[aprssig] aprs.fi

Heikki Hannikainen hessu at hes.iki.fi
Fri Jan 13 05:35:37 EST 2023

On Thu, 12 Jan 2023, Stephen H Smith via aprssig wrote:

>   On 1/12/2023 4:36 PM, MJ Inabnit wrote:
> This morning, I tried to open aprs.fi and received a very odd map,
> somewhere on a planet.  I just tried again this afternoon.  If I put in
> my call it has an error-denied..  Is this an issue with my ISP or is
> everyone having issues trying to access aprs.fi?
> Just tried it on my  own calls.  It appears that aprs.fi has switched from Google Maps to Open Street Map with it's awful generic art work.  This includes
> all route markers appearing as a generic box that makes Interstate highway numbers look the same as state and local roads. 
> Is Google imposing some new onerous terms-of-use forcing the switch?

Right, aprs.fi is now using Leaflet mapping instead of Google Maps API, 
with OSM maps being downloaded from my own tile server. I might go back to 
Google Maps depending on how this goes, and depending on how things 
develop with Google.

There are notifications about this change on the aprs.fi google group, and 
the Twitter and FB pages - there's more details in the threads and 
comments there, so if you have follow-up questions, they might already be 
answered down there. But I'm pasting the key bits below anyway.


It’ll be drawing the maps a bit slowly in the beginning and some features 
are missing. PHG circles are not being drawn, for one. There's no 
satellite/aerial views, and no Street View. I can implement PHG a bit 
later, Street View cannot be done, some satellite imagery might be 
possible but it won't be as good as with Google Maps.

I’ll have to do this to avoid a recurrence of a Noticeably Large credit 
card charge I got for Google Maps usage in December (think "one new nice 
HF rig every month" large, or "one VERY nice HF rig every two months"). 
Google has had a very large and generous free quota for use of Google Maps 
on aprs.fi, but the implementation of that free tier has been a bit 
unstable and sometimes a bit too small after all, and I need a backup plan 
in case it goes away permanently later on.

I'm still very grateful to Google, who let us use Google Maps for the past 
16 years, mostly for free! It's been working very well! Thanks go to 
Google and the amateur radio operators working for Google who made this 
happen for such a long time.

The backup plan consists of three main bits:

* Leaflet (https://leafletjs.com/) is the JavaScript library responsible 
for implementing the slippy map. A great and popular piece of open source 
software from Ukraine. It runs in your web browser, loads map image tiles 
from a tile server, lets you pan & zoom around, and provides aprs.fi with 
the necessary bits to draw station symbols and lines and other overlays on 
top of the map.

* OpenStreetMaps (OSM) is the map data set I download (some 73 GB of it 
currently) and push in a database running on my Tile Server. The data is 
free to download, but not free to serve to visitors, unless you're using 
it only a little and can use their public tile servers.

* A Tile Server, which I now run, which produces square PNG images from
the OSM vector map data, which your browser downloads and displays. I
suspect it'll be a noticeable pain to keep it running smoothly.

I have had Leaflet mostly implemented for some time, it just has not been
enabled before now. There's probably a few bugs here and there which need
to be ironed out - please let me know when you find one. Just reply to
the relevant thread on the aprs.fi discussion group.

I have a fairly nice 16-CPU 128 GB RAM dual-SSD-drive server running the
map tile server, but it's still a bit laggy until it has cached enough
tiles. And we'll see if it's fast enough to do reloads of the data in 
parallel while serving clients with an old copy of the OSM database.

To make it run fast enough, buildings, amenities, lamp posts and similar 
less important items are not loaded in the map database. Country borders 
are accidentally missing, along with city/country names. A world without 
borders would be a nice ideal, but I'll add them back in the next rebuild 
after figuring out what other critical pieces are missing.

It's not as good as what we had before, and it's a lot more work for me, 
but if it can literally save me XXXX € ($ YYYY) every month, it's alright.

I sent an email to the OSMF Operations Working Group asking for permission 
to use their tile service on aprs.fi. It'd sure be less hassle if they'd 
allow it. We'll see.

   - Hessu

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