I've finally got around to completing the transfer of data for my Website, Email, File server, T2TAS & APRS iGate/Digi services. I'm using a model B for the APRS duties with the VHF port using TNCPi kiss tnc and still using the old faithful PK-232MBX & USB to serial converter for the HF port. For the website and email servers I'm using the new model 2B. Both are using 16gb Class10 sdhc. This leaves the third Raspberry Pi for experimenting with whatever suites!
The motivation behind this was to retire my aging IBM eServer 220 (costs about $100AUD per quarter) that had suffered the loss of 1GB ram due to age and the 10k SCSI drives sounding like they were about to self destruct! So performance may not be comparable from the old server, but that's not the focus here.
Back in December 2010 I applied to become part of the T2 server network. It's now just a little over a year since then and for me I believe that it was a good decision to pursue. At the time of applying there was only two T2 servers located in Australia, they being T2AUST & T2SYDNEY. Now just a year on and there's now 5. This has certainly improved the user experience within AU as this provides some more redundancy to the network.
Wow has it really been that long? I started experimenting with WordPress back in June 2008 with the intention of setting up a site for the company I was working for so that it was the were to get information within the company (intranet) However, as most things tended to never happen there it was never implemented so not long before I was made redundant I was given the server that hosts this blog (and other services) so I put it to use here at home!
So lets look back at the versions of WordPress, Now as I said I started tinkering in June of 2008 so that would have been version 2.5.1 (yes I cheated, see release history here) Now I won't give a breakdown of each release as you can read that from the link above! But WordPress has come a long way from my early days, there's a lot more automated items now where traditionally you would have had to ftp your updates or themes and the like.
Also within the 3 year period my server has changed a lot as well (software) as when I originally started it was using Debian Etch. Although my preferred Linux distribution at the time was Ubuntu 8.04, However for some reason the live CD of either the Desktop or install media for Ubuntu Server wouldn't recognise the RAID card! So that made for a rather short-lived prospect for running Ubuntu. It wasn't until Ubuntu 8.10 that I was able to install, as for whatever was the issue on the 8.04 LTS had been either addressed or the necessary module was now included by default. I was also wanting to host my Email server and there was some simple setup prerequisites that Ubuntu Server 8.10 introduced that made setting up Postfix with all the bells and whistles of using Amavis, SpamAssassin & ClamAV to give you a bit of mail cleansing! So Ubuntu remained as the servers OS untill September this year when trying to update to 11.10 when horribly wrong! and I was left with a non working system, Yes I certainly did do a system backup of all the data that I considered important, but this didn't include a full drive clone though (something I considered but didn't do!)
I'd become a little displeased with the direction Ubuntu was going anyway (I'd stopped using Ubuntu on my desktop not long after the release of 9.10) and the usage of Plymouth cause me some headaches as the video chip wasn't up to spec for displaying the intended splash screen associated with Plymouth (even my desktop PC didn't play nice with Plymouth!) It is my opinion that a server should only show verbose output while booting so you can see if there are any issues, by hiding that (verbose output) behind a splash screen as default was a bad move! So after some thought it was clear to me that my server needed to return to Debian (stable release) so that happened on the 9th of September and hasn't missed a beat for me.
Now I have to admit that the majority of the content on this blog is really of no significance (to any one else!) but over the time of it's existence I've learnt how to set up a Web server, Email server and a few other monitoring solutions. This blog (well the server really) is purely for my self education and none of this would be possible without Free Open Source Software (FOSS) and the developers that dedicate their time etc…
So will this last another 3 years? … Lets hope so! 😉
For us Amateur Radio peeps that have Android phones and wish to play with APRS without the need for a radio or if you are just interested in what it's all about, then there are currently two applications that will achieve this. However both of them are not currently included in the Google Market so you will need to visit the respective sites to get them…
This has a simplistic terminal like display when in the foreground and has a task icon when active (icon visible in the last image)
The map view (accessed via the menu) uses Google Maps to plot both yourself and heard stations from the APRS-IS feed.
If you are already familiar with configuration for a PC based APRS client, then setting up is quite straight forward
The main thing to note you must have a valid APRS Passcode for your position to be gated into the APRS-IS
Menu button pressed showing options available
APRSDroid in action!
Has a tabbed main screen allowing quick change without the need to access the menu. However this doesn't currently support landscape mode! (not critical)
Message screen can be set to display messages just to you or can be set to accept all or be filtered to a specific area.
Map screen uses aprs.fi to render both you and nearby stations.
Configuration is all in one screen (accessed viz the menu key) Some of these items could be consolidated into categories (just my opinion!)
There are two types of beacon modes, Manual & Automatic
Both applications do the job of reporting your position and passing it on to the APRS-IS, the one benefit that U2APRS has is that it supports messaging. I currently have both installed so I can select if I want to be able to message or not (to me not an important feature for a phone tracker) The set up options for U2APRS could do with a little clean up. Also as both of these apps are not in the main Android Market you will need to regularly check the respective web sites for updates as neither have an update function check, but if they one day both go into the market then that will no longer be a problem. I must say that I was two versions behind on APRSDroid, the version I had installed didn't have map support or the task icon when active!
So depending on what your preferences are I'm sure that one of these apps will cover what you want… 🙂
Note: I'm using the HTC Desire (A8183) and Oxygen ROM 2.0.1
Below is an image of the current Tier2 APRS-IS network, at a glance you can see how it's been broken into regions
asia.aprs2.net for Asia
aunz.aprs2.net for Oceania
euro.aprs2.net for Europe and Africa
noam.aprs2.net for North America
soam.aprs2.net for South America
As the end user, you can simply choose to connect directly to any T2 server, but should that server suffer from downtime then you will be without service until that server is restored. An alternate way to do things is to use a rotate DNS, that way should one server not be available the next in list is used. This assists in load balancing instead of just one single server being used. Australia & New Zealand do have a secondary rotate DNS of rotate.aprs.net.au this serves the same purpose as the aunz.aprs2.net so you can use either.
Today I received confirmation that my request to become part of the Tier2 APRS-IS network was successful. So what does this mean for fellow Amateur Radio operators that use the packet mode refereed to as APRS? Well not much really! only that I'm now part of the Oceania rotation network, so should you be using aunz.aprs2.net for your connection within the APRS client software then you may get forwarded to my server to obtain your APRS-IS data.
Please should there be any issues that you happen to notice please email mail me so I can rectify it ASAP!
Soon I will be applying to become a T2 APRS server as Australia currently has two active T2 servers I'm sure that by me adding to this network will provide some more redundancy and assist the APRS community.
The process is quite straight forward, and for some time now the only requirement I was lacking was a static IP. I've just applied to my ISP (no extra cost to me!) for one, this should be activated on Xmas day (December 25) so if my server goes offline for a short period, that is most likely going to be the cause.
I've been running my iGate now for almost 4 years and during this time there's been many changes in both the software used and hardware.
If you would like to contribute towards the running costs, you are welcome to make a donation…
So as you would know, I now have an Android phone. So one of my first tasks was to see if there was anything in the "Market" for use with APRS. I've found two, however the second is not in the default market but does reside in another Android application source.
As the title implies this is a receive only application using Google Maps. This is still in early development so expect this to maybe give some trouble but it does show some potential, but as most developers utilise ads to fund it so this does have ads, that I find slightly off putting, but I do understand why they are there. This application is located in the default market thus, it can be installed from there.
This is the application you want for transmitting you position as it is effectively an APRS Tracker. You must bear in mind that this will need 2/3G to access any tier2 APRS server to pass your position data, so if you have limited data access from your provider then you could get a shock on your next bill, however that said, its only passing text not graying map data so you should do ok. As mentioned earlier, this is not in the default market, so to install you are best to grab the latest version from APRSdroid
So there you have it two applications for use with your Android & APRS 🙂
Effective from today I have retired my IBM NetVista (second server) that was hosting my APRS I-Gate VK7HSE-3. I have moved my APRS I-Gate to my main server. Whilst I was at it this gave me a chance to remove excess dust build up from within the IBM eServer 220. I have to admit, I didn't think that the room where all my gear lives was so dusty!
The only one small change made, I've reassigned the call sign of VK7HSE-1 (formally VK7HSE-3) to the I-Gate.
So for the end-user its business as usual, and a small saving on electricity for me… 😀