[aprssig] FW: APRS community resource

Robert Bruninga bruninga at usna.edu
Fri Mar 5 12:21:34 EST 2010

A local club denied a member's requrest to install APRS on the
club tower...

Reasons given in unanimously voting down the proposal were.
1) We know where we are, APRS provides no value to us.
2) Our town is small, we do not need GPS tracking for emergency

To which I sent back the comment, that generally, APRS is
installed in an area as a local community resource for mobles
and visitors and travelers and is not necessarily of immediate
value to own members.  You do it for the greater ham
community... But again, it points out that most non-APRS hams
see APRS only for tracking, and not as a community resource.  So
here is one of my replies...

I think the reason I promote the info distribution aspect of
APRS is because I generally believe that people are not
interested in things that do not provide them personal benefit
or advantage.  This is not a selfish thing, it is just human

The point being that everyone that wants to be tracked is
already doing it on APRS.  And after 18 years of APRS, those
that do, do.  Those that don't never will.  They'd have to live
on mars not to be aware of how APRS can let others track them.
But the benefit to the driver of a tracking TX device is just
not there.

On the otherhand.  If people realize that APRS lets them receive
and display information to them about everything going on around
them in ham radio, then their inner ham-radio-read-the-mail
instinct gets interested.  Now there is something they can see
the benefit of every time they get in the mobile.

The growth curve of APRS as a tracking system peaked 10 years
ago and will not go higher because of all the "I dont care if
people know where I am" attitude that prevails in the other 95%
of ham radio operators.  But of that other 95%, almost -none- of
them are aware of what APRS can do for them individually as a
receive system.

And unlike promoting the tracking side, (anyone can go look at
APRS.FI), there is no easy way for the  have-nots to see what
they are missing with respect to the receive side of APRS.
Unless they see it there on the front panel of their radio, they
do not know it exists.

Even for me, tracking myself has little appeal.  Its there,
done.  Nice to have.  But what I thurst for is seeing what
others are doing, and getting info about ALL activities and
local resources in ham radio while I am mobile (the only place I
have time to play radio).  BUT, a large majority of APRS users
who are into APRS only for tracking, are also oblivious to
receiving and display in their mobile, so even they do not see
the benefit of putting out local sources of info for those
-receiving- mobiles in need of local info.  So unless info is
being put-out there, then there is nothing to see...  Hence the
LOCAL INFO initiative: www.aprs.org/localinfo.html

Hope that helps explain my approach.

>   Hams who are not familiair with APRS only see maps
>   and think it
>   is a vehicle tracking system showing mobiles on
>   maps.  And that
>   (a transmit function from the mobile) is just *not
>   at all* what
>   it was designed for .  No.  The purpose of APRS is
>   the opposite.
>   The purpose of APRS was and always has been, the
>   *reception* by
>   the mobile operator, commuter or ham radio traveler
>   of
>   immediate, relevant, local FRONT-PANEL information
>   to drivers
>   and mobile operators of all amateur radio activities
>   in range.
>   That is why you now see APRS FRONT PANEL Displays
>   (not maps) on
>   most new Radios and HT's.
>   Think of it as the single-channel information
>   resource (144.39)
>   anywhere in NorthAmerica that alerts mobile hams to
>   every ham
>   activity, and resource, net or meeting in the local
>   area, and
>   even traffic jams and accidents.
>   I have spent the majority of the last decade trying
>   to overcome
>   this missunderstood outward view of APRS by
>   non-users, and
>   trying to show how this incorrect vehicle-tracking
>   view of APRS
>   is of little benefit to ham radio.  The real value
>   of APRS is in
>   the local real-time front-panel distribution of
>   immediate local
>   information it provides TO users while mobile in an
>   area (with
>   no other knowledge of local ham radio resources).
>   As APRS mobiles drive anywhere in America, they
>   expect to see on
>   the front panel of their APRS radios all the
>   information on such
>   things as local repeater frequency, tones, offset,
>   net times,
>   meeting dates, hamfests, announcements and
>   bulletins.  This has
>   nothing to do with maps, or GPS or vehicle
>   tracking.  The maps
>   are just the dull outward view as seen by non-APRS
>   users.
>   Please see the web page www.aprs.org/localinfo.html
>   And since I am an annual vacationer in Lewes, I
>   enjoy seeing all
>   this information when I drive in (if it is
>   available).  With
>   this background, I can add a little to some common
>   missunderstandings often voiced at local clubs:
>   *  There is no value-added to the local club..
>   This is true (in a way), because locals are already
>   aware of all
>   local info.  The value of APRS is to visitors and
>   commmuters
>   needing local info in real time. On the other hand,
>   members can
>   consider that the value to the local club comes when
>   they drive
>   their mobiles out of their local area and hope to
>   see the local
>   information in OTHER areas they drive through.  They
>   hope other
>   clubs have an APRS presence on 144.39.  In
>   otherwords, clubs do
>   not put up APRS network support necessarily for
>   their own local
>   benefit, but to serve the greater national community
>   of hams as
>   they travel.  And not just for APRS, but to alert
>   travelers when
>   they are in range of the local voice repeater and
>   how to tune it
>   in.  The new Kenwood APRS radios will even tune to
>   the local
>   voice repeater with the press of a single button
>   when it is in
>   range of an APRS beacon from a repeater site.  Far
>   better than
>   looking through 10,000 listings in a repeater
>   guide.  Is great
>   for meeting new faces and visitors.
>   * Our town is small and does not need APRS Vehicle
>   Tracking
>   See above.  APRS is not a vehicle tracking system. 
>   It is the
>   opposite.  It serves out real-time text, info,
>   messages and
>   visual information to mobiles.  This is of great
>   value during
>   emergencies and drills when much information needs
>   to get out to
>   individual mobiles wihtout having to pass the
>   traffic by voice.
>   Oh, and of course, it allows GLOBAL text messaging
>   to anyone
>   with an HT or radio.
>   * The noisy APRS tone bursts are anoying...
>   One does not listen to 144.39 data by ear except
>   with CTCSS 100
>   set.  That way, there is nothing to hear on the APRS
>   channel.
>   However, knowing that every APRS mobile in North
>   America is
>   simultaneously listening by ear on that channel with
>   CTCSS100
>   means that ANY APRS mobile in range can be contacted
>   anytime,
>   anywhere by just making a direct voice call with PL
>   100 and then
>   QSY'ing to a simplex frequency.  In this way it is
>   even better
>   than 52, because you *know* he is listening, and you
>   *know* he
>   is on this frequency always.
>   * APRS is expensive...
>   Yes, there  are many new APRS radios with APRS front
>   panel
>   displays and it is good to see the manufacturers
>   catching up to
>   this fascinating new way of distributing local info
>   to mobile
>   operators.  But innexpensive kits are available to
>   add APRS
>   displays to any mobile using any old spare radio. 
>   The
>   Byonics.COM TinyTrack-4 with LCD display is well
>   under $100 and
>   makes a great club project...  An APRS community
>   node is very
>   simple, just a low power radio and a TNC in many
>   cases (hooked
>   to a nice high antenna).
>   Anyway, please help us spread the word of what APRS
>   is and what
>   it is not.  Another good article was in september
>   2008 QST
>   describing what APRS is (and it is not vehicle
>   tracking)...
>   I send this not in support of any particular
>   location of APRS in
>   your community, that is a completely local issue,
>   but just to
>   support the general concept and understanding of
>   APRS.  The
>   maximum advantage of APRS as a resource is when it
>   covers
>   generally the same footprint as a local repeateer or
>   club.  This
>   then provides everyone in that range, the common
>   information
>   displays relevant to that area.  And alerts them to
>   the central
>   voice repeater where everyone hangs out.
>   Bob Bruninga
>   WB4APR

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