After using the Yaesu FT1D for a few months now, I have discovered some likes and dislikes:


  • APRS and GPS built in
  • Scans very quickly
  • Loud audio
  • Small size


  • Takes forever to charge
  • Battery indicator is useless
  • Need two hands to operate volume control
  • Cumbersome menu system (very hard to program in the field)
  • Receive is not what I’d call stellar
  • Well under the rated power output (3.5 watts on high)
  • Got caught in my seatbelt and cracked the screen
  • APRS is not easy to use (should be one button/setting that turns on/off modem and GPS)
  • GPS sometimes takes 5+ minutes to get a lock
  • Cannot completely mute your own APRS “squawk”. HIGHLY annoying.
  • Does not keep the correct time
  • Doesn’t always automatically switch from FM to digital and vice versa.
  • “Flashlight” function buried in menu
  • “Bell” does not work (for me anyway – tried everything)
  • Shortwave receive is useless
  • Belt clip attached to battery (Doh!)
  • Supplied antenna is more like a dummy load (even a cheap $7 one from Ebay works FAR better)
  • Locking out channels while scanning is nearly impossible (I can’t figure it out anyway)

In a nutshell, it’s a pretty good radio but has MANY “quirks”. I really think Yaesu designed this radio and pushed it out the door in a rush. I also think it was designed by someone who has never operated a radio (at least a ham radio) before. Would I recommend it? Well, if you’re gung-ho about Fusion digital, you really have limited options. If you don’t care about that, buy something else. In fact, my Baofeng UV5R is far superior in quite a few aspects and it was only $40 CDN.

APRS Messenger

I have written (am writing) an application for Windows that allows a ham to interact on the APRS® network from the comfort of their home computer. Yes, that’s why I haven’t been on the air for seemingly forever. 🙂 Since many stations are (or should be) 2-way capable, I decided their must be a better way to send APRS® messages. And there is.

If anyone has used IRC (Internet Relay Chat) you’ll know that is a very flexible and powerful medium for chatting. Since I have done extensive programming for IRC (I wrote my own client), I decided to more-or-less emulate an IRC client. I looked at the problem from the same perspective as writing an IRC client as, from a programmers view, both IRC and APRS® have very similar requirements. Both are an exercise in parsing streams of text.

APRS® has a way to send messages to multiple stations by way of “GROUPS”. This is very similar to an IRC “channel”. APRS® also allows one to send messages directly to another station one-on-one. This is very similar to an IRC private message (PM). My software emulates this almost exactly the same allowing messages to a group (channel) or to another ham directly (PM). So far I’m using the APRS-IS (APRS Internet System) ONLY for this task but anyone using an RF station (eg. a mobile with 2-way capabilities) that is in range of an iGate (even indirectly through a Digipeater) can communicate with any IS station – and vice versa! Not only that, there is an Android app called “APRSdroid®” that allows one to use their Android phone to connect to the system as well. It features APRS® texting, position reporting and a host of connection protocols.

So now we have computer-to-computer, computer-to-Android, computer-to-RF, Android-to computer, Android-to-RF, RF-to-computer … you get the idea. You need never be far from messaging via ham radio! This technology very cool indeed.

I will post the ZIP file in a day or three for your enjoyment.

The ZIP file is ready! Please remember, there ARE still some bugs (mostly how GROUPS are handled – creating, changing, etc) so be very careful to check all your inputs, particularly the Login screen.

Download APRSmessenger

Copy to any folder that you have read/write permissions and run it!



Ham Comms

I envision a ham radio network. Many to one, one to many, many to many and one to one. Voice, text, video. The ultimate communications medium. And it’s entirely possible.

Hams have a great deal in Canada. We are un-encumbered with restrictions that choke hams in other countries. This gives us a unique edge on ham technology compared to many other countries around the world. And we should take advantage.



APRS For Free!

Well almost free anyway. Do you have an Android phone? Do you have a Baofeng UV5R? Sure you do. So now you can do amazing things with those two tools! APRS is a great way to locate other hams (optional of course) and even send them SMS messages via the APRS system.

baofeng_trrsAnd this is how you wire it up to the best of my knowledge. You’ll also need some software running on your Android phone called “APRSdroid” which is readily available in the Play Store. There might be a small fee – I don’t remember – but it isn’t much and is well worth it if you’re a ham. If this interface works, you could probably even send SSTV (yes, there’s an app for that), PSK31, etc, between walkies or even via any voice repeater in range.

Text AND picture messaging! Oh MAN!

This is how we may get new hams into the hobby. There has to be something younger people can use much like they use their current technology. They need to know how they can mix an old technology (radio) with a “new” technology (computers). To find out that with a $35 accessory (a UV5R), a cable and a ham radio license, their phone becomes a communication tool that will work WITHOUT the cell network if need be, would be inspiring to most <30’s people. Now if only someone provided a ready-made cable…

And even if their cell phone battery dies or they aren’t in range of the cell network, a nearby EchoIRLP repeater would keep them in voice contact to most parts of the entire globe just using that $35 “accessory”!


A glorious day for ham radio™


APRS On A Budget

After a lot of research, having a mobile or base APRS station boils down to this.

  • 2 meter radio transceiver + antenna
  • Argent Data OpenTracker USB ™ or Byonics TinyTrak4™ TNC
  • Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS™
  • Assorted cables

Using an old commercial VHF radio (modded for ham) and an OpenTracker (and some cabling) I already have on hand, my grand total is under $100 total!

Now I’ll have an APRS map of my surrounding area, GPS guidance – even GPS guidance to another APRS station… “Don’t worry, I’ll find you.” 🙂 Easy access to APRS text messaging using a built-in on screen keyboard, EMAIL, “in range notifies”, etc. All on a nice easy to navigate 3.5″ touch screen. How sweet is that?

Not only that, you can plug a laptop into the OpenTracker and run a full out packet station perfect for EMCOM, ARES, CANWARN, and many other applications.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Kenwood TM-V71 Review

From ve3ugg.com: ****+ (4+ stars)

These are excellent radios. Probably the best cross banding radios available. A local ham and myself sometimes use our V71’s and the local VHF and UHF repeaters (or simplex) to have a completely duplex QSO 🙂

Mine has been in a variety of 24/7 base use or all weather mobile basis for 3 years – no issues. No, sadly they don’t have fancy touch screens or APRS but they are rock stable and built like tanks. And they play well with computers – mostly. Despite what the documentation says, there is nothing special about “EchoLink Mode”. But the “data jack” works very well as do most in this class of radio.

They are very easy to use in a mobile. There’s only a few “buttons” and unlike some competitors, they are laid out with some thought. Dual VOL/SQ knobs, one for each A/B side. Very readable display in most conditions. They are easy to program either by computer (the free software works quite well) or in the field. The menu system is not “nested” (54 items) and it’s easy to find things.

As well, if you can find a TMD710 head unit – that accepts a GPS signal – you can replace the head of the V71 as the radio bodies are identical! Then you will have a complete mobile or base APRS unit.

The biggest issue is the modular microphone jack. It is very easy to break the tab off the modular jack of the mic and then it is ill fitting. I would have preferred an 8 pin mobile mic jack so this is why I gave it a 4+

If you can find a used one in good shape for $200 CDN, buy it.


From a retailer:

Price: $419.95 CDN (at www.DurhamRadio.com)


The following was taken from the official Kenwood documentation… I think. It’s quite accurate at least.


RX: 118 – 524 MHz 136 – 524 MHz 800 – 1300 MHz * (*excluding cellular band)

TX: 144 – 148 MHz 430 – 450 MHz

RF Power Output

5/10/50 Watts on Both VHF and UHF

Dual Receive On Same Band (VxV, UxU)

In addition to simultaneous receive on both VHF and UHF bands, this radio can receive two frequencies on the very same band. This means, for example, that you can have both the call channel and local channel, or the repeater channel and local channel, on the same band.

Five-In-One, Programmable Memory

For extra versatility, the TM-V71A has a programmable memory that can store five entire operating profiles, ready for instant recall at the push of a button. Each profile includes such settings as display mode, frequency range, and memory mode. It can equally be used to switch between 5 VFO frequencies.

1000 Multifunction Memory Channels

There are 1000 split memory channels for storing essential data such as transmit and receive frequencies, frequency step, and tone frequency.

Plus an additional 10 for programmable scan. You can identify each channel with up to 6 alphanumeric characters (Memory Name function). Additionally, memory data can be edited and stored on a PC using the optional PG-5G programming interface cable and MCP-2A Memory Control software

Multiple Scan

As well as VFO scan, program scan, MHz scan, memory scan and call scan, the TM-V71A offers memory bank scan: the 1000 channels are grouped into 10 banks for selective scanning. Also featured are scan resume (time-operated, carrier-operated, and seek), memory channel lockout, tone scan, CTCSS scan, and DCS scan.

Invertible Front Panel

For greater installation convenience, the detachable front panel can be inverted so the transceiver can be mounted upside down, thus ensuring that the speaker is not obstructed.

Choice Of 2 Backlight Colours

To maximize visibility, the backlight colour for the large LCD panel can be switched between warm amber and cool green.

104-Code Digital Code Squelch

In addition to CTCSS (42 subtone frequencies), the TM-V71A is equipped for DCS (104 codes). Whatever code is chosen, the squelch will only open for reception if the other party uses the identical code.

Voice Guidance & Storage Option (VGS-1)

The audible announcement function is enabled for blind-key operation using the optional VGS-1 unit, which also provides up to 30 seconds of continuous recording.

Weather Alert/RX (US only)

This transceiver is capable of receiving the NOAA Weather Band and responding to emergency transmissions such as storm warnings by emitting an audible alert tone.

EchoLink® Sysop Mode For Node Terminal Operation

When the TM-V71A is connected to a PC (with the necessary Windows-compatible software installed) using the PG-5H option, it can operate as a node terminal for EchoLink®. EchoLink® connects radio amateurs through the Internet using VoIP technology: any transceiver with access to a node can connect to any other in the world as long as it too has node access. It is also possible to access the EchoLink® network directly from a PC. To register for EchoLink® (using your call sign), access the official website at www.echolink.org.

EchoLink® Memory (Automatic Dialer)

Up to 10 DTMF memory channels dedicated to EchoLink® can store call signs (or conference names) and Node Numbers.



Kenwood TM-V71

Read Review

The Kenwood TM-V71 Mobile Radio

At my QTH I can barely make it to the local APRS digipeater from my Yaesu FT1DR walkie using 144.390Mhz. The local iGate shut down so that left me with no APRS coverage (other than my phone) while taking the dog for a walk 🙁 What to do? Well, I haven’t been very active on FM voice lately. My  walkie can use APRS on any frequency – even UHF – so I thought I thought I’d press an old TM-732 into service as a cross band repeater (5 watts). Low and behold, this worked!

Sort of. It digipeats about 50% of the packets. Oh well, there’s lots of packets right? It works pretty good. Today I thought, “hmm. I wonder if my TM-V71 would work better?”. So I tried it. Yes, it works better. Much better. About 90%+ are passed now. And an extra bonus, my TM-732 was kind of bonky on UHF receive anyway and my walkie’s squawk range is 30% more! Need to send a text or email? Forgot your phone? No problem, APRS is there!

I discovered that 440.390Mhz is the UHF APRS frequency so I’m using that and ID’ing every 10 minutes on the UHF frequency using Morse at 20 WPM. I use a computer to squawk my ID (a STATUS really) over the APRS channel to be legal.

If you’re looking for a low cost solution to an APRS “extender”, this might be the way to go for you. The only issue is squawking on UHF. But, if you’re using a TinyTracker and an external radio, just swap out the VHF radio for a UHF radio – or use BOTH 🙂 – and Bob’s yer Uncle.


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