The Raspberry Pi Zero and D-STAR

For those without a D-STAR repeater in the neighborhood,  the Raspberry Pi is a highly serviceable solution. With a number of SD Card images available and the ease of interface to the ubiquitous DVAP Dongle, talking digital is a breeze.

Now comes the Raspberry Pi Zero, a $5.00 iteration that’s smaller and faster than it’s larger brothers. The Zero runs the same Raspbian Linux distro on an identical ARM11-based Broadcom BCM2836 SoC you’ll find on the $25 Raspberry Pi Model B+.  Clocked to 1GHz instead of 700MHz, this chewing gum sized item is actually 40 percent faster than the original Raspberry Pi Model B. As the old saying goes, dynamite comes in small packages.

We run the Maryland D-Star Image, which supports a half dozen different platforms, including  DVAP,  70CM GPIO Boards including the DVMEGA Pi Radio, 70CM & 2M Boards including the DVMEGA Dual Band, DV-RPTR V1 through V3, a GMSK Modem, Sound Card and Split Repeater. Extended tests confirm that the Pi Zero is just as robust as are its siblings.

Most D-Star Raspbian distros give you the option to program your WiFi access points, allowing seamless operation from a variety of different SSIDs. I have configurations for both the house and the car, using the hotspot on my iPhone for mobile connectivity. D-Star is not bandwidth intensive, so you can talk a ton without seriously denting the limitations of your cellular data plan. The image also facilitates turning the DVAP power down to to next to nothing, saving battery while still facilitating flawless connectivity within the small operating radius that’s typically the mobile or shack environment.

One consideration: You will need a multi-port USB hub to connect both your DVAP and a WiFi dongle. This brings the total cost of the package within range of the Model B+, so an old-school approach may still be the way to go. For either application, you’ll need an Edimax USB WiFi dongle and a DVAP Dongle.

When on the road, I toss my setup under the front seat, plug the USB cable into my cigarette lighter and I’m good to go. I also program my IC-92AD HT for nearby repeaters, both analog and digital so I have coverage, even in an event where the cellular network might fail.