Moving to EOL

You’re going to want a glass of water or something, this is going to be a long one…

Shortly after launching APRSBB I immediately knew that the challenge of getting this into the hands of the average APRS user with a blackberry wasn’t going to be an easy one. There were more problems than solutions (and probably still are) and I quickly came to realize that the Blackberry platform isn’t as uniform as all the development docs make it seem. To this day, Verizon users are still in the dark on APRSBB and there really isn’t much that can be done. I have written a couple Blackberry apps in the past but those were all specialized and apps that worked in small-scale, controlled niche environments.

Simultaneously, it seems that the Blackberry platform has entered it’s final decline. I have been a disciple of Blackberry since my Father bought me my first Blackberry Perl 8100 as a “good grades” present when I was 16. The hardware was near indestructible in comparison to other phones of similar price on the market and the industry-exclusive PUSH system made Blackberry the most solid platform on the market. However, for reasons beyond my control the platform has been in decline indefinitely; OS5 was a fancy skin, OS6 was great but only after they fixed the initial bugs and the QNX RTOS based OS7 shows true potential, however it’s all but “too little too late.”

Last week, my Sprint renewal came up, and I had to do something that I didn’t want to and still don’t want to. I bought an Android powered phone. Why I arrived on Android over iOS is a discussion for a completely different day, but Android is where I landed and it’s where I plan to be for a while. Obviously there’s a handful of tracking apps that already exist for Android, so that’s not an issue. My decision did not come lightly, in fact it took about 3 months to convince myself that I was doing the right thing, but Android just shows so much more potential than Blackberry, as painful as that is.

So with that, I am officially moving APRSBB into End-of-Life. Due to my frustrations (and the fact that I can make a small meal in the time it takes the debugger to start), development has pretty much been at a stand-still for a while anyways. However, as of today, APRSBB is officially extinct.

Now let me answer some questions before you ask them:

What’s next?

Something Awesome… and there will be beta-testers before it goes live, so if you’re interested in being a beta-tester email me what kind of phone you have, what kind of user you are (casual user, power user, hard core junkie… we all know those iPhone freaks (cough, “users”) that never pull their head away from the things to enjoy the life around them) and your Skype handle (if available).

What will happen to the source?

It will remain on my hard drive.

Is there anything preventing me from using APRSBB even though it’s unsupported?

No. In fact for now I’m going to leave this site (including the download link) up.

If you have a question that you think is pertinent email it to the list and I’ll answer it, and if it’s super-pertinent then I’ll post it here.

Thanks all for your patience with the software.
Chris Struttmann

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Note to Verizon Users

I posted a blurb about this on the list the other day, but just in case for anyone that missed it, I’m reposting here.

Unfortunately it looks like I’m going to have to get some extra developer keys and code signing certificates for Verizon directly… I’ve also read that they’re not terribly open with small-time app developers, so I’ll have to “beg.” (as one Blackberry dev forum post says).

That’s all for now.

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APRSBB v1.01(B)

Alright, new release is going up as we speak. I ended up organizing most of the code to be a little bit more efficient and to allow the different layers of the program to communicate easier (the fact that Java FORCES you to use these “layers” is a separate discussion).

Aside from the slightly changed architecture, the new program includes a logging interface. Every time you start the program, it will start writing a log to “/SDCard/Blackberry/APRSBB/APRSBBLog.txt.” Hopefully some of you can ship me those logs and we can get these problems solved in a much more timely fashion. Those of you who have devices that are on corporate lock-down, I don’t know if this whole logging thing will work for you or not or if it will be blocked. I guess we’ll just handle that on a case-by-case basis.

I decided to use the SD Card memory for two reasons.

  1. The last 3 Blackberrys that I’ve owned have had SD Cards installed by the carrier, so I think most people have them now.
  2. I don’t want to be the one to tie up precious on-board memory. If you don’t have an SD card APRSBB should still function just as it has been…… theoretically.

DO NOT SEND LOG FILES OVER THE LIST. They contain your password! Not to mention, everyone does not need to be getting the logs, you can send them to me at MY address and I will inspect them.

As always newest release is at http://aprsbb.bluearray.net/current/ on your blackberry device.

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It’s posted

Alright everyone, version one is posted, you’ll find the link at the bottom of this post (yes I want you to read the whole thing first.)

V 1.0 is available for OTA (Over-the-air) install from this site only. There is no App World yet because I didn’t really think it’s solid enough and ready for that quite yet.

It does

  • Emit your position
  • At a fixed rate of once every 45 seconds
  • Require your APRS password

It doesn’t…

  • …persist data at all. This means that for the time being, you will have to re-enter your APRS password every time. Sorry, but I spent my day working around the fact that J2ME (the native language of blackberry) doesn’t support floating point operations in the language (you have to use a completely separate API).
  • … have extremely good accuracy. Again, because of the lack of floating point. I’ve read that in API release 5, RIM has included a better Math API but I’m not sure how much that’s going to affect compatibility as of yet.

How to use it

It’s really simple, just run the app, put your callsign and password in, and press “Save & Start.”

Ok, now to something that isn’t quite so obvious. To get the application to run in the background just press the red “hang up” button. To actually quit the application hit the “back” button (officially named the “escape” button). This will prompt you with a dialog that says “Bye bye.” Once you see that dialog, that’s your hint to remind you that the program will no longer send out packets.

I promised everyone SOMETHING, and everyone’s getting SOMETHING :-) .

Please note this is an extremely fresh release BETA. While I’m not expecting too many problems with the stability of the program itself, I’m SURE there’s going to be some issues with the data that it transmits (like if you’re not in the northern and western hemispheres, it might freak out). I will continue working on this and making it better, so stay tuned to the list for updates.

Point your mobile browser to http://aprsbb.bluearray.net/current to get the fresh release of APRSBB.

Thanks,

Chris

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APRSBB is Finally Here! (Almost)

A few months ago I promised a whole bunch of people that I’d finish version one of APRS for Blackberry before I started school in the fall, well that time has almost come and guess what, it’s almost ready!  I just want to address a few things before we launch though, so here’s some FAQs.

What to Expect?

Well the short answer is “not much.” APRSBB version one will be a position reporting application, that’s about it. I know that everyone wants flashy APRSISCE style maps, but the flat answer is, that’s going to be a while. After we get this first version launched, we’ll probably focus on building a really nice messaging interface since I’m a big “connectivity” kind of guy.

What do we have so far?

We have two prototypes so far and they’re identical if you don’t know what to look for.

The first prototype is one that I’ve actually been using for quite some time now, it grabs the position from the Blackberry location service, and reports it to an HTTP gateway which then reports it to APRS and a little system that I built a few years ago called anyTrac (I’m sure there will be more on that later). This prototype will never see the light of day, I promise.

The second prototype connects to the APRS-IS feed and interfaces with it directly. I was extremely hesitant to go this route because deep down I know that this is going to use a little bit more battery than the above method. Lynn (KJ4ERJ) (who I’m friends with) over at APRSISCE had to convince me to go this route, and ultimately I decided that this would be a much more sustainable route for the project.

How do I know when it’s going to be announced?

Great question, subscribe to our list, I’ll be posting there when it’ll be available and where you can get it, and of course you can check back here.

What’s the procedure for installing?

I will be releasing two versions of the software with every release.

  • The first way will be through Blackberry App World, for a $.99 (hopefully) fee, you will be able to download APRSBB right on to your phone, over-the-air, and that will be that.
  • The second way will be through the JavaLoader.exe tool that comes with the Blackberry Developer tools. Hardcore Blackberry-heads will know how to use this. I will release a .COD file and you can just load it right on to your phone that way for free. I will, however, absolutely NOT be able to give ANY support on this method for the simple reason that every phone is different. Not every model of phone, EVERY phone.

Why Charge?

Also a great question, also a simple answer. I’m just a broke college student, think of yourself as donating to my college fund… with absolutely zero tax write-off. Also, I had to buy the Blackberry Developer keys to make different parts of the software happen, so that was an expense that I need to cover. Furthermore, because I am a busy college student, the App World offers me an easy way to put my software out there and it will make sure that it installs correctly and without issue. This will lower the amount of support emails that I get and increase the amount of time I have to do other things… like develop.

What about Blackberry6 (and other compatibility for that matter)?

If you’re an early adopter and you’re going to be one of the first people with a Blackberry Torch (or another OS6 device), then I envy you with a passion. As of right now I see no reason why the software wouldn’t work on OS6. Though I’m going to have to wait for some field reports from users to come in before I can say that with more confidence.

As far as other devices, APRSBB is developed and tested on an OS 4.5.0.175 Blackberry Curve 8330m on Sprint PCS. I’ve used it on an 8300 on AT&T with no problems also. I will be able to tell you some time next week if it works on an OS5 Tour (as soon as it arrives).

I’m really not expecting compatibility to be a major issue through version one as it’s such a simple program.

When’s it going to be available?

Short answer: “When it’s done and hardened a bit.” Shorter Answer: “Hopefully around August 15th 2010.”

Thanks!

Thanks everyone for the interest in the project, I hope that I can make your APRS on Blackberry a much deserved reality for those that have been looking for it.

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