Sunday, June 21, 2009

D-WARP an idea for "contact agency software" for D-STAR

I was thinking a little about software that would make D-STAR even more interesting and convenient.

D-STAR provides relatively easy to use global communications through its gateway connections between repeaters. I've just been fooling around a little for the first time with gateway routing to some repeaters back in my old stomping grounds in the UK. This works rather nicely, and although I've not used IRLP, the setting up of routing seems less messy than what I've read is required for IRLP.

I don't know how many hams care about long-distance working, but it strikes me that it would be nice to be able to see which stations were on and interested in accepting non-local calls. To that end, I can image a sort of directory of D-STAR stations as a web application, which could show stations cartographically or in a tabular form. Maybe every station could indicate whether it was just "monitoring", "inviting calls" or "actively calling". It might also be nice if every station could offer a "synopsis" and perhaps keywords/tags indicating major interests of the operator. That might facilitate more engaging hook-ups/QSOs between hams who determine they might have similar interests. Clearly, the listings could allow linking through to other station details, such as QRZ, or a station web site.

A key feature of this facility might be to auto-tune/route an attached radio when a calling operator selects a station to call. Furthermore, it would be good if the status of both stations could be automatically updated when either or both stations transmit between them. This would indicate online that the stations are in QSO and are not awaiting a call (though of course other stations might want to join them). To that end, it might also be nice if such connections could indicate online the topic of a conversation (defaulting to "general") and whether others were actively invited to participate. Obviously, when parties sign-off, their status should revert to their original indication - it would be nice if this could happen automatically, but that might simply be a time-out; and of course the user should be able to do this with a single click.

As well as soliciting contacts and showing a global state of D-STAR stations in this fashion, it might also be nice if stations actively in a QSO could be offered a 'dashboard' showing all the contributing parties, and offering extra features such as 'quick email' or 'send file'. These features could be mediated by the central server (i.e. hiding the details of the end-points), and could also be 'unlocked' for a given user by issuing a single-use pin that one station would read to another over the air.

I'm still very new to D-STAR, but a service along these lines would seem to really augment the capabilities of the D-STAR network itself. I'd be very interested in feedback on these ideas, and although I doubt there are too many people reading this blog, I'll see what people think as I meet/talk with them.

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