November 11, 2022

Yaesu FT5DR: First thoughts

I had a sad day the other day… the old faithful, my Kenwood TH-D72A finally bit the dust. It had been limping along ever since vibration damaged the barrel jack DC connector… I hacked up my own fix and got it going again, and it seemed mostly reliable and that kept it going for a few years… but in the recent downpours, it seems the battery management circuit died. Wouldn’t charge (just reports “Charge Error”) and wouldn’t run off a charged battery.

So… time for a new one. Kenwood basically no longer exist as a manufacturer of radio equipment now — they refused to sell the successor here in Australia and basically have abandoned us. Thus, it’s time for me to move on.

I had a look at a few options, a big issue is the chip shortage has greatly reduced the options available. I mainly use the Kenwood for APRS, it’s nice that it can function as a full-blown AX.25 TNC too, but by far, the feature I use more is APRS. Icom basically only care about D-Star and its DPRS equivalent. There are some DMR-based radios that do what they call “analog APRS” — whatever that is. The mode that gets used in SE Queensland is 1200 baud AFSK: aka Bell 203 modulation. Not the most reliable, and in many ways a dodgy hack, but that’s what everyone else uses. I wound up buying another Yaesu, the FT5DR. In fact, I bought two, just in case my father’s Kenwood bites the dust.

I haven’t put it through its full paces yet, but last night charged the units up, and this morning had mine running just beaconing on APRS and monitoring a local repeater.

General comments

The unit is reasonably lightweight… bright clear screen, the audio isn’t too shabby for something its size. I haven’t tried the C4FM mode yet but FM and WFM reception seemed decent. It’ll even begrudgingly receive AM broadcast — including with a 9kHz offset (unlike my Alinco set), although sensitivity is not great.

Text entry quirks

Set-up wasn’t too difficult, it prompts for a call-sign, which you enter from the touchscreen. Text entry is a little inconsistent, and very reminiscent of late 90s mobile phones: there’s no predictive text and the letters are layed out like they would be on a telephone keypad. To type a Z for instance, you’d look for a button labelled wxyz and hit it 8 times if you want capital Z, or 4 for lower-case. Frustrating if you miss and have to cycle around again. Sometimes touching a different button advances the pointer, sometimes not and it just overwrites the current character.

Repeater settings somewhat buried

The handbook does not discuss repeater settings much at all… which is odd since hand-held radios are not known for their DX range unless you’re up high.

To set up CTCSS, one must hit F-Menu, tap SQTYP, then use the channel knob to select TONE and hit PTT, then hit F-Menu again, go to CODE, and use the same knob to select a CTCSS frequency.

To change a repeater offset, one must long-press the F-Menu, tap CONFIG, then use the knob to scroll down to 15. RPT SHIFT, hit F-Menu, then use the channel knob to select between -, SIMPLEX or + and using PTT to confirm.

I’d have made these a simple toggle from the F-Menu options, but sadly, no.

Bluetooth still useless

I tried Bluetooth on a radio back with the VX-8DR. There, I found it was an incompatible mess… might work great if you buy Yaesu’s headset, but the whole point of Bluetooth is to be interoperable with other Bluetooth headsets which may be in a more suitable form-factor for your use case.

I tried the FT5DR with two headsets, a Behringer BB 560M, and a Logitech Zone Wireless. It could see the Behringer, but would not connect. It flatly refused to even recognise the Zone Wireless.

GPS and APRS working quite well

I’m yet to go mobile with this, but it soon found my position and getting the radio beaconing was not difficult. It lacks some niceties of the Kenwood set (e.g. reporting the frequency of the other band), and sadly no digipeating, but it otherwise is a capable APRS implementation.

SD Card support welcome

This radio can take a MicroSD card for various things, including settings back-up and restore, GPS logging, audio recordings, and even storing pictures if you buy the camera microphone option (I didn’t).

I put a few memory channels into the radio then told it to back-up to the SD card… apparently Yaesu’s own desktop software can read/write these files if you have a Windows PC handy (I don’t). That said, the format doesn’t look complex:

RC=0 stuartl@rikishi /media/sdb1/FT5D_MEMORY-CH $ hexdump -C MEMORY.dat 
00000000  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000012c0  03 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
000012d0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00001350  00 00 00 00 00 03 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00001360  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00001380  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 03  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00001390  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
000013b0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 03 00 00 00 00 03 00  |................|
000013c0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
000016a0  00 00 00 00 00 00 03 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
000016b0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00001710  00 00 00 00 03 03 03 03  03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03  |................|
00001720  03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03  03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03  |................|
*
00001800  02 00 14 50 00 d0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...P............|
00001810  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 0c 00 0d 80 18  |................|
00001820  02 00 14 55 20 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001830  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001840  02 00 14 55 20 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U @..........|
00001850  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001860  02 00 14 55 20 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001870  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001880  43 07 43 55 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001890  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000018a0  43 07 43 55 00 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000018b0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000018c0  43 07 43 55 00 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU.@..........|
000018d0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000018e0  43 07 43 55 00 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000018f0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001900  02 00 14 55 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001910  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001920  02 00 14 55 20 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001930  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001940  02 00 14 55 20 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U @..........|
00001950  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001960  02 00 14 55 20 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001970  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001980  43 07 43 55 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001990  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000019a0  43 07 43 55 00 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000019b0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000019c0  43 07 43 55 00 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU.@..........|
000019d0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000019e0  43 07 43 55 00 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000019f0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a00  02 00 14 55 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001a10  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001a20  43 07 43 45 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001a30  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a40  43 07 43 45 00 c2 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001a50  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a60  43 07 43 45 00 c3 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001a70  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a80  02 00 14 55 20 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001a90  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001aa0  43 07 43 45 00 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001ab0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001ac0  02 00 14 48 40 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...H@...........|
00001ad0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001ae0  43 07 43 55 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001af0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001b00  07 00 05 25 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...%............|
00001b10  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001b20  02 00 14 55 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001b30  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001b40  07 06 22 25 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |.."%............|
00001b50  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001b60  07 04 85 99 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
00001b70  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001b80  02 00 14 55 20 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001b90  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001ba0  43 07 43 55 00 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001bb0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001bc0  02 00 14 57 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...W ...........|
00001bd0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001be0  07 00 05 20 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...  ...........|
00001bf0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001c00  02 00 14 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...P ...........|
00001c10  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001c20  03 00 43 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |..CP ...........|
00001c30  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001c40  07 04 85 99 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
00001c50  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001c60  02 00 14 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...P ...........|
00001c70  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001c80  43 07 43 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CP ...........|
00001c90  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001ca0  02 00 14 55 50 60 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...UP`..........|
00001cb0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001cc0  43 07 43 56 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CV............|
00001cd0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001ce0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
00002aa0  02 10 14 68 75 c1 00 00  34 44 42 20 52 65 64 6c  |...hu...4DB Redl|
00002ab0  61 6e 64 73 20 32 6d ff  00 06 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |ands 2m.........|
00002ac0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000030e0  03 17 43 82 00 c1 00 00  34 5a 42 20 42 72 69 73  |..C.....4ZB Bris|
000030f0  62 61 6e 65 20 37 30 63  00 50 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |bane 70c.P......|
00003100  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
00003720  02 00 14 75 00 c0 00 00  57 49 43 45 4e 20 32 6d  |...u....WICEN 2m|
00003730  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00003740  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000037c0  03 07 43 95 00 d0 00 00  55 48 46 20 53 69 6d 70  |..C.....UHF Simp|
000037d0  6c 65 78 ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 0c 00 0d 80 18  |lex......P......|
000037e0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000094c0  02 00 14 51 75 d0 00 00  41 50 52 53 20 32 6d ff  |...Qu...APRS 2m.|
000094d0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 0c 00 0d 80 18  |................|
000094e0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
0000a180  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
0000a240  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
0000a250  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
0000a280  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
0000ab10  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 99 42 8b 00 00 00 00  |..........B.....|
0000ab20  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
0000ac80

That’s a complete hex dump of the memory back-up… I can see each memory channel is 32 bytes, and the frequency in kHz is given in BCD format:

000030e0  03 17 43 82 00 c1 00 00  34 5a 42 20 42 72 69 73  |..C.....4ZB Bris|
000030f0  62 61 6e 65 20 37 30 63  00 50 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |bane 70c.P......|

That’s the Mt. Coot-tha WICEN repeater VK4RZB (which I’ve labelled as “4ZB Brisbane 70c“); 438.200MHz, 91.5Hz CTCSS, negative 5MHz offset. I put it at memory location 200. I’m not sure how 12.5kHz offsets are encoded… maybe I might try programming some more in when I get time and see what they look like, but even that might be enough to “generate” a file with the repeaters I want. We’ll see.