Friday, January 29, 2010

Getting started with D-Star digital radio

ic92.jpgAt the Coffs Harbour radio expo last weekend I also purchased an IC92 hand held radio capable of digital radio using the D-Star system.

I've been rather sceptical of this technology due to the proprietary nature of the audio codec but as no alternative has emerged I jumped in.

Getting started is not as easy as it could be. I found this video by KN4AQ very helpful.

Next, in order to use the internet gateways you must register here but the amazing instructions here include things like:


  • Enter your Callsign and Password and select the LOGIN option. THE CALLSIGN MUST BE IN UPPER CASE.

  • Enter a space character eg:" " in the Initial field. Do not just leave it blank, it must contain a SPACE character.



I kid you not!

There have certainly been some "bun fights" around all this, I note a document here says, in part:

"When ICOM released the first version of the D-STAR Gateway program, the amateur community worked our way through several challenges, and built a viable network. This was largely due to the spirit of cooperation among the Gateway administrators. Even with a mandatory training course, there were still "experts" who were sure that they knew more than the rest of us, and felt that they didn’t need to follow our recommendations. Some of these "experts" caused serious problems for the rest of the network, to the point of many of us not being able to add users." So it's not just a little unfriendly for end users.

Anyhow, I registered on Tuesday, it's now Saturday and it still hasn't gone through so I don't know what's going on there..

My local repeater is VK2RWN C on 146.9625 MHz. I've been listening and it's pretty quiet. The only thing I'd heard until today was an automated message advising users that they must leave 4 seconds gap between transmissions or bad things will happen.

I called CQ and one of the two stations listed here, VK2HL, kindly responded and answered a bunch of my questions. Now the activity looks like this:

Screen shot 2010-01-30 at 10.05.12 AM.pngThe big list of global D-Star activity is here and it looks impressive.

Anyhow, there's lots to learn. I'm interested in the data channel that can transmit at 1200 baud even while you are speaking. Pity about the proprietary connector on this radio.

The IC92 is full of features but the LCD screen is very disappointing and hard to read. It does seem sensitive but the signal strength indicator is a bit "all or nothing" in my observation.

Thanks VK2HL for being my first digital contact and patiently answering my questions.

Update Saturday 30th at 13:20

My registration just came through from the VK2RWN administrator, Terry, VK3BMX, and I was able to register my single call sign/radio as recommended. Amusingly in this context you must type your call sign in lower case or it gives an error.

For anyone else following along, note that the registration confirmation email directs you to dstar.org.au but you need to go to http://www.dstar.org.au to get there.

2 comments:

DavidRowe said...

Hello Marxy,

I also feel uncomfortable with the closed nature of D-Star. So I am working on a free codec for D-Star applications, called codec2.

Cheers,

David

Peter B Marks said...

Wow, great stuff! I'm totally on board.

Thanks for making contact David.