Friday, October 10, 2008

Close to APRS station completion

I've been working on setting up an APRS station. Other than non-infrastructure communication, one of my main interests in Ham Radio is digital modes, PSK31, packet, etc... I'd like to utilize APRS to let other APRS users know that I'm normally monitoring 146.520 and just generally see how many APRS users are traveling up and down the interstate, and to pass on APRS information to the APRS-IS network. This can allow for text messages to be sent across the country via the decentralized APRS network. This information is also used to calculate VHF DX paths, normally caused by various weather conditions.

My setup is going to consist of the following items, some which I have, some which I dont have yet. I'll be connecting them to some sort of computer, and I'll probably run Xastir. If I can find a cheap enough mini I might get one of those just to have a mac in my shack running Aether. Plus Xastir has a ubuntu VM already made for VMware which would require minimum setup on my part.

Items I have
Icom IC-28H - This unit will transmit 5/45W, I'll just be running on 5w given the antenna proximity to my shack. I picked this up from a guy on QRZ for a song. It's a damn solid and fun rig.
Aston RS-20M - Picked this up again from a guy on QRZ for a mere $70 bucks. At it's cheapest new it's a 130 dollar American made power supply. Right now it's clipped direct to the 28H but in the near future I'll be connecting all my stuff to a RigRunner.
Copper Jpole - The KB9VBR Jpole was about as cheap as I could make it myself, and I didn't have to make it myself. Great omnidirectional performance as well. I can peg repeaters in Marshalltown and Pella on 5W and still come in moderatly perceptable.

Items I need yet
Terminal Node Controller: This has been a point of contention for me. For a while I was considering a RigBlaster which offers lots of options for various modes but I'm not sure about the software TNC setup for APRS. I was considering a Kantronics KPC3+ but 200 bucks plus min 20 bucks for a cable was too much for a project I'm trying to do on the cheap. After talking with Byon at Byonics I've settled on the TinyTrak4. This should allow me to do what I need to do with it in KISS TNC mode. And it won't cost me my left nut to do it. With 8 pin cable for my radio it should only run me 90 bucks tops.

After this project I'm going to try and get into some 2 meter SSB action. Frankly I like the VHF bands, I dont need 60 foot antennas to get my signal out there. The question is what SSB radio. All mode 2 meter radios are expensive and hard to comeby anymore sans the MFJ-9402X. While this radio is neat, and simple, and has a nice old school charm to it I may put the SSB project on the back burner for a year or two to save up for an Icom 706. We'll see I got time.

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