Thursday, April 17, 2008

Acarsd Pre-Release 1.7 Now Available for Testing

We finally got to see the new version 1.7 of acarsd, the free ACARS decoding and logging program that also does HFDL via data transfer from PC-HFDL. Beta versions of this new version have been hard to come by, after some users apparently misunderstood the meaning of the term "beta," as in "help us find the bugs."

This download is a "Release Candidate," something more than a beta but still not the official stable release. You can get it here. Right now the newest versions are Public 1.70 Release Candidate 3 30.03.2008 for Windows, and Public 1.70 Release Candidate 2 29.01.2008 for Linux.

I grabbed RC3 and installed it. The "Quick Install," a DOS program, was hard for me to understand, so I did the full install. There is now a setup screen in acarsd that runs the first time, and lets you set a lot of options that used to be deeply buried in the self-documenting acarsd.ini file. The graphic user interface now has its own .ini file, which I haven't looked at yet.

Several nice new features are apparent. The parsing of messages is a little better. What I was really interested in, however, was the expanded use of the ICAO24 airplane address to help identify aircraft making HF position reports. Basically, the idea is that instead of just logging all these planes as .NO-REG, the program uses this hex ID to look up the registration. This is a big improvement for HF users.

Since this is a pre-release, and since the acarsd documentation has never been especially detailed anyway, it took some digging in the .ini file before I found the option that would enable this search. Once I did that, the ICAO lookup worked as advertised.

So far I've had no major problems with version 1.7 RC. In fact, the only issue of substance I can think of is that so far I've been unable to change UP from Bahamasair to United Parcel Service. This issue is caused by the fact that UPS used to use a different IATA prefix.

It took a while to test all this out, since band conditions have been absolutely putrid. When you can't hear San Francisco on 6 or 8 MHz in Los Angeles, you know it's bad.