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Bruce Sommer

Grand Rapids, MI



This page was last updated October 10, 2016  

Minor edit applied 12-20-1017

So it all started in Grand Rapids, MI on June 20, 1962, when I was born. I have always had a bit of an interest in all things electronic, and also Broadcast radio.

I just loved to listen to top 40 radio on my little Philco 6 transister portable radio, that my parents got for me when I was about 5 years old, so I would leave their's alone!

Philco Radio

(While this is NOT the actual unit I owned, I found this pic online through Google Images, and it is the exact same model I once owned as a kid)

I did do a bit in broadcast, both at an educational school radio station and a small gig at a commercial station.
Jumping ahead to Memorial Day weekend of 1980, I was a Senior in High Shcool, almost ready to graduate and I had my first car, a 1976 Chrysler Cordoba, and CB Radio was a big thing back then, so I went to the local Lafayette Radio store and got a President "ar7" for my car, this gave me a fancy for 2-way radio.

(Again, this is not the actual unit I previously owned, it is long gone.  I found this likeness on Google Images and it is the exact same model)

(I did have some cheap Ch.14 walkie talkies as a kid). In the late 1980's I met some guys on the CB that were also HAMs, and they talked me into that direction, but the code was a hurdle for me. I got an old Commodore 64 to use some programs to help me learn the code. I was unsuccessful. However this gave me a new hobby interest, computers. I almost gave up on HAM Radio because of that confounded code!  I began to take more of an interest in computers.  But, about Valentine's Day 1991, when the "No-Code" Technician Class License was offered, I decided to go for that, and in the spring of 1991, I became licensed as N8ODV, and I maintain that to this day.
Over the years I have drifted a bit from the HAM Radio hobby, but have recently tried to become more active. Since the late Summer of 2015 I have been adding some Ham Radio equipment to the Semi-Truck that I drive for a living. 

I had a Kenwood TM-733 Dual Band mobile in the truck, but, I really only used it when I was near my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, it was just too much of a hassle to try to program it for other areas of the country that I might be in for just a short amount of time before I moved on to somewhere else.  In September of 2015 I replaced it with an Icom ID-5100a.  

Not so much for the D-Star capabilities, but mostly because of the SD card slot the radio had, and the ability to write a bunch of memory files for the many different cities that I passed through and I could load them on the fly.

Selecting memory settings to use

I had played with D-Star for a short time around 2008/9 but I was not impressed.  Most of that was due to the fact that D-Star wasn't very popular yet (I had a few friends that used it), so there wasn't a lot of activity.  Also, my first D-Star radio was an Icom IC-91ad, a walkie talkie in a vehicle or a mobile home like I live in are not ideal places to use an HT.  After I got the ID-5100a I decided to give D-Star another try.  With a much nicer radio and more people using D-Star, it became more appealing.  So much so, that I found I didn't encounter enough D-Star repeaters to satisfy me.  So in January of 2016 I picked up a DVMEGA and Raspberry Pi setup that I put in a Hardened Power Systems DHAP case.


With this setup, along with my Sprint Mobile WiFi Hotspot,

Sprint Mobile Modem and Cradlepoint Router

I can hit reflectors like REF030c and others just about anywhere!  Now things are starting to shape up.  I spend a lot of time listening to 30c and a few others and have really taken a liking to it.

While my primary interest remains with D-Star, I do dabble in other digital modes too.  In November of 2015 at the Fort Wayne Hamfest, I picked up a Tytera MD-380, and have played a bit with DMR.  


I don't do a lot with DMR, for one thing all I have for that mode is an HT, and like with the IC-91ad, an HT is not that great in a vehicle.  Also, programing a radio to work on DMR is a real chore as opposed to something like D-Star. Of course, like with most modern radios, you can swap "codeplugs" or settings files, which does help.  But, even so, in order to change programs on this radio requires hooking it up to a cable and computer to do a program swap. In this truck, that requires stopping, pulling out my laptop and setting it up to do this.  Most of the time, that is not conveinient. 

More recently, at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention (the last one to be held at the now defunct Hara Arena), I picked up a refurbished Yaesu FTM-400dr for about 1/3 less than the new ones go for.  


At that kind of a deal, I decided to give it a go, besides, I've loved the look of the full color touchscreen display, since this radio came out.  

GPS constellation view

So now I also do C4FM System Fusion!  Of the 3 digital voice modes I have mentioned here, I find C4FM Fusion to be the least active.  Of course a lot of that is due to it being the newest of the 3.  D-Star seems to have the most activity (at least here in the USA), followed by DMR with Fusion falling to the rear.  Since I originally wrote that I found out where to find some C4FM action, now using the DV4MINI and FCS002/90 I find sometimes the radio never shuts up!  Just wanted to add this quick note.  I will add a better update in the future.

To rank them in the order I prefer, it would be D-Star followed by C4FM System Fusion, and DMR at the bottom. I'm sure a lot of that is because the first 2 were designed from the start for Ham Radio, while DMR was designed for commercial and municipal use, then revamped to be used in HAM Radio.  With all that being said, I still own a radio for each of those three modes and I do use them all.  Some day we may meet up on one of those modes, or maybe we already have and that is why you are looking me up now.  Of course I can also be found on plain ol' fashioned analog FM on the VHF and UHF bands.  One place you won't find me is on HF.  Being a "No Code" Tech, I just don't have much to do there.  

I am mostly active with voice communications, but, there is one more digital mode I have recently started using, that is not voice.  The Yaesu FTM-400dr has APRS built right into the radio so I have been turning that on a lot lately.

FTM-400dr Stations heard list screen

I never really got into Packet or APRS, I never fully understood the idea of a stationary beacon station sending the same location that it has been at for years, every few minutes.
But, since I travel hundreds of miles in a day, it seemed cool to let people look at a map to answer the questions of "Where are you?" and "Where have you been?"  

My APRS Packet bounced back to me

So, if you ever really want to know this info, you can check out www.aprs.fi and look for N8ODV-9 (FTM-400dr), this is the data from my APRS in the FTM-400dr.  You can also look for N8ODV-M (mobile/truck), this is the D-PRS info that my Icom ID-5100a sends when I'm talking thru my DVMEGA or a D-Star repeater with a Gateway connection and it goes out to the network gateway.  (the reason data at this link looks so less cluttered, is that NO APRS stations hear this radio, the data is sent straight to the Internet)

ID-5100a GPS position data screen

This method is only active when I am actively transmitting, there is no beacon, because if I am listening to a reflector, it would keep interupting QSO's, and that would just be rude.  Even less utilized, I have an Icom ID-51a (not plus) that also sends D-PRS, but under the same conditions as the mobile, and it gets used far less, however, you can also find it at www.aprs.fi by looking for N8ODV-P (portable).  (this shows where I last used my HT and had a network connection)

Well, that's about it for now.  If I have any new info to share, I will post it here.  If you've read all the way to this point, let me thank you for your patience, and wish you a great day.  Below are a few addition pictures that didn't seem to fit into the narrative above.

This is a picture of the radio heads  for the ID-5100a and the FTM-400dr mounted on the dash, also seen in the picture are 2 Android smart phones and my SiriusXM satelite radio. The unit on the far right (not fully shown) is a QualComm MCP110 that my employer puts in the truck for communications with me and electronic logging of my driving for the day.

Radio heads on the dash

Here is a wider shot of the inside of my cab.  Of course while driving, the laptop needs to come off the steering wheel and the windshield curtains need to be opened. smiley 

The device near the top of the windshield is a Truck Navigation Device, TND Tablet from Rand McNally.  It is a 8" Android tablet with a dedicated GPS navigation system that understands truck routes, so I don't try to drive my 13' 6" truck under a 11' 8" tall bridge!  That's kinda messy!  To get an idea what that might look like, check out this site...


A wide shot of the cab

While taking these pictures I learned it is not easy to find the right light to capture details of a device with a lighted display screen.  That's why some have the curtains open and others do not.

Close up of heads

Another close up pic of the main radio heads mounted to the dashboard.  The device seen to the left of the Icom radio is a Garmin DashCam 35.  I have a few videos on YouTube taken with that camera if you would like to look...
Radio heads close up
Besides the DVMEGA I use for D-Star that I mentioned above, I also have a DV4MINI that I use with the Yaesu FTM-400dr to connect to C4FM/Fusion reflectors and DMR reflectors for use on the MD-380.  Both are seen in this picture along with the Raspberry Pi that the DV4MINI connects too with a USB extension cable.
(The cover is off the Raspberry Pi to vent it, since it gets pretty hot on a hot day)
I also have an Insignia 24" TV that supports 1080p and has HDMI ports, so when I am not watching TV, I can hook the Raspberry Pi's to it and use it as a monitor.  (watching TV and using monitors is ONLY done while PARKED and taking a break, not while driving)
Western D-Star DV4MINI control screen running on TV.
And since it is electronics and more specifically a RADIO, (and every trucker should at least have a Citizens Band Radio), here is my Uniden Bearcat 880.  This is another time when I needed to take a pic with and without a flash to get all the detail.
Uniden Bearcat 880
And a shot of the upper portion of the cab.
Upper Cab
Here are some old pics of me.  Maybe one day I can post a newer one.
Me @ Dayton '04
and me @ Dayton '09

8523997 Last modified: 2017-12-20 08:52:59, 20168 bytes

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