DISCLAIMER: Georgia DMR is not responsible for any issues caused by the installation or modification of software on your hotspot! Additionally, we did not develop any of the solutions under discussion in this post. You can tell us about your experience, but the onus is on you to report bugs to the developers through official channels (i.e. on GitHub - not here).
I'm in love! I just installed F1RMB's Pi-Star DV Dash project on one of my hotspots. It has some really nice enhancements!!!
Pi-Star is incredibly feature-rich but, let's face it, the UI needs help. It's been largely unchanged since it's inception. Sure, new functionality has been added to the distribution and the UI was extended to allow users to configure new settings, but the rest? Yawn...
Sorry to be so critical. I've been working in the IT world for 25+ years. I stare at a computer screen every day and encountered incredible UI designs (i.e. the top of the heap) and HORRIBLE UI designs (i.e. the bottom of the heap). Pi-Star falls somewhere in the lower half. It's functional, but there's just so much more that could be done to make the user experience better.
Take a look at what the folks at SharkRF have done. Their UI is designed for simplicity. It gets the job done quickly and easily. It even looks pretty good from a mobile device!
Sure, their solution isn't quite as configurable as Pi-Star, but they're not trying to be everything to everyone.
Pi-Star's web interface looks absolutely abysmal on a mobile device! There's no good excuse for it either. It's not that making improvements isn't possible. Either it's not a high priority for them, or they just don't care.
Marshall Dias (W00TM) did a great job with Pi-Star Mobile! He extended the Pi-Star Dashboard by creating a set of web pages that are formatted for smaller form-factor displays. He went the extra mile by creating a really slick Live Caller display that, when you turn your mobile device on its side, the page is reformatted such that you get a beautiful landscape view with large characters and he even created a script that automatically populates the station's name and location. For the longest time, Marshall abandoned Pi-Star Mobile. The most recent version is 1.40 and it does not support versions of Pi-Star newer than 3.17. At one point a while back, Marshall pulled the project from his website for a long time.
I reached out to him a few times and, according to his response, I "inspired" him! Since I last looked at his site, he added screenshots of a preview build of Pi-Star Mobile 2.0 and, if you buy a license for 1.40, you will receive version 2.0 at no additional charge.
Marshall made Pi-Star 1.40 available on his website and is charging $25.00 for a license.
Why can't Andy Taylor and team build something like Pi-Star Mobile into the main Pi-Star distribution? There's absolutely no reason he can't. He just hasn't.
Thankfully Daniel Caujolle-Bert (F1RMB) realized the shortcomings in the Pi-Star Dashboard and released his own version of the Pi-Star Dashboard:
At cursory glance, Pi-Star DV Dash doesn't look all that much different than the default dashboard included with Pi-Star but there are some really nice touches:
There's probably quite a few other little tidbits but since I primarily use my hotspots for DMR, I wouldn't see anything related to D-Star, NXDN, P25, YSF, etc.
Hopefully Andy knows about this project and gets some ideas!
Installing Pi-Star DV Dash
As long as you're comfortable with doing work via the CLI (command-line interface), you'll be fine. This is one of the easiest installations you'll find in the Linux world. If using the command-line makes you uncomfortable, either ask someone for help, or just enjoy the pictures!
I STRONGLY recommend using an SSH client (i.e. PuTTY, Terminal, or my new favorite...KiTTY - a PuTTY derivative). Since you'll be making changes to the web interface, it would not be very wise to use the SSH Access tool built into the Pi-Star Dashboard.
What's the first thing you should do before you make ANY changes? That's right...BACKUP your configuration! Again, we cannot be held responsible for any changes you decide to make to your hotspot.
Once you SSH into your hotspot, begin by putting the filesystem into read/write mode:
You should see the login prompt change from:
pi-star@pi-star(ro):~$ TO pi-star@pi-star(rw):~$
Next, I created a folder to use for storing the installation script:
mkdir dv-dash && cd dv-dash
Download the installation script directly from Daniel's GitHub repository:
wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/f1rmb/f1rmb-pistar/master/f1rmb-pistar -O f1rmb-pistar
Make the installation script executable:
chmod +x f1rmb-pistar
Use sudo to become root (you'll be prompted to enter your password):
You can view all the available options (make sure to enter the dot and forward slash):
Install Pi-Star DV Dash (make sure to enter the dot and forward slash):
The author recommends running the command to upgrade Pi-Star several times until you receive the message "You are already running the latest version". Keep in mind that installing the new dashboard makes changes to the repositories (repos) that Pi-Star uses to download updates - it changes from the official Pi-Star repos to one that Daniel maintains. If this were not the case, the official Pi-Star upgrades would overwrite all of the custom code in Pi-Star DV Dash.
You can revert back to the original dashboard at any time:
As long as you backup your config, you really have nothing to worry about damaging unless you've done a lot of heavy customization to your hotspot. The worst possible scenario would be having to re-image your SD Card and restore from backup that way which you should always be prepared to do anyway! You never know what can happen when you rely on Micro SD-Cards for storage!
Enjoy the experimentation and let me know what you think!
Jeff Hochberg - W4JEW