[aprssig] WB4APR SK

Andrew Pavlin spam8mybrain at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 9 13:31:05 EST 2022

 If APRS is going to decline gracefully, let's let it do so gracefully, not in a war of uncoordinated divergence. When no new functionality is delivered (all software vendors stop producing updates, all hardware vendors stop creating new products with embedded APRS), then it's time for APRS to die. But Yaesu recently released a new radio model with APRS built in, so I don't think new development of APRS is dead yet. So having a standards body to manage evolution of the APRS standards is a good thing, as long as it is still evolving.

Yes, there are other ways to track things (and do the other non-tracking-related features of APRS). Besides the marketing departments of cellular telephone companies putting in tracking features, the US Federal Government finally noticed what was invented at their own Naval Academy almost 40 years ago, and developed a product to give that functionality to themselves; see TAK.gov Of course, their product is not available to the general public and foreigners, and depends on far more infrastructure than APRS requires, but it does tracking and text messaging and Situational Awareness reporting too.
But APRS is within the budget of amateurs, and it works for what it does. Note that amateurs are still using Morse code, too, and it's a lot older than APRS.

Giving away source code has nothing to do with keeping the standards controlled and evolving in a rational fashion. Note that one of the most famous APRS programs, UI-View, had its source code destroyed upon the author's death, and neither Kenwood nor Yaesu have released their APRS firmware source code. Yet new APRS programs are still being written (some open-source, some not).
The APRS-IS backbone will continue to exist as long as the site renters are willing and able to pay for it (just like any other hobbyists).
Who's left to track? All of those public-service events with support vehicles going around to support the event participants, which said support vehicles need to be efficiently sent to where they are needed. Who's trained to do that kind of management (other than 911 dispatchers and fire and police chiefs trained in Incident Command System management, etc.)? Us hams, that's who!
And there are still many things on APRS besides weather stations (which, by the way, are being actively used in the public interest, at least in the United States) and public event trackers.
We may have had a blow struck by losing our leader, but APRS isn't dead yet.
Andrew Pavlin, KA2DDOauthor of YAAC ("Yet Another APRS Client"), a free open-source program for which another update was just released a whole week ago

    On Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 12:08:00 PM EST, R Kirk via aprssig <aprssig at lists.tapr.org> wrote:  
 Steve, and all…  Maybe this is time to let APRS decline gracefully. Ham radio, along with most of us, are no longer spring chickens either. I don’t see APRS as thriving in the future regardless of its leadership or structure.  There are still a few fun niches but small position tracking is no longer unique. Every kid has a cell phone with most APRS capability. I don’t think the marvelous wide networking system you pioneered can go on for long. The question is whether to leave the system going as is, till every one eventually expires, or to pull the plug soon.
Are manufacturers going to continue to make APRS radios?Where are all those new hams? (We're getting pretty old & fat)Are you going to give your source code – to whom?Are the remaining hosts going to continue to make their servers available?Are protocols fixed forever?Is most of APRS just a weather network?Who’s left to track?Want to buy a buggy whip?

Bob KirkN3OZB

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Dimse <steve at dimse.com>
To: Ian_Wade_G3NRW via aprssig <aprssig at lists.tapr.org>
Sent: Wed, Feb 9, 2022 10:29 am
Subject: [aprssig] WB4APR SK

Yes, it is true. Amateur radio has lost a true pioneer in its transition to the digital age. I will certainly miss him. We often argued, but I deeply respected him. I'm glad I had the chance to express that to him unequivocally before his death. When he was diagnosed he was not expected to last 6 months but he made it two years, and it took covid to finish the job. He was tough as well as brilliant.

Bob did not want to make a big deal of his cancer and did not want sympathy, so he only told a few people. He did drop a few hints over the last two years though. Bob tried to get a group of active programmers in APRS to come together, but no one stepped forward. We talked about it, and I told him I thought it would not happen until he made his diagnosis public and involved the larger community. He did not want to do that, so I agreed to help as I could. I have control of aprs.org, and TAPR has the paperwork to transfer the APRS trademark.

The APRS community has some choices to make. I am no spring chicken myself, and I have no desire to assume Bob's throne on top of APRS. However I am not going to just hand responsibility to a single person. This needs to be a community effort and not become dependent on a single person. We need to use this sad opportunity to strengthen APRS. I hope people will step forward to form a group to assume the leadership role. I would like to see a non-profit formed with a real board of directors, bylaws, and open membership. But I'm not going to do it - collaboration is not one of my strengths either!

I am sure TAPR will be willing to help in any way it can, and a real APRS group should be able to secure a grant from ARDC (ampr.org) for funding itself. If you weren't aware ARDC, which has held the IP allocation since the beginning, sold an unused quarter of the allocation to Amazon for $108 million a couple years back, and has been giving out grants for worthy ham radio projects. 

This can be a beginning of a new era for APRS if a few people are willing to take on a lot of unpaid, under-appreciated effort. If that doesn't happen, I will update the aprs.org pages with new user-defined packet definitions and to-calls. I will not be drawn into discussion about protocol changes, new icons, or other such minutia. Other than housekeeping details, the protocol is not officially changing until an open membership group steps up and takes over. Without the ability to change, people may decide to implement changes unilaterally, which will not be good for the community.

Bob loved APRS, and he wanted it to thrive after his death. But for all his flashes of brilliance he was never good at creating a collaborative group. We tried to help him by creating the APRS Working Group in the early 2000s but he never did anything with it once we created the protocol and stepped aside. It is time for someone to step into his shoes and lead, or APRS will decline.

It is in your hands.

Steve K4HG

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