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GPS – New Satellite SOG Errors?

There has been some discussion recently about the new satellite PRN32 or at least an old satellite that has been recommissioned and brought into the GPS system.

It appears that some people are claiming that their GPS receivers software has been coded to count the number of satellites it can detect as 31 whereas there are now 32 satellites – I think this is a misunderstanding …I may be wrong!

It is common practice for programmers to count from 0 to 31 (ie.32) or from 1 to 32 (ie 32) when setting registers or creating arrays to handle data. I am pretty sure that however old your GPS is it can “see” 32 satellites.

There may be an unrelated error on some units eg. the Northstar 941X which started reporting SOG readings of 800 knots – not good! If you are getting strange SOG or COG readings check your supplier for a firmware upgrade – Northstar are offering a fix for their units at http://www.northstarnav.com/en/Downloads/Software-Updates/


Garmin Mobile XT & Bluechart Marine Charts on a phone?

Mobile XTI wrote about Mobile XT previously. My comment was not that you couldn’t get chartplotting software on a smartphone, because patently you can – the comment I made was that you couldn’t get Bluechart marine charts to be read by Garmin Mobile XT on a smartphone. After making that post Bob left a comment that he had managed to get his Garmin Mobile XT to read Bluechart charts on his phone – even though this feature was not documented!…

Just to recap,Mobile XT is Garmin’s new GPS app that will be used in the expected Mobile 10/GPS 10X and Mobile 20/GPS 20SM products.

Garmin will also be releasing Mobile XT as an update for the ageing “Que” Pocket PC software that is included with the GPS 10 Bluetooth Receiver package.

Mobile XT is a newer version of the “Que Nav” application that comes with the iQue M3 and iQue M4 Pocket PC devices.

The software is sold on microSD cards that you insert into a smartphone which has built in GPS – you can of course use a miniSD or standardSD converter to house the card if necessary, for example in a PDA.

If your smartphone also has GPRS (data service) then the software will access “Garmin Online”. This gives access to a wide range of services such as traffic, weather, hotel rates and more. It give real-time traffic information from traffic.com about traffic tie-ups and road construction that lie ahead on your route. Hotel rates, ratings and availability information comes from hotels.com. There is a good article here about the use of XT on a smartphone

So all the elements are there for using your smartphone as a handheld marine chart plotter on board your boat, and saving yourself £200 to £300 for a dedicated marine plotter.

… I haven’t tested this theory, but now I am sorely tempted, having just changed phone to the Samsung i780 that has built in GPS…but then there is Active Captain too …


ActiveCaptain Mobile for Palm OS – Win Mobile coming soon.

ActiveCaptain Mobile for Palm OS was released this month (March 2008). ACMIt is a boating-specific application for Palm devices (typically Treo’s and Centro’s). It provides a chart plotter capable of handling thousands of charts at the same time as well as integrates to all of the point-of-interest data from the ActiveCaptain web site.

They provide all US NOAA charts for free with free 6 month updates.

ActiveCaptain has just signed contracts with UKHO for international charts. Because of royalties, they have to charge a small fee to pay for government royalties (but not for updates!). For example, they will be releasing a folio of every chart for the UK for $19.95 US this Summer.

These charts will also integrate with the ActiveCaptain web site which has international support today – they have quite a few markers for UK and NL among other countries.

With ActiveCaptain, you can add your own data. So your “local knowledge” of a nice anchorage, the fuel prices at a particular marina, or your personal feelings (review) of a certain facility can be shared by everyone.

The ActiveCaptain web site is completely free and free from advertising. It requires registration to cut down on spam entries and robots.

ActiveCaptain Mobile for Palm OS costs $49.95US. A Windows Mobile version has been announced and is in alpha testing with a dozen users right now. They expect the WM version to be completed in the next couple of months. An Apple iPhone version is being designed and evaluated currently based on the recently released SDK.

I really like their little book application too its a nice way to display information, FAQ’s and manuals.

I would encourage all European sailors to add their handy tips and local knowledge to the ActiveCaptain website – that way the info is shared for all of us to benefit from – especially up to date tips on a recent visit that you may have had.


Garmin for Windows Mobile and Smartphones – For Land not Sea !

I have had emails from number of people saying that there are heaps of mobile chart plotters out there – but I beg to differ!

There are heaps of mobile chart plotters for the Land but not the Sea 🙂

Garmin XTFor example even Garmin only cover the Land ….Garmin Mobile XT transforms your GPS-enabled smartphone into a full-featured street navigator. Routing software and detailed mapping are preloaded on a microSD card – just plug it into your phone and you’re ready to navigate – on foot or in your car. With no subscription fee or additional equipment required, Mobile XT works anywhere, even outside your phone’s network coverage area.

Minimum requirements for Windows Mobile®, Palm® and Symbian® devices: 16MB program memory, 128MB storage card minimum (256MB or more recommended), 2GB storage card for full coverage

You get :

  • City Navigator® NT street maps …one of:-
    • Garmin Mobile™ XT North America
    • Garmin Mobile XT,Europe
    • Garmin Mobile XT,UK & Ireland
  • Garmin Mobile XT navigation software
  • miniSD and SD adapters

…so when will the Sea version come out – well …never me-thinks – why should they when they have so many solid and reliable handheld plotters already. It is the new entrants into the market that may be motivated to creep in via the backdoor of the smartphone devices. Not the incumbents like Raymarine or Garmin.


Pathaway Chartplotter for Windows Mobile 6

We are used to seeing a number of dedicated handheld chartplotter units like the Garmin 76CS and Raymarine RC400 both of which I have been using for the past 4 years. You may also know that Raymarine have now ducked out of the market for some reason. But getting reliable marine chartplotter software for the Windows mobile platform is rather more difficult.

MuskokaTech is a company that creates software applications for mobile devices – in particular GPS and plotting software.

Fugawi The Pathaway software from Muskoka is quite an exception . The “Standard” version is very capable and has the ability to “import your charts” …I haven’t tested this but will try to find out a bit more…but sounds very interesting and saves money if you have already got your Bluechart or Navionics charts.

It definitely imports the maps from Fugawi Global Navigator or Fugawi Marine ENC.

PathAway supports a wide variety of digital maps including the Fugawi World Digital Map Collection, many third party maps or even user scanned paper maps. Maps are highly compressed and can be any size and resolution that fits within your device memory.

Waypoints, routes and tracks can also be transferred between Fugawi Global Navigator or Fugawi Marine ENC and PathAway.

The Pathaway “Pro” version has some interesting “beta features” such as 2-way wireless remote location tracking. See where others are right from your handheld, share your location with others, or send to a central tracking service – now that would be cool for boats traveling in a flotilla on on the club regatta ! …And all without installing and AIS transmitter !

How about this software combined with the tiny HTC7510..mentioned here – now that could be a great combination!