System Fusion

System Fusion

July 3, 2019
     If you are still contemplating purchasing the new FT-3DR, at least one retailer is advertising them for $449.95. Get ’em while they’re hot!
June 27, 2019
     Just in case you were planning on buying a Fusion repeater, but didn’t quite have all the necessary funds together, take heart: Yaesu has extended the repeater promotional program until the end of the year. Wish I had a good reason to buy another one!
June 13, 2019
     At least one retailer had the FT-3 for sale at $479.95 with free shipping. At least one local superham has ordered one! When he get’s his, we’ll know they are shipping! 
June 8, 2019
     Apparently you will be able to have your FT-3DR fairly soon. How soon is ‘fairly soon’? Well, I don’t want to hazard a guess but they are for ‘pre-sale’ now at the full price of $519.95, $10 off the MSRP.
     I am differentiating ‘pre-sale’ from ‘reservation’, rightly or wrongly. I’d sure hate to put down 100% of the price on a ‘reservation’. You don’t even have to do that with a hotel room.
     Just for my own satisfaction, I looked for the caveat that ‘….this device has not been approved for sale or distribution…’, etc. but did not see it. Maybe it has been approved. I can’t say, but it would appear so.
     Now I am waiting for the price to drop to ‘poor man’ levels.
May 15, 2019
     The big news today is the announcement of the Yaesu FT-3DR which will be making its debut at the Dayton Hamvention this weekend. Apparently a replacement for the FT-2DR, it is a very nice-looking dual-band C4FM HT that adds some new features to the existing lineup. Besides having built-in Bluetooth, it will be able to monitor digital signals on both Band A and Band B at the same time. 
May 8, 2019
     The last two PDN Nets conducted by Yaesu were cancelled due to high workload and other factors. We assume they will resume at some point but have no official word as of yet. In the meantime, there are many excellent nets run by private individuals that deal with Yaesu System Fusion, C4FM and WiRES-X. You can check hamoperator.com for a listing. 
April 24, 2019
     Yaesu revealed that, by using the DB15 connector on back of the DR-2X, a second radio could be continuously connected that would essentially become a second repeater. They also revealed the second repeater would be analog only.
April 17, 2019
     We are anticipating the release of information from Yaesu on how we can connect a second radio to a DR-2X to make a pair of constantly-connected repeaters. 
April 10, 2019
     K1KC returned to the Net Control position with a tutorial concerning Yaesu C4FM bandwidth. KJ4ZDB joined as net logger tonight. 
March 27, 2019

NX1Q tried his hand at logging tonight. It sure helps if we can spread the load around. 

March 20, 2019

While WC4FM took over the reins tonight, I jumped into a new form of logging the connected nodes and station check-ins. Maybe there’s a more automated method and I am going to look into that possibility. Still, I believe using an established net logging program will be an improvement. It will provide for other loggers to perform net logger duties on different nights in the same program. We’ll see how this works out.

March 13, 2019

Numbers for this week shot WAY up. With a total of 45 different nodes connecting tonight and 31 different stations checking in, we had a huge night! Did I mention the net ran over two hours?  Clearly the Yard Dogs net has grown.

I’m not stating it will be this way next week or ANY week, but it might. We need to be ready to meet the challenge. All of us are learning more and more about our interesting hobby and I believe we are developing a knowledge base that is quite useful. I certainly hope you are getting something useful by participating. Thank you.

February 17, 2019
     If you need to refer to the PDN Function Instruction Manual for ALL THREE Yaesu PDN-capable radios, you will need to use the “1902-C” version of that manual. You can find it on the Yaesu website under the HRI-200 files (not sure why it would be there, but that’s where it is). You may also find it in the FILES section of our groups reflector: yellowriverdigitalgroup@groups.io.  
February 13.2019

Today was a red-letter day as Yaesu released new firmware upgrades for the FTM-100DR as well as the FTM-400 series radios, bringing them into the fold of PDN-capable radios. Also released was the newest version of the WiRES-X PC software for Windows machines.  

     A new cable kit (the SCU-40) was announced as well. These cables will allow the FTM-100’s and 400’s to operate in the HRI mode during PDN operation.

     We now have to start adapting our hardware to the new firmware and software and begin to learn those operating characteristics. Surely over the next few weeks we will be reporting on that during our nets.

February 6, 2019

Yaesu must have delivered a boatload of SCU-19 cables because there were as many as 186 nodes connected during the first (Yaesu-sponsored) all-digital PDN net. True, you did not have to be on a PDN but you did have to be in digital. I’ve had mine up for a month now and N4EXO has had his up a couple of days longer than me. I can definitely see its usefulness while driving a long distance.

Next PDN Net: March 3, 2019 at 4PM Eastern Time.

January 30, 2019
      The last two nets have experienced a huge jump in participation. This is a wonderful development because we are (hopefully) not only helping more people but we are gaining the experience of more operators. These last two nets have run about an hour and-a-half each.  Everyone gets a chance to share whatever they would like about C4FM and WiRES-X.
     We are having a great time ‘meeting’ new folks and sharing what we can about our hobby. Even though I have not met most of these folks I feel like they have become friends. We certainly enjoy hearing from each one every week. 
January 23, 2019

Hi Folks! What a great net tonight! No doubt Leonard had something to do with that! Our numbers jumped dramatically (for the night) but our averages remain about the same. You can check them out at the bottom of our ‘Log n’ Blog’ page.

The net lasted nearly an hour and-a-half and we had lots of excellent questions AND answers. Thanks to all stations who participated in tonight’s net. This was net #18.

It seemed appropriate to continue on the subject of Portable Digital Nodes since information is trickling out and experience with them is being gained every day. Yes, I know that not everyone has a PDN nor does everyone WANT a PDN. We appreciate their patience while we discuss that subject.

We are happy to have made so many new friends tonight and we look forward to hearing from them again soon. Hey! Don’t worry about taking up time by asking questions. That is what we are here for: to help each other. We are not experts and we do not propose to have all the answers. Perhaps amongst the group of us though, we can help out with any issues or questions you might have.

One question tonight dealt with other reflectors and so forth. The Yellow River Digital Group (Yard Dogs) does not itself operate any third party hardware for linking to the net. Part of the reason for that is because it is enough work to maintain and be somewhat proficient in the Yaesu System Fusion, C4FM and WiRES-X world without delving into other equipment.

We have not yet found any reason to exclude third party connections but we do sort of subscribe to the concept of a ‘planned system’. What I mean by that is: Yaesu has designed all parts of this system to work in a certain fashion. They have not endorsed any outside vendors other than Microsoft and DVSI to my knowledge. Those persons who purchase Yaesu System Fusion and WiRES-X devices have a rightful expectation that equipment, firmware and software shall function to the advertised level. Third party equipment and system owners might not have that same expectation.

We do not receive ANY renumeration of ANY sort from Yaesu, so we are not gaining anything by making these statements. We don’t even claim that we do not from time-to-time find fault with this equipment. We only state that WE have an expectation that it will perform as advertised and we DO NOT make that statement about any third party gear.

To that end, it is not likely that we can answer questions about outside reflectors, etc. We simply do not have the knowledge. We have not encouraged nor discouraged the use of any third party gear within our system, although that is a possibility should it disrupt the function of our system. We do not wish to be exclusionary, but it could happen based on our perception of how it affects our system.

I don’t want to sound rude as I know many of you have used third party equipment with great success. I simply want to be up front about how we operate our system. Our ‘system’ means: the Yard Dogs weekly net, repeaters, web sites and nodes advertised for public use.

This is probably a good time to mention also, that including analog stations in the mix has become somewhat more difficult. Once again, we have no reason to exclude them EXCEPT where software settings cause us to make a choice. If and where that decision must be made, we will favor the digital stations. After all, WiRES-X is a digital format that for the most part, includes analog users.

It is my perception that updates to the software is leaning more towards digital users and less towards analog users. I may be incorrect in this assumption, but I feel it is the case. Once again, we would not exclude any analog user in any Yard Dogs activity unless the system was negatively affected. Even then, it would likely be only a temporary event until any difficulty could be resolved. The Yard Dogs repeater operates in AMS mode as a matter of course.

The stated purpose of the Yellow River Digital Group C4FM/WiRES-X net is to assist Yaesu System Fusion and WiRES-X operators in using the digital features of those devices. We’ll be glad to assist you if we can. Hey! Maybe you can assist us! We don’t have all the answers.

73

January 18, 2019
     After actually using my PDN in a mobile situation, I thought I might report my impressions. And they are: Hey! It works great! My Internet access was provided by a cellphone that sent a WiFi signal to the tablet. I started with the FT-2 in my hands but bought the MH-34B4B speaker mic along the way.
     The speaker mic certainly made the logistics of driving and talking easier but the audio from the FT-2 speaker is better than from the speaker mic.
     Next comes the additional delay introduced by the cellular system. It is significant. I had an FTM-400 sitting next to me as well and as long as I was in range of my repeater I could monitor my PDN transmissions back into my repeater WiRES-X node. The delay was very noticeable. You can handle it, if you are patient.
     If I were a traveling man, I’d go to great efforts to clean up the cobbled together setup I had. You have to keep in mind your driving safety as your paramount concern. You want everything tied down so as not to go flying if you have to brake hard and so as not to cause damage to your radio equipment either. I felt a little hampered by the relatively short length of the SCU-19 cable plus the length of the speaker mic cable. You’ll want to tie down the FT-2 if you use a speaker mic. Believe me, at some point you’ll dump the radio in the floor otherwise.
     I put a small inverter and outlet strip in the vehicle so I did not have to rely on the batteries of each device. I assume the big power hog is the backlight of each device, so have them turn off quickly if you can. If you really have to look at those devices instead of the road, and I don’t recommend it, touching the screen should bring the screen back to life.
     Bottom line though: I had a ball! 
January 17, 2019
     Here are some little tidbits that are more than tidbits. These just came to light, so here they are: 1. If you are running WiRES-X PC software version 1.500 and you wish to communicate with PDN’s in the PDN-Direct mode, you will need to go to your room setup menu and check “OPEN (Digital)”. If the actual PDN is in HRI mode, it won’t matter. I changed mine though.  
     2. When your PDN is in HRI-Direct mode, an asterisk will appear or disappear on the FT-2 screen, next to your name. If the asterisk does not appear, push the V/M button to make it appear if you wish to send analog auto.
January 16, 2019
     As time goes on, we are learning new things about Portable Digital Nodes every day. For instance, if you connect a PDN radio to an existing node, it will work, but you may have to hit the “Retry Activation” button afterwards to get your old setup working again. Another noteworthy item is that a PDN-upgraded radio may not be able to function as a node radio supporting a room, in any circumstance. That seems to be the case with the FT-2DR and seems likely it may be the case with FTM-100’s and 400’s when updates are available. We do not know for sure yet. Think carefully about upgrading.
     Deliveries of the SCU-39 kit seem to have quickly caught up. Good thing! Not only will the SCU-18 (with the proper drivers) apparently work in place of the SCU-19, reports are that the CT-169 cable with Dsub-9 will also work. Of course, you will need an RS-232 port on your computer or maybe a serial-to-USB adapter.  
January 13, 2019
     We now have an idea that stations using pre-amplified microphones connected directly to HRI-200’s cannot communicate with nodes running WiRES-X software version 1.500. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I have heard such reports. Well, I think the reports were that the microphone-only stations could no longer communicate with digital-only nodes. I’m sure we will learn more as time goes by. 
January 11, 2019
     Hotspot has been activated successfully! For whatever reason, it did not work with Bluetooth, but it does work with WiFi, at least with my setup. So now I know I can take it mobile and now I know how to make it work. So, next time I go on a long trip (right after I win the lottery), you will hear me using my Portable Digital Node mobile!
January 9, 2019

Experimenting with the PDN setup continues to be fun, interesting and a bit of a challenge. That’s alright, we like a good challenge. I have seen stations from all over the world using PDN’s so far. Next for me? Go back to trying it with the cellular/Bluetooth hotspot. Wish me luck!

January 8, 2019

I have my PDN working! I won’t go so far as to say I understand all there is to know about it, but I was able to talk to myself through a remote room using two HT’s. Of course, one HT is connected to the actual PDN here and the other HT is connected to the remote room (in digital mode you know) via an HRI-200. Yes, the PDN node is connected to the same remote room. 

If anybody is interested, I am using the SCU-18 (not a typo) cable. You must have the correct driver for it, but that’s no problem. I did not think I absolutely had to have the SCU-19, as long as I had the correct driver. Yaesu says to use only the SCU-19. Seeing as I already had the 18 and no less than four SCU-20’s, I didn’t much want to pay for another cable.

It should be stated that I still have a long way to go to master the PDN (Portable Digital Node) concept. I need lots of practice. I need to make my hotspot get me on the Internet so I can take this thing mobile. I need, I need, I need…..

January 7, 2019
Updates completed, WiRES-X version 1.500 installed.
     The Yard Dogs repeater is now PDN (Portable Digital Node) capable. Now, I could be wrong, but the way I understand it, to talk to a PDN you need to have version 1.500. That may be in digital mode only, but what the hey, I went ahead and upgraded. Updating the FT-2DR was a bit of a challenge, but that has been successfully accomplished. Whew!
January 5, 2019
Further Yaesu Portable Digital Node release information: 

     Tonight’s America Link broadcast featuring Yaesu USA Sales Manger John Kruk brought forth some additional information that we all had questions about. One question was whether or not a new node number for the PDN would be necessary. The short answer is No, if you already have an HRI-200 registered, but you can’t use two node from the same IP address as before. HOWEVER, Mr. Kruk suggested that it would be best to get a separate node number for the PDN. It was my interpretation early on that it was the thing to do, and I did.

Another question was whether or not ALL WiRES-X programs needed to be updated. Apparently not yet, but it seems that it is okay. In other words, it seems to be okay to update from version 1.420 to version 1.500.

     During the next next Yard Dogs net we will explore the PDN software in greater detail. 

You might wish to scroll down and read “Here It Is” first, then work your way backwards, scrolling UP.

MORE -MORE Here It Is:

It’s getting deep quickly! It appears there are four new modes (if you want to call them that) available for your enjoyment! Access Point Mode and Direct Mode (elsewhere known as ‘Terminal Mode’). THEN, there is what is known as Portable HRI Access Point Mode and Portable HRI Direct Mode. Got that? Yeah, well, it’s taking me a while to digest it as well.

Let me state something I should have earlier: We are talking mainly about WiRES-X access here. In certain modes we are also speaking about RF AND WiRES-X Internet access, but we should be clear that the main function of a node is to access other WiRES-X users via the Internet. And don’t forget that you are going to need some sort of device that actually connects your portable setup to the Internet. Very important!

I DO want to congratulate Yaesu for bringing out the Direct (or terminal) Mode. I personally thought this was something they badly needed to do, and they have. This simply means that it will NOT be absolutely necessary for you to have a second radio to communicate with the node radio. I think this will be a big attraction, however, it may be largely offset by the cost of the required cabling. We’ll see.

Now it has been verified that an HRI-200 will not be required and that”… no fixed or dynamic global IP address is required”. Okay, we expected that.

But wait! There’s more! If you only wish to communicate with digital Internet stations, then you may use the Portable Digital Node Mode. (‘Node Mode’…it’s got a cute ring to it, no?). If you also wish to communicate with analog and digital Internet stations, you’ll want to use the Portable HRI Mode. I told you it got deep quickly.

Yes, you will be able to use the FT-2DR mic and speaker. Cool. Here’s something else we expected: “With the WIRES-X Portable Digital Node function, you cannot operate a a WIRES-X Room (Including a digital room) or use the remote-control function from the outside.”

Hints are dropped that other radios might be added to the lineup later on, but they are only subtle hints. It looks like the SCU-39 Kit is an option, but I think under certain circumstances you will need it. Read the manual concerning connections to a computer for further information.

Yaesu makes recommendations about Internet ‘speeds’ and computer power. You can read those too. In the manual you will see that Yaesu explains how to update the software of the FT-2DR. They ALSO explain how to update the software of the FTM-400 series and the FTM-100, however no files have been posted for those two mobile radios supporting the Portable Digital Node Mode as of 0800 UTC, January 4, 2019. This lends a slight bit of credence to the suggestion that those two radios might join the fold eventually. To tell the truth, I sort of like the idea of the HT being the node radio in a portable setup. Makes a lot of sense to me!

The manual, which I strongly suggest you read thoroughly first, goes on to describe all you need to know about how to set up and operate. Good. I ‘d hate to have to figure this out on my own. The GUI looks the same as the WiRES-X GUI you are used to already. Nice.

I’m sure we all will need some time to get familiar with all this. Fortunately there are plenty of nets and forums to help us along. Check out the Yard Dogs room, MNWIS or your favorite spot. Try hamoperator.com, yrdg.org, Yaesu’s websites and social media, Yahoo groups or groups.io. You can try yellowriverdigitalgroup@groups.io as well.

It’s late and I’m ready to hit the hay. This announcement took me by surprise but we have described the basics. We all have to get node numbers and do the downloads and maybe even scrounge up some cables. All that can wait until tomorrow, right?

73

MORE Here It Is:

Okay, some information is coming to light about the portable node software and how it works. There are some surprises in there!

Firstly, the software works ONLY with the FT-2DR as the node radio at this time. I have NO idea if others radios will be added. You will need to apply for a node number to get started (assuming you have or will have) an FT-2DR. You will need to determine and provide the ESN, otherwise known as the DP-ID of that FT-2DR. Then you’ll have to wait on your node number to arrive. Then you can begin the rest of the process.

Well, you can go ahead and download the software to your Windows computer that you will be using. You can find that on the Yaesu digital products page under the HRI-200 files, or you can find it on the Yaesu WIRES-X web page. I suggest going to the WIRES-X page and reading the manual, which you can download separately.

According to the “Preparation Procedure” page, you’ll need to update the firmware of the FT-2DR. Yaesu has posted a new software update for the FT-2DR of 50+MB. So you definitely have to perform this step.

Yaesu also says you’ll need the SCU-39 WiRES-X Connection Cable Kit which includes the SCU-19, the CT-44 and two audio cables. The SCU-19 was a data cable that was supplied at one time, presumably before the SCU-20. I just happen to have one. I believe it came with my FT-1DR. The CT-44 is a 2-pin to 1-pin microphone adapter. Does this mean that you’ll be able to plug in a hand mic to the FT-2DR and skip using a second C4FM radio??? It sort of looks that way at the moment! Now, where are the two audio cables going to go? Maybe I can find out as I dig deeper. My suspicions are that the SCU-39 kit is going to be around $100. Ouch!

You’re probably going to need the SDD-13 to power the FT-2DR if you plan on using it mobile for any length of time…like on long trips. It provides DC power from a cigar lighter jack.

To be honest, I haven’t figured out how the CT-44 fits into the scheme of things. I guess more digging is in order. Oh yeah, the SDD-13 is $27.95.

Here It Is!!! (January 4, 2019)

The much-anticipated mobile node software is out! Yes, Yaesu has posted on their website the mobile software for WiRES-X. It is called Version 1.500 and is dated January 3, 2019.

As I recall, it can use the FT-2DR, FTM-100DR and FTM-400XDR (but not the FTM-400DR) as a node radio. I’m pretty sure about the non-XDR 400 exclusion as I just tried it on a non-XDR FTM-400 and it did not work. It gave me a ‘set’ of reasons it might not have worked, one of them being an incompatible transceiver. That means I must go get my FT-2 or go out to one of the cars and try it. Seeing as how it is cold outside and after midnight, I think I’ll try to FT-2 method.

I downloaded the 32-bit version for use on a Windows tablet. We shall see how it works. Initial results seem good as it DID load. It just didn’t jibe with the old FTM-400.

The file is rather large (over 41MB). Now, I heard rumors back when and what I am about to print is NOT gospel. I heard the mobile node will work as a node only, not as a room. I also heard that it does not require an HRI-200 and that it does not require port forwarding. So, let’s give it a try and report what we find. Have fun!

WTF? or What The Fusion

System Fusion is the name Yaesu gives their analog/digital capable radios and repeaters. They will do both, hence the name “Fusion”. The K1KC 146.61 repeater near Conyers, Georgia operates in the System Fusion ‘AMS’ mode. That is, it responds in kind to the operating mode of the signal received, be it DN, VW or FM. Loosely translated, they are ‘digital narrow’, ‘voice wide’ and ‘FM analog’. ‘Voice Wide’ is a digital mode with greater audio fidelity than ‘digital narrow’. I won’t get into a detailed explanation of System Fusion or digital operating here, but I will give more information about operating on the K1KC VHF repeater. The VHF repeater is connected to the Yard Dogs WiRES-X room, room # 40383.

Yaesu now has numerous radios that can transceive in the Yaesu C4FM protocol. They have mobiles, quasi-base and handheld radios you can use in their digital mode. I call it the ‘Yaesu C4FM’ protocol because it is not the only C4FM protocol in use. In fact, APCO P25 Phase I is C4FM (Continuous 4-Level Frequency Modulation, a special form of 4FSK) protocol. However, the two are incompatible due to slight differences in the orthogonal carrier frequencies. NXDN is also a C4FM protocol, known as IDAS (Icom) and NXEdge (Kenwood).

WiRES-X and MSRL

WiRES-X is a Yaesu brand of Internet linking that uses a set of servers in Japan to find participating stations. As I mentioned, the K1KC VHF repeater is a node with a node number of 30383 and has an associated ‘room’ with a room number of 40383. A node is a radio or repeater that forms a bridge between the RF world and the Internet. As of right now, the node radio can only be a Yaesu FTM100 or an FTM-400 or a DR-1X or DR-2X repeater (which is obviously a radio too). A ‘room’ is a virtual chat room so to speak. Nodes support rooms and rooms can connect to one another, even in large numbers. There are nets that take place on certain rooms, attracting perhaps 100 or more users at one time. Just like on RF nets, there is a net controller.

Yaesu’s second generation repeaters have the ability (with optional LAN card) to connect to one another via direct IP link. Although the new generation can also do WiRES-X, they cannot do both at the same time. Some very interesting linking can be done with the new LAN system, called MSRL (multi-site repeater link).

Let me give you an example of what either of those two features can accomplish. A friend of mine with a WiRES-X capable mobile was able to extend his range (that is, talk to me from a greater distance than the normal range of my repeater) by connecting to a closer WiRES-X enabled repeater and linking it to my WiRES-X enabled repeater. Now, the connection borrowed the Internet to pass the audio and maybe some control signals. I was using a handie-talkie to access my repeater and was talking to his mobile at a greater distance than normal. Very cool indeed!

If both of us repeater owners had Internet connections, or had IP via RF connections between us, we could accomplish the same thing with the new repeaters, but without using WiRES-X. Not owning the LAN card, I cannot describe the experience to you….only the theory. You can imagine though that there might be less latency. I should mention that WiRES-X requires a modem with each node, known as an HRI-200. The node radio cannot be used to participate in the WiRES-X conversation. You must have a second radio to talk to the node radio. However, the node radio can be taken out of the WiRES-X mode and used as a regular radio (base or mobile).

So, what’s the draw? Well, WiRES-X is like other Internet linking systems in that it gives you global reach from a base, mobile or handheld radio. If you enjoy communicating this is a great way to do it. What makes WiRES-X different then? One difference is that there are no code plugs to program into the radio. Another difference, according to some, is that the audio quality can be better. I won’t say it is always better because there are so many variables involved with the Internet.

The node experience

Operating from a node is a somewhat different experience in my opinion because you have more information at your fingertips quicker. Bring up the WiRES-X program on your computer  and it begins to populate the screen with a node list and a room list. There is also a space for your favorites list…sort of like bookmarks. The screen displays information about that node or room such as location, lat/long, comments entered by the owner and number of current participants. You can exchange electronic QSL cards as well as send messages keyboard to keyboard. The screen also displays near real-time positions from those who are transmitting that info as well as callsign info and their distance and direction. Much of that same info is displayed on the mobile screens, but it is so much easier to read and digest on a PC screen.

I run two rooms. One is associated with the repeater and one is associated with a separate node radio in the shack.  Let me add that the repeater can also be considered a node, so it is more or less semantics that cause me to call the shack node simply ‘my node’. They are both nodes in the technical sense. The shack WiRES-X room is on only sporadically whereas the repeater WiRES-X room is on constantly. Basically I use the shack WiRES-X room to go hunting whereas the repeater WiRES-X room is for ‘being hunted’.

Who’s on WiRES-X tonight?

Very much like Allstar Link, you can search the Internet to find active nodes. Just go the the Yaesu active nodes list. Don’t make your ‘fingers do the walking’, let your search engine do that. (If you recognize the ‘fingers’ jingle, you are an old fart like me). When you look at the active nodes list, you may not see what you are looking for. For instance, if you are looking for my Yard Dogs node and don’t find it, don’t be alarmed. Remember, it is an active node list. If a node is not listed, it is simply inactive at the moment, i.e., it is not in the Yaesu servers’ database of currently connected nodes. Not being in the active nodes list does not mean it doesn’t exist….(wait a minute! we are about to get existential here…): Given that rooms, which are virtual, only exist when they exist, maybe you could  say they don’t exist when they are not in the active list. I guess that would be fair. But nodes more or less refers to hardware, and they do exist even if they do not appear in the active list. A room depends on the nodes and servers to exist. Take that to your debate club and smoke it!

Each node needs a PC to operate and the WiRES-X software lists active nodes AND rooms with lots of pertinent information included. That’s another place to search. If you are portable or mobile, you may not have that luxury though. Somebody’s going to prove me wrong though. I can feel it in my bones. I will say that it is not absolutely necessary to have a node radio to get on WiRES-X. You can purchase a device that allows you to connect to an HRI-200 and operate in analog. It’s sort of like a telephone handset in a way.

What about us analog guys? We want to talk on WiRES-X too! And what about WiRES and what about WiRES-II?

Okay, so it gets complicated at times. I agree. Let’s get complicated then: Analog users can talk on WiRES-X. There is something to be mindful of though. If your analog transceiver (cum node) has the right pinouts, you can attach an HRI-200 and access the WiRES-X system. I have seen it done. Some room operators don’t mind if you come in via analog and some don’t want any part of it. The word from one user is that the analog voice quality was not as good as digital. I say that it could go either way. I have the Yard Dogs room (40383) set to accept digital connections only but I can go out and connect to analog room or node. We tried this quite successfully recently. He could not connect to me because I had disallowed incoming analog connections, but can still connect to them from my end. You have choices to make when you set up your node and room.

“WiRES”, introduced to the public in 2002 stood for Wide-Coverage Internet Repeater Enhancement System. It evolved into WiRES-II and used the Internet to link two repeaters or home stations using DTMF signaling. As with WiRES-X, you use a handheld or mobile to communicate over long distances. The modem for that system was the HRI-100. Also like WiRES-X, an Internet connection and a PC were necessary to complete the setup. Now comes the bad news: WiRES and WiRES-II are NOT compatible with WiRES-X. Fuggedaboutit. They are probably still functional systems, but I have no idea how many folks might be using them. Technology marches on, no?

But Wait! There’s more!

System Fusion is about far more than WiRES-X and MSRL. Firstly there is the digital experience. There is no white noise on the digital signal. Either your hear it, or you don’t. True, a digital signal can chop in and out and be unintelligible, but still there is no white noise. That’s always the first thing I notice about digital after switching back to analog…I notice the white noise.

While using the digital modes you can transmit other data as well. That other data can be callsign, GPS position, radio type, personal information, altitude, monitoring frequency…heck, you name it! You can transmit files or images, news of interest to a group and more. There is a function called Group Monitor which looks for other stations within a given range. It’s almost like a ‘friend’s club’, but they don’t have to be your friends. Just like in APRS, you can message each other.

Let’s Build A Bridge

I would be remiss in my story if I did not mention that bridges of all types are being built to and from System Fusion to other protocols. If you hang out a little while in one of the more popular rooms, you will find out that users of other types of digital devices are talking to System Fusion users. How is this possible? By the simple fact that some smart folks have written translating software that decodes one protocol and recodes it into System Fusion C4FM and vice versa. This is a very good development since no one is winning the ‘Digital War’ just yet. It would be a real shame if this bridging were not taking place. As it is, we are able in some cases, to talk to one another. The day has not arrived that we can dial each other up as in a telephone system, regardless of protocol or regardless of location, but bridges do exist and there are many of them. One room I know of has SIX different ways of getting in. That is nothing short of awesome! I want to be like those guys!

Can You Hear Me Now?

Yeah, I know. That question is getting to be rather passe’, but we asked each other that question, over and over and over. Why? We wanted to understand just how well digital operating compares with analog operating. Is digital better than analog? The answer is YES/NO. Take your pick. It totally depends on…uh, well uh, well, more than I understand. But hey, I will  give you my take on it.

How Does It Play In Peoria?

After extensive trials on VHF, we found that it depends on a number of factors, and sometimes those theories don’t work too well. Therefore, I will make generalizations and warn you there are caveats. In general, when both stations in a two station conversation are fixed/not moving, digital (especially DN) may have a distance advantage over analog. That makes sense considering the digital transmission occupies a narrower bandwidth than analog and therefore carries a greater spectral power density. It’s the same concept for a CW transmission versus an SSB transmission.

There’s a station roughly 60 miles from me who cannot get into my repeater in analog, but can almost get into my repeater in digital. (We are talking C4FM still). When one or both stations are moving, the quality of reception can drop dramatically. That’s not always the case, but it usually is. When you have a good signal to noise ratio between you, then you can have a really good, white noise free conversation. I know, I’ve done it. When the signals start getting weak, the perceived quality goes downhill fast. This is usually when we switchback to good ole analog. My brain can recover the conversation, even with the added white noise, far easier than when there are 100% dropouts of the conversation. I think that’s fairly universal. The trouble with digital is that you never know when it’s about to happen. Many times with analog you get some warning the signal is fading. The digital signal can be like a strobe light for your ears; unpleasant to me.

The bottom line? I’ll put it like this: Digital is not better, but it’s not worse. It’s just different. I does give you capabilities that do not come with analog operating and that may be important to some. The linking going on that is associated with digital operating is surely exciting and new worlds are being revealed. It would seem that analog will remain with us for a very long time…maybe forever. For one thing, analog is natural. I like natural. For a second reason, no one is winning the digital wars. Digital operating is fractured to say the least and it would appear there is likely to be more fracturing. Each of these digital protocols has advantages and disadvantages. I just happen to be a System Fusion guy with nothing bad to say about the other guys.

What About Those Caveats?

Oh yeah. Well, regarding those generalizations I made about fixed vs. moving stations, in my experience they are generally true. However, we found exceptions that we could not explain. My suspicion is that multipath distortion has a really negative effect on digital reception. I have looked for theory that supports that feeling and have found some but can’t say positively that is the problem. Even with my limited knowledge of coherence bandwidth and intersymbol interference, I feel like multipath distortion is the likely culprit. However, the same thing can happen when neither station is moving. It could still be multipath distortion but I cannot speak here with any authority. I do want to point out though that we found exceptions to my generalizations. If you accept then that most of the time these things hold true, then you have gotten my point.

Okay, I lied

If you recall the first part of this diatribe, then you will recall I promised not to go into detail about digital operating and I promised to talk mainly about using the repeater. Seems like I didn’t accomplish either one of those goals. Maybe next time.

Firmware Updates to System Fusion Radios

Updating the firmware in these radios is not all that difficult, but there can be stumbling blocks. Take a few tips and smooth the road. First of all, Yaesu will issue updates as they become necessary or available. They may come in steps, i.e., the update for one model may come before another….they may not come all at one time. Be patient. Secondly, all the information you will need will come packaged in the update. Pay close attention to the ‘help’, ‘read-me’ or PDF files in the download package. The specific directions you need to follow are contained there.

Follow those directions to the ‘T’ and do not deviate. There are important steps about how and when to apply power, when to connect/disconnect cables and so forth. You may find it a little difficult at first, but once you have completed a radio you will find that it is not hard at all. The very first thing to do though, is to determine what your current firmware versions are and see if updates are even required.

There are a few other things to keep in mind about updates: One is that an update doe not only fix ‘bugs’, but may provide new features too. Another is that your equipment may need to be updated to properly interface with the updated equipment of another user. Thirdly, there is the systemic concept. Since the worldwide System Fusion/WiRES-X network functions on changing firmware, it is imperative that all users make the effort to keep their equipment updated to the latest firmware versions. This helps to keep problems to a minimum and helps to keep unexpected problems to a minimum.

For users like me with many different YSF/C4FM/WiRES-X devices, this becomes a fair amount of work, but it is not something that happens often. Updates only come along occasionally.

I would make one other recommendation: Download the updated manuals onto a mobile platform. Actually, I have these manuals stored in a number of different places where I can easily access them and where they will be the most useful to me. One of those places is the position at which I actually do the updating, although I can do it anywhere. I loaded these manuals onto a tablet as well so that I might take the tablet to wherever the device might normally be, such as in an automobile.

The manual supplied with the radio essentially becomes outdated with the first firmware update, so it is a great idea to keep an electronic version handy. Of course, you could always download manuals as necessary wherever you are if you have Internet access.

Let me go back a bit and add an important note. Remember that there can be multiple manuals for each device, such as the main operating manual, an APRS manual, an ‘advance(d)’ manual and a GM manual. You might need all of them. Also, when you download an update, there is usually a driver download for the specific cable which interfaces the PC and your device. The Yaesu software was made for Windows so be prepared to have a Windows machine handy for your updates. As of early 2018, I have not seen where Yaesu has claimed their firmware updates works with anything newer than Windows 8.x. That’s a real shame. I can say however that I have used Windows 10 quite successfully to perform my updates.

New Horizons (June 6, 2018)

In late May 2018 some exciting new developments were announced concerning WiRES-X and System Fusion. Firstly, new software that will alleviate the need for an HRI-200 Internet linking modem is planned for the near future. This will be helpful for portable or mobile nodes because the need for the required UDP ports to be opened will be relieved. If you set up a portable or mobile node, you’ll be able to go to your favorite WiFi-enabled hangout and operate. The required node radios will be FT-2D, FTM-100D or FTM-400XD. Expect a reduced feature set though. You will still want an HRI-200 though.