Raspberry Pi – DSTAR amateur radio net

The Raspberry Pi /DStar amateur radio group on Facebook combines two hobbies together, The Raspberry Pi computer and D-STAR radio. The group wants you to know about their R-Pi/D-STAR amateur radio net which will be conducted most Monday Nights starting February 18th, 2013 on REF026A (Vancouver, BC Reflector). Repeaters, DVAPs and Dongles are welcome to connect. The net starts at 1900 hrs PST local time (or 0300 hrs GMT Tuesday morning.)

While D-STAR radio is still slow in gaining popularity among ham radio ops due in large part to the cost of ICOM radios, this type of net provides an example of the excellent opportunities this radio-internet connected medium can afford to techies worldwide who hold amateur radio licenses.

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  1. D-STAR is an open protocol however the codec AMBE, which is used in the ICOM radios, is proprietary and patent encumbered. I’ll avoid using D-STAR for voice until there is support for something like codec2.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Using a closed, proprietary codec such as AMBE goes against the spirit of ham radio. Hopefully the D-STAR community will recognize the importance of an open codec and adopt codec2 as an “official” option.

  3. I agree, not only is the AMBE codec a very bad choice – so are the outrageously high prices for ICOM gear. Then how about the way ICOM charges you out the ying-yang all the radio’s “options”; which are really necessities. I’ll pass on ICOM…

  4. There are much easier and open ways to get R-Pis on the net. Why be limited to ICOM or the AMBE chipset. I bought an 880 to play with. Huge waste of spare money. Went out and picked up OLD TNCs and 2M mobiles afterward. Packet turned out to be more resilient and flexible. Heck, pick up some wi-fi chips in you much connect your R-Pis to the net.

  5. DSTAR is great and incredibly useful. This net is just one example. The up-to-date ID-3aA ICOM transceiver is less than $300 and allows linking with thousands of pre-programmed repeaters and reflectors in many countries. Tech, and other nets are yours no matter where they are. It includes built-in GPS. Objections to DSTAR are certainly everyone’s right, but to me it’s like saying that I won’t watch TV or use the web unless I build my own TV or computer. I’m glad ICOM makes it’s DSTAR gear and enjoy it and worldwide QSO’s every day.

  6. ICOM has outrageous prices on their equipment placing it out of reach for many Hams. A Canadian company ( Mitel ) produced a codec for their digital telephone systems in the 70s placing them ahead of many designs on the market today. They may be a source of information for a project.

  7. What a pity…so much misunderstanding of a really wonderful ham radio experience. The ID-31 is a spectacular handheld with full DSTAR capability and excellent 440 analog for under $300. What you get is world-wide linking, clear strong audio, interesting digital capabilities like using the Raspberry Pi for portable repeater and reflector linking, ID of each transmission by callsign and message, built-in accurate GPS, immedate listing of all nearby repeaters that you can access with no programming, built-in database of ALL DSTAR repeaters and reflectors and linking without programming, access to stations by callsign, related digital apps like DRATS which let you chat worldwide with mapping of all participants and file transfer, including pictures! 50 years of being a ham, and DSTAR is by far the most interesting and dynamic medium…something new all the time. A used ID-31 will get you in if you have a nearby repeater, or a DSTAR Dongle, or DVAP which get you in via internet (with or without a DSTAR radio). So much fun.

  8. @A. karel…

    There is no question the DSTAR digital connectivity concept can be a “really wonderful ham radio experience”, as you said. But it is locked-up with a closed codec and worse-yet, closed and hugely over-priced hand-held from a very limited (I think two) number of Japanese-only manufacturers.

    As for ICOM and the ID-31/A radio; and my claim that ICOM is gouging…

    Go to the Universal Radio sales page for the ICOM ID-31A:

    The ID-31A sells (after a bunch of fake discounts) for $299.99 USD.

    It comes with a low capacity (proprietary form-factor) Li-Ion battery (7.4V 1150 mAh), and a wall charger. It also comes with the P/N CS-31 software, which is Windows-only and closed-up tight, AND the software requires a proprietary ICOM (OPC-2218LU) cable to use it.

    Let’s look at the outrageous ICOM “option” prices for the ID-31…

    * BP-273, Battery Case (holds 3 x AA, not supplied)… $49.95

    Are you kidding? fifty bucks for a simple plastic AA battery holder?

    * Optional (marginally) higher capacity (1150 vs. 1880 mAh) battery:

    BP-272, $99.72

    * LC-178, Carry Case…$34.95

    Again, thirty-five bucks for a cheap plastic soft case?

    * OPC-2218LU, Low speed USB data cable… $54.95

    What!? A simple level shift cable for fifty-five bucks?

    * HM-75LS, Hand-held speaker-mic…$72.95

    * Desktop Charger (includes yet another proprietary wall-wart)… $54.95

    Add the prices for what I consider MINIMAL accessories: AA battery holder, carry case, speaker-mic, and data cable to the (already over-priced) $300 UHF-only hand held transceiver, and you are paying over $500 USD for the device :-(

    I hope you get my point about ICOM – ICOM is GREEDY. Either that or the number of licensed hams is dwindling (NOT the case). Yes the U.S. Government’s crazy printing of money to pay for out of control government spending IS hurting the value of the U.S. Dollar vs. the Japanese Yen; but not to the extent of what ICOM is charging for their radio “options”.

    1. It is still about $100 less that the same radio in the UK
      If you think it is a rip off in the USA try buying one in Europe.

  9. Is D-star really that expensive compared to the amount of money lots of HAM’s spend on their hobby ?

    Agreed that you can get chinese FM radios for next to nothing, but if you go for a Kenwood or Yaesu APRS handheld with built-in GPS you also have to pay for the goodies.

    If you hate Icom radios for some reason that’s fine and it’s your choice. But then be honest about it.

    Regarding the AMBE codec it may be a bad choice, actually i think the whole protocol of D-Star is a bad choice. A packet oriented TCP/IP look-alike protocol with voice, data and short message services built on top.

    But the choice has been made, and nobody prevents Yaesu or Kenwood from buying the chips just as Icom does.

    We are beginning to see repeaters based on Raspberry Pi’s and LMR radios and also kits where you can add D-Star functionality to your FM radio at a reasonable price. Anyway a price that is reasonable if you compare it to what lots of HAM’s paid for a PK232 or simillar packet modem back in the old days.

    73 to all of you out there

  10. Oops – I ment to say: A packet oriented TCP/IP look-alike protocol with voice, data and short message services built on top would be better than D-star.

  11. Hmmm,
    My thoughts exactly what Radioguy and Drone said hitting it all on the proverbial “nail on the head” (I will not repeat it but We know what it is) = GREED.

    So if someone who was not so greedy and wanted to make a Digital Communication (protocol and equipment) by just building on what was (freely) available and already done the basics — with the intent to keep prices low enough with NON-Profit status to simply stay making something and keep it online…perhaps it is easily workable by some determined people (I did not say work for free however, just “reasonable” which is easy given the greedy $50 plastic battery holders)!!!

    So lets not just be no-action complainers — what to do? Design and Build?
    It can be done all online with Hangouts – and Radio – no one need leave the comfort of their Home or Shack and then find those with expertise in the needed areas –

    Well I have a bit of Proj. management skills, and some engineering exp.,

    We all have access to all state-of-the-art Million Dollar Fabrication equipment (that used to end things like this)


    and some time, Soooo lets do it !! Lets scann the Hamdom and put some ads. for brians, and get these heads together and design a 20th Century Digital Amateur Radio system with the thought of no re-inventing the “Wheel” (in this case, digital communication protocol and equipment kit, then pre-production beta testing and then production) and keeping it Inexpensive but using quality off-the-shelf components (if they can do it with cube sats using Nexus One mobiles – why can’t we do digital comm. with smart-phones doing the heavy lifting?

    This is NOT rocket science. It should be “do-able” in short order.

    Perhaps We should even make contact with the Japanese Amateur Radio club that created D-STAR and still hold that ONE proprietary component that (helps) keeps it expensive.

    See what they have to say (with their Lost Decade of economic stagnation)-perhaps they would help knowing 1000s, perhaps 10 of thousands of Amateur Radio Ops in the US and World would jump on and purchase IT — IF it was reasonably priced (all Ham Equip is OUTRAGEOUSLY priced). The lower price point the more are sold – real simple.

    What say you? Want to put some heads together and create the next best thing? We have the tech”knowledgy”, and the experience – just need to pull it all together.


  12. Why don’t we hams just make a digital mode for VHF and UHF on our own? Why do we have to let the industry tell us, what we want? Everything could be open source and in no time price worthy digital handhelds would be available. Who would be the right institution to start this kind of project (or has it already been started)? Just my 50cent.


    1. “Why don’t we hams just make a digital mode for VHF and UHF on our own? Why do we have to let the industry tell us, what we want?”

      Uh, that’s what JARL did when they came up with what became the D-STAR standard.

      And, as for the codec algorithms inside the AMBE chip being proprietary, that’s a big “so what” in my opinion. I use a lot of devices that have proprietary innards and it doesn’t bother me a bit (but to each his own). The AMBE must have something going for it or it wouldn’t be used for APCO P25, DMR, Fusion, and whatever else it’s used for.

  13. Though it’s primarily being used for HF at the moment, FreeDV is open source, it uses open source Codec2 as the codec, and is on the air as I type. But Chris Testa KB2BMH, with help from Bruce Perens K6BP, David Rowe VK5DGR, and many others, has been working on a device he’s calling “the HT of the future”, which is (as far as I currently know) an Android-based HT designed to do exactly what you’re thinking of.

    For more info, check out:
    Info on FreeDV: http://freedv.org/
    DCC/TAPR video FreeDV, CODEC2 and “The HT of the Future”: http://dangerousprototypes.com/2014/02/08/dcctapr-video-freedv-codec2-and-the-ht-of-the-future/
    Codec2: http://www.rowetel.com/blog/?page_id=452

  14. I know this is a RPI site, but just for kicks, I bought the Winbook Windows 8.1 TW700 tablet for $60.00 at MicroCenter. Combined with the ThumbDV ($120.00)from NW Digital Radio and a beta version of WinDV, I am on the air listening (and talking) to DX for about the cost of a great gourmet dinner with the XYL. It’s portable, fun, and works with the wi-fi hotspot on my smartphone. I find that rather amazing.

    BTW, if ICOM had been more reasonable in their D-Star pricing, there would be little incentive to find better and cheaper means of using the technology. IMO, D-Star from an RF perspective is challenge, but from a computer one, it’s mighty cool these days. Lots of options.

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