Digipeater down for repairs

Discussion in 'Digital Modes' started by W.T. Jones, Feb 25, 2016.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv EPA Leader AtlDiv ARES Member

    Today I was supposed to go for Swift 911 training so that the Luzerne County ARES can make use of that great tool for notification but I got a text from N3VTH and N3FCK that they were going up to the repeater site. The good thing about that was that I could come along and finally reprogram the N3FJA digipeater.

    N3FJA, Mike Navin, passed away a year and a half ago and the Murgas ARC has been trying to get to the repeater site to change the call. Mike was a great fellow, a dedicated EC for Luzerne County, and loved his APRS and digital communications. It was sad thing to have to remove his call from the digi but it had to be done.

    Well, this should have been a quick and done job but that digi has been playing on the hill for almost 6 years without any down time. Just sat there happily chugging along and doing its thing. Well, some time during that time its RS-232 port got a little senile.

    So there I sat on the floor of this great building trying to get the TNC to talk to the computer. Nothing. It was just not talking. Unplug this, plug this in, try a different cable, power cycle, nothing. Check the computer, all is correct. Just nothing.

    And while I am playing with this I have two guys who were gracious enough to get me access to the site standing there waiting for me. Do you know how it feels when you are holding up two people who really need to get to work? No pleasant.

    So I called K3TOW, Rick, who is one of those guys who doesn't know it then it doesn't need to be known. Well, he was at a loss too.

    So it was time to fish or cut bait. I decided that the digi needed to come down out of its long time nest and sit on the bench for a while. So everything was unplugged and the power supply, radio, and tnc. Well, Mike didn't build things that were lightweight. That was one heavy unit and there was no separating it into pieces. I almost had to get a hand cart to get it to the car.

    We departed the mountain with the snow swirling around us and a solemn promise from the guys to get me back up there when it was fixed.

    Well, I got the digi home and put it on the bench. Put the laptop in its cradle and plugged in the cable and connected it to the tnc. And now you are probably expecting me to say it worked. Well, it didn't. Still no talkie to the computer.

    Now, I really didn't want to reset this beast because of all the parameters that Mike had spent considerable time and effort to put into it. But that was not to be. I finally had to resort to a hard reset on the box. Once that was done the TNC found its voice and began talking to the computer.

    Fortunately K3TOW had a copy of the programming that N3FJA had used in his other digi. I started the laborious process of keying in the changes. Mike did a lot of fancy programming to make his digis special. So there was a lot of effort needed to make sure I recreated that.

    So now it is sitting here in the shack merrily chirping away. Its call is now K3JML. That call belongs to another Murgas ARC, Karl Kollar, who passed away a long time ago. Karl was another stalwart of the Murgas ARC and it is fitting that his call is back on the air again. Karl's XYL, K3VQR, is our club secretary.

    I think Karl would be pleased.

    So when the guys have time in their schedule I'll put the digi back on the hill and hopefully it will chirp happily for a very long time.

    Now, all of this could have been avoided if, and this is the big IF, we had the remote password for the the digi. If you are the President of an amateur radio club be sure you institute a policy of collecting the passwords for anything that the club owns. Websites, digis, anything. Be sure you have the contact points for accessing your repeaters. Don't let only one person have that information because you never know when that good person might not be able to fulfil his obligation through no fault of his own.

    So just a word of warning to anyone who might needs those passwords, get them, keep them securely, and hope that you never need them.
    wedgar likes this.
  2. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member

    Hmmm... Backup???? Documentation???? Always a good thing.
    W.T. Jones likes this.
  3. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv EPA Leader AtlDiv ARES Member

    Its one thing to tell a corporate IT department about passwords and security but telling hobbyists is a whole world of difference.

    Sometimes it takes a hard lesson to find that out.
    wedgar likes this.
  4. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member

    I have known some that didn't give much thought to passwords and security... And they wondered when their server got hijacked.

    I also know of a large company who never changed passwords on their servers. They simply used the "out of the box" login and password on their servers.
    W.T. Jones likes this.
  5. Tony

    Tony Moderator Staff Member Gold Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv ARES Member


    The hard lesson was learned only by you. Nobody else will care. The digi is back on the air.

    The sponsoring club has to be made to care about good procedures.
    W.T. Jones and wedgar like this.
  6. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv EPA Leader AtlDiv ARES Member

    Well, the digi is repaired. It isn't back on the air just yet. I am waiting for someone to ask me about it. So far no one has missed it. I have two more ready to go for 2 other counties and they are champing at the bit to get them. Locally, yawn....
    wedgar likes this.
  7. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member

    <sigh> Perhaps if no one locally is interested, move it to a place there might be more use from it?
    W.T. Jones likes this.
  8. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv EPA Leader AtlDiv ARES Member

    That is my thought!
  9. Tony

    Tony Moderator Staff Member Gold Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv ARES Member

    Hams seem to be their own worst enemies over digital, splitting into two groups who cannot talk to each other. Babble comes to mind.

    DStar is non-proprietary. Fusion is.

    I know very little about digital repeating, but can somebody tell me why it is good to support Fusion, therefore support a brand name? And why hams don't require proprietary methods be forced to talk with non-proprietary technology?

    This is quite surreal to me, that a club or emergency group would require volunteers to trash their radios and buy a specific brand to use all the features of a repeater, or to take part in important emergency communication.

    I need enlightenment.
    wedgar likes this.
  10. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member

    Why do some ham clubs split up and causing more than one club in the same area? Differences of opinion and unwillingness to work together.

    It truly boggles the mind.
  11. Jeremy

    Jeremy Active Member

    You can support Fusion because, for a time, it was pretty darn cheap to get a new repeater to replace an old one. The repeater would then pass analog voice OR Fusion digital voice, depending on the input signal. That means people with Yaesu Fusion radios can take full advantage of that mode, while others with other brands can use the repeater just like they always have. The Fusion system is win-win since it doesn't leave anyone out, and at the same time, allows willing users to take advantage of the new protocol.

    DMR, D-Star, etc can only use the digital mode, so you will need the correct hardware to use the repeater at all. While the number of brands providing radios for these modes is more than fusion, it still leaves analog users out in the cold, and isn't such a great idea unless the repeater is set up to augment and/or expand existing analog coverage.

    To address the "Babble" argument, we pretty much have that with all of the different modes available to us. If you listen to the digital bands, you can hear a plethora of signals you will need hardware or software to decode. It's not meant to be exclusive, but it isn't as easy or as cheap as tuning a standard analog voice or CW signal.

    Jeremy N1ZZZ
    wedgar likes this.
  12. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member

    That is a good idea.

    Everyone pushing their own standard. (n)

    It would be nice that the standards could work for many rather than few.

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