NWAPRS serves: Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories,
Oregon, Idaho, and Montana
NORTHWEST APRS FAQ SHEET
Q. What area is covered
by the NWAPRS system?
The NWAPRS group covers Washington, Idaho,
Oregon, Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia. We have members
in all major cities within the region.
There is regional, yet sometimes sporadic
coverage along I-5 starting from Vancouver, BC, and heading
south thru Edmonds, Bellevue, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia,
Centralia, Kelso/Longview, WA, and Vancouver, Portland, Salem, Corvallis
and down through Medford and the CA state line, OR. I-90 is well covered from Seattle east to
I-15 coming up from SLC, UT through Pocatello, Idaho
Falls, and Dillon, then Butte, Helena, and Great Falls up to the
Canadian border and north.
East of Portland thru the gorge to the
Tri-Cities is well covered, but is more sporadic down towards
Hwy 101 along the Pacific coast has
sporadic coverage near Newport, and Astoria, OR, and South Bend
to Aberdeen, WA.
Alberta has great coverage throughout
Edmonton and Calgary, and near the national Parks around Banff
and Lake Louise. This should be reason enough to head north of
the border and take in some of the natural beauty that
British Columbia has increasingly good
coverage along the major east west Hwy 3. Vancouver Island
coverage is oriented more toward the southern part of the
island, with plans to expand northward primarily in support of
the annual Vancouver Island Challenge boat race between the
Canadian Coast Guard, U.S. Coast Guard, and British Coast Guard
Q. What frequency is the
NWAPRS group operating on?
The NWAPRS group operates on the national
APRS frequency of 144.390 mhz.
The NWAPRS group also operates HF on 10.151 LSB (Tune
10147.5 MHz for USB only radios) and on 10M (28.120 USB). We are looking
into a 6m freq, 50.15???
Q. I have a tracker in my
car, what outgoing path should I be using?
We recommend using WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1 for all mobile trackers. This will get your
signal out throughout a large region. If you have a mobile on M or H
power, you can probably further optimize with WIDE2-2 only.
Please do NOT transmit more than once per minute for
mobile stations. Doing so adds alot of QRM to the frequency. Once every
2 mins is much better.
Please shut off trackers when the vehicle in NOT in
Q. What is the right outgoing path for
my home station?
The latest recommendation is WIDE2-2 for all fixed
stations. If you cannot reach a WIDEn-n digipeater, then try the aid of
a neary fill-in digi or other home station by using WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1.
Q. How often should my station transmit
its position or status report?
If it's your home station, software will set this to
once every 30 minutes.
If it's your mobile station, you select the periodicity
of the packet. If you're using a longer path, then extend the time to,
say, 3 minutes. If you're using the standard WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1 path, once
a minute is OK.
Q. How do I program my TNC
settings for the new tracker?
It's important that you use a regular
packet program, not APRS or PaKet, to initially program your
TNC with tracker settings. The reason is that APRS and PaKet
have a start-up and shut-down configuration file that changes
settings in the TNC when you quit the program. If you use
PacTerm or some simple comms tool, then you can make all the
necessary changes and not worry about the program configuration
file changing the settings again at shutdown.
Q. Where can I get more
information about the NWAPRS network?
Q. I see some station icons
with a Blue Circle and a line coming out of it, moving around.
What kind of station is this?
This is an integrated weather station, and
the line signifies the direction at which the wind is
originating. The longer the line, the higher the wind
If using APRSdos, hit the N key to find out
details being reported by that weather station. Look at the top
of the screen to find this out.
These stations are using either Peet
Brothers or Davis weather stations. Typically the cable from
these stations connects to the second serial port of the
computer. In some cases a remote WX station may not have a
computer connected. In that case, the WX station is connected
to the TNC much like a GPS would be connected.
Q. There's a line coming
out of the little car symbol on the map. What's that
This line represents the vehicle's heading.
It is derived from the GPRMC line of data. The longer the line,
the indication of greater speed. The shorter the line, then a
Q. What are those green
stars I see on the map display?
Those represent remoted WIDEn-N area
digipeaters, and are typically atop a mountain somewhere and
offer long range digipeating of APRS signals.
While you can send APRS one liners to a
regular APRS station, these digipeaters are typcially not manned.
They consist of a TNC and radio only. One liners to a digipeater will
not normally be acknowledged.
Q. I want to put up a WIDE
area digipeater, what equipment do I need?
We'll assume first you have authorized
access to a site, and have already gained permission to put up
a digipeater. If not, please take care of this business
The basic necessities of an APRS WIDEn-N
digipeater site include a mobile-type radio, a Kantronics
KPC-3+ digipeater (w/8.2 or greater eproms), an antenna
capable of surviving harsh winter conditions (wind and ice),
good coax, power supply (or also UPS), and cavities or
TNC programming notes can be found on the
nwaprs home pages.
NWAPRS WIDEn-N digipeaters are typically named with a
geographical reference, like KOPEAK, BALDY, etc. When a station callsign
is used, the standard SSID is -10.
Q. I want to put a tracker
in my car, what equipment do I need?
This is one of the more fun applications of
APRS; vehicle tracking.
There are several ways to easily implement
a tracker in your vehicle. If you already have a 2M mobile then
all you need is a TNC and GPS.
The TNC can be a Kantronics KPC-3+ (8.2 or
greater preferred).. Most operators here in the NWAPRS group use the
Kantronics KPC-3+. On the other hand, you can use a TX-only TNC like the
TinyTracker III, or TigerTrak modules, which are great if you only need
The GPS needs to output NMEA data, and
there are a host of models available from Garmin, Magellan,
Delorme, and others.
Many operators will have a second radio,
like the RS HTX-202 handy talkie dedicated for a vehicle
tracker. This is a good radio for APRS ops.
The Kenwood D700 is the BEST mobile radio, because it
has a built-in TNC. All you need to add is a GPS and off you go. You
don't even need a laptop, because the APRS symbols of other stations
will show up on your GPS, and you can send messages with the mic keypad.
Assembly instructions (e.g. cabling ideas)
can be found on the NWAPRS web pages.
Q. What kind of computer do
I need to operate APRS?
There are versions of APRS for dos,
Windows, Macintosh, Unix, and the Palm III. Practically any
computer will work. Of course a newer computer will work
fastest, but an older 486 beefed up with Windows 95 or Unix
(Linux, FreeBSD, ?), or Macintosh 68040 with extra RAM will
work just fine.
Q. Where do I get the
software, and how much does it cost?
Nearly all versions of APRS software are
shareware, and can be found on the www.tapr.org web site.
Additionally you may want to try the aprs.rutgers.edu web site
for some good stuff. One Unix version, Xastir, is freeware.
The enclosed read-me files that come with
your APRS software will tell you how much it costs to get a
validation number. For APRSdos it's about $30, for Mac and
WinAPRS about $50. UI-View32 is freeware now, since the passing of it's
author in 2004. These small fees pay the developer for his
time and efforts, and help keep him interested in improving the
software. Once you pay, you're AOK for new versions which are
always coming out.
Q. What if I don't want to
validate my APRS software. Will it still work?
APRS will work just fine with most versions even without a
validation number. By inserting a validation number APRS allows
you to SAVE a configuration file that includes your callsign,
location, and station information. Otherwise, you'll have to
re-input the information each time you start the
Q. I've heard there's an HT
with a TNC built in. What's the scoop?
You're referring to the new Kenwood TH-D7A,
with packet and APRS capabilities built directly into the
radio. Check the ham radio magazines for details. These radios
go for about $479 from AES and HRO.
Q. I've heard there's a mobile radio with a TNC built in. What's the scoop?
This would be the new Kenwood TM-D700. Like the TH-D7A
mentioned above, the D700 has the components of a TNC built-in. Many of
our users have the new D700 installed. You will NOT be sorry about
buying this radio!
Q. What is a Mic-E, or Mic-Encoder?
The Mic-E(ncoder) is a partial-kit from
TAPR for about $130 that connects between your microphone and
mobile radio. There are automatic and manual adjustments which
allow you to transmit GPS data over a repeater (or the APRS
freq), to be received elsewhere and displayed
A GPS connects to the Mic-E and feeds
position information to the radio.
Several repeater groups have authorized
Mic-E ops over their repeaters. The Queen Anne Hill repeater
(W7VHY) on 146.xx and the WWRA repeater on 442.65 (t103.5) both
allow Mic-E ops. The WWRA 146.62 repeater should be Mic-E
capable soon. Those signals are passed from the repeater freq
to the APRS freq.
A related question: What is a Pic-Encoder?
The Pic-E(ncoder) is also available from TAPR and is cheaper
than a Mic-E but has different features. It can be used in
place of a Mic-E, but can be used for other tasks as well.
Check the TAPR web site for further info.
Q. Why should I leave my home station TNC and radio on all the time, even when APRS is not
Your own TNC has an ALIAS setting of WIDE1-1
If you leave your radio and TNC on, it will automatically
digipeat packets using an outgoing path of WIDE1-1,WIDEn-N, which
is a standard setting for mobile ops.
This helps the overall system, as many
portable or mobile trackers use low power, which may not be
able to reach the nearest WIDE digi on the mountain. Your
station digipeatss these packets to the nearest WIDE.
Q. How do I know what path
setting to use for my home QTH, so my location is distributed thru
You enter the path station in the UNPROTO
field of your TNC, from within the APRS software. To get there
from APRSdos, you hit the U key. From WinAPRS, use the
SETTINGS, TNC menus.
Enter WIDE3-3 and watch for a receive after your
station transmits a position report. You may even force transmit
additional location packets for experimentation. To confirm your signal
got out, try looking yourself up on the findu.com site at http://map.findu.com/<your_callsign_here>>.
Q. How do the NWAPRS
signals get onto the Internet?
There are many locations throughout the
NWAPRS were the radio/TNC signal is fed, via computer, to an
internet gateway. All signals that are received at those
locations are transmitted via the internet to the national APRS server via
"secondary" servers, several of which are located in the
NWAPRS.. It is estimated
that these gateways receive 90% of all the NWAPRS
Q. What's the scoop on the TOP 200
Heard Stations linked from the nwaprs.org web pages?
The Top 200 is a web page that lists the "most
heard" stations in the nwaprs region. It's a useful tool when
trying to determine if your tracker or home station is transmitting too
Your station should not normally appear in the top 3-5
stations listed. If it is, it generally means you have your station set
to transmit too often. If you have your tracker set at once per minute,
there should be either no digipeat, or a RELAY only digipeat built in.
If your tracker is at home or work, turn it off. Only trackers on the
road should be transmitting periodic position reports.
Everyone should routinely check the TOP 200 list to
help optimize their station settings.
Q. I'm traveling. How does
someone back home see my location via the internet? They may or
may not be a ham.
First, they need to know the exact
callsign, with SSID, that you are using.
Next, have them log onto the internet and
go to the URL http://map.findu.com/callsign-ssid and replace the
callsign-ssid with your own information. If your station has
been heard recently, it will give course and speed
information, how long ago the last update was received, and
three maps (closeup, nearby, regional).
You can actually do this routine with any
APRS resource (WIDE digi, WX station, home station, etc, to
check to see when it was last heard via one of the iGates).
Q. I have WinAPRS, the pmap.ocx file, and Precision Maps 3.0/3.5
installed, but I don't want to keep the CD installed all the time, and don't
have much room on my hard disk. How do I do this?
First, double check to make sure the PMap30 directory
exists on the hard disk root. Note that it must read PMap30, not PMap35.
Next, create a directory in PMap30 called States (if
it's not already there)
Copy just the states you need from the CD to the
States directory on the hard disk. You can find the list of state file
Q. The new Kenwood TM-D700 can be
outfitted with the VS-3 voice chip, and speak APRS messages. Where do I find
Q. What kind of TNC do I need for a
If you plan on taking your laptop along, you will want to
get a KPC-3+.
If you just want a transmit only, rather portable setup,
you have several options:
TigerTronics TigerTrak TM-1/TM-1+, has multi functions, VHF/HF
Byonics TinyTrak3+, may be bought in kit form, has great features
for a VHF tracker
Byonics TinyTrak4 which will work on HF/VHF/UHF and
300/1200/9600 bps (coming soon)
OpenTracker 1 or 2 (coming soon)
Others are out there, but these are the best two.
Q. How much does it cost to be a member
in the NWAPRS?
Annual dues are $500, payable to Dave/K7GPS. <OR>
Make a donation of one bag of groceries to your local
Make a donation of toys to Toys for Tots or other
organization at Christmas.
Don't get me wrong here. I'd love to get rich off of
all this fun, but you must have better use of your funds, like donating
some to the needy. Do that first, and if there's anything leftover, mail
it to me earmarked for my new RV fund.
Q. I have a gazillion more
questions, how do I get them all answered?
First, read the read-me documents that come
Next, find an APRS guru who lives nearby
and solicit his help.
Be patient, as there is a learning curve to
becoming familiar with APRS.