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Old 12-12-2007, 02:20 PM   #76
TomW
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LKN4DRT
For emergency help I think it's faster to make a call on an iridium phone and give gps coordinates and medical condition....
In most cases that's probably true; however, doing all that requires some degree of mental and mechanical agility that may be beyond someone who's just had his head pranged. Plus, three separate pieces of gear need to be in the same place and working -- head, GPS and sat phone. Not to mention the cost of Iridium. Easier to push a button.

Personally, if I was doing something truly dangerous at the fringe of the known world, I'd have SPOT, PLB, GPS and an Iridium (not GlobalStar) phone. Since I'm not doing that, I'll settle for, and use in the following order: GPS/terrestrial cell service, SPOT and PLB. I don't wear full armored leathers all the time either, just AeroStich.

Cheers.
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Old 12-12-2007, 09:01 PM   #77
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As of this evening, there is now a way to get a GPX file from the track points on findmespot.com. The author of GMapToGPX has upgraded his bookmarklet:

http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/gmaptogpx/

Go to that site and install the bookmarklet (works best for me on firefox). Then when you are on the "show me maps/google maps" page on your account on findmespot.com, press the bookmarklet and voila, you have a GPX file with the points included. Just select all of that text, copy and paste it into a text file, and save the text file with a .gpx suffix. The file can be immediately loaded by Mapsource, Google Earth, or any other gpx reader.

It's working perfectly right now, but I asked Josh to change it slightly so it shows as a track rather than just individual waypoints, and to include the timestamp in both the desc and cmt fields in the gpx file.

EDIT: The update has been made, so the gpx file is now coming out as a track. If you need the individual waypoints, find/replace trkpt --> wpt in the file, and remove the track start and track end lines ("trk""trkseg", and "/trkseg""/trk", with < and > instead of "), and then you can load the gpx file to see all individual points.

aciurczak screwed with this post 12-12-2007 at 11:01 PM
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Old 12-16-2007, 01:51 PM   #78
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This morning was my first decent-length ride using the SPOT, and I'm pretty happy with its tracking and communication performance. I had it on the continuous tracking mode ("spotcasting"), where it sends up a single message (non-repeated) every 10 minutes. I had it broadcasting from 7 AM to 1 PM while on the road, and it only missed 3 points all day.

I exported the data to a gpx file; here's the info plotted onto a Google Earth page.



I've got 2 other GPS devices on the bike within a foot or so of the SPOT, and none of them seemed to be adversely affected by either of the others. The SPOT was just sitting inside my tankbag, in a top pocket so it would stay facing up.
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Old 12-17-2007, 12:26 PM   #79
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I picked one up. Cool gadget. I'm thinking about writing a PHP Email parser to grab the emails and publish the route as it happens on my site. Seems doable, just need to sit down and do it. (Riding is much more fun)

More so its not spamming those who care and they can just login to a page and see what's up.
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Old 12-17-2007, 12:38 PM   #80
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As of now the emails are only sent for the manually initiated OK/Check, Help, and 911 messages; the SPOTcasting feature doesn't send any emails; only uploads trackpoints that can be viewed on the findmespot.com web interface. So if you hit the OK button every time you want an email kicked out, it will do exactly as you ask, but the device won't kick out automated emails without user interaction each time.
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Old 12-17-2007, 01:30 PM   #81
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I used mine this weekend with varied success. Driving in the truck for 100 miles to and from the ride, I had the unit up on the dashboard and it did just fine. But on the trail I had it in the outside lower pocket of my Camelbak, and only got about 3 tracking messages during the 5 hour ride. Then, on the ride home, all was good.

I suspect it will work fine for sending messages when off the bike, holding it with a wide view of the sky, but not so great in the backpack using the tracking feature.

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Old 12-17-2007, 05:39 PM   #82
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I suspect that it'll work better on the bike if you can put it in a tank bag or handlebar bag with the logo (transmit antenna) facing up rather than in your backpack.

Got mine today, activated and checked it by sending one OK message (went through fine). Will check it out in tracking mode on 750 mile trip in the cage tomorrow. All is well.

Cheers.
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Old 12-18-2007, 05:55 AM   #83
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomW
I suspect that it'll work better on the bike if you can put it in a tank bag or handlebar bag with the logo (transmit antenna) facing up rather than in your backpack.
Good advice. It works best with the logo facing up. ...by far...

Interesting tidbit:

I use mine in the glove compartment of my Dodge Durango! Works great! I get almost all my track messages. This, even though there's an airbag assembly right above it.

It seems that there is very little metal inside the Durango's dashboard, and the windshield is right above it, after all.

YMMV, of course, using the SPoT in the glove compartment of a vehicle, some vehicles do have an extensive metal frame inside the dashboard.

But, logo facing up, and shooting through non-metallic materials is the way to go.
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Old 12-18-2007, 03:03 PM   #84
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I'll try that, thanks. I figured as much, but can't really figure out where that would be on my dirt bike. Maybe I could gaffer tape it to the top of my helmet.

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Old 12-18-2007, 04:30 PM   #85
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I did a little fact-checking on this thing. First, SPOT doesn't use the PLB satellite network (which uses a variety of satellites run by government entities), it uses the Globalstar satellite network, which is currently in financial meltdown and may get shut down if Globalstar takes Chapter 13. That would render your SPOT an expensive paperweight. Then there's the operation under canopy. PLB's have 5 watts of power. SPOT has 400mw. PLB's can punch a signal through most canopy. PLB's can't get a GPS fix through canopy to send a GPS location along with your "HELP!" message, of course, but the PLB satellite network can use doppler shift to narrow down your location to within a two mile radius and SAR has beacon location equipment to find your exact location once on location within that 2 mile radius, so even if you're at the bottom of a canyon under trees and can't move out to open ground it's likely that the PLB will eventually punch a signal through to a satellite and get help to you. Meanwhile, SPOT doesn't operate on the normal emergency beacon frequencies and Globalstar's satellite network has no ability to triangulate via doppler shift, so if SPOT can't get a GPS fix, you're SOL.

Finally, all "true" certified PLB's must meet some fairly rigorous standards in a testing lab in order to be certified as a PLB. They must transmit for a minimum of 24 hours even at -20F, etc. No pass, no cert. SPOT... well, it doesn't meet any PLB standards and indeed is not sold as a PLB, it's sold as a "personal messenger". The fact that one message that can be sent is to an outfit in Austin that can then call 911 on your behalf doesn't make it a PLB.

In short, SPOT is a substitute for a satellite phone in situations where you want to send canned messages and don't need 2-way communications, but is not a PLB, and doesn't work as well as a PLB. Its only advantage if you have an emergency is that it is significantly cheaper than a PLB and roughly the same cost (with 1 year of service) as a couple week's rental of a satellite phone. But if you want the best possible chance to be rescued under absolute emergency conditions, you want a certified PLB, because that's the gold standard of emergency beacons. SPOT... well, it's not.
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Old 12-18-2007, 05:25 PM   #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elgreen
Its only advantage if you have an emergency is that it is significantly cheaper than a PLB and roughly the same cost (with 1 year of service) as a couple week's rental of a satellite phone
A huge advantage for me is the tracking feature. I ride by myself a fair amount and always tell someone when I'll be home. If I crash and knock myself unconscious or hurt myself bad enough that I can't send a message, at least they'll know where to look. That was the major selling point to me.
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Old 12-18-2007, 10:41 PM   #87
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In a true emergency where you find yourself in the middle of a canyon under tremendous tree cover, with no cell service, a PLB may have a somewhat greater chance of summoning help. In all other cases, the SPOT has capabilities that are more useful to me than any 1-time use / emergency only PLB. Nobody is trying to convince adventurers to replace their PLB's with SPOT for all applications. But for long-distance motorcycling, the tracking feature and continuous 1-way messaging that does not rely on cell phone technology make it a damn useful gadget. Think of it like a satellite phone with GPS onboard that can send unlimited (but canned) messages for $150/year. There really is nothing else comparable right now, and it certainly fits a niche that appealed to me (and I'd venture some others). It's basically an improvement on several areas of the Star-traxx system, for a fraction of the cost.

(edited after reading up more on Star-traxx)

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Old 12-19-2007, 08:15 AM   #88
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Originally Posted by elgreen
That would render your SPOT an expensive paperweight. Then there's the operation under canopy. PLB's have 5 watts of power. SPOT has 400mw.
Apples to oranges.

A PLB is sending a narrow-band (TDMA) signal to GEO-synchronous satellites (about 20,000 miles up).

The SPOT is sending a DSSS (Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum) signal -the DSSS modulation gives you about an order of magnitude of process gain over narrow band, so 0.4 watt DSSS is about equivalent to 5 watt narrow band- and the satellites are LEO (Low Earth Orbit), about 400 miles up.

The functional signal gain of the SPoT and PLB's are comparable. Their ability to get a signal through canopy are comparable. Also, in 911 mode it tries every 5 minutes forever to get a GPS fix and send a message (a fresh battery will last more than a week in continuous 911 mode). It may take awhile, but in all but the most extraordinary circumstances, it will get a GPS fix and get a signal out eventually. You won't get all your messages out under deep canopy, but if you get one per hour, or even one per six hours, you still get rescued.

Also, your information about Globalstar's liquidity is about 2.5 years out of date. Globalstar's financial situation is dramatically better today than it was a couple of years ago. The threat of them going belly up is essentially past. About the only way they'd go bankrupt at this point is if a lot of the new satellites they plan to launch over the next few years blow up on the launch pad. Don't think that's all that likely.

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Old 12-19-2007, 03:05 PM   #89
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Hey SpotMaker,

Thanks for your valuable insight into this product. I've got one and love it.

Does the Company plan on changing access to the tracking feature on the website to where it can be viewed without seeing all the personal billing data of the subscriber? This is the only negative I've found to the system - if I want to give somone access to my tracking, they can see and alter stuff they shouldn't.
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Old 12-19-2007, 04:01 PM   #90
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Hey SpotMaker,

Thanks for your valuable insight into this product. I've got one and love it.

Does the Company plan on changing access to the tracking feature on the website to where it can be viewed without seeing all the personal billing data of the subscriber? This is the only negative I've found to the system - if I want to give somone access to my tracking, they can see and alter stuff they shouldn't.
I've heard that they plan to implement a "guest login". But, the info I have about this is sketchy. It could even be wrong.

The "guest login", wherein you'd set up a guest userid and password, would give your "guests" access to your tracking, and nothing else.
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