April 29, 2005

Repeater Firmware Updated


In the (seemingly) never ending pursuit of a bug free repeater, I installed the RC210 version 4.30 firmware today. Thankfully, this version loaded and it should take care of the odd audio irregularities we've been having.

4.30 appears to have stable audio levels. I also hope it no longer has the problem where a station on 52.42 will occasionally find that his whole transmission was passed out of the repeater without any audio (just the ptt/cos). Time will tell. At the moment, everything I tested appears to function and I'm crossing my fingers.

Sadly, due to a hardware bug that's somewhere inside the board or Mega128 microprocessor chip, this will be the last firmware update for the forseeable future. The updates produced by Arcom past the 4.30 version appear to cause the 52.92 transmitter to come on and continuously broadcast the weather channel. Oh well.... so it goes.

The code to set the DTMF muting to mute starting at the SECOND (and subsequent) tones was turned on. I verified that it did mute on the second tone while I was standing in front of the rack at the site, but while testing again along the way home it appears as if it's muting (as it had in the past) on the first DTMF tone. Why this is happening will be investigated on the next trip to the site. The theory is that perhaps the 'no-audio-transmission' failure may be related to DTMF muting. While version 4.30 may have a fix for the 'no-audio-transmission' problem, it may also not have such a fix. The theories bantered about when the 4.30 version was originally created wat that the no-audio problem must have been related to DTMF muting in some way, and muting on the second code entered would likely eliminate a false triggering of the mute algorithm (and hence, eliminate the no-audio-transmission problem).

73 KF8KK

April 26, 2005

More Repeater Issues

Greetings yet again!

After loading the 4.28 firmware into the RC210 it wasn't too long before the bug in that version related to the 'inactivity timer' surfaced-- causing the repeater to periodically report that the remote base was inactive and turn it off, even if the remote base was already off.

Additionally, I was able to witness firsthand, the bug that causes the 6mtr receiver to properly process the COS/PTT yet not pass any audio to the system (it happened to N7LMJ this evening). This is a problem that we hadn't noticed since the 4.29G firmware was loaded last December.

Adding to the list was what appeared to be an RF signal problem on the 440.05 link from the W8TVC repeater. I happened to be measuring some RF cables for replacement (with nice 1/4" superflex heliax) and perhaps I had dislodged a marginal cable feeding the 440mhz receiver. On wiggling the cable, the loss of signal would appear and dissappear (though I'm not certain that this was the root of the problem-- as during the test the noise would change in a manner similar to that experienced if there was another signal beating with the desired signal-- with all the noise in the repeater shack, it was hard to tell for certain).

I made up the needed piece of superflex cable (the permanent replacement that I was planning to build and install next week with a few others) and put that in circuit and now I can flex the cables all I want and the signal stays stable and strong.

I also attempted to load the newer firmware for the RC210, the 4.36 and 4.370 versions-- but both exhibited the same problems as the 4.375 did-- which is unacceptable. I was unable to download the 4.30 version from the Arcom site, and so I loaded the 4.29 (no letter) version in hopes that it was pre-audio-problems. After considerable testing, this first version of 4.29 (no letter) does NOT have the audio level problems. Sadly, I remember that at the time the 4.29 firmware came out there were numerous attempts at fixing a problem where intermittantly the audio would not properly switch--- so, I'm not certain what problems we might experience with this firmware. Time will tell. This 4.29 firmware should eliminate the problem with the inactivity timer alerting when it's not supposed to.

After a fair amount of testing, the system was returned to service and all seems to be functional.

73 KF8KK

Audio problem fixed


Today I concluded without a doubt that the audio level irregularities the repeaters have been experiencing since December were indeed brought on by the version 4.29 firmware in the RC210 controller.

Sadly, upgrading to the newer 4.375 software opened up a different problem that is even less tolerable. This latest software causes the 6mtr transmitter to remain keyed-- and playing the weather radio-- full time. Even attempting to disable the 6m transmitter just caused the controller to readback that it was going to do that, but it stayed transmitting. Harumph.

I downgraded the firmware to version 4.28, which appears to function properly. Surely there are some caveats with the 4.28 firmware (as 4.29 was a bug fix). The repeater had been running with 4.28 for a few months last fall without noticeable ill effects. With the 4.28 firmware, all the audio levels are steady. Sadly, there are a few newly added features that the latest 4.375 firmware would have added. Oh well.

The audio levels were set so that what comes into the repeater leaves the repeater just the same. The Weather Radio works just as it should also (this was broken in the 4.29 firmware-- along with the audio level problems).

Film at eleven...
John KF8KK

2m remote base & packet digi operational


Monday 4/25 saw the return of the SyntorX two meter remote base transceiver to operational mode at the repeater site. With this return the ability to properly encode the PL tone when the 146.78 Manistee repeater is selected, and the ability to require a 100hz PL tone on the 147.04 Benize repeater for linking have been added.

The 100hz tone for Benzie was chosen in order to avoid conflicts with other tones in the system should some of it leak past the PL filters. This completes this end of the upgrade that will ultimately allow for better Echolink function when the 147.04 repeater is linked in for the weekly net (Wednesdays at 8:30p). The PL tone encoding still needs to be added to the 147.04 repeater for this new mode to be operational. In the interim, a means has been provided to link to 147.04 in the 'former' carrier squelch manner.

The 2mtr SyntorX is now setup to rest on 145.09 when not in use as a remote base for the repeaters. When on 145.09, the audio/cos/ptt is switched away from the RC210 repeater controller and over to an MFJ 1270C packet TNC. This will give the SyntorX something to do during those times when the repeaters are not linked to other systems (which is the vast majority of the time). The packet station uses the callsign 'wI0OK', with a mailbox at 'wI0OK-1' and a digipeater alias of 'LEEL' (for LEELanau county).

More repeater work to be completed shortly.
73 KF8KK

April 21, 2005

2m Remote Base Offline


Today I pulled the 2mtr SyntorX remote base transceiver from the repeater in order to make a few changes to it's configuration.

I expect to have the unit back in service this coming weekend.

More information on the changes will be forthcoming once they happen. I also plan to tend to the audio level problem on the repeater (along with other updates) this weekend as part of this project.

John KF8KK