[aprssig] Generic Smartphone APRS aps!

Lee Mushel herbert3 at centurytel.net
Mon Jan 31 17:30:33 EST 2011


Starting nearly four years ago now, when returning to ham radio after a long 
absence, it didn't take me long to realize that APRS (and since I am 
interested in emergency work only I am talking about RF APRS only) was 
simply very complex and something that I would put off until I had 
"mastered" Software Defined Radio.  Now that I feel fairly comfortable with 
SDR I am trying to follow the direction(s) that you fellows are going!   Of 
course, I agree that a graphic image, a map or something much more complex, 
can convey a lot of information very quickly and I also see a need for 
combining that with text to eliminate a lot of confusion for the spatially 
challenged.   To that end, my own most recent purchase was a nice little 
Yaesu handheld with this plastic lump that I understand can receive GPS.   I 
also have a nice miniature keyboard that I can attach to the D-700 and I 
also have an assembly of cables and more plastic lumps that are identified 
as ARGENT ADS-GM1 and Open Tracker plus.   I seem to recall registering for 
UI-View and I have purchased DEPICTION---a program that makes a lot of sense 
to me.  And I took careful note of the I-phone display idea as well.

But you might consider this note to be a plaintive wail in winter winds to 
"settle down" so a simple old guy like myself can understand where you are 
going and how to use what I'm sure is amazing, useful and fun stuff!


Lee   K9WRU   WD2XSH/32

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Gregg Wonderly" <gregg at wonderly.org>
To: "TAPR APRS Mailing List" <aprssig at tapr.org>
Sent: Monday, January 31, 2011 3:18 PM
Subject: Re: [aprssig] Generic Smartphone APRS aps!

> On Jan 25, 2011, at 3:33 PM, Bob Bruninga wrote:
>>> Without a mapping application,
>>> APRS is virtually useless.
>> Well, that sentiment is what pervades Amateur Radio and is why we are 
>> still
>> just a small minority of map voyeurs instead of communicators.  The APRS
>> channel cannot provide the map tracking continuity that map tracking 
>> voyeurs
>> expect.  Promoting APRS as just a tracking system is a self-defeating 
>> dead
>> end. (and is why we are stuck where we are today with hardly anyone
>> communicating while mobile anymore because all the repeaters are PL'ed 
>> and
>> there is no easy on-the-fly way to make a contact.
> What you are imaging, is that somehow "where" and "icon" are the only 
> things that a map coveys.  There is so much more to be gained from the 
> map.  It tells you what information to look at, of all the APRS 
> information available.  it doesn't require a scrolling list to be 
> navigated.  There are kinds of shortcuts to information that a map 
> provides much better than a textual, scrolling list does.
> Remember when all we had on computer screens was scrolling text?  Now, we 
> have graphical UIs which use "pictures" that our brain can recognize much 
> faster than 1,000 words.  This is exactly how an APRS map makes APRS much 
> more useful for mobile operators.
> You Bob, are far too tuned into your existing displays.   With all of your 
> experience in the design of them, it is much more trivial for you to 
> consume them.  People without anywhere near that much information have a 
> really hard time tuning their brain to "just text" and figuring out where 
> and how to find information.
> If there are more than 4-5 active stations in any area, APRS textual 
> displays change so quickly that there is no way to consume the information 
> available.
> This is the problem as I see it.  You want text to be the primary 
> conveyance of information and it is simply the least efficient in a mobile 
> environment.  A mobile operator needs something that they can comprehend 
> without staring.
> A map provides a nice compartmentalized display which segregates stations 
> based on one of the most important characteristics of local APRS activity, 
> location.  The mobile operator can pick the station to look at easily and 
> consume the information provided with a glance.
>> Of course, maps are GREAT to see where all the net participants are
>> currently located in the VHF RF domain and special events and all kinds 
>> of
>> uses,...  But to fulfill the basic needs of a single national network
>> channel for establishing immediate communications between users, the map 
>> is
>> not as important as some think.  I assume that most tactical aware hams 
>> can
>> visualize where someone reported as 3.5 miles NW is located relative to 
>> the
>> area.  Same goes if they are 35 miles west, or wherever.
> You are right that messaging does not require a map.  However, in my area, 
> we have a large UFH linked system that covers more than half of the state 
> of Oklahoma with coverage into Kansas and Arkansas.  It was built to 
> provide the NWS office in Tulsa OK with opportunity to have communications 
> with EOCs in outlying communities.  With this system in place, mobile APRS 
> users in severe weather events (which happen here all year round) need the 
> map.  The NWS operator needs to know where people are and people need to 
> be able to look at the map and know what repeater they should be using! 
> So, in our use of APRS, mapping is essential, there is no way to provide 
> the severe weather support activities that save countless lives!
>> But in my non-ham radio dealings, I guess I have seen a whole lot of 
>> folks
>> who are just basically clueless about spatial awareness and couldn't tell
>> someone which way is north, or how to get to the nearest Radio shack 
>> without
>> a map.  Asked how far away the Home Depot is, I am amazed that many 
>> people
>> (who know where it is) cannot estimate the distance even within a factor 
>> of
>> 2!  Is it a mile away?  Is it 10 miles away?  They just look stunned as 
>> if
>> they have never heard of a "mile" as a unit of distance. "Just go that 
>> way
>> to the McDonalds and turn left."
>> My earlier list of priorities for implementing APRS was in no way meant 
>> to
>> diminish the value of maps.  But it was to show that the most important 
>> and
>> easiest aspects of APRS as a communications and information distribution
>> network do not necessarily require maps.
>> Get the communications built-in first, then add the maps as the icing on 
>> the
>> cake.
> I think it really depends on the application that APRS is targeted for. 
> Messaging and bulletins are such a small part of the total APRS picture. 
> Message content is much richer than it used to be, but, that also means 
> that messaging needs to have some different information conveyance 
> techniques than looking at the message text.  Repeater freqs need to be on 
> the icons on a map so that people can see what equipment is where to know 
> what to use for best coverage in a particular direction.  Only then can 
> they choose the right frequency to put into their status/message.
> The map really provides the best representation for all the spacial and 
> directional characteristics of RF usage.  The information that is in the 
> text of APRS packets, while readable, is not always easily consumed.  As 
> more and more information has been packed into more and more compact and 
> brief representations, in particular, the time needed to "Look at" a 
> packet has become very time consuming.
> So APRS applications need to do the things you say, but for me, all of 
> that is of little benefit without a MAP included.
> Gregg Wonderly
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