HamNotes by Jim
Building a D-Star Compatible Hotspot
NOTE: While GMSK Modems are no
longer available -- people now buy MMDVM
Modems or MMDVM Hotspot boards and just configure them for D-Star-- this
page may still be of value if you have a GMSK Modem board or are just curious.
So this page is mostly as it was during the days when GMSK Modems were the only
game in town....
If you have an ICOM D-Star radio
but are not near a D-Star repeater, a Hotspot allows your radio to access
DPlus-connected DStar repeaters and reflectors. Or you may just want to
control how and where you link to other repeaters/reflectors, without disturbing
other users of a nearby D-Star repeater. All you need is an analog radio
that has a 9600 data port, or gives access to the FM discriminator and
modulator. I put up the Hotspot because I already had a spare analog radio
with Data port, as well as a spare laptop, so this option was incrementally less
expensive than the popular DV Access Point or DVAP. In addition, I set my
analog radio to 5 watts, giving me somewhat more range. A simplex (one
radio) Hotspot can later be converted to a full
duplex repeater, which I did a year later. There are several GMSK
modem boards available, and reports on the internet indicate they all are good
choices. Be sure to subscribe to
gmsk_dv_node Yahoo Group
for information and help with Hotspots.
Diagram by Mark McGregor, KB9KHM, and used by permission
Here is how I set up and configured
my Mini Hotspot.
There's nothing new here -- it was all learned from the primary documentation
available. This just assembles what I did in one place in case I or others need to do the same thing again.
I will do my best to keep this up to date as new boards and software come out,
but if you see that I'm missing something, please let me know.
I created a Simplex Hotspot with a Windows PC
using the following components:
- A GMSK Modem or GMSK Node Adapter board,
sometimes also called a Mini Hot Spot. [Full disclosure: My first board was
the NQSMHS from Mark Phillips. Worked great. I also have a DUTCH*Star
HSA board, also excellent. I had the use of a Satoshi V7 board for a
week, and it proved to work well also. I have also gotten into the
business of distributing digital voice equipment, and my company markets the
Star*Board from Matrix Circuits. Obviously I'm partial to that one,
but I can honestly say all the boards listed here will do the job well.]
main sources are listed below -- I will only list vendors who sell
boards for which there is firmware which the author will support on that
- Firmware for the MHS
board. Some boards come with the firmware loaded already, otherwise
you'll need to load it yourself.
- An analog FM transceiver (any brand)
with access to the discriminator and without filtering of the transmitted
audio. Typically radios with a 9600 bps Data port will work without
modification. I have used a Kenwood TM-D700A and a Yaesu FT-817ND, but
many others are in hotspot service.
- Cables. You need two cables:
- A USB
cable. Different boards use different connectors, so check the board's
manual. The NQSMHS and Star*Board use type A male to type B male. These are easy to find. I had
a spare in the closet.
- A radio cable. Again, different
boards use different connectors, so check your User Manual. Most
boards use a 9-pin DSub Female connector. The other end plugs into
your radio's 9600 data port and typically is a 6-pin mini DIN. The V7
board expects a male 6-pin mini DIN. Pre-made cables are often sold by the board vendors. If you'd prefer to build your own
DSub cable, click here
for build instructions.
- Gateway Software. I
recommend any of the three popular hotspot applications: KB9KHM's DVAR
Hot Spot, PA4YBR's WinDV and G4KLX's GMSKRepeater/ircDDBGateway. All
run under Windows XP or higher, and the G4KLX programs can also be compiled
all it takes to get the Hotspot up and running:
Step 1 -
registers the Hotspot callsigns on the DStar network.
Step 2 - installs tools used to configure and test the hotspot board,
and for Windows XP, a special USB driver that's needed.
Step 3 - sets jumpers and optionally loads firmware onto the MHS board's
Step 4 - configures and tests the board using NAWinCFG and NAWinTEST.
Step 5 - installs and configures your hotspot software (DVAR Hotspot,
WinDV or G4KLX's Repeater and ircDDBGateway).
- Registering the Hotspot on the D-Star network
need to register at least one "terminal-id" at a D-Star repeater.
Depending on how you decide to configure your Hotspot, you may need to
register up to three terminal-ids. While the following terms won't
make sense until you've made it through Step 5 of this document, I'll
lay the rules out here. Note that what most of us call "Band
Module" or "Port" is called "initial" on the registration screens.
Node Callsign with Band Module/initial must be registered as a
terminal. If you call your Hotspot K1ABC with Band Module C, then
"K1ABC C" must be registered as a terminal.
The MyCall in your D-Star HT or other radio must be registered.
Usually people use their callsign with a blank band module.
There are no hard and fast rules about what to use for Band Module,
and blank is allowed. But it is common to:
your callsign with blank band module/initial for MyCall.
- Use the same (callsign with blank)
for Hotspot software's Gateway Auth Callsign/AuthCall.
- Use callsign with Band Module B or
C for Hotspot software.
- Whatever you use,
each one must be a registered terminal-id.
can take up to 24 hours for a callsign to propagate through the network,
try to do this step before your board is ready for use.
Registration is a two step process. If you've never
D-Star Self Registration Instructions
and perform steps 1 through 6 of that document. Go to the
Registration page of the D-Star repeater closest to you. Typically, if that repeater is
KA6XXX, then it will have a DPlus Dashboard page (at
http://ka6xxx.dstargateway.org/) with a link to its Registration
When you receive the confirmation
email, you can proceed.
Log on using your callsign (upper case) and password.
- Click on the Personal Information tab (upper right of the main
page). Shown below this section is what my entry looks like
after I completed the updates.
You need one entry with a blank "Initial" column. If
you've registered with a gateway in the past, that will already
If you've never registered, do the following
Click the check-box on the
left of the 1st line.
Enter a blank (press the
space bar) in the Initial box.
Do NOT click the RPT box.
Enter your callsign
in the pcname box.
Create a 2nd terminal with "initial" C if your hotspot will be on 2
meters, or B if on 70cm.
Click on the check-box on the
left of the next line.
In the Initial box, enter a
B or C.
Do NOT click the RPT box.
Enter a unique pcname, for
example <callsign>-b or <callsign>-c.
Click the Update button.
- Here is an example of having
entered several terminals. For simplex Hotspots, the "R"
terminal isn't needed.
Step 2 - Install USB driver and
NATools - for users with DUTCH*Star firmware
following is done on the computer the Hotspot board will be connected to and
where the DVAR Hot Spot or WinDV software will run. If possible,
choose a computer with USB 2.0 ports. If your computer has only
USB 3.0 ports, either get a powered USB 2.0 hub, or use another computer
with USB 2.0 ports.
- Go to
this copy of the DUTCH*Star website
Drivers and Tools, click on the latest version of NAtools for Windows
(32-bit). Save it to a folder of your choice (write the name down). The
saved file is a .exe file.
- Using My
Computer or File Explorer, go to the above folder. You want to launch the
.exe file (example: natools32-1.0.15.exe).
For recent versions of Windows, including Windows 8, you must "Run as
Administrator". (An easy way is to right-click on the exe file and
choose "Run as Administrator".)
- If you try
to run NAWinCFG or NAWinTEST and get an error message about "RICHTX32.OCX"
missing, install it by following these instructions.
Step 3 -
Set Jumpers and optionally install firmware
- Set the
jumpers on your board.
Star*Board (by Matrix, sold by MoenComm) - following jumper settings are
the defaults as shipped; you should not need to change them:
2+3 Normal SQL
1+2 Always jumpered except when loading firmware
2+3 RSSI Enabled (this puts the board in "Version 5"
from DUTCH*Star (jumpers may depend on radio, the following are most
common settings). These settings apply to MHS v 1.10, but probably
will work for other versions:
jumper 1-2 (positive COS)
SW2 jumper 1-2 (Digital COS or D-COS)
SW3 jumper 2-3 (positive COS)
SW7 jumper 1-2 (power from USB)
- though the default jumpers put the board in Version 4 mode, I
recommend Version 5 mode:
jumper on MHS board should be DOWN -- looking down at board with
connectors to right (USB powered).
jumper should be ON or bridged to adjacent pin. (Temporary for
loading the firmware).
should be ON or connected to adjacent pin (Version 5 mode).
should be RIGHT (Version 5 mode).
firmware if needed. NOTE: Some boards come with firmware
installed. Others include the license, but you need to download and
install the firmware yourself. Skip this step if your board already has firmware
- If you
don't have a license, please contact
instructions. When 2nd email is received, get the serial number and
add that to the http://www.dutch-star.eu
the firmware to the folder where NATools is located, e.g. c:/Program Files/NATools/BIN
(note: may be different for Vista and Windows 7 users).
firmware file will be called node-<callsign>.hex, e.g. node-K6JM.hex.
the board into "Program" or bootloader mode. This varies by board.
For the Star*Board, move the jumper from SW3 to the Program jumper.
Use the board layout diagram on the back of the Star*Board manual to
find SW3 and the Program pins.
- Plug in
USB cable to connect board to PC. USB Hubs may cause problems --
plug directly into your PC's USB 2.0 port.
NAWinCFG. It will say "Node Adapter not detected". This is
normal when in bootloader mode. Ignore this message and
- Under the Tools menu, select Update Firmware.
Browse and select the .hex firmware file.
- On the
Update Firmware window, click the "Update EEprom data" box --
this is normally done only the first time and is important.
Update. When done, the Status message should say "Update
Succeeded!". Click Close.
- Remove USB
jumper (and place it on it's normal jumper, as appropriate).
Step 4 - Run
NAWinCFG and NAWinTEST to
configure and test the board
- It's helpful to read the Dutch-Star Hot Spot manual, section 4.
- Connect the board to the radio with appropriate cable.
- Using USB cable, connect board to PC.
Depending on the version of your board, there may be a green LED lit
indicating the board is powered up. If this is the first time a
board with DUTCH*Star firmware has been plugged into this PC, Windows
will see the new hardware and configure the driver installed back in
Step 2 when you did a complete install of NATools.
- Set the analog radio for simplex mode on an appropriate frequency.
Set power to lowest setting.
- Start NAWinCFG.
- If the program can find your board, it will display the version of
firmware it is running. If it can't, most likely there is a USB
driver problem. Check NATools documentation. This is what
the initial screen looks like with a board running PA4YBR's firmware:
- You may want to set Delay Time to 250 or 300 milliseconds.
- I recommend you disable AutoPolarity, then find the correct Inverts
settings so the firmware doesn't try to make that decision each time.
- Click on Mode. The following settings are suggested. Do NOT
check COS Check, which means the firmware will operate in SoftCOS mode
(normally the best way of knowing when a valid D-Star signal is being
Board specific notes:
- Check only CRC Check, Last Frame, Half Duplex and RSSI Report
- It's CRITICAL that RSSI Report be checked if SW4 is set
as recommended to 2+3
- NQSMHS -RSSI Report must be checked, since in step 3.a we
set jumpers for V5 mode. (The board's
jumpers and the firmware's RSSI Report must match. RSSI Report
enabled means V5 mode.)
- DUTCH*Star MHS - The new MHS board default to V5 mode, so check the RSSI Report box.
- Click Save, then Close
- Turn on your DStar radio. Set to DV mode to same simplex
frequency as the analog radio.
- Start NAWinTEST. It should display the Firmware name, similar
to the following:
- Click on RF Read. Then click on Start. Using your DStar
radio, transmit a test message. The RF Header section should
display MyCall and YourCall. Normally, RPT1 and 2 will show
"DIRECT". This is a feature of ICOM DStar radios in simplex mode.
The window will look like this:
- If the RF Header section is not filled in, you may have to try RX
Invert in NAWinCFG.
- If RF Header info is being received, the line after the occasional blank line should display in green
most of the time. Adjust the RX pot on the MHS board if the RF
Header or the data after blank lines is not green.
- Click Stop, then Close. Click Echo Test, then Start.
Transmit on your DStar radio. When you stop transmitting, the
NAWinTEST software will transmit your callsign, then a welcome message
(defaults to PA4YBR's recorded message), followed by your just-recorded
voice played back. If the RF Header information, or the echo test
does not sound correct, adjust the TX pot on the MHS board.
your D-Star radio can decode nothing, not even garbled audio, then go
back to NAWinCFG and toggle the TX Invert setting, Save and try EchoTest
again and re-do step 8 and adjust the TX trimpot.
- If you
have a NQSMHS V2 board, you may find the TX audio level is too low.
To fix, Mark G7LTT offers this solution: "simply clip the right hand leg
of the TX pot (with sockets facing right) and your TX drive will be
- When all is working, click Stop, then Close, then on the main
window, click Close again.
Step 5 -
Install and configure hotspot software
There are several excellent software
applications for your hotspot. This is the software that links
your GMSK Modem to the internet. I can recommend all of the
- WinDV (also known as DV Node for
Windows) by Fred van Kempen, KA4YBR. This is a full-featured
Windows application. It supports several linking protocols (D-Plus,
D-Extra and DCS). You can optionally configure an ircDDB gateway that
supports callsign routing. WinDV also supports DTMS tones for
controlling linking and other functions over RF.
Click here for how to install WinDV on Windows.
- ConDV by Fred van Kempen, KA4YBR.
ConDV can be installed both on Windows and Linux, including ARM platforms
like the Pi and BeagleBone Black. It has a beautifully simple command
- DStarRepeater and ircDDBGateway by
Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX. These Open Source programs are provided as
Windows install packages, or as source for complilation to the Linux distro
of your choice. Together, these programs are full-featured and have
become very popular. They run very well on very inexpensive PC
hardware, including the $35 Raspberry Pi under Linux.
Click here for how to install G4KLX on the Raspberry Pi.
- DVAR Hot Spot by Mark McGregor, KB9KHM.
This supports linking to D-Plus repeaters and reflectors. It's easy to
set up and very stable. Click here for how
to install DVAR on Windows.
This completes setup and configuration. Enjoy!
Jim - K6JM
D-Star® is a registered trademark
used for communication equipment (repeaters and transceivers) for amateur
radio communications, and owned by Icom Incorporated.
Copyright © 2009-2021 James M. Moen. All