Staying connected with ZUMSPOT hotspot

Could not miss a good sale on Hamradio.com and bought a Zumspot w/1.3″ OLED kit for the shack. I also bought an acrylic case for it.

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It took more time to find a small screwdriver than putting the kit together. Basically, you just need to put 4 tiny bolts (included) through the holes in the case and the Pi board, add spacers, and then insert the radio board (with the antenna) into Pi’s GPIO connector:

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Took less than 5 minutes altogether to assemble:

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The SD card included with the board had Pi-Star software installed on it which saved time downloading and flashing the card.

It took a bit longer to wrap a head around the software configuration and much longer learning about all the talkgroups / reflectors / etc. though.

Toshen, KE0FHS has put together a good guide covering configuration of the hotspot which was very helpful. Here is a copy, just in case.

Basically, the gadget is a small internet-connected digital repeater located at a comfort of your home. Once you put your WiFi network details in it, your callsign and the operating frequency, you need to figure out which of the digital networks to connect it to.

Presently, it seems the most active ones are:

  • DMR (Brandmeister) talkgroups
  • Yaesu Fusion WiresX
  • D-Star reflectors

Both DMR and D-Star require registration. DMR (Brandmeister) was the easiest to register. The admins approved my registration in less than an hour once I confirmed my email. I am still awaiting for my D-Star registration after 2 weeks I submitted it….

You need a matching handheld in order to operate these digital modes since audio encoding/decoding is performed by the handheld hardware / firmware.

Actually, there are software codecs that work with DMR and Yaesu Fusion standards but not with D-Star (due to license restrictions).

As a result, you need a D-Star HT to use D-Star reflectors. At the same time, you can use Yaesu Fusion radio to operate both Yaesu Fusion and DMR networks because they both use the same newer codec for audio encoding/decoding allowing cross-network bridging of talkgroups.

Presently, I am using Yaesu FT-70DR digital dual-band radio from HRO for accessing DMR talkgroups via the hotspot using YSF-to-DMR functionality.

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The closest real world analogy to this hotspot technology is a simplex VOIP conference call with the last mile delivered over a radio link. Basically, it’s good ole Echolink with an HT instead of a headset. The medium for communication is the internet – not ionosphere, making communication reliable and simple (as long as the internet is available).

The talkgroups (DMR) / reflectors (D-Star) are a digital analog of a dedicated talking radio frequency. They seem to be mainly grouped by a geographical location. Some link several repeaters together. Some are special purpose: e.g. SKYWARN, etc.

Given the decline in a number of operational repeaters and aging of the hams, these little hotspots provide an affordable option to communicate with fellow hams without a challenge and expense of HF gear and antennas. I dialed my Yaesu Fusion radio to DMR talkgroup TG9 (World talkgroup) and it’s busy with hams chatting from all over the world.

It’s amazing how technology erases artificial borders and makes this world a smaller and a better place.

73!

Thank you Texan friends

They say ‘everything is bigger in Texas’. That also applies to the hearts of Texans.
Thank you for helping us getting back to (new) normalcy and for your compassion, integrity and keen friendship.

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