HOWTO: APRS Tracking

HOWTO: APRS Tracking
Given recent events with me not being able to track/find other chasers in the area, I've decided to write this quick tutorial on how to get your position plotted on GR3 and the internet for others to find. Normally APRS involves a radio, TNC, and computer, but you can also transmit via the internet. What I am proposing is a transmit only solution, however you can also receive with this solution as well. Note: This is for licensed amateur radio operators only. If you do not have a license, then I encourage you to get your license. (see the links at the end of the tutorial)

Here's what you need:

1) Download/Install UI-View32 software
http://www.apritch.myby.co.uk/g4ide/32full203.exe
(This is now free software due to the passing of the author (Roger Barker-G4IDE). However, in respect for the author it is recommended that you donate to cancer research.)

2) Register UI-View32
http://www.apritch.myby.co.uk/uiv32.htm

3) Setup UI-View32 software
Most of everything you need to mess with is under the Setup menu.

Comm Setup - shouldn't need to mess with anything since this is only needed for radio/TNC setups

Station Setup
-Callsign: (some people use callsign-SSID like mine: K9SWX-9 though using just your callsign with no SSID is just fine)
-Lat/Long: You can leave this alone as your GPS will fill in this in automatically
-Unproto: Leave this as well
-Beacon Comment: I normally put in a short comment along with voice frequencies I am monitoring (i.e. chasing-146.520/146.550)
-UI-View tag: uncheck this box
-Internet: this is the amount of minutes it will send out the position/beacon. I suggest using a value of 3-5 minutes.
-Symbol: This is what APRS folks will see when they bring up your position on FindU.com or APRSWorld.net. I usually just stick with the car icon, but you're welcome to pick anything you want.

Status Text - just clear out the box, no need to have both beacon and status lines for now
Station Info - not needed
WX Station Setup - not needed
Digipeater setup - not needed
GPS Setup - Choose the correct com port and baud rate for your GPS unit (if you are using GPS Gate, make sure you create a virtual port for UI-View 32)
APRS Compatibility - not needed
Miscellaneous - not needed
APRS Server Setup (very important step!!)
-First you need to delete all the servers listed. If you were to use one of the servers listed, then your poor cell phone data connection would be overwhelmed with APRS traffic from all over the world. To delete the servers, just left click on each one and hit the delete key on the keyboard. Once they are all deleted, click the insert button and type in one of the following servers (pick one closest to your location):

indiana.aprs2.net:14580 (Indiana)
midwest.aprs2.net:14580 (Iowa)
grnd.aprs.gihams.org:14580 (Nebraska)

After typing that in, hit the enter key and it will save it in the server box. Click the checkbox to the left of the server name so it is active. Repeat this process if you would like to enter more than one server. (recommended!) Here's a list of other servers that may also work: (make sure you use port 14580)

http://www.aprs-is.net/APRSServers.htm

-Uncheck all the boxes on the right side of this screen as you don't need them.
-Check the boxes that say "APRS Server log on required" and "Enable auto-reconnect"

The rest of the items on the setup menu you shouldn't need to mess with.

Now assuming you have everything setup correctly, you should see your callsign show up on the UI-View32 map. If not, check your GPS settings and make sure you're getting a GPS lock. Once you see your position on the map, then there's only one other thing you need to do.

4) Connect to the APRS server
-Go to the Action menu and select Connect to APRS server

5) Verify that you made it to the internet: (replace my callsign (K9SWX-9) with the one you filled in back in step 3)
http://www.findu.com/cgi-bin/find.cgi?k9swx-9
http://db.aprsworld.net/datamart/station-l...es&call=K9SWX-9

That's all there is to it! As you could tell from the other menus in UI-View32, this program will do a heck of alot more than just transmit your position. The point of this tutorial is mainly to get your position plotted on GR3 and the internet so your friends/family/other chasers can track your position. If you want to dig deeper into this program, check out the UI-View32 user group:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ui-view/

If you would like more information on becoming an amateur radio operator, visit the following websites:

http://www.arrl.org/
http://www.hamradiohelp.com/

Feel free to PM/email me if you have any questions regarding this tutorial. Thanks! 73!

Stan Olson, K9SWX
 
Hey Stan, interesting post. I absolutely love to play with APRS when I'm roaming around the roadways. I actually caught up with a couple of chasers last year that showed up on my APRS display on my TM 700 last year.

Not to start a debate, but I'm curious why this would be for amateurs only if you are eliminating any transmit over the air waves. Transmissions over the internet without a radio wouldn't be governed by the FCC would they? That was the big debate with Echolink and VOIP a while back I think. Just curious ;)

73 de Tim
 
Not to start a debate, but I'm curious why this would be for amateurs only if you are eliminating any transmit over the air waves. Transmissions over the internet without a radio wouldn't be governed by the FCC would they? That was the big debate with Echolink and VOIP a while back I think. Just curious ;)
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I think it has more to do with does the APRS-IS network support the use of a callsign that is not an amateur radio callsign more than it does with legalities. I know they would frown upon people just making ones up ;)
 
I think it has more to do with does the APRS-IS network support the use of a callsign that is not an amateur radio callsign more than it does with legalities. I know they would frown upon people just making ones up ;)
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I'm with Tyler on this one. The APRS-IS network basically gates traffic from RF onto the internet and vice-versa. Some digipeaters like to transmit traffic from the APRS-IS feed over the air, so I'm guessing that's why it's for hams only. I'd recommend getting your ham license if you don't have one. The test isn't that difficult and you can have a lot of fun with the hobby. (it's also great for communicating with other chasers too!)

Stan
 
I'd second that. I haven't always been the most active ham, but I got my first ticket back in the early 90s when I was in high school. Having a cheap ham radio in the car can come in handy. I'll probably be up soon on APRS as K5TVT.

Bottom line: if you're a storm chaser, there is no good reason not to at least get the privileges and at the very least a little handheld radio you can hook to a mag mount antenna when chasing.

Pumping out 50 watts is better.

MP
 
Okay, now I'm on board with the idea behind the requirement, the retransmitting of the callsign. I guess I'd rather see people get on through the airwaves than the computer ;)

I also agree that it's easy to get the license, but it's just as easy to bust out the code and upgrade to General so more people should quit waiting around for it to get dropped :D Of course that's a whole different debate altogether...

I'll be interested to see how many chasers pop up on the APRS screens this season!
 
Pumping out 50 watts is better.

MP
[/b]

And out in the middle of nowhere, 110 watts is nice to have. I fully realize that commercial radios are not everyone's cup of tea, but running Motorola and GE radios is great when you need the extra power.

That said, there are some great amateur VHF and dual band VHF/UHF radios on the market. Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu all have commercial land mobile divisions and their overall quality has been on the rise in the last 5 years.

I am considering pulling my Motorola gear in one car and replacing them with a combo of Yaesu FT-7800 or 8800 radios. Regardless of your radio, remember that antenna's with gain (i.e. 5/8 wave) will effectively -double- your radiated signal without increasing the power out of the radio.

As for APRS, will an older KPC3+ (late 1990's vintage firmware) be acceptable? I'd like to start playing with APRS.
 
I think you'll find that there are a large number of folks using the KPC3's as their TNC. Go for it!! It's another exciting aspect of amateur radio to grow into!
 
If you have a KPC3 that would work for sure...if you don't have one then go with something like the TinyTrak. I have both and run the TinyTrak when I go mobile. The KPC3 is sorta overkill for just APRS tracking.
 
If you have a KPC3 that would work for sure...if you don't have one then go with something like the TinyTrak. I have both and run the TinyTrak when I go mobile. The KPC3 is sorta overkill for just APRS tracking.
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For those not sure about getting a TNC or not: The TinyTrak is only used for transmitting your location beacon. If you have a laptop (as I'm sure many chasers with GPS do), then having the KPC3 TNC is great for transmitting and receiving other station's reports/locations. Being able to see other stations is half the fun, in my opinion.
 
I started chasing with APRS last year. It is a great way for family and friends to track you. It is also helpful for those who are nowcasting for you. They can see where you are and report on any activity or comming activity in your area without first checking in and finding out where you are.

I would like to see a list of chasers call signs who use APRS. It would be fun to look up a single map and plot everyones locations real time on chase day.

I use the TinyTrak ($23) and an Icom 281H ($100 on ebay) GPS is an old Delorme tripmate (don't ever through those out) If nothing else, it is a fun project to put together and get working.
 
I would like to see a list of chasers call signs who use APRS. It would be fun to look up a single map and plot everyones locations real time on chase day.[/b]
I totally agree! I think we should make a sticky for this and have chasers who use APRS post their callsign.
I use the TinyTrak ($23) and an Icom 281H ($100 on ebay) GPS is an old Delorme tripmate (don't ever through those out) If nothing else, it is a fun project to put together and get working.[/b]
I also have a Tinytrak and an old 25w 2m mobile rig for an RF APRS tracker. Unfortunately it's useless when I have the laptop in the car as it puts interference into the RF signal of the tracker. More specifically, it's when I plug the laptop into the power inverter or the DC charger I bought specifically for my laptop. I think it's some sort of dirty power issue as the laptop doesn't bother my dual band RF signal.

Stan
 
For those not sure about getting a TNC or not: The TinyTrak is only used for transmitting your location beacon. If you have a laptop (as I'm sure many chasers with GPS do), then having the KPC3 TNC is great for transmitting and receiving other station's reports/locations. Being able to see other stations is half the fun, in my opinion.[/b]
The Tinytrak is great if you're just wanting to setup a tracker. It's very inexpensive and can be purchased in kit form or prebuilt for lazy people like myself. ;) As Jarrod pointed out, if you want to both transmit and receive APRS stations you would need a TNC or radio like the D7A/D700A with one built in. As Tyler said though, I've got enough things going on during a chase than to answer a text message via APRS. :p I'd rather just keep GR3 up on the laptop and use the Allisonhouse feed to plot the APRS stations that I want to see. Now out in the boonies where there's no digipeaters or internet gateways, it'd be nice to be able to plot APRS stations that you're hearing direct on your radio. I have a Pocket PC that I'd love to use this for, but I haven't found any way to hook up the radio to it without buying a TNC. (pocket pc's don't have nifty sound card DSP's in them like normal PC's do)

Stan
 
Stan - in the real chase world, how have you got on with APRS over the radio reception? - since 2004 when I first attempted this I have found APRS reception to be less then good. This year I will try my kenwood 700 rig with 50W and a good antenna but I really feel that reception will be less then over the internet via a laptop card.

Even in the UK APRS is patchy (50W) and we have MANY internet gateways. But we do have a few hill in the way ;)
 
You'll have less coverage with APRS than you will with a cell phone. Sad..but true. I asked this question over on the APRS-IS mailing list a few months back and had it confirmed by the guru's on the list (including Bob himself)

The only real APRS option is to go with an HF rig but I don't know anybody with that setup (Bob's recommendation).

I ran APRS mobile for a few chases in southern indiana last year and had practically zero success once I got more than few miles outside Louisville, Indianapolis or Cincinnati. And that's in an area where coverage is suppose to be good. (50W power, VERY good antenna, TinyTrak)

-Tyler
 
Stan - in the real chase world, how have you got on with APRS over the radio reception? - since 2004 when I first attempted this I have found APRS reception to be less then good. This year I will try my kenwood 700 rig with 50W and a good antenna but I really feel that reception will be less then over the internet via a laptop card.
[/b]
I haven't had much luck once I leave the city. There's a few digis here in central IL, but once you get in the country, it hasn't worked too well for me. That's one reason I've been trying the internet method for tracking purposes. I'd like to do both so that if I'm in the middle of nowhere local chasers could still pick me up via the radio method. I'm not sure if it's something I'm doing wrong or just the nature of the beast. I may try using shorter packets or compressed packets and maybe I'll have better success.

Stan
 
Stupid question, and I assume you probably need it...to make this work, you have to have an internet connection like with a cellphone with this particular setup, right?

If so, how do you go about setting up APRS tracking without internet or a cellphone?
 
Get a Ham License
Get the TinyTrak http://www.byonics.com/tinytrak/
Connect it to your computer with a null modem and run the configuration utility to select your options and program your call sign in it.
Disconnect it from the computer.
Connect a Ham radio and a GPS to it.
Tune the radio to 144.390
Log into http://www.findu.com/ and track yourself.
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You just answered what my post was going to be, thank you! Just for all the dumb people out there (me), what exactly is a TinyTrak? The website is very detailed but i dont understand the basic purpose of it. Thanks.
 
what exactly is a TinyTrak? [/b]
Basically, the TinyTrak takes information from your GPS, formats the information to the APRS standard an embeds your call sign, converts that to tones and sends it out to your ham radio as it keys up the radio.

That information if received by a digipeater, will upload the information to a database that can be retrieved via www.findu.com
 
ok, I know this is an old thread, but from my reading here it sounds like a mobile unit will have more success (broader coverage) in *transmitting* their location via APRS via a wireless internet connection as opposed to repeaters. Do I have that about right?
 
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