Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Here's help for participating in the Oklahoma Automatic Packet Reporting System Net

What’s APRS ?

APRS is a computer-assisted (digital) mode of amateur radio communication.
Accuracy is one advantage of this digital mode.
Without the correct software (which is trivial to get) the information is unintelligible to the casual listener.

What is an APRS net?

The OKAPRS net occurs from 1300 to 1400 CT on the 2nd Saturday afternoon of every month.  The purpose of the net is to test APRS stations and operating practices.  In the most basic form, amateurs check-in to the net by sending a brief APRS message to the net controller.  More seasoned operators are welcome to join the OKAPRS group on ANSRVR and exchange items of interest to area hams.
Participants with TNCs or Soundcard-based TNC emulation software (UZ7HO and the like) can use their PCs and radios.  Others can check in with PCs / tablets with Internet access.  There are also APRS apps for popular smartphones.

A particular advantage of APRS compared to other digital modes is that communications are usually backed up in the APRS-IS system of servers.  Websites such as and can help you easily mine those records to assemble a log of a particular net.

How can I participate?

We’d love to have you join us any way you can.
STEP 0: Get familiar with the system by exploring the web links for and
STEP 1: For your first check-in, use the web tools mentioned above!
STEP 2: Next time, consider checking in from your iPhone or portable device.  You’ll need an Internet connection of course.
STEP 3: After a few months, you’ve caught the bug.  Try APRSIS32 software on a PC with Internet.
STEP 4: You’ve added a rig interface and a VHF radio to APRSIS32.  You’re truly “on the air”.
APRS stations that include a radio are the most resilient and useful in a time of emergency.

This guide is a living document.  Let me know if you have questions, comments or concerns…
Who is the Net Controller?
The Net Controller is typically KD5NJR.  He’d mostly likely be operating from his desktop portable APRS station (not handheld) with the callsign KD5NJR-6.  He’d use other rigs for backup and monitoring purposes; so don’t be alarmed to see a -7 or -8 out there too.  To double check, look for an APRS bulletin referring to the net coming from the NCO station.  Or look for a pre-net message.  That’ll probably be sent from the NCO.  See what station it is coming from.  You can also look for an APRS object referring to the net control operator.  He might identify himself !  See more about objects and messages later on.
Part 1 :
Instructions for the Net Controller
For ease of operations, the NCO probably wants to use a minimum of a laptop computer setup with Internet connectivity to the APRS network.  A radio connection is strongly encouraged.

For best results, the NCO should be able to easily hit an APRS digipeater on low power to make your battery last the duration of the net.  

I’d also suggest having a TX/RX digipeater (ex: AE5ME) within a couple hops of your QTH.
Having Internet connectivity at your QTH will allow you to see the APRS activity via the IGATES on your web browser ( or similar) as a backup.  In particular, you’ll see the users with just APRS software.  This is a good thing if your nearby IGATE is not set to transmit and is configured “RF in to Internet “only.

Ask your IGATE’s trustee to upgrade from UIVIEW to APRSIS32 and enable “INET->RF”
Since the “audience” may be using a small screen like on a HT or flip phone, (see photos later on) you’ll want to keep transmissions short.  The focus of the net (with the exception of the portion on the ANSRVR chat group) should be around brief equipment tests.  They’ll check in.  You’ll acknowledge them.  Call for more checkins.  Repeat.  Close the net.
Pre-Net activities
Bulletins are recurring reminders.  
Think “Net SAT @ 1300”

Objects are things like repeaters, Field Day sites, Bike Race water stops, etc.
The OKAPRS NCO could be an object.  Make it so!

QST Net Begins Shortly
Send a few messages similar to the above to QST or ALL or CQ.
I’m not sure what best practice here is.  QST and ALL seem to work on my FT-1 Radio.
I’d send messages sparingly.

Net activities
Net Preamble
something easy: “Reply to check into OKAPRS net.”
Joining the ‘chat group’ on ANSRVR
send a message(s) to ANSRVR:
CQ OKAPRS QST de kd5njr, taking checkins for net.
CQ OKAPRS QST de kd5njr, taking checkins for net.
CQ OKAPRS QST de kd5njr, closing net.  73.
Also add to the log folks that chat in the ANSRVR group.
Running the net
Several times during the hour solicit check-ins using messages. Add them to your log.
kd5njr taking checkins for net.
kf5tvg tnx for checkin.  Ur in log.
Short and sweet!  Take notes so you can form a log.
Closing the Net
Send a message closing the net.
kd5njr, closing net.  73.
Do the same over on the OKAPRS group.
Part 2 :
Instructions for participating in the net…
A brief explanation of APRS:

I have been using RF with a path of wide1-1, wide2-2 so that I can hit an igate.
To rely LESS on the IGATES, I have not been checking ‘BEST’ but instead choosing RF when possible.
(show screen shot)
May I suggest you communicate to others that you’re a computer using the -10 SSID ?
For smartphones, Bob WB4APR seems to suggest -5.
For my ’72 I’m using -7 and -9 for my FT-1.
Scott’s “net control” setup:
(seen at the TRO meeting , November 2016) :
Scott’s TH-D72 HT :
Scott’s Yaesu FT-1 :
He was at the Broken Arrow Christmas Parade.
Via the Web
the two most popular web sites for viewing the APRS-IS database are and .
( is newer and perhaps a little more pretty.) certainly gets the job done.  It’s got a little simpler layout.
--Eventually I’ll have links and photos for both websites. is unique in its facility to SEND APRS messages.
Note: Your message’s recipient, if using ONLY a radio for his APRS setup, will have to be in range of a 2-WAY (bi-directional or TX/RX IGATE for best results) Otherwise, you maybe not receive back ACK of your messages.

Viewing Objects
Let’s say we think Scott is the net controller.
What interesting is going on around him ?
Is he sending any bulletins or objects ?
Try the link :

Since Scott is at the parade, he isn’t sending a NET TODAY bulletin.
The APRS NET bulletin is coming from Jeff.  It matches the LAT/LON of his AE5ME-10 station.

Viewing Bulletins

Reading Messages
Edit this hyperlink below  to reflect the callsign and SSID of the net controller.

Cut ‘n paste into your favorite web browser and you should see the recent activity to/from that particular station.
You’ll need to periodically ‘refresh’ your browser.
You’re “receiving the net “ !!!

Sending Messages
Edit this hyperlink to reflect the callsign and SSID of the net controller. &tocall=KD5NJR-6
Cut ‘n paste into your favorite web browser and you should see the recent activity to/from that particular station.
Check-in into the net!
Write them back (check in) with something like this:

NOTE: similar functionality is available on  See later on in this document.
You can try it out, but it’s pretty disorganized.  
Sorted by time.
And not really by topic.

Via a Smartphone App
I’ve found that works pretty well on the iPad.
But there is an app as well.  The app doesn’t really help you send messages or view them, but it can turn your phone into an APRS tracker.
Apple iPhone users may investigate iBCNU or another program in the App Store.
But that screen is awfully small to be tapping stuff on the map and otherwise navigating around.

Viewing Objects
Viewing Bulletins
Reading Messages
Sending Messages
Via an APRS-enabled HT
While not the low-cost option, this method uses a lower overall number of “parts” and uses the Internet to lesser extent than other methods.  After all, it’s amateur radio.

Kenwood TH-D72
(maybe you can get a steal of a deal on a used TH-D7 you can sure send messages with that one too)
Yaesu FT-1 series
(watch for sales)

Viewing Objects
[F]+[0] is your friend.
Viewing Bulletins
Reading Messages

You can see that brevity is important.

Sending Messages
I need some more practice on the FT1.  I think I keep looking for the hyphen when entering the callsign / SSID.

If you don’t mind the initial set up of subscribing to the group and typing the extra CQ OKAPRS (or finding an old message to edit that already has it ) ANSRVR is a more graceful way communicate in bulk.  It’s preferable to QST or ALL as those methods will activate a lot of radios depending on your path.

Participation via APRSIS32
This is probably the best way to fly.
APRSIS32 is still under development / support and has an active user community.
APRSIS32 can be configured to use the Internet and/or a radio setup.
(Some consideration should be paid to how you set the RF vs. IP tickboxes on the message composition screen.)
For initial setup help, refer to G4ILO’s YouTube video.
When it comes to setting your path, see this :

When possible, I try to use APRSIS32 to participate in the net.
(My backup plan is the use the TH-D72 to send messages because I’m pretty fast in those menus.)
Viewing Bulletins
I didn’t take a picture, but see link below.
I’d think the VIEW option would be appropriate.

Sending Messages
Use the white TX box underneath the gray receive box.
Remember to experiment with the BEST or RF tickbox.
Don’t forget to press SEND.
  1. Address your messages to ANSRVR
  2. Join the group.  In the first message make the body J OKAPRS
  3. Send a message to the group.  CQ OKAPRS test test test
  4. Each additional message much start with CQ OKAPRS or ANSRVR doesn’t know how to route.
  5. Unjoin when the net concludes with U OKAPRS

Participation via SMSGTE gateway
one can even use APRS with a simple “burner phone.”
But to configure the system, you must make some initial tests over RF.

Viewing Bulletins
TBD – I don’t think that feature is implemented in SMSGTE
Reading Messages

It could be unwieldy to use SMSGTE this way.
You’d get a flood of messages potentially.

Thanks to Scott Haley, KD5NJR for this information.

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