Playing around with DMR in Holland was fun. But back in Taiwan my brand new Tytera MD-390 would be totally useless. There is no DMR activity here (yet) and up till recently I was the first and only ham in Taiwan with a DMR ID (4661001).
Luckily there are little devices called “hotspots” and one of the most popular one right now is the DV4mini, designed by DG8FAC (Stefan Reimann), DG1HT (Torsten Schultze) and DJ0ABR (Kurt Moraw). The DV4mini is a tiny USB stick that can turn any PC into a hotspot for all the amateur digital modes: C4FM, D-Star and of course DMR. It does P25 and dPMR, too. Basically it is a router for your DMR transceiver. Ham radio purists will undoubtedly cringe at the thought of RF being routed via the internet, but this is 2016 and everything is connected to the internet, so let’s get over it.
Still in Holland Cor (PD0GHF) was again very helpful and invited me into his shack for me to check out his DV4mini setups. Yes, setups, because Cor is a man with a lot of radio equipment, especially in his trusty Volvo.For the DV4mini to work you need to hook it up to a computer, install the software, configure it and off you go. The computer can be your laptop, PC, but also one of those mini computers, like the Raspberry Pi. With a tiny 3.5 inch TFT screen you can make a very portable hotspot. Cor already made two of them.Unfortunately for me Cor didn’t want to part with one of his hotspots, but luckily I had already bought my own DV4mini. Now some of you may know I am not a big fan of the Raspberry Pi, but Cor’s setup looked very appealing. And then Dave (PD5DOF) gave me a 3.5″ TFT screen as a parting gift at the last VERON meeting I attended. So I sighed and ordered a Rpi from RS, which arrived in a couple of days. I ordered the Rpi3 because it is the first Pi with on-board WiFi, so no need to buy a separate WiFi adapter.
There are many ready-made images, with the DV4mini software already installed, available to download on the net. You burn an image on a micro SD card, insert it in the Rpi and your Pi will come alive. But of the 10+ images I tried not one worked on my Pi3, probably because they were made for the Pi2. The plain vanilla Raspbian image did work with my Pi3 and the 3.5″ TFT screen, but the DV4mini software wouldn’t work. The Ubuntu MATE image would work with the DV4mini software, but not with my 3.5″ TFT screen.
So after a week of fiddling around I took the latest Raspian image, installed the latest version of Mono (open source version of MS.NET) from scratch and then the special version of the DV4mini software for small screens. And because I did all that I can now present you with……
THE FIRST EVER DMR AMATEUR RADIO STATION IN TAIWAN…..As you can see I am connected to the reflector connecting all of Holland (4500). I can now take my MD-390, walk out of the shack, sit on the couch and be able to talk with all my fine friends back home, while being in Taiwan!
In Holland most repeaters are connected to the Brandmeister network. In fact, if you look at this map it is becoming the most popular network to connect DMR repeaters to in the world. The Brandmeister network has a dashboard at https://brandmeister.network/ and the good thing about this dashboard is that you can actually see if you connected to the network.Not only that, your most recent transmissions are also logged.Apart from QSOs with Dutch hams I have also had QSOs with the US, Sweden and Australia and they were real QSOs as well. Not much use exchanging a “59” when using DMR, is it now? For me this is most important as it allows me to break my isolation here in Taiwan by being able to have QSOs with ham friends from back home and also make new friends all over the world. I always thought that that was the essence of amateur radio. Am I right?