Sunday PinPoint APRS Net

Each Sunday evening during the WC-ARES 2000 (8:00 PM) local net, members practice using PinPoint APRS to send messages. Equipment you will need typically includes:

  • Windows laptop (or equivalent) capable of running PinPoint APRS v2 and Vara VM
  • VHF Radio and antenna

It is recommended to have a second radio so you can be a part of the Sunday Voice Net while also participating in the PinPoint Net.

Contents

This short guide will provide you basic information for the following activities:

  • How to setup and configure VaraFM (basic)
  • How to setup and configure PinPoint APRS
  • How to send a Beacon and a Message
  • Information on how to get support or troubleshoot

Quick Settings

For those of you setup and ready to go, here is the quick card of details for your reference

  • Frequency: 145.610
  • Message Type: F3
  • To: BLT
  • APRS Path: W2MN-5

Setup VARA FM

  • Install the latest VaraFM
    • https://winlink.org/tags/varafm
  • Configure VaraFM with KISS mode, by starting VaraFM, going to File > VARA Setup
    • KISS Port: 8150
    • FM System: Wide
    • Callsign: yours
    • Registration Key: recommended
    • KISS interface: checked
    • Click CLOSE to save your changes
  • Configure SoundCard by going to File > Soundcard
    • Configure your Device Input and Device Output to your radio
    • There are many radio configurations and settings, and if you need assistance, reach out
    • Click CLOSE to save your changes
  • Configure PTT by going to File > PTT
    • Configure your PTT Via setting, such as CAT or VOX
    • Select your Brand and the Enhanced COM port for your radio
    • Select your Radio Model and Baud (must match your radio BAUD rate)
    • Many select RTS and DTR
    • There are many radio configurations and settings, and if you need assistance, reach out
    • Click CLOSE to save your changes

PinPoint APRS

Configure PinPoint APRS

  • Download and install PoinPoint APRS
    • https://www.pinpointaprs.com/
  • Open the application and go to Tools > Options
    • On the APRS tab, enter in your call sign
    • APRS Path: W2MN-5
    • Position Comment: PinPoint v2
    • Enable APRS Beaconing: checked
    • Beacton at least every 3000 minutes
  • Click on the TNC tab
    • TNC Type: network KISS mode
    • COM port: <your com port>
    • Serial Speed: <your serial speed>
    • Port: 8150
  • GPS
    • If you want to use your GPS you can, but it is not required
    • Altitude: <set your altitude>
  • Click OK to save the changes

Example 2.

Configure your Location – PinPoint v2

  • On the map, use SHIFT + LEFT MOUSE KEY
    • When the menu appears, use “Set As My Position”

Send a Beacon / Message

Primary Digipeater

The W2MN-5 digipeater is our primary digipeater.   If you ever do a position beacon and don’t see it show up on your computer with an audible “ding”, it could be that the digipeater you are using is offline.

Backup Digipeater

N5TW-5 is our backup but remember, it will likely be disconnected if we are out of town or in bad weather.

Sending a Beacon

  • Set your radio to 145.610 and connect your USB to your computer
    • Mode: Simplex
    • SQL: 0
  • Start VaraFM
  • Start PinPoint APRS
    • Go to Tools and select Connect TNC
    • Go to Tools and select Send Position Beacon (F1)

Sending a Message

  • Set your radio to 145.610 and connect your USB to your computer
  • Start VaraFM
  • Start PinPoint APRS
    • Go to View > Comm Monitor Window
      • This will let you see the back-and-forth communications
    • Go to View > Events Window
      • This will let you see the errors or other items that might happen
    • Go to View > Last Heard Window
      • Expand the Radio Reports > Position Reports to see who is checking in / beaconing
    • Verify that in the bottom-left of the status bar you see “TNC Connected”. If not Connect via Tools > Connect TNC
    • Go to Tools and select Send Position Beacon (F3)
      • Ensure it has your callsign in the From category
      • TO: BLT
      • Send via: RF
      • MSG: WC-ARES PinPoint Net <date, or just say hello
    • Select SEND
      • If successful, you should hear a “bing”

Support / Troubleshooting

  • Connect with Tom Whiteside (N5TW) via Slack (preferred), Email, or Groups.io
  • VaraFM
    • Common mistake is not to set the Port to 8150, as that is not the default
    • SQL (squelch) should be zero, adjust gain if needed
  • PinPoint APRS
    • Start VaraFM first, then TNC Connect
  • Don’t run multiple software applications that will connect to your COM port.
    • Otherwise you will have COM PORT IN USE errors