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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