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[aprssig] Why APRS mobile?

Eric Christensen eric at christensenplace.us
Fri Apr 13 02:21:16 UTC 2007

I'll have to respectfully disagree with you and say that trackers AREN'T
good for emergencies.  As you point out, there are places where voice
coverage isn't as good as APRS coverage.  For this exact reason using
the digital text messaging feature of APRS is critical for communicating
with other stations.  While I won't condone the use of this while
mobile, it can be easily used when in the vehicle (I, and others, do so

If everyone is just transmitting their positions then who is actually
RECEIVING these signals?  Sure, it is nice to have a full APRS station
at the EOC or command post, but then you aren't aware of your
surroundings and certainly aren't utilizing the full capabilities of
this mode.  During emergencies you should be prepared to use any and all
modes of communications as you never know what will be up and functioning.

I like Bob's "Situational Awareness" image.  Here in Northeastern NC we
transmit out weather bulletins, voice repeater information, and utilize
text messaging every day.  We know it works because we use it everyday.
 We don't have any "duct tape and bailing wire" in any of our setups.
Most of us use D700s for the mobiles, D7As for portable operations, and
full blown setups at home.  Do I ever use a laptop in my vehicle?  Yep,
sure do.  Particularly when we are having an event.  Are trackers useful
then?  Absolutely.  But it makes it so much easier to disseminate
information via APRS and it makes it so difficult when I'm working with
users that only have a tracker.

Do trackers have a place in the whole picture?  Absolutely!  During
Hurricane Isabel I could have used a bunch of trackers to put on
National Guard vehicles that were out dispersing logistics around the
county.  Would it be helpful to know where fire trucks and helicopters
are during a wild fire?  Absolutely!

Don't cripple yourself and the emergency operation by limiting yourself
to one-way transmissions.

Eric W4OTN

Joel Maslak wrote:
> 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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