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Topics - Lyle Brotherton

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Administrator Announcements / Out of the picture
« on: October 27, 2014, 09:44:10 AM »
Currently, because of personal circumstances, I am unable to dedicate as much time as I would like to the site. However, I am determined to keep it open and paying for it as it is an excellent resource for all things navigation :) There are lots of well-informed, and in many instances better informed than me, members, who I know are willing to continue to help address people's questions.

General Discussion / UK SAR Helicopter Service
« on: October 27, 2014, 09:40:46 AM »
As the start of the transition-in of the new UK SAR Helicopter Service approaches, the end of service is in sight for British military SAR flights across the country. When the first flight closes next March, it will be 62 years to the month since the world's first dedicated search and rescue helicopter units were formed. By that time, Fleet Air Arm helicopters had already saved hundreds of lives and captured the imagination of the general public both in the UK and abroad through their outstanding work during the North Sea floods of January 1953. Since that time, many thousands of people have been saved from suffering and death by British military helicopters

For the seventh year running, The Sun newspaper is running its Military Awards, aka The Millies 2014. Although much focus is centred on overseas conflict, there is a category highlighting outstanding service at home.

You might feel that this is the right time to highlight the service of RAF SAR Force and the Fleet Air Arm's SAR Helicopter units. If so, then here is the link to the internet page at the bottom of which you will find the online nomination form.

THERE ARE ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT!     Closes 31st October!

Forecasting / Big skies
« on: July 28, 2014, 09:35:10 PM »
We get big skies where we live and I just had to share the magnificent one rhis evening :)


Administrator Announcements / How to create a link to another webpage
« on: July 28, 2014, 08:17:59 AM »

I have spoken before about the lack of R&D resource the big consumer satnav manufacturers, such a Garmin, Satmap and Tom Tom, each allocate, if anything at all, to protecting their units from the increasing threat of jamming and spoofing.

Enter stage-left Chemring Technology Solutions, a company based in Poole in Dorset, and a subsidiary of the Chemring Group, who manufacture EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) equipment, including counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and detection.

They have developed a product called GINCAN, which sounds appropriately British and like something you would take to Ascot ;)

GINCAN is available in the consumer market. It simply replaces your satnavs antenna to mitigate any jamming or spoofing and it works with GPS, GLONASS and Galileo. This is Practical with an in-built car satnav, but not so easy with a handheld satnav.

However, GINCAN is also available as a 6mm2 chip, which could be incorporated into a new consumer satnav. I wonder if the consumer satnav manufacturers are now going to act responsibly and adopt this technology?

I am going to see if I can obtain a unit to trial it.

General Discussion / Ascent Explorers
« on: July 14, 2014, 09:47:32 AM »

A couple of young guys I know have started to build an exciting business offering exploration trips. I first contacted Daniel Bouskila way back when putting together the UNM as I was keen to use some of his great mountain photos, whilst these images never made it into the book I got to know Daniel and have watched him turn a passion for the great outdoors into a career - respect :)

He started a small expedition business with is good friend and climbing partner, Chris Smorthit. Now having some expeditions under their belts they have taken that leap of faith and both gone full-time.

They offer some terrific expeditions, everything from summiting Mont Blanc to crossing Borneo, west to east Kalimantan.

So if you are feeling adventurous give the Boys a call on 0208 500 3323 or 07967 589 289

Check them out at

Tomorrow (21062014) at 10:51 GMT will be the Summer Solstice, our longest day in the Northern Hemisphere and think about it, it really brought home the danger of using the maxim ‘The Sun Rises in the East and Sets in the West’ to navigate without taking account for the time of the year, because there is a whopping 47 degrees difference between the Summer & Winter Solstice sun rising bearings.

The NOAA have a new page to calculate sunrise/sunset by location time and date which is much easier to use with your coordinates; both longitude and time zone are defined as positive to the west, instead of the international standard of positive to the east of the Prime Meridian.

In Google Earth to display your coordinates in Degrees/Minutes/Seconds, select the Tools menu bar and under the Options tab Tick the second box down under Show Lat/Long

The Winter Solstice will be at 23:03 GMT this year.

Forecasting / New Met Office mountain weather forecast
« on: June 20, 2014, 08:21:35 AM »
Visiting the Yorkshire Dales last week I tried out the new mountain weather forecast website from the Met Office 

It has been designed specifically for browsers used by mobile phones with fast downloading and graphics optimised for mobile phone screens.

The 5-day forecast was very accurate. It provides plenty of detailed information, everything from rainfall and temperature to visibility and wind speed, even surface pressure charts (The surface pressure pattern using isobars).

General Discussion / Chinese location detection software
« on: June 07, 2014, 09:24:31 AM »
We have spoken many times before on this forum about personal privacy and data protection. This week I was introduced to a piece of Chinese software, available to the public and easily purchased on the net, which quite took me aback in just how easily my movements over the last three months could identified from my smartphone.

The integration of smartphone user location applications, including GNSS, with messenger apps via Wi-Fi, 3G & 4G is growing at an exponential rate. Many of these applications allow users to share diverse content and information, including photographs, videos, voice messages, location, URL links as well as contact details, and they are no longer just 121 conversations, nearly all these apps include group conversations.

Messenger apps include: Whatsapp, Kik messenger, Viber, Skype, Line, KakaoTalk - some have nearly a 100% uptake in national populations, by example KakaoTalk is used by 93% of smartphone owners in South Korea.

Add to this list social networks, the big ones being: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat. Plus applications for voice and video calls: Skype, Viber and Tango.

There are also geo-aware services that store current locations, and that store geo-tagging information: Foursquare and Facebook and lastly media sharing applications: Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram.

The software developers of many of these applications claim end-to-end encryption, but, when you look inside the database it is not encrypted and historical location information is remarkably easy to find.

However, I use non-of-the-above.

My location information came from my Google account, primarily used for email and as my search engine. The level of detail was remarkable, identifying at times not only which building I had been in, time & date stamped, even which side of the building.

Yet the really clever (spooky) component of this Chinese software was the way it sued this data was to establish links between users in several devices correlated with location, connecting overall statistics about users’ activity.

Lesson: the only way to truly retain your privacy is by turning off your mobile phone ;)

Satnav (GPS GLONASS COMPASS Galileo) / A great smartphone App
« on: April 29, 2014, 03:15:01 PM »
I was recently asked how you could check to see if a smartphone’s satnav is using GLONASS satellites, in addition to GPS satellites, and I have found an excellent free app, for Android smartphones, which does just this and much more.

It is called GPS Test, developed by Chartcross Limited
It has five screens (NB These are the default values/units which can easily be changed in the Settings menu):

Satnav Status On/Off (Erroneously called GPS status)
Reported accuracy in feet
A satnav signal (Signal to Noise Ration) bar chart, showing the designated number of each satellite – GLONASS satellites are reported as 65+ and the signal strength for each satellite
Beneath this is a chart showing SNR performance colours, yellow is fine on the histogram and green is excellent. The other screens are selectable at the bottom of this screen.

Your current speed, in MPH, and the local time are displayed on all screens.

The number of satellites in view
The number of satellites in use by the smartphone
Their relative location to you in the sky (skyview), shown on a rotating compass
The magnetic declination in your area – this describes the angle between true north and the horizontal trace of the local magnetic field and it is not the value we need to use in Great Britain when working with the British National Grid, as used on Ordnance Survey and Harveys Maps.
TTFF (Time to First Fix) how quickly your smartphone determined your location – this is when it first determined your location which could be at an accuaracy of more than 100 feet, as the unit settles your position becomes more accurate.

Your current location displayed in Latitude and Longitude using the WGS84 datum
Your current location on a world map.
The current position of the sun
Day/night transition curve (shaded areas)

Your current speed in MPH
Heading in degrees True north
Altitude in feet

Date UTC (Universal time code) this may be different to your local date
Current time read from the GPS satellites in UTC (Universal time code) – the most accurate information displayed on your satnav
Local date
Local time in your current timezone
Sunrise & sunset times at your location

Link to app

Satnav (GPS GLONASS COMPASS Galileo) / 5G WiFI
« on: April 04, 2014, 09:49:27 AM »
There is a new standard in WiFi called 802.11ac and referred to as 5G WiFi. This is important because the speeds at which data can be transferred have in part enabled this WiFi to be greater used for indoor positioning.

WiFi Speed Development

An American technology firm, Broadcom, have announced what they claim is the 5G WiFi (802.11ac) SoC (System-on-Chip) to deliver sub-metre indoor positioning technology.

This technical breakthrough is possible because the technology operates using FTM (Fine Timing Measurement). Previous versions of indoor positioning relied on RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator, where signal strength and performance can vary depending on environmental factors such as crowd density or temperature.

Translated into the real world this means that handheld navigational devices, no doubt first appearing in our smartphones – both Samsung and apple are known to be working with this technology in a race to bring a mobile phone with the capability to market first, will be able to locate you location very accurately in large public spaces, such as shopping malls, hospitals, sports venues etc.

A key feature to look for when buying a handheld satnav.

In an unprecedented total disruption of a fully operational GNSS constellation, all satellites in the Russian GLONASS broadcast corrupt information for 11 hours, from just past midnight until noon Russian time (UTC+4), on 02042014. This rendered the system completely unusable to all worldwide GLONASS receivers.

A military spokesperson for the American GNSS system, GPS, stated that whilst it was highly unlikely this type of complete shutdown due to system failure could occur with GPS it could not be ruled out. More interestingly, he would not rule out deliberate shutdown of the system broadcast civilian GPS signals during times of conflict and actually cited Russia’s incursion into Crimea if escalated could warrant such an event.

Answer: always buy multi-constellation handheld satnav receivers.

OS Locate is a brand new app which quickly and accurately pinpoints your current location and displays it as an OS Gird Reference – anywhere in Great Britain – the best part is that your smartphone does not need a mobile phone signal.

The most important, and frequently the most difficult information to obtain, which all search and rescue teams need is the exact location of the incident. Not just when people are lost, also, for a myriad of reasons, many people wrongly report their location or are unable to be precise.

Every Mountain Rescue Teams, RAF/Navy SAR helicopter, Lowland SAR Teams in Great Britain work with and use OS Grid References.

I would recommend everybody who ventures into the great outdoors, whether that is the lowland fens of Norfolk or the highlands of Scotland to have this free app on their smartphone. If for whatever reason you need to call for help, obtain your grid reference from this app, even if you are using a map and have taken your grid reference manually, this is a belt & braces approach.

The app does a lot more than this basic function, from allowing you to connect with other folk via text messages and social media and letting them know where you are, to an in-built digital compass, it even contains hints and tips and a guide to map reading.

iOS users can download OS Locate for free from iTunes and ordnance survey inform me that an Android version is expected to be released in May 2014

Note: Remember even if you appear to have no mobile phone signal to summon help you can still text the emergency operator

Got my hands this weekend on Garmin’s new GPSMAP 64 series.

Now I am a big fan of the GPSMAP62 series and recommend it to the Mountain Rescue Team’s I train, Cairngorm MRT being the last to equip their responders with them, so for me to swap this new unit has to be knock-out.

Garmin, who frankly are useless at marketing, make a big thing about it receiving both GPS & GLONASS, which considering this offering has been in their eTrex models for over a year is pretty poor reflection that they did not update the GNSS chipset on the 62 series still on sale, so yes it is an advance. Garmin claim you get a position fix 20% faster, not a great bonus, the more important thing is that you have more satellites to receive the data from so in areas where reception is restricted this is a benefit.

They have upped the internal memory - 4GB for 64/64s and 8GB for 64st – which is still not great and there is a microSD card slot, but it can only take a 16GB card.

The stuff that really interested me was that this handheld satnav has smartphone connectivity for LiveTrack and Smart Notification. But as you read thru their marketing blurb all these features do is report your location in real time on a Garmin webpage, which your smartphone can do anyway and allow you to receive emails, texts and alerts on the device so you can keep your smartphone dry.

 So, the only real difference between the 62 series and the 64 series is the latter’s ability to receive GLONASS satellite broadcasts and given the already high performance of the quadrifilar helix antenna on both models and that their GNSS chipsets are high-sensitivity using predictive ephemeris, it is not worth the extra money.

My advice would be to buy a 62 series, which will drop significantly in price, when these new models are launched

Administrator Announcements / Site downage
« on: January 22, 2014, 08:26:21 AM »
Our Forum was down for a total of 1 week, whilst 123-reg (read useless registrar) released the domain to Domainsrush (read excellent registrar).

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