June 2018

June 2018

DEC Bulletin

This month let’s have an exercise. How much did you pay for the following radios? Dual band mobile, dual band base or an all band radio for the base, APRS station, packet station, slow scan TV station, and don’t forget those handy talkies. What if I told you that you can do all these fun things with only one radio? Plus, analog FM. Well…you can. One D-Star radio along with your personal computer, Android, or iOS devise can do all these fun things.

When we talk about handy talkie radios of course we are talking about having a repeater in sight. But the repeater is not a cost that we are considering in this exercise. If you connect an amplifier to the output of the handy talkie you can reach out on the simplex frequencies without using a repeater. A DV handy talkie along with a Digital Voice Access Point (DVAP) or DV Mega and a laptop is an affordable way to get into D-Star. You can link to any repeater or reflector worldwide with a tenth of a watt if you have an Internet connection. The most affordable way to link to any D-Star system is with a computer and a Digital Voice Dongle (DV Dongle). You use a headset and a mic attached to the computer and a DV Dongle plugged into a USB port. No radio is needed. Again, you connect to the Internet. Now that D-Star has been around for a while there have been many hot spots (Raspberry Pi, blue stack, Shark RF Open Spot, etc.) that have come on the market. There are about twenty different hot spots out there now. So many options to pick from. Some hot spots allow you to use other digital modes. Such as C4FM and DMR. All these devices work well. With these devices you can bypass the local repeater and connect directly to other repeaters or reflectors worldwide.

With any D-Star radio you can send a short text message with each transmission. The radio also ID’s digitally for you at the end of each transmission. So, you don’t have to do it verbally. However, I would recommend continuing to ID verbally because in some foreign countries digital IDing is not permitted. D-Star is worldwide so, as a technician connecting to any country in the world with a D-Star system can be done legally.

A nice thing about digital voice is that it is crisp and clear. It sounds like that person is sitting in the room next to you. You don’t have to worry about if the band is open or not. The person’s call sign is displayed on the radio’s screen for you. So, there is no guessing who you are talking to. GPS tracking is accomplished as well, but it is called DPRS in D-Star lingo. Positioning date is sent with each transmission, so you can see where the person is at when you are talking to them.

Low speed data (4.8kbps) is done with third party software. You can send form messages back and forth. You can create your own forms and share them with friends for your local use. You can have a live chat page. You can exchange files with others. You can send and receive email with attachments. Voice and data are done on the same frequency simultaneously, so you don’t have to change frequencies all the time. You can do Slow Scan TV by simply connecting an IP camera to the computer and downloading a program called D-Star TV.

Another fun thing to do is use your Android phone or tablet with the RS-MS1A Android App to send text messages, pictures, and DPRS positioning data using a map application. You can use the ID31A, ID51A, ID51A PLUS, ID51A PLUS2, IC-7100, radios with the OPC-2350LU cable, or the ID5100, and the ID4100 using the Bluetooth. For the iPhone users you can use the RS-MS1l App. This App will only work with the ID4100 radio at the time of this writing. Watch the Announcement page or the calendar on www.hamradioelpaso.com for times and dates for the practice session.

If you want to check-in to a net somewhere outside your area you can do so. There are anywhere from two to four or five D-Star nets going on any night of the week. It’s great to see what amateur radio activities are being done elsewhere. Go to www.hamradioelpaso.com/d-star-nets for a list of the different nets. This list is a work-in-progress as there are new nets popping up all of the time. 

I know – I know. The first thing you’re going to say is “what if there isn’t an Internet connection?” I have been using D-Star since 2007 and have never experienced that problem. Even if the Internet is down you can still use the radio and repeater locally. If you have the HF D-Star radios you can still go anywhere in the world that the bands will allow.

All the fun things that we have talked about can be done with one radio. Whether it’s a handy talkie or a mobile radio it makes no difference. When you hear the comment that D-Star is expensive stop and ask yourself the question. How much did I spend on all those analog radios and equipment to be able to do all these fun things? If you want to do the fast scan TV, surf the Internet and check your Internet email, use the high-speed data (128kbps) then you will need to buy another radio - the ID-1. This is done on a 1.2 GHz module in the repeater.

You might be thinking that this is not amateur radio. This is amateur radio because everything that we can do with D-Star is governed by Part 97 of the FCC Rules and Regulations. D-Star is for the second century of amateur radio. It is built to support 21st century tools – the Web, networking, Ethernet and TCP/IP.

So, how many radios did you purchase, and how much money did you spend?

You can check out and compare the radios at any distributor's website that sells amateur radios. Some also carry the DVAP and DV Dongle plus some of the other hot spots. For more information on the DV Dongle see the article in the February 2009 issue of QST written by Gary Pearce, KN4AQ titled "DV Dongle D-Star Adapter” or go to http://www.dvdongle.com. More information on the DVAP can be found at http://dvapdongle.com.

Some of the software that I have talked about is found at the following websites:
D-RATS: http://www.d-rats.com
D*Chat: http://www.d-starusers.org/solutions.html
DStar TV: http://dstartv.com/

I wonder what amateur radio is going to be like in the year 2100? I’ll bet it’s really going to be a fantastic hobby and service. Everything will be digital or something else. Some will say "Analog? I wonder what that was like?" Kind of like AM and SSB of today.

Questions and comments are always welcome and encouraged regarding this article. Send email to the address shown below.

Lew Maxwell, KB5HPT 
DEC, District Six – Far West Texas