DStar 101, or How do I do that in DStar?

DStar Basic Operation.

Where to start?

Well firstly let's look at what DStar is. It is a digital form of Amateur radio for 23cm, 70cm, and 2M bands.
That's it, it's still radio, just digital.
OK so let's say you have your DStar unit attached to an antenna and you want to access your local DStar repeater.
First thing you need to do is select the frequency of the local repeater and of course the repeater shift, no different to any other transceiver.
DStar has a couple of other settings you need to set.
First is the RPT1 setting, this is simply the callsign of the repeater, as an example let's say it's GB6XY and it's on 2M.
So in RPT1 you put GB6XY  C, RPT1 is an 8 character field, and the "C" must be in the 8th position. We will come to why the last character is a "C" later.
Now in RPT2 enter GB6XY  C, ie exactly the same, or just leave it blank.
You will see other fields called the URcall and MYcall.
MYcall is of course your own callsign, URcall just leave as CQCQCQ for now.
Now put a call through the repeater. Simples!
Why was the last character in the field a "C"? Because it's on 2M, if it was on 23cm it would be "A" and 70cm "B", simple as, don't beat yourself up trying to figure out why, just accept it.
These are called modules.

Repeater

Now you may think that this is enormously complicated just to have a chat on your local repeater, and frankly it is. However don't forget DStar transceivers have thousands of memories to store all this information, and you can enter it quickly and easily using a computer for use later. So don't be daunted by any of this.

Now the great thing about DStar is that it can use the internet to Link repeaters together.
Can you see where this is going?
The Linking is done via the internet, and this is usually referred to as a "Gateway".
If you want transmissions to go out of the repeater via the gateway, then RPT2 needs to be set to the repeater call sign GB6XY and the last character now needs to be "G".
So RPT2 becomes GB6XY  G.

Linked Repeaters

Let's say we have another repeater this time let's call it GB6AB, it's on 70cm, and you want to link to that repeater to call a friend.
Set the URcall to Callsign + Module + "L" = GB6AB BL, transmit to your local repeater, and it will link to the remote repeater GB6AB.
Change URcall back to CQCQCQ and transmit normally.
So there you are, you have linked 2 repeaters together, and hopefully had a chat with another Radio Amateur.

DStar has things called "Reflectors". These are a central point on the internet, where numerous repeaters can link to.
There are now numerous Reflectors all over the World, far too many to mention, so for the purposes of this exercise we will stick with the Reflectors that can be monitored at http://xreflector.net.
These are known as DCS Reflectors, where the DCS came from and what it means is irrelevant. These Reflectors have modules (don't confuse these with the repeater modules) A to Z.
DCS005B is a UK Reflector for whole of the UK, DCS005I is Ireland, DCS005M for the Midlands, DCS005W Wales, plus there are many other modules for general chat etc.
So let's say you want to link GB6XY to DCS005B.
RPT1 = GB6XY  C
RPT2 = GB6XY  G (Gateway)
URcall = DCS005BL (Callsign, Module + L for link)
MYcall = is your own callsign.
Transmit to your local repeater, and it will link to the Reflector.
Change URcall back to CQCQCQ and transmit normally, however now you are being heard on more than one Repeater. May be worth taking a while to listen in just to see how it works.

Reflector

Now all this sounds somewhat convoluted, however there is light at the end of the tunnel, most repeaters are capable of understanding DTMF tones.
So let's say GB6XY is unlinked and you want to link it to DCS005B.
With
RPT1 = GB6XY  C
RPT2 = GB6XY  G (Gateway)
URcall = CQCQCQ
MYcall = is your own callsign. (These can now be your default settings when on GB6XY, of course if you move to another repeater, then RPT1 and RPT2 will change).
Transmit to the repeater, and press D5B on your DTMF keypad, the repeater will link to DCS005B, Voila!
If you want to unlink simply send DTMF #
If you want to know the status of the repeater send DTMF 0
You may have noted that DTMF can only do numbers 0 to 9, letters A to D, * and #.
So you may ask how can you get to DCS005W ?
DTMF D523 because W is the 23rd letter of the alphabet.
So DCS005Q would be D517.
DCS005M would be D513.

Practice is more enlightening than reading, so give it a try, you wont break it.

More on DTMF codes and operation