After a trip to our County EOC with our local club president, KK4DKT (Marv) and a short demonstration I wanted to know more about D-Stars. A quick search on the ‘net yielded some good information and a few youtube videos that explained the data portion of D-Stars Voice channel (DV).
Apparently there is a slow speed data channel that is transmitted on every DV transmission. By slow I mean 1200 baud. Slow is not all bad though, you can transmit GPS data, text messages, small files and text bulletins. When in a communications blackout situation that slow speed link can be vital to emergency operations.
That lead me to the D-RATS software. D-RATS (D-STARS spelled backwards) is so named because it has a full featured set of communications tools to take advantage of the slow (or high) speed D-Stars data channels. The author of the software didn’t stop there though. He added support for network, AFSK 1200 using TNC’s or AGWPE compatible soundmodems, serial and the DV Dongle. In the package he includes the ability to setup your own “Rat”flector that acts like a hub for communications of all connected nodes or devices.
I was able to successfully use chat, QST (broadcast to all connected nodes), file transfer, email (to another connected node and winlink) and the connectivity tools using network and packet AFSK 1200. All without a D-Stars radio! I think it is an excellent piece of software that will enable connectivity using several different modes.
For example I setup my home station connected to my “Rat”flector and my PK-232 TNC. My mobile setup consisted of a laptop with the UZ7HO Soundmodem software, D-RATS and audio/PTT cables connected to a mobile radio. As a test I drove about five miles away and attempted to connect to the home station. Success! Right-clicking in the stations sidebar and selecting “Ping all stations” brought up my home station and allowed me to connect in the Files sections. I initiated a test transfer of a Rich Text document (170KB) and began to drive home. The entire file transferred successfully in about 5 minutes while on the move. I was officially impressed.
Final thoughts: Don’t overlook D-RATS for personal, EOC, or club use. Even without a D-Stars system in place it has a lot of capability. When you do get that D-Star radio or your EOC implements it you will already be familiar with the functionality and operation. It is a great addition to your “Ham shack” or “to-go” kit.
Presentation explaining the Data Modes of D-Stars (Skip to 5:50):