Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tales of the Repeater

Tales of the Repeater


Well a couple of weeks ago I ordered this repeater on eBay for $155.50 including shipping.  Immediately the seller phoned me and asked me to cancel the payment (I am one of those people who pay immediately at the close of the auction) and pay him directly to his email address using PayPal.  It didn't raise to many alarms because, I knew that PayPal had protections on buying items, anyway I waited two weeks and the repeater has not shown up at the house.  I emailed him and he reassured me that it was on its way.  Another week goes by and still no repeater so I send a message asking if there is a problem ? he answers back that his wife has cancer and he has been spending his time driving her to Chemo treatments, so I back off and I am starting to hear warning bells, so another week goes by and send another email asking if there is a problem ? and he reply's that it is on the way and provides a tracking number,  I check the USPS tracking system and sure e'nuf  the package is on the way.
The excitement builds and on the day of arrival I bring it home from the post office.  Now here is what is suppose to be in the package:  

new igloo cooler
new 12 volt 3 watt solar panel
2 new magnetic mount Baofeng antennas with 10 foot of antenna cable
2 new 16 channel UHF model 888/777 radios
2 battery eliminators
double cigarette lighter plug with 2 USB plug ins
duplex repeater interface device

Here is what arrived

new igloo cooler:  check
new 12 volt 3 watt solar panel:  check and installed as shown in the picture but not connected to anything.
2 new mag mount Baofeng antennas w/ 10 foot of cable:  check installed as shown
2 new 16 channel Pofung model 888 radios:  check with charging cups glued to the bottom of the ice chest, "we have a problem Houston!"
sealed box with leads to the charging cups, "we have a problem Houston!"
what I believe to be a Baofeng duplex repeater box.
and the basic manual for the 888s.

The seller had said that all documentation would be provided and the basic manual for the 888's is not full documentation, anyway let me continue.  The solar panel is glued to the top of the of the cooler as expected and the leads are neatly through the lid but are not attached to anything.  The charging cup are glued to the bottom of the cooler and when the radios are placed in them they are (1) loose, they fall out of the cups and (2) the radio on the right cannot be plugged into the repeater controller because the cup is placed against the vertical wall.
The power cords for the cup go into what I assume to be power splitter but I haven't broken the glue sealing the cover yet and there are no connectors on the bear wires. (this is where the cigarette lighter plugs should be connected).
So what shall I do, well first I will send the gentleman an email asking for the missing parts, but I do not expect a workable solution maybe he will maybe he won't but this to me is a learning experience on how to assemble a cross band/duplex (GMRS) repeater.  So here is my list for making what I got work and not expecting any positive results from the seller.

Here is my list of what is needed for build a cross band/duplex (or simplex) repeater in a box.

1 ea plastic ice chest/cooler at least 24"X14"X14" (local hardware store).
2 ea large fender washers (local hardware store).
1 ea 12v solar panel 12"X12"X1"  (eBay/Amazon)  13.8v or better but not more than 18v.
2 ea Baofeng/Pofung UV-5R radios (eBay/Amazon).
2 ea Baofeng/Pofung UV-5R radio 12v battery eliminator (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea 12v cigarette lighter Y splitter cord (1 male 2 female) (local auto parts store).
1 ea 12v cigarette lighter pigtail (male) (local auto parts store).
1ea 12v cigarette lighter pigtail (female) (local auto parts store).
1 ea Baofeng/Radio-Tone Duplex repeater controller (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea 12v 7ah battery >=  (auto parts/eBay/Amazon/WalMart).
1 ea 12v digital voltmeter (auto parts/eBay/Amazon/WalMart).
4 sets (red and black) powerpole connectors (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea powerpole 6 way splitter (or you can build your own).
2 ea Baofeng/Pofung mobile antenna (eBay/Amazon).
1 ea 48"X4" aluminium sheet (optional).
6 ea insulated terminals (auto parts/eBay/Amazon/WalMart).
2 ea Velcro wire wrap.
zip cord.

Tools needed to assemble:

1 ea powerpole crimper (ask me or a club member to borrow and how to use it).
1 ea electric drill w/drill bits and hole saw (ask me or a club member to borrow).
1 ea black marker.
1 ea hacksaw or dremel tool w/cutting wheel. (for cutting the aluminium sheet).
1 ea bottle of gorilla glue.
1 ea tube of  silicon sealer/silicon glue/silicon caulking or hot glue gun and glue sticks.
1 ea combo wire stripper wire cutter and crimper.
1 ea phillips screw driver.

Before we get on with the assembly lets go over a few terms so we all understand what I am trying to say.

1.  A powerpole set is a 30/45 amp red and black shells with contacts.
2.  You can deviate in any manner you desire to build you repeater this is just a general plan that I am using to make mine.

OK lets get on with the assembly:

1.  Read through the instructions twice.
2.  Assemble the parts and tools.
3.  Drill a hole in the top of the cooler for the leads off of the solar panel insert the leads and use the silicon caulk or gorilla glue to fasten the solar panel to the top and to seal the hole on the inside.
4.  Assemble a powerpole set to the red and black leads of the solar panel.
5.  Assemble at a minimum a 12" extension cord using the zip cord and 2`power pole sets (one at each end) and connect it to the solar panel connectors. (this is so you can open the lid without disconnecting anything).
6.  Depending on your battery create a small jumper either using either insulate terminal connectors or insulated ring connectors on one end, a powerpole set to the other end.
7.  This step is optional.  You do not have to anchor your equipment at all in the cooler but I highly recommend it. Measure the length and width of the battery and radios. Cut the strip of aluminium to the length+2Xwidth+1" once for the battery and twice for the radios.  Check the fit and then glue them into the cooler, the radios on the ends and the battery in the center.  An alternative to using the aluminium is to use small eyebolts and small bungy cords to hold the radios and battery in place.
8.  On the lid glue two large fender washers (the larger the better), one at each end.  Now drill on the sides of the cooler two holes large enough for the Baofeng magnetic mount cables to fit through. Use the Velcro wire ties to coil the antenna leads.
9,  Create a Y powerpole unit (single assembly on one end double on the other.) Create a cable powerpole unit on one end and a female cigarette lighter receptacle on the other.  Now is the time to create your 4 way splitter, if you are so inclined.
10.  Program your radios, I recommend using CHIRP. (Check with Mike KE7NVX to see if the latest EmmCom load will support the repeater)  Now remove the batteries (I recommend you find a place to place the charger(s) and maintain your batteries) and install the battery eliminators.
11.  Plug the battery eliminators into the cigarette lighter splitter.  Now plug the cigarette lighter splitter male plug into the female plug you created with the powerpole on the end, and then connect it to the 4 way splitter.
12.  Using a powerpole set and terminal connectors create the power cable for the voltmeter and the USB ports.
13. Drill using the hole saw the openings for the meter and USB ports, and assemble the meter and USB to the side of cooler.  
14.  Plug your Voltmeter/USB power assembly into the 4 way splitter. 
15.  Now you have power to the radios and you have a powerpole unit open, plug in your solar panel here.  On mine I have a 4 way splitter so I can plug in the voltmeter and the USB outlets in.  The voltmeter allows me to check the status of the battery (don't let it get below 11.25v) and the USB lets me charge a cell phone or a tablet.
16.   Mount the repeater controller to the other side of the cooler from the battery.  Plug it in to the appropriate ports on the radios and your good to go.  If you are creating a simplex repeater glue the controller to the other side and plug the cable into the appropriate ports on a single radio.

There are several options to this setup.  You can eliminate the USB ports, you can eliminate the voltmeter but I don't recommend it.  You can use any type of VHF/UHF magnetic mount antennas for the repeater just drill the hole so the SO239 connector will pass through or the hole to pass the RG8X through and attach the SO239 connector on the inside.  Just make sure you have at least 10' of cable on each antenna. In addition you could use vertical antennas or rollup j-poles.  You can also charge the battery through the USB, through the cigarette lighter female plug.  The solar charger is a misnomer in that it will keep the battery charged (think trickle charge vs a high amp charger), so if you have a period of heavy usage you may have to apply a supplemental charger. 

Some of the future projects that I will document here will be the:

Quadcopter's search & rescue configuration.
 Fixed wing drone for search & rescue.
Modification of a camp trailer to become a mobile comm center.
ARES and RACES protocols.
US Coast Guard Auxiliary communications protocols.
The project to put a repeater(s) for channel 16 on Lake Oroville.
The project to bring a monitored channel 16 on Northern California Lakes.
The project to create a central comms center manned by the Coast Guard Auxiliary 24/7.
The project to write a comm plan for Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 03-09 (yes I am still working on it).


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