Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Web location uploads, better iPhone support, and favourite stations

I've just installed a rather large upgrade on the production aprs.fi servers. As usual, some things might break, in which case you'll get to keep both pieces, but it should be worth it.

The system now supports uploading positions directly to aprs.fi using a web browser which supports the W3C Geolocation API. In practice this means that you can update your location using a mobile phone which has a GPS and a modern web browser. No native application or purchase is required. I have only tested this with the iPhone (OS 3.0 and newer), but there is a good chance that Android phones will work, too. To try this out, create an user account on aprs.fi, log in from the phone, and click on the transmitting tower button to upload your position.

You can also click on the crosshair button to center the map on your current GPS coordinates. Naturally, your web browser will ask you whether your position can be revealed to aprs.fi before either of these functions are enabled.

The positions are not transmitted to or via the APRS-IS, so it is OK for users without amateur radio licenses to upload their positions, too. The stations are identified as web stations on aprs.fi, for example: oh7lzb föni (my iPhone). Web stations names are not restricted by AX.25 / APRS limitations, and can contain spaces and international characters.

The names of the web stations live in a separate namespace from APRS and AIS stations. There can be a 'N0CALL' phone as well as a 'N0CALL' APRS station, and a 'N0CALL' AIS ship. When names overlap, the web site will let you pick the right station from a list. Multiple web stations may also share the same name, which should help avoid collisions.

The mobile version of the map has been improved to better support the iPhone. With some luck, these improvements should also help on Android and other new powerful mobile devices, but I haven't tested it on one yet. I really haven't used anything iPhone-specific which would intentionally break on other devices (I have tested the mobile version of the site on Firefox to validate this), but only testing will tell. Feedback is welcome.

I've also added a favourite stations list. The 'star' button to show the bookmark list is visible, but the editing functionality has not been published yet. Stay tuned for more!


Phil said...

Thanks Hessu. Looks great on the iPhone!
Is there a way to select what type of stations are shown on the mobile browser? The ships are cluttering up my screen and I'd like to switch them off as I did on the desktop computer.
73 de Phil, HB9TQJ

Hessu said...

Phil: No, not yet. The current preferences window simply doesn't work on the iphone, so I haven't put in a link to it. I'll provide new filtering controls for both mobile and "normal" versions of the site soon, including an option to filter out the web stations.

Erwin (ON8AR) said...

Nice work !
i there a way toauto update my location of the Iphone, so when I'm using it on the road, it keeps tracking ?

Kjell Bergqvist, SM0FOB said...

Very nice user aprs.fi display on the iPod Touch! Thanks!
But I cannot register with my iPod Touch (probably the same with iPhone). The Captchaprov is not displayed. Why?
73 de Kjell., SM0FOB

Erwin (ON8AR) said...

I tested the Iphone version on an Iphone 4 (iOS 4.0.2) and it works great !
But it uses some bandwith to refresh the map. it it possible to setup a page that only transmits the location, and does not show the map ? so it workt with low bandwith ?

Hessu said...

Erwin: Yes, it keeps tracking as long as the page is open. Unfortunately, on the iphone, the screen saver will hide and stop the browser after a few minutes, so (depending on the screen blanking timer setting) you'll have to touch the screen every now and then. :) I suppose that on some Android phones you could completely disable the screen blanking / browser stopping (and suffer the battery hit).

And yes, I've been thinking about a "tracking only" view which would hide the map, and maybe just display coordinates, speed/altitude/accuracy.

Kjell: Yup, registration, and preferences, are pretty much broken on the mobile devices still. Requires fixing.

GadgetDave said...

Very cool upgrades. I noticed the Google Latitude integration, but I am having troubles getting it to work.

I am assuming that the "remote user id" field on http://aprs.fi/my/ under "My Web Stations" is for the Google Latitude public badge id ?

I enabled the public badge on the google side, and input the id number generated for the JSON/KML/ATOM feeds, but no luck yet. Perhaps I just need to be patient ;)

Thanks for all your work!

-_Dave (KJ4VZN)

Hessu said...

GadgetDave: You're right about the remote user ID mapping to Latitude badge ID when Latitude is used. But the Latitude integration is not yet installed in the production aprs.fi instance, although most of the code is already present. So it won't work yet. I'll post an update when it's mature and usable!