Getting started with the DVMega and EasyBM

After getting started with DMR I was excited to explore additional capabilities.  I started with the DV4Mini.  I was frustrated with this solution because it really only supports Windows and DMRPlus reflectors.  The BrandMeister team created a new version of the software to work with their network, but I have to either go to the software or the Extended Routing page of the BrandMeister site to change talkgroups.

The DVMega board was an early entry, but I was concerned about complexities in getting it running. When you go to the DVMega web site there is very little information about how to setup and use the board.




I talked with a few different people and decided to take the jump.  I purchased a Raspberry Pi 3, mostly because it has built in Wi-Fi, and a DVMega Dual Band.  Why did I choose the dual band? Not sure, it just seemed like I should.  I also wanted to get a case that would make it easy to carry the system with me.

I decided on the DHAP Mini Mega case.  This is a purpose-built case with some nice features.  It is designed for the Raspberry Pi with the DVMega board.  The folks at Hardened Power Systems include a cable to route the antenna outside the box, power management, the ability to put batteries inside the case, and a power switch.  The box has openings for the all of the ports on the Raspberry Pi.

The case is a little rough because it's made on a 3D printer, I'm OK with that.  The lid is held shut with magnets, you have to pull hard to open it.  This case provides additional support for the DVMega board.  Most installs have a simple spacer to support the DVMega, this one has a bridge that extends over the Raspberry Pi so you can screw down the DVMega board.

When setting up the system I had problems initially, I later found the DVMega board wasn't fully seated on the Raspberry Pi.  Make sure you give the connector a firm push, apparently it doesn't make the connection until it's fully seated.

In the long run I want to setup my system for D-Star also, but I started with the EasyBM image.  I like this one because it has a web-based configuration tool and dashboard.

After loading the image and starting the Raspberry Pi you will need to plug your device into a wired network. This is required as the Wi-Fi won't be configured yet.  The image is setup to publish a NetBios machine name so you can access the device without having to know it's IP address.  This can take a couple of minutes to become recognized on your network, so be patient.  Also, the EasyBM instructions don't give you the correct URL.  Use http://easybm.lan/init.php



The setup page will collect the important information and save it to the Raspberry Pi.  You can use your Radio ID, you do not need to request a Repeater ID.  For me, I used west.brandmeister.us instead of the default, I left the server port and password as is.

You will also have to ability to setup your Wi-Fi connection here.

One shortcoming I found.  If you come back to this page later to make changes it will not read your current settings. You have to start over.  This is particularly frustrating when you are just trying to add a new Wi-Fi access point.  Also, if you make a change to the MMDVM.ini file it will be lost if you using this page again.  This page seems to write the intire INI file each time, not just update the fields in the form.

After you make your settings, the device will restart.  The default frequency is 430.375.  Give it a couple of minutes to boot up and get connected.  You can then go to https://brandmeister.network/?page=hotspots and you should be able to find your hotspot on the list.  Here is mine:



You can also view the dashboard on your device.  Point your browser to http://easybm.lan and you will see the following:



This page will tell you what talkgroup you are linked to and show you various activity information. Something I really like about this system is how the connection works.  Once you have connected to a talkgroup it will remain static until you key up on another talkgroup.  This is great for listening to nets that would normally be dynamic on your local repeater.  This allows you to listen to the net without having to worry about the net dropping off the repeater.

The DHAP case allows you to run using either four internal 18650 batteries or external power.  I've been using a 3Ah 12v LiFePo4 battery from BioennoPower.  I'm using this batter because I already had it.  The external power connector can take 5-36v and has an internal power management system.

At 13.1 volts the current draw for this system is 0.16 amps.  As the voltage drops the load goes up a little.  When the voltage is down to about 10.6 volts the load is about 0.20 amps.  I get about 14 hours from this battery.  I could get one of their 6v 3Ah batteries and would probably get about the same run time.  The 18650 batteries are 3.7v 3400mAh batteries that are wired in series-parallel.  Meaning your can run with just two batteries or four and you can hot swap.  With four batteries I should be able to get a full 24 hours of run time out of one set.

There is no internal charge controller.  The batteries have to be charged externally.  Frustrating, but I can live with it.

The external power connector is a 2.1mm x 5.5mm barrel connector.  It's the same connector my Elecraft KX3 uses.  I made a cable with PowerPoles for easy of use.

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