Wednesday, February 06, 2019

TYT MD-380 DMR getting started in Sydney

The DMR radio I ordered for AU$127 just days ago arrived today. I thought this would be a place to leave notes for myself that might help others as it's pretty mystifying to get started with.

For the price it's a very solid feeling radio. Heavy in the hand (in a good way), with a good keyboard and knobs. It came with the USB programming cable - I didn't know this and ordered one at the same time. The charging dock is solid and the little power adapter came with an Australian plug adapter. Two antennas, a small stubby one and a slightly larger one that the manual says works better. On UHF the full size one is quite compact anyway.

MD-380 doesn't turn on! Turning on the power and nothing. Charged for an hour, still nothing... it turns out that there was a piece of tape between the battery and the radio so I had to remove the battery and peel it off to turn on the radio. All good.

I registered my callsign for a DMR ID at note that you need to upload a copy of your license.

From the recent talk at ARNSW, I learned that I'd need to download a "codeplug" file, edit it to put in my DMR ID number and send it to the radio.

The vk2kvp/md380-codeplug was downloaded as a zip and the file "MD380-90_All_AU_DMR+analog+CB_v15.rdt" was extracted out of that.

A TYT Code Plug Editor was downloaded from and it opened the .rdt file extracted from the vk2kvp zip. I put in my callsign, my DMR ID (5050184) and saved the file. It warns about passwords being set but I checked and they were blank.

Finally, I opened the codeplug (.rdt) file with TyMD380tools and sent it to the radio. Update, I've now realised that the code plug editor can directly send to the radio, very nice.

I know from earlier experiments with an RTL-SDR that I can hear the Sydney repeater VK2RCG so I went in to zones and chose that one.

Initial Observations

  • The colour screen is low resolution and even short callsigns have to scroll to be read.
  • The large icons on screen take up space, I wonder if they can be reduced?
  • My screen backlight stayed on until I changed it in Menu, Utilities, Radio Settings, Backlight.
  • When the backlight is off, the screen is completely unreadable.

Useful links

First contact

After hearing nothing all afternoon and calling on Talk Group 9, which I thought was the local TG, I asked for help in the Facebook group. It turns out that the Sydney repeater is off the internet. Les suggested Talk Group 505 Slot 2. I called and got a reply from VK2RF who said I was showing up as unknown ID.

I guess that because my ID is new it hasn't been added by other users yet.

Audio sounded good and I'm now thinking that a hotspot might be the way to go as the only repeater I can hear is off line.

The Facebook group is a great source of info. The reason why I wasn't hearing much is that pretty much all the local repeaters are currently down and the one I can hear is off the internet.

My thanks to Glenn, Les, Pete, Bruce, Bevan and Denis for their help.

Ordered a hot spot

I've ordered an MMDVM Hotspot for AU$60 (I have a spare raspberry Pi already). This seems like the way to go as all the local repeaters are currently down of off the internet. It will take a few weeks to come from China and I'll report the experience here.

The OpenSPOT2 looks tempting but I quite enjoy Linux tinkering and the Pi-Star software for the MMDVM hotspots is being actively updated and looks amazing.

Talked with Les VK4TB

I successfully sent Les a text message via TG505 and then he suggested we have a talk on TG3809 Slot 1. This wasn't in my code plug so I've added it (I got the name wrong saying QLD) but anyhow we were able to talk between Sydney and Brisbane quite well as you'll see here.

I have now flashed the firmware to the "enhanced" version. I was unable to do this under windows as the program just crashed each time I hit flash.

Mine had Firmware version D014.004 and CP Vers V01.37. This seems pretty recent but it looks like updates are available from TYT. Including "MD-380_390 FOR USA" dated 2019-01-07. I have not tried this.

Flashing the firmware worked smoothly on Ubuntu Linux following the excellent instructions from the author Travis Goodspeed here.

The new firmware has a number or worthwhile enhancements including showing the name and info about the person talking:

When no one is talking, you can configure to see lots of useful info including the time slot and talk group (without having to wait for it to scroll into view) and down below is the last call heard.

Nice code plug editor for Linux - editcp

There's a great code plug editor for Linux called editcp by Dale Farnsworth. The binary installed as advertised on Ubuntu and works well.

The UI, built with qt, is superior to the Windows program I've been using as you can drag to re-order items in the lists. One slightly concerning thing is the warnings about fields with illegal values that I get each time I save or go to send to the radio.

Despite this warning all seems well and I've grabbed the code plug (terrible name for settings) from the radio, edited various things, and sent back to the radio where all works nicely.

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