Frequently Asked Questions
Questions
Answers
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Q: If I key up a repeater that is listening to a conversation over the Link, but I use the LOCAL PL, did I just 'step' on them?

A: Nope. All you did was mute the link path and start the 10 second timeout timer. You can start talking (with LOCAL PL) and not affect the rest of the system at all or just let the 10 second timer run out and recover the incoming link audio. However, if you key up with the LINK PL, the repeater will ID out the link regardless if someone else is talking on the link and may interfere with them briefly.


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Q: When I first key up there is a pause sometimes before I hear the repeater ID or the courtesy tone. Why is that?

A: The majority of the controllers have to share certain resources such as the voice synthesizer, tone generators and microprocessor. So, it may be trying to do other tasks before it responds to you locally with an ID or tone. If you use the LINK PL upon an initial key up, it is also announcing out the link something like "System xx link connect" which you won't hear and then it may announce the ID locally and courtesy tone after that causing the pause in responding.


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Q: Why do you use voice synthesizers on the repeaters?

A: It helps to quickly and easily ID systems, allow us to tell which system someone may have just keyed up via the link and respond to queries, commands and alarms in plain English.


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Q: Why do people just seem to go away sometimes when I'm listening to a conversation?

A: It's likely they went to the LOCAL mode on the repeater they were on or simplex but didn't announce they were doing so before switching PL's.


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Q: Sometimes I hear only one person talking but not the other. What's happening?

A: More than likely the person you are hearing is using the LINK PL and the others they are talking to are using the LOCAL PL on a different repeater than the one you are listening to.


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Q: I hear someone ID and I come back to them but they don't seem to answer.

A: They may have been coming through the link and you keyed up on the LOCAL PL essentially cutting off the link path to them.


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Q: I know the other station I'm trying to reach is listening to their regional repeater but they never heard me call. What happened?

A: You should make sure you are using the LINK PL to call them if they are on another repeater than yours. It is also possible the repeater they are on is being used in LOCAL mode.


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Q: Is there a way to tell if someone is talking on the link even if I am conversing in the LOCAL mode?

A: Yes. We are testing a "network busy" indication tone similar to "call waiting" on your phone. It may sound like a longer than usual low pitched tone that repeats every few seconds when someone is talking in LOCAL mode to alert users that there is network or link traffic in case you were expecting to hear from someone or just want to listen to the link traffic. This is still in beta testing.


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Q: Why do I need to wait for the courtesy tones?

A: Well, as the word implies it is courteous to wait for the tone before talking. This allows other users time to jump in if need be, call for someone else or for help, keep things orderly and not encourage fast paced, quick keying as if you were on a telephone trying to talk in full duplex mode.


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Q: How can I tell which PL tone is for local and link?

A: Several ways. One is to listen for the 'complexity' or make up of the tones used. Another is to listen for the tail message announcement. A third is to remember the lower of the two tones is for LOCAL use and the higher is for LINK use.


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Q: What is the 'normal' state of the repeater?

A: Each Dual PL repeater automatically listens for both local and link traffic in its idle state. If no one is talking elsewhere on the link then nothing will come out the repeater. If you key up with the LOCAL PL then you just put it into the LOCAL mode until the 10 second timeout timer has a chance to reset itself and the system the reverts back to its idle state of listening for LOCAL or LINK traffic concurrently.


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Q: What is the 10 second timeout timer all about with the local/link modes?

A: Basically, every time you use the LOCAL PL you mute any incoming or outgoing audio to/from the link and start a countdown timer that keeps the paths down for ~10 seconds after you unkey. This allows a 10 second period of dead air when you unkey so you can carry on a LOCAL conversation with others without having to hear distracting link audio each time you unkey your microphone.


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Q: If C.A.R.L.A. is an open system why pay for it?

A: You don't have to. No one is required to support it. However, if you like using it and would like to see it continue or believe that what it has to offer is important then it might be a good idea. It certainly takes a lot to keep it going.




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Q: Should I start by using the LINK PL or LOCAL PL when I first key up and ID?

A: It's entirely up to you and what you want to accomplish. In general, it is OK to start off on the LINK PL to see if there is anyone on the system that you want to talk to. If it turns out you are both on the same repeater and there is no need to tie up the entire network then announcing and switching to the LOCAL PL is encouraged. If you want to stay linked in expectation of someone else joining from abroad that is OK too but tying up the entire network for extended periods is not encouraged simply to due to the resources used and wear that is put on everything.


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Q: How do I know which PL people are using on the repeater?

A: Listen. Get to know the differences. Generally speaking, the LOCAL PL generates a "boop-boop" type courtesy tone or single type of sound. The LINK PL generates the same or similar sound as the LOCAL but with an extra tone or sound after it. And, any incoming LINK traffic usually generates a very simple and short beep or boop all by itself.


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Q: If I hear a repeater is 'on battery' what should I do?

A: Keep your transmissions short and only as needed and avoid using the affected repeater or the system so it doesn't deplete the battery back-up reserves unnecessarily. It may be needed during an emergency.


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Q: Why are there repeaters that seem to have overlapping coverage on different frequencies?

A: It is partly by design and partly due to limited frequency resources. The benefit is if one machine fails for any reason then the other can be used to cover some of the same area in its absence. This has come in very useful at times.


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Q: Sometimes I hear what sounds like two machines at the same time and can't understand anything. What do I do?

A: There are several areas where we re-use frequencies that may overlap with each other. If the reception is unreadable then usually, but not always, there may be another repeater available to use instead.


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Q: Why don't you use more frequencies?

A: We try to be 'spectrally efficient' and re-use just a few frequencies as much as we can, where we can. The UHF band is crowded and there is not an abundance of open frequencies that can be used so we need to conserve which sometimes hurts coverage or reception.


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Q: When should I switch to Local mode?

A: You should switch to Local mode if the user(s) you wish to converse with are using the same repeater as you.


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Q: Why should I switch to Local mode? Why not just stay in Link mode?

A: Switching to Local mode, especially if you're conversing with someone on the same repeater, frees up other repeaters in the system for other users. It also helps to reduce strain on the system, following the amateur radio best practice of only using the minimum necessary facilities to accomplish the communication.


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Q: People are telling me I'm "clipping" myself, or quick-keying. What does this mean?

A: In larger linked system like C.A.R.L.A. it can sometimes take up to a full second or longer for all the links to come up. If you begin speaking as soon as you key up, the first part of your transmission might be lost. We advise you to wait at least a second after keying up to begin speaking. Even longer if you or the other user you're speaking to is experiencing a spot of rough signal or the repeaters have all dropped and you're re-keying from dead air.


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Q: Does C.A.R.L.A. offer club activities?

A: Besides the availability and use of the repeaters C.A.R.L.A. is more of an infrastructure for use by Amateurs and not a typical 'club' that you might find in your local community. There are regular people that use the system to talk to each other and certain groups or agencies that use it for special events and different emergency communications scenarios.


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Q: If there is a major disaster like an earthquake, fire, flood or something else, what should I do (or not do) on the system?

A: Listen first. Wait to see if anyone else needs help and checks in with vital information or starts a net. Certain groups or agencies may need to use the system to convey traffic so don't get on and start chit-chatting. You can put your call out and see if anyone else responds and shares info. Probably best to stay on the LINK PL until it is determined where the incident is and what kind of effective footprint it has. Don't tie up the system and if you need to talk keep it short and to the point. Keep in mind some systems may go on battery power too.


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Q: If I was listening to someone via the link and either I or someone else mistakenly keyed up with the LOCAL PL and muted the link audio, what can I do to recover from this and hear the link audio again quickly?

A: On most repeaters with Dual PL's you can simply key up quickly with the LINK PL and you should recover the link audio path. You may need to re-key a second time to actually transmit out the link and fully defeat the 10 second timer.


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Q: How do I know which repeater someone else is on if they are coming in via the link?

A: There is no certain way unless you ask them. Sometimes upon initial key-up a repeater will announce it is connected through the link so you can probably tell that way but not always.


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Q: If I make a donation, should I specify which repeater it should go to support?

A: You can ask but there are no guarantees. Usually, donations go to help with costs shared by the entire system and/ort as deemed appropriate by the principals of C.A.R.L.A. You can specify which repeater(s) you normally would use.


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Q: The suggested donation structure seems very reasonable for the size of the system. Does it pay for all the expenses? Can I donate more if I want to?

A: The donation structure is meant as a simple guideline for people to support C.A.R.L.A. and to help offset just a very small portion of the operating costs. You are welcome to donate more or less depending on your situation. The capitol improvements are usually made by the principals of the system and a few generous supporters and/or users. Unfortunately, a system of this size and complexity costs a significant amount of money to maintain and build so anything that helps to offset those costs is ALWAYS appreciated.


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Q: Why do some improvements, repairs or changes to a repeater take longer than others to happen?

A: It depends on several factors including accessibility, available time, costs, travel time, people's schedules, other projects, higher priorities and perhaps deferred maintenance due to parts or maybe plans based on contingencies with other projects. Basically, it could be a number of things. Also realize there is a very small number of people to do a lot of the work and they have other priorities to contend with as well.


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Q: Does C.A.R.L.A. have an IRLP or Echolink node?

A: Yes. The IRLP node number is 3994. It is in beta testing right now and will probably become integrated into the rest of the system sometime soon.




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Q: Can I link into C.A.R.L.A. from another remote base or Echolink or IRLP system?

A: You can but you should either ask first or do it with caution and not for an extended period. There are problems and ramifications that can come out of doing that including tying up the entire system needlessly or by mistake.


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Q: It's hard not to 'double' with other people. How can I avoid this?

A: It's hard to avoid but in general you should wait for the courtesy tones, be patient and not always be too quick to key up, let the repeater drop occasionally and sometimes key the microphone and release real quick before re-keying to see if someone else was talking underneath you.


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Q: What kind of equipment do you use?

A: All types. The majority of the repeaters and link radios are made by Motorola. The majority of the repeater controllers are either the 7K or 7330 made by S-Com with the main HUB being a RLC-3 by Linc-Comm. Mostly Astron power supplies, Telewave, Cellwave, Wacom or db Products duplexers & filters. Repeater and link Antennas are mostly by RFS/Cellwave, db products, Telewave or Antennex.


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Q: Why do you have so many repeaters?

A: We try to offer a reliable, professionally run, wide area communications system that covers most of Northern California and parts of Nevada for people to enjoy day to day and also rely on during an emergency, disaster or event that affects the communities they live or work in.


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Q: Why should I join the C.A.R.L.A. Yahoo group?

A: It is the best way to find out immediate notifications concerning system upgrades, additions, changes and general announcements about the network.