Why are Ham Radio Web Pages so bad?

I’ve been digging through a lot of web pages about some Ham Radio topics the past day or two. Digging is a good description, as I could use a shovel to help out.

I’ve been trying to learn a few things about APRS and Packet Radio. I’ve been away from them for a long time. Actually, I never tried APRS, but I was quite heavily into Packet at one time and APRS uses packet radio. I still have equipment that I should fire up and play around with.

But in preparation for my bike tour, I ordered a new radio that has a TNC and GPS built into it. It is supposed to be a self-contained APRS station. So I have been looking for information to prepare me to use it.

It’s not that there isn’t information out there. There is almost too much and there is no way to figure out what is good and what is bad.

I don’t know what it is about Hams, but they – in general – make lousy web pages. First, there is no clue to the information’s age. Some of what I’ve found, I would guess has been there, unchanged, since the late ’90s.

And try to find software. I don’t know anyone who still uses DOS, but there are plenty of Ham packet programs for it out there. Most of the packet and APRS programs I find references to either go to pages that no longer exist, or tell me little or nothing about the program. One highly recommended APRS program was free, but I had to join a Yahoo group to download it. Others start right out in an esoteric discussion without telling the basics, or letting me know what the program will do for me.

Then there are the sites themselves. Folks, monitors have gotten wider. We don’t use 640×480 screens any more. Why do they design the blandest of web sites with endless text stretching from the left edge to the right edge of the screen? My neck is getting sore from scanning back and forth and I’m getting dizzy! And the gray background went out with the Mosaic browser.

Maybe they want to be able to use their packet stations to read the web sites?

It seems as if they want to be known as technology pioneers, yet they are so slow to adopt much of it, that they come off as Luddites. I’ve seem more “Website Built using Notepad” badges in the last day than I have in the last year. Sure you can make a website with Notepad, if you know what you are doing… These people need every crutch they can get.

I’m just sayin’…

I stepped back from that part of Ham Radio a few years ago and am returning to it again. It’s like I haven’t missed anything and nothing has progressed.

Posted in Ham Radio, Rants
One comment on “Why are Ham Radio Web Pages so bad?
  1. A few weeks of looking for information on APRS and Packet radio informations and programs later, and I’m still searching.

    I’ve found two nice APRS programs, APRSIS32 and WinAPRS, but both are far from intuitive and the documentation is either non-existant or consists of searching FAQs and Forums for an answer. It’s like pulling teeth to find any answers.

    Most of what you find assumes you know certain things that you can never be sure your assumptions about are right, either. I’m pretty good at reading between lines and inferring things where “Something will be this way because it makes sense to do it that way” but it only takes a chain of a few of those to leave you doubting all your assumptions without some kind of reassurance in the form of results along the way.

    I read a post in a forum by a fellow who was in the same boat as I am asking for help. He made the mistake of referring to APRS as Packet, or using those words in the same sentence, and was taken to task for it. Apparently, some people feel (erroneously) that APRS isn’t Packet. I know what they mean, but, sorry, the fact is, APRS is a subset of Packet.

    The other fact is, that what they meant, Packet using end-to-end connections, or connected-state packet, is dead. I’ve found no activity of that type on any frequency around here since I’ve been playing with the new radio and/or the old TNC. That’s okay. It’s APRS that I have the interest in using right now, but it’s still a shame.

    APRS, while useful, still seems to lack any personal touch. It’s sterile with no human interaction. I see an occasional mobile track, but other than that, it’s all digi’s and internet gateways.

    So, it looks like for the moment, APRS is just a tool much the same as a GPS Navigation unit, or a cell phone, not too useful for human interaction. Well, at least I can use the radio on voice for that.

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