Baofeng UV-5R Programming With Ubuntu 12.04

By | 20 February 2013

My Baofeng UV-5R handheld tranceiver turned up today. I fired up my Windows 7 machine to use the ‘recommended’ VIP programming software and it didn’t recognise the USB programming cable. I even tried installing a recommended, older, driver for the PL2303 USB cable chipset. No dice. So, then I plugged the cable into my everyday workhorse, an Ubuntu 12.04 laptop. Bingo, USB cable recognised straight away (from dmesg). Anyway, here’s the detail of how to program the radio with Ubuntu 12.04:

Driver

As mentioned in the intro, I just plugged in the USB cable and issued the dmesg command to the console. Here’s the good news:

[676984.495896] usb 2-1.2: new full-speed USB device number 38 using ehci_hcd
[676986.020009] USB Serial support registered for pl2303
[676986.020050] pl2303 2-1.2:1.0: pl2303 converter detected
[676986.021786] usb 2-1.2: pl2303 converter now attached to ttyUSB0
[676986.021834] usbcore: registered new interface driver pl2303
[676986.021836] pl2303: Prolific PL2303 USB to serial adaptor driver

So my UV-5R cable works and has a driver running on /dev/ttyUSB0.

Programming

In order to set up a load of channels for Marine, PMR446 and local amateur repeaters, there’s some free, open source software called CHIRP that works a treat. One snag is that the version distributed through Ubuntu’s standard repositories doesn’t work with the UV-5R (the version distributed that way, at the time of writing, is 0.1.something). So I downloaded the source (straight Python code) from the CHIRP website and ran it in a new directory in my home area. Easy. And it works. Unlike Windows. I used CHRIP 0.3.0 – YMMV.

sudo apt-get install python-serial
sudo apt-get install python-libxml
tar zxvf chirp-0.3.0.tar.gz
cd chirp-0.3.0/
./chirpw

The application is pretty straightforward to use (and you don’t need to find the English menu from the Chinese menu, unlike with the Windows app). Plug the USB cable into a free USB port. Use dmesg to find which Linux device it’s on (e.g. /dev/ttyUSB0). Plug the other end into your radio and switch it on. Start CHIRP and use the Radio/Download From Radio function (selecting the right serial device) to read your radio’s current channel configuration. Now go ahead and add / delete channels to your heart’s content. There are are even templates for common frequency sets like Marine, PMR446, etc. You can save / load setups from disk. When you’re happy, select Radio/Upload To Radio, disconnect the radio and you’re done. All good. What’s not to like?

Yet again, it amazes me that Microsoft can still be in business when their software sucks so bad. They are the masters of marketing. Still, their keyboards and mice are very good.

More About the Baofeng UV-5R

The Baofeng UV-5R tranceiver radio sells for about €35 (US$45?) including delivery direct from Hong Kong. Add a few extra Euros for a USB programming cable and AAA battery case. Incredible value for a rugged, 4 watt, full-keypad 70cm / 2m band FM radio. The radio’s made in China – if you want to get the same thing from a Japanese brand, budget on spending about 5 (yes, five) times as much.

Having read a little before buying, I ordered the USB programming cable as well since programming lots of channels with the keypad is generally acknowledged to be a nightmare. Just go to YouTube and search ‘UV-5R’ and you’ll get all the rave reviews. I ordered mine via ebay.co.uk from seller radiogearpro. They shipped within 24 hours and it arrived here in Spain, well-packaged, 14 days later. I’ve read some people complain about radiogearpro, but I have nothing but praise. I also bought an excellent, cheap, floating marine VHF handheld from them and was equally impressed. There is another seller based in Hong Kong called 409 Shop – they get a lot of favourable comments on the interweb.

I’ll be applying for my Spanish Amateur Radio license ‘real soon now’ so that I’ll be officially allowed to press the transmit button on my device. Here’s information on UHF and VHF amateur radio repeaters in France, Andorra, Portugal and Spain. Technically, I could transmit in marine (on water) or PMR channels, just wouldn’t be allowed to with this radio – and 4W is really quite a lot for PMR446!