More WinBeacon Program Information

Major Features
General Description
Detailed Description
Installation and Operation

Major Features :

  • It's free !
  • Windows configuration program for the MicroBeacon APRS Transmitter
  • Selectable COM port for MicroBeacon connection ( COM1 - COM8 )
  • Allows programming of all major MicroBeacon parameters
    User call sign and SSID number
    VIA 1 and VIA 2
    Transmit frequency ( 144-148 MHz, 1 KHz steps )
    Transmit repeat time interval ( seconds )
    APRS map symbol
    User comment

    General Description :

    The WinBeacon program allows users to program all the major parameters of a MicroBeacon APRS transmitter, including transmit frequency, transmit repeat time interval, the user's call sign and SSID number, VIA 1 and VIA 2 selection, APRS map symbol and a 26 character "comment".

    To use the program, connect the MicroBeacon to the computer through a COM port using the DB9 connector that ( normally ) connects to the GPS receiver. ( a null modem adapter might be required to make it work ) Install a temporary jumper between ICSP pins 1 and 6 ( shown below ) and start / restart the MicroBeacon by applying / re-applying DC power. ( the strap is only examined when DC power turns on )

    Strap detection will cause the MicroBeacon to enter PROGRAMMING mode, which is indicated by a 9 second TEST transmission on the output frequency. ( 3 seconds silence, 3 seconds 1200 Hz tone, 3 seconds 2200 Hz tone ) This can be heard on a receiver, tuned to the proper frequency. RF output power can also be observed ( if a Wattmeter is connected ) and the DC load current will increase significantly. ( if an Ammeter on the DC supply is available ) If none of these methods are available to verify that PROGRAMMING mode is selected, the RF output transistor on the MicroBeacon will also become noticeably "warm to the touch" for a few seconds.

    Once the PROGRAMMING mode has been verified and the parameters have been set to the desired values in the WinBeacon program, clicking the SEND CONFIG STRING button will transmit all the parameters to the MicroBeacon transmitter, and trigger another ( 9 second ) test transmission. ( on the NEW transmit frequency )


    Detailed Description :

    The TRANSMITTER CONFIG frame allows user selection of the primary transmitter parameters. The transmit frequency is set with the the UP/DOWN buttons above / below each frequency digit. Frequency is expressed in KHz, allowed range is 144000 to 148000 KHz. The DEFAULT frequency is 144390 KHz, which is the national APRS frequency in the United States. Repeat time is the time interval ( in seconds ) between start of successive beacon transmissions.

    The APRS CONFIG frame allows user selection of the major APRS parameters. The user's CALL SIGN and desired SSID number ( 0 - 15 ) are entered here, along with selection of none, one or two VIAs. Call signs are automatically capitalized and limited to 6 characters, per APRS spec.

    The APRS SYMBOL frame allows user selection of the map symbol / icon that will be painted on APRS map displays. The UP/DOWN buttons will step through a set of available symbols / icon, which are divided into two categories. ( PRIMARY and ALTERNATE symbols) Buttons are provided for category selection. Definitions of these symbols can be found in the APRS specification, appendix 2. A copy of this specification ( APRS101.pdf ) is included in the WinBeacon installation, in the START/PROGRAMS/WINBEACON folder. ( also at several places on the web ) The symbol currently selected is shown ( as an icon ) in the image window, and the text box indicates the associated ASCII characters that are transmitted by the MicroBeacon.

    The COMMENT frame allows user entry of a 27 character "comment", using any ASCII printable characters.

    The CONTROL frame allows user selection of the COM port that connects to the MicroBeacon transmitter. The text window displays the actual test message that is sent to the MicroBeacon, to program it. ( no user input for this window... display only ) The SEND button will open the COM port, send the CONFIG string ( built form the current control settings ) and close the COM port. If the CONFIG string is recieved and stored properly by the MicroBeacon transmitter, it will trigger a 9 second TEST transmission on the new TX frequency. The TEST transmission consists of ( approx ) 3 seconds dead carrier, 3 seconds of 1200 Hz tone, and 3 seconds of 2200 Hz tone, to allow RF / modulation measurements ( if desired ) to be performed.

    Program Installation :

    Program installation is painless. Download the ( zipped ) installation package from this website, ( or from HERE ) create a temporary folder on the desktop and put the zip file there. Unzip the file contents into the same folder, and run the SETUP.exe program... this will start up an installation "wizard" program that will guide you through the rest of the installation process. Once installed, the program can be accessed through the regular ( Windows ) START menu.

    Control settings are NOT saved between sessions, so any changes made to the default values will be lost when the program closes. Your call sign must be "left justified", so if it contains less than 6 characters, be sure to add trailing "space" characters to it, to total 6 characters. ( the string is automatically limited to 6 characters ) If the call sign is less than 6 characters long, it should be left-justified and padded with trailing "space" characters.