[aprssig] Broken digis (Ohio to Oklahoma and everywhere inbetween)

Jim Duncan jdbandman at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 29 22:38:29 EDT 2007

It all seems like a lot of fuss to me. Personally, I'm not sure that the 
new paradigm is necessary in every locale. Clearly it is essential in a 
high-traffic environment. Is it necessary in a small, local area where 
there are <25 users on the air? I'm not sure it is.

When I operate mobile in the KC area now (since the changeover) the ONLY 
place I can see that I've been digipeated at all is on my own digipeater 
(W0APR-3, one of the "offending" digis!).  I have no way of verifying 
that I am even being seen/heard. Now, that's a minor point and I suppose 
that blind trust is a requirement to operate APRS.

You can't even Ping a path any longer to verify whether you are being 
heard or not with the new system. Now, to me, that means that unless 
somebody happens to send me a message, I can't know with absolute 
certainty whether my mobile is even making the network or not.

Now in the Kansas City area we USED to have quite a few low-power home 
stations (people operating in locations/situations where anything more 
than a few watts or a small, low-altitude antenna was possible). Without 
the availability of RELAY those stations are potentially out of the 
picture! It could almost be interpreted as an admonition to hams of 
limited means that (and this is stretching it!) APRS is a rich-man's 
game and if you can't use the WideNn paradigm then you're pretty much 

Regrettably the network is no longer truly open in this area and new 
users who may come on-air with little or no understanding but who simply 
wanted to download and try the software with it's default values would 
probably see stations popping up but when they discover that they can't 
communicate they quickly lose interest.

Case in point: Back when Bill Young and I were the moving force behind 
promoting APRS in the KC area there was a long-time ham friend of mine 
who wanted to get on the air. Unfortunately he was using a PK-232 TNC 
which would not take the programming strings coming out of the software 
to get it into converse mode. It was a constant struggle trying to get 
him on and keep him on the air. Now, he COULD have gone out and spent 
(in those days) the $139.00 for a new Kantronics TNC, but he was very 
active in other packet and digital modes and the PK-232 worked great in 
those applications. Eventually he decided that APRS was too big of a 
hassle to deal with in all the gymnastics it took to reset and program 
the PK-232 to operate with APRS so he said "looks like fun but it's just 
too big of a hassle just to get it to work!" (Problem was getting the 
TNC out of KISS mode and back into PACKET mode reliably)

I can't help but wonder if there are people out there who have had 
similar experiences with the new mode of operations and have given up as 
a result.

It's a shame that instead of making a wholesale change that there isn't 
room for a transitional period or room for both modes of operation. It 
might make a difference for those who are technically challenged (which 
is a whole other issue when you think about the history of amateur 
radio, right?).

Jim Duncan, KU0G

P.S. So Jerome is aware, I have attempted several times to reprogram 
APR-3 remotely with no success. Access to the digi site requires taking 
a good 3 hours by the time I make a call to let the site owner know I'll 
be on the property and get a response, drive out to the property, and 
then do whatever is needed on site. Most of my days are taken up with 
preparing for the fall marching band season and writing a doctoral 
dissertation so while it's on my list of things to do it must take a 
back seat. It IS a hobby, after all...

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