Inner Circle – September 2022

Greetings from Open Research Institute!

We hope to see you again at QSO Today Ham Expo this weekend, 17-18 September 2022. We have a booth, five talks, three project exhibits, and a lounge space for meet and greet.

To find out more about Ham Expo, visit https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/

Since the last Ham Expo, we’ve integrated the DVB-S2/X encoder into the downlink reference design for our open source broadband microwave transponder. We have started on the uplink receiver. We have published a specification for our high bitrate digital voice and data uplink protocol. It’s called Opulent Voice and it will be introduced and described at the Expo. Find the source code for a C++ implementation at https://github.com/phase4ground/opv-cxx-demod

We have two sounding rocket projects, an open source propulsion project, successful regulatory work, and we represent open source and amateur radio interests on the US FCC Technological Advisory Committee. We co-chair the “Safe Uses of AI/ML” subworking group.

Our open source HEO proposal Haifuraiya will be presented at the Expo this weekend and details will be in an upcoming JAMSAT Journal.

We do terrestrial communications as well! Ribbit is a digital emergency communications mode for VHF/UHF. No extra equipment or cables required. We have a poster about the project in the exhibit hall and a presentation. Get the free Android application at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aicodix.rattlegram

All video presentations will be available at our YouTube channel after the Ham Expo platform has closed in 30 days.

We have a mailing list for updates and discussion, a Slack account for engineering work, and all work is published as it is created to our GitHub account.

To join any of these resources at ORI, please visit https://www.openresearch.institute/getting-started/

If you’d like to get monthly newsletters like this one, then do nothing. You’re already part of the inner circle!

Our volunteers could not accomplish all of this wonderful work without your interest and support.

Thank you from everyone at ORI. We value your comment, critique, and feedback, and look forward to hearing from you. If you use social media, then a lot of what we do is published through the channels linked below.

Thank you from all of us at ORI!

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Deviation Limits of the MD-380

Not enough deviation for Opulent Voice

We measured the deviation limits on the MD-380 with firmware from OpenRTX. Thank you to Redman for help with modifying the firmware to make this test as easy as possible.

The transmitted signal is about 10 dB down at 3000 Hz and almost gone at 4200 Hz. Therefore, there is not enough deviation for Opulent Voice.

The part of the radio under test was the HR_C5000. This is a part from Hong Rui and is a DMR digital communications chip. The chip handles 4FSK modulation and demodulation, among other functions.

According to a translated datasheet for the HR C5000, adjustment of the frequency offset range not possible. It appears to be designed only for +/- 3 kHz. Unless there’s an undocumented feature, or gain is added after the HR C5000, then +/- 3 kHz is the maximum deviation for this radio.

The HR C5000 puts out two analog signals MOD1 and MOD2, which are combined and then drive a varactor diode. The varactor might well have more range. Or it could be replaced with one that has more range.

Below is a photo essay of the testing and screenshots of results.

30 AWG wire soldered to pin 5 of the HR_C5000 on the MD-380. This is one of two audio inputs to the modulator. It’s the one used for signaling tones, and not the one used for microphone audio, in the original design. Ground wire attached as well and brought out. Firmware modifications disabled M17 baseband output when PTT pressed. Pre-emphasis and filters disabled by putting radio in M17 mode. The red wire is part of the standard M17 mod for the MD-380.
Ground wire attached to point on board and brought out. Modifications inspected by KB5MU in Remote Lab.
The black rubbery weather seal gasket around the perimeter of the cast heatsink means there’s no way for wires, even very skinny ones, to come out through the seam in the case.
Hole was drilled in the side of the case and the wires brought out. Radio was put back together. Battery, display, etc. all working after modifications. Notice the 20 dB attenuator on the output of the HT. Its lowest output power is 1W nominal, which matches the maximum rated input of the spectrum analyzer, so the attenuator was added to protect the spectrum analyzer’s front end.
Test setup.

Test Results

Transmitted signal before modified firmware.
Transmitted signal after modified firmware. Notice no modulation because the baseband signal has been disabled.
1kHz sine wave at 100 mV injected to pin 5 of the HR C5000.
1kHz sine wave at 220 mV injected to pin 5 of the HR C5000.
3 kHz sine wave at 220 mV injected to pin 5 of the HR C5000. Signal is about 10dB down at 3 kHz
4200 Hz sine wave at 220 mV injected to pin 5 of the HR C5000. Signal is approximately 45 dB down.
Looking at the low end, this is one half a Hz at 220 mV injected to pin 5 of the HR C5000.
Two tenths of a Hz at 220 mV injected to pin 5 of the HR C5000. Notice the discontinuities. These were not seen when the signal generator was connected to an oscilloscope. It could be that when the modulating frequency is too low, it interacts with a PLL or other frequency stabilization loop in the radio.
It would not be an issue in the original design, with all audio coupled through capacitors. No way anything that close to DC would get to the audio chip.

Opulent Voice – digital voice and data protocol update

This Opulent Voice sticker is available from ORI at events around the world.

Opulent Voice is an open source high bitrate digital voice (and data) protocol. It’s what we are using for our native digital uplink protocol for ORI’s transponder project. Opulent Voice is also looking pretty darn good for terrestrial.

Here is an audible example of the Opulent Voice audio quality under ideal conditions. Each file is about 37 seconds long. It starts with a short musical intro, and the rest is the beginning of the audio track from one of Michelle’s conference talks. These were originally recorded with mid-range podcasting studio gear. The recording was converted to a signed 16-bit PCM raw file, which has been re-converted to a standard WAV file so you can play it easily, MDT-short.wav

Original recording


This file was then run through opv-mod to create a file of baseband samples, which was then piped to opv-demod, which created an output file of signed 16-bit PCM. That file was converted to WAV file MDT-short.demod.wav

Original recording modulated and then demodulated through Opulent Voice.


We expect to present a nice demo at DEFCON in August 2022 and at the QSO Today Ham Expo in September 2022.

We’ll be using COBS protocol within Opulent Voice. If you’re unfamiliar with COBS, please read about it here: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consistent_Overhead_Byte_Stuffing

Authentication and authorization is built in and optional. There is no separate “packet mode”. Things are designed to “just work” and get out of your way whether or not you’re sending voice or data. 

Opulent Voice is designed to where you can use even higher bitrate OPUS codecs if you wish. This will most likely be a build option and not a run-time option, but if a run-time option is something you want to work on, speak up! Let’s see what we can accomplish.

Originally based on Mobilinkd codebase that implements M17, the Opulent Voice development implementation can be found here:

https://github.com/phase4ground/opv-cxx-demod

Initial demos will be on a HackRF/PortaPack on the 1.2 GHz ham bands. 

Thank you to OpenRTX for help with troubleshooting the audio quality on the PortaPack. In order to have a good demo, basic FM transmit from the microphone needs to work. The audio quality is pretty bad (this was a surprise) with the stock application, so we’ve been spending some time with the Mayhem codebase, the microphone transmit app, and the driver for the audio codec in order to get it sounding like it should. This needs to happen before we publish an app for the PortaPack. 

Synthesized audio from the HackRF/PortaPack sounds clear and wonderful. It’s just the microphone that is splattery and overdriven. 

ORI’s Slack channel can be found at https://phase4ground.slack.com/

The authentication and authorization work is in #aaaaa
Opulent Voice work is in #opulent-voice

Thank you to everyone supporting the work!

-Michelle Thompson