A Description of Yaesu FT-M100DR/DE for the blind – Not Technical but Tactile

Let’s start with the front Panel Button Layout

Top Left On / Off / Lock

Below Volume control

Below are a row of buttons easily identified because of the casing either side of them. From left to right they are;
1 Band A / B, 2 TX Power, 3 VFO / Memory, 4 Mode, 5 Group Monitor, 6 Squelch / Digital Voice, 7 Back, 8 Settings DSP.

Top Right, 1 Megahertz step.

Below a ratchet selection knob.

At first unpacking the transceiver I thought it to be quite odd. The top has a raised area that contains the speaker. The front panel feels like a bolt on being considerably taller than the height of its body. Further more the body is metal wile the front panel is a plastic box. I haven’t seen a radio before also that has a power cord fixed to the radio. Although, this is a short wire with a connector at the end. In the box was a long power lead to connect to this pigtail. Considering the back panel. I have never seen a radio with a fan housing sticking out of the back. This design has the advantage of providing a recess so that antenna, headphones and data plugs and leads cannot be crushed against anything behind the radio.

Included in the box was an extension lead for the front panel. By pressing a hard to find button on the left front side of the radio the front panel can be removed. In fact, this is necessary to do in order to attach the microphone. Critics have argued that Yaesu should have also included an extension lead for the mic as if the extended front panel lead is used the mic is likely to require an extension too. There are three other metal parts in the box. One bracket that saddles the radio body and a 3 sided bracket that is for the front panel. There is the traditional mic clip too. In addition there are other little odds and ends such as an adapter to be used if using a mono extension speaker.

The FT-M100 dimensions are 165mm from front to back, 135mm across the front and 40mm tall.

So How Accessible Is The FT-M100?
Sadly, the first time the radio is turned on or a factory reset has been performed. The radio demands the entry of a callsign. This process is not intuitive nor does it speak. I did complete it with support from an AIRA agent via an internet video link. However it was painfully slow owing to the brightness of the LED panel. The default is max brightness. I have turned the brightness down to about half way (Settings Menu 1) and agents don’t have difficulty reading the screen via an iPhone camera. The app seeing AI provides some useful feedback but not enough to change settings in the menus independently.

The manual suggests that if the FVS-2 voice board is fitted the frequency will be read on demand. This may be true if menu 12 voice guide is set to manual however, the other buttons don’t speak. The default is auto. Which means that the two buttons VFO A / B and VFO/ Memory read the new state. Using the mic to input a frequency or a memory number are spoken too. Because of the variety of tones used many of the buttons provide useful orientation. e.g. the TX Power button provides three tones the high power tone is higher in pitch than the other two tones.

Yaesu provide software to clone the radio settings and write them back to the radio free of charge. The software appears to be quite accessible. My Windows 7 machine assigns a com port and I can set it within the software. The lead is provided and my Windows machine did not require a driver. I understand that when I use a Windows 10 PC I will need to use a dedicated driver as it uses a Prolific driver, which Windows 10 replaces with a universal driver I can read from the radio and fill a data sheet with current settings. By loading the software and after checking the com port settings are correct I select read from radio. A dialog appears stating the steps that need to be taken. Select menu 13 then 7 for clone. The radio asks for direction i.e. from radio to other. Then the insecure nag are you sure with the default on cancel. One click anti-clockwise of the selector knob moves focus to OK. There isn’t much time after pressing enter on the PC’s keyboard and then quickly finding the Settings / DSP button on the radio I can start the read from radio process. After the write to PC the screen returns to the main screen having exited the menu system. NVDA reported an error although there was no dialog on the screen. By pressing the right arrow it moved focus from VFO A to VFO B and a simple press of the tab key enabled me to curser through those frequencies I had programmed into the radio. I am going to spend some time amending my data and try to write it back to the radio.

Regarding the supplied six pin mini din USB data lead, SCU-20. Thee socket is on the back panel left-hand side of the fan and underneath the power cord which is not the easiest of locations. By exploring the six pin plug I can feel a flat on the shroud and opposite that flat is a groove. This flat is at twelve o’clock and the groove at six o’clock orientation to go into the socket.

I believe the SD card slot is behind the front panel as well as a selector switch for firmware updates. There is also a reset button and another firmware switch under a rubber bung on the top left-hand side near the front of the radio’s outer casing. Also behind the front panel is where the mic socket is located mentioned earlier. Menu item 13 is where the current versions of firmware are stated.

In summary:
This differently shaped transceiver is the most accessible Yaesu I have looked at. Sadly there is a lot of room for improvement to match the competition, in terms of accessibility. The radio is quiet usable on a day to day basis. But when a blind user needs to set up a new or reset radio. Or even a simple adjustment to a menu setting sighted support is a must. Having said which, I have always been a Yaesu fan and I love this radio I think it is great value for money and is a keeper.

My sincere thanks to John KD8PC who created an audio demonstration of the FT-M100 which can be found on the blind hams archive. I would suggest anyone seriously considering this transceiver to listen to John’s demo. Thanks John for your support and for taking the time to create your audio demonstration because I would not have known about this little beauty.

73

M0EBP

Assembling the Tigertronics SignalLink USB with a Plug ’n’ Play module without sight!

Things have been a little hectic in the shack lately. Today I took delivery of a Tigertronics SignalLink USB. This device is what is needed to engage with digital data modes. If you don’t have a TNC or such device. The SignalLink is a sound card for the PC or Mac to handle digital data modes. Because it is a box that is hooked up to a radio. Various jumper configuration settings have to be made appropriate to the radio being used. Included is a bag with small coloured bits of wire to configure these jumpers. Alternatively, Tigertronics have created Plug ‘n’ Play modules for specific radios and it is recommended to purchase a module at the same time as the SignalLink USB. Thus there’s some assembly to do. There are plenty of warnings of how delicate these jumper modules are and need careful handling. With the help of a sighted friend I was able to assemble my device myself using a plug ‘n’ play module for my radio.

I have rushed this recording because I did not want to forget any detail. In the hope that it will be of use to anyone who takes pride in doing things for themselves when they can and this is easy to do to those who can be gentle. Tigertronics module site: http://www.tigertronics.com/slmodules.htm

Wednesday 13 March 2019 with more to come.

Listen to a description of the Tigertronics SignalLink USB and assembling it with a Plug ‘n’ Play module. Enjoy!

M0EBP

Radioddity GD-77S Introduction and Demonstration Using A Hotspot

Radioddity GD-77S and the Sharkk RF OpenSpot 2
An Introduction To DMR by Gena, M0EBP, from a blind person’s perspective!

February 2019

Background

I hope you enjoy these recordings that I have put together after exploring DMR for a few weeks within early 2019. The GD-77S software is V1.1.10, Windows 10 and Jaws 2018..

The zipped bundle is available to download in the Related Downloads section below, and a description of the audio files and some useful DMR links follow:

Apologies for unwanted background noises during recording.

Audio Recordings included in the bundle

001_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
As an introduction Gena describes the Radioddity GD-77S and more.

002_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Gena opens the software and creates a code plug with just one analog repeater keeping it simple to get started.

003_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Incomplete! Gena opens GB3PP using the GD-77S.

004_GD-77S_OS2..mp3
Gena adds talk groups to the code plug. TG9 and TG 9999 for the OS2 and TG91 World Wide talk group. Not forgetting to unlink..

005_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Gena struggles with the OS2 interface using the Chrome browser and Jaws. Hopefully it is clear that important settings should match in the modem and connectors sections of the interface. Remember to save after making changes.

006_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Gena takes a tour of the code plug and discusses Brandmeister and Phoenix servers and how 2 different numbering systems are linked for UK users.

Additional Files included in the bundle:

demo4-v1.dat
Minimal entries: GB3PP TG 91 WW TG 9999 Echo and TG 4000 Unlink.

Demo6-v1.dat
the UK Brandmeister talk-groups listed below. Unlink is on channel 1 of mode 2. GB3PP and GB3RF are 2 & 3 of mode 2 and are untested as yet.

These are the 2 code plugs observed in this project. Having removed my ID.

Useful URLs: (Obtained 6 February 2019)

Essential JAwS Scripts:
http://www.dlee.org/dmr/

Radioddity software download.
https://radioddity.myshopify.com/blogs/all/gd-77s-update-software-v1-1-10

Brandmeister UK, includes a link to get registered
http://www.bm-dmr.uk/dash/

Phoenix UK
http://www.dmr-uk.net/index.php/phoenix/

Open DMR, Phoenix UK and Europe DMR network
https://www.opendmr.net

Northern DMR Cluster
https://www.northerndmrcluster.com/talkgroups.html visit here if you want to view a collection of DMR Plus links i.e. 2350 linked to 4400.

To extend my coverage, view this youtube video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BPsLLChhlE

Brandmeister Talk-Groups UK: (6 February 2019)
TG 2350 United Kingdom 4400 listen live
TG 2351 Chat listen live
TG 2352 Chat listen live
TG 2353 Chat listen live
TG 2354 Ireland listen live
TG 2355 Scotland listen live
TG 2357 Wales listen live

23500 S.West listen live
TG 23510 S.East listen live
TG 23520 N.West listen live
TG 23527 UK Mil & Vet listen live
TG 23528 UK Hackspace listen live
TG 23529 Bracknell ARC

Disclaimer:

I am still learning about DMR and while I am glad to share my findings I cannot and do not suggest that my understanding is completely accurate. These are my findings as of February 2019.

Enjoy!

Gena

Call: M0EBP
DMR ID: 2346259
Loc: IO83PS
73

Related Downloads

D77S Introduction and demo bundle (download file and unzip)

Kenwood TH-D74 MCP JAWS Scripts

Joe VK5JKS has written JAWS scripts for the TH-D74 MCP program. JAWS is a popular PC screen reader used by many blind amateurs. The JAWS scripts improve the accessibility and usability of the Memory Control program for voice and Braille output. The script file, including instructions, can be downloaded from the following link:

TH-D74 MCP-D74 JAWS scripts.zip by Joe VK5JKS

or the Related Downloads section of the Kenwood TH-D74 page on the Active Elements site.

The script installation instructions are as follows:

Kenwood MCP-D74 Memory Control Program scripts for JAWS for Windows 18 and 2018

Install the contents of this zip file into your JAWS User Settings folder.
TO find this folder on your system:
* Press Windows key.
* Type Utilities.
* Choose Utilities JAWS 2018 (or 18) from the search results.
* Choose Explore My Settings.
* Copy the contents of this folder into the folder which opens.

The path of this folder is typically something like:
C:\Users\YourName\AppData\Roaming\Freedom Scientific\JAWS\2018\Settings\enu

Start the MCP-D74 program.
Use JAWSKey+f1 for screen sensitive help in the application.

Please note that comboboxes in this program are only accessible if expanded. this means that once focus lands on a combobox, you must use alt+down arrow to expand it, and then press Enter once you’ve made your selection.

To report a bug, please write to Joseph Stephen VK5JKS
Joe’s contact details are included in the script documentation

Go4lo Accessibility and Construction Review

Go4lo Audible SWR and Power meter Building and Accessibility Review

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID and Neil Robertson G0ORG

April 2017

Background

IT is a fairly good bet that a radio amateur will, at some stage, want to know if their

antenna is a good match for a given frequency. You could just rely on the internal ATU to make sure the radio sees a 50 ohm match, but the time will come when this is not enough. Therefore, an SWR meter will become an essential item to have in the amateur’s toolbox .

Photo showing the finished boxed unit with foam packing added to keep the battery from moving

The finished boxed unit with foam packing added to keep the battery from moving

A sighted amateur may have several SWR meters, either inserted into the feedline to the antenna, or built into the radio itself. Whilst some modern radios will verbally announce the SWR reading to a blind operator, many will not, and so an external meter giving audio feedback is needed.

There have been some reasonably priced ‘accessible’ meters produced over the years, (See the evaluation of the LDG TW-1 Talking SWR/Power meter), but these have been discontinued. There are also units such as the Power Master 2 from Array Solutions that will read SWR and power when combined with a HamPod, (See the Power Master 2 review), and whilst a terrific solution, it is an expensive option and will set you back the equivalent price of a small amateur transceiver.

My interest was therefore peaked by the Go4lo SWR/power meter from SOTABEAMS. The Go4lo is supplied as a kit and plays audio tones to indicate SWR. LEDs also show power ranges below 5 watts, 5 to 25 watts and from 25 to 100 watts.

SOTABEAMS offer the name of an amateur willing to assemble and calibrate the meter, for anyone unable to do it themselves or find a friend with the necessary skills.

Neil G0ORG offered to assemble and calibrate a Go4lo for evaluation by Active Elements, and describes his experiences building the kit, below.

The kit

Photo showing the many components

The many components

The kit arrived in a Jiffy bag and was well packed. The version of the kit PCB was 2.0 and marked May16. No instructions were supplied with the kit, however a full printable guide was available from the SotaBeam website. The optional hardware pack was well protected and well thought out. A small packet of sweets were included from SotaBeams proprietor Richard Newstead G3CWI, which was a nice touch.

Photo showing the kit parts and enclosure

The kit parts and the enclosure

The size of the finished meter is 110mm wide x 80wide x 40mm deep. It weighs approximately 190 grams when fitted with a 9 volt battery. The box is black and has a transparent lid, the PCB mounted LEDs are viewable through it, the only protrusions are the two BNC sockets and one momentary push switch. The transparent lid is etched with the labelling of the LEDs, the sockets, switch and other details.

Building and testing

The kit was relatively easy to construct and alignment was simple, just requiring an accurate volt meter and a good quality 50 ohm dummy load with a 5 watt transmitter. A small potentiometer is adjusted for correct voltage at two test points, the accuracy of this set up determines the overall later performance. The volt meter needs to have good resolution as the tolerance when aligning is plus or minus 0.05 of a volt. All components are conventional with no surface mount. The Microprocessor is a pre-programmed Pic device.

Go4lo The fully assembled PCB

Photo showing the fully assembled PCB

The PCB is unusually thin, approximately 1 mm, but is of good layout and well annotated. Some of the ¼ watt resistors where a little tight to fit as the resistor component hole spacing is minimal. I had to be careful not to stress them when fitting them. From a previous career spent in the Electronics industry I have experience of fractures that can be caused to components if leads are bent to close to the component body, to make sure I did not do this I formed the leads using needle nose pliers to allow a slight return on the leads.

The fiddly bits are the Toroid transformers and the sampling coax assemblies that pass through them. These form the basis of the SWR Bridge, one for forward and one for reflected power sampling. Each toroid has a specified number of turns and the coaxial cable has to be carefully prepared as per the drawings. Once assembled I opted to hold each of the transformers in place with a blob of hot melt glue.  One component to be careful with when soldering is a voltage converter marked as U1. The legs of this device are very close together and the solder pads are very, very close together.

Photo showing the LEDs during Testing

The LEDs lit during Testing

The PCB mounts on the lid and the PP3 battery is inside the unit, it has a typical battery snap connector lead which is directly soldered into the PCB. Careful removal of the battery when changing it is needed otherwise over time the soldered wires may break at the solder joint.

It may have been better for SotaBeams to have supplied a Molex type two pin connector and header to help with durability here when changing the battery. Care is needed to do so and is quite fiddly.

The battery is located between the PCB and the end of the enclosure to this end the battery has space to rattle around (and jiggle the connector wires). As the device is also intended to be used portable I think a small piece of foam between the top panel and the battery side is a worthwhile addition.

Observations and further ideas

For those with sight difficulties the recommendation would be to get help changing the battery although for permanent use I don’t see why a 9v regulated mains adaptor cannot be used. There is enough space to add a power connector to the enclosure if required.
If the PCB were added to a different hardware box then coaxial leads could be used to connect to SO239 connectors, if required.

There is scope to add a further sound modification if required in place of the 3 power LEDs for the sight impaired, this could be a further tone to indicate some approximation of power level however the levels would remain an approximation as the power resolution between each LED is quite large.

For those who want to measure power exceeding the 110w level (400w for example) there is scope to make a new SWR sampling head and modify to the PCB. The only restriction is that careful modification will need to be made to handle the plus or minus voltage within the maximum voltage tolerances required to create the comparison error measurement. As it is a microprocessor circuit then it would probably be prudent to shield the PCB from the SWR sampling head and use feedthroughs for the voltage measurement connections at these power levels.

Conclusions regarding building and testing the kit

The kit does require a level of skill to construct, especially the transformers and sampling coaxial cable. Some solder joints are close together so good soldering techniques are required. If in doubt I recommend the use of a test meter to check for any solder bridging.

Audio Demonstration

You can hear an audio demonstration of the Go4lo in action here.

Click here for Go4lo MP3 audio demonstration

Overall Conclusions

I think Richard Newstead from SotaBeams has provided a great little item here that has visual impaired accessibility built in, possibly without realising it.

Although aimed at the portable market for SOTA it is ideal for visually impaired Amateurs as the sound is the most important element in this instance. The kit is priced correctly and has been well thought out. All items are of good quality and it was a pleasure to construct. As the clever bit is the Microprocessor there is scope to modify it if needed for further ease of use by visually impaired Amateurs.

The device is useful to any Radio Amateur, during testing I appreciated how quick it was to find a drop in SWR when using an antenna tuner. The unit is very accurate and overall a pleasure to use.

Further notes on usage

Holding the oblong box with the BNCs at the top, the left one is Transmitter and the right is the Antenna.  Just below the two BNC in the middle of the box is a power switch, the unit powers on with a dit dah and powers off automatically with a dah dit a few seconds after no use or if it has not seen any RF.

The power up time can be short if the transmitter is not activated but if it goes off a simple button press puts it back on again.  On power up the red SWR LED blinks then goes off, nothing else is displayed. When power is applied the appropriate power LED, green for 0.25 to 5 watts, orange for 5 to 25 watts or red for 25 to 110 watts light. The red SWR LED flashes in line with the beeps of the measured SWR. Sotabeams claim that the pp3 9v battery will last over a year as in standby it only draws a few micro amperes.

From Sotabeams product information:

Our latest product is something that I have wanted to develop for a long time: it’s an audible SWR-Power Meter. Unlike conventional SWR meters, the Go4Lo indicates SWR by sound. Basically the worse the SWR, the faster it bleeps.

This type of user-feedback makes it much easier to adjust antennas than using conventional SWR meters. If you want to know actual SWR, it is just half the number of bleeps per second (e.g. six bleeps per second = an SWR of 6/2=3:1). To make tuning even easier, the tone of the bleeps reduces below an SWR of 2:1 too giving additional feedback: this SWR meter really lives up to its “Go4Lo” name.

In addition to the audible feedback, we built in two types of visual feedback. Firstly the SWR is indicated by a flashing LED which flashes at the same interval as the SWR bleeps. But that’s not all as we incorporated a three-stage power meter showing 0.25-5 Watts, 5-25 Watts and 25-100 Watts. The transition at 5 Watts is especially useful for QRP operators as it makes setting your power level accurately to 5 Watts, simple.