NI4CE regional linked repeater system

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NXDN (Almost) Everywhere: Increase coverage with Hotspots
Part Two: The Hardware
By Jason Triolo, KD4ACG

Now that you have a brief background on the concept of a digital hotspot, you may wonder what it takes to get started?

Of course, you’ll need a digital radio, which you probably already own. Ideally, the radio should operate in the digital mode that you plan to use. (In a future article, we’ll discuss this in more detail.)

The foundation for virtually all hotspots is a Raspberry Pi. Almost any model will work, from the ultra-compact Pi Zero to the more powerful Pi-3 or newer Pi-4 models. Although any model provides the same audio quality and on-air performance, those who prefer to have both wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi capability should opt for the Pi 3 or 4, as the Pi Zero only has Wi-Fi built-in. You’ll also need a microSD card for the Pi, which will hold the operating system and software for the device.     (..more..)

-November 10, 2019

NXDN (Almost) Everywhere: Increase coverage with Hotspots
Part One: Introduction and Brief History
By Jason Triolo, KD4ACG

Several years ago, as digital modes were becoming more popular on Amateur Radio airwaves, we started to see a small number of Internet-connected devices arrive on the market. These devices were typically a USB stick, designed to connect to a Windows PC. They enabled a user to access a D-Star network, even if a D-Star repeater was not available in his/her area.

Over the years, much has changed. When these “dongles” first arrived on the scene, D-Star was still the predominant digital mode in Amateur Radio. Now, these devices have evolved to support virtually every digital mode that’s present in our hobby. These include not only amateur-only modes like D-Star and Fusion, but also modes adapted from the commercial realm, such as DMR, P25, and most recently, NXDN.

While their capability has improved, so has their portability.   (..more..)

-November 4, 2019

CONTRAST AND COMPARE
By Paul Toth-NB9X

Comparing radios with one another is what a “Shootout” is all about.  It is a time tested method for evaluating the various offerings in the marketplace where apples are apples (so to speak), not oranges, apricots or grapefruit.

The advent and miniaturization of silicon components have allowed several manufacturers to cram so many features into very small physical packages.  Sometimes we lose sight of what is really important – voice and speech quality.  The ultimate test for any two-way radio should be how well it actually sounds.  All the fancy features don’t mean a hoot if the radio sounds like something that was just dragged through a swamp.

The ability of the radio to reproduce clear, intelligible audio is a by-product of the technology inside the chassis.  But that is not the only factor.  (..more..)

-October 29, 2019

PRIVACY
By Paul Toth-NB9X

The invention of high-resolution cameras, high capacity storage devices and networked transports that can carry large amounts of data from one place to another has enabled a whole new discussion about PRIVACY. This discussion, in many ways, has manifested itself in the framework of “Do the Good Guys have an inherent right to be safe and secure in their person and their property” versus “Do people who do not respect laws and any semblance of moral character have an overriding right to infringe on the safety and security of others in the guise of privacy”.

Questions about privacy are not new. Think back to the days when the telephone in your parent’s house was connected to a “Party Line”. When y folks moved to a rural area in Wisconsin in the mid-1950s, the only telephone service that was available was on a “party line” they shared with twenty-five other neighbors. An expectation of privacy – only in your dreams. The ole “party line” was Gossip Central!

Ham Radio communications have always been “open” and in the clear.  (..more..)

-October 13, 2019

THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
By Paul Toth-NB9X

If you are a Star Trek fan, like I and many other Hams I know are, you will recall one of the last movies the original Star Trek cast was center stage in, The Undiscovered Country. It was all about our inherent fear of the unknown and the reluctance of many beings, Humans, Klingons and many more to venture into territory and relationships we just don’t feel comfortable with.

Amateur Radio has traditionally been all about exploring the “Undiscovered Country” of RF right from its inception. Without those early explorers like Marconi, Bell (yes, Alexander Graham Bell was not solely into wired inventions), Sarnoff and hundreds more, we would not have most of the communications technologies we enjoy today. Amateur Radio has always been a place for discovery, innovation, creating and building the better mousetrap, so to speak. It has also been a place that has been open for a broad range of different interests and applications.

I would like to think that is still the case because, as I see it, there is still a lot of “Undiscovered Country” to be traveled and a lot of innovation to be embraced. That is why I find the ruckus that RM-11831 has created disturbing and potentially existential. (..more..)

-September 20, 2019

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE
By Paul Toth-NB9X

Someone asked me the other day if I knew what the median age of the Amateur Radio operators in the U.S. was. I guess he must have thought my name was “Google”, or “Bing” or one of those Internet search engines.

If you take a look around at most Ham Radio clubs or at a Hamfest or two, you rapidly come to the conclusion the median age is probably something North of sixty-five. And if you believe the Internet, the median age of licensed U.S. Amateur Radio operators is eighty (80) years. Well, that makes me feel like a youngster (I think).

That begets asking the question, “Where is the next generation of Ham operators, RF Explorers to carry on our mission?” Maybe the question that could/should be asked is “Where are the next generation and their parents?”. I pose the question in that way because even though I had always had an interest in Ham Radio as a youth, my earlier years were spent in commercial broadcasting. It wasn’t until I was forty-five years old before I got my license. (..more..)

-September 6, 2019

THE INSIDE STORY
By Paul Toth-NB9X

Recently, on one of our Wednesday night TampaBay Area NXDN Nets, we talked about using your portable and mobile Ham Radios indoors.  By the way, if you don’t have a NXDN digital radio, you need to get one and join us every Wednesday evening at 8:00 PM on the growing six-repeater TampaBay Area NXDN Network, Talkgroup 1200.

Back to the topic at hand, INDOOR COMMUNICATIONS.  Using a radio inside your well-built, hurricane standard home or business can be a challenge.  Reliable VHF communications are particularly challenging because of the band’s longer wavelength.  But even on UHF, the four or five watts your radio transmits with can push the radio and repeater you are using to their respective limits.  The materials your home is constructed with act as a giant RF attenuator. (..more..)

-August 15, 2019


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FCC REPORT AND ORDER CONCERNING IMPORTED RADIOS

The FCC has published a Report and Order that prohibits the importation of any VHF and UHF radio that is not FCC certified (click here to view Report & Order). Further, these radios, which include Bao-feng, cannot be operated on the Amateur Radio bands if they can be operated on Part 90 Land Mobile Radio frequencies and are not FCC certified to do so.

Last call!!  There is only one “HAM RADIO LIVES HERE” T-Shirt in size medium still available.  This is your last time to score one of these t-shirts as there will be no reorder of t-shirts. For a limited time, and with a $35.00 or more tax-deductible contribution, a classic, stylish royal blue NI4CE “HAM RADIO LIVES HERE” T-Shirt is our gift to you. Just click on the Contributing Members tab below and can get your HAM RADIO LIVES HERE T-Shirt. When the “HAM RADIO LIVES HERE” t-shirt is gone, …well they are gone.

Please include your complete address, phone number, call sign (remember medium size only – sorry no small, large, XL or 2XLl sizes left) in the comments field on the PayPal form. Your $35 or more donation gets you a great T-Shirt as well as Contributor Member status, plus you help keep the NI4CE multi-site linked repeater system on the air. If you are able to itemize your Federal Income Tax deductions, your contributions to WCFG are also tax deductible. More information about Membership levels is available on the Membership web page.

Enhance your Amateur Radio experience now. Just click on one of the buttons below to make your tax-deductible contribution via PayPal. The West Central Florida Group, Inc. also accepts checks and money orders which can be mailed to:

West Central Florida Group, Inc.
11931 92nd Way North
Largo, FL 33773-4321

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More pertinent articles about Amateur Radio and Repeaters are located under the Articles navigation tab.

DISCLAIMER

One or more websites may be intermittently streaming the NI4CE repeater system audio. None of these sites are affiliated with the West Central Florida Group, Inc. or our ni4ce.org website. The West Central Florida Group, Inc. has not authorized these streaming websites and has no control over the content, quality or availability of the audio product being streamed.

NI4CE Operating Code

The NI4CE Repeater System provides all licensed West Central Florida Amateur Radio operators with a “regional” communications resource to advance Amateur Radio commitment to public service and encourage fellowship among all operators.

The NI4CE System serves all or parts of fourteen counties. It is a shared communications resource for the over twenty thousand Amateur Radio licensees who live here and the hundreds of visitors who join us annually. When using the NI4CE System, the West Central Florida Group, Inc. asks you to:

• Keep your transmissions as brief and to the point as possible. Please keep the Total Run Time for each QSO to ten minutes or less. Remember, there are many other operators waiting to use the repeaters.

• Please leave pauses between transmissions, particularly when there is weather in the region that may be severe.

• Please observe FCC Part 97 Rules at all times, particularly the provisions of 97.113.

• Transmit power in Florida is limited to 50 watts in Florida.

• Please turn off special features including WIRES and other “sounders” that may delay your communications. Kerchunking is frowned on.

• Observe the “Golden Rule”. Common sense, courtesy and respect is contagious!

If you have an NXDN Digital Radio, Talkgroup 65000 can be used to connect to the NXDN Worldwide Network.

SKYWARN ACTIVATIONS

Here is the information the National Weather Service is most interested in knowing during any SKYWarn ACTIVATION ON on the NI4CE Repeater System:

• Winds of 35 MPH or higher

• Rainfall of two inches or more in an hour

• Flooding

• Hail of any size

• Tornadoes

• Weather caused damage

• Street closures

During Tropical Weather Events, Barometric Pressure data is also helpful.
Keep reports SHORT AND CONCISE. During bad weather, repeater time is valuable. Think about what you are going to say before you say it. Avoid unnecessary comments and verbiage.

It is requested that you NOT report non-severe weather, such as “It’s cloudy with light rain” or “the rain is letting up here”. The National Weather Service has radar and knows where it’s not raining. Reports such as this tie up valuable repeater time.

When reporting severe weather activity, please provide your Amateur Radio Callsign, your National Weather Service SKYWARN ID (if you have one), the location of your report and an approximate time of the severe weather event (if other than NOW).

Please turn off any “Roger Beeps”, “WIRES” signaling or the use of DTMF tones as they will interfere with your report.

OUR CORPORATION ID NUMBER IS 65-1061382. OUR CHARITABLE REGISTRATION NUMBER IS CH 16854.
A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 800-435-7352 WITHIN THE STATE OF FLORIDA. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE OF FLORIDA.
REGISTRATION INFORMATION CAN BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES AT www.FloridaConsumerHelp.com