Friday, July 24, 2015

Control of Your Transmitter?

Are you really in control of your transmitter? I visited another radio club last night. It was interesting to hear the discussion about two new repeater projects the club is working on, including swapping the RF and control decks out with Yaesu's Fusion offer. I could write a book on the pros and cons of the Fusion offer...today's post isn't about that.

What was interesting to me is that the club wasn't concerned that they wouldn't have remote control of their repeater transmitters the way that they do today. They are planning on running the repeaters in analog mode for output, and maybe dual mode for input. The comment that stuck with me is that they didn't see any need for the repeater controllers they have today. The ability to make remote changes to the configuration, or to be able to shut the system down (and turn it back on) were not of interest to any of the members.

I've only run repeaters for a couple of years now. It has been quite the adventure. During that time, I had a cheap controller go belly up in such a way that it held the transmitter keyed down. The transmitter would overheat, shut off, cool off, then key down. Rinse and repeat. Over and over. The controller wouldn't respond to any commands. It was a week before I could get to the site to replace the defective board. Since then, I've got a remote controlled power strip like we use in corporate data centers that allows me to power cycle equipment over the internet.

The thought of putting a repeater on the air without being in positive control is crazy. Sure, it's very unlikely that the FCC is going to find you and fine you. That's not the point...is it good practice to throw a system on the air that you can't control? There are plenty of great solutions here that can be used. Put a second radio with a dtmf decoder on receive side of cans that controls the power. Use the internet and a $50 remote control power strip. Whatever solution you choose, please do something!

In this club's case, the repeater guys are all retired and have easy walk-in access to the sites. In my case, the three repeaters I work on all required coordinated access, can't be reached without taking man lifts or elevators, and two can only be accessed during my work day. Remote control - and positive control of the transmitters - is extremely important.

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