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Author Topic: Say Yes To D-Star  (Read 27488 times)
K9RUF
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Posts: 16




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« on: May 14, 2013, 03:30:14 PM »

Say Yes To D-Star


Well after reading an article on the internet titled “Say No To D-Star” I thought it was appropriate for me as a D-Star user to defend D-star.  These are some of the misconceptions people have about D-star.

1.   D-Star doesn’t work without the internet.  False.  First off D-Star can operate simplex or point-to-point like we use at hamfests to tell our friends about a hot deal we’ve spotted for them.  It can also function like an analog repeater re-transmitting signals using a specific frequency pair.  Now here’s where the internet comes in.  Since these are digital signals they can be routed through gateways attached to the internet to communicate to other D-Star repeaters around the world.
2.   D-Star isn’t radio.  False.  This is similar to point number one but I hear it all the time.  If you’re talking into a microphone connected to a radio with an antenna attached to it then you’re using a radio.  Period.  This is D-Star.  And yes there is a device that hooks to your computer called a DV dongle and it relies solely on the internet using your computer for the microphone and speaker.  This is actually a pretty cool device when you’re traveling so when you’re in a hotel you can work your home repeater anywhere in the world.  While this D-Star device connects directly to the internet it also connects you to repeaters that transmit RF.
3.   D-Star is just too “computery” for me.  I don’t want to mess around with computers.  I just like to pick up my microphone and start talking to people.  Hmmmm. I’ll bet you use a computer for logging contacts or maybe controlling your HF radio.  Actually if I put an analog and D-Star mobile radio next to each other and asked you pick out the D-Star radio you couldn’t tell the difference because they both have, a microphone.   
4.   D-Star is proprietary since ICOM is the only radio manufacture selling it.  False.  The D-Star format was developed by the JARL as an open standard protocol.  This means any radio manufacture can build D-Star radios.  The only part of D-Star that is proprietary is the digital codec or the Ambi digital encoder chip.  But if you want to go down that road I can open up any analog radio and show you custom chips they use as well.  Kenwood and Yaesu could have built D-Star radios but they chose not to take the gamble.  ICOM took the gamble and they are now reaping the rewards.  With the success of ICOM these other manufactures are now looking to develop their own formats to get into the digital radio business.  This is unfortunate and will only confuse hams since the D-Star format is already a very popular digital standard. 
5.   D-Star is too expensive.  Sort of, with two thoughts.  If Yaesu and Kenwood would simply humble themselves and build a D-Star radio giving ICOM some competition then prices would come down.  I agree that $600 for a dual band analog/digital HT is expensive.  However on the flip side we’ve been conditioned to think that a dual band HT should cost $50 with all the Baofengs being dumped on the market from China.  Try pricing a Japanese dual band HT for a better real world price comparison.  Also remember a D-Star radio does digital and analog so it should cost more.  You do get what you pay for.   Here’s an example of an economical way to get into D-Star.  If you own an analog transceiver with a built-in serial port connector such as a Kenwood TM-D710, An ICOM IC-7000 or a Yaesu FT-857 you can buy a $100.00 PCBA that will install between this radio and your PC with a USB cable.  This is one example of the many non ICOM D-Star ideas being created because of the nature of this open standard.  D-Star is exploding and I’m looking forward to seeing all the new ideas at Dayton.
6.   I’ve heard D-Star audio and when the signal gets weak I can’t understand anything at all.  It sounds like R2D2 from Star Wars.  That is true but in side-by-side test comparisons between and an analog and a D-Star radio with the same power, same antenna and the same distance the D-Star radio was more readable than the analog radio.  The difference is that when an analog radio signal gets weak it fades gracefully into the noise floor.  When the D-Star signal gets weak it starts breaking up and this sound can be a bit jarring.
7.   This D-Star stuff takes up a lot of bandwidth on the ham bands.  False.  Because the D-Star digital signal is compressed it takes up only 6.25 KHz vs. 25 KHz for a wide band FM signal.  If some of the dormant analog repeaters were switched to digital there could be almost 4 times as many frequencies available for the space taken up by one analog FM signal.  I’m not promoting this idea but in densely populated areas where frequency pairs aren’t as available this would be a good solution.
8.   I don’t like D-Star because it will replace analog.  False.  Both formats can and do co-exist.  Remember before FM came along on VHF and UHF there was only AM.  Keep this in the back of your mind with regard to D-Star as it grows more popular over time. 
9.   Why do I have to register my call sign to use D-Star.  I don't have to do that with analog.  When you register your call sign with the D-Star network the second you transmit the whole world knows you are on the air.  This is handy when you want to find your other D-Star friends.  There is also another function called call sign routing that allows you to work your home repeater through another D-Star repeater as you travel.  If you are only using your D-Star radio simplex then registration is not required.  Registration has its benefits because every time you key your mike your call sign appears on all the D-Star radios listening to that frequency.  Personally I think this accountability keeps jammers away.  Remember those anonymous crank phone calls we would get before caller ID came along?  I know, now we have the telemarketers calling but at least we know who is now calling so we can elect to ignore the call.
10.   The Audio on D-Star just sounds funny to me.  Sort of true.  Digital audio is compressed and as such is not as full sounding as wideband FM.  However after listening to it for a while you learn to appreciate the quietness between words and the overall clarity.  Occasionally some users of D-Star sound like they are underwater or are very muffled.  These are usually hams using their computers to get on D-Star and their computers have very poor quality microphones.  I recommend for those using their computers for D-Star to use a quality headset with a quality mike.  If you use the standard hand mike on the radio you’ll sound great.

In conclusion, say yes to D-Star.  Whenever something new comes along we tend to resist change.  Then after we use it for a while we wonder how we lived without it.  Remember that new thing called the internet!  I encourage everyone to learn more about D-Star by attending one of the free D-Star seminars being held every so often or talk to a D-Star user to experience it first hand.  My hope is when you hear derogatory comments about D-Star you’ll now know the other side of the story.  The nature of ham radio is learning and experimenting so keep an open mind as fresh ideas come along advancing our hobby.

Very 73,

David J. Holmgren
K9RUF
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2355




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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2013, 06:51:18 PM »

A suggestion:

. . . Submit this to the "Articles" editor.  It's good, and it's just hiding in the dark, here.

The _large_ audience for D-Star isn't the people who are already committed to digital modes (which is most of the readers of this sub-forum).  It's the "great unwashed hordes" who are using analog FM.

.                   Charles
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K9RUF
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Posts: 16




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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2013, 07:32:00 PM »

Thanks for the compliment.  I just got tired of people poking fun at D-Star like it's some kind of joke when it's really nifty.  Then after I read the article I reference by WB2MIC on the internet that set me in motion.  I've actually sent it to the articles area but he reply said it could take weeks (see below) for it to be published so since Dayton was coming up I thought it world be important to at least get it out some where so if hams are looking at D-Star radios they can make an informed decision.

David
K9RUF

Below is the eham response that prompted me to start by posting it here:

Please understand that submissions are not posted on eHam.net immediately or even after some pre-defined interval. In fact, it may take several weeks or longer for your submission to appear after you receive this notice.  For details, read on.
 
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http://eham.net/articles/
However, we have room on our homepage for very few, so, again at the Articles Manager's discretion only a select few of our Articles submissions get highlighted there.
 
If, in our opinion, your submission is inappropriate for eHam.net, it may be deleted without notice to you.  If this occurs, you will no longer be able to see your submission by accessing your specific link.  While this is extremely rare, it does happen.
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K0JEG
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Posts: 631




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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2013, 06:02:08 AM »

OK, first off, I agree with your points. When I have enough saved up for an IC-9100 (hopefully later this year) it will have the Dstar module installed (although because there's 0 Dstar activity around here I'll be on 10 and 6 meters mostly). I'm absolutely serious, I want a Dstar radio and have for some time now.

However, my main argument against Dstar is that it is primarily (and presented as)  a digital voice mode. Who cares about voice these days? I have a box in my pocket that can download 10Mbps and upload 2Mbps. It can stream (bidirectionally) HD video. Meanwhile, the Dstar folks want me to spend a few hundred on a radio who's latest innovation is a GPS and a repeater database? That can stream telephone quality audio at a paltry 128Kbps? Where's the camera? When will we see an Android OS built in? If you look at today's HTs, they look a lot like cell phones did in the 1990s, with blocky text LCDs, rubber buttons and very thick. I don't really care about radio thickness, but an all-in-one communications device that connects at a reasonable speed to repeaters or nodes or whatever we want to call them could really push clubs to build out useful networks. One just needs to look at the success of APRS and the nearly nation-wide coverage it offers to show what happens with a generic network (yes, most people just beacon their position, but there's a lot of IM style messaging and DX spotting messages too), and that's just 2 lines of text.

When packet first came on the scene, most computers connected to dial-up modems were running at 300 baud. 1200bps (while in reality due to all the handshaking and hopping was very slow), seemed like a major step up and was only possible because we had the bandwidth to do it (recall that phone systems were only 4KHz wide while our FM band was set up for (as you point out) 25KHz channels. And if you could do some surgery on your radio you could even get to 9600bps! (of course there was no one else to talk to). Dstar seems to be a major step backward. I had a cell phone that could do 128Kbps in the early 90s. We're supposed to be pushing the state of the art in radio, not sitting back and watching the rest of the world pass us by. I'd say the weak signal HF modes are doing more to push the state of the art than Dstar. And don't tell me the tech is difficult and expensive. I work in an industry that has seen a revolution in wide band RF chips that can send out channels as wide as 100MHz just as easily as a few kilohertz. If cost is a factor, just use last year's chip. If the tech is difficult to comprehend, just download the application sheet.

Digital networks shouldn't be pigeonholed into "voice" "video" "data" etc. It's all just bits and bandwidth.
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WS4E
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Posts: 204




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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2013, 08:36:23 AM »

>ICOM is the only radio manufacture selling it.---  False.
Buuzzz.. Wrong answer thanks for playing.  You ignored the actual question and gave a BS answer.  The answer to this is TRUE.

The very first month a non-proprietary digital system comes along that is available from multiple radio manufacturers and does not require a $300 patent encumbered monopoly chip in each device...D-STAR will be history, dust, and done for.  People will abandon it in droves.

I will save my $300 D-Star proprietary-chip premium feeds and wait for another option. 

What many D-STAR evangelists don't understand is, that its not that those of us not using it don't understand D-Star, or that we have some 'myths' we believe, or we are afraid of change.... its simple...we are simply voting with our pocket books against this particular digital option. 


« Last Edit: May 15, 2013, 08:42:54 AM by WS4E » Logged
K9RUF
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Posts: 16




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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2013, 10:48:01 AM »

OK you're right that question could have been phrased better.  What I should have said is Are there other ways to get on D-Star other than buying a radio from ICOM?  I wasn't as so said creating a BS answer.  The chip as I'm told is like $20 not $300.  I really appreciate all of the perspectives on this issue and I am learning things too. That's the beauty of these boards and the thoughts from my other fellow hams. Just so everyone knows I love HF too and if you look at my QRZ page you'll see I'm heavily invested in HF. I just like learning new things and when D-Star came along about 6 years ago I wasn't too interested either but after I started exploring it in just the past year I'm liking it more and more and that's the reason I wrote this article. I'm not trying to troll, create propaganda, I don't work for ICOM or whatever people might think I just like D-Star. I'll be at Dayton so if you're there too look for me wearing my call sign hat.

Best 73
David
K9RUF
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2355




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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2013, 11:39:11 PM »

The EmComm community is starting to adopt D-Star with a digital messaging layer called "D-RATS".  A Google of

D-RATS Emcomm

will get you started.

.             Charles
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K0JEG
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Posts: 631




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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2013, 06:15:36 AM »

>ICOM is the only radio manufacture selling it.---  False.
Buuzzz.. Wrong answer thanks for playing.  You ignored the actual question and gave a BS answer.  The answer to this is TRUE.

The very first month a non-proprietary digital system comes along that is available from multiple radio manufacturers and does not require a $300 patent encumbered monopoly chip in each device...D-STAR will be history, dust, and done for.  People will abandon it in droves.

http://nwdigitalradio.com/ is ramping up production now. The Dstar dongles have been on the market for a few years now, although somewhat limited in what they do. Again, with the focus on voice, all the attention seems to come back to the AMBE chip, instead of focus on the radio side of it, being the GMSK modulation and getting a standard emission, like SSB or FM. The NW digital radio has a Dstar module (that has that chip in it because the protocol requires it), but the focus is on data, not voice.
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KE8EC
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Posts: 8




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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2013, 03:24:19 PM »

Is this much like Echolink? Sounds like a lot in common. Huh
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AC2EU
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Posts: 331


WWW

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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2013, 07:39:50 PM »

>ICOM is the only radio manufacture selling it.---  False.
Buuzzz.. Wrong answer thanks for playing.  You ignored the actual question and gave a BS answer.  The answer to this is TRUE.

The very first month a non-proprietary digital system comes along that is available from multiple radio manufacturers and does not require a $300 patent encumbered monopoly chip in each device...D-STAR will be history, dust, and done for.  People will abandon it in droves.

http://nwdigitalradio.com/ is ramping up production now. The Dstar dongles have been on the market for a few years now, although somewhat limited in what they do. Again, with the focus on voice, all the attention seems to come back to the AMBE chip, instead of focus on the radio side of it, being the GMSK modulation and getting a standard emission, like SSB or FM. The NW digital radio has a Dstar module (that has that chip in it because the protocol requires it), but the focus is on data, not voice.

The only problem that I have with it is that any way you cut it, DSTAR is an ICOM proprietary technology. Even if they license it to others, it is still proprietary.
I am not that much into digital audio, but someone told me that there is a competing "open source: technology. I would prefer to go that route, then there is no single mfr pulling the strings. What if ICOM decides to drop it? Digital audio comes to a screeching halt!
Supporting DSTAR could be problematic.
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KO3D
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Posts: 49




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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2013, 09:04:08 AM »


What many D-STAR evangelists don't understand is, that its not that those of us not using it don't understand D-Star, or that we have some 'myths' we believe, or we are afraid of change.... its simple...we are simply voting with our pocket books against this particular digital option. 


I love digital modes and integration with computers. But I am not paying $300 extra for a $20 chip, which is proprietary no matter what the original poster says. Icom is the only manufacturer and there is no reason or incentive for other companies to license their technology. Going to closed proprietary systems is not good for ham radio. Unfortunately, too many hams like the idea of D-Star filtering out hams they don't like based on price. Its becoming defacto encryption keeping most hams out of their playground.
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KE7TMA
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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2013, 06:50:34 PM »

When do the misleading statements about D-STAR not being proprietary go from being simply mistaken, to being outright lies?

When the person has been corrected many times, and still refuses to acknowledge the truth.  That's when.
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PD0AC
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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2013, 08:34:47 AM »

If I remember well, D-Star was introduced in 2001. If it's so awesome, you would expect every ham to use it by now - and without the need for constant advertising during those 12 years that passed.

That's not the case. In the grand scheme of things, the percentage of D-star users is still marginal.

Hans
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AA4PB
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2013, 11:16:24 AM »

When do the misleading statements about D-STAR not being proprietary go from being simply mistaken, to being outright lies?

I think you misunderstand. Icom has purchased and used an AMBE vocoder chip that is patented by DVSI. Icom pays for the chips they use just like any other mfg would have to. If Yaesu wants to build a digital voice system they can do so without paying any royalties to Icom. Of course, if they want it to talk to Icom DSTAR units they will have to purchase and use the same AMBE chip. Because DVSI owns the patent no other mfg can duplicate that chip.

So, DSTAR is not owned Icom. The AMBE VOCODER chip design is owned by DVSI. Anyone is free to purchase chips from the chip mfg. It's the same with thousands of other chips used by mfgs every day. The difference is that the VOCODER is such a key part of the system that you can't make a compatible radio without one.
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KC8HQX
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2013, 02:51:30 PM »

Lets be clear here, the AMBE vocoder / D-Star essentially constitutes a mode. And unlike every other mode common to Hams, it is not an open standard. Yes, anyone can purchase the chip, but the difference between D-Star and every other common Ham mode is it is not free, but licensed, meaning you *must* pay a royalty to use it. Anybody can read the CW, SSB, PSK31, SSTV, RTTY, etc. standard and implement hardware or software any way they wish to use said modes.  D-Star on the other hand essentially ties one to a licencing scheme that is the antithesis of what Amateur Radio is all about; I can't legally home brew a D-Star radio without paying some company a royalty.

No sir, I'll pass,

KC8HQX
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