Review – BTech APRS-K2 Cable (TRRS/APRS)

by John ‘Miklor’

aprs-k2-25
APRS-K2
It’s long overdue, but there’s finally a TRRS/APRS cable available for radios using a standard Kenwood style K2 connector.

I’ve been wanting to get involved with APRS for a while now, and this made it extremely easy.

APRS-K2 interface cable
The APRS-K2 cable allows you to interface your handheld transceiver with your existing mobile device, including. iPhone, iPad, and Android.

One end of the cable uses the Kenwood style K2 connector, while the opposite end is aprs-xover-25terminated with a TRRS connector. Also included with the APRS-K2 is a Reverse Adapter to insure compatibility with all devices. This adapter allows cable to connect to earlier 3.5MM TRRS standards, such as Nokia.

App Driven
The APRS-K2 cable uses a virtual TNC found in several apps, such as APRSDroid, APRS.fi, and Pocket Packet. Plug in the cable, turn on the VOX, and you’re pretty much set to go.

Product Description
BTECH APRS-K2 TRRS / APRS Cable A simple way to start using APRS by using devices you already own. The BTECH APRS-K2 Cable will quickly connect your radio to APRS by using virtual TNC (app driven) on your tablet or device. The APRS-K2 cable is built with a custom circuit board that will automatically adjust the audio for clear packet transmissions with minimal adjustment; along with protecting your devices from strong over modulated signals.

Along with allowing APRS functionality the APRS-K2 cable can provide a simple interface gateway to allow several features to your radio!

Easily record radio conversations:
By connecting the APRS-K2 cable between your radio and any recording (line-in) device.

Use the APRS-K2 cable as a Mic In Connector:
Set up VOX on your radio to accept any form of incoming audio – such as a Push-to-talk application on a Phone – or a Line-out application from your computer.

Use the APRS-K2 cable to push transmissions over a speaker system:
Easily play audio over a intercom or speaker system from your handheld.

With a backup radio and your own ingenuity, the APRS-K2 cable can serve as an interface for a variety of applications for any amateur. Compatible with Kenwood K2 Accessory Slot Radios (such as BaoFeng, BTECH, Wouxun, TYT) Compatible with all phones, tablets, and computers with 3.5MM Audio In/Out Ports

Includes:
APRS-K2 Cable
Reverse Connector Adapter
Quick Start Guide

Conclusion:

The cable comes with a simple one page instruction sheet which should have you up and running in about 10 minutes after the appropriate app is loaded.
–  Plug in the cable
–  Set your handhelds volume control
–  Turn on the VOX
–  Set your handheld to 144.390 (US)
–  Activate the app

That’s all it takes. If you’ve been considering building an APRS cable, you might find this an easy Plus and Play alternative.

The APRS-K2 can be ordered from   Amazon, or if outside the US, you can go to their website and contact them directly.   Baofeng Tech

Too many toys, too little time.
John ‘Miklor’   K3NXU
http://www.miklor.com

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

androidI had the WordPress app installed on all my Android devices. Things go fast in the world of apps, so you get update after update. I didn’t particularly like all of the new versions. At a certain point in time the nice start screen disappeared, and got replaced by a side menu which remembers your last action. If yesterday’s last action was looking at stats, it meant that I had to wait until all the numbers were crunched before I could do something else.

The last few updates were a nightmare. Stats aren’t derived from the Web anymore but generated in another, painfully slow way. There’s less information, less readable and it’s often wrong. After the last update I saw 817 visitors who, magically, generated only one page view. No, not one each, but all together. My most popular articles were not mine at all, but came from some other blog. That bug cleared up later, just in time to prevent me from making a screen shot, but it got me worried.

I decided to delete WordPress on all but one Android device – my Chinese 5.7″ phone. This phone doesn’t support Google Play, so I had to install apps manually. It also means that this version of WordPress (see screen shot below) never got updated. For the time being I don’t intend to do so.

WP-app-1For now accessing WordPress by using a browser will have to suffice, and I will check WordPress’ Android blog occasionally to see if things got any better.

New gadgets

I’m still own and use my Packard Bell Liberty Tab (identical to the Acer Iconia Tab A500), but added the 7″ version of the Google Nexus. There isn’t a better 7″ Android tablet yet, and a heavy discount in one of the local shops made it irresistible.

Google-Nexus-7-2Echolink problem
Battery life is excellent, and it’s very fast. Only one problem popped up which I haven’t been able to solve: the Echolink app suddenly lost its Search function. I assume it has something to do with the latest version of Android, but I’m not sure. The rest of the app works fine.

Bridge camera
I always used a bridge camera in case I didn’t want to carry one of my DSLRs around. Intermittent problems made my old camera very unreliable, and I decided to replace it with another one – preferably as cheap as possible. Yet I do have some strict requirements, and of of them is that I fujifilm-s2000hddon’t want silly megapixel counts. These cameras all have very tiny sensors, and anything above 10 megapixels is stupid. Noise and other artifacts stick up their ugly heads, not to mention the fact that the resolution of the sensor often outperforms the resolution of the lens.

Luck was on my side: one online shop had (outdated) Fujifilm Finepix S2000HD models on sale for just over $100. Just what I was looking for. Many shots of reviews-to-come will be made with this camera.

Chinese Android Phones, how good are they?

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but I keep trying to find the best deals ever. Sometimes I get burned. Bad for me, good for you – please learn from my mistakes. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, nor something to good to be true. At least I got my money back, an event which took place in complete silence. No e-mail, nothing. Only after logging into my PayPal account I found out about it.

AliExpress instead of eBay
It was time to shop again, this time on AliExpress.com instead of eBay. I have good reasons for that. Prices are generally lower, you can often select the shipping method of choice, and I can use my credit card instead of PayPal. From experience I know that (in case of a scam) I get my money back in just a few days instead of having to wait a month. You have to be careful anyway, but more about that later.

Finding the perfect Chinese Android phone
This proved to be easier said than done. Specifications vary, even when you compare two completely identical phones. This is often a matter of laziness (copy & paste), or plain deception. This time I decided not to look for the cheapest ones, but for the very best. Let’s look at the phone I eventually ordered.

Star S1 01

The Star S1. Note the ‘Google Play’ screen shot I inserted.

Nothing wrong with that, is there? Nice specs and a screen shot promised Google Play support – precisely what I was looking for. As it turns out there were a few loose ends. In spite of the promising screen shot there was no official Google Play support at all, and the 12 Megapixel camera turned out be be 8 Megapixels. The missing (read: fake) pixels are generated by software, a dumb and deceiving way to crank up specs. In the seller’s defense: he immediately deleted the original listing, created a new one and took the Google Play screen shot off-line.

Do I care?
Yes and no. No, because I don’t care about phone cameras. These devices are generally poor quality, no matter the brand or resolution. It’s just a matter of physics – you can’t expect a tiny, almost microscopic sensor to deliver the same details  (let alone dynamic range) as a good digital camera. Yes, because at that price I really expected the phone to support Google Play. Fortunately there are enough ways around this problem.

Installing apps without Google Play
There are a number of ways to install apps on Android devices which lack Google Play, and I just picked the one I liked the most in the end: Android Drawer. Start the browser, surf to this website, search the app you’re looking for and click download. One click on the .APK file will start the install process. Especially nice is the fact that you will always see if there’s a newer version available, but you won’t be prevented from selecting an older one. I did that on a few occasions, traveling back in time to a version that didn’t throw ads at me.

The good things about this phone
The large, hi-res IPS screen is amazing. I love the dual sim support. One spare battery was included in the package I chose. The 2-day battery life is reasonable for a smartphone (they all suck at that, this one is no exception). Nice leather-look flip cover. Sound is ok. While slow to get an initial fix on satellites, GPS works fine. 3G support. Bottom line: although slower, this phone is an affordable and capable replacement for a Samsung Note.

AliExpress shopping tips

  1. Look at a seller’s rating and order history, just like you would on eBay.
  2. Don’t trust screen shots. When in doubt, e-mail the seller before ordering.
  3. If Google Play support isn’t specifically mentioned, it isn’t there. Again, don’t trust pictures or screen shots.
  4. The cheapest phones lack sufficient RAM, and offer low screen resolutions. 512MB RAM is fine, 1GB even better. 256KB RAM is useless if you want to install a lot of apps without having to move them to a micro SD-card.
  5. Avoid resistive touch screens.
  6. Avoid sellers who offer to ship out phones ‘with labels’. A label means that the name Samsung will be present on the phone. In other words: counterfeit. Customs won’t be amused; in the best case scenario you will end up with nothing. In the worst case scenario you will get a hefty fine on top.

With the benefit of hindsight
With the benefit of hindsight I should have ordered this one. A slightly smaller screen, true, but official Google support, a more honest spec sheet and a reasonable price. For now I’m happy though (and out of money).

Android Phone Part II – Possible Fraud

Today I received an e-mail from eBay that they deleted the listing because of possible fraud. The seller appears to be kicked out of eBay, or he deleted his account himself – there’s no way to tell. The phones were cheap, but just expensive enough to prevent you from recognizing it as an obvious scam.

I was urged to file a claim, which I did. This is the first time ever I have to do this. All I can do now is wait and see if PayPal’s Buyer Protection works as advertised (and hopefully better than it does here). I’m not going to order anything else until this has been resolved.

Evolution