hams use coax to transfer high frequency electromagnetic energy between antennae and receivers and transmitters

Mar 31, 2005
(an archived page, this may contain outdated or broken links)

WinAPRS display with map data from TIGER
Thanks to Bob Bruninga, WB4APR.

This page is to show off some of my recent APRS accomplishments.
I first learned of APRS about 1990, before GPS was introduced to the general public. It was a DOS program then, and is still used that way. Unfortunately, I never really had time to seriously experiment or explore the possibilities. These days people rarely think of APRS without thinking GPS, because the primary application that comes to mind is using a GPS equipped APRS transceiver to send position updates to the internet servers that provide convenient mapping displays. It is still possible to make use of the mapping capabilities of the APRS system, without using GPS - having all these new internet resources just makes it that much better.

Environment :
+ My station is using the MFJ-1278 TNC and WinAPRS.exe version 3.7.7.
+ The computer is a 700MHz Dell Optiplex, Win2000Pro, with 128MB ram ... less should also work.
+ Recent state and county map source data from the U.S. Census Bureau (TIGER). (links below)
+ Live AX25 data from 144.390 MHz, in the Charleston, SC area.

Results :
+ Screen captures showing the dynamic nature of Tiger map data as you zoom in . . .

 + Pretty Cool- eh ?

+  Even street-level detail . . .

+ Then we were following Bryce (K4LXF) as he checked out various routes for an upcoming event, so I tried placing static objects on the map. An operator can move these by simply dragging them with the mouse, or clicking the edit tab and entering new coordinates. Give you any ideas for public service event support ?

+ All in all a very productive day, I had been wanting to try this for years . . .

+ Bob Bruninga (WB4APR) started digitizing amateur radio communications in early 1980s, and helped develop the AX25 specification. His vision for position reporting evolved into APRS, even before GPS was developed. In the late 80's not many of us had internet either, but amateur packet radio BBSs provided powerful wireless email. Now with the WWW, we can track all sorts of amateur packet activity thru www.findU.com - which collects live AX25 data into a database. From this collection, position and weather information from around the world is available to most everyone, almost instantly. Many links exist to documentation, but lots of them are stale. A fairly current page can be found at http://dididahdahdidit.com/dosaprs.php. Read Bob's history here .
+ To interact with the live data, and do custom maps, I wanted to try WinAPRS - written by Mark Sproul (KB2ICI) and Keith Sproul (WU2Z).  They also offer MacAPRS. The program is fairly mature, and doesn't see many upgrades lately. Most of the significant bugs have been worked out.
+ The TIGER map data goes into a \Tiger directory, downloaded as .ZIP files. The data is then processed into .BIN files for use by the program. Determining which files to get, and from what directory - was probably the trickiest part of the whole thing. I started with the "TIGER" notes in the included Docs. Here are my notes:
 - for state (SC) ascii data - got st45_d00_ascii.zip

 - for county outlines, by state - got co45_d00_ascii.zip

  instructions said to go here for state map data, by county FIP code,
 and then click on SC (http://www2.census.gov/geo/tiger/tiger2002/SC/)
        - but it didn't work...
Looking here - http://www2.census.gov/geo/tiger/tiger2k/
 - and got tiger2k_readme.txt, found SC directory, but it was not as current as :
 - then into the SC directory and got : (make sure to get the ascii data)
These file names are based upon the state/county codes (SSccc)

TIGER SC FIPS codes for the Charleston area :
45    15    Berkeley SC
45    19    Charleston SC
45    35    Dorchester SC
+ Once you have installed the program, saved and unzipped the Tiger data, crank it up...
Open the TNC to let the data in. Open a "Tiger" window, and start zooming in.
      (I'll try to add more detail here, once I get more familiar with the program.)
To me this was very satisfying, for just a few hours effort. It's possibly "old hat" to those that have been following APRS all these years - but this was the first time I've had a chance to make it happen.

  + + + More links to fun stuff with APRS + + +
+ You can look up any APRS station report, via FindU.com, mine for example.
+ check latest APRS stations heard by the Space Station.
+ APRS on orbit : FAQ
+ Check the last reported position of Stan (KC4ZPL) - Hiway Trucker Extrordinaire . . .
    (He showed me this many years back, to keep up with where he was driving)
+ Check on current NWS radar, with my location indicated...
+ Check current and historical weather conditions in Summerville, via W4HNK.
+ APRSWXNET information helped start a new program for NOAA, called Citizen Weather.
+ UI-View is another program in use for APRS, but I have yet to investigate.
* UPDATE * tried it, liked it, made some maps - look here !
+ You can see maps generated by the Census Bureau, with TIGER data here.

(Still) Coming soon :

+ the WB5RMG "hamcam" !

"Hummm . . . . What should I do now ?"
+ don't forgetabout the rest of SomeNet !

Copyright 2005 - wb5rmg @ somenet.net