So that’s you best argument against D-Star?

I like D-Star. I have found it very useful for some of my amateur radio work. The biggest argument I hear about D-Star is that it is proprietary. The codec is locked down so nobody can use it. The chips can’t be obtained. The radios cant be worked on and they are over priced.

I Find this hilarious. Let us stop for a moment and consider these arguments. The majority of amateur radio operators use Windows or Mac. The cellphones they carry run Windows or a software specific to their device. Their router, TV, and printer all run on proprietary software. The media player you listen to our podcast on is most probably an Ipod or a Zune. they use proprietary software.

The programs you run and files you use are not free of this issue. By definition:

“Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, but restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering.”

So things like MP3 files, Itunes, Ham Radio Deluxe, and a whole lot more are proprietary. If you are using a cell phone that uses anything other than Android it is running proprietary software. Look at the EULA and / or the license on any piece of software you use. If it doesn’t use one of a free licenses like the GPL or there are restriction on its use it is proprietary. Part of the argument is that the D-Star Hardware is proprietary. Well, by definition no. But up until the 1980’s computers were proprietary. Proprietary has never really stopped us amateur radio operators from using something. The best example I can think of is Pactor. Pactor came along in the 1990’s. The manufacturers of all mode TNC’s were trying to get it into their equipment as quickly as possible. There were folks out there trying to write software to run Pactor on soundcards and Pactor was the new fantastic digital mode for HF. Well Pactor was good but lets make it better. Pactor II was developed and the developer immediately locked down the code. Then they improved it again. Enter Pactor III. It was also locked down. Now the only place you can get a Pactor II or III is a company in Germany and the least expensive modem is around a thousand dollars U. S. Hams love proprietary. That is why the Winlink 2000 system has an HF backbone that runs on the STS PTC proprietary modem.

So when the best argument against D-Star is that it is proprietary I giggle like a school girl. If that is your issue run one of the free and open operating systems on your Mac or PC. Run Rockbox on your Ipod or Zune. Get an Android phone. Load some open source software on your router or game console. Until then proprietary is not an issue for you.

Price would be a better argument but everything is more expensive when it is introduced. The price comes down with time. Look at Blu-Ray. When I was a teenager a videotape of a movie was a hundred dollars. When PC’s were introduced you couldn’t touch one with an 8088 processor for less than a thousand. So the price argument won’t work either. If you can’t afford it just say that you don’t have D-Star because you can’t afford it. I don’t have a Pactor modem because I can’t afford it.

Fear is the more likely argument. People were afraid of SSB on HF. They were afraid of FM on VHF. Some were afraid of Morse code so they wouldn’t get their license. Fear. It is natural to be afraid of new things. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t. My father is afraid of new things. That is why most of the things he does on his computer take him all day when I can have them done quickly with little fuss. He runs Windows on his machines. I run Linux on mine. It takes him 10 minutes to boot his machine. It takes me 45 seconds to boot mine. The only reason he hasn’t switch is because he is afraid of new things. Not because he can’t do what he needs to do in Linux. So if your afraid of D-Star that’s OK but don’t use proprietary as an excuse.

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  1. Pingback: RFC Show Notes Episode 050 » Resonant Frequency

  2. kb5jbv - Reply

    Thanks Gunnar,
    The point is that unless these people are purist then the Proprietary
    argument is a load of crap. I am not a purist. My preferred operating system is Debian Linux but I have to use Ubuntu in self defense sometimes and even have a laptop here that has a Windows 7 partition on it in case of emergencies. Encryption is allowed on the amateur bands. PSK, MFSK, Olivia, Pactor, Packet. I am not sure how the rules in your part of the world read but here the active phrase is “intended to obscure the meaning of the communication”. If you can buy a type accepted piece of equipment off the shelf it is fair game. So anybody that is not a purist that wants to scream “proprietary” is a hypocrite. Why can’t they just say what the real problem is.

    I have heard of Codec2. Russ and I will be discussing it on the next Linux in the Ham Shack which will record live tonight at . But as a replacement for D-Star I think it will be a hard battle after all the folks that have spent so much money on the equipment. I am $1000 dollars in myself.

    again thanks and thanks for your input and the donation.

    • Gunnar (LA9XSA) - Reply

      Thanks for the response.

      I think you mean data modes – coding – is allowed on the bands. Encryption is synonymous with obscuring the message, and is not allowed- neither in the USA nor in Norway.

      The FCC agrees with your interpretation though – that if you can buy it off the shelf it’s publicly available enough to use in amateur radio, while the French authorities seem to disagree with that interpretation.

      It might be an interesting case for amending the international agreements about amateur radio.

      As for Codec 2, I think the people behind it intend to make it possible to do a software upgrade or a component upgrade to existing Icom radios.

  3. Gunnar (LA9XSA) - Reply

    Hi Richard,

    I just listened to episode 50 and just had to jump in here real quick. When you said that the proprietary argument was just an excuse for being old and behind the times, well, that’s completely contrary to my experience. Sure, you have some people who are set in their ways, but I know plenty of people who are sincere about the proprietary argument, and most of them are under 30. And they love new things! They experiment with UAV’s, new modes, and building new things.

    First, I know some purists who will only run open source software, and who completely avoid anything patented. So there you have at least some people who have a valid and consistent position, even if not everyone agrees.

    Secondly, in amateur radio the modes have to be publicly available, and encryption is not allowed on amateur bands. That’s why I think it’s a valid position to be against proprietary modes on the amateur bands, while at the same time approving of proprietary modes on commercial bands.

    Now, if anyone approves of Pactor II and III, but disapproves of D-Star on the ham bands, then I’ll agree with you that they’re probably being hypocritical. In my view your “fear” argument only applies to this limited group.

    There’s also a difference between software or hardware being proprietary, and the mode or file type itself being proprietary. You can use a proprietary software program to make an open OGG sound file, for example. That’s a bit like buying a radio with a proprietary design to send digital voice using a free and open mode.

    By the way, there is a replacement voice codec for D-star being worked on, called Codec 2. I’ve heard sound tests and it sounds usable, but they still have some work left to do on it.

    Thanks for an interesting podcast.
    73 de Gunnar LA9XSA

  4. ki6bge - Reply

    Amateur Radio has certain obligations. The first is to be there when our fellow man needs us to get the message through. The second is to develop methods to accomplish the first obligation. To fulfill the first two obligations, it becomes necessary to utilize the tools that are available and the most effective accomplish the task at hand. The radios and the modes we use are tools. We must become proficient with the tools that we have because there are times when someones life may depend on it. To debate ( I won’t say argue because a debate can be more effective) whether or not to use a particular technology, mode, equipment, etc is moot when the rubber hits the road and getting the message through is the ultimate goal. In my “toolbox” I want to have the tools that are essential to get the job done. Dstar is one of those tools, as are AM, SSB, FM, CW, etc. Use what you have and can afford and above all become proficient with your equipment so that when it’s time you can respond appropriately. It’s a hobby and so much more. Tim ki6bge

  5. WS4E - Reply

    I just don’t want to buy icom. Call me when I can use dstar on my yaesu.

    But if you don’t care about proprietary why didn’t we use the already real world proven and multi vendor supported commercial standard digital APCO 25 system?

    • kb5jbv - Reply

      Now that is a good reason. I don’t like Icom Radios either. I prefer Kenwood. If the big three were offering Amateur gear in APCO 25 we would probably be using it.

  6. Joseph Durnal (NE3R) - Reply

    As I post this from my Windows 7 computer, running Google Chrome, yet from Microsoft Building 40 in Redmond, Wa. I’ll be a little hypocritical. The voice codec is problem #1 with D*Star. It has turned off a lot of the hams like me, the tinkering type. That in itself hasn’t kept me from D*Star, but it is a factor. The bigger factor is the lack of adoption in my area. I have put myself on the hook for a D*Star radio purchase should one of the local repeater groups install a D*Star repeater. Also, an expensive process. We actually have a 70cm P25 repeater in the area that gets some use, but it cost about 2/5 of what a D*Star controller would. I tend to run most of my ham radio software on Linux, Linux/wine, but still some seem to only work on Windows. My image of ham radio operators is from a bygone era I guess, because I have a hard time imagine that ham radio operators in general aren’t Linux users. It just seems to fit with my vision of the ideal ham, you know, someone who built his radio, or at least gets in there and hacks around a bit. I think the only rig I have that hasn’t had a personal by myself is a basic 2 meter mobile rig (unless you count repairing the mic)

    • kb5jbv - Reply

      Slow adoption is the amateur radio way in most things. Look at APRS. it has been around about 20 years but it is still a small group among radio operators. Tone boards took a while. Pactor still hasn’t really caught on except among the Winlink guys. the D-Star repeaters last time I looked were competitively priced with a new repeater from Kenwood but it has been a while since I looked. They must have missed the boat in your part of the world. For a while Icom had a deal for local clubs to give them a repeater if a few of there members bought radios to go with it. I understand the desire to tinker with your own equipment. I run Linux partially enjoy playing with my equipment. D-Star is a tool to get a job done. We can play with stuff that is not critical to our need to get the message through. In an Emergency or Disaster we will use what ever means is necessary to get the massage through. it doesn’t matter if it is HF, VHF, or a fax machine.

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