DROID-Star

After talking to a friend just to the north of me, he told me about the app DROID-Star for Android. As I only have apple devices, this wasn’t initially an option for me, however I do have an Android TV box which I use for Amateur Radio, so will review it from that device.

At the time of writing this review, I must state it is an Early Access version.

This app connects to D-Star and Yaesu System Fusion reflectors and repeaters via UDP and decodes audio and data in software. No AMBE hardware is required. It is written by Doug McLain.

Start screen to DROID-Star

The two option menus at the top of the screen allow you to Reload DMR IDs, Reload host files, and check the current version. I recommend reloading these.

From here you have the following options:

  • Mode – select what mode you want, this could be REF, XRF, DCS, YSF, DMR, P25 or NXDN.
  • Before pressing connect, select your Host, and fill in the other details.

Once working you will be able to listen into the room you select and it will display the call sign and even caller ID (if there is one), on the user that is transmitting.

As I said earlier, this app will no doubt be updated. I will try and keep this review updated as the app changes, but this may not be possible. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed. If there are other apps you would like us to look at or think we should know about, please let me know. Don’t forget to subscribe to our posts by putting in your email address on the above follow us page.

I also spoke to Doug AD8DP, who wrote this app, and he said to mention that the app is very much in beta development stage. He plans on users being able to add custom reflectors/servers and so on. He also wants to add TX ability with the choice between on board software IMBE/AMBE encoding or remote AMBE server. He also said to me that he APK installer file can be downloaded directly here for Amazon Fire users and others without access to the Google Play Store: http://www.dudetronics.com/radio/DroidStar.apk

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Other Interesting Reads

WizNet DMR

The WizNet DMR app is still in beta testing, and at the time of writing this, you have to not only have a currently have a licence as an Amateur Radio Operator, but approved to be part of the beta testing group. You can do this by googling the web site, submitt a few details, and a password. Once approved, you will get an email with a link and log in details that will tell you how to install.

I understand this app is currently only available on android devices at this time, however there are plans to extend this to Apple.

Installing on Android, you will need to make sure you turn on the feature where you download sources from anyone. Once installed, put in your callsign, and your password as per the email and your in.

The first thing you will need to do is click on the settings menu right down the bottom left of the screen. In there you will have your call sign already populated, but you will need to put in your DMR ID number. If you have two Wiznet apps on different devices, you can use two different DMR ID numbers. You can on this same settings screen you can adjust your mic gain also.

Over the left side is five menu options.

The first item at the top on the left side expands out the menu’s so you can see the text for each item and not just the icon.

Talk Groups

By default you should land Talk Groups page which has the icon of a person and paper next to the person.

On this list you can see available talk groups. The scan ones will scan talk groups on that network, and will continue to scan until someone is talking.

Talk Group

When you click on a talk group, you will go to a new screen, the Talk Group screen, where you can see yourself in that talk group, and whoever else is in that talk group that is also using the same app.

If you go into a dynamic one, you can put in the Talk Group number at the top of the screen and select set to join that group. If the dynamic talk group is on the TGIF network, then you can select talk groups on that network to join, however it is on the BrandMeister network, you can select talk groups on that network.

When you switch the dynamic talk group to another talk group, you take everyone already logged into that group with you, so it is usually best to ask to see if anyone else is using it first.

Down the bottom of the screen is the button you press to transmit – you have to hold it unfortunately but I guess this stops accidents.

At the top of the screen is a chat window also. Just select the background and type.

2020 Update

Since writing this review, this software no longer seems to be available. Thank you for the many people who have contacted me to let me know they couldn’t download it. I am not sure what happened, but while it was working it worked very well. Hopefully it will return or turn into something similar soon.


Other Apps and Software

Hope that was helpful. Below are some other apps I have looked at also:

  • Orion Push to Talk
    Orion is an app that isn’t really known in my world, perhaps because it isn’t available on all platforms, or because it does transmit your exact location to everyone on the channel. However there are some benefits to this mode and does add another communication mode to your list. You can also create your own…
  • WizNet DMR
    The WizNet DMR app is still in beta testing, and at the time of writing this, you have to not only have a currently have a licence as an Amateur Radio Operator, but approved to be part of the beta testing group. You can do this by googling the web site, submitt a few details,…

Android Apps

  • DROID-Star
    After talking to a friend just to the north of me, he told me about the app DROID-Star for Android. As I only have apple devices, this wasn’t initially an option for me, however I do have an Android TV box which I use for Amateur Radio, so will review it from that device. At…
  • Mini Keyboard Options
    I bought this wireless keyboard/mouse which was very cheap. It does not come with batteries, but come with a USB dongle. It has a fantastic range since it is 2.4GHz RF. The back also has good grip which apparently isn’t common on all models. You can select what colour you want the plastic to be also.…
  • Orion Push to Talk
    Orion is an app that isn’t really known in my world, perhaps because it isn’t available on all platforms, or because it does transmit your exact location to everyone on the channel. However there are some benefits to this mode and does add another communication mode to your list. You can also create your own…
  • Using an Android TV Box for Ham Radio
    If you want to get onto Digital Radio for less (way less) than $100, then you may be interested in this. I have Apple equipment, and therefore miss out on a lot of the testing apps that are only available on Android. There seem to be more and more there all the time! I don’t…
  • WizNet DMR
    The WizNet DMR app is still in beta testing, and at the time of writing this, you have to not only have a currently have a licence as an Amateur Radio Operator, but approved to be part of the beta testing group. You can do this by googling the web site, submitt a few details,…

Apple Apps

  • Orion Push to Talk
    Orion is an app that isn’t really known in my world, perhaps because it isn’t available on all platforms, or because it does transmit your exact location to everyone on the channel. However there are some benefits to this mode and does add another communication mode to your list. You can also create your own…

Mini Keyboard Options

I bought this wireless keyboard/mouse which was very cheap. It does come with a USB dongle. It has a fantastic range since it is 2.4GHz RF. The back also has good grip which apparently isn’t common on all models. You can select what colour you want the plastic to be also.

Setup

Setup couldn’t be easier. Make sure it has batteries installed, some come with a rechargeable, mine required triple A batteries. Make sure the switch on the top side of the keyboard it to the left position for it to turn on – it should light up when you do this. Then in the battery compartment will be the USB dongle. Just plug in the USB dongle before powering up (if it is into an Android box), then it will connect and work fine straight away. If your model came with the battery, there may be a cord to charge the unit also.

Touch Pad

The top part of the keyboard in the touch pad area controls your mouse position. Using two fingers will scroll up and down the scroll bars. Unfortunately two finger zooming does not work. Right click can be done by a simultaneous two finger tap. You can turn the touch pad on or off by pressing Fn + F8.

Changing the Touch Pad Tracking Speed

All you have to do is press the blue Fn (function) button down the bottom left corner, then press the space bar.

Shortcuts

The keyboard comes with the following shortcuts at the top of the keyboard.

Far left Shortcuts

Over the far left side are media buttons, including volume up and down, pause and play, next track

Middle shortcuts

Either side of the touch pad are shortcuts, then are the following from top to bottom in order

Left Side of Touch PadRight Side of Touch Pad
1. Open Music Player App1. Open Google Search
2. Open Email App2. Go home button
3. Mute button3. Internet Browser
4. Mouse left button ( this is also on the far left of the letters below on the top)4. Mouse right button (this is also on the far left of the letters below on the bottom)

Far right Shortcuts

Over the right side at the top are directional buttons with an OK button in the middle.

Sleep Mode

The Keyboard will auto sleep and wake-up to save the battery. When the keyboard is idle for 3 minutes, it will go into auto sleep mode, and all LED indicators will turn off.

Keyboard Glowing Colours

Some keyboards glow at night. Unfortunately mine foes not, but if yours does, you just press blue the Fn key down the bottom left and the F2 key to change the colours. Press Fn-F2 again to change to the next colour and so on. This will give you the three standard colours. However, if your feeling nerdy, you can press and hold down the Fn key, then using your thumb on the touch pad, move it left and right to get all the other colours. There are 7 different colours in total.

If you want to be a geek of all the nerds, you can do the RGB spectrum, but pressing and holding F2 and then scrolling your thumb across left to right on the touch pad, then let go. It will scroll through all the colours automatically. You can still use the touch pad as normal while it automatically changes colours. I guess not having this saves some power also, however it does turn off every 30 or so seconds. There is a switch up the top right on the side of the keyboard that will turn it off also.

Fuction Keys

Apart from what I have already mentioned, you can do the following functions using the blue function key (Fn) found down the bottom left corner.

  • Fn + Fn = Enter into pair mode
  • Fn + F7 = take a screen shot
  • Fn + F8 = turn on or off the touch pad
  • Fn + F9 = F11 key
  • Fn + F10 = F12 key
  • Fn + Back = Delete
  • Fn + Page Up = Home

Other Keyboards

Here is a review on several other keyboards of similar size. This is not my video, but thought it gave a good quick overview of several models available.

Conclusion

The size of the keyboard is just right, not to small so you can’t find it or use it easily, but not to big so it takes over the desk or armchair. It works well with my Android TV device, but understand it does work on other devices such as windows, Raspberry Pi etc.

If I was going to buy it again, I may get the one with the inbuilt battery installed that can be re-charged, however once the batter goes, you almost have to replace it. My model could be loaded up with rechargeable batteries you can buy from anywhere.

Before I was using this Keyboard, I used a USB mouse, and while in some ways that is easier than a touch pad, to have a full keyboard and the touch pad all cordless with a good range is fantastic.

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Using an Android TV Box for Ham Radio

If you want to get onto Digital Radio for less (way less) than $100, then you may be interested in this.

I have Apple equipment, and therefore miss out on a lot of the testing apps that are only available on Android. There seem to be more and more there all the time! I don’t want to purchase another phone, just to get a few apps, but I did hear of an alternative.

A friend of mine in Canada, Martin VE3KLR, gave me the idea of using an Android TV box and actually using it as a radio! He had already done it and believes it could end up doing a lot more than what I have posted below. With the amount of apps now available, you can talk on almost all networks now via Android. You sure get some funny replies when you say your on a TV box.

I had to do it as more and more people were talking about Android apps.

Not knowing much about Android at all, this project started to quickly become overwhelming, so I ended up putting it on hold for some time.

However I later decided to get back on this project. It just seemed to easy. So this is what I did.

The Box

I purchased a cheap Android TV Box, mine was worth $40.99 including postage. You could almost purchase any Android box, but I decided to get one with at least two USB ports, and blue tooth. Blue tooth will allow me to connect other things like keyboards, microphones and mouses as I want to. It also has wifi, which means less cords.

At first, I was using this TV Box with out old CRT TV, and it worked well, the writing was a little hard to read, but it still worked. I then plugged it into a HDMI monitor, and it worked very well, very clear and easy to use.

As this little box plugs into a nice TV screen, you could easily use this as a small computer by installing a word processor. Social media, YouTube and web browsing are easy also.

Once connected, I connected it to my Wifi. On my box, you can plug in a Ethernet cable which is handy if your shack is far from your router, but I chose not to at this stage.

When you get one, make sure yours comes with the correct AC plug for your country. You may want to think about if you want HDMI, Blue tooth and how many USB ports does it have. Remember, these boxes are meant to store and play video, so they usually come with a lot of hard drive space and grunt for what we are going to us it for.

Below are some pictures of the one I got, however I am not necessarily recommending it. There are heaps of options available, so do a bit or research first, but remember most reviews will be about how well they play movies, which is not why I got mine.

As I mentioned earlier, there are heaps of Amateur Radio apps now available, and new ones all the time, so you could install these on the same device.

I started with some of the basic apps, like Echolink, Peanut, Teamspeak and Zello. These also have the echo function where you can test sound also.

The Monitor

You probably don’t need to get a monitor, but you may want to when you see what I got. I purchased a small 9 inch monitor that runs off 12 volts. I was going to get a 5 inch one, but it ran of 8 volts, and the one I got is just that little bit bigger for my eyes. This monitor has several different input options so I could future proof this handy little monitor. It also had speakers inbuilt, so when using HDMI, everything sound and video is taken care of.

You can get larger monitors ones, or smaller ones, but I thought this one would sit well on my desk. It also came with a nice stand. You can see in the video how well it sits on my desk in front of my PC monitors.

What other things do you need?

For me, I found a mouse most useful. You can use the remote, but if you plug in a mouse, you almost don’t need a remote anymore.

A microphone is something else you should invest in. You can purchase these for almost $1 delivered, but I often think you get what you pay for, and the microphone is very important. Having said that, as you are going to use the microphone on digital talk groups only, some would argue it isn’t as important as analog.

A keyboard would be great. You could plug it in via USB, or connect in via Bluetooth. I haven’t done this as yet, but plan to.

You can plug in a USB Bluetooth dongle also should you not need to.

Other Uses

Another use for this is to put your electronic QSL cards on it. It makes a great slideshow for the radio shack! They usually come with large hard drives so lots of space for these.

As I mentioned earlier, it could be used for gaming, watching videos,

Mobile

The screen is 12 volts, so this could easily go in the car also, and the Android TV Box could be secured on the back of it. The box runs off 5 volts, so this could easily be also run in the car if your cleaver enough to drop 12 volts to 5 volts.

The TV box can uses wifi, so you should be able to connect it to your mobile phone.

I hope that helps get a few more onto the digital bands. It is a lot of fun on digital. I have made good friends all over the world over digital. Having this Android TV Box not only allows me access to Android Apps, but pretty much gives me a new radio so I can now receive and transmit on a different talk groups while using my current setup to work other talk groups at the same time.

Update: since writing this post, I have updated and changed my android TV box as I suddenly had sound issues. The one I ended up getting had a later version on android and more memory etc.

Other Reads

Below are some other posts I have done on similar topics