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Welcome to the VA3ODG New User Information Page


The VA3ODG repeaters and servers are owned and maintained by the Ottawa Amateur Radio Digital Group (OARDG). They are located in downtown Ottawa, Canada.

D-STAR is made up of hardware and software. The hardware includes radio repeaters and associated RF technology to work with hand held radios, mobiles, and base stations, much like a conventional FM repeater system. D-STAR repeater systems also include gateways which are made up of computers, linux, and software applications, connected to the internet. The gateway and internet add tremendous capabilities to a radio. Some of these capabilities include: call routing by radio call sign, call routing by repeater call sign, linking to repeaters, linking to reflectors, and linking of repeaters and reflectors together to function as single larger repeaters. There are at least 3 versions of gateway, with varying levels of compatibility: the main gateway is a proprietary and somewhat secretive application developed by Icom to run on a linux operating system; a second gateway also is built on linux and uses an application called dextra; a 3rd variation is a non-proprietary version of the Icom gateway, developed by G4ULF, which is still in beta. The application architecture is quite different than Icom's, but applications designed to work with the Icom gateway, also work with the G4ULF version. G4ULF is higly compatible with Icom's gateway application.

The VA3ODG Repeater System actually includes 4 D-STAR repeaters. One is on 2M or VHF and is referred to as VA3ODG Module C; another repeater is on 70cm or UHF and is referred to as Module B; a third repeater is on 23cm and is referred to as Module A. The 4th module is also on 23cm but is not strictly a repeater. It is actually an Access Point, and functions exactly like a 2.4GHz wi-fi access point, except that this is in a ham band near 1.3GHz

The 3 voice modules are also referred to as DV modules or Digital Voice. They include a low speed, plain, data stream and a slightly higher speed voice data stream, as the 2 components of the digital data. The 23cm Access Point is for high speed data (about 96kb clear), and is referred to as a DD or Digital Data module. It is used for connecting to the gateway using a 23cm D-STAR radio, Icom model ID-1, and a computer. The ID-1 radio is unique for several reasons: it is on 23cm, a relatively high frequency ham band, it has high speed data capability, it has an ethernet interface, like a wi-fi access point, and it also has voice capability. The 23cm DD module connects to the internet. Notice that if we wanted to, we could serve our own web pages, and our own email from the VA3ODG gateway. We would be able to offer our own closed internet.

Keep in mind that all D-STAR radios, also have FM voice capability, and most also have a low speed data port.

There are at least 2 main (i.e. large) D-STAR networks, the US Trust system (very large), and the FreeStar system. All networks use the same radios and most use a gateway built on linux (Centos 5.x). There are several small, closed networks, usually based on one of these technologies.

The largest network is the original US Trust system and it is made up of nearly 100% Icom repeaters and uses the Icom developed gateway software. There are over 500 gateways throughout the world, on the US Trust network. These gateways all synchronize with a single server, referred to as the US Trust Server. This network is sometimes considered to be fragile and vulnerable but thanks to the tremendous efforts of a small group of hams, it has provided us with a very stable and reliable system. The system is somewhat purest, in that there is a reluctance by the US Trust team, to allow entry by non-Icom repeaters and gateways.

The other main network is referred to as the FreeStar system, or FreeStar, and is a relatively new development. The FreeStar gateway application has been privately developed and is based on dextra which also runs on linux. All gateways in the FreeStar system rely on the ircDDB (distributed database) for location and syncronization. This system is faster to synchronize, more robust, fault tolerant, and openly invites experimental repeaters, radios, etc.

In order to use the VA3ODG D-STAR Repeaters you must be registered on the D-STAR US Trust network. Once a user is registered on any gateway in the US Trust system, he or she is registered on the entire system. A user MUST NOT register more than once, or register on more than one gateway. Failure to register on a system will not prevent a user from using the repeater, however, it will prevent a user from using gateway features like linking and call routing. Registration on FreeStar is not required because of the way that the ircDDB operates. As soon as you key a repeater on FreeStar, you are registered/updated in the ircDDB.

Using high speed data capability built into the USTrust gateways, requires an IP and this can be provided at registration time or later by one of the VA3ODG administrators.

Some systems permit the user to register through a self-registration process. Users are encouraged but not required, to register on the nearest gateway to them. VA3ODG local users must register through one of the VA3ODG system administrators. The system administrator can provide multiple call sign registration, and IP information on request.

D-STAR is more complicated than standard FM radio operation. Incorrectly programming your radio can inconvenience others. As a result, all VA3ODG users are encouraged to join the Yahoo Forum at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oardg/ This forum is used for assistance and announcements. Also all users are required to read the guide on linking and routing, located in the Files section of the Yahoo group. If you are not prepared to join the Yahoo group, please advise one of the administrators and they will email you a PDF of the Guide.

There are other ways of connecting to a D-STAR repeater besides with a radio. You might also use a DV Dongle (or Blue Dongle), or a DVAP Dongle (or Red Dongle). These devices both require a computer connected to the internet.

The Blue Dongle will allow you to connect to a gateway or reflector on either network via the internet, using your computer (and a headset). Once connected, all transmissions from a Blue Dongle are also are transmitted on the associated RF frequency of a connected repeater. If a Blue Dongle transmits, when connected to a Reflector, all repeaters that are connected to that reflector will also transmit. So if you have a Blue Dongle, you do not really need a radio, to get on D-STAR. The cost of a Blue Dongle is about $200.

The Red Dongle when connected to the internet, through your computer, becomes a miniature short range rebroadcaster. It is normally under the direct control of your radio and can be connected to any gateway or reflector in the system. The Red Dongle works with USTrust and FreeStar gateways. Whatever is broadcast on a D-STAR radio on the same frequency as the Red Dongle, will also be transmitted on the connected gateway or reflector. And anything heard by the connected repeater, will also be heard by the radio using the Red Dongle. The cost of a Red Dongle is about $250.

The 2 dongles give you a great deal of mobility at your cottage, hotel, or at home while out of direct range of a D-STAR repeater, as long as you have internet and a computer.




Contacts

The following people are key to the use of VA3ODG. Everybody does everything but we also specialize. Everyone can be contacted via the Yahoo Group or via email. This is not an exclusive list. There are many people that we have called on from time-to-time to help with the system.


A Word About Volunteering and Finances

D-STAR is made possible by the volunteering of skills, talent, and labour. If you are available to help, please let me know how you can help. We have some ideas about features that we would like to see, perhaps you do too, but we need people to write the software applications and install the equipment. The gateway computer uses CentOS5.5 linux (desktop not server) and we need people to help with that. Also, I suspect that our duplexers and filters need tweaking and so we need a knowledgeable person to help with that.

D-STAR costs money. The bulk of the expensive stuff is done. We are very fortunate to get a free internet feed from Ying VA3YH. Dale VE3XZT has kindly picked up the costs of commercial power work, grounding, cabling, climbing. From time to time, we would like to make a donation to the YMCA to help pay for the power that we consume. Every cable, every piece of hardware, every roll of tape costs money. We would love to improve our pre-amps and filtering, particularly on 23cm but that will have to wait for more cash or a donation of hardware from someone. Some of the radio clubs in Ottawa have been generous in their support and we are very grateful.

Please keep all this in mind if you are a D-STAR user and you can help with your skills or financially.

If you have read this far, then welcome to D-STAR! from Rick (VE3CVG)