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Photo above: Dayton Hamvention 2006 -- Carrying a satellite antenna

Hi to all;

Welcome. I am interested in many parts of amateur radio: HF SSB, HF CW, HF Digital, Analog FM, D-Star, new hams, and more. 

Currently, a lot of time is enjoyed using D-Star and also on helping to maintain several local repeaters. The repeaters are made by Icom and some local repeaters have a custom 1U rack mount gateway server by Polywell Computers.

Most of the D-Star repeater gateway software packages, in Southwest Ohio, have been upgraded to G4KLX ircDDBGateway.  Since I have high regard for the G4KLX ircDDBGateway gateway software, some findings will be shared as a result of observing the software on several repeaters.

G4KLX ircDDBGateway provides very stable gateway operation with many advanced communications features such as access to DPlus (REF) reflectors, DExtra (XRF) reflectors, DCS reflectors, CCS7 advanced callsign routing, STARnet talk groups, DTMF keypad user control, advanced web dashboard, time announcements, custom digital voice announcements, slow data announcements, and much more. 

The solid performance of the G4KLX ircDDBGateway package stems from development of all the gateway functions by a single small developer group (along with other clever advisors and test members). In contrast, other less stable solutions are available where the components are developed independently and pieced together. In my opinion and from my experience, the single system approach used in G4KLX ircDDBGateway is superior to other piecemeal approaches. I don't mean to offend anyone that believes something different than this, but the superior gateway stability of G4KLX ircDDBGateway is a major finding after running several different gateway software configurations. One universal observation is for sure: if a repeater is not operating correctly, repeater usage drop nearly to zero, and user problem reports can sometimes pile up in the admin's inbox, text messaging, or voicemail. System availability counts for admins, not just end users.

Speaking of system availability, the quality of the repeater electronics plays a large part. The Icom repeater hardware is very reliable. There have not been many Icom repeater hardware failures in Southwest Ohio after initial installation, if any. There are installation related annoyances such as nearly "deaf" receiver gain and only fair front end filtering noticed when installing on commercial towers. To help with receive gain, many D-Star repeaters utilize the Advanced Receiver Research (Ar² Communications Products) preamplifier models P144VDG or P432VDG. See http://www.advancedreceiver.com/page5.html for preamp details. These tall commercial towers can have 50 kW FM broadcast transmitters and/or multi-megawatt HDTV transmitters only several dozen feet away. RF compatibility/filtering can be achieved with a commercial custom engineered solution which takes into account every antenna position, every feedline type and length, every transmitter frequency and power output, every receiver sensitivity and frequency, and many more parameters. The result is a D-Star system that has excellent coverage with hundreds of hams in the footprint. Good installation practices on lower profile locations have availability benefits too. Do it right and the equipment will hold up. 

G4KLX ircDDBGateway is free (as in freedom to use it the way you need to) software under the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE. Take a look at the license along with the source code and get familiar with this quality package at: https://github.com/dl5di/OpenDV . Source code availability and correct licensing is also important for maintaining a future path for G4KLX ircDDBGateway and helps prevent product stagnation. A more convenient way to install ircDDBGateway on a Centos / Icom system, besides compiling source code, is to install the opendv.repo repository and then use "yum install ircddbgateway". The detailed instructions are available in the "Documentation" folder of the ircddbgateway Yahoo Group. Documentation folder link: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ircDDBGateway/files/Documentation/ . The filename is: ircDDBGateway-YUM-instructions-ENG.pdf .  There are several other steps needed if the gateway is kept active on the US trust server system.

There is more to the story about gateway performance beyond G4KLX ircDDBGateway which would include discussion on the superior performance of the ircDDB network. However, I am limiting discussion to the G4KLX ircDDBGateway software package.

There are several thousand keyups (PTTs) and hundreds of conversations (sessions) per month accumulated for Southwest Ohio area Icom repeaters with G4KLX ircDDBGateway installed. The following is a July 14, 2015 snapshot of one month of user data for these repeaters (from http://www.dstardb.com/RptStats.php?LAST=month ):

Southwest Ohio D-Star Repeater One Month Usage Snapshot 

(Taken July 14, 2015)

(Icom repeaters with G4KLX ircDDBGateway)

     RPT1 Call    

    Country ID   

    TX (PTT)    

    Users     

    Sessions     

 KE8AOQ B

US

634

12

73

 W8RTL  B

US

520

36

111

 W8RTL  C

US

746

29

130

 W8HEQ  B

US

848

14

33

 W8HEQ  C

US

760

27

91

 W8RNL  B

US

2140

27

218

 W8RNL  C

US

230

16

64

 

Totals

5878

161

720

The above totals do not include repeater transmissions from reflectors or linking, just local RF users. The effective design of G4KLX ircDDBGateway is one of the reasons that many local hams frequent these D-Star repeaters so often. Increased repeater activity provides an increased opportunity for local amateur radio operators to meet many other local hams via D-Star. Bringing the amateur radio community together is an important social benefit.

If your club D-Star repeater is running only Icom G2/DPlus (less than 20% of these remain per "User Statistics" of http://www.ircddb.net/ ) and is not getting much use, consider installing G4KLX ircDDBGateway and potentially revive local interest in D-Star. While the Icom G2/DPlus combo works, it has limited functionality compared to G4KLX ircDDBGateway. The G4KLX ircDDBGateway software improves the end user operating experience especially with older Icom radios. DTMF repeater linking, unlinking, and other DTMF control functions reduce the need to reprogram the radios often. Radio reprogramming is one reason some hams lose interest in D-Star and in other modes where radios often need reprogramming. There seems to be a barrier to hams learning to program radios even where great D-Star instruction manuals and good programming software are provided. Hams like radio equipment which is easy to use, operates correctly and does not require a lot of effort to maintain.

When adding the G4KLX ircDDBGateway package, the admin can elect to retain ties with the D-Star Trust Server registration system for as long as it stays in existence. At past Dayton Hamvention D-Star seminars, a D-Star Trust Server Administration Group member indicated a change was in process for the Trust Server, but details were not mentioned. So, either the Trust Server will be terminated or it will be updated. The exact path can't be determined since definitive information has not been released. If the D-Star Trust Server is terminated, your G4KLX ircDDBGateway based repeater should continue to function via the ircDDB network.

As of December 2016, Icom and the US Trust Server team announced release of RS-RP3C gateway software which enables ID-51 Plus2 users with access point and terminal modes. The team mentioned that the new gateway software will be zero cost, operate under Centos 7, and use standard apps and libraries that can be updated with a standard updater such as Yum. The trust server registration system will also be retained. There may be other changes, however, other changes have not been announced.

The bottom line is: Since installing G4KLX ircDDBGateway on several repeaters in Southwest Ohio, the repeaters are functioning better than ever, interest in D-Star has increased, hams are purchasing new D-Star radios and enjoying them, and importantly, many hams have new acquaintances both on the air and in person. 

So, try out G4KLX ircDDBGateway on your club repeater today and help your local hams stay interested and connected with D-Star.

For more information visit the ircDDBGateway Yahoo Group: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ircDDBGateway/info

73 to all, Greg AB8RG

 

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