Saturday
Sep102011

My D-Star handheld wish list... please Mr.Icom...

I don't think there is anyone out there who thinks that the battery in their Icom D-Star handheld radio (IC-91AD/ID-92AD/ID-80) lasts long enough. Maybe those with the older IC-V82 and IC-U82 radios are happy, these radios are based on Icom commercial designs and can be fitted with batteries with capacities up to 1650 mAh... but being an older radio, they are lacking a few of the more recent features.

With the annoucement of the ID-31 radio a few months ago, it appears that the trend is to make portable radios smaller. This means the batteries/speakers are smaller too. The ID-31 has no numerical keypad either, this can limit the real-world functionality with the need to use menus and multiple keypresses for various operations.

I would love to see Icom use the same platform as their P25 digital handheld radios and make a D-Star version... even better would be a combined P25/D-Star version!!

The IC-90xx P25 series of handheld radios would be an ideal platform for a rugged, heavy-duty real world use D-Star handheld radio. A bigger form factor, bigger speaker, bigger display, increased allocation of space for callsign memories, more importantly a BIGGER battery. The IC-90xx radios can be fitted with a 3040 mAh Li-Ion battery. I would love to be able to rely on my D-Star handheld radio to last the day with above average transmit/receive duty cycle, not just RX. I would also love for it to NOT burn my hand with extended use on high power.

I don't really need something that will fit into my pocket, I want it to be functional. The mobile/cell phone industry has changed direction. It wasn't that long ago that all the big brands were making phones smaller and smaller... now the trend is back to functionality, the touch screens of the modern smartphone dictates that the phone needs to be bigger to be functional. The fact that they are "smart" with more processing power also means a bigger battery needs to be fitted... sound familiar?

I doubt that Icom would ever release a new handheld D-Star radio based on their commerical radios... but one can dream!!

 

Saturday
Aug272011

New GMSK D-Star modems/Hot Spot boards released!

This week has seen the release of two new USB GMSK modems for the D-Star experimenter.

The first is being sold by Jim Moen K6JM. It is a "conventional" type of USB modem, similar in function to most others on the market from Satoshi Yasuda, Dutch*Star, etc. It is supplied fully assembled and uses surface mount technology components. It comes complete with a licence for the Dutch*Star PIC firmware. It has been designed and assembled by Matrix Circuits in Iowa USA.

It will work with the DVAR Hot Spot software, the WinDV software from Fred van Kempen, the StarGate software from David Lake G4ULF, the GMSK Repeater software from Jonathan Naylor G4KLX, etc.

The board looks to be well designed and also incorporates a Signal to Noise Radio based squelch circuit in addition to the softCOS built into the Dutch*Star firmware.


You can find out more about this board at this web page.

http://www.moencomm.com/

 

The second GMSK modem is from a group in Germany and is somewhat different to other Hot Spot boards. Actually, calling it a GMSK modem is a little misleading. While it will handle GMSK modulation that D-Star uses, it doesn't use a CMX589 GMSK modem chip like other boards.  In a similar fashion to the Jonathan Naylor GMSK repeater software, the DVRPTR board uses DSP and software instead of a hardware based modem. Interestingly, 4FSK is mentioned in the website linked below and this would be ideal for those wishing to experiment with P25 systems.

 

Due to the incredible flexibility of a software based modem it is not limited solely to GMSK and D-Star, indeed it could also potentially emulate virtually any digital modulation technique. Depending on how it is configured, it could have multiple uses across multiple platforms and seems ideal for those wishing to experiment with other digital modes.

You can find out more here http://www.dvrptr.de/ and a Yahoo Group has been set up for further support.

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/DVRPTR/

The firmware that runs this board is open source and it would appear that it is aimed more towards the advanced enthusiast rather than someone wanting a quick and easy D-Star Hot Spot solution.  I have registered my interest in purchasing one of these boards when they become available sometime in September 2011.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Aug162011

D-Star can speak other languages!!

Since building up an AllStarLink node, I have been playing around with the VE3TNK audio hub/bridge in Canada which allows three different internet connected linking technologies to interconnect.

VE3TNK combines Dextra XRF005 A, AllStarLink node 2200 and IRLP experimental reflector 0040... and it works suprisingly well.

Of course with any kind of analog linking, setting audio levels correctly is essential. I still have one more little problem to sort out with my AllStarLink node to do with audio de-emphasis.

Here is a YouTube video showing how the linking of the three systems works.

Thanks to Nik VK3BA for helping me out with this video.

Friday
Jul152011

D-Star Dplus HotSpot... without a computer!

I was sent some information from Bill KC8YQL about a new D-Star development from Belgium.

Many will be familiar with the "traditional" D-Star Hot Spot... a HotSpot/DV Node Adapter board with onboard PIC processor and GMSK modem plugged into a 9600baud packet port on a FM radio. The HotSpot board then plugs via USB into a PC running the DVAR Hot Spot software or the new WinDV software from Fred van Kempen. In it's simplest form it provides a local connection to Dplus enabled repeaters and reflectors... an RF "access point" into the Dplus network.

There are thousands of D-Star Hot Spots out there... I've got one here I use all the time. You can configure them for use in simplex mode using a single radio, plus they can also perform as simple D-Star repeater with two radios (plus duplexer of course).

They all have one weakness... the need for an attached computer... until now!

 

http://on8jl.dyndns.org/

ON8JL has released a "Hot Spot" device that is stand alone, it doesn't need a connected PC to function... all you need is an ethernet internet connection and a suitable radio.

You connect the Standalone DStar Node to a network with a DHCP server, it gets an IP address  which appears on the built-in LCD display. You then use a web browser to configure it.

After the initial config is complete, the Standalone DStar Node is just that... standalone!

You use traditional Dplus commands in your D-Star radios URCall callsign field to control the Standalone Node and connect it to Dplus reflectors and repeaters. eg.

"REF001CL" 

"VK5REXBL"

"       U"  (seven spaces and a U to unlink)

I'm not overly fond of the 6 pin mini DIN sockets for the radio connection, I would prefer to have seen something a little more rugged like a 9 pin "D". These are also a lot easier to solder wires to as well.  I tend to use commercial radios for my D-Star Hot Spot experiments and am not afraid of having to wire up my own interface cables. However, the mini DIN sockets do make connection to the 9600baud packet port on amateur transceivers a lot easier, you just need a 6 pin mini DIN male to male cable. 

I can think of many situations where a PC-less Hot Spot would be a great thing to have. I am going to follow the progress of this device with interest!

 

 

Saturday
Jun252011

New Icom D-Star handheld radio

I woke this morning to some D-Star news from the Fridrichshafen HamFest in Germany.

Icom were showing the ID-31E radio.

 

  (photo courtesy of Chris VK2YY)

 

Single band 70cm only

Built in GPS

Free cloning software

IPX7

MicroSD slot (not sure what this is for yet)