APRS Usefulness

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Jon Jacox 1 year, 1 month ago.

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    Jon Jacox


    In looking to buy a mobile radio for my vehicle, I’m wondering if getting an APRS capable radio is worth the extra money. I suppose the answer is subjective but besides position reporting, what can it do? I thought perhaps it could get local repeater frequencies when travelling to new areas but I haven’t been able to confirm that in my Internet searches. I guess people can send messages with it but I gather it’s more tedious than using SMS and a proper keyboard.

    So besides positioning, what do people do with APRS in Victoria? Is it useful to have?


    Don MacLeod

    Hi Jon,

    APRS has a lot of usefulness beyond positioning that people tend to overlook. For me, APRS is what you touched on in your post, getting information in unfamiliar territory. Primarily repeaters and winlink gateways. I also use SMSGTE to message to cell phones when I’m off the grid. APRSLink lets me know when I have mail holding and can tell you all kinds of things using the various commands. The one big downside of APRS right now is it is by design a two way system. With all people putting up Receive Only Igates, you send a message or query APRSLink and you never get a reply because the APRS-IS systems send it back out the way it came in and if it came in Receive Only, you’re pooched. That said, once you have the bigger picture of your surroundings, you can set your path to avoid the Receive Only igate. A hassle, but doable.

    To buying a radio, you’re asking a question I’ve battled with a lot and I still don’t know the answer, but I’ll give you my thoughts. For me, in a mobile radio, my primary objective in upgrading from my first mobile was going to dual receive. It allows me to have a simplex channel on one side that I can chat with my convoy on and a repeater on the other side if we get too far apart. So in considering an APRS capable radio, it meant that I would be giving up one side of the radio to APRS when I ran it, so I wouldn’t really be upgrading to dual receive. In the end, I went with a Yaesu 8800 and no APRS. Love the radio for voice, but don’t like it for data. Reason being is that whatever TNC you have hooked to it triggers the active side of your radio on transmit. So unless you leave it on the data side, then turn off the TNC when you have to talk, it’s quite useless. In hindsight, I should have bought a Kenwood V71 which allows you to lock data to one side. To do APRS, you’d still have to add a TNC and a GPS though.

    For full APRS functionality, go with the Kenwood D710GA. GPS built in and APRS functionality with a fully functional TNC. Compare that to a Yaesu FT-400 and you do not get a fully functional TNC. Why Yaesu doesn’t put a full TNC in boggles my mind. I just recently purchased a Kenwood D710GA for use in the Swiftsure race and I was super pleased with its performance. We used it in APRS/voice mode aboard a NAVY vessel, from the centre of the bridge, metal all around except windows, we had a GPS lock within seconds and held through the voyage. We used it in TNC/voice mode for 30+ hours with no issues and perfect packet connections all the time. I’m a little too happy with it, now I’m going to have to by one for myself.

    Anyway, that ended up being a long post. Shoot me your questions if you have more.



    Jon Jacox

    Thanks very much Don – great information! It’s funny you mention the two Kenwoods as those are exactly the two radios I’m thinking about. Another pro I have for the V71 is the face place it a bit smaller and I think it would just be easier to fit somewhere in my truck. The D710GA looks to be about 3cm or so taller and I feel like it would take a bunch more real estate on my dash. Maybe it’s not as big as I feel… but I have an older Tundra so it’s not a monster truck 🙂

    Good point about the APRS taking one of the two channels. Seems like it could be a bit wasteful if you want two voice channels. Hmmmm more to think about but your advice has helped a lot! I think I’m still leaning towards the V71.


    Don MacLeod

    If you go the V71 route, the Byonics TinyTrak4 is a good way to add on APRS. The downside is more wires, and an external GPS. By the time you’re done, you’ve paid as much as a 710. The TT4 is a fully functioning TNC so you can still run your favourite packet program.

    Kenwood and Yaesu both have nice ways of switching the functions of your radio. Yaesu calls them hyper memories and Kenwood programmable memories. Essentially, they are profiles for your radios. So if you want dual voice with certain channels on each side, hit 1, VE7VIC on one side and APRS on the other, hit 2, etc.

    One other thought. Don’t buy a new radio with out buying the programming cable. Sure you can program by hand, but it’s not worth the effort. Kenwood’s free software is decent, for Yaesu, I like G4HFQ’s http://www.g4hfq.co.uk Chirp freeware works good for simple memory loads, but I find it lacks in setting up your profiles and the more advanced functions.

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