Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bad protocol

In his blog, K3NG writes that he believes the use of a proprietary audio codec as part of the D-Star protocol makes it illegal under FCC rules. I am not a lawyer, and have no wish to get sucked into that particular debate. But I do feel that closed or proprietary protocols have no place in amateur radio as they impede or prevent home construction and experimentation and are contrary to the spirit of the hobby.

But to be frank, I am against developments like D-Star altogether. Such technically sophisticated systems reduce most of us true amateurs to the status of mere users, because only professionally qualified people have the necessary knowledge and skills to actually participate in their development.

Anyone who knows what a soldering iron is can put together a simple CW transceiver. With a little more skill (or with one of the many available kits) radios capable of SSB and data operation can easily be built. VHF FM transceivers aren't hard to build either, though I'm unaware of any currently available kits. But I don't see any opportunities for the ordinary ham to get involved in building D-Star gear.

You may argue that ham radio isn't just about building equipment. But the point is not that you have to build your equipment, but that you can if you want to.

I don't see what benefits developments like D-Star bring to the hobby. They just appeal to the type of people who want to make contacts without concerning themselves about how their voice gets from A to B, the kind of people who write to RadCom and QST complaining that there are too many articles that they don't understand. Citizen's Band was invented for a reason.

1 comment:

M0PZT said...

I agree - The use of the patented AMBE protocol is obviously done from a commercial point-of-view. The amount of D-Star repeaters in the UK (now 53) that have been licenced in such as short space of time is un-believeable - Whilst many are connected to international reflectors (read: internet servers), some are still simple relay systems like conventional GB3xx units. Internet-linked repeaters are nothing new, we have EchoLink+IRLP ones so why the need to promote them as "worldwide" systems when we already have the infastructure ?!

Whilst I am happy that this transmission method offers a narrower bandwidth and superior S/N ratio over a "standard" 12.5KHz channel, there are some major concerns surrounding the implimentation of D-Star: At present, D-Star seems nothing more than a cash-cow for Icom and DVS Inc. The surge of D-Star licences and the speed of their frequency clearance is nothing short of fascinating. I would be interested in to know what sort of "kick-back" (if any) the RSGB gets out of this. Whilst I can appreciate that there is a valid security consideration with PC-based systems (DV Dongle) - the verification of bona-fide hams does not go hand-in-hand with a closed-source codec.