This article was adapted from the work of Ed Woodrick. For Boudler D-STAR specific configuration, please see our How-To.
As you first un-box your new D-STAR radio, the first thing to do is to make sure that it works on FM. So program your favorite repeater and try it out for a little bit.
Once you know your radio is working, then it is time to start thinking D-STAR.
Before you begin: One of the first differences in D-STAR is that the radio needs to know your call-sign. So open your manual and program your call-sign into the MY call-sign slot. You can also add your name in the MY field beyond the /.
Finding a Repeater: You can check www.dstarusers.org for the repeaters close to you. Once you figure out the repeater, change to the repeater's frequency and change the mode to DV. Now set your radio down and do some more reading while you listen for activity.
Programming a Repeater: Once you know the repeater that you want to talk to, go to D-STAR Calculator to find out what to program into your radio. For your first contact, Select your local repeater as the source and destination, then select the module that you want to use as the same for the source and destination. This should give you the basic programming for your radio. You should only have to fill in the RPT1 field. The RPT2 should be blank, and the UR call should be set to CQCQCQ. This is equivalent to saying "NV0N listening" on a regular repeater. Everyone will be able to hear you if they are monitoring. When you are programming the RPT1 call-sign into your radio, the module identifier MUST be in the 8th (last) character position.
First Kerchunk: After your radio has been programmed, It's time for your first kerchunk. So go for it, press the PTT for about 2 seconds and let go. As you un-key, one of two things will probably happen. You will get a beep or nothing. A beep is good, but nothing isn't necessarily bad.
Did it work? If your repeater has a gateway and DStarMon running, then go to the Last Heard page of www.dstarusers.org and see if your call-sign appears. The site updates it's information quickly, so it only should take a few seconds to see your call. If you see it, then congratulations! FreeStar* systems (like ours) make use of a status page. Head over to <repeatercallsign>.gw.ircddb.net (e.g. http://kc0ds.gw.ircddb.net and http://w0cds.gw.ircddb.net) and within 5 minutes you will be able to see your callsign.
If you didn't hear a beep or see yourself on dstarusers: The best thing to do next is to try to find someone in your area to help you out. But keep listening to see if you can ever hear anyone. The coverage area should be similar to that of FM.
Watch the Offset! Not all D-STAR repeaters use a standard offset. So always check the repeater offset to make sure that it is in the correct direction and is the correct split.
Register for Gateway Access: Original D-STAR systems running the ICOM gateway software require you to register before using the Gateway (i.e. going out over the internet). You do not need to do that with our systems because we use FreeStar*.
To a great extent, operating using the D-STAR system is like operating using FM repeaters. Most of the same basic courtesies and procedures exist. But there are a few exceptions...
Calling Stations: When calling stations, especially a CQ / General Call, you need to specify where you are calling from. Are you on the local repeater are on a remote repeater? Any station that wants to respond to your call needs to know how to program their radio.
Example: Is there anyone listening on the KI4SBA repeater, this is WA4YIH on the WD4STR repeater module A.
You can't hear remote activity - When you have your radio set to talk to someone other than your local module, you can't hear any of the remote stations. So when you start talking, please realize that there might be a QSO already occurring on the remote repeater. You can check www.dstarusers.org or the repeater's status page to see if it has registered any recent conversations.
Station Identification - While the D-STAR protocol handles legal identification requirements for the US-FCC, some countries require voice identification. Just to make sure that everyone stays happy, operators continue to identify just as if they were using any other voice mode.