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Radar Images for Weather on your phone..and much more…

palm700 thumbThe Memory Map application for mobile phones and PDA’s is fantastic example of software development for mobile devices. This application has been around for some time, and is the work of US based developer Richard Stevens and his team. Richard is a software developer with 15 year’s experience in scientific super-computing and high-performance real-time systems such as medical imaging machines and high-end radar systems.

From the MemoryMap web site …

Memory-Map Weather Radar is an application to display live National Weather RadarWeather Service doppler radar images and animated loops from radars located throughout the United States. Radar is the most effective tool to detect precipitation, especially thunderstorms, and has been used by NWS forecasters since the 1940’s. Memory-Map now brings this information, conveniently and efficiently, right to your phone or PDA.

With Memory-Map Weather Radar, when you update the image, the radar data is downloaded as a compressed overlay, without having to download the whole base image each time. There are no usage fees or subscriptions for using the service, except your mobile carrier’s normal data access fees. If the sky is clear, the download is only 1 or 2 kbytes; if there is widespread rain, it might be 10 kbytes. The first time you view each radar station, the base map image is downloaded, which is 50 to 100kbytes….”

Although the radar product is limited to the USA, what I didn’t realise is that his company has produced a full navigation product Memory-Map Navigator – for hiking and sailing that covers the UK!. Take look at the excellent video here.

This takes the use of the built in GPS on a smartphone into a whole different realm….


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Mobile phone confusion !

My little venture into experimenting with mobile phones and their use on my boat has stirred up a lot of readers of this blog it appears see comments here

Questions include:

– Can I use my smartphone to connect my laptop to the internet?
– Can I use my phone as a chart plotter?
– Which software and maps can I use on my phone?
– How can I improve the interface on my phone? – I cant get to the Bluetooth and other settings easily because they buried under so many menu options…
– Can I get the Met Office weather forecast and barometric charts on my phone?

I had not realised that so many of you are as frustrated as I am in getting more out of my expensive smartphone when they seem to promise so much….

Just to make one point absolutely clear I am referring to the latest crop of smartphones “not the common or garden phones” – and I dont care if you have 3G, MP3, or any other acronym – I mean a phone that is running a real mini operating system such as Windows Mobile 6 or Symbian.

As a result of all this interest I have decide to create a whole new section dedicated to mobile phone use on boats – look across the tabs at the top of the page….and you will see a tab called “Phones”.

I have only just started, but please – come back and check because I will be trying to answer the questions raised as best as I can on this new section.


GPS Terminology – nanu nanu :-)

After the last post I had a few emails asking me what PRN 32 means so I thought I would list a few terms that you may come across if you start looking into the GPS system..

SV – Space Vehicle
PRN – Pseudo Random Noise
NANU – Notice Advisory to Navstar Users – there is a free mail list service run by the US Coast Guard to send GPS watchers an automatic status report.

For the latest nanus see the US Coast guard site here.

BTW its called Navstar because that is the correct title of the US military GPS system


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 …