Saturday, February 20, 2010

Marathon Preps and APRS

Tomorrow is the 3rd annual 26.2 with Donna Breast Cancer Marathon. Our ARES group has supported it since it began and it's really an enjoyable event for us. It also kicks off our busy season as things really roll into high gear after March 1.

This year we wanted to try a couple of new things. First is the Depiction software. I'd really hoped to use it to have a consolidated view of the event. I had the full course loaded on the street map when I hit a snag. I hadn't considered the possibility of activation problems and for whatever reason I have been unable to get it activated on my laptop. Since I waited until today to try there wasn't any chance of getting tech support to help me manually activate it. I guess we'll chalk this up as a lesson learned.

The second area we wanted to explore was APRS. Typically when we want to find where the end of the race is we have to call around trying to find the tail car and it's not always a timely affair. This year I decided to install an APRS tracker in the tail car. Much to my delight the Sheriff's Office was happy to let us do so.

Unfortunately, now that we had permission up the chain of command, things went south in a hurry. Not only had my TinyTrak stopped working with the Motorola Radius, now it isn't even working with my FT-8800. I'm not sure what was going on. I'd tried so many changes of the configuration, output levels, etc. that I gave up.

Well, a miracle happened and I finally got it working. I still don't know what the problem was (which I hate) but I was able to drive around town a bit and had patchy coverage. It wasn't perfect but hopefully it'll be good for tomorrow.

Since I was having so much trouble with the APRS stuff I decided to give my mind a break before I went postal. At the Orlando Hamcation last weekend I picked up a new vertical antenna for emergency deployment. It's the Eagle One Vertical Antenna. I set it up the first time in about 10 minutes (had some hardware to deal with) and was pleased at least with its receive capabilities. It seemed to be picking up a lot of stations across the bands very clearly. Unfortunately I did want to get back to the APRS issue since it was fairly critical so I didn't have it on the air long but I did get a good signal report from a NC station.
I chalked it up as a success. Can't wait to put it on the air again soon.




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