Press Release: 3 April 2011
Contact: [email protected]
STARnet Digital is a new application for use with D-STAR (Digital Smart Technology for Amateur Radio) that builds upon Smart Technology for Amateur Radio, creating dynamic networks of D-STAR radio stations through the worldwide network of D-STAR gateways and repeaters.
The fundamental building block of a STARnet Digital network is the Group. Each Group is accessed by a Group Callsign. User radios subscribe to a Group by putting the Group Callsign in the destination (UR) address of the D-STAR radio header and keying their transmitter. Once subscribed, any transmissions directed to the Group will be automatically relayed to the repeater where the subscribing station was last heard. The subscribing station can move from repeater to repeater and upon a transmission from the subscribing station to the repeater, the Group will automatically redirect Group transmissions to the subscribing station’s new repeater.
D-STAR was designed to use addressable communications where the originating station selected the destination station by placing the callsign of the remote station in the destination (UR) field of the D-STAR radio. The D-STAR gateway network is responsible for keeping track of individual stations and routing communications based on the destination callsign. This is a one-to-one relationship and creates complications if more than two stations wish to communicate over a variety of gateways and repeaters.
Early D-STAR gateway software was and continues to be closed source with no Application Program Interface (API). To facilitate wide area communications, including a large network of stations, industrious developers created “bolt on” linking technology that “sniffs” network traffic and relays it “out of band” between gateways delivering it to other repeaters for retransmission. We applaud this work and believe that it will continue to provide needed functionality for certain types of network activity.
STARnet Digital takes the native, callsign routed, approach to creating a nework of subscribing stations. The STARnet Digital server looks like a D-STAR repeater to a gateway. The STARnet Digital “repeater” advertises itself to the network, and individual Groups report through that repeater as if they were just another user station with a Group Callsign. Existing D-STAR gateways do not have to add any special software or hardware for its users to subscribe to STARnet Digital Groups, the subscribing stations simply set the destination (UR) address in their radio to the Group Callsign of the Group they wish to communicate with; no linking, no unlinking, no exclusivity of Groups which the repeater can relay.
To setup a STARnet Digital server is easy:
- Obtain a non-user (e.g. club) callsign for your gateway and register it at http://regsrv.ircddb.net/index.htm
- Wait for the username and password to be returned
- Register a user terminal for your Group on USROOT (This can be any callsign that is registered at USROOT) through your local USROOT connected gateway. This is necessary since Icom G2 and G4ULF gateways check USROOT database to authorize transmissions.
- Get the latest ircDDBgateway at Yahoo! ircDDBGateway Forum
- Install the Microsoft Windows binary or compile and install from the source in the zip file on a Linux box (edit the makefile for your CPU type).
- Start the ircddbgateway in GUI mode.
- Goto the Edit -> Preferences -> Gateway tab and setup your gateway callsign and longitude/latitude
- Goto the ircDDB tab and insert your Gateway’s ircDDB Username/Password
- Goto the STARnet 1 tab and select Band (A, B, C, D) to create the virtual repeater on the gateway, put the user terminal callsign in the space provided
- Select “OK”, stop and restart the ircddbgateway — once it registers with ircDDB you are ready to test.
The callsign from step 9 above is the Group Callsign. All users that want to talk to the Group will put this callsign in the destination (UR) address field of their radio. For example, if station KQ1ZZZ wanted to participate on a Group with the Group Callsign EX4MPLE, the settings on their radio would be:
UR: EX4MPLE (from step 9)
RPT1: <Local Repeater Callsign> (Whatever nearby repeater they want to use on the D-STAR network)
RPT2: <Local Repeater Gateway Callsign>
The local gateway must be setup to report into ircDDB, whether the gateway is an Icom G2, G4ULF, etc., or using the native ircDDBgateway. The local gateway needs no additional software installed. You can see if your local gateway is on the ircDDB network by visiting http://www.ircddb.net/ – Select your country and look for the callsign of your local gateway.
When the user transmits for the first time, they will be automatically registered with the Group and any transmissions directed to the Group will be relayed back to the user. If the user moves to another repeater on a gateway that supports ircDDB, and transmits, the Group will follow them and send traffic for the Group to the new repeater. (It will stop sending to the previous repeater if the user was the last subscribing station on that repeater.)
If the station switches repeaters, the UR callsign will automatically switch to CQCQCQ on their radio, and the user will have to re-enter the UR callsign (or use callsign capture, usually the CS/RX button on their radio) to transmit into the group, but receive is automatic. Common Group Callsings are great candidates for the UR memories on the D-STAR radio.
The user can unsubscribe from the Group by setting the UR to the Group Callsign, and put “LOGOFF” in the TX Message/Comment on their radio. We recommend putting this command in one of the TX message memory slots on the radio for easy access.
The Group may be configured to logoff a user after a period of inactivity or to logoff all users after a set period of inactivity on the Group.
There is one other command that can be placed in the TX Message/Comment field, “INFO” which will return a short description of the Group associated with the Group Callsign.
A user can subscribe to more than one Group at a time, but must set the destination (UR) call to each group individually with which the user wishes to send traffic.
Gateway operators may wish to use ircDDBgateway as their primary gateway software. It is Free Open Source Software (FOSS) under the GNU license. It can be configured to operate with the Icom RP2C controller, GMSK node adapters, or use soundcard GMSK modem software. It has connectivity for DExtra, DPlus (client only), D-RATS (login), D-PRS (GPS A only), and STARnet Digital. A single ircDDBgateway can manage repeaters and Groups at the same time. It uses ircDDB for all callsign routing and updates and does not use Trust Servers for any purpose. Support is through the ircDDBGateway Yahoo! Forum.
Whereas the STARnet Digital software is FOSS, we invite others to contribute to its development and inclusion in other gateways or similar projects.
DVDongles, DVAPs, and DVAR Hotspots will not be able to use STARnet Digital since they do not currently support native D-STAR callsign routing, which is the transport technology for STARnet Digital. These devices use DPLUS linking rather than native D-STAR callsign routing. The STARnet Digital team would like to see software developed where these devices authenticate using strong authentication to a proxy server that would allow callsign routing to and from these “stations”. (Those individuals who currently run HotSpots, are advised that both G4ULF and ircDDBGateway software can operate on simplex radios and provide full callsign routing functionality.)
STARnet Digital was conceived and functionally designed by John Hays, K7VE, with code design, engineering, and implementation by Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX. It builds on the work of many others, including the JARL which developed the D-STAR protocol, and the ircDDB network team, for which we are grateful.
This is the first public beta of the software, additional features such as a visualization layer, and additional gateway operator tools, are currently under design and consideration. Currently group callsigns must be regular Trust Server registered terminals and we ask that “tactical” callsigns not be used until the USROOT Trust Server team has an opportunity to study if using “tactical” callsigns, such “NYARES A” will create any issues with their systems. Also, if the ircDDBgateway is not supporting RF modules, it may be possible to use tactical names for these as well, but again, let the USROOT and ircDDB teams have time to consider any unintended consequences of such a move.