Dayton Hamvention 2016 Recap

This year I was able to attend the Hamvention for only one day. I was on a business trip and did not get back until Friday night at about 11:00 PM. But it was great to still be able to attend the Hamvention for at least one day. So here are some of my comments about this year's Hamvention.

First, the Hara Arena is rapidly decaying. There are all sorts of rumors about Montgomery County wanting the property to the county fairgrounds. There are also rumors about the owners losing money, taxes owed, etc. Clearly there is no money being put into any upkeep of the facility. The condition of Hara this year was the worst I have even seen.

Restrooms were filthy and poorly maintained. Two of my friends used the outside port-a-lets because they were cleaner than the bathrooms!

Attendance was down quite a bit. I am guessing it might have been as low as 16,000. From what I heard from other hams, the place is just too unattractive and turning off many from attending.

The parking lot that host the flea market is also deteriorating. The pavement is crumbling in many places. Very few garbage cans were placed in the flea market. As a result, you saw piles of old electronics abandoned on the ground. Guess the XYL told them to sell it or leave it.

We tried attending the Yaesu Fusion forum, but the room had to be in the mid 80's so it was just too hot to sit in there. Apparently Hara's air conditioning was not working or they could not afford to turn it on. The rest of the forum rooms were also too warm. No forums this year.

Since Yeasu came out with a very affordable Fusion radio, the FTM-3200, I purchased one from Ham Radio Outlet (HRO). At $169 it will give me the opportunity to evaluate and compare the various digital voice methods commonly being used on the VHF/UHF bands. I'll write a blog with a comparison between DStar, DMR and Fusion soon.

Speaking of DStar, Kenwood was showing their new DStar, APRS, FM dual-band handheld. It is supposed to be available around November of this year. This has been rumored since November of last year so it now appears to be reality. Now that a second major manufacturer has begun selling DStar radios, that should put to bed all that FUD about DStar being proprietary and only an Icom standard. The radio looked great as it uses a color screen. The problem is the list price is supposed to be north of $600. Needs to be in the $300 range or it is going to be out of the reach of many hams.

The Europeans were there showing off their concept of a multi-digital mode VHF/UHF radio that supports DStar, DMR, Fusion and FM. The radio is tentatively priced between $800 to $1,000. Kind of high, but might be worth it as everything will be built into one radio. If a group of hams can pull this off, surely Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu can do it also. It's just a crying shame that all the manufacturers could not agree on one standard instead of creating the division by having so many different digital modes.

Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) was showing the JT-65 capability that will soon be added to the DM-780 application within the HRD Suite of fully integrated applications. That is the best ham radio application out there for someone who wants software to do it all. Spoke to Rick at HRD who said they have over 50,000 paid users! If you build and maintain it, they will come!

While on the subject of vendors, there was also a reduction in the number of commercial vendors. For that matter, even the number of flea market vendors seemed down but the rain might have forced many to just give up.

There were a number of niche vendors there showing off their products and there was just too many of those new products to talk about here. More SDR radios, more digital voice hotspots, and a host of other things being discussed on many of the forum boards at eham, QRZ and Yahoo Groups.

All I can say is that DARA better find a new venue fast and find a way to invigorate the Hamvention.



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Update on Everything

Yes I know I have been a bit quiet on the blog recently. And this is really not about everything. I've actually been fairly active on DStar, DMR, and JT-65. Messed around with a few other modes like CW, FSQ, and of course FM on 2 and 440.

Looks like Connect Systems has finally gotten close to finishing the firmware on the CS750 handheld and CS800 mobile radios for DMR and FM. Still a few bugs but they are almost there. Still would like to see the CS7000 which promises to support both DMR and DStar. Now wouldn't it be nice to have a radio that did all the digital modes and FM? Well they say they can get there but want to do DMR and DStar first.

Yaesu Fusion is out there and a number of people/clubs bought their repeaters at the special price of around $500. However, our club only has them in FM operation. I think a lot of clubs did the same thing. Not many people using them for Fusion. Seems like DStar and DMR seem to be the predominant digital modes. DStar still in the lead and there is still so much more activity on DStar than DMR in my opinion. In any case, for voice, they both do a nice job. When it comes to more than voice, DStar is still the choice.

I am sure you all read where TenTec changed hands yet again. Fourth owner in two years. But we have to face it, the old TenTec is gone. The new owner of the assets of the old company promises a new more invigorated TenTec with great products. So we'll see. However, I would not expect anything new for at least a year. There is a lot of work to do to basically start the company from scratch.

Rumors were that Kenwood was going to announce a DStar radio around Thanksgiving. So far, just the sound of crickets.

Another rumor is that Alnico is going to introduce a DMR radio for hams. So we'll see if that comes to fruition.

Since most of the nation is facing snow and cold, you might as well get on the air and communicate with someone. Ham radio was meant for cold Winter nights. So take advantage of the season and get on the radio!



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DMR - It's Not Personal

I don’t know why, but some people take criticism of technology personally. Maybe its because they spend money on some technology product and if someone else makes negative comments about it, they feel they must defend it as if they have to defend and justify their financial investment.

Take my comments on DMR. I have people, one in particular, that attack my comments on DMR as if I am personally attacking them. How silly.

Yes, I use DMR. I also use DStar. Not using any other digital (primarily) voice technology right now because it gets too costly to get one of everything. My real criticism of digital technology as it relates to ham radio is that the manufacturers could not decide on ONE technology to use. This fragmentation is frankly keeping a lot of hams from adopting digital and thus they are staying on FM. So while a town like Cincinnati has two DMR repeaters, two DStar repeater stacks, a P25, and a couple of Fusion systems, there are just a few hams on each system. Most are still on FM. So instead of the digital users expanding, you find most of the digital users using FM.

I did buy a couple of DMR radios because we got a few DMR repeaters and the radios were CHEAP! Had it not been for CHEAP, I would not have branched out into DMR.

But that has not changed my basic beliefs too much about DMR. Yup, sounds a little better than DStar but not overwhelmingly better. If you have the latest generation DStar radios, they should very good. So does DMR.

It is still difficult to find a conversation on DMR compared to DStar. Even on the DMR North American talk group at times.

Yeah, DStar has that R2D2 noise when the signal gets weak. When the DMR signal gets weak it also distorts but sounds different, so the only difference between the two is the sound of the digital signal when it gets weak. That does not make one better than the other.

The DMR networking is nice, but it is not as flexible as DStar. If the DMR repeater owner does not offer a talk group, you cannot connect to it yourself. With DStar you can connect to any reflector you like. Just program it into your radio.

With DMR you must use a commercially manufacturer repeater. I’ve asked many times, and there is no way to home-brew a DMR repeater. With DStar, a hundred dollar board, a computer and a couple of FM radios, you can build your own DStar repeater.

DStar has all sorts of applications that allow you to send text and files over the radio. I have not seen anything like this readily available with DMR. I think Motorola might offer something, but not something that is open source and could be used by anyone without a license fee.

DStar requires you to register a call sign. DMR requires a registration/serial number. To get a call and name to show up with a DMR transmission, you would have had to program a person’s registration/serial number into your radio along with that person’s name to get it to display. With DStar, when a person transmit, it comes with their call automatically. The DStar user can also program his radio to display on your receiving radio something like “Bob in Detroit” or “Bob on ID51A.”

With DStar, if your radio has a built-n GPS, when you transmit your position is sent and also sent to the APRS network. Have not seen that capability with DMR.

So it all comes back to this DMR is a commercial standard that hams are trying to make work in amateur radio. But as of yet, it is still lacking what DStar has now. Will it get to the same point as DStar is at now, I don’t know, we’ll see but the current state of the DMR technology does not seem to allow that kind of flexibility.

If you don’t agree with me, fine. You don’t have to attack me personally over my comments. If you have better information like “there is now a DRats-like program for DMR” then let me know about it. If DMR moves to registering call signs and they display with each transmission, let me know. If you can easily home-brew a DMR repeater, tell me about it.

However as of now, DMR is a digital voice system, sounds nice, is networked and any ham can use it inexpensively with the Chinese radios; provided you have a local DMR repeater.

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Blog Responses

I know some people don't always agree with my blog posts, especially when it comes to the DStar, DMR, Fusion, P25, etc. discussions. Everyone has their own favorite digital voice method.

Now I approve or reject the comments people make not because they disagree with my opinion, but because they may not really add to the discussion, they are promoting equipment purchases from a particular vendor, or they are offensive.

For example, the other day I received a post that referred to the users of a particular digital voice method as.....well let's just say, that person referred to them as participants in the Special Olympics.

This is so wrong on so many levels. First, just because you do not like a digital voice method does not mean you have to make fun of those users with derogatory comments. You can rip up on the digital method, but making fun of people and tearing them down because they use something they like is really sick in my opinion.

Second, it was extremely offensive to those with disabilities. My wife works with special needs children and making fun of them was very offensive to her.

I understand that not all amateur radio licensees have the proper maturity to conduct themselves appropriately, but let's try not to make personal attacks and make fun of people going through life with severe challenges.
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DMR in North Carolina

Well I decided to bring the DMR radio with me to Surf City/Topsoil, North Carolina during vacation. I elected this radio instead of DStar since there are more DMR repeaters in North Carolina than DStar repeaters. In fact, with the number of DMR repeaters shown in this and the surrounding state, I thought DMR must really be popular.

I had all the DMR repeaters programmed into the CS750. So I was well covered. While I thought I would be able to hit Jacksonville, NC and Wilmington, NC repeaters from the beach area, I was only able to hit the Wilmington repeater.

The first night I got here, I had a brief conversation with a couple of gentlemen on the Southeast talk group. But since then, in spite of repeated calls on Southeast and the local talk groups, I have not received any calls or heard but a few brief conversations.

I really thought there would be a lot more activity on DMR in this area given the number of repeaters.

Continues to demonstrate that if you want to get into digital, and actually have someone to talk to, get a DStar radio for now.
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