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APRS   -   2002/05/02Viewed 133 times this month, last update: 2008/04/07




APRS is the "Automatic Position Reporting System", invented by Bob Bruninga. It is a melding of computers and HAM radio. Thousands of APRS repeater stations arround the world listen for messages and relay them on. Some repeaters are linked to the internet, and so messages can propogate through the air, and through the internet.
What this means to me is that I can set up a radio, GPS and radio-modem in the back of my truck, and have it automatically report my position all the time. This allows me to keep a record of where I've been, and for people to keep track of me. Also, if I bring my laptop with me, I can send email, and send and receive messages from other APRS users.
There is even an APRS digi (digital repeater) on the ISS, and we've got our own satilite. So, no matter where I am on the planet, someone can find me, and I can call for help. Nifty eh?

My APRS program of choice on my desktop and laptop is Xastir. It has every piece of functionality I could want, and they keep adding more! In My Truck I've got my Garmin GPS16 on the roof, feeding into my APRS tracker box, which uses a Kantronics KPC 3+ and a Radio Shack HTX-252. The wiring for this combination was a bit tricky, so I've outlined it for those of you interested.

I have had some trouble with my setup. The HTX-252 is a pretty shoddy piece of hardware. It's signal is very noisy, as it'll blurt out a big chunk of 144mhz when it transmits on my radio, and anyone close to me. It also reacts very badly to being plugged into my laptop via a USB-Serial cable. It seems as though the noise from the USB circuitry intrudes into the recieved signal of the radio.
Also, I've owned two KPC 3+ units, and both have exibited the same failing symptom: They loose their configuration at random times. It could be the heat of being in the back of my truck, or the bumps, but they keep wimping out on me!

Update: 2004/02/04
Today I finally got what I've wanted for years: A map of my waypoints. I wrote a program to convert the dump file of my eMap's waypoints from gpsman into SQL statements for import into a PostGIS table on my PostgreSQL database. Then, using PostGIS's pgsql2shp program, and a few special rules in Xastir's dbfawk files I created a shapefile map, with all my waypoints, labled and with good icons!

Next, I want to make a system to log APRS network traffic to a PostgreSQL database using PostGIS. Like AprsWorld but not on MySQL.

Update: 2004/02/06
Well, since AprsWorld did 95% of what I wanted (in storing the APRS stream into a database), I decided to port it to PostgreSQL/PostGIS. In about six hours of work, I got autoconf to search for and configure for PostgreSQL, I added the -g switch to AprsWorld's "message" program (which is the one that sucks the APRS internet stream into MySQL) in order to tell it to use PostgreSQL instead of MySQL, and I've started filling out all the handler functions with if (use_postgres == 1) { ... } else if (use_mysql == 1) { ... }. I've already got it logging position reports, telemetry data and raw packets. I think I should be able to finish filling out the functions today, then I'll spend some time cleaning up autoconf some more, and adding documentation.
James Jefferson, the author of AprsWorld has been really nice too. He seems very interested in having AprsWorld also support PostgreSQL. He's even offered to make me an official AprsWorld developer!

Update: 2008/03/31
I now setup a local instance of AprsWorld's parser to connect to the internet stream, and record any packets from me, and some of my friends. This allows me to record, for as long as I like, all the data from the APRS stream I might be interested in. Then, I wrote a simple Google Maps application to query this database, and display the data. That map is at the top of this page.


Comments:
Matt Bell (2004-02-05): Cool! Now I really want to go!!!! I talked to Chris about the week after I get back from Italy, Sat. the 13th. He said that Vanessa wanted to go looking for wildflowers, this may be a good time. I could drive down Fri. night, spend Sat and Sunday looking for trouble and drive home Sunday night.

Matt Bell (2004-02-05): I just noticed your see also links at the bottom, very nice!

Erik (2004-02-05): The 13th of what month? Feb? March? Vanessa and I are probably going to go diving in Catalina this 14th (v-day), but if it's next month, I think it'd work!

Matt Bell (2004-02-05): Sorry, I meant next month.

Erik (2004-02-05): Let me get back to you, the 13th is no good for Vanessa, so we'll constuct an availability table, and work it out privately.

Miguel Filgueiras (2004-06-18): gpsman can export directly to Shapefiles so you probably don't
need to go through SQL.

Erik (2004-06-18): That's cool! But I like having the mechanism, since that way I can turn almost any list of lat/long/label values into a map.

DarcyB (2010-12-11): I'm intrested in your PostgreSQL enabled APRSworld server, however I'm not able able to locate a copy of the source code for it. Could you please provide it to me?

Erik (2010-12-11): Wow! Two requests for this code in the last week, after years of inactivity. Unfortunately, the AprsWorld project seems dead, but I'm happy to re-distribute the code, since it is OSS after all. Download the tarball here.

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See also: Aprs intelegence, Mountains? Desert? Jan 30th, 2004, Julian Pie Company, My Truck Batteries, My Satellite Phone, AIS

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