Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First D-Star QSO, and more arcana

I had about an hour free today to see if yesterday's apparent successful round-trips to the ICM repeater would translate into an actual contact.

From my cursory understanding of routing configuration gleaned from various sources, I tried to cross-band on the repeater from my uplink port A to the 2m port C - I figured that fishing on 2m would most likely to find someone.

I tried a CQ call with
a few times and noticed a funny message "UR? VA7ICM A?" pop up when I unkeyed the mic.
Mmmm... I wonder what that message means, I thought. Maybe there's still something wrong with my routing/set up. I figured there would be something in the ID-1 manual on possible status/error messages, but on inspection... not a sausage. Icom are very light on documenting any operational aspects of the radio in the manual - it's mostly just buttons and menus that they care to comment on.

I then tried the following routing:
figuring that maybe this was an alternative way to address a port C (2m) downlink on the local repeater. This flashed up another message: "RPT?", which was equally indecipherable (though strongly suggested that it didn't like something in an RPT field).

After checking that in both cases, my call was still appearing in the Recently Heard list of the repeater on the web, I resolved to try the original routine config once again, an called once more with that setting. I just wandered back to my computer once again to check that the repeater had seen me, when suddenly for the first time there was a voice emerging from the ID-1's speaker, and I just heard my call from across the room.

The caller was Gord VE7FKY, who kindly responded to my call out through 2m. Apparently I was getting out the whole time, and what I considered (still do!) the odd "UR?" message is simply some indication that nobody has responded.

Gord was kind enough to enquire whether I had completed my gateway registration correctly, indicating that you have to complete at least one extra row of information in the "Personal Information" screen of the gateway registration - something I had not done. It turns out that this extra information is essential to having the gateway accept and route your calls across repeaters, and it occurs to me that this might be why the second form of routing mentioned above resulting in the "RPT?" message.

It's not super-clear during registration that this step is required - though in retrospect I do see it mentioned various web pages. It entails adding a single space into one "initial" field, and adding your lowercase callsign as a "pcname", and finally clicking a checkbox and a button to tell the gateway software to update that row in the registration record.

Having done this, I need to test a gateway routing again, and I'm wondering about simply retrying that second form to see if it is now working (routing out via the gateway, then back into the same repeater to another port).

I've resolved to really read about and understand what the various rows are in the "Personal Information" screen, and how you use them when (unlike me currently) you do have multiple D-Star radios.

Anyway, with my first QSO properly under my belt, I can now safely assume that all the components of my 23cm setup is working satisfactorily. I'd still like to test the VSWR of the Comet CYA 1216E sometime, especially as the ID-1 got pretty hot (enough to actually smell strongly of "new electronics"!) when transmitting on the nominal 10W power. That's probably quite normal, but it would be nice to be confident that the antenna system and feed line are in the best shape they should be. That's going to be another investment in shack gear though (there are only a few SWR meters capable of covering the 23cm band) and you get to pay a pretty penny for the privilege, so it might have to wait a while!

Aside from enjoying a little ragchewing on my newly commissioned toy, I'm gradually accreting an agenda for other things to play with on D-Star. The DD mode is a must-try sometime very soon, but I'm also reading about various tools that make use of the "spare" 1200 bps bandwidth in the DV mode (for text messaging and maybe other purposes - a BBS anyone?).

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