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My journey with the B1

Overview


In my job as a moony you come across a lot of kit & questions thereafter. I am a mere newb compared to Justin's 30 years. Our job is to have answers to the questions you the customer asks, we are no experts and your questions make us better at our jobs. Also knowing your projects, projects, journeys mean we can pass on that hard won knowledge.

And so to the ‘Marmite’ Rfinder range, in the past often referred to as the ‘boomerang radio’. To be clear, I own one and use it in ‘Dev’ mode, currently v1.19 as I write with the latest Rom, all programmed by myself. I had no prior knowledge and decided to take it on and tame the beast some months back. In brief what attracted me was its capability as an Android device, analogue HT, digital HT using DMR with TGIF & in future the M17 codec & satellite tracking. It doesn’t require a hotspot using DMRoip, can use one, and has user programmed cloud memories that can be up & downloaded at will. Plus for a subscription an up to date database of repeaters & callsigns, Rfinder messaging & sharing. The rest you can find in the blurb, but that covers my interest in the devices. There are two armoured tablets, the bigger of which has an SDR receiver.

First, if used in the ‘stable’ version offered on screen and perfectly interchangeable at will, the device cracks on using available repeaters & works flawlessly, but is boring. It will crack on with DMR as an HT and has no problems using Echolink, IRN (Teamspeak 3), Zello or any other app you care to download. I’m currently mucking around with M17 on Droidstar & about to drop the hammer on a TYT MD-380 & taking a soldering Iron to it for M17 experimentation, remember that word as it occurs within our license credentials.

If you don’t want to read any further, here it is. If you don’t want to be part of the development, project, challenge and learning curve offered by our hobby, happily pay for it to be made ‘Plug & Play’. But don’t bitch about it.

Made it to this next..

So you made it to this next paragraph, this is where I’ll be honest & talk about the pros & cons of the B1 family or the tablets. My own experience with DMR goes back 4 or 5 years, who counts, to my first attempts with an Anytone 868 & a zumspot. Wow how frustrating that was at times & mostly because my use of computing at work was as an appliance operator. Various guises of spots including Openspot using Fusion, Dstar etc I can navigate my way around and love W0CHP new GUI for Pi-Star. Codeplugs take a little getting used to, but if treated like a flow diagram where each part affects the sum of the whole, mapping will see you good.


Nitty Gritty

The B1 is Android 8, the B1+ and tablets Android 9 is this a deal breaker, no. But if you’re the person that needs the latest GTI version of anything, goodluck chasing your tail as at some point it pays to get off that train for a while. Everybody has their ‘Safe Queens’ but really this kit needs using & enjoying. The advantage of buying 2nd hand, learning how to program & use a device does mean when you upgrade you’re not the newb, being told to RTFM.

You’re not a fan of automated upgrade availability messages, err but you use Windows & to be honest what radio doesn’t need firmware or software upgrades…Sign of the times. The fact is it offers you longevity of use in your device and it is voluntary. On this note the Rfinders are always in development, if you look at the Dev mode settings you will see the extra features.

My Iphone or my Samsung has a better screen, You could go down this apples & oranges route and if you’re the Google guy in the Ad that has the mate with the chips…Great, my B1 is a working tool that allows me one device in that environment. You don’t slip it in your back pocket for your Tik Tok moments.

Battery life usually comes up in discussion boards. Here the B1 family are multi tasking, you can have the phone, email, text, social media, DMR, Zello etc all running…Whoops what battery can take that strain. Optimizing devices is a modern day thing, close what you don’t need or get the heavy duty batteries. Advantage B1+ as it charges on a USB lead, not just the docking station.

The P7 in yellow, uh I know, think of it as a Tonka toy.

The P10 in olive green, meh, there is a ‘White’ version 😝

Ram mounts of the 1 inch variety work very well, but like the belt clip you need to find the right thread screws for this & the belt clip. I cheated & countersunk the clip to use existing screws.

The £, my Anytone is great for DMR. Yup, but you can’t go anywhere in the world and just download your repeater list straight to the device.

Known wrinkles

I use a Retevis aftermarket antenna and a stubby from Moonraker, this is because you need to make sure the SMA connection is good, has enough turns in it for that and not too many as to easily be overwound down on the connector, or be too short to reach the central pin.

Remember the top volume knob can be alternatively used as a channel changer or volume control for the radio side. The phone has volume control tabs on the side.

Bluetooth works on the phone side, but currently there is no connection to the RF radio side. An Inrico Bluetooth ptt does work for Zello, Echolink does not. I have ear buds & various headsets for the phone side.

The phone takes 64gb SD cards no bigger and these should be set as external storage. This, as it can screw up your ROM updates.

It can take 2 SIM cards, I use EE and had no problem just plugging & playing.

The B1 makes clicking noises when you power up…I don’t care 😀

Conclusion

If you don’t want to be part of the development, project, challenge and learning curve offered by our hobby, happily pay for it to be made ‘Plug & Play’, but you’re in the wrong hobby. Aha caught you, changed the punchline.

The Rfinder support team works out of the Facebook group & zoom channel. When you get really stuck both Roberto Monteverdi and Bob himself can be on hand remotely into your device to help - https://www.facebook.com/groups/328426600855938/members

Most issues that occur due to user error are actually covered in the 80 plus page manual & I must admit that most of my own mistakes were due to impatience in reading & understanding, or going ‘off piste’ thinking I knew better…Don’t do it, I see the radios that come back. Happy to help, just saying.

Ham radio has traveled a diversifying path, some love SDR, digital, waterfalls and remote operating from a tablet or space age cockpit. Others like my friend M7TVR loves morse &

qrp from a £150 box of tricks designed by two clever hams & outsourced to China. We are all carrying on the great tradition of experimentation. Whether it be antennae, Rpi or Arduino, shareware codecs like M17 or any other facet of the spectrum.

Most, none of it comes for free, whether that be time, build or manufacture. All require financing and all come with the frustration of failure, redesign & renewal. That is the modern hobby. Change has come & embracing it is the only way, wait til you power up your radio and it says “ Good morning, how are we today, 20 meters is booming in and your wife is at the supermarket did you want broccoli ?…Oh and P1RAT called you a lid on TG91”.

I love my B1, it goes everywhere with me. No doubt I’ll use it through my Allstar node and anything else I can eventually connect to or through. I have learnt to ask myself after the arm flapping petulance of failure, is it me or the box. Very rarely is it the box, it will have been my application.


Useful links

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoUb5_UUZ60

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtg1kAsQuXs&list=PLWCoYUzzRmOwHGYK7mkwypQaWBU6rOs3N&index=21

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30JARHBxlVI&list=PLWCoYUzzRmOwHGYK7mkwypQaWBU6rOs3N&index=22

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glqRBUVFdz4&list=PLWCoYUzzRmOwHGYK7mkwypQaWBU6rOs3N&index=28

https://www.rfinder.net/docs/Rfinder-Android-Radio-Manual.pdf

https://androiddmr.com/pages/rfinder-user-tools



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