APRSPoint is an implementation of the latest APRS standard. For latest news and information about APRSPoint, please visit www.aprspoint.com.
1. PC with Pentium III or higher processor, minimum 512 MB of RAM, and 1.1 GB available hard disk space,
2. Windows XP with service pack 2, or Windows Vista with service pack 1, or Windows Server 2003,
3. Microsoft MapPoint 2004 or later, North America or European versions,
If you have both MapPoint NA and EU versions installed, you can switch between them inside APRSPoint. MapPoint maps can be updated using Microsoft Strees & Trips or AutoRoute, which are released every year and are significantly cheaper. Please refer here for detailed instructions.
What is supported
1. Serial and USB TNCs',
2. Serial and USB GPS devices,
3. Kenwood radios with built-in TNC,
4. Peet Bros weather stations,
5. AGW packet engine,
6. Connection to APRS internet servers,
If your computer does not have any serial ports, you can use a usb/serial converter. I have good experiences with IO Gear converters.
Your TNC should be put into terminal mode, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit and no parity, which is the default setting for most TNCs'. If you are using a serial TNC, make sure no other program is using the same port since serial ports are not sharable under Windows. Also make sure that you set the TNC to use the same baud rate you are going to choose in the connect dialog. Kenwood radios with built-in TNC need to be put in TNC mode instead of APRS mode to communicate with APRSPoint, that is, you should see both tnc and packet icons on the radio display.
In your APRSPoint folder, there is a file named 'tncsettings.txt'. It contains commands that APRSPoint reads to set up your TNC when the program starts. The file shipped with the program works with most newer TNC models, including Kantronics, Kenwood TM-D700, TM-D710 and TH-D7 etc. If you use AEA PK-232, go get this file instead. To restore your TNC to its previous state after you finish using APRSPoint, put the appropriate commands in the file 'originalsettings.txt'. APRSPoint will run those commands when it exits.
APRSPoint can track your position on the map and report it automatically on air when you have a GPS unit connected. Make sure you put the GPS unit in NMEA mode before connection. You can connect it either directly to the computer, or through your TNC if your TNC has a GPS port. All Kenwood radios with built-in TNC have a GPS port, which can be used for that purpose. It is recommended that you connect the GPS directly to your computer if you have a USB GPS or you have available ports on your computer, because that way APRSPoint will be able to gather more data from your GPS device.
How to receive reports
First, connect your TNC to one of the serial ports, or start up AGW packet engine, or make Internet connections if you intend to receive reports from APRS Internet servers. On the left side is a tree view window that has three nodes in them when APRSPoint starts, My station, RF reports, and TCP reports. My station node contains your own station parameters. You can edit those parameters by right clicking on the node and select Station Settings to bring up the settings dialog. RF reports contains all the reports heard over RF link and TCP reports contains all reports coming over TCP connection from a connected APRS internet server.
Connect to your TNC
To connect your TNC, right click on RF reports, or click on the down arrow next to the connection button on the toolbar, or choose menu item Comm|Connect TNC… to bring up the connection dialog. If you have a serial port TNC, select Serial port in the Connect combo box, then select the port name and baud rate. If you are using AGW packet engine, select AGW packet engine in the Connect combo box, the address and port fields are set to use your own machine as default. If you are connecting to another machine enter its address and port number. Unless you really know what you are doing, don't change these two fields. There is a check box at the bottom of the dialog, labeled Create map symbol for each report. It is checked by default, so an icon will be put on the map as each report comes in. If you don't want all the icons to clutter up your map, uncheck it. You can always create the station icon later. After all the fields are properly filled in, click Connect button on the upper left corner. Now you should start to receive reports. To disconnect, use the same menu items and toolbar buttons. Serial TNC, AGW packet engine or APRS internet servers can be connected automatically upon program startup. Just check the box in the connect dialog to enable it. You can examine TNC data stream in the tnc data window by selecting View|TNC Data.
Note: If you are using a Kenwood radio with built-in TNC (TH-D7, TM-D700, or TM-D710), you can connect a GPS to the radio’s GPS port and track/report your current position on the map. Make sure you set the GPS to NMEA mode and enable the radio’s GPS connection using appropriate commands in the radio’s setup. Then simply check the box labeled “GPS connected” in the connection dialog before making the connection. You can also select which sentence to use. For example, if you want APRSPoint to report your altitude, you should choose "$GPGGA" in the dropdown list.
Connect to APRS internet servers
First make sure you are connected to the Internet. Right click TCP reports, or click on the down arrow next to the connection button on the toolbar, or choose menu item Comm|Connect APRS server… to bring up the connection dialog. Enter the server address in the Address field, and port number in the Port field. The dialog will remember each server you connected to before and you can select the server address from the Address combo box next time if you want to connect to the same server.
Most APRS internet servers implememnt a user-definable filter port - port 14580. This port allows the end-user to custom-design an APRS feed based on radius from a location, callsigns, types of stations, packets, etc. The filter port completely eliminates the firehose flooding problem of connecting to the full APRS Internet feed. An example filter is like this: "filter b/CALL1 f/CALL2/60 -p/CW". [This filter says "Give me every posit for CALL1 and everyone else within 60KM of CALL2's location -and- exclude CW (non-ham internet-only Citizens Weather Observer stations). There are now thousands of these CWO stations in the APRS Internet Stream that will totally clutter the map if not blocked.] Server side filters can be used alone, or in conjunction with APRSPoint client-side filters.
Peter Loveall(AE5PL)'s website http://www.aprs-is.net is an excellent source of information on APRS internet servers.
Maintaining persistent connection to an APRS internet server
APRSPoint enables you to keep connected to an APRS server for as long as you want, unless the server flat out refuses your connection request. APRSPoint allows you to reconnect to the server after the server drops your connection. You can specify how many times you want to reconnect, thus giving you control over approximately how long you want to maintain the connection. You can also specify a backup server, which will be used after your reconnection attempts are used up. The connection to the backup server is persistent, meaning APRSPoint will reconnect to the backup server for as long as the server is up or until you tell it to disconnect.
NOTE: If you are going to receive a large number of reports, it recommended that you do not check the box Create map symbol for each report in the connection dialog. You can always create the map symbol for any station you are interested in later when you examine its report. MapPoint is able to handle hundreds of map icons at a fairly quick pace, but you may experience a little slowdown after over 1000 reports have accumulated under TCP reports folder. After you disconnect, the program should resume its normal responsiveness.
Another minor difference between RF reports folder and TCP reports folder is that reports under the former are sorted by default, while reports under the latter are not. Sorting reports under TCP reports folder as large number of reports are coming in could be expensive in terms of CPU cycles. APRSPoint provides you with the option to manually sort the reports by right clicking on one of the four sub folder names and select Sort. For example, to sort all position reports under Position folder, right click on it and select Sort in alphabetic order.
Connect to weather station
APRSPoint provides support for Peet Bros. Weather stations. The connection baud rate is 2400 unless otherwise specified. With a weather station connected, APRSPoint can be set up for unattended weather reporting. You need to make sure that wind direction, wind speed, gust and temperature fields contain nonempty values, otherwise weather report will not be sent automatically.
Examine the received reports
To view a station’s position, right click on it and select View Position, the station icon will be created on the map if it's not already there. It will be centered on the map as well, so you can zoom in to get a better view. You can show/hide its map symbol name by right clicking on it and choosing Show/Hide Station Name. For station that reports power, height and gain data, you can view its signal range on the map by right clicking and choosing Show Signal Range. A circle will be drawn around the station icon on the map with its range noted on the circle. To hide the range circle, right click on the station node and choose Hide Signal Range.
To track a mobile station, right click on its node and choose Start Tracking. Its call sign will be added to the list of tracked stations. There are separate track lists for you keep stations to be tracked over either the RF link or the TCP link. You can also edit the list by selecting Tools|Tracked List.... When a new report for a tracked station comes in, its previous position name will be changed. Either '(r)' or '(t)' will be appended to the name to indicate it’s an old position in the RF or TCP track. You can have APRSPoint connect the positions using straight lines. Use menu item Tools|Track|Show Track Lines to turn it on or off. Select Tools|Settings and choose the Misc tab to customize the line thickness and arrow direction. When a report for a tracked station comes in, map view is shifted to put that station in the center of the map. If you don't want this behavior, you can toggle it on/off by selecting menu item Tools|Tracking|Station. You can track any number of stations at the same time. To remove the track of a station, right click on it and choose Remove Track. The station's old positions and track lines will be removed. You can also remove tracks of all the stations by selecting Tools|Remove All Tracks. You can also show/hide a station’s track by selecting Show/Hide Track. The thick line, arrow and old position names will be hidden, but MapPoint still leaves a thin line and the map symbols visible. If you are connected to the internet, right click on a station node and select Operator Info, it will bring up that operator's FCC info from the QRZ website. When a report is first received, the station node name is in bold typeface. After you either expanded the node, or performed the previous operations on the report, its typeface will change to normal to indicate the report has been examined. When a new report for the same station comes, the typeface of the station name will change to bold again, indicating potential new data for the station. If you are no longer interested in a certain station, you can delete it from the tree view list by right clicking on it and select Delete Report.
APRSPoint allows you to filter reports coming from RF link or TCP connection using a combination of criteria. You can filter by name, subnet, and/or a specific distance within any point you specify. You can turn filter on/off at any time. Select menu item Tools|Filter… to bring up the filter dialog. The Accept field recognizes wildcard characters. For example, if you enter 'k*' in this field, you will hear all stations with names starting with letter 'k'. You can also enter several filter strings separated by space, for example, if you put 'k* n* *#' in the Accept field, you would catch all reports with station names starting either with a 'k', an 'n' or names ending with a number ('#' indicates a number). You can also enter the names of the stations you don't want to receive in the Reject field, the format is the same as that of the Accept field. You and your group can agree on a specific subnet name when transmitting and then put it in the Subnet field of the filter dialog so you hear reports from your group only. The range filter lets you specify a distance, and a point identified by its coordinates. Only stations within the defined distance of that point will show up. If you clear out a specific field, that criteria will not be used in filtering reports. If you put nonempty values in multiple fields, you would then receive reports that satisfy at least one of the conditions you specify. By checking the box Accept stations in RF/TCP track list, you'll receive reports from stations in the corresponding track list.
Sending report is straightforward. You do need to make a connection to either your TNC or an APRS server before invoking one of the Send dialogs under main menu item Comm. I’ll use Send Position dialog as an example since it has all the elements other dialogs share and some features of its own. To bring up the dialog, choose Comm|Send Position. On the top, there are two check boxes labeled "RF" and "TCP". If you are connected to your TNC, "RF" check box would be enabled. If you are connected to an APRS server, "TCP" check box would be enabled. If you are not connected to either, both would be disabled and you won't be able to send report. You can choose to send your report through either RF or TCP link, or both. As soon as one of the check boxes is checked, the Send button at the upper left corner would be enabled and you can click on it to send your report.
You can also use object report to send position for other stations or events, or to just put symbols on other's maps. This feature is useful in a lot of situations, like search and rescue, emergency operation, tornado chasing etc.
How to use the Pinpoint tool
To save you the trouble of having to enter coordinates manually, you can use the red pinpoint tool in the following scenario. If you know your own position on the map (you can do address lookup in APRSPoint), zoom to it and invoke the Send Position dialog. Click on the red pinpoint whose tool tip is appropriately "Get Coordinates", the dialog would be minimized and mouse cursor changed to a crosshair. Click on a position on the map to restore the dialog and you'll find that the Latitude and Longitude fields are filled with the coordinates of the point you clicked. This feature can be used to grab precise coordinates of any point on the map.
Save and load reports
Several settings in the Misc tab of the Settings dialog control how the data is logged and saved. TNC data is always available in the TNC Data window, and can be displayed by choosing menu item View|Tnc Data. TCP data, on the other hand, will not be available if the option Log TCP Data is unchecked.
APRSPoint will save the raw TNC data received during the session to the folder specified in the field TNC Log Folder when it exits. The file name will be ‘log’ followed by the date and time. If you don't want to save TNC data, just leave the field blank. If you do want to save the log, please manually create the specified folder first. The same goes for TCP data as well.
You load the saved log file to play back a previous session. You can specify file loading filters (FL Filter) and track list to be applied to the replay process, as well as a delay factor to slow down the replay.
Working with messages
When a new message or bulletin is received, the status bar will display "New Message" next to the envelope icon. You switch between map view and message view by clicking on the View Map icon or View Message icon on the toolbar. In message view, double click on a message to open a window to examine it. You can also use right mouse button to bring up options to reply, forward or delete a message. To reply to a message, you can also use the shortcut key F9. First select the message either with the mouse or the arrow key, then press F9 to bring up the reply window.
Note: After you send a message, it will be placed in the "Sent items" folder and it's typeface will be bold. The message's typeface will change to normal after the receiving station acknowledges the message.
Hint: If you want to see the position of the sender of a message, right click on the message and choose Locate Sender. If a position report is available for the station, you will be switched back to map view and the sender's position will be centered on the map.
Message filter options are located in the Message tab of the Settings dialog. Regardless of the message filter settings, you will always receive messages addressed to you.
Match secondary station ID -- Turn the option on to receive messages that match your call sign AND ssid, turn it off to receive messages that match your call sign alone so you can handle messages for all of your secondary stations,
If you have Filter messages unchecked, or if you leave From, To and Subnet fields empty, you will receive all messages from all senders to all receivers. To filter messages, enable message filter and specify the senders in the From field, and/or receivers(call signs, group codes etc.) in the To field, plus any subnet settings.
For example, if you put 'K*' in From field, 'W* BLN*' in To field, and have Filter messages checked, you will receive all messages sent from call signs starting with letter 'K', and messages sent to call sign starting with letter 'W', all bulletins and announcements, in addition to messages addressed to youself.
To receive only messages addressed to yourself, enable message filter and put your call sign in the To field.
Subnet -- When you fill in this field, you will see messages sent from stations that use a unproto path matching the subnet value. For example, when you only want to communicate within a small group, all people in the group would agree on a unproto path to use. Then you put that value in the subnet field so you only see messages from members within your group.
You can also select a wave file to be played as an audio alert when a new message comes in. If you check the box labeled Play wave file for all incoming messages, the wave file will be played for all new messages. If you leave the box unchecked, the wave file is played only if a message addressed to you comes in.
My station settings
To invoke the settings dialog, right click My Station node and choose Station Settings, or choose menu item Tools|Settings. It’s mostly straightforward and self-explanatory. Check box Hide name for new map symbol determines whether newly created map symbol would have its name displayed next to it. The settings dialog has the same Pinpoint tool for you to enter your coordinates, see previous discussion of the tool.
Unproto is a free form string, mostly used to identify the software you are using. You can use APO443 for APRSPoint version 4.4.3. Via is your digipeater path, for things like 'WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1' or 'WIDE2-2' etc. Stephen Smith(WA8LMF) gives a very good explanation of digipeater path here.
Hint: The dialog can be used to help you adjust your station parameters. Here is how it works. Open the dialog, fill in your coordinates and enter a set of power, height, and gain values in the Position tab of the dialog and save the settings. Expand the node My station, next expand Position node under it and right click on the station name to select Show Signal Range. A range circle will be drawn to show how far your signal travels, and the circle will contract or expand as you make changes to your station parameters.
In the Misc tab of the settings dialog, you can put the path of a saved map file in the field labeled Initial Map View. APRSPoint will open that file as its map view when it starts up. You can also customized the color in which mobile stations are shown. Plus you can specify a tactical call sign, and when you check the box Beacon tactical call, the tactical call sign will be used in your position report instead of your regular call sign.