APRS – APRS-IS latency

A fundamental problem with APRS-IS is that archives assign a timestamp to a position report (posit) when the posit is received from the APRS-IS network. They do this even when the posit contains a timestamp which is almost always derived from the GPS and is quite accurate.

The archives such as findu.com and aprs.fi are not formally part of APRS-IS, but they are the visible interface to APRS-IS for many and are treated as part of the wider APRS-IS network in this article.

The APRS-IS network is designed to permit, encourage even, multiple submissions of the same originating posit via multiple iGates over multiple digipeater radio links.

You might expect that the maximum latency of two or three digipeater links might be a couple of seconds but not only is it ordinarily longer than that due to an overcommitted network, but defective infrastructure using old and misconfigured software can introduce much larger delays.

The effect of delayed duplicates is that they create false back and forth zig zags in a track, and make the mapping hopelessly inaccurate.

For this article, I will use data gained from a recent 100km rural trip using VHF APRS. For all of the trip, the rover was in range of a prominent digipeater which is monitored by many iGates, and for about half of the trip, the rover was in working distance of one of the iGates. About 200 posits were captured by APRS-IS, and they have a GPS derived HHMMSS timestamp.

Lets look at the latency.

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Above is a chart of the difference between APRS archive timstamp and the GPS timestamp. A very large number of posits takes more than a couple of seconds to reach the APRS-IS archives. Continue reading APRS – APRS-IS latency

Graphic demonstration of loss under standing waves #3

Having recently published Graphic demonstration of loss under standing waves, I have received a stream of emails asking whether some online calculator or another is subject to the errors discussed in the article.

Clip 080If we look at the graph from the article showing the example of a load of 500+j0Ω on 5m of RG58A/U, test the left hand data point at 1MHz and see what you get. If the loss is greater than the matched line loss (around 0.08dB), the calculator probably uses one of the flawed formulas discussed in the article… in any event it is wrong.

Here is an example from KV5R.com.

Screenshot - 22_01_16 , 10_11_37

The calculated loss is around 4 times what it should be. Continue reading Graphic demonstration of loss under standing waves #3

VSWR expressed as 1:n

At Expression of VSWR as a simple decimal real number I put the case for expressing VSWR simply as a real (ie a decimal) number rather than in the ratio form.

Lets remind ourselves of the meaning of VSWR (SWR).

(Terman 1955) gives a meaning for the term SWR (or VSWR).

The character of the voltage (or current) distribution on a transmission line can be conveniently described in terms of the ratio of the maximum amplitude to minimum amplitude possessed by the distribution. This quantity is termed the standing wave ratio (often abbreviated SWR)…

Standing-wave ratio=S=Emax/Emin

Terman has not dealt with the complication of short lines and lossy lines.

Note that the use of capital E implies the magnitude of voltage, so Emax/Emin must always be a positive number greater than or equal to 1.0 under that definition. Under that definition (and it has shortcomings), VSWR expressed as a ratio of m:n (and n is usually 1), m MUST be equal to or greater than n.

Screenshot - 20_01_16 , 11_35_41

Above is an extract from the brochure for Icom’s newest offering, the IC-7300. Continue reading VSWR expressed as 1:n

Exploiting your antenna analyser #11

Backing out transmission line

Often we make measurements through a section of transmission line, and the measurements are wrt the reference plane, which for many analysers is the connector on the instrument.

Some analysers, or their associated software allow the effects of the transmission line to be backed out.

Screenshot - 17_01_16 , 09_16_18

Above is a Smith chart view of measurement of a test antenna through some length of RG58. The antenna will have R<50Ω at minimum VSWR, so the angle of the complex reflection coefficient Γ will be close to 180° at the feed point. Antscope uses a different notation, but shows here the angle at the point of measurement to be -15.1°, so we need to increase it by 180–15.1=195.1°, which will take about half that electrical length of line, 97.6°. From TLLC, I calculate the length involved is 7.6m of RG58, which is an estimate that gives a starting point for backing out the cable. Continue reading Exploiting your antenna analyser #11

Some thoughts on noise on 6m (50MHz)…

External noise

External noise is the noise external to the receiver system.

(ITU-R 2015) gives some guidance on expected ambient noise.

Screenshot - 10_01_16 , 09_49_56

Above is Figure 10 which gives guidance on the expected median ambient noise figure.

Screenshot - 16_01_16 , 11_12_29

The table above gives calculates noise power in a 2kHz bandwidth receiver with lossless antenna system for the lower ham bands from the equations given in (ITU-R 2015). Note that the medians vary somewhat with location and time, see (ITU-R 2015).

From the table, business (city) man made noise (A) is 17dB higher than galactic (E), and rural (C) is 7dB higher than galactic. Unless there is some ionospheric absorption occurring, you are unlikely to observe noise below galactic level.

Noise can be expected to vary by hour of day, from day to day, and season to season. Importantly, noise may vary with direction, eg pointing through busy roads, office buildings, shopping centres etc, neighbouring buildings, powerlines etc.

Measurement of external noise is not too difficult, but rarely do hams understand quantitatively their own noise environment.

Internal noise

Noise contributed by the various stages of a receiver system can be reduced to an equivalent input noise at the input of a noiseless receiver, and that is often expressed in the form of the receiver Noise Figure.

A typical receiving system for 6m would have a noise figure around 6dB (at the antenna connector). As will be seen, there is little need for better noise figure.

The noise floor of a receiving system with NF=6dB (4.5dB receiver and 1.5dB line loss) is -135dBm. In such a receiver, AGC action is typically delayed until the signal is around 25dB above the noise floor, around -110dBm in this case. There will be no S meter deflection in traditional receivers below AGC onset.

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Above, the median expected noise falls below the typical AGC threshold (S meter threshold) for the example receiver (-110dBm), and apart from Curve A, the noise may not cause S meter deflection.

In a single isolated measurement at my location, I measured -123dBm which is in the range expected of a semi rural residential with underground power.

Receivers with an additional preamp may show significant S meter deflection, the preamp will increase gain without significantly improving S/N ratio, indeed they may degrade S/N ratio.

Total noise power

The internal and external noise power add, but it is the power in watts or in equivalent temperature that can be added, not the dBm figure.

Clip 105

The chart above shows the effect of combining two additive power values. If they differ by more than 20dB, the sum is within 0.05dB of the higher power. For lesser ratios, the weaker power needs to be factored in, and the graph provides a simple means if you don’t want to crunch the numbers.

For example, if we took the median power in a quiet rural precinct from the table above to be -119.9dBm, and noise floor to be -135dBm, looking up -135–119.9=-15.1dB on the horizontal axis we see that the combined power is 0.15dB more than the higher power, so -119.1+0.15=-119.8dBm. This is unlikely to cause S meter deflection most of the time as the median is almost 10dB lower than AGC onset.

Working the numbers for residential precinct from the table above to be -114.6dBm, and noise floor to be -135dBm, looking up -135–114.6=-20.4dB on the horizontal axis we see that the combined power is 0.05dB more than the higher power, so -114.6+0.05=-119.8dBm., -114.6. This is likely to cause S meter deflection occasionally as the median is just 5dB lower than AGC onset.

Low noise antennas

One of the recent market directions is so-called low noise antennas. The term is used to describe directional antennas with reduced side lobe response inspired perhaps by (Bertelsmeier 1987) who contrived a rather naive statistic based on the noise power captured by a Yagi in free space tilted up 30° from the Z=0 plane and excited by two arbitrary noise scenarios in the upper and lower hemispheres, the statistic labelled G/Ta, transformed by others to G/T in  ignorance of the true meaning of the industry term G/T.

Reduced side lobe response sounds a good idea, but what is the expected impact on total external noise power received?

For a Yagi in free space, if the distribution of external noise is uniform in three dimensional space:

  • the same noise power will be received irrespective of the pointing of the antenna; and
  • a lossless antenna captures the same amount of noise power irrespective of its gain.

But we are not in free space, are we.

For Yagi pointing horizontally over flat ground, if the distribution of external noise is evenly distributed over all azimuth headings:

  • the same noise power will be received irrespective of the pointing of the antenna; and
  • a lossless antenna captures the same amount of noise power irrespective of its gain.

The situation changes if the noise intensity is not uniform with azimuth bearing and elevation if there are more concentrated noise sources.

It should be apparent that reducing the average gain off the main lobe reduces power from noise sources to the side and rear, but if the pattern is not even, and it never is, then it is a matter of chance as to whether pattern nulls or peaks coincide with concentrated noise sources when pointing in a desired direction.

The complexity of this environment mitigates against a meaningful single metric for the noise capture of a Yagi.

One cannot argue against the logic that reduced sidelobe gain is an advantage in reducing off boresight noise, but it does imply increased main lobe gain (and possibly noise pickup) the question is really how much net advantage there is on 50MHz in your station with your noise environment on the paths you see as high priority.


    • Bertelsmeier, R. 1987. Effective noise temperatures of 4-Yagi-arrays for 432MHz. DUBUS.

Duffy, O. May 2013. Noise and receivers presentation. http://owenduffy.net/files/NoiseAndReceivers.pdf.

  • ITU-R. 2000. Recommendation ITU-R S.733-2 (2000) Determination of the G/T ratio for earth stations operating in the fixed-satellite service .
  • ITU-R. Jul 2015. Recommendation ITU-R P.372-12 (7/2015) Radio noise.

Canberra trip – APRS / GPS logger

I had occasion to make a trip to Canberra for a few days this week.


It presented as a good opportunity to explore APRS by VHF radio and the stand alone GPS logger above attached to the case of the TinyTrak 3+. The transmitter is 65W output to a quarter wave in the middle of the wagon roof.

Over the three days, the extract from findu was 6240 APRS records (the vehicle was in a covered car park by night), and 389693 NMEA records (~20MB) logged to the logger, from which 6150 track records were extracted using GPSBABEL for track simplification. Both track sources were converted to kml files.

googleearth 14/01/16 , 07:57:54 Google Earth

Above is a screen shot comparing the track around Majura park for GPS logger in red and APRS in cyan. There are several instances of false double backs on the APRS track (a problem inherent to APRS and quite common), and very coarse track despite being less than 8km from the prominent digi on Black Mountain, and very good view of the digi on Mt Ginini.
Continue reading Canberra trip – APRS / GPS logger

Update for FSM software (v1.11.0)

FSM has been updated to v1.11.0.

The update adds an export to Gnuplot file of the wave file to allow visual examination of the recording on which the measurements is based.

This replicates the utility of the existing Dplot export, but with the freely available Gnuplot package.


Above is an example of the receiver noise recording, and whilst it might not seem very interesting, it is interesting that it is of the character of white noise.

Of more interest are cases where there is a distant cyclic pattern at twice the AC power frequency which hints insulator failures on each half cycle. Some other types of periodic modulation are helpful in identifying possible sources of emissions.


  • Duffy, O. 2005. Field Strength Meter software (NFM). http://owenduffy.net/software/fsm/index.htm (accessed 11/01/2016).

Quiet solar radio flux interpolations calculator

Further to the posting Quiet solar radio flux interpolations calculator

With a change in hosting and the changes to adapt to supported and unsupported features, one of the positives is that the ‘short term’ fetching of data on which Quiet solar radio flux interpolations calculator is based is now happening two hourly at 5 minutes past the even hours. Continue reading Quiet solar radio flux interpolations calculator

NEC model of the quarter size G5RV

Fractional G5RV antennas seem very popular in the US market, and they appeal to hams wanting multi band performance in small space.

One of the offerings is the quarter size G5RV, commonly marketed as the G5RV Mini.

The original concept set out by G5RV was a combination of a centre fed dipole and open wire transformation section to successfully deliver a lowish VSWR(50) on several of the pre-WARC bands. This enabled arbitrary length low Z feed extension to the transmitter, and allowed direct attachment to transmitters of the common design of the day (1950s). Continue reading NEC model of the quarter size G5RV

WSPR version confusion

Investigation whilst developing Evolution of WSPR revealed some potential issues relating to certain WSPR versions.

The WSPR 2.0 manual states:

Please note that messages with compound callsigns or 6-digit locators will not be properly decoded by WSPR versions earlier than 2.0. Further details on message formats can be found in Appendix B, and in the WSPR source code.

So, lets mine some data. Continue reading WSPR version confusion