Playing with Pi-Star

July 27, 2018


Playing with Pi-Star

By Toshen, KEØFHS (Updated Jul 2018, CC BY-SA)

Pi-Star SSH Logo

Pi-Star is great software for digital voice hotspots and repeaters. It can handle DMR, D-STAR, and YSF, and even P25, NXDN, and YSF and DMR cross modes when used with a multi-mode digital voice modem that supports those modes.

Andy Taylor, MWØMWZ, the main developer, says this on his Pi-Star website⩘ :
“Pi-Star can be whatever you want it to be, from a simple single mode hotspot running simplex providing you with access to the increasing number of Digital Voice networks, up to a public duplex multimode repeater!”

Disclaimer:  These are my personal notes based on setting up and using Pi-Star hotspots as a non-technical user figuring things out as I go along, as well as by learning from what others are sharing. I’m not affiliated with the Pi-Star project, except as an enthusiastic user. If anything needs correcting, please let me know.

1) Learning about Pi-Star

Pi-Star is relatively easy to set up as a personal hotspot, so don’t be put off by the length of this article. It’s long because it covers a lot of the rich set of features and configuration options, beyond what’s needed to set it up for the first time.

1a) To get up and running

 Go through the setup steps in sections 1 – 5, marked with a circled red S.
 Also go through the setup steps, marked with a red star, for the digital modes you want to use: choose from DMR, D-STAR, YSF, P25, and NXDN.

1b) Some good resources for learning about Pi-Star

1c) Having trouble?

For some hints about how to proceed, see: Pi-Star troubleshooting⩘ .

1d) Using D-STAR? Be sure to set up your radio properly!

If you’re using a hotspot for D-STAR, it’s really important that you set up your radio properly. For most hotspot devices, DV mode won’t work; instead, you must set up RPT1, RPT2, and a zero offset (either +/−0.000). This is known as D-STAR Repeater (DR) or Duplex mode. For more info, see: Use DR mode!⩘  See also the video: D-STAR Radio Primer for using Pi-Star⩘  by Craig, W1MSG.

 2) Downloading Pi-Star

If your hotspot came with a microSD card already loaded with the Pi-Star image, skip ahead to step 3a. Otherwise, your first task is to download the Pi-Star image from Pi-Star Downloads⩘  to a Windows, Mac, or Linux-based computer (not the hotspot). If your hotspot uses a Raspberry Pi, download the RPi image.

Pi-Star downloads page

Note: At this time, the regular Pi-Star RPi image doesn’t support the new RPi 3B+; however, there is a beta version that does: Pi-Star Beta Downloads⩘ .

 3) Flashing Pi-Star

Extract the downloaded Pi-Star image zip file, and then flash the image file itself (ends in .img) to a 4GB or higher microSD card. A great app for this is Etcher⩘ , available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

You can ignore any system message you get that says you need to format the microSD card when you first insert it or after you finish flashing the image. During the Flash step, Etcher formats the card, writes the image, and verifies it was written correctly.

Etcher for Windows with SanDisk microSD card superimposed

 3a) Preparing to connect to WiFi

Using the built-in Auto AP (Auto Access Point) method

If you’re using Pi-Star 3.4.11 or later with a Raspberry Pi 3 or Zero W and Auto AP is enabled (which is the default), you don’t need to do anything else to prepare to connect to WiFi. After Pi-Star boots up, it will attempt to connect to a known WiFi network. The first time it boots up, there won’t be a known network, so two minutes after boot up, Auto AP will automatically activate its own access point, and you’ll use that to connect to Pi-Star in order to configure WiFi settings.

Manually preparing to connect to WiFi

If you can’t use Auto AP or you just like to do things manually, after you finish flashing the image to a microSD card, you can manually add your initial WiFi settings to the root folder so they’ll auto-install on first boot up:

  1. Create a wpa_supplicant.conf file with your WiFi settings:
  2. Copy the wpa_supplicant.conf file to the microSD card’s root (boot) folder. Note: The next time you boot up Pi-Star, the file is automatically moved to /etc/wpa_supplicant/, so you won’t find it in the root folder anymore.

 3b) Preparing yourself and your hotspot for first boot up

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and insert the microSD card into your hotspot.

 4) Booting up Pi-Star

Okay, take a deep breath. Step 4 can be the most challenging one. What you need to do depends on your circumstances. Do all the following that apply:

Overview of Pi-Star Auto AP boot-up steps for a new wireless network:
Auto AP setup - Step 1 Auto AP setup - Step 2Auto AP setup - Step 3 Auto AP setup - Step 4Auto AP setup - Step 5 Auto AP setup - Step 6
PDF: 2-Pi-Star_Auto_AP.pdf · Related video: Pi-Star WiFi Auto AP⩘  by Craig, W1MSG

 4a) For all boot-ups

  1. Power on your hotspot.
  2. Wait for Pi-Star to boot up, which normally takes a minute or so (a bit longer when using a slower computer like the RPi Zero W).
    Note: If your hotspot has a display, you can watch Pi-Star start up until the login prompt is displayed, but don’t bother logging in there because you can’t set up Pi-Star via the hotspot.

 4b) If using Auto AP and setting up a new WiFi connection

Perform this step when you start Pi-Star for the first time or when you need to connect to a new WiFi network, for example, when traveling.

  1. Wait two more minutes for Pi-Star Auto AP to activate its access point.
  2. On a Windows, Mac, or Linux-based computer (not the hotspot itself) that has WiFi enabled, look in the WiFi settings to find the Pi-Star access point, and then select it to connect to it:
    • If you’re starting Pi-Star for the first time, it’ll be named “Pi-Star-Setup.” This is what it looks like on a Mac:
      WiFi selector on macOS - first time startup
      If this isn’t the first time, but you need to connect to a new WiFi network, it’ll be named using the hotspot’s hostname, by default, “pi-star” (or whatever you changed it to in the General Configuration settings).
  3. Enter the Pi-Star-Setup network security password: raspberry.
    Authentication Required

    • Note: Depending on your computer, the network password may be called the WPA2 password, the Network Security Key, or something else.

 4c) For all boot ups

On a Windows, Mac, or Linux-based computer (not the hotspot itself) that has WiFi enabled, open a browser window and navigate to:

  • Windows: http://pi-star/
  • macOS, iOS, etc.: http://pi-star.local/

Note: On some mobile devices, the url won’t work. In that case, you can try the Auto AP mobile IP address: 192.168.50.1

 4d) If starting Pi-Star for the first time

You’ll be greeted by a “No Mode Defined” screen, which is normal because you haven’t yet configured the mode to use.

No Mode Defined

  1. At this point, you can either click the Configuration link or wait 10 seconds to be redirected automatically to the Configuration page.
  2. Configuration requires authentication. The default user name is pi-star and the default password is raspberry (you can change the default password later on in the configuration process). This is what it looks like on a Mac:
    Authentication Required

 4e) If using Auto AP and setting up a new WiFi connection

Perform this step when you start Pi-Star for the first time or when you need to connect to a new WiFi network, for example, when traveling.

  1. If you’re not already in Configuration view, click the Configuration link and log in with your Pi-Star user name and password.
  2. In the Configuration view, scroll down to the Wireless Configuration section.
  3. To add or modify your WiFi network connections, click Configure WiFi.
  4. Click Scan for Networks (10 secs). It won’t look like anything is happening.
    Note: If the scan doesn’t find the network you want, you can add it manually, as discussed below: 5j) Wireless Configuration.
    WiFi configuration
  5. In the list of networks found, select the one you want.
    WiFi configuration 2
  6. PSK: Type the wireless network password. The PSK field will turn green.
    WiFi configuration 3
  7. Click Save (and connect). When Auto AP is active, this step will only save; it won’t connect. Wait a few moments for it to save, and then reboot your hotspot (if that doesn’t work, power it off and back on again).
  8. While the hotspot is restarting, reconnect your computer to the regular WiFi network you’re using.
  9. After the hotspot reboots, Pi-Star will connect to the new WiFi network you added. On a Windows, Mac, or Linux-based computer (not the hotspot itself) that has WiFi enabled, open the Pi-Star dashboard by navigating again to: http://pi-star/ or http://pi-star.local/

Congratulations! You’ve finished the most difficult part of setting up Pi-Star.

 5) Performing initial Pi-Star configuration

After authentication, the Configuration view is displayed. I’m going to discuss these configuration settings in three parts: Basic, Digital mode, and Additional.

 5.1) Basic configuration settings

This first set of configuration settings covers the Control Software, MMDVMHost Configuration (if MMDVMHost is enabled), and General Configuration.

 5a) Control Software

Basic configuration settings - Control Software
Why is this blue? Because just for fun I changed the app’s colors using Pi-Star’s CSS Tool⩘ . )

  •  Controller Software
    • MMDVMHost is selected by default and is the right choice in most cases. (MMDVM stands for Multi-Mode Digital Voice Modem).
      • Note: The DVMEGA has minimum firmware requirements for MMDVMHost: for DMR = 3.07; for YSF = 3.14. More info: DVMEGA firmware update⩘ .
    • Alternatively, if you’ll be using only D-STAR mode, for example, with older single-mode hardware like DVAP, you can select DStarRepeater.
  •  Controller Mode – For a personal hotspot, choose Simplex Node.
  •  Click Apply Changes – Do this the very first time you configure Pi-Star whether or not you make Control Software changes because Pi-Star needs to know which Controller Software and Mode you want to use.
  • If you chose DStarRepeater, skip down to 5c) General Configuration.

 5b) MMDVMHost Configuration

The section is displayed only if you chose MMDVMHost as Controller Software.

Basic configuration settings - MMDVMHost Configuration

  •  Modes – Initially, enable all the modes you want to use so you’ll have access to all the configuration options for them. Subsequently, enable only the modes you want to use at any given time. The mode configuration options are discussed below in the Digital mode configuration section.
  • Hangtime – Related to multi-mode use. For starters, the defaults are fine.
    • Note 1: The RF hang time is measured from the beginning of a transmission. Per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star Users Support Group: “these set the amount of time that mode is ‘sticky’ for – so if you have an incoming call over DMR from the network, how long would you like to stay stuck to DMR mode.” For more info, watch the video Pi-Star Hang Time Update⩘  by Craig, W1MSG.
    • Note 2: Per Andy Taylor’s replies in the Pi-Star Users Support Group, the DVMEGA is snappy when running a single mode, but can be a bit sluggish if you’re running multiple modes because it needs about 1.5 seconds of RF to determine what the incoming mode is in order to latch onto it. In that case, it can be helpful to extend the hang time to something like 90.
  • POCSAG – Enables POCSAG paging. See below: POCSAG Configuration.
  • MMDVM Display Type – If you’re using a display, select:
    • Type of display: OLED, Nextion, HD44780, TFT Serial, or LCDproc.
      • Note 1: The hangtime also impacts how long data remains on your display.
      • Note 2: To learn more about Nextion screens, visit the Nextion Screens⩘  group or the Nextion Ham-Radio Screens⩘  Facebook group, both moderated by Dutch ham and digital voice enthusiast Rob van Rheenen, PD0DIB.
    • Port you’re using: Modem, /dev/ttyAMA0, or /dev/ttyUSB0.
    • Layout, for Nextion displays: G4KLX or ON7LDS L2, L3, or L3 HS.

 5c) General Configuration

Basic configuration settings - General Configuration

  • Hostname – You can give your hotspot a unique hostname. For example, if you’re running two hotspots simultaneously, you’ll need different hostnames for each, such as pi-star and pi-star-2. If you do change the hostname, you must power off and restart the hotspot before it takes effect.
    Important! You’ll need to use the new hostname to open Pi-Star in a browser, for example: http://pi-star-2/ or http://pi-star-2.local/. However, this does NOT change the authentication user name, which remains pi-star.
  •  Node Callsign – For a hotspot, enter your own callsign.
  •  CCS7/DMR ID – If you use DMR or DCS, enter your CCS7 ID. For more info, see: Register for CCS7 ID⩘ .
  •  NXDN ID – For more info, see: NXDNRadio.com⩘ .
  •  Radio Frequency – Used for connecting your radio to the hotspot. For help choosing a frequency, see your country’s band plan (U.S. Band Plan⩘ ) or the info that Ron, VE1AIC, has posted: Digital Voice frequencies⩘ .
    Important! Avoid frequencies used for other purposes, for example, 435.000 – 438.000, used internationally for satellite communication, which can be disrupted by even low power hotspot transmissions.
  •  Lat, Lon, Town, QTH Locator grid square, and Country – This is where the hotspot is located. To find your locator grid square, use a service like QTH Locator⩘ . Location info is used for your BrandMeister hotspot listing. In addition, per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star Users Support Group: “If you are running D-Star mode, and you add your position information to the dashboard, you will get D-PRS positioning from ircDDBGateway.” See also the note: Prevent sending APRS info via BrandMeister.
  •  URL – Adds a link to your call sign. If you want to use this for QRZ and your QRZ page uses the same callsign as your hotspot, select Auto; if they’re different, select Manual and add your callsign to this URL: http://www.qrz.com/db/CALLSIGN. Optionally, select manual and add whatever link you want, for example, a link to your website.
  •  Radio/Modem Type – The Pi-Star RPi image supports a bunch of radio/modems running on the Raspberry Pi. For a full list, see the note: Radio/modem types supported⩘ .
  •  Node Type – If you’re in the U.K., set it to Private. In the U.S., you can choose whether you want to allow radios with other than your main callsign to access your hotspot. In other countries, check local regulations. Per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star Users Support Group: “this relates to the UK restrictions, a Public node is just that, can be used by any callsign, while a Private node can only be accessed by the same callsign assigned to the Pi-Star.”
  •  System Time Zone – Select the hotspot’s time zone.
  •  Dashboard Language – Select the language for the dashboard.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 5.2) Digital mode configuration settings

 Configure the mode(s) you’ll be using:

 5d) DMR Configuration

Digital mode configuration settings - DMR

  •  DMR Master:
    • If you want to use only a specific system – Choose a BrandMeister or DMR+ master. In this case, everything is simpler as you’ll see only a few options specifically for the selected system.
    • If you want access to multiple systems simultaneously – Choose DMRGateway 1 as your DMR master, and then you’ll see options for BrandMeister, DMR+, and XLX.
  •  Set up the options for the DMR system(s) you enabled:
    • BrandMeister Master – Choose a nearby master server.
      • BrandMeister Network – Click Edit Repeater to edit settings via BrandMeister My hotspots for your CCS7 ID.1
    • DMR+ Master – Choose a nearby master server.
    • DMR+ Network Options= – Set up any options you want to use.1
      • Note 1: If you don’t want to auto-connect to a talkgroup (when Pi-Star is set up as a hotspot), use: StartRef=4000;RelinkTime=60;UserLink=1;TS1_1=9;
      • Note 2: If you turn off DMR Mode via MMDVMHost Configuration, these options aren’t saved, sohen you turn on DMR Mode again with DRM+ or DMRGateway set as the DMR Master, you’ll need to re-enter these options.
    • XLX Master – Choose the XLX master server you want to use.
      • XLX Master Enable – Toggle the XLX master on/off.
  • DMR Color Code – Personal hotspots typically use color code 1.
  • DMR EmbeddedLCOnly – The default is off. Per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star Users Support Group: “this feature relates to some of the data passed in/out from some radios…. Some radios are affected by this (Connect Systems, for example) and some are not (Motorola). Most of us can take the default [off].”
  • DMR DumpTAData – The default is on, which enables “Talker Alias⩘ ” information to be received by radios that support this feature.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

[1] For more info related to the way DMRGateway works with networks, see the notes:

 DMR cross-mode configuration

Ron, VE1AIC, has a good overview of how this feature works: 2018-05-30⩘ .

DMR2YSF – To use the optional DMR2YSF capability (requires Pi-Star 3.4.14 or later), in the MMDVMHost Configuration settings, enable both the DMR and DMR2YSF modes (normally, you also should disable YSF, NXDN, and P25 modes, as well as other cross modes). After you have applied changes, you’ll see both the DMR and Yaesu System Fusion Configuration modules.

Next, watch the DMR2YSF video⩘  by Craig, W1MSG. He clearly explains the two different ways you can set up and use this feature.

  • In the DMR Configuration module:
    • DMR Master – Select the DMR Master you want to use, either DMR2YSF (easiest) or DMRGateway.
      • Note 1: If you choose DMR2YSF, which is the easier method, it doesn’t matter what talkgroup you use on your DMR radio; everything gets routed through the YSF reflector you configure.
      • Note 2: If you choose DMRGateway, you must add the YSF or FCS reflectors prefixed with a 7 as talkgroups to your DMR radio’s codeplug.
  • In the Yaesu System Fusion Configuration module:
    • YSF Startup Host – Select the YSF or FCS reflector you want to use. Currently, you can’t change the reflector directly in the radio.
    • APRS Host – Select your preferred APRS host, typically one of the local round-robin hosts.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

DMR2NXDN – To use the optional DMR2NXDN capability (requires Pi-Star 3.4.15 or later), in the MMDVMHost Configuration settings, enable both the DMR and DMR2NXDN modes (normally, you also should disable YSF, NXDN, and P25 modes, as well as other cross modes). After you have applied changes, you’ll see both the DMR and NXDN Configuration modules.

Next, watch the DMR2NXDN video⩘  by Craig, W1MSG. He clearly explains the two different ways you can set up and use this feature.

  • In the DMR Configuration module:
    • DMR Master – Select the DMR Master you want to use, either DMR2NXDN or DMRGateway; however, per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star User Forum⩘ : “DMR2NXDN works much better without DMRGateway, since the NXDN system will honour your TG requests.”
      • Note: If you do choose to use DMRGateway, when you add the NXDN talkgroups to your DMR radio’s codeplug, you must prefix them with a 7.
  • In the NXDN Configuration module:
    • NXDN Startup Host – Select the host you want to use. If you don’t want to use a startup host, choose “None.”
    • NXDN RAN – Enter your NXDN Random Access Number.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 5e) D-STAR Configuration

Digital mode configuration settings - D-STAR

  • RPT1 Callsign – Autofilled with the callsign from General Configuration.
     RPT1 Module – The hotspot module you want radios to connect to, by default, set to the B module, which is typically used for UHF hotspots.
  • RPT2 Callsign – This is set up automatically with the module set to G for Gateway. This is why it’s so important to set up your D-STAR radio properly.
  • Remote Password2 – ircDDBGateway is the gateway app for D-STAR mode. Per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star Users Support Group: “the ircDDBGateway password on the dashboard is for ircDDBGateway remote.”
    • Note: This is different from the Remote Access Password (see section 5l below) that is used for accessing the Pi-Star Admin and Configuration settings, as well as for SSH access.
  •  Default Reflector – You can select your default reflector, as well as whether you want Pi-Star to connect to it automatically when it starts up.
  •  APRS Host – Select your preferred APRS host.
  •  ircDDBGateway Language – Pick one you understand.
  •  Time Announcements – If enabled, you’ll hear a time announcement every 15 minutes when D-STAR mode is enabled. I found that these can override incoming calls, so turned them off.
  • Use DPlus for XRF – Related to using X-Reflectors (XRF): If your router doesn’t support automatic uPNP port forwarding and you don’t want to manually set up port forwarding for X-Reflectors, you can enable this option to make it possible for Pi-Star to connect to all X-Reflectors 3.
    Important! If you change this option, you must update. See below: 8) Updating Pi-Star.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

[2] David, PA7LIM, the ham behind the BlueDV apps, also created Android and i0S “ircDDB Remote” apps, which handle REF, XRF, and DCS reflector connections. For more info, see the videos:

[3] X-Reflectors that use either the older Dextra protocol or the FreeStar protocol require port forwarding in order for Pi-Star to connect to them. This doesn’t apply to X-Reflectors running the newer Dextra Enhanced protocol. If you want to manually set up port forwarding, see the note: Port forwarding⩘ .

 5f) Yaesu System Fusion Configuration

Digital mode configuration settings - YSF

  •  YSF Startup Host – Choose the YSF startup host you want to use.
    Note: FCS support, including the option to pick an FCS YSF Startup Host, requires Pi-Star Dashboard v20180503 or later.
  •  APRS Host – Select your preferred APRS host, typically one of the local round-robin hosts.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 YSF cross-mode configuration

Digital mode configuration settings - YSF cross-modes

Note: This screen capture is for illustration purposes only and is not a realistic view. Normally when you are using a YSF cross-mode, you would have only one of the cross-modes enabled.
Hint: From a post by Ron, VE1AIC, in the Pi-Star User Forum⩘ : “For P25 ONLY, use VW mode on your Fusion Radio, all others are DN.”

YSF2DMR – To use the optional YSF2DMR capability (requires Pi-Star 3.4.10 or later), in the MMDVMHost Configuration settings, enable both the YSF and YSF2DMR modes (normally, you also should disable DMR, NXDN, and P25 modes, as well as other cross modes), and then set up the following options:

  • YSF Startup Host – Select YSF00002 – YSF2DMR – YSF2DMR Bridge. This enables the default room defined in YSFGateway, 00002, to be used by your Yaesu System Fusion radio to access DMR.
  • APRS Host – Select your preferred APRS host.
  • (YSF2DMR) CCS7/DMR ID – Enter the ID you want to use.
  • DMR Master – Select the master you want to use for YSF2DMR mode.
  • DMR TG – Enter the talkgroup you want to use for YSF2DMR mode. Currently, you can’t change this directly in the radio.
  • For more info, see the note below: Using YSF2DMR mode.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

YSF2NXDN – To use the optional YSF2NXDN capability (requires Pi-Star 3.4.13 or later), in the MMDVMHost Configuration settings, enable both the YSF and YSF2NXDN modes (normally, you also should disable DMR, NXDN, and P25 modes, as well as other cross modes), and then set up the following options:

  • YSF Startup Host – Select YSF00003 – YSF2NXDN – YSF2NXDN Bridge. This enables the default room defined in YSFGateway, 00003, to be used by your Yaesu System Fusion radio to access NXDN.
  • APRS Host – Select your preferred APRS host, typically one of the local round-robin hosts.
  • (YSF2NXDN) NXDN ID – Enter the ID you want to use.
  • NXDN Startup Host – Select the startup host you want to use.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

YSF2P25 – To use the optional YSF2P25 capability (requires Pi-Star 3.4.13 or later), in the MMDVMHost Configuration settings, enable both the YSF and YSF2P25 modes (normally, you also should disable DMR, NXDN, and P25 modes, as well as other cross modes), and then set up the following options:

  • YSF Startup Host – Select YSF00004 – YSF2P25 – YSF2P25 Bridge. This enables the default room defined in YSFGateway, 00004, to be used by your Yaesu System Fusion radio to access P25.
  • APRS Host – Select your preferred APRS host, typically one of the local round-robin hosts.
  • (YSF2P25) CCS7/DMR ID – Enter the ID you want to use.
  • P25 Startup Host – Select the startup host you want to use.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 5g) P25 Configuration

Digital mode configuration settings - P25

  •  P25 Startup Host – Select your preferred startup host.
    Note: If you want to add a custom P25 reflector to Pi-Star, watch the P25 Host File Update video⩘  by Craig, W1MSG.
  •  P25 NAC – Enter your P25 Network Access Code.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 5h) NXDN Configuration

Digital mode configuration settings - NXDN

Make sure your ZUMspot/MMDVM_HS firmware is updated to v1.4.0⩘  or higher.

  •  NXDN Startup Host – Select your preferred startup host.
  •  NXDN RAN – Enter your NXDN Random Access Number.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 5i) POCSAG Configuration

Digital mode configuration settings - POCSAG

POCSAG is an asynchronous protocol developed by the Post Office Code Standardisation Advisory Group that is used to transmit data to pagers.

POCSAG was added in Pi-Star v3.4.16, and via the ZUMspot/MMDVM_HS firmware v1.4.1⩘ .

  •  Node Callsign POCSAG – Enter the POCSAG node callsign.
  •  Radio Frequency POCSAG – Enter the POCSAG radio frequency. Per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star User Forum⩘ : “If we get good buy in from repeater keepers, we could have a really good paging network with great coverage, especially if we all use the same standard frequency.”
  •  DAPNET AuthKey – Enter your authorization key for the Decentralized Amateur Paging Network.
  • Note: For additional related settings, see Expert Editor > MMDVMHost > POCSAG.

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 5.3) Additional configuration settings

5j) Firewall Configuration

Additional configuration settings - Firewall Configuraiton

Auto AP (Auto Access Point)

The Auto AP feature, which works with the Raspberry Pi 3 and Zero W, was added in version 3.4.11. If the feature is enabled (which is the default), after Pi-Star boots up (takes about a minute), it will attempt to connect to a known WiFi network. If it can’t connect within another two minutes after boot up, Auto AP automatically activates its own network access point, which you can use to connect to Pi-Star in order to configure WiFi settings.

Auto AP makes it easier to connect to a new WiFi networks when you start Pi-Star for the first time or when you need to connect to a new WiFi network, for example, when traveling. For more info, see above: 4) Booting up Pi-Star.

Some additional notes about Auto AP:

  • Auto AP is enabled by default.
  • You can use Auto AP to connect to new networks, like when traveling.
  • Auto AP supports a few 3rd-party WiFi cards (limited by the Linux driver).
  • Auto AP also enables connection sharing, so if you connect your hotspot via ethernet cable to a network or tether it to your phone via USB, you also can share the internet connection with other devices.

uPNP (Universal Plug and Play)

Note: If your router doesn’t support uPNP or you disabled your router’s uPNP capability, then this setting has no effect.

  • If this Pi-Star uPNP setting is enabled, then Pi-Star will create its own port forwarding firewall rules for use with D-STAR.
  • Pi-Star has always made these port forwarding requests. This setting gives administrators the option to disable these requests.
  • If this setting is off, then uPNP is disabled for all of Pi-Star, including Dashboard Access, ircDDBGateway Remote, and SSH Access (see next).

Dashboard Access, ircDDBGateway Remote, SSH Access

Note: These settings have no effect if your router doesn’t support uPNP or you disabled either your router’s uPNP or Pi-Star’s uPNP setting (see previous).

These settings are used for accessing the dashboard remotely, from outside your network. Per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star Users Support Group: “These settings tell the uPNP daemon to request port forwards from your router.”

  • Dashboard Access: requests TCP/80
  • ircDDBRemote Access: requests UDP/10022
  • SSH Access: requests TCP/22

If any changes made, click Apply Changes.

 5k) Wireless Configuration

Additional configuration settings - Wireless Configuraiton

  1. To add or modify your WiFi network connections, click Configure WiFi.
  2. You then have two options:
    Scan for WiFi networks

    1. Click Scan for Networks (10 secs). It won’t look like anything is happening. If the scan doesn’t find the network you want, you can add it using the manual method described next.
      WiFi configuration
    2. In the list of networks found, select the one you want.
      WiFi configuration 2

    Manually add a WiFi network

    1. Click Add Network.
      WiFi configuration - add network
    2. SSID: Type the wireless network name. Note: A space in the network name can cause problems with connecting to some routers.
      Add WiFi network
  3. PSK: Type the wireless network password. The PSK field will turn green.
    WiFi configuration 3
  4. Click Save (and connect). It may not look like anything is happening, but give it time until it’s finished and the PSK field turns white again.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Auto AP note: If you’re setting up a wireless connection using Auto AP, this step will only save; it won’t connect. Wait a few moments for the save to complete, and then power your hotspot off and back on again.

    1. While the hotspot is restarting, reconnect your computer to the regular WiFi network you’re using.
    2. After the hotspot reboots, Pi-Star will connect to the new WiFi network.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

  5. Optionally, you can add additional wireless network connections. If you have multiple wireless network connections, when you boot up Pi-Star, it will scan each one in turn based on its priority until it finds one to connect to:
    • Be patient, each connection attempt takes about 40 seconds.
    • The first wireless network connection you add is given an ID of 0 and a priority of 100. For each additional wireless network connection you add, the ID is increased by one and the priority is decreased by one. Thanks to Bob, NØYWB, for his post in the Pi-Star Users Support Group explaining how this works.
    • For more info, see: Manually adding WiFi settings to RPi⩘ .

 5l) Remote Access Password

Used for accessing Pi-Star Admin and Configuration settings, and SSH access.

 Strongly recommended: In order to protect your settings and network, change the password from the default to something stronger and more challenging to hack. A challenging password is even more critical if you make your dashboard publicly accessible in the Firewall Configuration section.

Remote Access Password configuration

  1. The user name is pi-star, and can’t be changed. This is different from the Hostname that can be changed in the General Configuration settings.
  2. In the Password field, type your new password, preferably something long and strong.
    Note: Some special characters work for accessing Pi-Star Admin and Configuration settings, but not for SSH. For example, a tilde symbol (~) works for logging into Pi-Star Admin, but not for signing in via SSH.
  3. Confirm your password. Once you have typed an identical password, the field turns from red to green.
  4. Once you get the green confirmation, click Set Password.
  5. Once the password has been set, the Authentication Required dialog box will be presented, and you can sign in using your new password.

6) Running Pi-Star

Once you’ve finished the initial configuration, running Pi-Star is easy. Just start your hotspot and give Pi-Star a minute or so to fully boot up. As long as you have your radio set up correctly, you can then start using digital modes.

6a) Dashboard view

Optionally, you can open the Pi-Star dashboard on any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer (not the hotspot) connected to the same network as the hotspot by browsing to (use trailing slash) http://pi-star/ for Windows, or http://pi-star.local/. Enabled modes are highlighted green, and you can monitor activity.

Pi-Star dashboard

Pi-Star dashboardNote: If you enable YSF, P25, NXDN, or any of the cross modes, you’ll see additional info displayed in the dashboard’s left column. (This image is for illustration purposes only. Normally, only one cross-mode network is enabled, for example, only YSF2DMR, and you would disable the corresponding base cross-mode, for example if using YSF2DMR, DMR would be disabled.)

6b) Admin view

To see more info, switch to the Admin view (requires authentication).

Info and manager modules – The upper portion of Admin view shows Gateway Hardware Info and Service Status, as well as D-STAR and BrandMeister Info and Manager modules.

Pi-Star Admin console - upper

  • BrandMeister Manager module: If you use BrandMeister SelfCare⩘ , you have the option to turn on the BrandMeister Manager, which gives access to key BrandMeister hotspot settings right from Pi-Star’s Admin view. For more info, see the note: Pi-Star’s BrandMeister Manager module⩘ .
  • D-Star Link Manager: Provides the option to link to/unlink from reflectors. The Reflector list includes a Text Entry option for linking to reflectors and repeaters that aren’t pre-populated in the list of REF, DSC, and XRF reflectors. Thanks to Chris, NO7E, for pointing this out to me.
  • CPU Temp: < 50°C (122°F) = green; ≥ 50° < 69°C (156.2°F) = orange; ≥ 69°C = red.

Activity modules – The lower portion of Admin view displays activity modules.

Pi-Star Admin console - lower

  • DMR Repeater module showing a linked talkgroup and repeaterDMR links: In the DMR Repeater module, linked talkgroups are shown on the left and linked reflectors on the right. For example, if you link to DMR+ reflector 4400 with a private call to 84400, you’ll then talk on TG 9, so you’ll see TG 9/Ref 4400. For more info, see: DMRGateway notes⩘ .
  • D-STAR IRC: IRC: rr.openquad.net shows that Pi-Star is set up to use QuadNet. For more info, see: QuadNet Smart Groups⩘ .
  • D-STAR RSNC: In the Local RF Activity module, if you see your callsign followed by /RSNC, that means the receiving station didn’t get the beginning frames of your transmitted digital packet, which happens when a hotspot doesn’t lock onto your Tx mode quickly enough when scanning modes.
  • Target field: “Blocks” (for example, TG 3100, 5 blocks) indicates non-voice data such as GPS or SMS.

6c) Live Logs view

From the Admin view, you can select the Live Logs view, which starts a more detailed live logging process that can be useful for troubleshooting. It can be helpful to open Live Logs view in a new tab or a different browser so you can look back and forth between the dashboard and the log. See also: Troubleshooting⩘ Hint:There’s a link at the bottom of Live Logs view to download it as a text file.

6d) Changing active modes

If you want to change which modes are active, open the Configuration view and in the MMDVMHost Configuration section, switch modes and cross modes on and off as wanted, and then apply changes.

MMDVMHost Configuration settings

7) Backing up or restoring Pi-Star

After you’ve done all the work of setting up Pi-Star just the way you want, it’s a good idea to back it up. In Configuration view, click the Backup/Restore link.

Pi-Star Backup/Restore link

In the Backup/Restore view, click Download Configuration, and then choose a location to safely store your work so that if things ever get messed up you can easily restore your most recent working configuration.

Initiating a Pi-Star configuration backup or restore

8) Updating Pi-Star

One of the nice things about Pi-Star is that it’s updated on a regular basis to add new features and options. Per Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star Users Support Group:

“MMDVMHost is updated reasonably often. Pi-Star will pull in the updates overnight after I release them, or you can press update on the dashboard to pull in the updates if you want it before the nightly pull. I don’t update the binaries daily, but I do try and track the upstream source reasonably often.”

If you don’t leave Pi-Star running overnight or you want to manually launch an update at any other time, in Admin view, click Update. Alternatively, you can run the update via SSH, as discussed below.

Update Pi-Star

In the Update view, you’ll see the process running. Let it run until it’s finished:

Pi-Star updating process

SSH Update – Running a Pi-Star Update from the dashboard updates the dashboard binaries and the hostfiles. Running it via a Secure Shell (SSH⩘ ) app like Termius⩘  or PuTTY⩘  also updates the OS:

  1. SSH into Pi-Star and log in.
  2. Run the update:
    sudo pistar-update
  3. Allow the update process to run until you see:
    Updates complete, sleeping for a few seconds before making the disk Read-Only
    Finished
  4. It’s a good idea to open the Configuration page and click Apply Changes.

Upgrade – The less frequent version upgrades, discussed below, use a process that upgrades the base system services and packages: 10) Upgrading Pi-Star.

9) Expert Editor: advanced Pi-Star configuration

If you are in Configuration view, you can click Expert to access the “Expert Editor,” a set of advanced quick editors, full editors, and tools.

Pi-Star Expert Editor link

You’ll be greeted by a **WARNING** message that you should pay attention to:

“Please keep in mind when making your edits here, that these config files can be updated by the dashboard, and that your edits can be over-written. It is assumed that you already know what you are doing editing the files by hand, and that you understand what parts of the files are maintained by the dashboard.”

The Expert Editor provides access to:

  • Upgrade link
  • Quick Editors:
    • DStarRepeater
    • IrcDDBGateway
    • TimeServer
      • Used by the ircDDBGateway service for time announcements.
    • MMDVMHost 4
    • DMRGateway
    • YSFGateway
    • P25Gateway
  • Full Editors:
    • DMRGateway
    • PiStar-Remote
      • Note: The PiStar-Remote Config File provides configuration options for:
        1. The Pi-Star Keeper remote control system, an RF KillSwitch for repeater keepers.
        2. Some basic remote control ability via RF. For more info, see the note: Watchdogs, Remote RF commands, and Keepers⩘ .
    • WiFi Config (wpa_supplicant.conf)
    • BM API Key
    • System Crony
      • Hint for repeater owners: Andy Taylor posted the code for linking, fixed linking, and unlinking to reflectors via a cron job in the Pi-Star User Forum⩘ .
    • RSSI Dat
      • Note: Maps the raw RSSI values to dBm values to send to the DMR network.
  • Tools:

[4] MMDVMHost DMR Network Jitter setting note: There’s a good explanation about this by Andy Taylor in the Pi-Star User Forum (edited slightly for clarity): “Jitter is the difference in round trip times [pings] between two points…. It’s quite normal for the answers from each ping to vary slightly, this can happen for a whole load of reasons, but it’s the difference between those times that is the jitter: too large = slight delay on the start of a transmission, so slow, choppy audio and higher BER (potentially). For audio packets to give you the best performance, you need two things: low round trip time (lower is always better, it’s a function of bandwidth and distance) and steady jitter. If the software knows that you are using a master with high jitter it will attempt to account for it.”

9a) Performing firmware updates via Pi-Star

It’s possible to update the firmware of several hotspot boards via Pi-Star, including the ZUMspot. See the note: Performing firmware updates via Pi-Star⩘ .

9b) Other advanced configuration notes

See Pi-Star notes⩘  for other advanced configuration notes, including:

10) Upgrading Pi-Star

To upgrade the base system services and packages (all of this can be done in the default read-only mode):

  1. SSH into Pi-Star and log in. Or you can use the Update and Upgrade links in the Expert Editor.
  2. Begin with an update of the dashboard and binaries.
    In the SSH window:
    sudo pistar-update
    Or, click the Expert Editor’s Update link.
    Allow the update process to run until you see:
    Updates complete, sleeping for a few seconds before making the disk Read-Only
    Finished
  3. Next, upgrade the operating system, services, and packages.
    In the SSH window:
    sudo pistar-upgrade
    Or, click the Expert Editor’s Upgrade link.
  4. Run the upgrade process as many times as needed until the system reports you are on the most recent version:
    You are already running the latest version…
    Sleeping a few seconds before making the disk Read-Only…
    Finished
  5. It’s a good idea to reboot the hotspot after upgrading.
    In the SSH windows:
    sudo reboot
    Or, open the Power view, and then click Reboot.

For more info: Scroll down to the Change Log on the Pi-Star Downloads page⩘ .

11) Rebooting or shutting down Pi-Star

For a graceful way to reboot or shut down your hotspot, click the Power link.

Pi-Star Power link

In the Power view, click Reboot or Shutdown. Give your hotspot a minute or two to complete rebooting or shutting down.

Initiating a Pi-Star reboot or shutdown

Note: When you have a modem like the ZUMspot mounted on a Raspberry Pi, after Pi-Star shutdown is complete, the modem will continue to flash its mode lights (because power is still flowing through the shut down RPi to the modem) until you actually turn off the power to the RPi.

12) Pi-Star – Summary thoughts

I really like Pi-Star! It’s my favorite hotspot software for the digital radio modes I use, D-STAR and DMR. It also handles YSF, and when used with an MMDVM-capable modem like the ZUMspot⩘ , even P25 and NXDN, as well as YSF and DMR cross modes.

12a) The dashboard is great

I’m actually surprised by how much I like the dashboard. I thought it would be a “nice-to-have” feature, but it turns out that it’s great to be able to watch the activity on a reflector, especially during a net. It’s also nice to be able to easily look up people’s linked pages, usually their QRZ page.

12b) Actively developed and supported

Another thing I really appreciate is how actively and enthusiastically Andy Taylor and team are developing and supporting Pi-Star. It seems like there’s some new feature to try out every time you turn on your hotspot, including all the latest cutting edge innovations. And they listen attentively to the feature requests from the community of Pi-Star users.

12c) Works great in the shack and on the road

Paired with a compact hotspot, Pi-Star is a great solution for use both as a base station and as a mobile hotspot. See: Connecting Pi-Star via cell phone⩘ .

Minimalist ZUMspot mobile hotspot

12d) Worth supporting!

Obviously, Andy, MWØMWZ, and team—including Adrian, MØGLJ, and Craig, W1MSG—are pouring a lot of energy, intelligence, and heart into creating and supporting Pi-Star, which they’re giving away freely to digital hams. There’s also a robust community of hams contributing to helping Pi-Star users via the Pi-Star User Forum. Per Andy:

And now to you dear reader, you are probably reading this because you already run Pi-Star, or you are about to start. Without you, this project wouldn’t be where it is today, a shining beacon of what can be when a few like-minded people with similar interests are prepared to set monetary gain aside and just give away their work. You might not be a coder, you might not feel that you understand digital radio enough to give anything back, but that time will come. Enjoy the hobby, tell your friends what we got right with Pi-Star, and tell us when it does something it shouldn’t.

Thanks for creating a really nice solution, Andy and team!

If you end up appreciating Pi-Star as much as I do, consider supporting this work by contributing to the Pi-Star User Forum⩘  or by sending some monetary support their way toward the costs of the equipment they’re using to make Pi-Star so great. For more info, see: Pi-Star – How can I help?⩘ 

Notes ≫


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