If you've been reading this for a little while, you can't help but notice that I've been interesting in how the D-Star system has been developing. A Hambrief podcast recently, where Chris, N7ICE demonstrated D-Star in action was the final straw! I wanted to try it out for myself.
One of the issues that caused me to stop and think was the fact that there's no local activity here - or at least, there aren't any D-Star repeaters within easy range of Longworth - or indeed on my regular commute. I didn't want to use one of the D-Star dongles, as I wanted to try D-Star through RF.
I decided that I'd be best off getting one of the Icom IC-E92D handhelds. For one thing, it is a lot cheaper than the mobile radios - and I don't really want to replace my FT-8900 which I use in the car - it's just such a great rig. For another thing, since there's more D-Star activity in London, I thought I could take the rig into London and maybe make some contacts during lunchtime. I'd been wanting to try it for a while, but the time was right recently to make a purchase!
So the rig arrived in mid week. First impression was of a very nice unit - solidly built, well featured both for analogue and digital modes. I quickly got the rig going on the local 145/433 analogue repeaters and made a couple of contacts. On GB3WO, which is Echolink enabled, I enjjoyed using the DTMF keypad to set up links - something I've not been able to do.
Yesterday, Julie had an OU tutorial in Reading for the morning. I decided to take the rig in to Reading, hoping that I might be able to spend a little time setting up D-Star. I also hoped that I might be able to hear the Amersham D-Star repeater, GB7AU. So, there I was, sat on a bench by the Kennet and Avon Canal with the handheld and the instruction book.
Actually, setting up the rig for D-Star isn't difficult. I quickly got the MY callsign set up as G4VXE. What wasn't immediately obvious to me was what to set the R1 and R2 parameters to and there were a couple of false starts, trying to call people through GB7AU whilst I didn't have things setup properly. But, I was quickly hearing people through the repeater from all over the UK as well as Denmark - since GB7AU was connected to the REF005 reflector.
Reading a few more pages, I discovered that I could get obtain the parameters I needed by listening to other stations and found the magic parameters to make things work was to set UR to CQCQCQCQ R1 to GB7AU B and R2 to GB7AU G
I also found that it is possible and apparently, general practice to place your name after a / in the MYC parameter, hence when I work someone - my callsign will display as G4VXE/Tim on their screen, which is clever. It also seems to be possible to have another text message scroll on their screen, so I've added my e-mail address in there which seemed like it might be useful.
Did I work anyone? Yes! My first contact on D-Star was with Ellis, GM4JLZ in Aberdeen, followed by Mike, G1ZRN and Rob, M0ZPU.
Great fun and the biggest learning experience I've had in ham radio for a while! Thanks, guys!