Posts Tagged ‘D-Star’

New Transceiver from ICOM: IC-7100

ICOM has shown the new IC-7100 at the JARL show in Tokyo. The interwebz is buzzing with information, including a preliminary data sheet.

My scan of the preliminary datasheet indicates that this radio is in the class of the IC-7000 or even the IC-706. It covers all modes on HF plus 6 Meters, 2 Meters and 70 cm. (It also has the 70 MHz band which is a nice add for the European countries that have that band.) The radio includes DV (D-STAR) modulation capability and has a new touchscreen user interface. The slanted control panel is meant to make the touchscreen more accessible.

A new HF plus VHF/UHF radio always gets my attention (see my plea for an FT-950 with 2 Meters).  I am starting to think that the real benefit of this rig is the addition of D-STAR capability, which would a good but not essential feature to have.

What do you think?

73, Bob K0NR

Update (30 Aug 2012): Universal Radio has the radio on its website.
There’s a good video look at the radio here.

A New Digital VHF/UHF Radio from Yaesu

A while back, Yaesu published a white paper/brochure on VHF/UHF digital technology that slammed D-STAR for using GMSK modulation and stated that C4FM (4-Level FSK) is the way to go. See my previous posting on that topic. The paper also talked about DMR and APCO 25 as standards that use C4FM.
Page 14 of the document says:
At this point in time Vertex Standard believes the C4FM (4-level FSK) FDMA or TDMA are the most suitable selections for Amateur radio applications. In early 2012, we will release a C4FM (4-level FSK) FDMA Handy-Talky and a Mobile transceiver into the Amateur radio market. After our initial introduction, we plan to introduce a C4FM (4-level FSK) TDMA (2 slots) or TDMA Handy and Mobile transceiver into the Amateur market.
This led to speculation that we would see a Yaesu DMR or APCO 25 radio at the Dayton Hamvention. The topic was hotly debated in various online forums, with the prevailing theory being that it would be a DMR radio to play and compete with Motorola’s MOTOTRBO™ radios. It now seems that the initial introduction is the FT-1D, a dualband handheld that just does analog FM and a plain C4FM digital format (no DMR or APCO 25 protocol).  This blog has the product brochure for the FT-1D.  (Click on “Page 1″ and “Page 2″ links.)
The general reaction from the ham radio community is WTF, over? I don’t know why anyone would buy a radio to use with digital C4FM modulation. This digital mode is incompatible with D-STAR, DMR and APCO 25…the most common digital formats on the VHF/UHF ham bands. The quote listed above indicates that there will be more coming from Yaesu later in the year, that includes TDMA. This could be DMR but who knows?
- 73, Bob K0NR

Hamvention from afar…

I was unable to make it out to Dayton but am enjoying seeing the onsite action through various mediums:

(1) – live streaming. It has been a bit hit and miss on the quality and coverage, but the feed is quite popular and it is a lot of fun seeing all the hams walking around the outdoor market. Lots of hams in front of the live feed cam seem to stand there, stare at the camera, and call home (or a buddy) to have them get on the website to see them on the live feed. At certain times the live feed appears to be an actual video version of The best part about amateur radio is the people and it is always great to see what an amazing variety of folks who share a common interest.

(2) Jeff, KE9V, is on the grounds of the Hara Arena and is frequently Tweeting and posting pictures. Jeff had an interesting picture of a vendor called Horse Fence Antennas. The product appears to be a dipole antenna that is built into what we in the Army call a cargo strap. The antenna looks a bit bizzare, but the eHam reviews are 5.0.

(3) D-STARS! I have not hooked up my DVAP and IC-92AD since I returned for Korea, but did so yesterday so I could monitor REF038C. Lots of great hamvention chatter on the reflector.

(4) I am going to look for any HF stations operating from the Hamvention. Often W1AW will setup up a special event station – those are always fun to work.

Hopefully I will be able to go next year…. 2013, Dayton or bust!

Icom IC-E92D – Why This Is My ‘Staple’ Handheld

Every ham has a handheld in their collection of transceivers. I have one normal rig in my collection of handhelds. Nearly all the equipment I have can be held in my hand, chucked in the car, operated ‘portable’ or temporarily connected at home. It’s the capability that would suit a cold war double agent who has to move between a series of safe-houses at short notice. Everything I have, I can pick up and run with. Just as well I don’t have an HF vertical that looks like a porcupine then.

I’ve had my beloved Icom IC-E92D for a couple of years now and I spend more time talking though this than any other piece of equipment. Two years ago there was no DV (Digital Voice) or D-STAR activity in my area, but I wanted a dual band handheld that would be, to some extent, future-proof.

And before the rival Yaesu C4FM digital system is mooted, let me say that D-STAR is so firmly established, that a lot of infrastructure would be needed to better the existing system. Great advances have been made lately with the advent of the German DV-RPTR (‘DV Repeater’) boards as well as the new DCS reflectors. Having said that, I’m always keen to try any new digital modes. 

I’m not going to dwell heavily on specification and features because this is not a newly launched product – there are plenty of excellent resources and reviews already available. But here are some things that have pleased me about both the radio and the technology behind it.

Icom IC-E92D
Let’s put the digital stuff to one side for the time being. I think the E92D is just an excellent FM transceiver in its own right. Its construction is solid and feels good in the hand. Used outdoors, it’s comforting to know that it’s waterproof. I live in Wales, after all. The send/receive audio quality is very good in all modes and the microphone doesn’t suffer from the aforementioned weather-proofing that blights some other units. It seems XYL’s sewing kits have been raided worldwide for needles to pierce microphone membranes.

I love using low power when I can. In DV mode you either get a R5 copy or rapidly nothing. Why not see how low you can go? The E92D will go down to 100mW and oddly enough I use this more than any other power setting. It’s also all you need for your home D-STAR hotspot, isn’t it? A group of three of us had a 2m net with a distance of 20 miles between the furthest stations. We all used DV mode and 100mW (external antennas, of course) for a full lock and quality audio output. Compare this with the FM mindset of achieving ‘full quietening’ in many local nets. Admit it - a small swell of pride is taken in how many dB’s ‘over’ are registered. With DV it is how few. Back to the E92D: If things get marginal and stressed then the next increments are 500mW, 1W and 2.5W. Unleash the whole 5W if it’s a national holiday or you’re feeling reckless. In common with many handheld owners, I also have an aftermarket antenna to add a little more gain when needed.

Built for the outdoor life - with HM-175
GPS Speaker-Mic 
I have, and recommend, the RS232C remote cable and bundled programming software. There are enough people now who have kindly uploaded their files (called .icf files) to the internet with repeater and node settings for entire countries. You can enter or edit data manually from the front panel, but as with most radios a computer will save you time you can otherwise spend chatting idly. Seeing how the channels and banks are organised on-screen helps you properly exploit the memory capacity. Apart from the usual, I have also stored AMSAT, marine band, PMR and SWL channels. I travel a lot so it’s good to have repeaters stored by region too.

Dislikes? Only a couple and they’re not going to jaundice my high regard for this pleasure-giving, grown-up gadget. Most E92D owners acknowledge that although the battery life is good, there is little warning given before the battery dies. A bit like a pet hamster. Again, with four power settings you should optimise your battery life. Secondly, I don’t think many consumers would eagerly vote for an SMA antenna connector over a BNC, but we have to live with that. The main problem can be a snapped pin from an over-stressed SMA to SO239 adaptor, for example. This happens easily, frequently and on one occasion to me. I sent my unit back to Icom UK for repair, as the stuck pin could not be extracted. I must add that their support and service was fantastic. The repair was carried out quickly and was not costly. Chastened, I made a pigtail adaptor for use in the car, shown below.

SMA - SO239 adaptor
As far as accessories go, I have the HM-175 GPS speaker microphone. The embedded data channel in DV is something we’re only just starting to fully explore. GPS position and distance reporting between simplex users or posts on via a repeater are fun. I also have a two-pin mic/headset adaptor for mobile work.

Just download an electronic manual and have a look at the level of specification and configurability! You'll find a new feature every day for the first few months. There are now the lower-cost IC-E80D and 70cm-only IC-ID31E to supplement the range, of course.

So, after two years I think the big test for any bit of equipment would be “If it was damaged/stolen/confiscated by vexed YL/XYL, what would I replace it with?” For me, an exact replacement, no less. It’s a much of a staple as the King Edward potato. 

DCS: Also Reflecting Our National Traits

Sometimes I find how we use new technology is as interesting as the technology itself. You may not know or care what DCS reflectors are, but the way they’re developing tells us a little about ourselves, I think. DCS reflectors are basically a new generation of servers or chat rooms we use with digital amateur radio to link repeaters, nodes and individuals together. They were developed recently by some very clever enthusiasts in Germany and are growing in an organic way. A bit like dandelions. Each DCS reflector has modules from A to Z, which are a blank canvas. The way in which these are being filled is like a group of sugar drink-fueled children scrambling to choose their bunk-beds in a large dormitory at summer camp. Let me explain: The first two DCS reflectors, DCS001 and DCS002 were hosted by the Germans. They had neatly and orderly divided up the entire globe into modules. It was a good start. For their own country they had a national module of course, with additional modules for north, south, east and west Germany respectively. But anyone who knows a little about Germany should not be surprised to see that Bavaria has broken away and formed its own module. The states of Hessen and Baden-Wuettenberg followed suit, of course. The states of the former East remain quiet for the moment, it seems. There are now nine DCS reflectors at the time of writing, all now hosted by different countries who wanted their own national servers. The Dutch are fastidious in their egalitarianism. They’ve gone and divided their reflector into nation-wide, north, mid and south Netherlands as well as – wait for it - thirteen different regions including the colonies of the Dutch Antilles. The inhabitants of Flevoland must be ecstatic. The Swiss, however, have no national module at all. No, they’ve divided their piece of DCS cake in language-slices: German, French and Italian. I’m also sure it will be the most reliable DCS reflector ever known to man. The Italians seem a little less self-assured. They have a record number of four test channels, just in case. The US reflector is well-ordered, with a couple of the noisier states, like Texas, having their own module. Even the Canadians are accommodated. And as for my lot, the Brits? Well, we would have to be a little bit different, wouldn’t we? At the time of writing there is a national UK module, with a Northern Ireland, Wales & West, Midlands and South module. No Scotland so far. Maybe it’s the expense. And uniquely in the new DCS community, the city of London has decided that it is elevated enough among the great and good capitals of the world to merit its very own module. I think we can rightly take most pride in the four inconspicuous modules simply labelled as ‘chat’. You can transfer to these modules for your one-to-one conversation without tying up the repeaters of an entire small country. I have heard less-than-scintillating conversations occupy worldwide reflectors for some considerable periods. The pace of development is astonishing. An idea whispered in the ear of a developer is often embodied overnight. And we’re just one month into the story…..
UK DCS005 shown on he excellent (German) DV-RPTR Control Centre software

D-STAR Makeover

I had a surprising and slightly emotional experience on DV mode last week. I was in QSO with a mobile station who temporarily lost the repeater for a couple of seconds. Not unusual, but get this - instead of vanishing permanently in to vast digital abyss, he came right back as the system re-synced and locked-up. This happened again and he was re-acquired and all was well. Remarkable.

No longer will your beautiful, eloquent, flowing QSO be 'bumped' abruptly and permanently off the air by a random mobile station the other side of the world 'pinging' his local repeater for a few milliseconds. You can now even QSY to a 'chat' module and not hog the repeaters of an entire nation while you discuss your passion for North Korean tractor parts for three hours.

The advent of DCS reflectors, hand-in-hand with the German DV-RPTR boards shipped all over the world, is going to save the mode from extinction, no less. Witness the used D-STAR radios in the graveyard of Ebay as testament to the disillusioned DPlus users.

If only they'd have waited.

The DV-RPTR unit in its housing

*UPDATE 24th April 2012: Looks like the Dplus system has been suddenly revamped to include the routing information with the voice packets in the same way as DCS. Shame it took seven years of dysfunctional communications and a rival system to prompt this. I'll be staying on the DCS system - but enjoy whichever system you use and enjoy the mode!

Show Notes #076



  • The Black Sparrow Media application for iPad, iPhone and iPod has been submitted to the iTunes store. It is just awaiting validation from Apple, which may take up to two weeks. We’ll let everyone know when it’s available.
  • Special Event Station W0S (Whiskey Zero Sierra) will be operating from the Titanic Branson Museum from April 13-15, 2012, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Russ, K5TUX, will be operating the station at some point.


  • Scott, AD7MI, asks for help linking APRS and his his Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station with Xastir. Our hosts suggest trying one or both of these:
      • Meteo – Davis weather station platform software for Linux. You can subscribe to the Meteo mailing list by sending a subscription request to [email protected]. It has been several years since Meteo was updated, and is still not at version 1.0. You must download the .tar file from the web site as it does not appear in the distribution repositories.
      • wview- Cross-platform weather station software. It does need an internet connection if you are going to contribute information to various weather sites, such as:

        This program is under active development. Even if it requires a work-around to perform as you wish, it may be worth the trouble. If you’ve ever configured a Linksys router, the web interface of wview looks a lot like that. wview has a support site via Google Groups at

    Let us know how you get on, Scott!

  • Paul, M0PGX, replied to our recent discussion of D-STAR and suggests trying the AllStar Link Network. Like EchoLink, it allows you to talk to other ham radio operators using just your computer and a microphone, including those operators running D-STAR.

    Russ signed up for the AllStarLink network; it’s very similar to joining EchoLink. AllStar uses the Asterisk VOIP system, and Jim, WB6NIL, is the author of the repeater link software. Russ had success using a Mac computer, but not with a Linux machine.

    Richard sees the biggest problem with EchoLink is that it only allows one connection per IP address, so you can’t have both a server and client at home. The EchoLink site only sees your IP address assigned by your ISP, which limits you to one connect from home. In this respect, AllStarLink appears to better in that it seems to allow multiple connections.

    AllStarLink is available in several combinations of Linux and Asterisk:

    • ACID – based on CentOS
    • Limey Linux – based on embedded Linux and bootable from a flash drive, and runs ONLY on several specific Mini-ITX motherboards.
    • Pickle – a specialized embedded Linux distro designed to operate on a BeagleBoard-xM (and DMK Engineering LOX board).

    Russ then provides an overview of setting up an AllStar Link client.

  • Back to Paul’s email, he suggests we use the term “digital mode” when we should say “protocol”, which brings us to…
  • Leif, KC8RWR, responded to Paul’s comment that D-STAR specifies a protocol, modulation mode, voice codec, etc. The modulation mode used is GMSK.

    Richard defends the use of “mode” as appropriate as the definition allows it to mean “a method or means of doing something”. For example, CW vs DFCW (dual-frequency CW), where DFCW uses frequency shifts to distinguish dots and dashes, rather than two different lengths of the same frequency, and spaces. Both are CW.

  • Leif, KC8RWR, also comments on the possibility that he’s been nitpicking, as well as the use of Q-signals in voice conversations.
  • Bill, KE5WMA, suggests that hobos migrate to New Orleans from Dallas this time of year because Dallas doesn’t have Mardi Gras!
  • We received a donation from Bill H. Thanks, Big Poppa! :)
  • Contact Info:


    • To be added.

    Subscribe FREE to's
    Amateur Radio Newsletter

    We never share your e-mail address.

    Do you like to write?
    Interesting project to share?
    Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

    Submit an article and we will review it for publication on!

    Have a ham radio product or service?
    Consider advertising on our site.

    Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
    Find ham radio experts for your story.

    How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
    Get started in less than 15 minutes!

    • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor

    Sign up for our free
    Amateur Radio Newsletter

    Enter your e-mail address: