The Treehouse Blog

Archive for February, 2010

TM-D710A vs FTM-350R

by on Feb.23, 2010, under Radio

I’ve been checking into some mobile amateur radio rigs recently.  I had for awhile been intending to get the Kenwood TM-D710A, but a new contender has recently entered the market, namely the Yaesu FTM-350R.  I don’t presently own either rig, but as there is a lack of direct comparisons between them currently posted online, I wanted to share my research.  If you find any errors, please let me know so I can correct them.  If someone who actually owns or has used both rigs eventually posts a comparison, I’d like to link to it as well.

RF Capabilities

Both rigs provide 50W power on the 2-meter and 70-cm ham bands.  The 350R additionally can transmit 1W on the 1.25-meter band.  The extended receive ranges are also divergent, with notable differences being the lack of 13cm/1.3GHz band (and possibly the 33cm/902MHz band per a footnote) coverage on the 350R .  There are published mods to provide extended transmit capabilities for both units.  Both radios have a cross-band repeater capability.

Kenwood TM-D710A Yaesu FTM-350R
Transmit 2M – 50W
70cm – 50W
2M – 50W
1.25M – 1W
70cm – 50W
Extended Transmit Range 136-174 MHz
400-470 MHz


136-174 MHz
420-470 MHz


Receive Range Band A: 118 – 524 MHz
Band B: 136 – 524 MHz
Band B: 800 – 1300 MHz (excluding cellular)
0.5 – 1.8 MHz (AM Radio)
76 – 108 MHz (FM Radio)
108 – 250 MHz
300 – 1000 MHz (excluding cellular)


APRS is the feature that places these two radios in their own category.


One aspect of APRS is the use of a GPS for automated position reporting.  In the D710A, an external third-party GPS receiver (such as the GPS-710) needs to be connected to the control head.  For the 350R, Yaesu sells their own FGPS-1 module which installs in the back of the control head.  Documentation indicates it is possible to use the FGPS-2 module, which is the GPS receiver used on the VX-8R, but the required CT-133 cable could not be located from various retailers websites.  It does not seem to be readily possible to use a non-Yaesu GPS receiver.  Personally, I think having a GPS connection available from the radio body would make sense.  My intended control head mounting location is not likely to have the best view of the sky.

Digipeater Functions

The D710A appears to have a robust set of digipeater functions.  This feature would primarily be useful in situations where a temporary digipeater was needed to serve an area not covered by a permanent digipeater.  The 350R appears to not have this feature.

Other APRS Features

The D710A supports QSY information, weather station attachment, and a Kenwood GPS format for tactical display integration with AvMap G5.  Both radios are equipped with the SmartBeaconing feature which bases position update intervals on the speed of travel and direction changes.  The 350R has some navigation enhancements providing direction indication to other stations.


The built-in TNC on the D710A can be used by a PC or other external device, and supports KISS.  The 350R supports a “modem” mode for both 1200 and 9600, which hopefully means it can be used as a TNC as well, but I’ve not found anything explicitly confirming success with this.

Software / Firmware

These modern radios, like most recent electronics, have some computer-ness to them.  Programming software and firmware updates for the D710A are freely available from Kenwood.  These updates have added new features to existing products at no additional cost.  So far, there is no indication of any software available for the 350R[Update 2010-04-24: KC7HP pointed out that software is now available.] The repair for the navigation issue discussed below involved mailing the unit in for repair – for what should be a firmware update.  Given the newness of the product, it is possible that the rolling out of consumer firmware updating is forthcoming, but the situation with the VX-8R upgrade to VX-8DR doesn’t make this prospect seem likely.


It’s only fair to mention that the 350R has an optional Bluetooth module.  The only Bluetooth capability provided is audio, such as the use of a Bluetooth headset for using the radio.  I’d be much more interested in this if Bluetooth data capability of some sort were provided.


The 350R is a really new radio, and that means there is not much information available, and that it has a few bugs and quirks.  Already there are reports that APRS navigation feature leads you in the wrong direction.  There are also reports that the radio will hang, requiring power to be physically removed to reset the unit.


While the 350R does introduce some new capabilities (222 MHz, Bluetooth, integrated GPS, navigation feature), there are still features of the D710 that it seems to lack (digipeating, tactical GPS protocol).  The free firmware/software of the D710 is hard to beat.  Given the quirkiness of the new hardware, and feeling that the features unique to the D710 have more potential use than those unique to the 350R, my inclination would be to get the tried and true D710 if purchasing a unit today.

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Clarion CZ509 Product Review

by on Feb.20, 2010, under Radio

I am by no means an audiophile, but being able to listen to music from a source other than the radio is still a requirement for longer trips by vehicle.  I’ve been using a cassette adapter in my car, connecting it to whatever the audio source of choice has been:  laptop, Axim, G1 and sometimes even the Pro-95 scanner or HTX-202 radio.  My truck presented an obstacle to this in the form of a CD player.  I had no intention of trying an FM radio transmitter, so a new radio was needed.  So, really, the only requirement for the new radio was an external input.  To make things interesting, I focused my search on hardware supporting A2DP, which led me to the Clarion CZ509.

The install was straight forward and relatively painless.  The hardest part was getting the wiring connector detached from the factory radio.  I used the kit from Crutchfield since I wanted a no-hassle return option, mostly.  The USB connector is a cable emerging from the back of the radio, while the 1/8″ miniplug external input is on the faceplate.  It would have probably been more useful to have both on the back, or swapped.

The basic functions work as expected.  CD audio sounds fine.  AM radio reception seemed to have the same sensitivity as my factory radio, despite comments elsewhere on the web indicating problems with this.

The USB and CD are capable of playing back MP3 audio, of course, as well as the similarly encumbered WMA and AAC formats. Naturally, for ideological reasons, a decent amount of my audio is in Ogg Vorbis and FLAC formats, which this unit can’t play on its own.

Bluetooth audio sounds pretty good paired to my Android G1 running cyanogenmod, though it can be skippy at times which I blame on the G1s underwhelming RAM and CPU.  The G1 running cyanogenmod has the ability to play my Ogg Vorbis and FLAC media.  The menu interface for pairing the phone is incredibly unintuitive on the CZ509 – have the manual and patience handy when attempting.  The radio does have an auto-connect feature which should cause the CZ509 to connect to your Bluetooth device upon powerup, but I have never had this work.  I’m not sure which device is at fault for certain, but I suspect the CZ509 isn’t doing something right.  Fortunately with the help of a shortcut on the G1, manual connection is only a few screen presses away.  The Bluetooth playback only has play/pause/forward/back controls and has no song title text.  I’m guessing this means the CZ509 only supports AVRCP 1.0.  I’m not currently using the phone audio capability of the CZ509 – I’m not sure where the microphone would go.  Sometimes the G1 will not produce any audio despite an established connection which is readily solved with shutting down Bluetooth on the G1 and starting it back up.  I’ve not had this happen in the middle of a connection.  It would also really be nice if the headset volume controls and Bluetooth volume controls were stored separately in the G1 as I need it full-scale for A2DP and near the bottom for wired headphones.

I’m overall pleased with the purchase.  I certainly could have gotten a more featureful or less expensive radio had it not been for the A2DP experimentation goal, but this radio should serve my needs.

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Ender in Exile

by on Feb.18, 2010, under SciFi

Last night I finished reading Ender in Exile (ad), the “mid-quel” that is essentially the hub in the wheel of the Enderverse, despite it being the most recently published.  As is apt to happen in any prolific series, it does suffer from some continuity issues the author describes, but since I more recently read the shadow series and least recently Ender’s Game, I really didn’t notice them.

It was good to read more of Ender following the war before his transition to the much older character found in Speaker for the Dead.  The journey to Shakespeare Colony and Ender’s work there was a great story line, and one that I think could have been expounded upon further.  The book also gives a much more complete picture of Colonel Graff that was welcome.  The story line surrounding Ganges Colony and the Bean-offspring-raised-to-be-Achilles seemed more forced and interested me less.

What stories are yet to be told in the Enderverse?  Well, apparently one is in the works.  My hope is that it will continue Bean’s story.  If I remember right, we last see him departing Earth on his own relativistic voyage.

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A better change?

by on Feb.16, 2010, under Politics

Upon the mention on podpolia, I began reading The Roadmap for America’s Future.  After more than a week of intermittent reading, I’ve gotten through the parts that were interesting to me.   Two sections that were particularly intriguing were those on Social Security, Budget Process Reform and the Business Consumption Tax.  It’s really a shame that the Republicans did… well, nothing, really, towards any of these seemingly practical reforms of government during their majority tenure in the last decade.  Funny how balanced budgets are always the battle cry of the underdog party, but never considered prudent by those in power.  The only time in recent history it actually happened was when power was divided between the parties, right?  Maybe we can try that again.

Also heard an interesting quote today:

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” – Ben Franklin.

I think there is some wisdom there.

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The National Parks

by on Feb.07, 2010, under Outdoors

I recently finished watching the DVD version of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (ad) from Netflix.  First of all, there were many parts that would have looked much better in HD, but alas Netflix doesn’t have the Blu-ray version.  I had also been thinking this would be more of a tour of the parks, forgetting that this was a Ken Burns film.  It turns out to be a thorough history of the parks, which was interesting for the most part.  Trying to place yourself in the America that still had unclaimed wilderness is challenging, though I guess you can still see that in a trip to Alaska.  As to whether national parks are “America’s Best Idea” … I would say that’s a massive exaggeration, but “one of the best ideas” might qualify.

I’d love to see some of these places in person!

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February 2010


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