[aprssig] APRS event philosophy?

Robert Bruninga bruninga at usna.edu
Fri Apr 13 13:57:42 CDT 2007

> But, in most events, I'm not sure everyone needs to know 
> where everyone else is. ...  We need key people to know  
> where everyone is, however.

My appologies to the sender, but I will take that sentence out
of context and launch onto my stump for a few paragraphs... 

I have seen that kind of statement almost every time I have
observed "traditional Ham comms organizers" accommodate APRS
into their operations.  They are clearly still thinking inside
the traditional HQ-Knows-all box.  They think of APRS as a
vehicle tracking system and think that one big map display is
all it is.  Only HQ needs to know what is going on.  Then they
point to APRS later and say "it didn't help much.  The voice
nets were still overloaded with logistics issues and questions
as to where everything was.  The big screen was just fluff and
cute, but not very useful..." Well DUH!

When I suggest that there should be a laptop at every radio
position so that all communicators have access to the
situational awareness that APRS brings, they say, "no, we don't
need that, they can look at the big screen."  Well,,,Duh...
(footnote, in original APRS, you could connect a half dozen or
more laptops to the single TNC via 2-conductor zip cord and
pushpins at every desk in just minutes.)

The problem with ONE big screen is that it has to be zoomed out
to see the big picture, making it usually impossible to see the
detail that any particular operator needs to answer his
immediate communication issue.  Each communicator in an EOC or
at a HQ, needs his own zoomable, layered APRS resource at his
operating position so he can zoom, select, add objects, message,
query, click, check, review, replay, update, move, log,
annotate, announce, etc...

APRS was all about objects and the ability of ANY operator to
update the virtual situational map in real time with all objects
over which he had knowledge so that everyone could always see
the latest everywhere.  APRS was designed to support dozens and
dozens of manually placed objects as well as those few RF
equiped GPS objects so the the tactical picture was complete,
and not just a side show.

Problem is, Uiview in particular has a very poor implementation
of objects and chokes the net if more than a few objects are
updated from any one console.  Hence, people don't use APRS
objects, no one sees them, and we still operate inside the box
of a big screen side-show with little true benefit to the
"comunicators" that are doing the "real" work.

And because of the "only HQ" needs to see where everything is,
we have not offloaded "info" from the voice nets where still
everyone has to ask HQ for where something is.

At least those with D7's or D700's or HAMhuds can see that XXX
is YYY miles from them and either "approaching" or going away...
Or can see bulletins and announcments on their radios.  Or with
their attached GPS display, can see where everything is.  And
using the techinques I have explained elsewhere, they too can
MARK places on the map and inject OBJECTS onto everyone else's
maps too.

We need to think outside the "only HQ knows all" and "APRS is a
vehicle tracking system" if we are going to truly contribute to
events.  Everyone with a radio has the potential to be an APRS
asset and that includes receiving and interpreting the
information himself that he needs to perform his function best.

> 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. 

But most events, communications needs are two-way and FINDU is
usually for the public at home to watch, not for the guy on a
corner with a cop, having to ASK HQ where the lead vehicle is
when he should be able to see that himself on his own APRS radio
or display or GPS.

> 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've read far too many posts about balloons, special vehicles,

> searchers, etc, equipped with portable trackers that didn't 
> work. 

Yes, because they lacked a means for 2-way communications so
someone could tell them to fix it.  Or this chatter had to be
conduced on the very voice network that APRS was supposed to be
helping, not burdening.  In ANY event, especially where trackers
are used, the COMMS plan has to provide for a dedicated UHF
Voice frequency for all these "APRS" issues to be worked out.
These tracker-only stations need to have 3 radios.  

1) One radio for the voice net they are supposed to be
supporting for the function they are supposed to be doing at the

2) Another radio (or band) for their APRS tracker

3) Another radio (preferably UHF) for the APRS voice channel for
talking back to all the APRS operators and trackers that do not
have APRS message capability.

It could be argued that a good two-way APRS station might be
cheaper and more robust than the sum of all those other
requirements.  Of course, having said that tongue-in-cheek, even
an event full of APRS 2-way communicators better have a UHF APRS
coordination channel anyway because of all the OJT that has to
be prformed on the air due to lack of commonality and prior
experience with their toys.

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

Thanks.  I'm done too.

Soapbox off.
Bob, Wb4APR

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