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[aprssig] Why APRS mobile?

Joel Maslak jmaslak-aprs at antelope.net
Fri Apr 13 01:47:38 UTC 2007

On Apr 12, 2007, at 8:32 AM, Robert Bruninga wrote:

>> How come you want to run a TNC mobile ?
>> Why not just use a tinytrack or opentracker ?
> Because the essence of ham radio is two-way communications.
> Because the essence of APRS is situational awareness.  Having a
> channel that is the be-all-end-all of information on all ham
> radio activities going on in the immediate area.
> Trackers are great assets at public service events where the
> hams need to track all kinds of vehicles that often do not have
> a HAM on board.  These devices are able to be quickly installed
> at the start of the event and collected afterwords.  I have
> nothing against trackers at all.  There are many many
> applications for them and everyone should have a few...

I would think they are good when there are Hams in the vehicle too.   
After all, most events have decent voice coverage and that's far more  
efficient than trying to use a D7 or D700 keypad to enter a message,  
and if my position shows up at Net Control, that very well be all  
that's needed.

Sure, I prefer being able to see a graphical presentation of the  
other stations - that can save everyone time.  And there are times  
where there is APRS but not voice coverage.

But, in most events, I'm not sure everyone needs to know where  
everyone else is.  Certainly most of us don't need to one-line  
message each other most of the time.  We need key people to know  
where everyone is, however.

That's the use of a tracker.  Having good quality tracker  
installations inside personal vehicles is *definitely* a good thing  
in my mind (around here many events use personal vehicles - I  
understand different areas do things differently).  Your ancient  
laptop plugged into an inverter (so it lasts for the whole event)  
using an external monitor (because the internal one is fried) running  
DOS in the bright sunlight is...well, less than useful as a mobile  
station.  It's fragile.  Duct tape and bailing wire is not a good  
thing for emergency communications!  So I'll take a permanent tracker  
installation to track where the HAMs are over a poorly cobbled  
together pile of electronic junk, or even decent electronic junk with  
15 different connections, all of which have to work perfectly for the  
thing to run right.  But there is more chance for the duct tape to  
work when it's permanently installed instead of moved around.

That's the value of the "dumb" tracker.  It's cheap, so it's widely  
deployed.  Once it's permanently installed, it's nearly foolproof.   
And, people know it works because they can see their station on  
Findu.  So they are ready for emergency communication.  Granted, not  
with the capabilities of a graphical display and messaging  
capability, but some people can't afford or don't have the technical  
skill to do a quality mobile APRS setup.  I'd rather have them as  
dumb trackers than not at all.  And I'd rather have them *reliable*.   
I've read far too many posts about balloons, special vehicles,  
searchers, etc, equipped with portable trackers that didn't work.  In  
fact, I think that's far more common than reading about ones that  
*did* work.  So having people build a reliable station - even if it  
is only one way - is a start to fixing this problem.

But, yes, I agree Ham radio is about communication and two-way  
capabilities should be pursued.  I also think it's about technical  
craftmanship, so people should be encouraged to build low cost  
stations that have high reliability and don't look like a pile of  
junk when talking to some agency sponsor.

Okay, I'll yield the soapbox to someone else.  :)

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