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findU.com

Technical details of findU

I am working on a page that describes all of the CGI's which are available on this server. The list is still not complete, but it is a good place to look for the latest features:

http://www.findu.com/cgi.html

Other people have written web pages that allow you to enter requests to findU via forms, this is a good way to build the URL you need. I grabbed these from the log page, so I'm sure I missed some, email me your favorites.

URLDescription
http://www.wulfden.org/APRSQuery.shtmlN1BQ's page, the original
http://www.mnaprs.com/database.htmMinnesota APRS
http://www.qsl.net/n9wtm/N9WTM
http://n2yqt.tourge.net/findu.phpN2YQT
http://ve2.ele.etsmtl.ca/aprs/recherche.htmlIn French!
http://www.i2sdd.net/findu_mode.htmIn Italian!
http://www.qsl.net/iw0hcc/aprs.htmAnother Italian site.

email questions and comments to Steve Dimse k4hg@tapr.org. First, make sure the question isn't answered in the FAQ below...


findU FAQs

Is the source code available?

No. commercialization is the primary reason I've not open-sourced my code. I've gotten a surprising number of requests from persons inside the GIS industry to either give or sell them my code, or consult for them. After looking at a lot of the commercial systems, the entire APRS system really holds its own, and on many counts including (in-my-not-so-humble-opinion) findU, it is better than anything else out there. Winning the Earthlink AVL competition to me was objective confirmation of this opinion. If my code were GPL'ed, it would probably be used in commercial systems. I get my satisfaction from producing a useful system that does cool things, and letting people use it for free. I'm lucky enough not to need to charge for it, and I wouldn't like to see other people making money from my efforts either.

I had expected that the Linux Lunacy Geek Cruise I went on last October would convince me once and for all of the benefits of free (as in speech) software. In fact, it had the opposite effect...I spent a lot of time with the infamous RMS (Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation) since we ate dinner at the same six person table. Let's just say the discussion was as enjoyable as, and far spicier than, the Holland America food! After all the arguments and much contemplation, I've come to agree with the also infamous ESR (Eric Raymond, also on the cruise, talk about storm-at-sea!), that RMS and FSF are seeking power, not freedom. Now that I really understand it, I find the FSF vision of the world a far scarier place than even a Microsoft controlled world. Software is a creative work (RMS agrees), the disposition of which rightfully belongs in the hands of the creator or their employer (RMS turns red and starts screaming, because useful creations like a home improvement TV show, how-to book, or software program, morally belong to the collective). I believe the decision to donate code to the public good is an altruistic act, not a moral imperative, and a choice deserving admiration, not expectation.

There are other reasons besides commercialization, like the amount of time it would take to document, distribute, support, and re-integrate code from an open source project. My choice for now is to keep control of the code, and provide a service to the community for free (as in beer!). Not a purely altruistic decision, but the one I am most comfortable with. In the event I someday lose interest in findU, it will be passed to someone else for development.

Why don't you add...

If I never came up with another idea, the things I already have on my list will keep me busy for a couple of years. In other words, I have lots of plans that I haven't implemented, so I may already to be planning to do it. However, if you have an idea you'd like to share, please do so, for two reasons. First, it may be something great I hadn't thought of, and second, my priorities are to some extent dictated by what people want to see, so voting for what you'd like may get it done sooner. However, please don't be hurt or surprised if I don't answer your email. I do my best, but at some point it becomes counter-productive...I'd rather code than write email.

Can I help?

PLEASE! I'd love to see more people get involved in this. However, I don't have time to run a programming school. If you know, Perl, CGI, or MySQL, (preferrably all three) tell me what you'd like to do. I really don't want to get into assigning tasks, I think people are more productive doing what they choose. If you need a couple ideas, the things I'd most like to see someone take on are an automatic events page and user-definable web page. The former is a calendar type system where users can enter upcoming events on APRS which would be interesting for the APRS community to watch. The later would store pages in a database table which would be entered and edited by a user, all the database data would be available to the user as variables that could be inserted into their html. Also I want to convert the present 4 cgi's used to generate the graphs for the wxpage (temp, rain, pressure, and wind) incorporated into a single cgi (which draws the same graphs, just into a single large png), which also allows the legends to be changed to reflect the data (some rainfall data is different, and missing things like dewpoint wouldn't be listed.

Can I publish links to the dynamic pages, or incorporate the dynamic images in my own page?

Yes, feel free to use any URL in any way you see fit. Keep in mind this system is in heavy development. The CGI interfaces to any of the pages and images may change without prior notice. If you use these links, then it is your responsibility to check them often to assure that they still function! Please don't email with broken link problems!!!

Can I use findU for special events?

Yes! There are a bunch of examples, from the Big Ride (3000 mile, 6 week bike trek across the US) to balloon races and road races. The easiest way (from my perspective anyway) is for you to write your own web pages and insert findU images like plot, breadcrumb, and radar-find using IMG tags in your html. There are other things I can do, like writing a custom web page, and I did for the Big Ride or the America's Challenge Balloon Race. Both of these pages looked better when there was real data! This sort of thing takes time, so I need to limit it to things that will get some main-stream publicity (I love to show off what ham radio can do). Please, if you want this, contact me as soon as possible, as my schedule sometimes gets tight!

Your images don't show on my browser!

This site uses PNG images (Portable Network Graphics) for the dynamic images rather than GIFs. This is because UniSys holds a patent on the compression used in GIFs, PNG is an improved format without patent problems. All of the latest browsers accept these graphics (though you may need to configure the file helpers pane to "view with browsers"), and ones that are a bit older can handle them through Apple's Quicktime plugin. Since the tools I need to develop these pages are not available in GIF versions, I do not have a choice here. Sorry...

Red Hat MySQL Apache

APRS is a registered trademark of APRS Software and Bob Bruninga, WB4APR.