Archive for December 2016

Repeater Keeper’s 2016 Report   Leave a comment

Copied below is David Osborn GD4HOZ’s repeater report for 2016. I am unable to print at home at the moment, but this would have been presented at tonight’s IOMARS AGM. Please read the report, and give generously!

Dave Cain 2D0YLX, Hon Treasurer

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Recent comments on various social media outlets have again highlighted the all-too-common issue of repeater funding – or the lack of it. The phenomenon of the repeater keeper being the primary, and sometimes only, financial supporter of an amateur repeater occurs all over the world. Most keepers, however, only have one or perhaps two repeaters to look after. I have got seven!

I see the island’s repeater network as an asset which not only supports amateur radio on a day-to-day basis, but which also stands ready to assist the community in time of need. Naturally, it is always hoped that a situation where we would be called upon would never arise, but I have always designed and built my repeaters with one eye on the disaster scenario.

Every one of our repeaters, for instance, has standby power. At Bride, I have a standby generator, Snaefell and Carnane also have standby generation whilst Peel has a backup battery capable of giving at least one full day’s operation. I would hope that, being located in a power station, the Peel repeater would not be without mains power for even part of a day! Additionally, where possible, networks other than the public internet are used to link the repeaters.

Peel, Carnane and Snaefell share a common local area network and are interlinked using a special virtual network on Manx Utilities’ inter-site optical fibre cable. If the public internet failed, these repeaters would remain connected because they do not use the internet.

Unlike some DMR repeater operators in the UK – who probably do it out of having no alternative – I would never interlink repeaters using the mobile phone network.

We are unbelievably fortunate – and the envy of many repeater groups – in that we have the unequivocal support of the IOM government’s communications division. We are granted free accommodation and free power on Snaefell and Carnane; both high-quality sites with great coverage and backup power.

In addition we are lucky to have the support of Manx Utilities for site linking and accommodation at Peel and Pulrose, as well as various people who give us assorted items of equipment.

Despite these fantastic acts of charity, running repeaters doesn’t come free. Luckily, the high reliability of the equipment that we have acquired means that repairs are rarely required to the indoor hardware. Also, since changing to the ProComm antenna on Snaefell  we have had no antenna problems on any of our sites for a couple of years. This all means that there have been no large, unexpected, outgoings to keep us on the air – which is not to say that it won’t happen.

At a more mundane level, keeping the repeaters in the public eye is also a modern requirement. People expect that a repeater system will be represented on the internet by a website and perhaps a social media presence as well. To that end, I maintain ManxRepeaters.com using FastHosts as a hosting provider. The Facebook page is free, of course.

Building repeaters is something that invariably costs money. Luckily we have been gifted a number of UHF base stations, which would otherwise cost well over £1000 to buy, but ancillary equipment, in the form of duplexers, connectors and so-on,  is required in order to get a repeater on the air.

The DMR repeaters were a different matter. Since no surplus equipment is available, and building one from scratch is out of the question, we had no choice but to buy them new.

This was a joint enterprise between Ed Rixon and myself. For various reasons, we intend to remain the sole owners of these repeaters, but they will remain in their current usage until such a time as there is any break-up of the repeater network. Details of this have been published on the ManxRepeaters website for some time.

The recent Facebook discussion over financial support of the repeaters led to some suggestions that the keeper should issue a statement of expenditure in order to give an indication of what it costs to run a repeater system. Other than the guide figures that I will present here, this is not going to happen. I would welcome financial contributions towards the ongoing costs of maintaining and improving the repeater network, but such contributions will simply go into a “pot” to be used as required. As with the DMR repeater situation, a statement of my position on this matter has been on the ManxRepeaters website for several years.

Whilst it is acknowledged and very much appreciated that the IOMARS will support the repeaters in any way that it reasonably can, it should be understood that the subscriptions that members pay to the society are primarily aimed at funding the society’s activities, not the repeaters. With that in mind, I would appeal to individuals who use the repeater network to contribute separately to its upkeep, and at whatever level they feel comfortable with.

Some indicative costs:

Internet services
Per annum
Dyn DNS
£32.00
Fasthosts
£155.00
Domain registration
£13.00
£200.00

Peel Repeater
Radio, feeder, antenna
Donated
Raspberry Pi etc
£60.00
Duplexer
£60.00
Connectors
£30.00
£150.00

DMR Repeaters
Radios
£3,600.00
Duplexers
£120.00
Preamps
£100.00
Power supplies
£50.00
£3,870.00

From this is can be seen that it costs a steady £200 per year just to keep an internet presence. I am aware that other hosting providers may be cheaper, and some are even free, but reliability and accessibility are things that have to be paid for. DynDNS subscriptions are required for ensuring that repeater host names are up-to-date and accessible from the internet. Adding-in Peel, this year’s costs come to £350. Whilst that isn’t a huge amount of money, it has been entirely borne my me, voluntarily. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, just to get a bit of a lift with that from the folks that use the systems? Incidentally, the costs take no account of time – both my own and that of the people who kindly helped me – for instance the MU electricians who helped me install the feeders and antenna system at Peel.

The DMR costs were not trivial – by anyone’s standards. Between us, Ed and I spent at least £4000 getting them on the air. We were extremely lucky to receive donated equipment in the form of filters, isolators and an ex-tetra combiner unit otherwise the costs would have been significantly more.

Finally, and for the first time, we are being asked to pay our way with electricity on Carnane. As we are the only occupants of the building that we are using, our modest consumption cannot be lost amongst the consumption of larger users, as it is on other sites. Whilst we are actively looking at ways to bring our usage down to a bare minimum, in the end someone will still have to pay the electricity bill.

Even if no donations are received, I fully intend to continue to operate and maintain the repeater network for as long as I can. How nice it would be, though, if a few pounds were to find their way into my account from like-minded individuals who really appreciate what we have here. In all of my time as repeater keeper, I have received two cash donations – and they were both from the same individual!

Various methods of contribution have been suggested, including PayPal. Whilst PayPal is a safe and easy tool for people to use, they do not provide the service free-of-charge, even for registered charities. Consequently other methods of donating seem appropriate:
·         Contributions to the repeater fund held by IOMARS.
·         Direct payments into the repeater keeper’s account (details on request).
·         Pressing cash into the repeater keeper’s palm.

Whilst I have stated that I will not be providing any details of expenditure, I hope that everyone will trust that I will use any contributions received for the sole purpose of supporting and furthering the coverage of the Isle Of Man’s amateur repeater network.

Happy Christmas

David Osborn GD4HOZ

Repeater Keeper (GB3IM, GB3GD, GB7BR, GB7CA)

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Posted December 13, 2016 by David Cain in Uncategorized

IOMARS 68th Annual General Meeting.   Leave a comment

Don’t forget it’s tomorrow 13th December 2016………

IOMARS

Tuesday 13th December 2016 at the Sea cadet hall Tromode Road, Tromode. Please arrive early for a prompt start at 8pm.

Items listed for the agenda are….

1. Election of a committee.

If you want any matters to be included please contact the Secretary Andy Morgan by email  IOMARS@manx.net

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Posted December 12, 2016 by Andy GD1MIP in Uncategorized