Monday, 19 March 2012

Am I too technology dependent?

On Saturday 17th March I drove from St Helens in Merseyside to pick my son up from Newcastle where he is at University. No real issues here as I am familiar with the route into the city as my eldest daughter also went to University there. One part of the route is tricky though, so out came my ageing TomTom ONE sat nav. It was already programmed with the destination and connected into the car's 12v system so just switched it on. It went off in 5 seconds. Checked power was OK then tried again. Went off 20 seconds later. Hit power button again - on then off - just as I was getting to the dodgy junction. Memory did not fail me though as I took the correct exit, but then made a right turn 1 traffic light too early. Sat Nav switched on again and I found that I had joined the road I needed just via an earlier connecting road. Tried the unit a few times after but it just would not stay on.

I had vowed not to get another TomTom device as earlier this year when my device shut down only occasionally I looked at upgrading. 4 years ago I purchased the full USA and Canada maps as I had intended touring and found that they were linked to my old device and could not be transferred. I enquired of TomTom if this was the truly the case and said that I wanted to upgrade as a fault had developed in my unit and was basically told "tough luck". I could not recall seeing any T's and C's stating this when I bought the maps or since.

I therefore decided to look elsewhere for my next sat nav. Garmin have a nice device so I researched it a bit. Their website is very poor as delivered '404' page not found when I went to look for maps, locked me into their FAQ pages after attempting to raise an email with their support people, and I could not find any downloadable information on any PC management software. I subsequently rang their UK support 'team' and got the following responses to my questions.
  • Can it pair up with my IPhone? - No Android OS only
  • Can I add costom POI? - Yes through POI Loader application
  • Can I change colour display? - No
  • What functionality from PC management software is available? - Only the POI.
This non-competitive feature list is a showstopper for me. Navman not attractive, so must shelve my principles and go back to TomTom - probably XXL Classic.

Big question though is do I need a discrete sat nav device ? would my smartphone navigation software be good enough? Answer probably yes as I don't want to risk losing the GPS signal at inopportune times, especially in the USA.

UPDATE 21 March 2012.   Bought a TomTom XXL Classic and USA Maps. Will do the job ; however due to them now combining individual country / regional USA maps into discrete maps (Western Europe and USA) I need to physically replace one with the other when going from UK to USA. The XXL does not have an SD slot which would have made life much easier. Now I need to take my laptop and wait 40 minutes for the exchange to complete. Agent I spoke to did not inform me of this although I did ask if the USA and UK maps could reside on the unit as at that point I did not know that UK was not a separate fileset.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

G3TPW - CobWebb antenna

In January 2012 I ordered a CobWebb antenna from G3TPW as I had heard glowing reports from another station in the Netherlands and it's specifications made it ideal for my loft. After communication with G3TPW I ordered one, but was then met with an 'information blackout'. The explanation for the delay in despatch was quite acceptable. The designer has supply issues with the antenna wire and had to source elsewhere and he needed to evaluate the new component re velocity factor before he despatched the kit to me. That is attention to detail.

After 4 weeks the antenna arrived. Now built and operational. - I plan to put a photographic guide to the build on here when time permits.

WOW - as compared to my vertical and long wire antennae it is much less prone to noise pickup yet receives signals just as well, better perhaps as it is more omnidirectional. Have heard South Africa, China and Indonesia now which were not resolvable previously, and the areas I previously heard very well are still pounding in. Truly omnidirectional. Incidentally the first station I worked was in Belize.through a pile-up using 50W PSK31 so nice christening.

I have posted a construction video on my site, for interested parties.

My Website

At the beginning of the year I developed a frozen shoulder which was quite painful and immobilised me for some time. Got really bored as driving, or even walking some distance was painful. Could not even go to bed for some 10 weeks as lying down brought on the pain.

What to do? I decided to restart my website build and now have a framework to build on. The site is and still under development. I am using Dreamweaver CS4 which is working well, however having installed Internet Information Services (IIS) on both my PCs am unable to get them working well. One machine tells me that the service is unavailable, while the other fails to process the css or javascript files.

Shoulder 95% OK now so will be putting up my 2m/70cm antennae which came down in the January storms very soon, so will be leaving the website for 'rainy days'.
I plan to move this blog there, but have not researched it fully yet.

UPDATE: 19th March 2012: Website nearing completion and on the live server. Still not technically live but is viewable - bugs and all.