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Thread: Data transfer on a P25 Astro Spectra radio

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    Default Data transfer on a P25 Astro Spectra radio

    Hi All,

    I was just browsing among the Astro Spectra catalogs and brochures and I was wondering if it is possible to transfer data in digital mode? The radio what I have for this job is a P25-compliant 110W Astro Spectra with the latest firmware and DSP. When I was playing with analog radios, I have used the SSTV and packet radio (for chatting on radio with my HAM friends) many times. Is it possible to use these P25 radios to transfer some kind of data like the packet mode? Is there any HAM softwares that I can use for chat using the data transfer side of P25 protocol? Just for fun

    I know the public safety agencies in the US are using P25 to transfer data between the subsystems and the radios. But how can I transfer data for HAM usage? Maybe some stuff like Pactor mode on HF?

    Any ideas?
    Last edited by HA5BRG; Jul 31, 2013 at 02:10 PM.


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    Supposedly the software is proprietary/Motorola crap. And it's going to be very slow. You might want to stick with 3G/LTE cell phone tethering, as it's more modern. Amateur radio data hasn't really progressed whatsoever in the last 30 years. Hams still use 1200bps half-duplex AFSK for a majority of their communications. Sending smoke signals is faster and usually more reliable.

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    Is there any freeware HAM software on the Internet that can be used to transfer data with IMBE mode on an Astro Spectra or Astro Saber? I am NOT asking for Moto software.

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    Data transfer does not take place in "IMBE" mode. IMBE is a voice codec. Any data transfer would take place via the Common Air Interface (CAI). There's TIA documents which outline the P25 data specs.

    I know you're not asking for Motorola software. Not a problem.

    I've been playing with ASTRO radios for nearly 12 years. I've never seen the software or heard of anyone using ASTRO data for anything besides Text Messaging Service (TMS). It's too slow and ties up the airwaves for no good reason. Any public safety agency with more than two brain cells would opt for a third-part/independent data solution, instead of the poorly-thought-out P25 data service.

    If you're interested in transferring data via RF on the ham bands, I highly recommend this stuff: http://www.ubnt.com/bullet

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    Thank you for the link, I have saved it and will take a look at it if I have some free time in the evening. That TMS feature sounds interesting. How can I use that with the Astro radios? Is is using a special Moto software or is there any other solution for this?

    I have tried to send PSK31, packet, SSTV and other data formats in analog mode with other radios in the past but now I am interested in using the Astro radios' feature of data transmission. I know it is cr@p and slow but seems interesting as I have never tried this before. Like bungee jumping

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    Is there any Error Correcting within the P25 standard? Or would you have to run TCP over it?

    In terms of data though, you really want a specialized radio:

    https://www.argentdata.com/catalog/p...roducts_id=157

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    Let's try to revive this topic!

    Today I had some time to take a look at the Astro Spectra Detailed Service Manual and the Control Head Service Manual. In the control head manual around page 113 I have found the front panel what my radio is equipped with (VHF, mid-power with W9 head).

    If you take a closer look at the right side of the schematic (at P502 what goes to the vocon), you will see that there are several pins for direct serial communication (these pins can be enabled and disabled by moving some SMD 0 Ohm jumpers):


    J502 pins for serial data communication:

    - pin 26 for RS232 CTS
    - pin 20 for RS232 TXD
    - pin 19 for RS232 RXD
    - pin 33 for RS232 RTS
    - pin 37 for SW +5V (if needed)
    - pin 24 for PTT
    - pin 10 and 28 for ANA-GND and DIG-GND


    As you can see on the schematics, some of these pins are occupied by other factory settings, like pin 26 on J502 is not connected to pin 5 or J6, because at J6 there is BUS+ on pin 5. But if you swap JU619 and JU636, the RS232CTS can be enabled for pin 5 on J6 and at the same time pin 5 on J5 can remain for programming.

    I was looking at the original X25 communication protocoll and the HAM radio version, the AX25. AX25 devices are communicating directly with serial data through the COM port on the PC, and this setup is hooked to an external TNC device. Can we just skip the TNC and put an Astro Spectra or a regular analog Spectra?

    Yes, I have heard several times that the best speed I can get is maximum around 2400 bps, but I don't care. I like playing with professional radios and HAM radio modes. This sounds like fun stuff, I have never used this before. I also know that it would be much easyer to hook up a PC soundcard on the front panel P25 connector's 'RX audio' and 'TX audio' pins and that's all......but that's too easy! Imagine if Kennedy would say in those days.....Well....going to the moon? That's hard. Let's just let to communists win.

    Too sad to imagine. Isn't it?






    P.S.: yes, I know that this can only be achieved in analog mode. That's okay for me.
    Last edited by HA5BRG; Mar 25, 2014 at 01:49 PM.

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    Some additional comments:

    I have read some articles on X25 and AX25 and HyperTerminal application (mostly found in older Windows versions like Win95, Win98 and XP). The serial data could be gained directly from the radio with HyperTerminal application, but how should we switch the radio to PTT mode when sending data over the air?

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    The Astro Spectra/Saber/XTS3000 can do P25 packet data with the right flashcode option, but Motorola designed it to only work through a system--not directly from one radio to another radio.

    If your radio has the option, you can check the "RS232 Packet Data" option in the Conventional Personality. If you do, when you select that channel, the radio will try (about 5 times) to register with the data system. If it doesn't find a system, you'll see "REG FAILED" or something on the display briefly.

    From what I remember, the "system" consisted of at least a Quantar repeater connected to a Wireless Network Gateway (WNG) and a Radio Network Controller (RNC) via the V.24 port. Both the WNG and RNC were basically UNIX machines with the appropriate serial interfaces. It seems the system was designed with the typical use being a Over The Air Rekeying (OTAR) or a text-based Computer Aided Dispatch application, where most radios just need to communicate with the system, and not so much with each other. I think radios can send each other messages, but the system routes them in that case. As Mars said, you're not going to be surfing the web with it, as the overall throughput would be much less than 9600 bps.

    That said, it's not totally worthless. There's lots of remote control and monitoring applications that I would have like to have done with some P25 conventional systems I've worked on, but no one ever had the budget for the whole Motorola data system. It would have been nice to be able to monitor the status of generators, tower lights, door alarms, and things like that at sites that have no T1 or microwave connectivity at them. And what's nice with P25 (or most any digital format) is that the data packets can co-exist with voice traffic much more seamlessly than analog systems. Anyone who's ever used the old MDC OTAR systems will know what I mean...

    It would be a interesting project to continue the exploration of the Quantar's V.24 interface to see what it would take to emulate the Motorola data system with a simple microcontroller:
    https://www.p25.ca/threads/1856-Expl...odem-interface
    Even if it just made a 'wide open' system that allowed any radio to register, and correctly routed/re-transmitted any messages destined for other radios, it would still be useful for many...

    Finally, I think the ASTRO-25 series of radios does allow some direct radio-to-radio packet data transmission, when equipped with the right flashcode options. I haven't had a chance to play with this yet, but I believe the setup is similar to that of the SMS messaging, which others have discussed in quite a bit of detail.

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    Guys, you can use the APCO packet data interface directly between radios without FNE. It's IP over P25. To make it work you just need to let Windows establish a PPP session over RS-232 using a data cable. It just works.

    But ...

    As Mars explained (before this thread came back from the dead) at 9,600 bps (less all the overheads you'll only actually get about 5,000 bps) it is sloooow. Like the web in the days of the Mosaic when you needed to turn off image loading to surf. Why would you use it? Well custom apps that use cleverly coded data it can be efficient for applications like GPS tracking or status messages.
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    Well, both of you wrote some interesting stuff. Hm. So you said that it is possible to use an Astro Spectra to send data when I set Windows to establish an RS232 PPP connection, right?

    Have you ever tried it? If yes, can you please write a little step-by-step tutorial? I am getting more and more excited.

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    And what about the data Tx/Rx control? is it controlled automatically be detecting data on the rs232 port of the radio or by any other methods? Like an additional PTT switch controlled by serial port too on the PC?

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    As Astro Spectra said, it just works. In another post I mentioned the radio senses serial characters (PPP packets) sent to it and it handles keyup/dekey, etc. all by itself.

    You would need to find a serial terminal package that can deal with PPP, or you will have to set up a PPP serial network device in windows that you can connect to. There are FAQ's and HOWTO's out there on how to set this up, so think of the radio as a simple serial modem.

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    Thank you for all of you for these useful answers. I will start searching for a proper application that handles PPP with windows over the serial port. I will publish all achievements by me and my HAM friends.

    All comments are welcome!

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    Are you sure this direct capability isn't just on the ASTRO-25 and newer radios? I kinda thought it was...

    Quote Originally Posted by Astro Spectra View Post
    Guys, you can use the APCO packet data interface directly between radios without FNE. It's IP over P25. To make it work you just need to let Windows establish a PPP session over RS-232 using a data cable. It just works.

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    @ HA5BRG: Have you ever tried it? Yes and it's the same basic set up to access GPS equipped XTSk radios.

    Key point is to configure under the Astro System > Data, select Packet Data Capable System (PDS) with Packet Data Mode set to Direct and not FNE or Repeated (unless you have a suitable Quantar). ARS mode needs to be non-server. An IP address required for the over the air network and on a different subnet a subscriber IP and computer IP addresses. When the PPP session is established the computer IP will be he one used by the computer,

    PPP driver is already in Windows. With a radio connected go to Device Manager, select the radio under Modems, test by doing a Query modem you'll get a string back form the radio. I don't have this in front of me so the next steps are a bit hazy but it is probably Network and Sharing Center > Set Up A Connection or Network > Set Up A Dial Up Connection > enter any phone number to enable connect > then Connection Properties.

    How about you fill out the details and report back. It really isn't hard. Forgot about PTT and stuff, the radio is essentially a small router it does all that for you.


    @ tbiggums: Good point to check. All the testing I've done was XTS5k radios with an XTL or XTS as a base in a suitcase. However, I am pretty certain I've had it working on the XTS3k and Astro Spectra with correct flash and Host/DSP. But it is years sine I've put these systems together.
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    Wow. Lots of info! Thanks! I will move the necessary pins on the J6 front panel connector to enable the RS232 pins, modify the flashcode, adjust the CPS settings and give it a try. I have never done any experiment with Astro Data before, but I does not seem that hard!

    I have three versions of Host firmware installed in my Astro Spectra radios:

    - R03 and R04: I think these are useless for data transfer, too old
    - R07: maybe I could give it a try, but still too old
    - R11: the newest firmware, this is the most suitable, I think


    To summarize the physical modifications needed on the front panel DB25 connector:

    Use CTS/RTS/RXD/TXD and ANA GND. Right? Did I miss something?


    In the near future I will make some documentation about the stuff needed to get an Astro send packet data over the air. I will keep you udated. All help and comments are still welcome!


    PS: Is it possible to send these data streams parallel with the digital speech? Or only 1 speech or 1 data stream is allowed per time?
    Last edited by HA5BRG; Mar 27, 2014 at 10:12 AM.

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    some (maybe) dumb comments:

    When I go to Dial Up settings and select modem Tab, there are no devices selected. You wrote that I should select the radio under modems....how should I put the radio there? Or is it equal by selecting 'Standard Modem Types' and choose from the available speeds?


    I did some experiment with finding out the proper Flashcode needed for data operation, but I can not make CPS to show me the mentioned tabs. Do you know what options will I have to enable in the Flashcode?


    Thank you.

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    "....Key point is to configure under the Astro System > Data, select Packet Data Capable System (PDS) with Packet Data Mode set to Direct and not FNE or Repeated....."

    Unfortunately there is no suc thing in the Astro CPS

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    ASTRO Spectra and XTS3000, they will apparently do IP packet data via SLIP (rather than PPP) when correctly flashed, but I've never tried it and therefore can't really comment on it.

    On ASTRO 25 and APX radios, it's super easy to set up and it Just Works(tm). I've done it under Windows, Linux and OpenBSD. On those radios, the only reason you need the proprietary software that Mars mentioned is that if you change channels, the radio will drop the PPP connection to the computer. Moto's software will bring the link back up automatically, but the rest of the work is really done by your operating system's PPP stack.

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    "Unfortunately there is no such thing in the Astro CPS" well actually there is:

    astro.png

    If the target Astro radio is not under modems then you don't have the driver installed. I think it's on the CPS distribution CD.
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    Astro CPS is different than ASTRO25 CPS. The OP is using an Astro Spectra.
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    You're right, my bad.
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    Yepp, guys....I am using the old Astro Spectra, not an ASTRO25 radio. I have heard from several sources that it is much more easyer to set up data communication with ASTRO25 CPS? but the real thing is: I can't afford an XTL radio. Yet.


    By the way, yesterday evening I enabled these options in the Flashcode....

    - APCO Packet Data
    - H14/H44 ASTRO Data
    - Q947/W947 Packet Data Interface

    ...and after this I was able to select APCO Packet Data in the CPS, plus I was able to set the IP address. But I did not find any scroll-down menus, tickboxes or other options to select packet as FNE/Repeated/Direct.
    Last edited by HA5BRG; Apr 04, 2014 at 11:10 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Astro Spectra View Post
    "Unfortunately there is no such thing in the Astro CPS" well actually there is:

    If the target Astro radio is not under modems then you don't have the driver installed. I think it's on the CPS distribution CD.

    What is the flashcode of the radio what you took the screenshot of? Maybe I did not select all the flashcode options needed to get into all Astro Data options in the CPS (non ASTRO25).