Setup Comms

Setting the Comm Port or TCP/IP parameters is accomplished by pressing the button in the Upper Left of the main Setup window, "Setup Comm Port or TCP/IP". When you do, this window opens:

Select either the Comm Port or TCP/IP for the data source.

If you are using a TNC connected to a Comm Port, then indicate which comm port and what baud rate.

If you are a licensed amateur radio operator, enter you call in the box provided. If you don't have a callsign, just leave the default "NOCALL" there. The entry in this box will be used to identify you when you log into a server. There is some checking done on the server end when you log in so I don't recommend you make up something odd. You won't cause any problems other than perhaps being unable to log in properly.

If you have an APRS-IS validation passcode, enter it in the box provided. If you have no passcode, leave this set to -1. That will allow the servers to let you view filtered data but it will also prevent you from sending any packets into the system.

Hey, I don't have an APRS-IS passcode. Well, don't worry about it. Balloon Track in primarily a receiver of information, not a disseminator and you can set filters and do just about anything someone with a passcode could. The only limitation on your actions is that you can not send packets into the system and have them repeated over the air on RF. In order to transmit, which is possible over APRS-IS, you need to be a licensed amateur and that's what the passcode is all about. Other than that, Balloon Track works just fine with APRS-IS. If you need a passcode, you will be provided with one by most of the full featured APRS programs when you register. I will not be providing passcodes.

Optionally, and I URGE you to take advantage of this option if you are getting your data from the net, you can set a filter if you are connecting to a javAPRSServer filtered port (14580). To do this enter in the filter string you wish to use and click Active for that filter. In order for filters to be processed you will need to enter your amateur radio callsign, your APRS-IS Passcode if you have one. The default callsign, "NOCALL" and the default passcode "-1" will work just fine

Balloon Track will only send filter requests to port 14580. So, it is in effect inactive for all other ports. Keep this in mind when you select a server as outlined below. See the Filtering section below for information on how to create a filter.

If you find a server that doesn't use this port convention but has a javAPRSServer filter on another port let me know and I'll investigate and possibly rewrite this limitation to broaden it to other port numbers.

Optionally, you can also manually enter in a numeric IP address and an associated port number. If you check the Activate box below this address the standard list of servers above will be disabled and only this single numeric IP will be used to connect and retrieve data. When active the server list is greyed out and is inactive. Deactivate the manually entered address and the list of servers once again becomes the active source for internet addresses. Although the above example shows an IP of one of the APRS-IS servers (it might change so don't rely on it), this facility was incorporated primarily so you could access a local ( address or perhaps an intranet address where a modem in connected and being made available via a TCP/IP connection.

If you are using TCP/IP then you must

  1. Have an active internet connection (assuming anything but a local connection)

  2. Set a server URL and a port number

Using the scroll bar move up and down the list of servers and find the one you wish to use. If you plan to user filters be sure to select a server/port combination that supports that. The server URL and its associated port are shown. If you hover your mouse over a server a comment line will appear, as shown above, giving more information about that server usually including whether or not you can set a filter on that port. Place a checkmark beside the server you wish to use. I'd suggest you select a server that is in the vicinity of the location you wish to receive packets from, not necessarily the one nearest to your physical location. That server will be moved to the top of the list and placed immediately below any previously selected servers.

You can have a maximum of three servers selected. If the program fails to connect to the first (top) server, it moves on to the next. If you wish to reorder the servers un-check one of the active ones and it will move immediately below the selected servers and is deactivated. By checking and un-checking servers you should be able to get them in the sequence you wish them to be used.

At the bottom of the screen you can enter a URL to the most recent Tier 2 server file list. The default URL above works as of this writing (20-Dec-04) but that may change. If it does, you can check back here to see if I've posted a new URL or you can roam about the net looking for one yourself. Clicking on the "Update Server List" button will go to this URL (which must point directly to a text file containing the latest server report). Although the URL above doesn't look like it is pointing to a text file, it is in fact a redirection URL that forwards you on to the text file at another location. The program will then automatically download this report and use it to overwrite your previously saved "aprs-is_server.ini" file. The program will alert you if any (or all) of your previously saved active servers are unavailable on this list and adjust the actives accordingly. This list MUST adhere to the format contained within this example file:

Basically, any line NOT containing server information must be preceded by a semicolon.

Data must appear as:;User-Defined Filter Port: APRSWest Yuma, AZ USA

Where the server URL appears first, followed by a colon followed by the port number followed by a semicolon followed by the notes (or tooltip) field. If the file is NOT in this format the Server List Update will fail. In case of failure, you will find your old server file has been saved as "aprs-is_server.ini.bak". You can use this to recover from any problems.

I've "borrowed" the server list concept from from the late Roger Barker's [G4IDE] excellent UI-View program. In fact, the actual interface for this server selection was inspired by his selector for Servers too. Of course, it isn't quite as functional as his but it works. This is my humble way of honoring a great contributor to the packet radio software scene.

This list is included in the full installation. If you downloaded the lite version and just want this file then here it is:

Save this file to your Balloon Track folder and it should load the server selection box when you next run the program.

Alternatively, you just as well might click on "Update Server List". That way, you'll be sure you are selecting servers from the most recently compiled listing.

The list of up to 3 active servers is kept in the wbaltrak.ini file, not in the server file. They will be loaded on program startup.

General Information about APRS-IS

You can find out lots of information on APRS-IS, the backbone of APRS on the net, by visiting the links below.

Be sure to select a second tier server and NOT a Core Server. Read up on how this works. I can make it easier for you but you will need to determine which server you want and which port you want to connect to. A little reading time at the first URL will help you figure out this stuff.


An explanation of filters and how to construct them is available here:

That's APRSWEST hosted by Dick Stanich, KB7ZVA, a second tier server which is the level of server all clients should connect to. Do NOT connect to a Core Server. I believe I'm being redundant here but, it's worth highlighting. This will all make sense if you visit APRS-IS and read a little.

Just click on the "Ports and Filters Help" selection on the menu running down the left hand column.

Dick mentions that you can use an APRS message to change/set the filters. Balloon Track will do this but ONLY if you have a valid APRS-IS passcode. However, fear not, if you enter filter parameters on this setup screen they WILL be used when you connect to a server as they are passed as part of the login process NOT by an APRS message.

I STRONGLY urge you to use a filtered port and set that filter to pass only packets Balloon Track NEEDS. I let it run on an unfiltered port and it worked but there is a really large overhead that just isn't required.

An example of a filter I plan to be using in the future is:

filter b/AE0SS-11/K0ANI-11/K0YUK-11

You must start a filter out with the word "filter".

"b" indicates you are giving the filter a budlist (buddy list).

The callsigns separated from the "b" and each other by forward slashes are my "buddies". Actually, they are the callsigns for all of EOSS's APRS airborne payloads.

With this filter active I will see ONLY those packets that originate from those three callsigns.

If you are unsure of the SSID of a payload but are confident you know the callsign you might use the Prefix filter instead:

filter p/AE0SS/K0ANI/K0YUK

This filter will pass calls from every SSID of each callsign. So, you would receive K0ANI Larry's home WX station, K0ANI-11 Larry's balloon APRS station, K0ANI-14 Larry's mobile chasing about the countryside looking for K0ANI-11.

I urge you to read the Filter Help file linked above to build a filter you will be confident will pass along only those packets you want BT to process.

I want to take a moment to express my appreciation to Dick Stanich, KB7ZVA, the operator of the APRSWEST server, for all his help in guiding me through my first attempt at the interaction between BT and APRS-IS. Without his help it would have been a much more arduous task. In a matter of 3 emails, he had me up and running with no problems. Thanks Dick!