I finally bought one a couple of weeks ago. I got it off ebay for less that $10, though S/H brought it up to nearly $20. I also had to pick up three extra pieces of hardware. First, I got the programming cable and software, also from Ebay. Secondly, I got an alkaline (AA) battery pack and a rubber duck antenna from American Communication Systems.
The software is easy enough to use. However, it is very odd that the programming cable was not compatible with either of my two laptops. One is a P1 166mhz, the other a P4 1.7Ghz. However, it worked fine with my desktop. Also, if you are running Windows 2000 or XP, you must make an MSDOS boot disk to run this software unless you are a real guru and know about dual booting different partitions. For the majority of folks out there, that is not an option. Sorry Mac users, I’m not aware of any options for you.
I set up my frequencies, CTCSS tones, and button options, and “cloned” the new information to my radio. It works great for an HT that costs under $50 total. The 5watts really does a good job, and I’m sure that once I get a real 2m antenna on my car, it will work much better for mobile use.
A note about the antenna. This radio uses a Motorola MX connecter for the antenna jack. This is not a standard kind of jack, though you can buy an MX to BNC adapter so that you can use standard antennas with it. The cheapest adaptors that I have seen are around $16. Yeah, that’s a lot of money for a little piece of metal.
The biggest downer about this radio, and the thing that will keep a lot of people away, is that it is only programmable by computer. I handle this by doing research ahead of time. I looked up all of the local repeaters and simplex frequencies and programmed them in the radio ahead of time. That way, I will be able to hear what I need ahead of time. Each channel can also be given a 7-digit identifyer, so you are not totally blind to what you are hearing. For example, #16 on my radio is the JARS repeater is Clayton, NC. I programmed the indentifyer to read “JARS” when it gets to that frequency. The radio holds 36 channels (i.e. memories) and that should be good for most hams who want something cheap to keep in their cars or while hiking.
One last thing, this radio is a Police/Military issue device. Therefore, it transmits and receives the entire 138 to 174Mhz portion of the VHF band. This makes it a much more powerful radio that your average ham HT. It’s not my job to lecture anyone on being a good ham, so I won’t. It’s just good to know that this is there. I personally think it’s nice to be able to pick up the weather band on a ham HT, because you never know when it is going to come in handy