Sunday, August 1, 2021

MEOW MEOW: Goodspeed's CAT Tool

 

The Kenwood TH-D74 is considered the best of the best of the best when it comes to the most advanced handheld amateur radio today.  Its blend of features easily justify the price, but there are a few issues when it comes to this radio. 

I felt best to warn you before I get to the amazing work behind a great utility thanks to Travis KK4VCZ who is better known for his work with the MD380Tools project that helped bring DMR to mainstream use.

Issue #1:  Kenwood stopped making it.

Largely due to a factory issue and COVID derived supply chain crunch,  production of this radio which only came to market in 2017 has stopped in 2020.  For what sold new for $499 to $549 USD, this radio now is selling used for $700 or more.  Kenwood has always been known for great products that are on the market for a long time which also hold resale value.  It will be interesting to see what happens long term to the TH-D74 for a replacement or a manufacturer reboot.

Issue #2:  Kenwood does not like hackers too much

This is a little speculative, but soon after Hackaday covered the reverse engineering work of Travis in the "High-End Ham Radio Gives Up Its Firmware Secrets" article from July 14th 2020, Kenwood removed the latest firmware for the TH-D74 from its website. As of the date of this article:


Issue #3:  There was never a mobile application to do basic memory management with this otherwise amazing radio. Kenwood has almost always controlled its software closely, so this created a great opportunity for someone and its great to see Travis stepped forward to fill this gap with his own Android application along with some very well documented project material along the way.

Back to the amazing CAT Tool....

Since Travis is a bit of a ham radio/hacker celebrity already, it only took a few days for the media to pick up on his work in July 2020, 3 days after he published his first article.

After Travis reverse engineered things to a point where he was able to finish a pretty nice and focused Android application in September 2020 to add value to the Kenwood TH-D74 which did not exist before, Kenwood removed the latest v1.11 firmware. 

This is sort of weird and while mostly unrelated, anything is possible by manufacturers based on lessons learned with community reverse engineering of radios like the Radioddity GD-77, Anytone D878 and Alinco DJ-MD5 for other reasons.

You can read both articles about the CAT Tool below by clicking below, but here is the summary if you have the Kenwood TH-D74:

  • TH-D74 Memory Management:  Use Travis's Android "CAT Tool" to download your existing radio memory to your phone, edit your channels and upload them back to the radio via Bluetooth.

HVDN Feedback:  This works extremely well. Only issue is memory tags are not read from the radio to the application, but reasons are explained in the articles.




  • TH-D74 Traveling Benefits:  With a simple query in the software, you can download repeaters based on your location into the CAT Tool and then import those into your radio via Bluetooth.

HVDN Feedback:  Sort of stumbled upon this by holding down my finger on an empty channel and clicking on "Query"  That allowed me to create a list of 220 MHz repeaters easily in a 100 mile radius and load them to the radio over Bluetooth, but the memory tags in the application did not make it into the radio.

 


  • Other Radio Benefits:   Travis made his application for personal use to make for easier memory management between the TH-D74,  mobile TH-D710AG and Yaesu FT-991.

HVDN Feedback: If the Icom IC-705 ever comes into his possession, that would really be nice capability to add to this program since frequency coverage is pretty equal, excluding no 220 MHz on the Icom IC-705 but identical HF and VHF-UHF receive on both radios. Another BT enabled radio that can be programmed with no wires is the Lanch HG-UV98, a popular low cost APRS radio.

There are also some other hidden Easter Eggs regarding future expansion to support memory management with radios that support DMR, but I am not going to speculate, even though something like the BL-1 BT Programmer and an MD-380 (or other DMR radios) would be an interesting combination with the CAT Tool application.  

 

Go read more here



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