Monday, August 31, 2009

APRS in the Lake District

I've been playing around with APRS and discovered a Java application called javAPRS - originally written by Steve Dimse, K4HG and now maintained by Pete Loveall AE5PL - which can be used to display live APRS position data on any map of your choosing on a web page. This was too good to resist, so I have added an APRS Spots page covering the English Lake District to the Wainwrights On The Air website. The only problem, and it's a bit of a major one, is that few if any of the people who go up mountains in the Lake District with a ham radio actually use APRS, and very few fixed stations in the area monitor the APRS channel 144.800MHz to receive spots and post them to the Internet.

It seems to me that one of the problems with this hobby is that we are constantly reinventing the wheel, instead of making use of those we already have. So for example we have half a dozen MFSK-type data modes when just one would simplify things for everyone. Similarly we have D-Star now muscling in on territory that was the preserve of EchoLink and APRS. By fragmenting the user base for this type of system into two incompatible camps the net result is to make each of the technologies half as useful as they could be. So why not encourage more use of the things we already have instead of coming out with new ones?

Technologies like APRS need to be widely used and achieve a critical mass in order to reach their full potential. From where I am in the back of beyond it's a bit like being the guy who invented the telephone and then found he had no-one to call because nobody else had one.

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