[aprssig] APRS tocalls.txt - practical steps

Bob Poortinga aprssig at k9sql.us
Fri Feb 11 12:12:12 EST 2022

Since Steve asked for comments, here is my 2 cents.

I think it is wonderful that Hessu has volunteered to take on this task.  I
fully support him doing this (with Steve's conditions). This is something
that needs to be done without introducing needless delay. I also fully
support the move to Github which is something that should have done years
ago. Any other APRS metadata which requires updating and maintenance should
also be moved to Github.

Hessu has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the area of modernizing
APRS. This is a protocol that is almost 30 years old and badly needs to be
updated and streamlined if it is to remain viable. That includes removing
some of the kludges introduced into the protocol by Bob for devices and
software that no longer exist and features that are never used. Bob had
great ideas and imagination, but implemention was sometimes a hack.

One area that I see being important to the future of APRS is telemetry
which should be expanded and improved. Another thing that I would to see is
a registry for digipeaters (and possibly igates) that allow identification
and operator contact for stations with issues such as the well known
"delayed packet" problem. At some point, coordination of digipeaters may
also be necessary as well as local policy digipeating.

Bob was a visionary, but also opinionated and stubborn at times which
sometimes worked against him. Being of Dutch (Fries) ancestry myself, the
saying " You can tell a Dutchman, but you can't tell him much" is often
ascribed to us. RIP, Bob.

Bob Poortinga W9IZ

On Fri, Feb 11, 2022, 11:02 AM Steve Dimse <steve at dimse.com> wrote:

> I have no problem with you taking over allocating the IDs for now, if you
> agree to yield in the future should a protocol group emerge.
> I am unconvinced there is a need for any new infrastructure in the short
> term, I can update the aprs.org site with any changes you send to me.
> People already know to look there.
> If you do choose to proceed with a github site please publicly commit now
> to either closing it or turning it over to a group that takes on
> maintaining the protocol and aprs.org site, as well as relinquishing
> responsibility for allocating new IDs, should such an APRS protocol group
> emerge. We do not need the first thing that happens after Bob's death to be
> an irrevocable split of the allocation of new IDs from the rest of the
> protocol, or worse having two competing registrars.
> Without a public commitment to yield to an APRS protocol group should one
> emerge, then I would strongly object to anyone taking over any part of the
> protocol in the near term.
> If, in say three months, there is no such group, then consider my
> objection removed, and you (and everyone else) are free to do anything you
> want on IDs or any other part of the protocol. I have had several private
> conversations with people who want to put a group together, I am
> encouraging them to go public but none feel ready yet and are continuing to
> work behind the scenes. I hope I'm wrong, I have doubts there will be a
> group, but I really believe we should give it a chance. Three months is not
> a long time to wait.
> How do other APRS users feel? We really need to make this more of a
> discussion. One of the concerns the most promising candidate expressed
> privately is the apathy on the list so far. There are hundreds of people on
> this list, and only a few have said anything. So this is the first chance
> for public comment about a specific question. If you have an interest in
> APRS speak now or forever share the blame (or credit) for what happens!
> 1. Do you think an APRS protocol group or organization of some sort is a
> good idea?
> 2. Should Hessu start new infrastructure to handle IDs now?
> 3. If not is three months an appropriate length of time to wait to see if
> a group can form? Suggest another if you wish.
> Steve K4HG
> > On Feb 11, 2022, at 10:23 AM, Heikki Hannikainen <hessu at hes.iki.fi>
> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Hello,
> >
> > Sad news indeed, and I guess some practical things need to be sorted out
> soon. Here's one: tocalls and Mic-E identifiers for new apps and devices.
> >
> > I've been meaning to propose publicly that the APRS unique identifiers
> allocation (device identifiers / tocalls / mic-e IDs, and additional
> secondary symbol table extensions) tables would be maintained on Github,
> where a team of few people could maintain the master list, instead of
> having just one person do it. The machine-readable aprs-deviceid list [1],
> which I've been maintaining since 2013, which tracks tocalls.txt and is
> currently in sync with it, could serve as the new primary list for
> tocalls/mic-e. I'd just move it to a github organization and add a couple
> of additional maintainers there.
> >
> > Bob seemed happy with me maintaining the list (we discussed this a few
> times over email during the course of a couple years, and he said last
> March in an email about an additional symbol identifier that "Lets see if
> Hessu agrees. He is taking over assignments."), but I'd rather have a
> couple of others with permission to update, and a documented criteria for
> good additions, so that it wouldn't depend on my availability.
> >
> > The benefits of the git approach are:
> >
> > * There is a clear record of all changes and change requests
> > * The machine-readable database can be used directly in APRS
> applications to identify other apps based on packet contents, and the
> database can be updated automatically by just downloading the file in the
> app or during a build process
> > * Github supports multiple maintainers nicely, as it is a distributed
> development platform
> > * Git repositories, with complete revision history, can be easily backed
> up (by anyone, including yourself, from this public github repository) and
> moved from Github to some other place if necessary later on.
> >
> > Until now I have only added devices there only after they appeared in
> Bob's text file, and if someone tried requesting an entry directly to
> aprs-deviceid, I bounced them to Bob first.  The first request ticket to
> add new allocations already came in yesterday, but I've put it on hold for
> a bit.
> >
> > I can volunteer to set the github organisation up. If an APRS standards
> committee / organisation develops later on, I'll be happy to pass on the
> responsibilty of maintaining the list to such a group. I've licensed the
> files under the CC BY-SA 2.0 open source license, so technically it
> wouldn't need my permission anyway, if someone wanted to fork the database,
> and people would rather use the forked list instead. I chose the license so
> that other APRS developers could use the files freely in their
> applications, but it allows forks just as well.
> >
> > I propose that this shall be discussed over the weekend, and if there is
> some sort of consensus that I should do this, I'll start adding new
> allocations and setting up the other things some time next week.  If there
> isn't consensus and someone else would rather maintain tocalls.txt, then
> I'll refrain from allocating new identifiers for now.
> >
> > [1] https://github.com/hessu/aprs-deviceid
> >
> > The master list is edited in YAML (a machine-readable format itself):
> >
> > https://github.com/hessu/aprs-deviceid/blob/master/tocalls.yaml
> >
> > Which is then converted to JSON and XML with a script, and developers
> using this
> > data in their applications can then choose to read in one of the three
> formats,
> > depending on their preferences:
> >
> > https://github.com/hessu/aprs-deviceid/tree/master/generated
> >
> > In addition to these I'd write a script to automatically publish a
> pretty (well, at least less ugly) HTML table with the current allocations
> for humans to browse, updated every time the master list is changed.
> >
> > Changes are archived, like git does, and you can see some 3rd-party
> > contributions coming in as well already in the past:
> >
> > https://github.com/hessu/aprs-deviceid/commits/master
> >
> > All the changes and revisions are archived, so everyone can see what
> exactly was changed, and how. This is how most open source software is
> maintained these days (and a lot of closed source, as well).
> >
> >
> https://github.com/hessu/aprs-deviceid/commit/ac6c0436f85579b7b8e6ef345f41d771a2621213
> >
> > People have mostly submitted update requests as Github Issue tickets,
> and occasionally over direct email. Tickets are nice as there's a public
> track of change requests, and their resolutions.
> >
> > https://github.com/hessu/aprs-deviceid/issues?q=is%3Aissue+is%3Aclosed
> >
> >  - Hessu, OH7LZB / AF5QT, aprs.fi
> >
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