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Author Topic: APRS Radio & TNC Question  (Read 13311 times)
KD0RXO
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Posts: 4




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« on: June 19, 2013, 06:30:33 PM »

Couple of very basic questions.  We currently have some Kantronics KPC3 TNCs setup to Yaesu FT8900 radios in a communications trailer for tracking teams during search and rescue operations.  We are looking to make a portable setup in a pelican case that can be grabbed and taken quickly to places the trailer can't go.  We want to go with just a basic 2 meter radio in the portable setup for cost efficiency.  So, here are my questions:

1) Does anyone have experience with software TNCs being run on a laptop?  I'm reluctant and worried that they may not function very well, but wanted to see if I'm wrong.

2) I've been looking at the ALINCO DR-135TPMKIII radio which has the built-in TNC.  This would eliminate a little cost for radio and separate TNC and also eliminate one potential point of failure which is important for what we do.  Has anyone used this radio for APRS and if so are there any problems using it vs. a KPC3 TNC separate?

3) If we don't go with the Alinco radio, our initial radio we were looking at was the Yaesu 1900 or 2900.  I've noticed they don't have a data port but do offer packet through the speaker/mic jacks.  Would this be interfaced through a custom wire that converts to a standard DB9 to interface with the KPC3 or will the 2900 not work easily for doing APRS.  We are simply using it to receive APRS data, not transmit.  We have no need to transmit any APRS data through this radio.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give as we are learning APRS/tracking as we go.
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KJ4OBR
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Posts: 104




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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2013, 09:29:02 AM »

I'd worry about laptop survival unless you have toughbooks. Have you considered something like this: http://www.avmap.us/products/terr/geosat_6_aprs-664/introduction an automotive GPS that can display aprs stations?

Also, if you are not going to transmit why not go with an HT with an external antenna, or even a scanner.

Dave

Couple of very basic questions.  We currently have some Kantronics KPC3 TNCs setup to Yaesu FT8900 radios in a communications trailer for tracking teams during search and rescue operations.  We are looking to make a portable setup in a pelican case that can be grabbed and taken quickly to places the trailer can't go.  We want to go with just a basic 2 meter radio in the portable setup for cost efficiency.  So, here are my questions:

1) Does anyone have experience with software TNCs being run on a laptop?  I'm reluctant and worried that they may not function very well, but wanted to see if I'm wrong.

2) I've been looking at the ALINCO DR-135TPMKIII radio which has the built-in TNC.  This would eliminate a little cost for radio and separate TNC and also eliminate one potential point of failure which is important for what we do.  Has anyone used this radio for APRS and if so are there any problems using it vs. a KPC3 TNC separate?

3) If we don't go with the Alinco radio, our initial radio we were looking at was the Yaesu 1900 or 2900.  I've noticed they don't have a data port but do offer packet through the speaker/mic jacks.  Would this be interfaced through a custom wire that converts to a standard DB9 to interface with the KPC3 or will the 2900 not work easily for doing APRS.  We are simply using it to receive APRS data, not transmit.  We have no need to transmit any APRS data through this radio.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give as we are learning APRS/tracking as we go.
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KB1NXE
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Posts: 363




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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2013, 09:14:58 PM »

For the 'sensor' portion, try looking at the MicroTrak products.  Especially the All-In-One (http://www.byonics.com/mt-aio).

As far as the PC portion, I can recommend the AGWPE software Packet Modem.  It works well and will do everything you seem to be looking for without additional hardware (i.e. a TNC).  Coupled with the APRSIS32 software, it will perform reliably and allow the use of relatively detailed maps without the need of extra software. I use this setup to track vehicle locations during marathon events.  The best part is you can set this up using freeware.  I do recommend purchasing the Professional Edition of AGW.  The additional features are worth the few dollars the author is asking.
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KD0RXO
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« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2013, 10:30:53 PM »

For the 'sensor' portion, try looking at the MicroTrak products.  Especially the All-In-One (http://www.byonics.com/mt-aio).

As far as the PC portion, I can recommend the AGWPE software Packet Modem.  It works well and will do everything you seem to be looking for without additional hardware (i.e. a TNC).  Coupled with the APRSIS32 software, it will perform reliably and allow the use of relatively detailed maps without the need of extra software. I use this setup to track vehicle locations during marathon events.  The best part is you can set this up using freeware.  I do recommend purchasing the Professional Edition of AGW.  The additional features are worth the few dollars the author is asking.

Thanks for the input on the agwpe software.  I've seen it I'm the past but was unsure how well it works.  We are currently using the microtrak aio  trackers you mentioned.  We currently have 12 of  them on the trailer and they are great.  Our  current  setup in the trailers is mt-aio's, kpc 3  tnc's, ft8900 radios  and 2  desktops running dmapper and terrain navigator pro.

The additional system will be a rapid deployment pelican case to get on scene and have a small team searching while one or both trailers are on the way and getting setup.  What radio are you using to receive your data?

 In response to the first poster, we had considered using a handheld or something but decided that even though we don't plan on using the rapid deployment system to transmit,  we'd like to have the option of transmitting voice with it in the future should the need arise, for instance if we had another voice radio go down or  something.  This isn't a situation I foresee arising  since we have at least one layer of redundancy on every setup we have and two layers on some systems,  but I don't want to rule it out in the initial build either.

If  we decided to go with a handheld without a data port, an I correct that we would just need to build a cable to go from the speaker jack into a db9  connector at the tnc if  we still used a software tnc?
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K0JEG
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Posts: 679




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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2013, 10:20:58 AM »

In response to the first poster, we had considered using a handheld or something but decided that even though we don't plan on using the rapid deployment system to transmit,  we'd like to have the option of transmitting voice with it in the future should the need arise, for instance if we had another voice radio go down or  something.  This isn't a situation I foresee arising  since we have at least one layer of redundancy on every setup we have and two layers on some systems,  but I don't want to rule it out in the initial build either.

If  we decided to go with a handheld without a data port, an I correct that we would just need to build a cable to go from the speaker jack into a db9  connector at the tnc if  we still used a software tnc?

A very simple (note I didn't say "cheapest") solution would be a Kenwood TH-d72 and a laptop. The TH-d72 has a USB connection and built-in GPS so one cable to the PC takes care of the APRS side. If you want more portability get an Asus e-slate or the AV map GPS. It can be used for voice on the "B" side, even on 2 meters while the "A" side is running APRS beacons.

Anything else raises the complexity. A software TNC uses the sound card output for creating the AFSK signal and the microphone input for decoding. If you just want to monitor the situation and not send messages yourself, an isolated connection between the speaker out of the radio and the microphone in will suffice. If you want to send messages you will need to add another line from the audio output of the sound card to the mic input on the radio. Depending on the radio/PC combination you'll likely have to greatly reduce the audio level to almost nothing to keep from over-deviation and/or overloading the audio amp on the radio. You'll also need a way to key the radio to transmit. If the radio has a VOX mode you might be able to use that, but you'll need to make sure there's no windows sounds enabled or other potential audio coming out of the PC. If the radio doesn't have VOX you'll need to come up with a way to key the transmitter up. This usually involves a serial port's CTS or DTR lines. I don't know of any off-the-shelf cable setups that can be used with an HT, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. If you have a radio with a standard "data" port you can get a rigblaster PNP that will do what you want and not be as much of a mess of cable and adapters, but I don't know of any HTs that have a data port.

You can probably figure out what direction I prefer  Wink
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NA4IT
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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2013, 04:35:28 AM »

Cheap way out... a good used Motorola GM300 and a TNC-X will any add-on boards you need. You'l probably wing up with less than $200, if you shop wisely.
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W5LZ
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Posts: 477




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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2013, 09:29:49 AM »

Here's my 'Once Upon A Time' story, see if it applies.

I use a laptop computer running both 'UI-View' and 'APRSIS32' software for displaying information.  I also have used the 'AGW-Pro' TNC software for some time (it's reliable).  I use a 'Radio Shack' hand-held scanner for receiving RF.  This is strictly for monitoring APRS, doesn't do any beaconing or messaging etc.  That's handled by other means.  So far, this setup has been through two vehicles and several 'portable' installations and has worked just dandy.
So what are the 'problem' areas that I've run into?  First, the laptop isn't very 'rugged', you'd better be careful with it!  Supplying power to the whole mess can be 'interesting' at times.  In it's present mobile installation things are sort of spread out, not in one easily reached box.  But then, I use the laptop for other purposes so can't put it in a 'box'.  In both vehicles I used a 5/8 wave 2 meter antenna on the roof (mag-mount right now) which covers a pretty large area in my state.  I've also used other antennas in other places, that hand scanner just isn't too picky about antennas.  (An antenna a few hundred feet higher than average terrain would be very nice, but just isn't gonna happen, you know?)
This system/method has been used in a few serious situations and has worked well.  Those situations weren't exactly 'SAR' but they were important to us using it.  Could it be made more compact/portable/rugged?  Of course it can, but not on my budget.  Could a 2 meter radio be used instead of that scanner?  Absolutely, but again, keep my budget in mind, you know?  I have used it occasionally with one of those Chinese HTs, did just as well as with a 'real live' radio!
So, if you duplicate my setup exactly, I expect a royalty! Wink  And will hold my breath till it arrives.  There is no -one- best way of doing it in all situations (as I think you already know), but there are a lot of 'make-do' ways that will certainly work well.
 - Paul
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N3HFS
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Posts: 212




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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2013, 09:57:30 AM »

There's a better option available if you go the Alinco DR-135 route.  It's this internal TNC plug-in card from Argent Data Systems that has a lot more features than the Alinco plug-in TNC does.  I have this setup as a digi and it's been working fine for several years (although I use it intermittently, not full-time).

Go to ArgentData.com and click the Purchase tab, or (if the following link is permanent) directly at https://www.argentdata.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=166&osCsid=mqtvgq0bpadjj22m61h4ef9do5.

Quote
The T3-135 is a Tracker3 APRS board designed to fit the Alinco DR-135T (as well as the -235 and -435) in place of the original EJ-41U TNC. Like the regular Tracker3, it acts as a bidirectional tracker (transmitting positions and plotting received stations as waypoints), digipeater, and limited KISS TNC. However, it lacks the on-board temperature and voltage sensors of the standard board.

Major features include:

    Intelligent APRS tracker with SmartBeaconing™ support and automatic beacon rate control
    Waypoint output to GPS including symbols, comment text, and altitude information for remote stations
    Advanced APRS digipeater features
    Timeslotting for reliability in high-traffic situations
    Remote configuration and diagnostics
    Weather station support
    Free firmware updates for enhancements and bug fixes
    KISS support for use with PC-based APRS programs
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KJ4RHB
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Posts: 5




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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2013, 04:23:19 AM »

I second the Argent Data TNC option for the Alinco DR-135. Originally, I purchased the Alinco TNC with the radio, but the TNC would lock up after a while with UI-View, so I tossed it and got the Argent Data TNC.

Setup now works flawlessly with UI-View for my local igate setup.

Also, the Alinco DR-135 is a pretty budget friendly radio as well...
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