Friday, February 25, 2011

Unreliable connection

The webmaster of Summits On The Air kindly gave me permission to access the SOTA Spots RSS feed from the Wainwrights On The Air website so that spots for SOTA summits that are also Wainwright summits can automagically appear in the WOTA system. I started work on that the day before yesterday. I also noticed that APRS objects for the position of Mads, M/LA1TPA/P, were not appearing because the length of his call exceeded the maximum length of an APRS object name. I implemented a fix for that by lopping off the /P if the name would exceed 9 characters. Yesterday morning I did not receive any SOTA alerts over APRS at all so I wondered if I had broken something.

It didn't help that I had trouble accessing aprs.fi to see whether the APRS spots were getting out. That might have given me a clue as to where the problem lay. As it was, it took quite a lot of time before I realized that the problem was my internet connection. Although the ADSL was up and working, I was having trouble connecting to various sites including the APRS-IS Tier 2 servers and packets were being lost along the way.

This forced me to address another problem. Currently all the APRS packets are sent by the WOTA website calling a file on a web server running on a network attached storage (NAS) backup device running in G4ILO's shack which is actually a little Linux computer that runs Apache. This server hosts the script that sends the packet to the APRS network. I had tried running the script on the WOTA web server itself but it hadn't worked and I didn't know why so I decided to go for the path of least resistance since life is too short for making computers work the way I want them to.

Apart from the problem of connectivity with this solution there is also one of continuity. I don't like to run computers 24/7 because it adds a significant amount to an electricity bill that is already high due to the fact that there are two people using even more computers and equipment home all day. Also, Olga is not happy about leaving any equipment running when we go away. Whilst it is unlikely that anyone will activate summits in the middle of the night they are certainly going to do so while we are on holiday. So I really need to send the APRS alerts entirely from the web server.

After another couple of hours of getting nowhere I filed a support ticket with the web hos. They replied that they block port 8080 which is the one used to post APRS packets to the network using HTTP. When you are paying $8 a month for web hosting there is a limit to the amount of help you can expect particularly when it comes to changing the configuration of the server (which no doubt hosts hundreds of sites) just for my convenience. The last reply said "please try now" but I did and it still didn't work. So it looks as if I might have to live with having APRS spot functionality that goes QRT when we are on holiday.

Meanwhile I am waiting for someone to activate a SOTA summit in the Lake District so I can see whether my script to check the SOTA spots RSS file is doing what it supposed to.
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