Monday, 8 June 2009

Pin The Tail On The Donkey..

Following my last blog on the subject of the intricacies of canal navigation, "there are two sides to every coin". 

It's not just a question of how to determine your location; it's also a matter of how to let everybody know where you are ??

My response is a little tongue-in-cheek !!!

What is it about boaters that makes them want to tell everybody their location ? :-)

Many boaty blogs and websites these days, have locator panels showing their readers the position of their boat.

Now, to be honest, I don't fit the mould.

The Internet is a wonderful thing, but the World-Wide bit is just that.

Anybody and everybody can look at it.

99.9% of us are 99.9% sane, but the 0.01% are 100% certifiable.

Willawaw is our home (well, second home) and the thought of every psycho knowing our exact location doesn't greatly appeal.

For this reason, we go to some lengths to not show detailed images of the boat or her exact position in real time.

However, the technology pertaining to boat locating fascinates me, so it's something of a conundrum, as I'm sure you can appreciate.

There appears to be two main ways of transmitting your location, for the World to see.

Water Explorer is a software devised by Stuart, owner of DuskTill Dawn. Stuart is involved with the writing of software for a living, but has been developing W.E in his spare time.

It has taken him a couple of years.

I tried it initially, but couldn't get on with it at first.

He is gradually ironing out bugs and improving it's features and ease of use.

Its quite clever in it's principle, because you don't need to have a GPS.

You can operate it from either a laptop with an internet connection or even a mobile phone with the ability to browse the Internet.

In essence, you tell the programme where you intend to start your journey (by clicking on a bridge or lock number). When you pass under or through subsequent bridges or locks, you click on a website link confirming their numbers.

This enables the programme to identify you progress and because you are actually telling it the elapsed time between each geographical point, it can calculate your average speed and distance run.

Water Explorer then plots your progress on the website in a nationwide boat plot.    

The boats are plotted against a Google Earth satellite image or Google Maps background and smoke trails show where they have been.

There is also a facility which allows bloggers to link this information to their blogs.

Some boaters like John and Fiona Slee on NB Epiphany are trialling a derivative of Water Explorer called Navvygator, which allows the position to be plotted automatically, with the use of a GPS and a laptop.

The movements of Epiphany using this method can be seen here: 

The other method which is ideal for bloggers, is Google Latitude.

This is a general social-positioning software which allows friends to keep track of each other.

Google Latitude allows you to update your location from a mobile or laptop using an internet connection. This can then also be linked to a blog or website.

After playing with both methods, I decided to go with the latter.

Going back to my earlier dichotomy of not wanting to publish our exact position, but wanting to participate in the technology, I decided to use Google Latitude, but impose a time delay in the positions, so they don't represent our current position.

You can see the result on the left of this text.

Heady stuff and it makes a blog or cruising diary, a little more interesting for the reader when they can see the boat moving in real time (albeit in the case of Willawaw, historically).

Perhaps more bloggers will embrace the technology ?

Existing users of Google Latitude already include well known canal bloggers like Granny Buttons. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.