APRS for 2012

APRS is challenging and intimidating but a useful tool in our hobby. discuss APRS in this forum.
ldsnet
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APRS for 2012

#1

Post by ldsnet » Mon May 21, 2012 11:38 am

Been doing a lot of research of late about APRS and its uses. MOST of the articles and web postings (including this forum) are 2-10 years old. What is APRS being used for in the current era? If I spend the time and money to add APRS to my vehicle, what practical application am I adding to Ham Radio? To Disaster preparations? Another fancy map?

I understand the principles behind the system and I have the hardware and software to make it work - just not sure it is worth the effort. So consider me a skeptic - APRS users educate me on what I can really expect with APRS once I get it installed in my truck.

Larry

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DaveK
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Re: APRS for 2012

#2

Post by DaveK » Mon May 21, 2012 12:54 pm

Larry:

Welcome to OAUSA. When you get a chance, let us know about you and your vehicle.

To answer your APRS question, at least from my perspective, there doesn't seem to be anything significantly different in the world of APRS now, compared to one or two years ago. So....the information of two or more years ago should still be current. The one possible exception is D-Star. We did a net on D-Star some months back and it was clear that are some advantages and some disadvantages to this new technology.

You'll find some disagreement among users regarding the practical applications for APRS, but depending on your needs, there may be genuine value to the system. Speaking personally, I find no value to operating APRS on a daily basis, while in the city. When we have our events, it is helpful, but not necessary, for us to keep track of participants as they make their way to the event venue. I think it would be a stretch to say that this rises to the level of real value, but it is helpful and if the event involves a demonstration of how the system works, it can be educational.

Where I find the greatest value for APRS is during our off-road trips. The benefits are:

1. For family and friends back at home, computers can be set up so that our current position and routes are available to view on a real time basis.
2. When we have several members in the group, it allows us to keep track of each and insure that we all remain on the same trail (especially useful when conditions are very dusty and vehicles are spaced out by a considerable distance).
3. It allows members of the group who are joining the main party during the trip, to find us.
4. APRS messaging allows anyone (Ham licensed) to send us messages and for us to respond.
5. You can send regular emails, using the APRS messaging system, to anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a ham.

For disaster preparations, I would think the ability to keep track of members of the team as well as the ability to communicate with them (and not rely on systems such as cell phones, that most likely will be down), would be of great value. I am aware that many SAR teams use APRS for these very reasons.

Hope this helps.
DaveK
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Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

ldsnet
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Re: APRS for 2012

#3

Post by ldsnet » Thu May 24, 2012 3:49 pm

Dave,
Thanks for the informative reply. You confirmed some of what I suspected. The fact that not a single other person has commented also tells me much about the future of this system and technology.

As long as all it is being used for is a beacon of GPS location, it will die away as worthless. It is depressing that the majority of the articles, posts, blogs and software packages are years old. I can't believe it has evolved into perfection that no more tweaking is required.

I am still planning on building my system, just to prove I can do it (on the cheap). When complete I will post pictures and such.
Parts list: 10 year old Laptop (running Linux)
a Baycomm modem
a 20 year old Icom 228H 2m radio
a 6 year old USB GPS
old larsen mag mount antenna for the roof

The hardware I still need to acquire:
external keyboard and mouse (or trackball) to use on external console display suitable for use in a moving vehicle
a Cardbus pcmcia DB9 adapter card (Baycom does not play nice with most usb-to-serial adapters in Linux).

There are a lot of configuration options based on display and functionality I want when its complete, should be an interesting and challenging project.

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DennisDawg
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Re: APRS for 2012

#4

Post by DennisDawg » Thu May 24, 2012 4:06 pm

ldsnet wrote: Thanks for the informative reply. You confirmed some of what I suspected. The fact that not a single other person has commented also tells me much about the future of this system and technology.
Sometimes technology doesn’t advance much for a while. For example, the spoon has been around a long time with very few changes. It works for what it is. APRS is perhaps similar, that it is all that it is for now.

Amateur Radio is full of people who innovate. If there is something that current APRS technology isn’t doing for you, make something that will make it do that. Do not wait for someone else to do it for you. If you need help, there are a lot of Hams out there who would help you make anything. It might be fun!

I have a little APRS set up that I used sometimes but only for location data when hiking or off roading, so individuals can track each other. Admittedly I do not use it often when out and about but sometimes.
Local Repeaters On Which You Might Find Me (K6DOB):
  • Big Bear K6BB 147.330+ PL: 131.8 - Keller Peak KE6TZG: 146.385+ PL: 146.2 - Sierra Peak KD6DDM 146.610- PL: 103.5

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DaveK
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Re: APRS for 2012

#5

Post by DaveK » Thu May 24, 2012 10:00 pm

It always happens! Shortly after I posted my reply, I had a chance to read my June 2012 issue of QST. In reviewing a new APRS product, on page 59, the author noted that:
A recent QST Quick Status survey showed that about 20% of ARRL members are active with APRS. That's a significant percentage for just one slice of the Amateur Radio's highly diverse "Pie".
The product under review was the Byonics Micro Trak AIO. In short, it a new compact, handheld APRS device. Maybe not a significant advancement in APRS technology, but an interesting product with a new twist on the APRS idea.

I don't think that APRS technology has evolved to perfection, nor is it static. The fact that new products are being constantly developed, like the Byonics Micro-Trak, is proof of that. Additionally, there are two recent "high end" 2M transceivers that were designed and marketed as being APRS capable, the Yaesu FT 350 and the Kenwood 710. If you look at their advertising, a big part of their appeal is APRS. Both radios, I suspect, are the result of an increasing number of Hams using APRS and both radios are the result of new ideas. I would also be careful not to read too much into the lack of responses here. I know that many of us run APRS on a regular basis. Maybe this will spur them on to comment.

I think Dennis hit the nail on the head. When the system works well, there may be periods of time when there aren't giant advances in the technology. It simply works so well. That is not to say that there are not improvements on the technology or that the concept is falling out of favor. I think that once you get your set-up working, you will see this. One suggestion, once you have your system up and running, is to join a talk-group (like the Yahoo groups) and get input from the members of the group(s) about new technology and products.

In any event, let us know how your system works and don't be shy about asking questions here, if you need help.
DaveK
K6DTK


Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

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cruiserlarry
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Re: APRS for 2012

#6

Post by cruiserlarry » Thu May 24, 2012 11:11 pm

APRS technology is far from dead - many folks at OAUSA use it regularly (including me), and amateur radio product manufacturers continue to offer new products incorporating APRS features.

In addition to the two mobile radios DaveK mentioned (Yaesu FTM-350R, and Kenwood TM-D710A), there are handheld radios that are full-function APRS radios - the Yaesu VX8 series, and the Kenwood TH-D72A.
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michael
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Re: APRS for 2012

#7

Post by michael » Sat May 26, 2012 11:12 pm

APRS has expanded beyond its roots and now has many routine applications. For example, many amateur weather stations and amateur radio repeaters use the data transmission capabilities of APRS to monitor equipment performance. High-altitude balloon hobbyists use it to track their data packages. People even use it to monitor the bilges or battery banks in their boats from the comfort of home. As mentioned, APRS has a simple, but effective, short messaging capability which includes the ability to send text via email. While its most popular application is reporting position data, the creator of APRS is now promoting it as a two-way tactical real-time digital communications system.

APRS does have a bit of a learning curve, but once you decipher what it is (and isn't), it is quite easy to set up. There are several new APRS radios with built-in terminal node controllers (TNCs) hitting the market now, including the Byonics MicroTrak AIO you mentioned. Argent Data Systems has a nice 5W transceiver optimized for APRS (T2-301) and recently introduced a USB version of their Tracker2 series TNCs. The T2-301 has the ability to receive and decode APRS data as well as transmit it. I made up a portable unit that I can control remotely. We often stick on top of a hill to guide people to our camp in the desert. Great tool for "late arrivers" at a rendezvous.

The 'holy grail' of APRS is setting it up to give you real-time, continuously updating, moving map position data on people traveling together in a group. The Kenwood D710, Yaesu FT-350 and other radios are great for APRS data and messages, but don't display a map. You can set up a moving map display of APRS mobile stations using an old radio, a Tracker2, an inexpensive GPS puck, and a laptop (or select GARMIN GPS units like the GPSMap 60Csx). While you're correct in that much of the info on the web is outdated, there are people working on newer versions of software to display APRS data. DaveK and others here use their D710s to input data into UI-VIEW, an oldie-but-goodie navigation program (free). I've been working with a friend to develop OziXL, an interface for OziExplorer and APRS that will display the position of people in a group. It will be released (free) in the near future. Overland Navigator (commercial) was recently updated and now has a moving map display of mobile and fixed APRS stations. The author is currently working on an iOS version for the iPad that will expand the APRS capability even more.

Like DaveK, I don't have a daily use for APRS but it has become a routine capability for when I'm in the back-country. I like the ability to send short emails and the ability to keep track of people in my group when we split up to explore an area. As a ham, I mostly just find APRS fun to work with :)
Time to stop talking about it and just go do it!

ldsnet
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APRS for 2012

#8

Post by ldsnet » Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:51 pm

Hey guys, just a quick update. My system built ok. Took a week for the PCMCIA serial card to arrive. Will not key the radio or receive packets. Not sure if hardware or software, but after 4 hours of run time the PCMCIA card started to warp from the heat!

Done with the Baycom adapter. Ordering an Argent open tracker.

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OLLIE
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Re: APRS for 2012

#9

Post by OLLIE » Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:35 pm

I have linked my D710 through my GPSMap 498. I don't use it daily but I do use it to, during, and from our events and outings. I use my handheld (VX-8R) while backpacking and hiking.

Additionally I run APRS on my iPad via the OpenAPRS. I don't use it daily but it is a valuable tool when out and about where the pavement ends. :D
"OLLIE"
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ldsnet
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Re: APRS for 2012

#10

Post by ldsnet » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:17 am

Hey guys,

Sorry I never posted an update!!! Two bad usb-serial adapters later and I did get my prototype system operational. I even took it for a few off road trips to get an idea of how well the beacons worked while off-road. Found I did not like Xastir's version of smart beaconing. Even down the highway it was beaconing way too much.

Then I hit my "bigger" problem - integrating an APRS display into my vehicle into a format that makes sense. Xastir on my 14" laptop was slow, clunky and difficult (impossilbe) to use while on the move. My hope was to port my APRS info to a 7" display in my in dash stereo (through aux input) and hide the rest of the stuff.

I tried Xastir, APRSISCE, WinAPRS and a few othes to try to find an interface I could live with on the move. What are you guys using in your vehicles on the move to display your APRS info?

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