Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Ham Ninja's AnyTone AT-868UV & AT-878UV DMR Radio Tips

I'm covering a couple of procedures for configuring the Anytone AT-868UV as well as providing some links to good references at the bottom.  

You can read my review on the radio HERE but in summary this is a much better radio than I was anticipating.  The market has a few very cheap Chinese radios like the BaoFeng UV-5R, and this is nothing like that.  I have a few nits in my review but overall, I give it two thumbs up, even when comparing to my analog HTs.  

NOTE: All of these tips apply to the Anytone AT-878UV unless otherwise noted.  Also, if you don't know what DMR is, see "DMR Defined".

I'll be updating this BLOG page when I find other things that I think people could use help with.

Quick Terms mainly for the Anytone AT-868

  • Zones - This NOT a fancy DMR term, just a way to say "group of channels".   That's all.
  • Talk Groups - Think of these as a internet forum where multiple people can join in and talk to each other no matter where they are in the world.  People use their radio to connect to these "talk groups" by using a digital repeater or a "personal hotspot" using an group ID.
  • Color Code - For hams use to using repeaters, just think of  this as the "PL Tone" for the digital repeater.
NOTE: The following assumes you have firmware 2.32 installed.  If you don't, go out and get a new version by referencing the instructions  on how to install below (located in the "Reference" section at the end).

To find out what version version of firmware is on your radio

  1. Go into settings in the "Menu" list
  2. Choose "Device Info". 
  3. Use the down arrow until you find the firmware version.

The instructions below might work on older firmware, but I'm not sure.  Use the comments feature of the blow to share your findings.

Upgrading the Firmware on the AT-868

  1. Download the latest firmware and PC programming software from your distributor.
    (I get my software from HERE).  < Get the AT-878UV firmeare from HERE >
    You can also try the Anytone site.
  2. Make sure you have a copy of your code plug and any changes.  
  3. Make sure you have the com port software installed and the HT plugged into the computer
  4. Turn HT ON and when you bring up the updating software, it should be able to see the HT
  5. Turn HT OFF
  6. Turn HT ON while holding the PTT and the ORANGE button.  The red light should flash and the screen is blank
  7. Open the update you want to install (click the "Open Update File)
  8. The Com port should be the last one
  9. Ensure "Duplex" is checked
  10. Press Write button.  Red light blinks differently but I didn't notice
  11. The instructions recommend you do a factory reset (erases all data)
  12. I did a factory reboot by turning the radio off and then back on by pressing the PTT and the PF1 (right under the PTT) and then turning it on while doing that.
  13. You will now need to reprogram the radio with the code plug you saved in step 

Note:  There is a YouTube video HERE on doing the upgrade.

Adding a Talk Group or Private ID on the radio

I tried to demo this and forgot how to do it.  I'm not happy with the user interface, but whatever.  
This is really handy because you don't need to create a whole new channel.

  1. Press Menu when using a "Zone" that has digital channels on it.
  2. Press "Select" on "Talk Group"
  3. Press "Select" on "Input ID"
  4. Use the  "#" button when you enter the ID to toggle the entry it from "Private ID" to  "Talk Group ID".  
  5. Press "Confirm"
  6. Use the same procedure to enter a Name, etc.
  7. Go to the bottom and Select Save. (currently choice 8 and choose)
Tip:  Save some time and use the up arrow to wrap-around to the bottom.

You can now use the talk group on the fly or make a private call.

Using a talk group on the fly or make a "private call"

Sometimes you just want to use a talk group once in a while.  If that's the case, why create a whole new channel.  Or, if you are going to travel to a new area, you can save yourself some time by not having to create a whole bunch of talk group channels, just use the "On the fly mode" as I call it.
This is also how you make a "private call" if that person is setup in your radio (see adding a talk group on the radio above).

Use the procedure below to use an existing channel on the radio but override the talk group.  I did this when I wanted to dynamically add the Hurricane net to a local repeater.  Have fun.

Required: The following assumes you have the talk group on your radio either via programming software or using the procedure "Adding a Talk Group on the radio" above.  You could also add the user to your radio via the CPS software by adding them to the list of Talk Groups and setting it as private.

  1. Select a current digital channel and time slot on a repeater that you want to use.
You may want to use a channel that you setup just for this purpose, e.g.  "WUD UserPrg".
  1. Click List (red button) from the main screen, or choose "Talk Group" or person from the menu.
  2. Find the one you want and Select it with the green button.
  3. Now you should see three options.  Highlight the "Select Contact" and press the green button. 
You should see a green check-mark with the message "Contact Selec"
(I think it should say ..."Selected")
  1. Press the red button to go back until you are on the main screen.
  2. Press the PTT to talk and look at the screen. 
You should see the display change to the new override talk group or private person rather than the one that was programmed for the current channel.   
  1. REMEMBER:  The radio will only stay this way until you turn the channel knob or power cycle the radio.  Once you do either of those, the override goes away and that programmed channel works as normal.  You will have to follow the procedure 1-6 above to enable the override again.
Try the above procedure,.  Press the PTT when you are done to confirm you did it right (by looking at the talk group ID during transmit), then turn the knob right one, and left one, to come back and then press the PTT again.  You'll notice the override no longer works.  

An easy way to make a "Private Call":
If you want to open a private call with someone that you you've recently heard on the radio, there is an easier way to do that.

  1. Select the Menu (green button)
  2. Highlight "Call Log" and select it (using the green button)
  3. Select  "Last Call" 
  4. Select "Last Call List"
  5. Highlight the person that you want to begin a Private Call with and press the PTT.  The current group is then set to that person's ID.  It will stay that way until you change the channel or power cycle the radio.
  6. The destination radio will also go into a private call mode (NOTE: I've only tested between Anytone radios).

A note about "Private Call":
  • A "private call" is where you are using the repeater system to directly contact another DMR operator.  Instead of using the talkgroup ID, you use the DMR operator's DMR ID (see "adding a talkgroup" above).  
  • If another operator is monitoring the repeater in promiscuous mode (she can hear all traffic on one or both slots), at least one side of the conversation will be heard.  (See "Monitoring" below).
  • If the destination operator is on a repeater for a private call, they MUST have used it at least once since powering up or changing repeaters because Brandmeister uses the "last call" data to figure out how to route the traffic.
  • I was told that the repeater owner needs to "allow private call".  I haven't used private call much so I'm not sure about this. 


Use "Digital Monitor" (promiscuous mode) to listen to whatever traffic is being handled by the repeater (not just your talk group).  If you are not "monitoring" then it's kinda like PL/squelch, you only hear traffic for your current talk group.  You can listen to the traffic on the current time slot (Single Slot) or anything happening on the repeater (Double Slot).   I normally use "Single Slot" at a minimum so that I can hear if the time slot on the repeater is busy.  You can probably change this in the menu, but I assign a key to it.  For my code plug, I have PF1 Short key press set to turn this on.  Pressing the PF1 button (just below the PTT) will cycle through "single slot", "dual slot", "off".

Change Scan List

Another cool thing about the Anytone AT-868 is that you can have multiple scan lists.  I can do this with some of my Yaesu radios like the  HT-2DR.  Yaesu calls them "banks" and you need to be in that "bank" (group of channels) because it's scans the current bank.   I have to set certain channels to be skipped if I don't like it etc.  Anytone configuration is for multiple "Scan Lists" is similar to the way they implemented "Zones", but they are completely separate from "Zones".  You create a scan list and add channels that you want to scan from the list of configured channels.  Like Zones, I've created different lists depending on where I'm at or on the situation.  The only problem is, how the hec do you use a different list.  Follow this procedure:

  1. Click the green button to go into the menu.
  2. Move the selector down till you get to "Scan" and select it.
  3. Choose "Scan List"
  4. Highlight the list you want to activate and select it.
  5. Go to the end of the menu by pressing the up arrow to wrap around to the bottom and it should be on "Select Cur List".  Select that.
    When you do this, you should see a green check-mark with test saying "xxx selected", where "xxx" is the list you highlighted.
  6. Click on the red option key until you get back to the main screen.  
  7. Start scanning with one of the option keys or use the "Scan On/Off" under the Scan menu item.
NOTE: If you change channels you might have to re-select the scan list that you want to use.

Importing a new "Contact List"

You should update your Digital Contact list every month or two.  The radio uses this data to translate DMR calling ID to an actual call sign and name on your display.  If you hear an operator but his/her call sign doesn't come up (all you see is a number), it means that your radio can't find the number in your radio when doing a lookup.  Most likely the caller is a new DMR user.

Update using The HARD Way
Are you using your radio and realize the radio doesn't display the person that you are having a QSO with?  There are two possibilities for this.  a) the operator didn't program the radio with the correct subscriber ID, or the person is a new DMR user with a subscriber ID that is NOT in your database.  The steps below are how you can import a new database on your radio.

  1. Backup / Save your AnyTone configuration.  If you didn't make any changes on the radio, just save the data file for the D868 programming software to a new name use "File / Save As" command.  That way if you screw things up, you can always get back to the latest confi.  BTW, if you did make changes on the radio, just create a new file and use the "Program / Read From Radio" and check both boxes to pull in the latest settings from the radio.
  2. Now "File / Save As" so that your working file is the one you will be modifying.
  3. Use "Tools / Export" to export the current Contacts to a file.  This will show you the format that the file needs to be in for step 4.
  4. Now from here, you get a new user list from radioid.net, use Excel to cut and paste the entries over the existing format (it needs to be the same exact format).
  5. Auto number the first column (not sure if you have to do this).
  6. Go back to your programming software and and use "Tools / Import" and choose the file you prepared.
  7. Download to your radio using "Program / Write to Radio" like you always do but select both check boxes.


The internet has some pre-configured contact files for the 868.  There are a few pre-built files out there but I like AmateurRadio.digital because they don't remove data from the source.  The down side is that they now charge a $12 subscription fee.

  1. Follow steps 1 & 2 under "The HARD way" above to backup your config file.
  2. Download a pre-built file for the radio that you have, like this one from AmateurRadio.digital. 
    Follow the steps for the wizard.  Currently, the 868 & 878 can hold the entire database.  In the future, you may need to filter some regions out in order for it to fit on the radio.
  3. Go back to your programming software and and use "Tools / Import" and click on "Digital Contacts List and then choose the file you downloaded.
  4. You will need push the new data to the radio by going into the "Program" / "Write" menu. 
    Be sure to check the "Digital Contact List"check box when you start this process. 
    The download will take 5 or more minutes.  Be patient Padawon.

Re-order your Talk Groups

If you use my tip on "Using a talk group on the fly" and you have a lot of talkgroups this can be a real pain.  It is for me since my list started out with a code plug that wasn't too bad but not in the order I want and I've also added a few extra.

To save time, I've reordered my list and put the ones I use the most at the top, and the second most used at the bottom.  I can easily get to the ones at the bottom by going to the top of the list and clicking one more time, causing the list to "wraparound" to the bottom.
  1. Backup / Save your AnyTone configuration.  If you didn't make any changes on the radio, just save the data file for the D868 programming software to a new name use "File / Save As" command.  That way if you screw things up, you can always get back to the latest confi.  BTW, if you did make changes on the radio, just create a new file and use the "Program / Read From Radio" and check both boxes to pull in the latest settings from the radio.
  2. Now "File / Save As" again so that your working file is the one you will be modifying.
  3. Use "Tools / Export" to export the current "Talk Groups" to a file.  You do this by clicking on the "Talk Groups" button, then giving it a file name in the folder you want to work on it with, then click on the "Export" button at the bottom.
  4. Open the file you just exported using a spreadsheet editor like Excel.
  5. The first column is "No.".  As best I can tell, this is only a sort order column.  Change that number to change the sort order.  Ensure that you are NOT using a sort order number twice.  It doesn't make any difference what the physical order of the file is, the software uses this value to order the groups.  To keep your sanity, I would re-order the list and then regenerate the numbers in the first column.
  6. Use "Tools / Import" to import the file.  The dialog is the same as the export dialog, you just find the file you wnat to import, and press the "Import" button.
  7. Now download to your radio like you always do.

Switching "Scan Lists" on the radio

One of the things that I like about the 868 is that you can setup groups of channels that you want to scan.  You can have one set for say your home town repeaters, and another for just county fire department and another for when you travel to another town.  AnyTone calls these "Scan Lists".  I've configured mine using the PC software and have several setup.  What wasn't obvious is how to change to a different list on your radio when you are in the field.  Below are the steps.

  1. Press the menu button
  2. Highlight "Scan" and press "Select"  
  3. Select the second option, "Scan List"
  4. Select the scan list you want to change to.  At this point you should see a list of channels that are in that that "Scan List".
  5. Jump to the bottom by pressing the up button and select "Select Cur List"
  6. From this point you can go back to the main screen by pressing the "Back" button.  

You are now ready to start scanning.  Start scanning using the menus - Menu / Scan / "Scan On/Off" or you can put that function on one of the programmable function buttons.

Sending A SMS Messages

You can send a SMS text message from the radio to another users that is currently active on any repeater or all current users of a talkgroup.  This can be handy for groups of people, like emergency response teams.

Some special NOTEs:  DMR messaging does not work like your cell phone.  If a radio is not currently listening to the talkgroup, it will never arrive.  If the destination radio is off and then is powered on later it will NOT receive the message.  There is no guaranteed delivery.

To send a message to a group:
By default, SMS messages are sent to everyone on the current group.  This can be very handy if the message applies to everyone using that group, like during an emergency or on an ARES net.  Make sure this is what you want to do, otherwise, you will probably get a lot of nastygrams returned to you, especially if you are on a large talk group, like CA.
  1. Press the Menu button (green key)
  2. Hilight "SMS" and press the green key
  3. Select "New Msg"
  4. Enter the text.  You use the keyboard like the old flip-phones of yore
  5. Select Send.  (It won't send it yet and yes, this is a shitty UI)
  6. Select "TG List"
  7. Select the Talkgroup that you want to send the message.  The message is immediately sent.

To send a message to an individual user.  
The user can be on any repeater or you can send in "simplex / direct" mode.  The users radio must be on because there is no guaranteed delivery (store and forward).  Also,  if the destination is a user on a repeater (not simplex), they MUST have used it at least once since powering up or changing repeaters because Brandmeister uses the "last call" data to figure out how to route the traffic.
  1. Press the Menu button (green key)
  2. Highlight "SMS" and press the green key
  3. Select "New Msg"
  4. Enter the text.  You use the keyboard like the old flip-phones of yore
  5. You are now prompted to look at a list of Talkgroups or manually enter the ID. 
    I know this sucks but there is no way to choose a user from the Digital Contacts List.  You will need to enter the ID in manually or ... if you prepared for this, enter the user into your talkgroups list and make them private.  This will make that person available in the talk group list. <<Yes, this UI sucks, I hope they change how this in the future>>
    Once selected, the message is sent.

Set the call sign to RED

You can set the call sign to red instead of the default.  To do this:
  1. Open the "Optional Setting" dialog in CPS, the programming software.
  2. Use the pull down next to the "Call Sign Display Color"
  3. I recommend you also set the "Call Display Mode" to "Call Sign Based"
  4. Program the radio with the new setting by using the "Program" menu.


Enjoy and 73,
Christian Claborne
(aka Chris Claborne)

1 comment:

  1. Superb information! This new 878 owner appreciates it, thank you very much! De N6PCD