2013 Planning Day

planning-chartThe WA Repeater Group’s 2013 Planning Day was held on Sunday February 17th at Wireless Hill Applecross.

Summary and Conclusions

The following document has been prepared from the presentations given and minutes taken on the day, and from material presented in the lead up. It does not aim to cover every point discussed on the day, only the main themes.

This document attempts to accurately summarise the key discussions, and conclusions / decisions where applicable, and provide a convenient reference point for what was agreed on the day, and what requires further discussion or work to reach a decision.

Errors and omissions are excepted – please speak up ASAP if you feel something needs correcting or including.

Participation and Attendance:

Contributions circulated in leadup from:

VK6’s JAH, KPS, LD, MM, TWO, UU

Attendance on the day (some for only part of day):

VK6’s AIF, AXB, FLAM, FLEX, FMON, IQ, KMC, LD, LV, LZ, PM, ST, TWO, UU ,YA, ZLT, ZLZ, ZMS, ZRW

Apologies:

VK6’s BDO, and JAH

Brainstorm:

Key ideas we identified and tried to keep in mind throughout the day:

Reliable, KISS (Keep it Simple), Connected, Compatibility, Modular, Funding, Fun, Standardised, Resources, Digital, Coverage, Experimental, Maintainability, Accessibility, Site accessibility, Knowledge Sharing.

“The output of the day must be something we can act upon”.

Linking and Coverage:

Many methods, as summarised in Heath VK6TWO’s spreadsheet – excellent work.

Agreed: all these are valid – we did not rule out any – detailed decisions about which are appropriate to be made on a specific site- or system- basis.

Stand-alone vs linked – recognised some users wish a “local” repeater – will acommodate this wish wherever we can – either separate systems, or user-controllable linking. Must also accommodate needs of users who desire linked systems!

Coverage plots – VK6TWO demonstrated work he had done creating Radio-Mobile diagrams – food for thought about our total network coverage and the possibilties of interlinking. Highway coverage for travelling amateurs. Also the usefulness of tools like Radio Mobile for site and system planning.

Controllers:

VK6TWO presentation on Smart Controller – embedded-software based device capable of flexibly controlling all services/repeaters at a site – enables linking/monitoring as well as repeater control. Features can be turned off easily in software if simpler functions are needed. Software could run on a variety of standardised controller hardware platorms (: similar to Arduino, Raspberry pi perhaps). Designed for IP-connectivity also, opens up a variety of options for configuration and control, new thinking.

Agreed: We will support the Smart Controller project, led by Heath – web-based collaboration, details TBC.

Agreed also that where we have need for controllers in the interim, we would explore other proven, cost-effective controllers (eg: NHRC) accepting that these are not as featured and may need modification to achieve some of our needs.

RF Equipment:

Compare and contrast three categories, originally defined as follows:

  • “Commercial Amateur” – off-the-shelf product from manufacturers who also make Amateur equipment, eg: Icom, Vertex/Yaesu.
  • “ex-Commercial” – second-hand (or maybe new) product designed for business two-way radio applications (eg: Stanilite/ADI, Spectra, Tait etc) but adapted for Amateur use. (Much of WARG’s existing equipment fits this category – FM880s, KL450s).
  • “Dedicated Amateur design”, eg Hamtronics – equipment commercially built, primarily for Amateur use in the first instance.

Comparison spreadsheet circulated by VK6TWO, Hamtronics information from Will VK6UU, presentation on ex-commercial Stanilite KX150 by Anthony VK6AXB

The discussion revealed that the lines between these are more blurred than might appear. For example:

  • The commercial-Amateur product is still designed for business markets, and can’t be configured to meet all our needs without modification
  • The dedicated-Amateur product requires construction, is not an off-the shelf repeater ready to go – if too much work, project might not succeed.
  • Ex-commercial is dependent on availability of suitable equipment, which is unknown – if a lot of useful equipment turns up, may make this a preferable option.
  • Hybrid options could be possible, eg: parts of existing ex-commercial repeater (eg: chassis, PA) are used to support Hamtronics-style RF modules
  • Need for equipment appropriate to Amateur needs – eg: good weak-signal performance; RX mute performance.

After discussion, we agreed we did not have enough information to definitively decide one way or another, and we agreed to develop a test methodology to assess the options.

Agreed: Hardware options to be tested according to the same methodology to enable performance comparisons – including our existing Icom / Vertex units, and continue with the Hamtronics / KX prototypes when completed.

Agreed also our approach is modular equipment with standardised I/O interfaces, rather than an integrated off-the-shelf repeater package. Makes fault-finding swap outs and upgrades easier, better integrates with Smart Controller idea.

Actions:

Hamtronics housing: Will VK6UU to prepare online drawings to enable prototype construction – timeframe 2 weeks.

Test methodology for repeaters: VK6AXB to have a draft by next meeting, March 11th.

Other discussions, points of agreement:

  • Reliability – core systems should be the best equipment we have, and highly reliable. New or experimental systems under development should also be as good as we can make them.
  • DC and Antenna/Filter systems – aim for more standardised, but of necessity these are designed site-by-site for specific needs.
  • 2 metres needs attention first – our 70cm equipment is in better shape.
  • Better communication with membership and Amateur community –  VK6AXB to prepare update for Newswest Sunday 24th. (this is done).
  • Website and better use of web-based collaboration tools. (Who will do the legwork of keeping this going?)
  • Small teams – agreed to form teams to share information, teach skills, focus on areas to get jobs done – eg: Smart Controller, Cavity refurbishment etc.

The importance of motivation and enthusiasm – wanting to do something, versus being able to do it. Discussion comparing WARG in the 1980s and early 90s – Gill VK6YL as the driving force, completing projects like Tic Hill and Busselton. How do we work together to achieve things of this scale today? Recognise that sometimes a dedicated individual will succeed in doing things better than a team.

The most important things:

  • One, make a start
  • Two – keep going.

Thanks to all who gave up their Sunday to come along and participate in this effort, your contribution is appreciated.

Thanks to the following for their hard work work in making the day happen, specifically for: preparation, publicity, setup/pack up, catering and food prep, minutes scribe, chairing/facilitation, equipment loan and website update: VK6’s AIF, AXB, BDO, FMON, KMC, LD, LV, TWO. Apologies to anyone overlooked, your contribution is no less appreciated!

Next steps from here:

Need to agree what we have agreed – review and accept Planning Day minutes/summary.

Identify areas where things are unclear or need more work, clarify/expand at future WARG General meetings. Ensure such meeting is publicised in advance, so people know that topic is under discussion.

 

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