ACT Repeater Update!

Controller Hunt

After spending a number of hours online searching for a suitable (and affordable) repeater controller yesterday, we came to the conclusion that the device we want does not exist. The closest device we found for our Motorola GR1225 was from Zetron but was not really designed for Ham Radio purposes. Other than bringing the repeater up and down the Zetron controller did not offer much else.

Store and Forward Memories

Joe, Gil and I were on the repeater yesterday and we got on the subject of the old simplex based store and forward device Joe and I had up and running some years ago.

rigblaster nomic

The system was made up of an old tower PC (386 as I remember), EchoStation software, a West Mountain Radio Rigblaster Nomic , a Yaesu 2 Meter radio and some basic cabling. We removed the plastic blank where the secondary CD drive is normally located and installed the radio and Rigblaster Nomic in the slot.

The system ran great for some time but back then it was more of a test than a system used for practical purposes.

Back To The Future

Yesterday, I revisited the EchoStation software (created by K1RFD the creator of EchoLink) and downloaded it.

No, we don’t plan to do any form of store and forward this time. EchoStation offers much more than just a store and forward simplex / duplex repeater. EchoStation offers an awesome interface for bringing the repeater up and down with DTMF codes AND scheduling a virtually unlimited number of voice announcements. These announcements can be set to run daily, weekly monthly etc. In addition, the announcements can be activated by DTMF codes. There’s more but you get the idea.

Keeping in mind that it has not been updated since 2002, I took a shot at installing it on one of my test systems running Windows 10 Preview. With some minor trial and error (related to installing 14 year old software on a new, experimental version of Windows) testing ran without issue. I attempted to register it for the amount requested but the process failed. I opened a support ticket  and will follow up next week.

As part of the test I created several text files and a .wav file with different messages and was able to run them through the software without a problem. I found out that there are basically two ways to create an announcement..

Ride The Waves

One method is to create a .wav file and link it to the EchoStation announcement setup process. Well it turns out that SoundRecorder .wav files have also gone the way of the DODO bird. I guess the default file type died with Windows XP. Lo and behold the new default output of SoundRecorder is now a .wma file.

BUT in my quest to find something to investigate on a cold rainy Saturday, I found out you can push the old start button and type soundrecorder /file <filename>.wav and BANGO! You end up with a .wav file instead of the default .wma file.

The KISS Principal To The Rescue

The second method is a hell of a lot simpler. Create a text file and add anything you want to announce keeping in mind that some words have to be entered phonetically like { amateur comm dot word press dot com }. You get the idea!

Once I had both methods working I called Joe and we both had a few laughs listening to the EchoStation synthesized voice announce the test text and the .wav files.

Rolling Forward

So here’s the plan. Once I get past the registration process, Joe is going to dig out the old Rigblaster Nomic and cables. We are going to figure out how to buy/build any new interface cables/adapters needed, install Windows XP on a spare Netbook and  make the required connections to begin using EchoStation as the ACT software defined Repeater Controller.

Please feel free to enter your comments, criticisms or suggestions!

Stay tuned for updates!

Hope to hear from your Tuesday evening!

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