Quick Start

This page is aimed to assist you, a new user of the PNWDigital.Net network, after your radio has been programmed for use on PNWDigital.Net.  While it is long, maybe not so much a rapid read, go as far as you can, it is organized in the order than a new DMR user would need to follow to get up to speed.

DMR is not your typical FM repeater or repeater linking method, it is complex and requires some effort on your part to enter DMR and then the PNWDigital.Net network smoothly, both for you and the users already aboard the network.  Please reach out for help, ask or make an effort to enlist aid from our users.  We were all new at one time, just as you are.  If we hear a new user, our users are instructed to reach out to help you, so please, do not be shy.  We want you to have a smooth entry and to enjoy DMR.  But please say more than your call if you want a response.

We assume that you have access to PNWDigital.Net's main talkgroups and that you have programmed your radio correctly (need a codeplug?; see bottom of page).  If you do not yet have a radio, our recommended entry to moderate level VHF/UHF HT is the Anytone AT-D878UV and codeplug.

We have a weekly Check-in and Tech Net every Wednesday at 1900 local on Washington 2.  Please join our PNWDigital.Net group.io support list.  If you become a regular user of our network, you must join the group.  There is no cost but want you have have access to this important resource.  New users or non-members may not have TX privileges on the network until they join the group.

PNWDigital.Net suggests that you read the more general New User's Guide-W2XAB (local file) and/or The Very Basics-K3NXU (local file) if you have not already.  They have been written as generic booklets for new users to DMR rather than for a specific network such as PNWDigital.Net or Brandmeister.  It is optional but provides more background on Ham DMR generally, while our pages on this site are more specific to the PNWDigital.Net flavor of things.

The flow of this page is arranged in order of what should be helpful to know to get started on PNWDigital.Net in a progressive order that a new DMR user is likely to follow.  Important basic information is included sooner than later but may be short on the finer details as this page is more a "Quick Start" list of PNWDigital.Net items you should know.  As you gain experience on our network, you can read elsewhere to learn more about DMR specifically as implemented by PNWDigital.Net.

Much the material presented here is taken from the PNWDigital.Net How-to page.  That page is more detailed while this page should be easier for you to digest (or is it ingest?) as it presents the key features and rules in roughly the order that you are likely to approach when learning a new mode.  Are you ready to mush on?

So you got your radio programmed...

  1. Motorola MotoTRBO repeaters can support 2 simultaneous conversations via 2 "timeslots".
  2. The 1 or 2 after a PNWDigital.Net talkgroup name signifies which timeslot carries that talkgroup (in most cases).
  3. Timeslot 1 tends to carry the main PNWDigital.Net talkgroups.  Timeslot 2 tends to carry most of the other network's talkgroups and they are generally on PTT so there are many more talkgroups available on timeslot 2.
  4. If you are using a portable radio, please use High Power unless you know your signal is perfect into the repeater.  The digital noise sounds very bad to the listeners and that weak signal noise (BER) is bothersome.  This much more an issue if you use an HT inside a vehicle.
  5. For your first contact, it is best to select a statewide talkgroup; Washington  1 or Washington 2 and make a call, announcing that you are calling on that talkgroup.  Ask for a radio check or mention that you are a new user.  We all were newbies at one time so don't be shy.
  6. It is generally a good idea to announce which talkgroup that you are calling on as most users are scanning multiple talkgroups and likely will not otherwise know which talkgroup you called on.
    •  Stay on the talkgroup for at least 1 minute.  A responding user may need to reach for his radio and select the correct zone and talkgroup.  Talkgroup hopping is confusing to all users as that activity sets and resets talkgroup timers as you rapidly switch and key-up on multiple talkgroups, one after the other without the courtesy to listen for a moment.
  7. Washington 2 tends to be the busiest PNWDigital.Net talkgroup and has the most users listening, so call there first as you are most likely to get a response.  Washington 1 is also heavily monitored.  Both are good options for first time users as well as long time DMR operators.
  8. Use our network tool: Callwatch to see how the network is operating and how your radio appears on the network.  Callwatch shows you who is talking, which talkgroup and more. You might enjoy Bridgewatch also.
  9. If you don't get a response, ask for a radio check.  Radio checks or a request for a demonstration will generally get a response while simply tossing your call out, may not.  We have many listeners but fewer talkers so you might need something "special" to draw their interest to get a response.
  10. Allow a few seconds of dead air before keying up after the last ham unkeys.  Rapid key-ups don't allow other users to connect to or disconnect from, the conversation on your talkgroup. 
  11. We have our weekly Gathering for network announcements and updates as well as informal check-ins as well as question/answer period geared to our newer DMR users. Check the Calendar for specifics but currently it is Wednesday evenings, 1900 local, on Washington 2.
  12. Talkgroups do more than carry voice calls.  Talkgroup activity can control or manage all the DMR connections via timers and routing paths.
  13. You may also test on the Parrot 1 talkgroup.  It is an echo server and will also provide feedback as to your voice quality, level and breath puffs into the microphone opening (confuses the vocoder and makes the users voice more difficult to understand or monitor).  The Parrot's echo back also confirms that you are programmed correctly and the the network is functioning correctly.  Good audio is VERY Important and has always been an issue as users program differently, sometimes incorrectly as well as speaking and holding the mic differently.
  14. If you are shy, use Local 1 or Local 2 as these talkgroups don't reach out beyond a single repeater or specific group of repeaters making them a great option.
  15. Use of statewides are primarily for use within the state.  Interstate use is permitted but should be moved to a TAC talkgroup for longer or regular QSO's.
  16. If you are in a long QSO, it is courteous to ask if anyone else would like to use the timeslot from time to time.  A user may wish break in, so remember to pause a few seconds before keying up.  The TAC channels are the best place for longer QSO's as they tie up far fewer repeaters, leaving unneeded repeaters available for others to use.
  17. Not all talkgroups are PNWDigital.Net managed.  Many are shared by or with other networks and have their own rules and idiosyncrasies.  You are expected to know their rules but those rules are far beyond the scope of this quick start page.  Ask on our IO Group for more info, check the PNWDigital.Net talkgroups or for even more details on which talkgroups to try out, check-out Talkgroup Details.
  18. APRS-Digital is now supported.  See our APRS Information and our APRS-D/SMS Gateway.
  19. Do NOT Use Encryption or other active servers or beacons.  You will be warned when discovered...if you continue, you may be banned from the network.
  20. We are not a Brandmeister network.  We have a few TG's that are connected to BM.  A hotspot may be a better approach for BM contacts if you are a regular user of BM.

Join the PNWDigital.Net Groups.io Forum.  It is the "Goto" forum to ask questions, learn more about the PNWDigital.Net network and networks beyond.  More information on joining Groups.io is available here.  Please include your name, call sign, radio ID number and location in your profile.

You are using a large network of repeaters...not all repeaters repeat all talkgroups all the time.  The network is complex so start out on Local 1 or Local 2 or any of the Statewides.  Washington 2 is a great QSO talkgroup.  Locals are just that, not networked to other repeaters or DMR networks (generally).  Statewides connect together all the repeaters located in that state.

  • Statewides are on full time on all repeaters in that state.  Statewides on PNWDigital.Net were intended to be calling channels but longer conversations tend to occur.  QSO's are acceptable but be aware all repeaters in that state are made busy while you are in QSO.
  • Other statewides (outside of your state) are part time talkgroups (PTT), so you must kerchunk to "wake up" another state's Statewide.  This is known as PTT, Part Time Talkgroups or Push-to-Talk.  PTT timers generally run 15 minutes of on time after the last key up on that talkgroup.
  • PNW 1 and 2 are our primary calling talkgroups, connected to ALL PNWDigital.Net repeaters full time. They are seldom used except for hailing but are our "GoTo" talkgroup to find a PNWDigital.Net listener.  Users should add PNW 1 and 2 into their Rx Group list and/or Scan list or enable digital monitor.  You own statewide talkgroup should be included also.  Our statewides are primarily on TS 1, so using TS 2 where possible allows for normal statewide traffic to continue as needed.
Think of a talkgroup like a home that your visiting as a guest.  If you enter either with invitation or without, conduct yourself as if you had just entered the home of someone you do not know.  Sometimes it is best to learn more about the people in your town before you go into their homes.  So read at least the talkgroup page so you have some idea what the purpose is of a particular talkgroup of interest.

Certain talkgroups have specific purposes and time limits for their use.  Our statewides and Locals are perfect for use to get some air time to become more comfortable with DMR as well as gain more familiarity with the PNWDigital.Net network.  We suggest that you only listen to the other Networked talkgroups (DMR-MARC has strict rules) until you have a good working knowledge of how PNWDigital.Net functions and have a grasp on the rules of engagement on the other networks talkgroups.

For very long QSO's with a buddy located anywhere in the world, typically you would use the TAC talkgroups as they bring up the fewest repeaters possible to enable that QSO.  There are talkgroups that bring up thousands of repeaters (example: DMR-MARC's Worldwide) while others bring up only a single repeater.  So you need to be aware of which talkgroup is appropriate to use at any given time.  QSO's on the PNWDigital.Net statewides or locals with other PNW hams will help to get a handle on this extensive network until you learn the fundamentals of using other network's talkgroups.

On PNWDigital.Net, we use TAC 1-3 as PNWDigital.Net only as they are connected only to the PNWDigital.Net network.  TAC 310-312 are worldwide TAC's with Brandmeister connections.  TAC 313-319 are DMRX connected talkgroups which are generally available in North America only.

PNWDigital.Net is only one of many DMR networks.  Each network has their own rules and peculiarities so it may be better to stay on PNWDigital.Net talkgroups until you learn the lay of the land.  The TAC talkgroups are the exception and may be used at any time, for any length of time.  But you should also factor in some consideration for other PNWDigital.Net users in that, when you are using a talkgroup, that no one else is able to use the that timeslot on the repeater or repeater cluster that you are using.

Some talkgroups have rather rigid rules that you are expected to be aware of.  North America and Worldwide are DMR-MARC talkgroups that are for hailing or short QSO's to lessen the impact to hundreds or thousands of repeaters.  The other concern is that you can busy out our local PNWDigital.Net repeaters with these QSO's.  MARC talkgroup use by new DMR users is discouraged.

Please be aware that PNWDigital.Net is a shared use network with many users listening but not necessarily actively talking.  So kerchunking a major talkgroup can have major impact on many of the PNWDigital.Net repeaters and our users who may be passively monitoring.  This is a concern as is nasty transmit audio, weak signal digital noise can sound terrible and now those passive users must quiet their radios.  If they are in a quiet family environment, it may drive other PNWDigital.Net listener's to turn off their radios or change talkgroups from what they otherwise would prefer.

So to recap the top 5 things to keep in mind:
  1. Monitor Callwatch to look for activity on the network.
  2. Pause a few seconds and listen before keying up.  Key up again and listen to be sure.
  3. When calling, say your call sign, announce the talkgroup and/or location (or repeater)
  4. Minimize rapid talkgroup changes with kerchunking, pause to listen for traffic or responses.
  5. Be mindful when using wide area talkgroups that it uses significant resources.
  6. If you wish to start a conversation, say more than your call for a response from the lurkers.

If you have questions or need a clarification, simply ask on the air, search messages or post to the IO Forum.

Now that you have made it to the end of this starting out page, proceed with the "light" reading on our PNWDigital.Net Talkgroup's How-to page to get more involved in the complexities of the PNWDigital.Net network.

Codeplugs PNWDigital.Net codeplugs published by our members
New User Guide Excellent primer on the general state of Ham DMR , written by W2XAB several years ago
Push-to-Talk What PTT does and how it works, a more advanced look into their functions
Talkgroups Detailed PNWDigital.Net Talkgroup List  (Bridge 2 / TAC 310-2)
Talkgroup Matrix PNWDigital.Net Talkgroup appearances and timers on the DCI c-Bridge's PNW managers


For more information, please send your questions to: Support@PNWDigital.net


Revised: 09/06/2021 14:46

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