The Amateur Amateur: Cross Species Cloning
By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
The radio that started it all, my Kenwood TM-V71A
The Icom programming kit: Less than useful when it comes to
cross species cloning
Where's Waldo? Underneath the back seat of my Toyota RAV4. There's
a Yaesu FT-8900 somewhere in this mess.
External speaker for the FT-8900: Dented, distressed, and now defunct.
The data jack on the Yaesu VX-8G, right? No, that's the speaker jack.
The data jack is hidden just below the speaker jack.
I keep RT Systems profitable.
It started out innocently enough.
I just wanted to make sure that my transceiver at home had the same
frequencies in it as the transceivers located at the local hospitals.
Simple, right? Ha-ha-ha-ha! When will I ever learn? No Amateur Radio
related task that I take on ever winds up being simple!
The first problem was that the hospital radios have over a hundred
frequencies programmed into them. I had a printed list, but no
digital copy. Even though I had software to program my Kenwood
TM-V71A (the same model as at the hospitals), it was still going to
be a lot of typing.
And while I was at it, I should
probably also enter the local, district, and state-wide ARES
frequencies. Plus SKYWARN, the ShowMe Intertie, the simplex channels
and so forth and so on.
It wound up being about 300
frequencies. I think. I lost count somewhere while entering them. But
I did finally get them all typed in.
Well, it had been a burdensome
task, but not a complicated one. I was tired but happy. The job was
done and nothing had gone wrong.
Then it occurred to me that I should program the same frequencies into my
Icom ID-5100. Yeah, I should probably do that.
But there was no way that I was going to type in over 300 entries again!
No, what I would do this
time was just clone the settings that were already in my Kenwood.
Ah, but it isn't quite that straightforward, is it? We're talking about
two different models of radio. More than that, we're talking about
two different manufacturers.
Still, I was hopeful. Direct
copying wasn't possible, but some sort of “cross species
cloning” might be. In particular, I noticed that most of the
cloning software that I'd seen had “import” and “export”
features. And after checking, yes! Both the Icom CS5100 cloning
program and the RT Systems program that I'd used on the Kenwood could
import and export.
So I cheerfully exported the
Kenwood's memory settings to a CSV file (Comma Separated Variables, a
text file with all the data separated by, obviously, commas). And
then I imported those settings into the ID-5100 using Icom's cloning
That, of course, isn't what happened. It's only what I assumed
The export phase worked fine, but
the CS5100 program choked when I tried to import the data. Apparently
it's very picky about what's in the CSV file.
I should have anticipated this
development. Icom doesn't seem to play well with others.
There was no point in moping. Nor in wasting a perfectly good CSV file
chock full of useful frequencies. I did have yet another transceiver
that I could load up, a Yaesu FTM-350R. Better still, I also
had the RT Systems software for it. If that couldn't read
the CSV file I was going to be quite miffed.
It worked just fine. The CSV file opened without a hitch and the data
import and upload went as smooth as silk.
Thus emboldened, I ordered the RT
Systems cloning program for the Icom ID-5100. I already had their
programming cable. Icom's own cable had caused all kinds of conflicts
on my computer during an earlier project.
Need I say it? The program
arrived. I installed it on my computer. I ran it. It had no trouble
at all with the CSV file, and effortlessly uploaded the data into my ID-5100.
Oh, this was great. What else
could I program? Well, there was the Yaesu FT-8900 in my Toyota RAV4,
and the FT-8800 in my wife Nancy's Corolla. Was that going overboard?
No, surely not. I needed all
those emergency frequencies in my car radio. (Well, actually, I did.)
I'd programmed the FT-8900 years ago, so it should be easy this time.
I still had the software and cable I'd originally used, and again,
they were RT Systems products. They were older versions, but they
But trying to program the FT-8900
was pushing my luck. Things really started to go wrong at that point.
The first problem was that the
FT-8900 sits under the back seat of my SUV. It's not bolted down, a
nice strip of Velcro keeps it from sliding around. Still, for someone
of my bulk it takes some effort to see and work under the seat. I'd
had, however, the foresight to orient the transceiver so that the
back side faced forward, thus making the jacks and connectors easily
I say “easily”, but the data jack was for a 6-pin mini-din
connector. If you don't know what that is, thank your lucky stars. I
hate those things.
Even when they are clearly marked, I can never
get them properly aligned. And while hanging upside down, peering
into the darkness beneath a car seat? Forget it.
After dozens of abortive
attempts, I just ripped the transceiver free of its Velcro mooring,
and with the aid of about twenty-eight lamps and flashlights and my
strongest pair of glasses, I finally got the blasted plug into the jack.
It was freezing cold in the
garage when I did all this, but I was quite warm by that time. I went
ahead and connected my laptop computer to the transceiver and fired
up the cloning software.
It worked... and it didn't. All
of the frequencies transferred to the radio, but I noticed three
The channels didn't line up
properly. This could be a problem. If I was expecting to find the
ARES repeater on channel 80, as it was on my other radios, but it
was on channel 81 on my FT-8900... well, you get the picture.
The cloning software tries to
match up what's in a CSV file with the transceiver's own unique
features. In this case it did match up “Tone” to “Tone
Mode”, but it didn't import the data.
It did not import the CTCSS settings. Argh! I did not
want to manually enter 300 CTCSS tones!
I wasn't about to give up at this
point. I was battered, bruised, simultaneously frozen and overheated,
and just plain irritated. There was no way that I was going to quit.
Solution to problem #1: In this
case I had to edit the CSV file and change the channel numbers... all
300 of them. By this time, though, I'd built up quite a head of steam
and the work went quickly.
Solution to problem #2: Computers
are literal. The Kenwood had used the word “Tone” to
indicate that a CTCSS or DCS tone should be sent when transmitting,
and that's what it had exported to the CSV file. The RT Systems
program for the Yaesu FT-8900 picked the right column, but couldn't
find the word it was looking for, which was “Encode”.
This, also, required editing the CSV file. Fortunately, the editor
allowed me to do a mass substitution of the word.
Solution to problem #3: This one
was easy. The import software did not know that column header “CTCSS
Tone” was the same thing as “CTCSS”. But it had
been designed with a lot of flexibility and I was able to tell it,
“Hey, these two are the same thing”. After that it
merrily imported all of the tone settings.
Okay, I had survived hanging
upside-down without the benefit of a prehensile tail, squinting at a
6-pin mini-din plug looking for a black-on-black arrow telling me
which side was up (and by the way, “up” was “down”
on the radio itself), and having to yank the radio out and then
fumble it back onto its Velcro cradle. What else could go wrong?
The external speaker died. I had to replace it.
I had one more radio to
reprogram, the one in Nancy's car. Her FT-8800 was very similar to
the FT-8900 in my SUV. It took the same cable, but different
software. I sent in an order to RT Systems.
In the meantime I thought about
how nice it would be if my hand held transceivers could accommodate
all of those frequencies. It'd be great to have the same channels on
my base, field, mobile, and hand held radios, but I knew that wasn't possible.
As it turned out, it was.
One of my hand held transceivers did, indeed, have enough memory
channels in it. It was a Yaesu VX-8G, and as you've probably guessed, I
already had the RT Systems program and cable for it.
Imagine my disappointment when it didn't work.
This time it had nothing to do with the CSV file. The program imported it
just fine. It just wouldn't communicate with the radio.
Imagine my embarrassment when I
discovered that I'd plugged into the speaker jack instead of the data jack.
It uploaded the data with no
problems after I sorted out that little, umm.. faux pas.
Right, moving on, the programming
disk for the FT-8800 arrived. It was another bitterly cold day when I
opened the trunk of Nancy's car, plugged my laptop (now loaded with
RT Systems programs for virtually everything) into the transceiver,
started up the radio's data transfer feature...
...and nothing happened.
I kept trying, but eventually had
to give up because my fingers were getting numb. If I'd been able to
drag Nancy's car into the house where it was warm, I would've kept on going.
Anyway, such enforced breaks
often wind up being useful. Once my fingers.. and brain.. had warmed
up, I came up with a plausible reason why my laptop had not been able
to communicate with the FT-8800.
For the FT-8900 in my SUV I'd
used the older software and cable. For the FT-8800 in Nancy's car I'd
used newer software... and the older cable.
Really? Could it be that RT
Systems, in upgrading the base software, had made it incompatible
with the older cable? Or had my old cable passed its sell-by date?
Well, I had no better ideas, so I
ordered the newer cable, thus improving RT Systems' quarterly profits
Yep, that was the problem. Once
the new cable arrived I plugged it in and it worked like a charm. I
was in and out of the freezing garage before any of my fingers or
toes fell off.
I learned a lot from the experience, that's for sure. For example, cross
species cloning is
possible, but it's best to stick with one brand of software. If the
software company also makes cables, buy them! I also learned that
“some assembly is required” when performing cross species
cloning, which is to say, it's likely that I'll have to edit the
intermediate CSV file.
But the most important lesson?
Stop buying radios. I have enough.