ASOS information via APRS?!

In other radio related news, one of the cool tricks I learned last night at the San Lorenzo Valley Amateur Radio Club meeting was from KA6MAL about a system he built. He’s got an APRS infopeater in Boulder Creek and has it set up so if you send a properly formatted message to it the system sends you a message back with the ASOS (Automated Surface Observation System) weather for the airport of your choice.

For the specific details and permission of how to use it, get in touch directly with KA6MAL, but the summary is you format an APRS (Automated Position Reporting System) message query to his infopeater callsign and SSID with a message of “?” for information on the system, or “?AVWX KWVI” for example to receive the Aviation Weather report for the ICAO airport identifier KWVI (Watsonville Municipal Airport). When you send that, his system replies with an “ack” and then passes along a report like this one:

082253Z AUTO 24007KT 10SM CLR 19/12 A2992 RMK AO2 SLP131 T019401{al

One of the downsides of either APRS or the Kenwood TH-D7 is that the TNC has a limit of 45 characters before it cuts off the message. If it’s a limit of APRS or common amongst other radios, it would be nice if Kamal’s system would break the packet at 45 characters and send a follow-up message with the remaining information.  The 45th character is after the “k” in “RMK” … generally the useful information is before that, but if the remark is that the station is unreliable or out of service… that would be a key piece of information!

I’m not sure how often I’d be able to use it, but when you need it, you need it! If nothing else I love seeing more practical uses of APRS and amateur radio! Now it has me wondering what other fun information we might be able to get access to via APRS?  I’ve seen earthquake data broadcast before, it might be really neat to query the infopeater and have it respond with the USGS data on the single most recent largest event in the last hour for a given state.

Either way, keep up the great work KA6MAL and thanks for sharing the information!

A pretty good day and a new antenna!

This morning I headed over to the Electronics Flea Market at De Anza college and it was definitely worth the trip over. I arrived a bit “late” at 8:15, apparently this thing starts at 5 am and most of the “good stuff” is gone by 7 am. Even so, it was neat to see the assortment of electronics equipment, computers, disk drives, military rations, oscilloscopes, radios and antennas. I could tell there were some really good deals on some items, but the few things I did ask about were a touch overpriced, but with a bit of bargaining I’m sure they would have been acceptable.

I ended up not buying anything there, but then Mark and I headed over to Scanners Unlimited in San Carlos after seeing their ad displayed on Fire Dispatch. The owner of the shop was very helpful, it was great to see his collection of vintage scanners and radios, as well as take a look at some of the new scanners and transceivers on the market. He had obviously been around the hobby a long time and knew the answer to just about every question I asked him. After a brief discussion of the options available for magnetic mounted dual band antennas, I went ahead and made a purchase of a Larsen Antennas W2/70B whip with the NMO2/70BCO coil and a Maxrad Black Magnetic Mount w/12′ RG58A/U, PL259 Connector.

Larsen NMO2/70B Dual Band Antenna

Maxrad Magnetic Base for Antenna

My old antenna was just not doing what I hoped it would and felt I wanted a bigger antenna to try to grab some additional signals, and it sure seems to have done the trick! I will do some testing later comparing my rubber duck, my old antenna, and the new Larsen, but I know as soon as I plugged it in I was getting more APRS packets than I knew what to do with, and as soon as I broadcast my own packet I got two copies back which is great news, recently from home none have been making it out. And I confirmed they did make it out to an iGate in the end, both FindU and Google Earth showed the packets I transmitted, looks like my APRS troubles may now be greatly reduced :-)

Minor updates

Not too much new going on lately in my world of radio, but tonight I made my way over to the Zayante Fire Station for the monthly meeting of the San Lorenzo Valley Amateur Radio Club to check out one of their monthly meetings. Got to see or meet several of the people I hear on the local repeaters fairly regularly and look forward to future visits to get to meet some of the rest of them.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading over to the Electronics Flea Market that is held monthly (March—October) in one of the parking lots at De Anza college. Originally started by ham radio operators, it has now spread to cover all matter of electronics, computers, radio, robotics and who knows what else. I’m going to head over and meet up with Mark, KI6FEA, and if I’m lucky, I might even find a deal I can’t turn down and finally get Ellen, KI6FEB a radio.

Saying I’m buying it for the xyl is a great excuse for a new radio… right?