Using DUDE-Star for digital contacts

Posted by Fred C (W6BSD) on Jan 29 2021

DUDE-Star is a software developed by Douglas McLain (AD8DP) that connects to D-STAR, Fusion, NXDN, P25, Allstar, and even to the new digital mode designed by and for ham radio operators: M17. DUDE-Star includes a software IMBE and AMBE vocoder for encoding and decoding, but it can also use any AMBE3000 USB key. This software is open-source, developed on top of other open-source projects that are already part of Pi-Star, amongst others1. DUDE-Star uses the Qt-5 library for its graphical user interface and can be successfully built on Linux, Windows2, and Mac OS.

DUDE-Star screen-shot (click to enhance)

If you are a Windows user, this is your lucky day. You can download the executable on the DUDE-Star GitHub project page and run the program.

At the time that I am writing this article, there is no pre-compiled version for Linux and Mac OS. To use DUDE-Star on your Linux or Mac, you need to compile it. This blog post's goal is not to explain how to set up your developer environment on either of these operating systems. Once your developer environment is correctly setup, compiling DUDE-Star is easy.

Installation on a Mac

First, you need to call qmake to generate the main Makefile. On my system, qmake is located in the directory /opt/local/libexec/qt5/bin/. It will probably be in a different location on your system.

The program qmake is part of the Qt5 package and can be installed on your Mac using Homebrew or MacPorts.

√ % /opt/local/libexec/qt5/bin/qmake
√ % ls -l Makefile
-rw-r--r--  1 fred  staff  204839 Jan 28 17:24 Makefile
√ % make
. . . printing a lot's of lines for a couple of minutes . . .
√ %

Once the Makefile is generated, run the command make to compile the program. Depending on your computer's speed, this operation will take a few minutes during which make will print cryptic lines on the console. Just ignore them.

The compilation should end without errors. Remember, even though the people working on that project are good developers, it is at an early stage of development and the builds are not always smooth.

If you don't see any errors, install the program in its final destination by running the command sudo make install.

√ % sudo make install
Password:
rm -f -r /opt/dudestar/bin/dudestar.app
/opt/local/libexec/qt5/bin/qmake -install qinstall dudestar.app /opt/dudestar/bin/dudestar.app
strip /opt/dudestar/bin/dudestar.app/Contents/MacOS/dudestar
√ %

The executable's final location depends on how your Qt5 has been configured. The program is installed in the directory /opt/dudestar/bin/ on my computer.

You can use the command open on the console, followed by the directory name, to open a window in the finder. Double click dudestar to start it.

√ % open /opt/dudestar/bin/
√ %

The steps qmake, make and make install are the same on Linux. Only a few details like the paths, for example, will differ.

Configuration

To use this software, you will need a DMR Id. If you don't already have an id, you can get one on radioid.net. Even though a DMR Id is not necessary to transmit on the D-Star or Yeasu network, DUDE-Star uses it to make sure that you have a valid callsign and that you are allowed to transmit on the ham radio bands. Verifying your license is usually quick, but it might still take up to a couple of days to get your account validated.

Settings tab (click to enhance)

Settings tab

  • Make sure you have selected the right vocoder. In most cases, you need to select the Software vocoder. If you have an AMBE USB key connected to your computer, choose your key.

  • Select the Playback and Capture device. It is where you select the microphone and speaker. Make sure you have a good microphone connected to your computer. Don't use your computer's internal microphone. They tend to pick up ambient noise and make your voice sound like Daffy Duck on digital networks.

  • Enter your callsign in the adequate field.

  • Enter your DMR ID. If you have another node or hotspot using the same DMR Id, choose a number in the field ESSID.

  • The DMR password is only necessary to access the DMR networks (Brandmeister, TGIF, or IPSC2). The password is not required for Yeasu Fusion or D-Star.

For Yaesu Fusion, this is all you need to set up. Scroll down to see the other options for D-Star and M17.

Main tab (click to enhance)

Main tab

The most straightforward network to access is Yaesu fusion. To access this network, set up the following fields:

  • Mode: For our example, select YSF3

  • Host: In this field, use the pull-down menu and select the reflector of your choice, or if you know the reflector name, start typing and the software will auto-complete the name for you.

  • Codec gain: Leaving this setting to zero. It is best to use the microphone level on your computer to increase the gain if people have problems hearing you.

You can now click the connect button. If the connection is OK, the button TX at the bottom of the screen will turn green. If the connection fails, click on the Log tab to see the error messages.

Don't forget that when you click on the TX button, even if you are talking on the computer's microphone, you are on a radio network, and the ham radio rules apply.

Operating

DUDE-Star is a cheap and fun way to play and discover esoteric digital modes such as P25 or NXDN. It is also interesting to play and experiment with the new open-source mode M17.

The audio quality from the software vocoder is still not as good as digital radios' quality level. I am sure it will improve in future generations of the software. If you plan to use this software for regular QSOs, Nets, or long ragchew4, I advise you to get an AMBE USB key and a good microphone. It will make your QSOs more enjoyable for you and your correspondents. I have been making contacts on digital networks for a long time and I have noticed the tendency from a growing number of operators to cut QSOs with lousy audio quality short.


  1. Including MMDVMHost, MMDVM_CM, XLXD, DSDcc, MBELIB, op25, mvoice, and others. 

  2. Windows users can directly download the executable. 

  3. YSF stands for Yaesu System Fusion. 

  4. long discussion in ham radio parlance. 


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