APRS Messenger

I have written (am writing) an application for Windows that allows a ham to interact on the APRS® network from the comfort of their home computer. Yes, that’s why I haven’t been on the air for seemingly forever. 🙂 Since many stations are (or should be) 2-way capable, I decided their must be a better way to send APRS® messages. And there is.

If anyone has used IRC (Internet Relay Chat) you’ll know that is a very flexible and powerful medium for chatting. Since I have done extensive programming for IRC (I wrote my own client), I decided to more-or-less emulate an IRC client. I looked at the problem from the same perspective as writing an IRC client as, from a programmers view, both IRC and APRS® have very similar requirements. Both are an exercise in parsing streams of text.

APRS® has a way to send messages to multiple stations by way of “GROUPS”. This is very similar to an IRC “channel”. APRS® also allows one to send messages directly to another station one-on-one. This is very similar to an IRC private message (PM). My software emulates this almost exactly the same allowing messages to a group (channel) or to another ham directly (PM). So far I’m using the APRS-IS (APRS Internet System) ONLY for this task but anyone using an RF station (eg. a mobile with 2-way capabilities) that is in range of an iGate (even indirectly through a Digipeater) can communicate with any IS station – and vice versa! Not only that, there is an Android app called “APRSdroid®” that allows one to use their Android phone to connect to the system as well. It features APRS® texting, position reporting and a host of connection protocols.

So now we have computer-to-computer, computer-to-Android, computer-to-RF, Android-to computer, Android-to-RF, RF-to-computer … you get the idea. You need never be far from messaging via ham radio! This technology very cool indeed.

I will post the ZIP file in a day or three for your enjoyment.

The ZIP file is ready! Please remember, there ARE still some bugs (mostly how GROUPS are handled – creating, changing, etc) so be very careful to check all your inputs, particularly the Login screen.

Download APRSmessenger

Copy to any folder that you have read/write permissions and run it!

 

 

Raspberry Pi

Sounds yummy eh? I finally got the proper GPIO gear (basically, a breakout box) for my Pi B+ and wow. I satrted out like everyone flashing an LED. Had some issues getting that to work out of the hop but eventually realized the header wasn’t pressed in firmly enough. Doh!

After getting the LED to flash, I of course, had to elaborate on that right away. Started with flashing TWO LED’s then decided, “hey, why not flash FOUR LED’s in a binary counter fashion. Before I even pressed RUN I’d added 4 more LED’s and made an 8 bit binary counter. How fun is that eh?

There you have it. An 8 bit binary counter 🙂

FT1DR APRS Messaging

How to do stuff on the FT1DR – TX/RX APRS MESSAGES

Check your messages
press [F] [0]
press [0]
messages marked “>” are ones sent BY you
messages marked “<” are ones sent TO you
press [ENT] to read them
while in reading mode, press [GM] to respond to the message (as below)

Send a message to anyone (not on a list)
press [F] [0]
press [GM]
clear the call/ssid field (press [A/B], select CLR or CLRALL, press [V/M])
enter call/ssid
compose message
long press [ENT] to send

Respond to a message sent to you
press [F] [0]
press [0]
scroll to a message you’d like to respond to
press [ENT] [GM]
compose message
long press [ENT] to send

Send a text to someone that is on the list
press [F] [0]
scroll to station you want to send a message to
press [ENT]
press [GM]
this brings up the msg compose screen with the call/ssid filled in
compose message
long press [ENT] to send

The ‘compose’ screen
once you have made it to the compose area of a message,
you can just start a new msg using the keypad – like old school phones
or you can insert a “canned” msg by:
press [A/B]
press again CLR
press again INSERT mode
press again CLRALL
press again DELETE mode
press 1: msg one
press 2: msg #2
press 3: etc

pressing [V/M] is like pressing Enter here – it inserts your canned message
key [0] is for space, punctuation and special characters

ProjectPSK

Due to the sudden interest in PSK 31/63 (and not just me) I embarked on a mission to make a PSK31 program that was powerful, flexible, easy to maintain, easy to use and included macros. After trying several methods, I hit upon a simple idea. Leveraging the power of windows forms and Visual Basic 6, I developed a multi-window PSK client that fits my design criteria.

Features:

  • full macro scripting (including nesting one or more macros inside other macros). Several “built-in” macros are available (<TIME>, <DATE>, <FREQUENCY>, <SIGNAL_LEV> etc)
  • up to 20 (not sure how many *can* be used actually – 50?) user defined auto-tracking “channels”. You can use 1 channel or 20 channels or anything in between. It’s all up to you.
  • each channel has it’s own “window” – not just a line of text – complete with a “compose” area allowing several simultaneous QSO’s. It has more the feel of a multi channel internet chat client rather than a “ham radio” program.
  • double clicking a macro name puts the fully expanded macro text into the clipboard ready to be pasted into any open channel.
  • macros are written in Notepad – very simple with low resource overhead.
  • very few menus and buttons. The mouse and toolbar buttons do most of the work.
  • any – or all – channels can be PSK31 or PSK63. Mix and match. PSK63 is TWICE as fast as PSK31 – very nice if you’re the “compose and send” type person rather than the “transmit and peck at the keyboard” style of operator.

If anyone is interested, I will be posting the software in the download section of this website. As I’m a complete idiot when it comes to installation routines, I’ll include step-by-step instructions on what needs to be done. No worries though, it won’t be that difficult. Probably. I hope. 🙂

Stuff yet to add: (in no particular order)

  • drag and drop macros
  • adding QPSK
  • signal seek mode
  • context sensitive help
  • more robust error checking
  • configuration file (start where you left off sort of thing)
  • speech to text
  • text to speech (who needs digital voice modes eh?)
  • some small windowing details to fix up

Be patient – I’m only one guy…

 

PSK31

Download Latest Version Here

I have embarked on a new project. I’ve been thinking of ways to send digital over the airways and make something like an IRC chat “over the air”. Well, I haven’t quite done that – yet. What I have so far is a fully functional BPSK31 program that works well. I have to thank the author of the .OCX PSK module for that. (I forget right now where I found that but I’ll post that info when I get around to it). This module has 4 styles of display, encodes and decodes PSK and basically has done all the hard work 🙂 The “help file” wasn’t but I did glean what I needed to interface to a VB6 project. It works exceedingly well too.

In the process of writing this, I discovered a need for macros to reduce typing, increase accuracy and generally make things easier. What I’m now working on is an extendable macro LANGUAGE. It’s very simple and here’s an example:

macro <MYCALL> {
VEnAAA
}.
macro <SENDCQ> {
CQ CQ CQ de <MYCALL> K
}.

Previous macros can be included in later macros. This turned out to be a very powerful system! Still needs some tweaking so I’ll let you know when the project is completed. 🙂

Raspberry Pi

I finally broke down and purchased a Pi. Yep, the whole thing. Pi, case, PSU, HDMI cable, WiFi and pre-loaded SD card. Assembled it, hooked it up to the little TV, turned it on – presto, a Linux computer. Up and running in like 10 minutes. I’ll say this though, it’s no speed demon. I tried “surfing the web” but unless you are VERY patient, it isn’t going to be a blazing fast experience. But I didn’t really buy it to provide media services or anything like that. No, I bought it to experiment with ham radio applications.

I’m still not “exactly” sure what I’ll use it for. And, I’ll probably still need a GPIO cable to do anything useful. Still, it’s an extremely powerful little box. One can program it in Ruby or Python (preferred) or really any language you want to load in. It does include a GUI in the Raspbian operating system. And it does work pretty slick. The GUI however takes a LOT of horse power – it’s more designed as a controller in text mode. Which is fine.

For $67 CDN you can’t really go wrong. I’d use it in a pinch if all my other computers, tablets, phones somehow stopped working. Being able to hook it up to any modern TV is a large bonus. I’m going to try the 42″ TV – man, that will be a big monitor!

 

EchoStation

I was looking for announcement software for the 146.680 repeater. I currently have EchoLink running on my desktop and connected to my radio. This seems to work quite well but, there is no way to make EchoLink do announcements. So, after looking up EchoStation, and actually trying it out, I paid the big dollars ($19) because it is one of the few pieces of HAM software that actually WORKS! Yep, easy to set up, easy to use, etc.

Then I discovered that it’s a bit limited in to what it can announce – only static announcements! Jeez, I need it to announce the time and stuff and there was no way it would do this. I discovered that it uses separate .txt files to hold the announcements in. SO, I fired up VB6 and made a form and some timers and PRESTO. It now does: current time, weather, weather alerts, club announcements, random stuff at 1/4 hours and more. And, it’s only “slightly” cumbersome.

Since EchoStation is $19, I figure I can charge $5 for my add-on and maybe make a little cash. I do use EchoStation as a DTMF decoder (that beats the module I was going to buy for $127) so that’s a savings of over $100. And EchoStation also includes an “auto patch” (make phone calls over the repeater) feature so that’s a nice bonus. All in all, a pretty good deal.


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