Thursday, September 03, 2009

G4ILO takes a walk

My new Yaesu VX-8E arrived this morning. The VX-8E is the European version of the VX-8R, apparently. I ordered the GPS unit plus the adapter for mounting it on the radio, and the drop-in charger for convenience. Got a good price for the package from Chris at Martin Lynch and Son, and he threw in the shipping for free.

The method of mounting the GPS on the radio looks a bit Heath Robinson, but I don't normally use a speaker-mic so it seemed like the best option. If I'm out walking I usually put the radio in a top pocket or clipped to the right shoulder strap of my rucksack which gives it a good, clear view of the sky.

The battery charged up in about two and a half hours, just as claimed, so after lunch I was able to sit down with the radio and start working through the manual. I skipped quickly to the APRS configuration section to get that all set up. The GPS was working, so I sent a beacon, heard it digipeated back by my FT-817, and saw G4ILO-7 appear on the UI-View32 display.


Now it was time to go for a walk. I set the beacon interval to 2 minutes and beaconing to AUTO, popped the VX-8E into my jacket pocket and went for a stroll around town. I was using 5W to the stock rubber duck antenna. As the map from aprs.fi shows, only about three position reports were missed: two as I was walking in the park down near the river with a steep bank between me and the home QTH, and one as I was walking along Crown Street.

My wife Olga was watching my progress live on the computer and opened the front door just as I walked up the drive! She was very impressed by this demonstration of how ham radio can be useful. It would be nice if she was impressed enough to get her own license because I would find it quite useful to track her whereabouts when she disappears to the shops for hours, but that's just wishful thinking!

I'm impressed with the performance of the GPS. It works fine in my jacket pocket, unlike the iFinder GO2 walker's GPS I have which needs to be in a prominent position to get a fix from the satellites. The VX-8 even gets a fix from inside my shack.

I tried sending a text message, which popped up on the computer screen. I was able to answer it once I was back home. :) Some people may wonder "why bother, when you have text messaging on your mobile phone" to which I can only answer "why use ham radio at all then?" I think it is great that you can do all this using an amateur system, and I wish that it were possible to subscribe to ham radio related information such as propagation or DX alerts using APRS messaging.

If you are on APRS yourself I'd love to hear from you by APRS message to G4ILO-7 telling me where you are and what you're using. (But check to see if G4ILO-7 is on-air first, or your message won't reach me.)
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