Sunday, February 21, 2010

Marathon APRS Success...Mostly

It was an early start to the day. The alarm went off at 5:20 and my fellow net control operator arrived in time for us to leave by 6. We picked up our NCS student at 6:08 and then got stuck in traffic. It's usually not a problem but road construction and fewer lanes killed us. We arrived later than expected but didn't have to rush too terribly much to get on the air for a 7am roll call.

About 7:30 the JSO tail car arrived and I installed the radio with the GPS and APRS TinyTrak. The officer driving was very happy to help us and we certainly appreciate it. I monitored via the Blackberry and through my new Virgin Mobile pre-paid wireless broadband account. As the race started fear set it as I realized I'd stopped getting updates. Fortunately I had the mindset to stop the tail car before he went through the finish line. It's a good thing I did. Somehow the power had become disconnected and the TinyTrak was off.

With that catastrophe averted I jogged back to the side to head back to the command post when I heard APRS bursts on the net frequency. That's when more panic set it. The side of the 8800 I had the APRS on is normally set to the repeater we used for the net. Off I went running after the JSO patrol car to stop him again. I was pleased that it wasn't me. :-)

All in all the device worked well. Unfortunately I did have very large gaps in coverage. It was configured to transmit every 60 seconds. Sometimes it wouldn't update for 60 minutes. Just when I'd give up I'd get a good update. I need to go through the raw data but I don't know if it'll tell me much. I did hear that a couple of other operators also had gaps in their APRS updates so maybe it was just the area and not me. We weren't too far from the nearest digipeater so I wouldn't have expected spotty coverage but you never know.

If nothing else I at least have some other ideas now for planning the APRS usage for the Tour de Cure in May. Namely I think we'll need to provide our own digipeater AND igate. Time to do some more research.

Had a great time and after the initial chill of the morning we had a beautiful day. For the record, Mr. Buddy is a great little heater. ;-)

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