APRS Software – Two great finds! Why didn’t I try them sooner?
I have been an APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) user for a number of years now. I was stuck in the old paradigm of using UI-View32 and AGWPE, which are very good programs to use for APRS. There were just a few things that I thought could be better. For one UI-View32 maps are kind of frustrating to retrieve and configure. I bought SA maps to use with UI-View32 and although it worked well, zooming was clunky and the level of detail was nothing compared to more modern Open Street Map and Google Maps. Tragically the developer passed away and any updates and improvements have been frozen. That being said however, kudos to him and his family for making the program free for all Amateurs.
AGWPE is a very well written TNC program. It can be used to control TNC’s or be used as a soundcard TNC. I used it with my PK-232 and it worked flawlessly. In my quest to trim down my APRS stations with less equipment I favored the soundcard TNC. That way all I needed was a radio, the audio interface with cables and a laptop. The basic version worked well but it did not seem as sensitive as as dedicated TNC. I spent hours tweaking the settings only to have marginal results. I thought about paying for the Pro version but elected not too because I would have to buy a copy for each machine that would result in over $200 in software alone. Although it may have been worth it I wanted to see if any other alternatives existed. I have been trying out APRS over the International Space Station on frequency 145.825 Mhz FM and I found that I could hear a lot of clear packets that weren’t being decoded. So the quest for better mapping and decoding began.
Much to my surprise someone made a AGWPE drop in replacement. It can be used with any APRS program that supports the AGWPE interface. The only thing that it lacks is the hardware TNC support. Which was fine by me I was just looking for a Soundcard TNC anyways.
Now for the replacement software:
AGWPE UZ7HO Software TNC
APRSISCE/32 is a very feature rich program for such a small size. The developer is always improving and adding new features such as a graphical PATH display to name just one. The mapping feature uses Open Street Map which is almost as good as Google Maps. You can prefetch maps and disable tile purging for portable ops to see maps without internet connectivity. You can easily send and recieve messages and APRS e-mail. The software author (Lynn Deffenbaugh – KJ4ERJ) is actively involved in monitoring APRS and APRSIS and is always finding ways to improve on his previous work as well as offering suggestions on how to improve the APRS network overall. For the software download, wiki and documentation please visit the APRSISCE/32 Wiki Page. It has everything you need to get started. Don’t forget to check out the video at the Wiki for setting up the ports. It will really help when setting it up for the first time. So far I am very happy with my replacement choice and even had a few QSO’s (of the APRS kind) via the ISS (International Space Station). My hat is off to Lynn and all the contributors!
The UZ7HO soundcard TNC does a fantastic job of decoding packets. It was decoding packets that I would normally see AGWPE ignore. The display was impressive, complete with a waterfall and a time/date stamped packet with the transmitted and received flag. It even has calibration fields that you can fill in after running the Sound Card calibration utility. UZ7HO has a user guide in PDF format that is a must read. Although the program was designed to be intuitive, if you don’t read the guide you will miss out out some of the features available. Please don’t skip the sound card calibration, it helped improve the decoding of the packets.
This is such a great low cost solution for APRS and Packet radio, I don’t know why I didn’t go check them out sooner!
If you have any other suggestions for APRS/Packet software please leave a comment or drop me a note with the Contact Me link.
APRSISCE32 and UZ7HO SoundCard TNC User Interfaces