[aprssig] Igates Are A Fair Weather Solution (was: "Finito")

Ray McKnight shortsheep at worldnet.att.net
Sun Aug 28 20:52:50 EDT 2005

I don't disagree with these arguements.
But you make a few assumptions that I feel should be addressed.

First, APRS has seldom shown the usefulness that a lot of folks
assume it will provide in disaster and wide-spread emergency
communications.  There are numerous groups that have exploited
it to its absolute limits, particularly a few highly skilled SAR teams.
BUT, unfortunately too many people wait until the disaster strikes
to start planning for their communications needs.  The SAR teams
and others who have success with APRS realize its limitations,
have fine tuned their procedures and integrated APRS only to the
extent that they know it can be relied upon.

The majority of people never understand APRS limitations, and assume
it will be the only tool in their bag of communications tricks.  Also,
frequent training MUST be conducted for an effective emergency
communications system to be valuable.

My biggest contention with your post is that you are intending to rely
on APRS to cover a huge geographic area - 460 miles!  APRS is NOT
designed, nor even minimally capable of providing this type of RF
coverage *reliably*.  And reliability is *essential* in emergency

Yes, we need to plan on ignoring the Internet side of APRS in a disaster
or emergency.  IF that side is still alive and can be used, fine, but it
be foolish to plan on relying on it.  The true functionality of APRS lies in
its great ability to provide TACTICAL communications to a small
geographic area, and a small number of local assets (about 50 stations
is optimum).

When you need to extend beyond your RF-direct boundary, or pass
APRS collected information to a distant station, especially beyond 1-hop,
you must consider other communications alternatives!

How many people have said "gee, I never even considered using HF"!
Yes,  the perfect tool for reaching beyond your local area, especially
out to 400-500 miles!  Plus, you have virtually UNLIMITED frequencies
at your disposal to set up small, specialized nets for specific traffic or
two users needing to pass high volumes of traffic.  PACTOR is PERFECT
for this as it can *reliably* maintain a connected link with error
down to -18db BELOW the noise floor!  Even VOICE would be a better
solution in most cases for the long haul vs APRS.

Not to imply anything personally about the original posters of this thread,
but it's
sad that in this day and age of the carbon-copy, Radio Shack Ham, how
we discard or ignore the simple and efficient methods that were used
for 50+ years, all for the sake of technology and "advancing the radio art".

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Geoffrey Dick" <wa4ikq at nevets.oau.org>
To: <aprssig at lists.tapr.org>
Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2005 08:49
Subject: [aprssig] Igates Are A Fair Weather Solution (was: "Finito")

> Subject: Igates Are a Fair Weather Solution, Earl's "Finito"
> Amateur Internet APRS is only a "fair weather" tool useful only
> from armchair observers who have a good wired connection, and an
> unlimited source of power.   It is great for when the sun is shining,
> for watching parades, and weather-permitting outdoor events.   When
> it comes to a foul weather disaster, my experience has demonstrated
> it comes up quite short of being useful for tactical purpose.  As
> utility power is lost, the computer-operated "smart" Igate digis
> die first, leaving only battery-operated TNC-only digis with preset
> path limits, that are now set to break the RF connections.
> Here in Florida, we spend half the year under a hurricane watch.
> When this type of event occurs, wide-spread areas undergo fallen
> trees, powerlines, telephone, cellphone, and cable outages.  As
> that happens, the RF connection becomes essential to for doing
> anything tactical.
> On RF, we can no longer receive the severe weather bulletins, and
> hurricane position updates from a West Coast station, only 60
> miles away.   We also can no longer see on RF the picket fence of
> weather stations, that surround us in Central Florida.  Working
> from a hurricane shelter, there is no internet gateway hookup to
> complete the connection.  For lack of the completed RF connection,
> Amateur RADIO APRS fails as a mobile tactical tool in disaster areas.
> For the sake of limiting the path of a few abusers in densely
> populated areas, we have become obsessed with strangling the
> wonderful RF network capability that has been put in place.
> I have to support Earl Needham.  His "Finito" is a summation of
> the decline of APRS some of us are experiencing here on the Florida
> peninsula.  I used to enjoy seeing 150 to 250 stations coming in
> on RF APRS each day here in Central Florida.  Yes, the single
> 1200 baud APRS channel IS sufficient to accomplish this.  Now,
> all we see is 5 to 15 stations, depending on the time of day.
> Sometimes we see a glimpse of a distant station when band
> openings occur.
> With the new path-limiting paradigm, blindly being put into
> place, WIDE1-1,WIDE2-2 RF APRS is like watching paint dry,
> lacking the tactical usefulness it once had.  It is my belief
> that Florida digi owners should consider adding increasing
> alternate paths of FL4-4 for the Keys, and FL3-3,FL2-2,FL1-1
> in general to achieve 460 miles of State connectivity South
> to North.  That would give us a tactical path to go to in
> a State wide emergency, without overwhelming neighboring
> border States.
> Geoffrey Dick, wa4ikq
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