Digital Mobile Radio (DMR)

This is based on an email I sent to another ham that is new to DMR who picked up the same model radio I recently acquired, the Radioddity RD-5R. There are other great handheld affordable DMR radios, like its bigger brother the the Radioddity GD-77, the Tytera TYT MD-380, and the Anytone AT-878UV. There are some great mobile rigs by Connect Systems in the CS800 series, and an upcoming entry by Anytone, the AT-578UV.

The Radioddity RD-5R

Radioddity x Baofeng RD-5R DMR Ham Amateur Two Way Radio - Radioddity
Image borrowed from Radioddity

The RD-5R is a neat little DMR starter radio, with a Baofeng face but the innards of a GD-77; albeit with more limited memory, making it a little more affordable. Just enough memory for the local talk groups and a handful of your friends’ callsigns. I recommend going straight to the source, for the best price and any sales. Amazon has the same radio, but with a markup. I went looking for the GD-77, and found a deal I couldn’t pass up.
#nosponsors

For the software to program this radio, go the downloads section of Radioddity’s website. Scroll down to the radio and click on it, and select the newer software and firmware package. It’ll come as a Zip file. Just unzip it, dig into the folders to the Program folder and run Setup.exe. If you’re running Windows 8 or 10, you’ll have to click a link on a pop-up window to tell Windows that it’s not a virus.

The “codeplug” is a data file containing the radio’s programming. DMR radios require software built specific to the specific model of radio in order to create such a codeplug. Some tools have been built to convert the codeplug for one radio to be compatible with another, but such is not the case for the RD-5R… at the time of writing this article.

I’d encourage you to go into the firmware folder and follow the instructions within to update the radio to ensure optimal operation, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Programming a Codeplug

DMR, originally intended for set-and-forget commercial use, is an exercise in redundancy. The easiest way I found to create a code plug is to enter enough information to export and manipulate more easily in Microsoft Excel. I’d create the talk groups you’ll be using on local repeaters into the Contacts list, and matching Rx (receive) Groups for each talk group. You should add some local hams’ private callsigns which you can retrieve from radioid.net.

Next, began entering some channels into the software. You’ll be entering a channel for each talk group on each repeater; each channel will include a talk group, receive group, frequency, color code and time slot for a given repeater. I entered two full repeaters, 16 talk groups each for a total of 32 channels. Yay redundancy!

Now you can export the channel list with enough data and formatting to go by to manipulate it easily in Excel. I simply copy/pasted a whole section of talk groups or channels for a repeater several times, and did a quick fill of the new sections with the new zone name, repeater frequency and code. Be sure to redo the number column using “fill series” and import the Excel file to the Channels list. Otherwise you’ll get an error. If you encounter an import error, hit Continue, or the application will crash and lose anything unsaved.

Once the channels are imported, go to your zones (one zone for each repeater, labeled by location), and select the group of channels / talk groups you want in that respective zone.

You can export your Contacts list to quickly bulk add in new contacts, like we do with the channels. Again, make sure the number row on the far left remains sequential. Note that if you change the order of the contacts, your zones will need to be rebuilt; as you’ll have channels for one repeater listed in another repeater’s zone.

Sharing Codeplugs

Attached is a copy of my RD-5R code plug with my ID and callsign stripped out. Whoever downloads this just has to load the file and double-click on General Settings, and fill in the Radio Name and Radio ID.

I’ve got a good start on it, with all of the NEW ENGLAND-TRBO DMR repeaters in Maine and the EWARN DMR repeaters in New Hampshire that are listed on http://maine-dmr.org/. I’ve also got a group of repeater’s Parrot talk groups for echo tests in their own zone called Polly (Polly want a cracker?), since we have a limit of 16 channels per repeater / zone. I intend to flesh it out with the rest of the New England repeaters, and some places I visit for work.

There’s a zone with some ME and NH analog repeaters, a zone specific to the KQ1L linked analog repeater system, and another for analog and digital simplex (non-repeater) channels. I have one zone with a Brandmeister repeater I can reach in South Portland, but not knowing what talk groups I should add that aren’t on Falmouth, I only have the 4 or 5 TG’s listed on their page on the Brandmeister portal. I plan on adding more DMR repeaters down through Boston, and around offices and conventions I’ll be visiting for work.

Other radio model codeplugs are also available from the New England Digital Emergency Communication Network, as well as from other local hams if one is to ask.

I hope this helps. It’s a lot to get into, but once you wrap your mind around it it’s not too bad.