much more clearly as well as to see an improvement to their signal quality.

Often signals from VE7RPQ have been so poor that net control has been unable to copy and other members have had the same difficulty.  This has not always been the case but reliability just isn’t there.   MIRA members all recognize the good work Mark VA7IX has done over the years to keep VE7RPQ on the air.

We will continue to use VE7RPQ as a backup repeater in case VE7SYD should fail. On January 29 and for several Sundays following we plan to QSY after the net to VE7RPQ to pick up any members who can’t operate on UHF.  We expect this number to be very few or nil.  We would appreciate hearing from members who are not UHF capable so that we may assist them.

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