- Category: Blog
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RepeaterBook is delighted to continue its relationship with CHIRP, the most popular free radio programming software in the world. Dan Smith has been busy upgrading the software to a new Python platform and adding new radios and features, such as GMRS support, as part of the CHIRP-Next project. Users can now download GMRS repeater data. RepeaterBook is the only source of GMRS data in CHIRP.
RepeaterBook is continuing its long relationship with CHIRP providing FREE amateur radio repeater data for all CHIRP users around the world utilizing its new API. "First off, use of the main API seems to be going really well...We're also enjoying having access to all the extra attributes, like landmark, city, and the other repeater types," said Dan Smith. The API has allowed for the support of additional radios and modes that the old interface could not provide.
Amateur radio data can be exported from RepeaterBook and imported into the CHIRP app manually, or users can use the CHIRP interface to download amateur radio and GMRS repeater data automatically into the program. RepeaterBook will offer export files from the website for GMRS shortly.
RepeaterBook is a crowd-sourced and local admin-curated database providing the best, free repeater data around the world. RepeaterBook has been serving the civilian radio community since 2006 with a team of over 100 admins all around the world. RepeaterBook also produces a world-class app available on Google Play and the Apple App Store courtesy of M1HOG, Nicolas Pike.
CHIRP users will benefit when the community helps source accurate information to RepeaterBook. If a repeater you know about isn't present, add it to RepeaterBook. If the data needs updating, let us know! All is needed is a valid amateur radio or GMRS call sign to register. Registration and full access to the site are completely free!
- Category: Blog
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There seem to be three reasons Hams are purchasing IP boxes such as the Shark RF OpenSpot or the DV4 series.
- No DMR repeater in their area
- There are only DMR-MARC repeaters in their area and they want to use BrandMeister
- They’re uncomfortable using the local repeaters
The third reason is the most concerning, and if the trend continues, DMR repeaters could be a short-lived trend.
There are stories from around the country of users and equipment being banned from DMR repeaters ranging from issues with the user’s equipment to a repeater owner demanding low utilization rates of his repeater(s). There are two sides to every story and a reason for every rule. And a consequence.
Digital voice (DV) modes are not new to amateur radio. D-Star has been around for quite some time. Yaesu launched its System Fusion line and saw success getting low-cost repeaters deployed, helping transition Hams from the analog to the digital world. P-25 and NXDN require expensive commercial radios, which is a barrier. None has seen the end-user response that DMR has seen, primarily driven by the arrival of low-cost (cheap) DMR radios arriving from China, potentially to the chagrin of some circles, but with enthusiasm by others. The barrier to enter DMR is very low compared to other digital modes. Some of these radios perform very well compared to the high priced commercial counterparts coming from the likes of Kenwood and Motorola. Though, a few Chinese models can cause significant difficulty on repeaters because they do not correctly manage time slots, and should not be used on repeaters at all.
Now, there are growing pains, and repeater owners are grasping for the right balance of usability and order when managing a system that so easily connects users to the world. Rules are being made, some good and necessary. Some, maybe not so good and suffocating. Some Hams have found themselves publicly shamed or banned from repeaters. If they’re not using a radio that sounds good enough, is not a specific brand, or activate a talk group with too much activity, they are being asked to leave. Forever. There are even repeaters out there that disallow transmitting that you are monitoring. You can only make a call to another specific station: no rag chewing, only short QSOs, only time slot one. No nets. The list of rules from all over the country goes on and on. It seems nobody wants to help out a newbie with lousy audio or someone that can’t figure out how to put together a code plug. There can be a steep learning curve. If you want to listen to a net, buy an IP box.
So, I did. I bought an OpenSpot. And with the OpenSpot, I fell in love with DMR as the world opened to me. I enjoy speaking with Hams from all over the world. What a fantastic system DMR has created. Easy and fun. I make calls now and find folks to talk with all the time. Great people. I made calls on the local repeaters and rarely heard from anyone. I also get less packet loss using the OpenSpot than trying to go through the local repeater. I found a great net that I would not have found otherwise.
The Tennessee TG 3147 Net is an excellent learning net, but there are many out there. I like this net because it contributes to the collective knowledge base of the DMR community and seeks to teach others about how to set up their radios and operate them properly. They also provide guest speakers who speak to the trends in the DMR community. And most of all, they’re friendly. It goes on for a good hour and a half. Some repeater owners would lose their minds counting duty cycles.
Rules that promote good operating practices and promote a better a well-mannered community environment are essential. The unfortunate part of some regulations is that they sometimes go beyond the rules that help encourage good operating practices that we used to call “Elmering.” Instead, they promote exclusivity, classes, and cliques within the community. I often wonder, “if a repeater owner wants his system of repeaters to be quiet, why is it even hooked up to a c-bridge that connects to the rest of the world?” Just cluster them and wall off from everyone else. It’s like building your house along the busy highway for good transportation access but complaining about the traffic.
I agree with the concept of a repeater owner, making any rule he wants to or limiting the use in any way. It’s his house, his rules, and the rules are justifiable. I mentioned the consequences before. For me, I may just not come over to visit anymore, and many more Hams are feeling this way-too many. With my TPLink and the hotspot from my LTE-enabled phone, I don’t even need to buy a mobile radio. Nearly perfect connections every time in my car while commuting or at the office. I have little use for the local repeaters anymore. I call it, “Ruled Out.” Instead of listening to barely used repeaters or fretting about the repercussions of making a mistake on the repeaters, I am actively communicating with others, learning about DMR, making new friends and connections. Love it. I wish nobody felt compelled to buy the OpenSpot for reason number three on my list. I think it’s a shame to disconnect from the locals.
My favorite part of amateur radio has always been the commute to work. I love listening to the old-timers give the traffic and weather reports, especially during weather events. Sometimes, they would touch on topics that I was interested in or I had better information for them. “Break.” That’s how we got to know each other and eventually meet for an “eyeball.” I have no use for repeaters that discourage this practice. I found the repeaters that encourage community are busy gathering spots and were always the first place I went to when I needed information about local emergencies, like earthquakes. Hams are talking about it before the news is. Every time.
I bought an OpenSpot, as many folks are doing. I can dial up whatever talk group I want, talk for as long as I want, listen to whatever I want, and not worry about being outed or shamed for violating the rules of the repeater, rules that go beyond common sense, but rather promote disuse. With the affordability, flexibility, and ease of use of these devices, repeater owners may find their repeaters used less and less. For some, this may be exactly what they want.
Come visit the Repeaterbook bunch on our own talkgroup at 31419. We’d love to hear from you.
- Category: Blog
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Ever wonder what drives a guy to create a Web site tracking 30,000 repeaters worldwide and spending a thousand hours a year making it all work? Me, too! But let's take a walk down memory lane and come to understand what Repeaterbook is and where it comes from.
A little about me, Garrett (KD6KPC). I got licensed in 1992 as a no-code tech. Though I have actually passed the code portion of the General exam (back in 1995), I have never taken the theory test. I know I'd pass it, I have done it so many times on the QRZ.com tests! But I never really had an interest in HF. I've been exposed to it plenty. Many Elmers I knew had HF equipment and I got to QSO (3rd Party) with hams all over the world. But it never really thrilled me like going out and working a parade, race, weather net, or any of the other activities that occur down on the repeaters. But I'll go get the upgrade one of these days anyway, because I know some look down on us techs just for being techs, hihi.
I had some early experiences with trying to locate repeaters as a young ham. I did what everyone else did...went out and bought a pocket directory. Being a teenager and being so into electronics and science (I got a perfect score on the science portion of the ACT test because it was all about HF propagation!) I spent a lot of time fiddling with that little HT. I tried every repeater near me in the book. I took the book camping and on week-long trips. I was actually intrigued by the different courtesy tones and amazed by voice IDers (super geek).
Our local ham club, The Antelope Valley Amateur Radio Club (AVARC) was the first club I ever joined. Got the name tag and everything. Went to the meetings down at city hall. Talked on the club repeater, the 146.730 repeater on Hauser Peak. Definitely, the best and friendliest repeater covering the valley. I also paid for an autopatch membership on another repeater. This was pre-cell phone and was the coolest thing ever. I could call home and tell them I would be late!
When I could afford it, I bought a mobile radio. I got a Kenwood TM-733a dual bander and have been hooked on Kenwoods ever since. Between my college years, I worked for my uncle in Colorado. I spent countless hours researching repeaters (the Internet still wasn't really a thing in 1996), documenting them, and writing them down so I could program my radio. I used the ARRL book and the ArtsciPub book to locate repeaters. I went to school in Idaho, and I did that research, too. I had spreadsheets in file folders that told me how to program my radio for different trips.
Then I got married and moved to Oregon. My wife is a ham, too! We have radios in all of our cars. Now with the Internet available, you think the world's problems would be solved by being able to get good, reliable data about repeaters and what to use where. This was 2006, I don't think the problem is solved even today.
Here's the problem with repeaters. They can come and go at a moment's notice. They can also be listed through coordination (which is where the ARRL gets their data) but not be on the air anymore. You see, as the owner of a coordinated repeater myself, I know that paying for crystals and tuning the duplexers can be a real pain. Once you get coordination, you want to keep it, even if your repeater is not running. You have every good intention of putting it back online, but time or money just has not permitted it. But if you let the coordination go, someone else can get it and you just compounded the issues trying to get your repeater back up and running again.
Do you know what we call machines that are coordinated but not operating? Paper repeaters. Because they only exist on paper. These really confuse guys who use the directories and see an endless number of repeaters for an area, but only a few work. The reason for this is above. You only want to know about the ones that work, right?
You know resetting a radio causes it to "forget" all of its memory channels. If you reset your radio, you have to completely start over with programming it. It's nice to have a list of repeaters available that tells you which repeater to program into which memory channel.
I own 11 radios with 2m/440 capability. I like them all to be programmed the same. I always want the Goat Mountain repeater to be in memory channel two on all of my radios. You probably do that, too! But for the two radios in the cars, I want them to also be programmed for my trips to visit my folks in Idaho, my weekend getaways to Seattle, and the Disneyland road trips. Thank you Kenwood, and others, for creating computer programmable radios. I could now create repeater lists for the trips I was taking without destroying my local config. Just upload the config you need for the trip and then upload the "home" version when returning.
I had amassed a wealth of repeater information with Excel from all of my trips. This information helped me decide which repeaters to program. The problem with Excel is that it is only available on a computer running the file. Hey, this was 2006, there was no OneDrive and iCloud back then. To make this visible from anywhere I could get the Internet (also before the iPhone), I needed to put the list up on the Web. nwham.com was born.
Now trust me, I am no computer IT professional. I first learned about computers at 12 when I bought a Commodore 64 and learned Basic programming from the sample program manual it came with. I programmed my paper route subscription list right into that thing. The point is, that I was self-taught. I've never been to a computer class in my life. So how was I going to create a website to list repeaters?
I had dabbled with Microsoft Access at work a little, so I did some research and came across PHP and MySQL. I actually began to learn how to program the website by buying the book, PHP and MySQL for Dummies.
The Web started out with just Oregon, then some Washington, and a little Oregon. That was it. I tried to expand it to be complete for those three states and thought that would be good enough.
The difference with this website was that I wanted to track the repeater's operational status and let you know when the last time the repeater was actually confirmed working. I wanted you to have the details that the locals knew about it. There weren't even ads on the site at that time. Tracking about 1,000 repeaters, I posted them only as a hobby.
Thinking that was good and I was done, I was contacted by James Ewen (VE6AEW), a ham out of Alberta, Canada. I don't know how he found the Web Site, but he did. And he liked the direction it was headed. I remember spending hours on the phone with James (thank goodness my home phone service did not charge long distance to Canada) and coming together on a direction for the site and expanding it into Canada and eastward.
I want to make it clear to everyone that the repeater directory and app are not business ventures. They are extensions of the amateur radio hobby and is the result of, not only me, buy dozens of other hams who are giving of themselves, for no pay, to improve ham radio. The website does not, and will never charge for the data on the site. This is not to say that we are making a political statement or that anyone else is wrong for doing so. There are plenty of folks making lots of money, in a mutually beneficial way, that contribute a lot to the hobby. I have no problem with that. This is just not the model of Repeaterbook.
The nwham.com Web site was retired in 2011 and replaced with Repeaterbook.com, and the name much fitting for the website, especially as it marched eastward. We picked up local admins along the way and continue to solicit the ham community at large for updates to repeaters. Repeaterbook relies very heavily on user updates to keep the data up-to-date. Local knowledge is king.
The Repeaterbook app came along in 2011, also. This was a fortuante develpment. As much as I would like to program apps, I don't own a MAC and was, therefore, shut out from building an iPhone app. I only owned an iPhone, so that is where I had an interest. But Nicolas Pike, M1HOG, out of England, already had an app, called Repeater, that was displaying repeater data all around the world. He was looking to for a North American partner and I was looking for an app. Voila. An Android and iPhone app are now both available to the masses. The app has been hugely popular. Again, completely free and the data comes right from Repeaterbook.com.
Just to close out, I wanted to reiterate that Repeaterbook.com is not a corporation. There are ads on the site and they pay the bills. We hope they are not too annoying, but I think you understand. Our goal is simple...share with the masses everything we know about amateur radio repeaters. Being a crowd-sourced movement, we hope you will help contribute information to us. Don't think for a second that you are lining anyone's pockets, working for free, or putting my kids through college. I have a day job. You are simply helping us, and we will help you, give back a little to the hobby that has given us all so much.
So when you search for repeaters in your area and there are some great results, thank the admins and users who came before you and put that info there. Then leave the place a little better than you found it. Post an update. For those areas of the country where the data is a little sparse, please know that we do not raid other directories or pay anyone for data. Yes, there may be repeaters around you that are pretty common knowledge and we should know about them, but we don't. We apologize and hope that you will help us help others.
Thanks for your support!
Owner and creator of Repeaterbook.com
- Category: Blog
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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we agree.
Recently, we discovered RFinder had used an automated scraper to retrieve data from Repeaterbook.com and published it within their products. We wanted the amateur radio community to be aware of this, because we believe it proves that Repeaterbook data is so exceptional, it's worth taking.
Repeaterbook has always been a FREE resource. We don't sell the data and we never will. Yes, there are ads on the site, but they pay the bills that are generated from hosting a web site. But we don't charge anyone to view, or export the data.
We really wanted to let you know about how this impacts our over 80 volunteer admins, located all over the world, who work tirelessly to cultivate data and bring it to you. It also deeply affects the users who come to the site to simply browse the data, export it to their programming applications, or even provide updates. It's a huge disincentive to have the data piped in to a for-profit, commercial application with an annual subscription fee.
Imagine for a moment that this activity got to the point that Repeaterbook had no choice but to turn the lights off. If RFinder was able to take our best data and convince you to pay for their app and Repeaterbook's web traffic dropped to the point we could no longer pay the bills, we would disappear. If the admins and users started questioning the benefit of providing this data that was then being piped to a pay application that they received no financial reimbursement from, would they continue to volunteer their time? If they stop working, then the data goes stale and bad, which is death.
You see, we believe the quality of the data is the most important thing. No matter how many bells and whistles you have or how many programmers you employ, if you have bad data, you have no product. Yet, it is nearly impossible to have perfect data on amateur radio repeaters. There is no central licensing or information collecting entity in the United States, and technically, there is not even a requirement to coordinate a repeater. In some countries, such requirements to register a repeater are required and the data collected, but this is not true for the vast majority of repeaters. But this makes it difficult to obtain the data and countless hours are spent collecting it. The vast majority of our data comes directly from the people who browse the site.
Here are some stats:
- There are currently 31,216 active repeaters in the directory. To this number, we do not add repeaters that have been reported as removed. It is an honest number.
- In the last year, we added 1,376 repeaters.
- In the last year, we received 9,409 requests to update a repeater.
- In the last year, we completed 19,534 updates.
- In the last year, users submitted 352 repeater reviews.
- In the last year, users created 1,465 propagation reports.
The ARRL has tried for decades to gather repeater data from coordination councils. Like me, you may have grown frustrated with the quality of the data, which was not the fault of the ARRL. They were just publishing what they received. It was a great service they provided, contacting all the coordinating entities and gathering repeater data. Unfortunately, the data that was received was not always the most accurate or had become outdated. Where we gain an advantage with the web presence and app is the ability to update repeaters in real time. Once a directory is published as a hard copy, it's frozen until the next cycle. We complete updates daily.
Enough with the preface. We will now show you the evidence of our data appearing on RFinder:
| Everything in the RFinder "Description" field was lifted directly from Repeaterbook.
Repeaterbook uses hyperlinks to link to additional information. The scraper took the text of "Repeater Coverage Map", and "jfindu lookup - dstar-users lookup" but not the hyperlink itself. Without the hyperlink, the data has no value for RFinder.
Everything below the "Gain" field is easy to prove as originating from Repeaterbook. The text is work for word what is above minus the hyperlinks. Even the "in memory" item, personally added by our own admin as a tribute to a sk, was taken and posted.
Our Kansas admin does an interesting thing where he puts the name of the linked system into our Landmark field, which is added to the location field, even though it is not a landmark. This is something he has come up with on his own and the data is not submitted to the ARRL this way.
It has shown up on the RFinder program in their location field as well. See the three repeaters to the left in this listing.
So, you be the judge. Did RFinder use data from Repeaterbook to supplant its own data?
If you agree that they did, then don't bother purchasing a membership to view Repeaterbook's superior data for free!
Update: On 5/23/2016, we noticed RFinder was making correction to their app and pulling down the most obvious data that they had of ours. At least related to the screen shots on this page. So, we did another check in other parts of North America and there was still a lot of our data on the web version of the site. We will keep watching to see if they scrub all of the data.
Update: 4/3/2018, Repeaterbook is based out of the USA in Oregon. After a review of ORS 164.377, theft of data, whether copyrightable or not, is expressly prohibitted and is punsihable as a class C felony. Even though the perpetrators of theft may not live in the state, if criminal charges were pursued, Oregon could request extradition from the state where the perpetrator(s) currently reside.
- Category: Blog
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Author's note: This article was written some years ago, and some information may be a bit dated. I'm attempting to bring this up to date gradually.
Ask ten people, get ten answers.
OK... A radio needs Part 95 acceptance for FRS, GMRS, MURS. No Baofeng has this, per se. *BTECH has released a Part 95 MURS radio and a Part 95 GMRS radio.
For commercial use, radios need Part 90 approval. Most Baofengs HAVE this. Many Wouxun radios have this. A few Puxing radios have this. Most Anytone radios have this. GMRS radios need Part 95E certification. MURS radios require Part 95J certification. FRS radios require Part 95E certification.
Check on the back of the radio for the "FCC ID" sticker. This FCC ID can be looked up to see what rule parts the radio is certified for. An FCC ID label is required to be placed on the back of the radio.
SOME commercial radios have more than one rule part. You'd see Part 90 AND Part 95(a). Then these would be legal on GMRS. Not FRS, Part 95(b) or MURS Part 95(j). Because FRS radios have a maximum of 2 watts and non removable antennas. Murs has a 2 watt maximum, and these radios exceed that on high power. Of course, you then have the field programmability, which oddly enough even violates the Part 90 approval... figure that one out!
For Amateur radio use, NO Part 97 approval is required. I don't even think there is an equipment certification for Part 97. Part 97 primarily covers operating rules, although there are some equipment rules. Since amateur operators can use *almost* all equipment, other rule parts dealing with equipment come into play. Part 97 does cover proper engineering practices that are required to make sure equipment is within tolerance.
For amateur equipment, Part 15 largely applies on VHF and UHF radios. This is primarily for radios with a scanning function, to certify the radios cannot monitor cellular, as well as receiver products interfering and receiving interference from consumer products.
If you take your Icom, Kenwood, etc., radios and enter the FCC ID into the FCC database, you will see it likely listed as "Part 15 scanning receiver." That's why you see some new equipment like on Universal being listed "This radio has not received FCC approval." Not waiting for Part 97 approval; but waiting for that Part 15 receiver compliance.
The applicable rule here is 15.101 Paragraphs (a) and (B)
Most Part 90 radios.... Which are commercial radios, can be used on the amateur bands legally. That's why all these Baofengs, Wouxuns, Puxings, etc., have taken off. Wouxun started it off by being the first Chinese radio to get FCC approval. All these other radios floating around at the time had no approval. Of course, when this hit the net with a firestorm and sales took off, other manufacturers finally got into the fray, and we now have the mess we are in today.
You see all the hams with Motorola, Midland, and other radios on the ham bands. They are Part 90 radios, which makes them legal for amateur operators. They have been certified for use in the USA, based on technical standards for commercial use. Amateurs may use any equipment certified under any other rule part. The reverse is NOT true. Amateurs are expected to utilize proper engineering practices and are granted wide latitude for operation.
What about all those Quangshengs, and oddball brands. Forget it. If they have no FCC ID, they are not legal for use on ANY radio service in the USA.... Including amateur. This may, at first thought, contradict my previous statements regarding proper amateur engineering practices. The answer to that is simple: The radios have not passed any type of scrutiny in regards to spectral purity, or any other factors governing equipment for use in the USA.
This will not, by any means, stop the debate. If I get one person to consider the rules, then that is a victory. I will hear 100 different reasons why I am wrong. This is an interpretation. I've tried to be as literal as possible, with as little personal bias as possible. I could spoon feed each and every applicable regulation, and draw pictures. I'd still be doubted. At any rate, at least I'd cause a pause to consider. For the record, I own several brands of radios, such as Baofeng and Puxing.
The point, really, is to make people stop and consider the fact that ALL radio services have rules, regulations and technical standards. Not all radios will work with other radios. Very few can be used by the general public.
[Update 11-27-2015 for Part 15 clarifications and Part 90 corrections]
[Update 07-23-2019 for FRS Rule power limits and some dated material being brought up to date
Note: the FCC approval process only applies to commercially manufactured equipment. Homebrew stuff is exempt.
Of course, feel free to consult the FCC regulations if you don't want to take my word on this:
For UK Users:
Baofeng, Wouxun, TYT, and many other radios are ILLEGAL on PMR446.
For Australian users:
Baofeng, Wouxun, TYT and most if not all Cheap Chinese Radios, are illegal in Australia for ALL PURPOSES! This includes amateur and commercial use. The ACMA will and has confiscated many radios. Unlikw many nations, the ACMA is an active enforcement agency.
John, KD8DVR Ohio Repeaterbook Admin.