APRSBB: APRS Client for Blackberry

I’m a big Blackberry fan and I was pretty excited to read G4ILO’s post a few days ago about APRSBB, a soon-to-be-released APRS client for Blackberry. I tracked down the developer, Chris Struttman KJ4HPQ of The Blue Array Network LLC, who agreed to be interviewed about what he’s been working on and what we can expect from the project:

Where did APRSBB come from?

APRSBB is actually a fork of a project that I developed in high school when I was 17 called anyTrac. What happened was, we were all going on a roadtrip to the same place, but we all had to leave at different times, so one night I wrote this web application with a nice realtime Google Maps interface, and a distance table so we could see how far away we were from each other (see attached). The thing was, we all had smartphones, so I developed a client for Blackberry and we found a pre-made client for Windows Mobile, and it worked – except for Paul (KJ4DXK) who didn’t have a smartphone or a dataplan. So Paul and Lynn (KJ4ERJ of APRSISCE) found packet radio for ham and eventually APRS, and we said “hey, this looks like a giant anyTrac.” We all eventually got licensed and started using APRS.

Once I saw that there was no real APRS client for Blackberry, and people were really looking for one, I decided that this might be a cool little thing to get into. I actually have had APRSBB working on Blackberry for over a year, however, as you can read on the project page, it uses an HTTP gateway that I don’t think would be scalable for the project. So I’m just re-working the old anyTrac position reporting client to interact directly with the APRS-IS stream instead.

What does it do?

Well… not much. The very first version released will simply be a position reporting application. It does run in the background, so you will be able to do other things on your phone while it’s running, but the overall goal for APRSBB release 1 is to report position. I know that if I really crunched I could get some sort of minimalist mapping interface in and a messaging interface done, but I really don’t want to put software out there that isn’t spectacular. I’d much rather perfect one thing and then move on to the next.

Speaking of the next, after we perfect position reporting, I want to develop a killer APRS messaging platform. The Blackberry was born on the principle of simple and reliable messaging and following their lead, I want to develop a messaging platform that integrates tightly into the Blackberry operating system and just blows away any other APRS messaging clients. I’m a massive fan of connectivity, that’s why I love the Blackberry platform and I think it’d just be such a natural place for this project to really grow into.

How will this help hams?

There’s no doubt in my mind that hams who have Blackberries have been looking to have APRS on their smartphones for quite a while. You can see everywhere in the various lists. So we’re filling that market.

But more importantly, I think that I see something in APRS that maybe not a lot of people see: APRS (both -IS and RF) has the ability to really attract a new generation of ham operators. It offers so many different cool things you can do and so many ways to get involved, the possibilities are limitless. I really hope that APRSBB can just help attract some new people to the ham audience.

Who is involved in the project?

Well, as I mentioned, I’m friends with Lynn (KJ4ERJ), Paul (KJ4DXK), Josh (W4SGC) and Thomas (W4WCQ) and they all sort of motivated me to get licensed and do something with APRS.

As for developing the project, that’s been pretty much all me. The small company that I own called The Blue Array Network will technically be who’s going to be releasing the project.

How does APRSBB differ from, say, Google Latitude?

It’s quite funny that you should ask about Google Latitude, I was a beta user for the Latitude service.

The great thing about APRS is that it’s such an open platform; I’m a programmer at heart, so people like me can really take advantage of this. We can get away with this openness because we’re all licensed hams and we’re sort of a trusted bunch of people. Google Latitude just only recently released their API, initially they had no API, and even then, it’s nothing in terms of how open the APRS platform is.

Where can you get it, and how much will it cost?

APRSBB’s home site is the best source of information about the project, it’s address is http://aprsbb.bluearray.net. Once the project is launched, I’ll post instructions on the website and I’ll be telling everyone exactly where to get it.

Essentially there will be two ways to get APRSBB on your smartphone:

  1. Advanced Blackberry Users – Advanced Blackberry users will have the option to download the .COD file and use a command-line program from the Blackberry Developer Kit (free) called JavaLoader.exe to place the app on your phone. The .COD file is just the raw program directly as it comes out of the Java compiler.
  2. Everyday Blackberry Users – We will be making APRSBB available for $0.99 in the Blackberry App World store. Right now I’m telling people to think of it as a non tax-deductible donation to my college fund. Depending on the lead time for us to get into the Blackberry App World, I might leak out a few free Over-The-Air install releases to everyone on the list. You can download APRSBB OTA here.

Once someone gets it, what can they do with it?  What are some fun ways to use it?

APRSBB offers a way to put yourself on the “APRS Map.” The possibilities after that are limitless.

I know that there’s some potential users out there that like to use position reporting while they’re hiking, so they can document exactly where they went. They can go home and look on aprs.fi or use a program like APRSIS32 by Lynn (KJ4ERJ) to keep their tracks.

One thing that we do that’s fun is we do APRS tag. If I see that I’m really close to one of my friends or their car, I’ll just drive right up to their car and place a note under the windshield that simply says “You’ve been tagged by KJ4HPQ.”

You’re really at the limits of your mind’s imagination when it comes to this technology.

What do you think of this?

What questions do you have for Chris?

Post a comment below!

Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of AmateurRadio.com. Contact him at [email protected].

15 Responses to “APRSBB: APRS Client for Blackberry”

  • KJ4ERJ:

    I’ve been holding my tongue about this for almost a year it seems, so I’m really glad to see this go public. I’m really anxious to see the APRSBB users hitting the map. What’s the application identifier (ToCall) going to be, Chris, so we can all add a u/AP???? to our APRS-IS filters?

    Lynn (D) – KJ4ERJ – Author of APRSISCE for Windows Mobile and Win32

  • Chris KJ4HPQ:

    I have two emails into Bob Bruninga to register a the APBB* ToCall block but I’ve not gotten any response. So in the true spirit of begging for forgiveness when failing to get permission, I’m using “APBB01” as the initial ToCall.

  • Worried (N/A at present):

    Chris –
    Given the recent attention from news outlets, such as The Wallstreet Journal, to the growing problem that applications like this have created- Namely, an easy way for stalkers to track their victims- how will your program eliminate the aims of, excuse the dramaticism, the creeps of the world? I don’t mean to be an alarmist but the fact of the matter is that domestic abuse victims are increasingly less safe from their abusers due to the tracking devices in smart phones (Which, coincidentally, the U.S. government requires 95% of a company’s phones to include gps tracking devices.)Add to that the fact that one in five American women (and one in 12 American men) will be in an abusive relationship at least once in their life and I see a reason to be worried. Most victims have had the tracking features on their phones activated without their knowledge, but the 23% that were aware of the tracking features and were aware they were active didn’t connect the dots.

    Can you address my concern?

    -Just Worried

  • Chris KJ4HPQ:

    I’m a developer, the users are users.

    I’ve created a way to use an already existing technology, what the user does with it is THEIR responsibility.

    This response may sound callous, but it’s just the way it has to be. I, as the developer, can’t and do not want to be responsible for your privacy.

    The technology is there for use at your (the user’s) discretion.

  • KJ4ERJ:

    As an author of a similar APRS tracking application for Windows Mobile phones, I must agree with Chris with one addition. In the case of these applications, the user is the one that is loading the application and activating it. The privacy and security issues have been debated on the various APRS-related amateur radio fora (forums?) and the conclusion is always the same, if you want privacy, turn off the tracker.

    The programs that we’re discussing here, APRSBB and APRSISCE/32, are not stealth programs that can secreted onto a phone by malicious individuals to track the phone’s owner. They are very much information visibility tools designed to be used exclusively by amateur radio operators to contribute to and maintain a view of the current situation in their immediate vicinity.

    People have asked me if I’m worried about someone knowing where I am. My response is that they can know just as much about me by sitting across the street and watching my comings and goings. There is no privacy in our current world and anyone that thinks they have privacy are simply deluding themselves.

    Lynn (D) – KJ4ERJ – Author of APRSISCE for Windows Mobile and Win32

  • Damien F5RRS:

    APRSBB does require your APRS password.
    How and where can I register any APRS password ?
    I try to put a password on the running programm but I never saw me on any map! So I think there is somewhere a database to register this password…
    Any help ?
    73 – Damien F5RRS

  • Dave KB8TZX:

    Will you be adding frequency reporting as an optional data field we can transmit. For instance, if I have my HT along and nothing else but Blackberry… I could input what frequency I’ll be using into APRSBB and have it show up for others who would like to contact me?

    Obviously, I would need to keep updating that information as there is no connection to the radio to read it… but I think it would be a great help to have that as a function that I could enable for a particular run of the program (when I go for a drive with HT on a mobile whip, for example)

    Tnx. 73!

  • Anang - YB3SZM:

    I will try with my BB
    I was Registered for APRS, same number in APRSBB?

  • F0DWW:

    j’ai télécharger l’application APRSBB
    Mais il demande un mots de passe ou le trouver
    ou alors y a t il un site pour s enregistrer
    merci a tous

  • Adri YB5PR:

    How to link of my BB APRS for amateur radio…tanks

  • ZR6DLG:

    Im looking to regester but having no luck
    Please advise as to where this happens.

  • yanto YD1EJA:

    how and where to register ?

  • Nigel - ZS6RN:

    Greetings from South Africa 🙂
    As per other requests, where and what to ‘register’ APRSBB?
    Many thanks in advance
    73 de Nigel

  • Agus YC3GHW:

    APRSBB does require your APRS password.
    How and where can I register any APRS password ?

  • Felipe LU4FTA:

    How and where can I register any APRS password ?
    tks and 73s.

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