Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Friday, 3 July 2015

Clearing MMSI from a Midland Neptune Tranceiver

Okay, as all you blog followers know I'm always out for the thrifty option when it comes to things.

Now I understand that Digital Selective Calling is a wonderful thing and it can make emergency calls as easy as a few button presses.

Part of this is a unique identifier called the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (get me I remembered that from memory!) for the ship/boat which you program into the radio. All great in theory: you change your licence details on Ofcom's website and eventually your ship/boat is allocated an MMSI number. The number appears on the licence and you program that into your radio using the setup menu(s).

However, there's a but (and it's a big one!): the transceiver manufacturers and the authorities put a restriction on the number of times you can change the MMSI number. In some cases you can only enter it once, so you'd better get it right first time! Some other manufacturers allow up to three updates of the MMSI. Now as the Skint Sailor it offends me when manufacturers limit your ability to change things, or force you to return stuff to the dealer to get it modified. I mean, the memory is already in the radio, the limit on changing the MMSI is made in software. I suppose they could argue this stops stolen radios easily changing their MMSI but technology has a habit of circumventing any restrictions but on devices in software.

Back when I had my powerboat I bought a Midland Neptune VHF DSC transceiver, which was duly programmed with that boat's MMSI. When I sold my boat I kept the radio, thinking I would get another boat some time and I'd fit the radio. Always the optimist!

Anyway, the Neptune falls into the "can only enter the MMSI once" camp. A bit of a bugger really as you have to send the transceiver back to the dealer or manufacturer to get the MMSI cleared off the radio.

However, there is another option: Midland do a program that can program the MMSI and ATIS numbers and also add private channels. So when I got Sprite, I thought great, I'll nip down the local Midland dealer and buy the programming software and wipe the MMSI. Ah, there's a but: by that time Midland had discontinued the software! Bugger, back to square one!

Anyway, proving the internet is a wonderful thing eventually Midland put the PRG Neptune software on their old website for download. I downloaded it straight away!

Now the only pitfall was the fact I didn't have an interface between my computer and the radio. I bought one I thought might do the trick but it didn't work. But a few months ago I bought one that does! Its a USB to RS-485/422 convertor interface off ebay. Cost: a fiver!

You get a short cable with the Neptune to connect to NMEA devices and its this cable you connect to the RS-485 convertor, to the D-/B and the D+/A connections:

Then you plug the connector into the NMEA connector on the radio and run the software and hey presto, the original MMSI is cleared:

Lookee that, a clear MMSI!

By the time I'd done all of this, Sprite 2's shiny new MMSI popped up on my Ofcom licence details, so I entered it into the radio.

I've also added the MMSI to my CG66 entry on the MCA website too.

Next thing is a live test. Might give Solent Coasties a call at the weekend to check out the procedure. 

Talking about Solent Coastguard, I noticed today they are still having bandwidth problems on their links from the new(ish) centre and their aerials. Quite a few transmissions today had digital artefacts corrupting words spoken by the coastguard. I'm not sure what that does for clarity of communications in an emergency situation, or when trying to listen to weak signals. 

I have a trip out tomorrow morning to get another eBay bargain I won today. More on that tomorrow.

Update: Sadly I lost the PRG-Neptune software in a computer crash at the beginning of this year. Midland have revamped their website so the link to the free software download has gone as well.
So I no longer have the software, but I guess I was lucky to get the MMSI changed quite cheaply.
It's possible an email to Midland themselves might get the software as it's obsolete and they did have it on a free download for a while. But unfortunately I don't have it any more