Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Illinois D-STAR Net

Every week on Wednesday nights at 9pm Central is the Illinois D-STAR Net on Reflector 001B. Normally hosted by Milt, K9QZI of Champaign, the net attracts amateurs from across the state to share the events of the past week. We spend a few minutes each talking about the hobby and just keeping track of each other.  Sometimes 10 people check in and we're done in 30 minutes, and other times it's over an hour!

If you're in Central Illinois, you can catch the net on the W9YR, W9PIA, or KD9AKF repeaters. And if you're using our Heyworth repeater, feel free to move it to REF001B if it isn't already there for the net!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How much to put up a D-Star HomeBrew Repeater?

We've got the Heyworth D-Star on the air...and completing the testing. I've gotten a couple of questions about how much it all costs. So to share with everyone, here's what we've invested:

Used Kenwood TKR-820 UHF repeater, narrowbanded $270
Duplexer - notch only, mobile type, donated $0
DVRPTR d-star connection, with cables and enclosure $130
Raspberry PI computer board, with case, with heatsinks, with power supply $70
Coax, donated $0
N-Connectors $12
Power strip with surge connector $15
Coax surge protector  $35
Antenna, donated $0

All together, we have $532 invested in the KD9AKF system. If you were building a comparable system, you would probably spend another $100-$200 on a duplexer, $100 for coax, and then anywhere from $150 to $350 for a quality antenna. Low end, you're looking at $900 for a complete system - high end, you should be under $1400.

We went really quick getting our system up and running - we went from "idea" to "working system" in 60 days. We'll end up having another $100 in labor costs to get the repeater reprogrammed for our final coordinated frequency.

We also have been really fortunate to have a great working relationship with the local grain elevator that is providing us with tower space. We're also getting a free internet connection from the wireless internet provider that is co-located at the elevator. How sweet is that!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Heyworth D-Star Ham Radio Repeater

My ham radio adventure continues. I know I haven't written much about life on the farm lately, but since it is so cold not much farm or outdoor stuff is getting done! I have started working a new mode in ham radio - Digital Voice, specifically D-Star! With the help of my buddies K9GUN, KC9REG, KB9GIG, and KJ9P, the Heyworth D-Star repeater is on the air! It's under callsign KD9AKF on 444.2375. You can read more about it on our QRZ page (http://qrz.com/db/KD9AKF). This hobby is really, really fun!

Monday, January 20, 2014

APRS digipeater with a Raspberry Pi

For Christmas this year I received a Raspberry Pi. This is one sweet little computer! I also asked for (and got) an TNC-X board that you build and then plug into the top of the Pi. I now have a fully-functional APRS I-Gate and fill-in Digipeater up and functional here on the south side of McLean County. The stats are remarkable...and after some fiddling, filtering, and optimization, I've got it working just like I want. There are a few wide-area digipeaters in the area, but not many I-gates. While digipeaters allow mobile or portable stations to get their packets out to a broader audience, an I-gate takes APRS traffic from the internet and puts it out on the RF. Likewise, it take RF traffic and puts it back on the internet. Using a program called aprx, I'm running a digipeater and I-gate all from the little Pi! A local member of the Central Illinois Radio Club (CIRC) had an Alinco 2m rig he wasn't using anymore. That, along with the homebrew j-pole antenna I built, makes for a pretty good station. I'm only 30' up in the air, but we're on a bit of a rise. I'm copying stations from up to 75km away.

Heyworth UHF repeater update

The KG9DW Repeater in Heyworth is up and running on the Tate and Lyle Grain Elevator! This puts the repeater up at about 200' AGL. I made a trip to Indiana this past weekend and I was able to work it from Champaign. That's a pretty good haul for a kludged together UHF ham repeater. The antenna is a 8 element Decibel antenna, with 9 to 11 DB of gain (depending on who you ask). The antenna was abandoned from a farm operation that moved to Nextel or phones or something. This made the move a near non-event. The only hard part was routing the coax into the pressurized room. The previous coax had been removed, and the hole had been filled in. A little chiseling (without a chisel) and I was in. I've been working guys all over McLean and Dewitt counties, and even some down into Logan county. Give a hollar anytime on 442.825+ 141.3PL.