In my enthusiasm last night I plugged my DVAP dongle into my PC computer and plugged in the Diamond X-200 antenna which is on the top of the roof of the house and I went for a walk with my IC-31A.
I had already checked out the range of the DVAP with its tiny two-inch antenna and I could easily communicate to it inside a 100-meter circle.
This is a lot farther away than I would have guessed the range to be so it’s a good thing the software allows you to decrease power if you want to keep your coverage just to your own property.
Anyway with rig in hand and both the standard six-inch whip and an extended 19-inch whip I set off to check the range with the X-200 and the dongle’s 10-milliwatt transmitter.
Best guess is I’m good out to about 1000 meters using the standard W/T antenna so I can go for my hour-long walk around the neighbourhood and never lose the DVAP connection.
The DVAP uses a USB cable to plug into either a Mac or PC and works seamlessly (as in photo where I’m using the Mac).
What the DVAP unit allows you to do is experiment with linking and unlinking reflectors without having to go “on air” to a local repeater where everyone locally can enjoy you screwing up as you’re learning.
The only “on air” part of the dongle system is from your hand-held to the DVAP and since you’re running simplex on some obscure part of the two-meter or 440 band and you’re running on super-low power out nobody is going to hear you.
The DVAP unit connects through your computer to the digital system (including D-Star, FreeStar and other systems) through the Internet and pops out where you’ve programmed it to go which can be an Internet-based reflector or actual RF-repeater anywhere in the world.
For example right now I am monitoring REF001C (the A,B or C at the end indicates which module or transmitter you’re hitting on a connected digital repeater. A is for the 23 cm transmitter. B is for the 70 cm box and C is for the 2m module) which is one of the busiest open chat reflectors. Stations from around the world can be heard hear all day long.
But REF001 isn’t the only reflector. There are a bunch of reflectors (well over 50) and they can be dedicated to specific uses or areas.
And the we come to linking and it’s here I am still reading blog posts and watching videos.
Digital Amateur Radio communications using the D-Star and other systems is enormously powerful and holds great promise for the future of radio.
Think about it. Using a handheld and a DVAP from anywhere you can get an Internet connection allows you to participate in a global communications system.
You can even use a cellphone to provide the Internet connection so anywhere you can get a cellphone to work as your Internet hotspot you can get your DVAP to connect to the digital system. How cool is that?
Another device, the DV Dongle, eliminates the need for a handheld. It connects directly to the digital system using your computer equipped with headphones and microphone.
Now some guys don’t understand the concept that Amateur Radio is all about experimenting and get themselves bent out of shape saying digital isn’t radio. (Think somebody said the same thing when we switched from AM to SSB.)
Well that might be true if you’re using a DV Dongle to access the system but somebody out there is going to come back to your call using his or her handheld or mobile rig so there is an “on air” part to all of this Internet switching and routing.
As to the cost of the equipment which is a continuous whine, I bought my IC-31A for under $300 which is not out of line compared to other handhelds and yes it’s UHF only but if you’ve been listening to your local VHF repeater you might consider that an advantage. 🙂
The DVAP is sold by Ham Radio Outlet in the US for $269.00 and yes there’s GST and shipping but that comes to about what it costs for the two-hour round trip to my local Amateur Radio store. It took US Post a week to get it here delivered to my door.
And if you’re like most hams and super cheap, you can convert many FM rigs that have a 9600 baud data port into a digital rig using a Raspberry Pi computer ($35) and a DMSK modem ($75 or so) and you’re on the air or in the system depending on how you look at it.
Digital VHF/UHF communications isn’t for everybody.
It’s complicated because we’re still getting stuff designed and marketed by engineers without the help of marketers and sales folks. That will come in time and everything will run at the push of a button and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
But for now getting on digital is a challenge. It’s not a great challenge as evidenced by the fact that I did it and I’m not the sharpest tool in the toolbox.
Best of all, it’s a lot of fun. Talked to Jerry at the West Palm Beach ARC’s club station WS4FSM at the South Florida Science Museum. Jerry was doing a demonstration of digital radio for the staff and they were amazed that Jerry could talk to somebody in Ontario, Canada!