The “020” Reflectors

D-Star users have long known about REF020. Reflector 20, as many call it, is one of the original D-Plus Reflectors. A number of repeaters in the New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania region link to it, including powerhouse K3PDR in Philadelphia and NJ2DG in Martinsville, NJ. It was recently relocated to the cloud by its operator (Scott KB2EAR) when when the site where the server was housed became unavailable. Historically, the busy channel tends to be REF020A.

During the weeks that Reflector 20 was down, I started exploring D-Star smart groups as a way to get together on the air with some of the folks that I talk to regularly. Smart Group CNJHAM was created on the QuadNet array.

Smart Groups can be a bit confusing on repeaters if you don’t know what group is being used as you come into range. My friend Ray <W2RJR> is playing with a low profile Pi-Star based repeater so we decided that repeater use would be simpler if it could connect to a reflector. Then the only destination route needed is CQCQCQ. So XRF020 was born.

Initially, there were challenges getting XRF020 getting listed in the right directories. You see, there is supposed to be one XRF directory that is authoritative, but not all gateway systems seem to pull data from the same place. Pi-Star uses one list, OpenSpot another, and DV4mini yet another. OpenSpot listed XRF020 right away. DV4mini uses the XLX list and you could have an XRF and XLX using the same number, which is “interesting”. Pi-Star took weeks to list XRF020 until I went to the “top guy”. Then it was handled immediately. Once I learned that XLX reflectors self-register, XLX020 was born.

CNJHAM - Our Central New Jersey smart group conference
REF020 - The original D-Plus Reflector 20 operated by KB2EAR
XRF020 - An XRF Reflector that speaks D-Plus and DCS as well as DExtra
XLX020 - A multiprotocol reflector that bridges digital modes

Here is the lay of our digital land.

Smart Group CNJHAM is where a few of us in the Central NJ area meet up daily. It is more or less our local digital intercom, but you are welcome to stop by and say hello. You can also say hello via XRF020A and XLX020A, as well as REF020D. They are all linked. The NJ2DG-C repeater is linked to REF020D, so you can get in that way too.

         CNJHAM <==> XRF020A <==> XLX020A <==> DMR/YSF
|
REF020D

If you’re an REF020 user, then you’ll want to know that REF020A is linked fulltime to XLX020C. You can connect to the XLX side of things via DMR, D-Star, or YSF. You can also get in via PA7LIM’s Peanut.

             REF020A <==> XLX020C <==> DMR/YSF/Peanut

See you in 020 land.

73

London Travel Tips Part 2

VAT stands for “Value Added Tax”. It is a bit different from the sales tax that Americans are used to. It is a tax that it is added at every step along the supply chain where value is added. In the United Kingdom the VAT rate stands at 20% for most purchases. This makes prices on your London shopping spree seem higher than in New York.

The good news is, if you are not an EU resident (pre-Brexit), you can get a VAT refund on items to be taken from the country under certain circumstances. The VAT refund process in the UK is different from what I’ve seen in other EU countries.

In the Netherlands, for example, if you spend over a certain threshold at a shop and, if the shop owner is aware of the VAT refund paperwork, you’ll get a form that needs to be shown at a customs window at the airport. Sometimes you’ll also be asked to show the merchandise purchased to prove that it is leaving the EU. The customs officer will stamp the form and you mail it to the vendor for the refund. You can do this once when leaving the EU for all items purchased, even if purchased in other EU countries on the same trip.

One year at the Friedrichshafen Ham Radio show I purchased a nice handheld digital transceiver which cost about double in the USA at the time. In this case, the vendor’s bank charged a hefty wire fee for the transfer to my bank. The fee ate up much of the refund. The wire fee is avoided if the vendor participates in a program called Global Blue. In that case, Global Blue will refund the VAT directly to your credit card. This is the ideal situation and you get the full amount of your tax refunded to your credit card in the currency used for your purchase.

The UK, however, does things a bit differently. They have outsourced the VAT process at Heathrow to the money changing behemoth Travelex. Travelex makes its money by charging fees to move money between currencies. In this case, they are taking a percentage of the VAT and then charging you again for a currency exchange because they want to refund your VAT in US dollars rather than credit the full amount back to your credit card as Global Blue does. At least this is how it went down during our recent trip. Expect to get only about 11% back.

The transaction took place so quickly that I did not have time to think about it until afterward. Next time, I will insist that they refund the VAT in the currency of purchase to the credit card used for the purchase. We’ll see how that goes and if it results in a larger return.

Another unusual aspect of the Travelex VAT process is that it takes place outside of the security screened part of the airport. So, they don’t even really know that the merchandise or you are leaving the country that day. Strange indeed.

April 1 DMR Security Update

A new security implementation for DMR repeaters has been announced.

It is called “Color of the Day”. The color code will be randomized and rotated daily to ensure that only those with the correct seed will be able to access repeaters. To get the seed you need to make a Paypal donation to the Amateur Radio Security Cabal Inc. This is a not-for-profit organization of amateurs interested in security and is located in Lichtenstein.

For further information please Google “Aprilscherz”.