Some Really Simple Basic Instructions On Getting APRS On The Air Now

by Arte Booten, N2ZRC

In order to start using APRS, you'll need the following equipment, much of which you may already own:

I. A two-meter transceiver. Neither CTCSS nor frequency agility is necessary. Lots of older rigs, particularly HT's, can be had for almost nothing at hamfests.

II. A TAPR-2 compatible Terminal Node Controller (TNC). This covers practically every TNC built for the past fifteen or so years. Kantronics, PacComm and AEA are popular brands to choose from. Older ones can also often be found on tables at a 'fest.

III. A computer. There are versions of APRS written for Macintosh, Windows, Linux, WindowsCE and the Palm OS. The DOS version, however, is able to run on practically *any* PC-compatible computer ... even ancient 8086's! These articles focus on APRSDos (which runs just fine under Win3.x, 9.x, NT and 2k and Linux (using dosemu), and the following descriptions are for installing it and getting it running on a PC.

IV. Assorted cabling, power supply, antenna, etc.

V. The program. Simply point your browser at the archives of The Tucson Amateur Packet Radio organization (or use FTP), by going to: and look for the latest version. It ought to be just large enough to be able to fit onto one floppy disk. While there, go up a few levels, then burrow down into the Maps/PCmaps area. You'll find a file there called "", which contains street-level maps of most of New York City made by the author of this article.

In this example I'll use the non-existant APRS version 9.99, which would be called "" Substitute the appropriate file name for this.

If you use PkZip204, put the APRS disk into your floppy drive of choice (I'll call it drive A) then expand the APRS files, using the following commands on the hard drive of choice (C in this example):

Change to the root directory C:\>CD\
Make an appropriate directory C:\>MD APRS
Change to this directory C:\>CD \APRS
Switch to the A drive C:\>A:
Run PKUNZIP with directories A:\>PKUNZIP -d C:\APRS

Don't forget to use that "-d" switch. This lets it create the neccessary subdirectories.

If using WINZIP, change to drive A and double-click on, click the expand button, tell it where you want APRS to live and follow onscreen directions.

Make sure your TNC is in Terminal or Command mode (whatever it's called by the manufacturer.) At the C:\> prompt, go to your chosen APRS folder and invoke "APRS999.exe". If you're using Windows, just double-click on that file. This brings us to the LOGO screen. Enter your call and SSID, if any. Tell it which TNC you're using. Answer the other various questions. When you're done, the main map screen will appear.

Now press the arrow keys (or use your mouse) to bring the cursor to your approximate location (keep your eye on the upper left corner of the screen which shows latitude/longitude of the cursor.) Then press HOME to center the screen on it. Use the PgDN key to zoom in a few screens and tweak the cursor to your EXACT QTH. Once the cursor is at the right spot hit the HOME key again.

Press I(nput) M(y) P(osition) and confirm your lat/long. Then pick a symbol for yourself, type in a brief comment, and verify it. Once you press that "Y" you're essentially ready to go on the air. In it's most basic form, you're configured! Tune the radio to 144.39, hook it up and see what you can see. It might take a few minutes for other stations to appear (assuming there are some) but if you get a little impatient, try pressing X(mit) Q(uery) and give it a radius such as 64 to force position reports from others.

Look for stations whose symbol is a green star. THESE ARE THE WIDE DIGIPEATERS! Is there one near you? Now press the "D" key. If an asterisk (*) appears next to a callsign (hopefully that nearby WIDE), you hear it directly. Make a note of that nearby WIDE station's digipeater path.

Now you're going to set YOUR digipeater path. Press O(perations) E. If you heard that WIDE station directly, enter it's callsign and its ssid, if any. Follow this with a comma, then type in "WIDE". For example: "N2MH-15,WIDE" would be how I might enter it here in The Bronx, but the nearest WIDE to YOU is what YOU'RE looking for.

Next you want to set your Power-Height-Gain figures. Press I(nput) M)y) P(ower) and tell it how many watts you're using, the elevation of your antenna above AVERAGE terrain (look at a topographical map of your area,) it's gain in dBd and the antenna's directional pattern in degrees or 0 (zero)for an omnidirectional antenna.

Finally, set your Status Text by pressing I(nput) M(y) S(tatus) and typing in a short comment, different than what you used in your Position Text earlier. At this point, you're about as far as you need to go for now.


Arte Booten ( AEC for Digital Services, NYC ARES/RACES| |Riverdale, New York [FN30bu] !4052.71N/07354.06WNPHG5370/A=00240| PGP Key Fingerprint: D73E B889 C630 6F4A F31F 3083 56BD 0AAD 9996 3B03


This article resides on the Technical Information and Operations portion of the NYC-ARECS wesbite.