Main Home Page
Ham Cram Tutorials Home Page
Create Ham Cram Study Session
Alternative Study Methods
Create an Elevator Pitch
Beginners Guide to Repeaters
Repeater Finder & Radio Interface
The Art of Memorization
Join a Ham Radio Club?
Your First HF Antenna
Should You Learn CW?
Cloud Burner Antennas
Nocturnal Problem Solving
Ham Cram Tutorials
Becoming a Ham
Ham Radio Links
Finding repeater information is a major problem for most hams. RFinder solves the repeater location problem with ease and when combined with CHIRP radio programming software, users can activate their radios in minutes instead of hours. No spinning dials or key presses.
Repeater Finder is a program that, given a location, provides a list of repeaters within range of the entered location.
CHIRP is a tool for programming radios from a large number of manufacturers and models.
Individually, these programs are great. Harnessing the two programs together produces the greatest ham radio application since the invention of computer logging.
Programming a hand-held has always been a daunting task with a steep learning curve. Finding repeater information has been a time-consuming activity.
In the sections that follow we’ll look individually at both program and then tie them together for a "knock your sock off" application.
RFinder Search Results
Repeater Finder is a worldwide repeater directory including IRLP, Echolink, AllStar, DStar, MotoTRBO, and Winlink information. Over 175 countries are currently represented in the directory.
The program runs on smart phones and Windows. The annual subscription for the use of RFinder $9.95US and can be paid with either PayPal or Google Checkout.
To see how RFinder works Click here.The graphic on the left shows the left half of the location search screen. If you have an account enter your User E-Mail and Password. If you don’t have an account you get one going to the right side of the
RFinder Home page.
After you have an account you may enter target location which is entered using a zip code, city, landmark, address or latitude and longitude. You can select the repeater bands you desire. Since I’m using only 144Mhz and 420Mhz because that’s all my hand-held covers. Select a search radius and click on the “Get Repeater List” button.
Exporting a RFinder Locating Listing.
Figure One above shows the right side of the search results and a partial listing of the in-range repeaters. Notice the two buttons in the upper right corner. If you click on the “Show Map” button the actual locations of the repeater are shown graphically superimposed on a map. If you click on the “Export List” button the program generates the output of the listing in several different formats.
If you chose the CSV-CHIRP Import version RFinder creates a CSV file that can be directly opened in Microsoft Excel or some other spreadsheet program. Figure 3 above shows a portion of the CSV file created from the repeater location display. There is more on this important option shortly.
Kudos to Bob W2CYK for an outstanding program.
Once you have a programming cable start by exporting the memory setting from your radio to a file, then save it to your computer with a name of "original.csv". This is your starting point that you know works. Don’t make changes to this file. Next, make a few changes to "original.csv" and save it as "try-1.csv". Finally export "try-1.csv" to your radio. Did your changes take? If so you’re on the right track. Keep practicing until you feel ready for the real world.
| CHIRP is a free tool for programming radios. It supports a large number of manufacturers and close to 100 different models. CHIRP also provides a way to interface with multiple data sources and formats.
The screen shot above show a portion of the CHIRP editing screen. Instead of spinning dials and pushing buttons modify your repeater list as you would with a spreadsheet.
The purpose of CHIRP is to be able to import or export files from and to you radio. The CSV file created by RFinder can be directly imported into your radio. CAUTION, when you import a file into your radio the data that is currently in memory is overwritten.
Using CHIRP requires a USB cable connecting your radio to your computer. Take care with the purchase of a cable. The inexpensive ones frequently don’t work. I prefer the ones from RT Systems. RT Systems Home Page They are more expensive but they have the correct chip set and they are guaranteed.
There is a chirp_users discussion list. If you’re going to use CHIRP I strongly suggest you subscribe to the list, which we hams call a reflector. When you’re totally comfortable with CHIRP you can unsubscribe. Subscribe to or manage your CHIRP account
Let’s Work Together
Let’s try a real world scenario. You are taking a trip from Southern New Jersey to Jacksonville Florida. Import your radio’s current memory values to a "master.csv" file. Using RFinder increase the "Search Square Radius" to 50 or 100 miles based upon the expected terrain of your trip. Set Wilmington, DE as the target location. Next create a listing and save as "willington.csv" and save it to your computer. Next repeat the action for Baltimore, then Washington and all the way down to Jacksonville. When you’re on the road connect your radio to you laptop and import the appropriate geographic file to your radio.
You can now skip the knob turning a button pressing on your radio, not to mention hours of research to find repeaters in another area. The combination of RFinder and CHIRP brings all the features of your radio to your computer screen where they are easily managed. The combination of RFinder and CHIRP creates one of the all-time great ham radio applications.