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SAT-NAV: Satellite Navigation


SAT-NAV (Satellite Navigation) is a system by which you can know exactly where you are and can navigate by means of virtual MAPS. I would have thought that the term "Satellite Navigation" meant any form of navigation using GPS satellites, but oddly, it appears to have become a term referring only to navigation in a motor vehicle on a road. With definitions like that it's a wonder it's not become SAT-NAFF.

Anyway, Sat-Nav is a wondrous system in which the little GPS box knows where it is by satellites, and it has virtual maps as well, and robot voices that can calmly direct you to where you want to be. They say things like "In 100 yards, turn left", etc. The voices have a reassuring unwavering poker playing tone to them, and they do not get annoyed if you repeatedly take wrong turnings. Also, thankfully, they do not have extra features such as "You have now been driving for two hours, so in the interests of safety I will now start to tell some jokes in order to keep you awake", although it would be handy if they could say things like "The next bio-diesel filling station is the last for 50 miles. Make sure your fuel tank is not empty".

Satellite Navigation devices in cars are quite knowledgeable about the navigability of roads, and only very seldom do they direct the driver to take a route along a river, or through a pedestrian precinct, or across a farmer's field.

There now follows a list of suppliers of Satellite Navigation equipment, although there is a better list at the page of GPS and Sat-Nav Suppliers :

Garmin

Navteq

Halfords

TomTom

Maplin

Screwfix

Sat Nav 2u - the affiliate program has been lost!

GPS Drive - Linux GPS

...Also, here are some interesting/amusing things about Sat-Nav!:

Alternative Sat-Nav

Beware of the HOME option on a sat-nav

Beware of the RAC Sat-Nav! Even though we like The RAC, there has been said to be a problem with their own-brand sat-nav. Apparently it insists that you MUST have "home" and "office" icons taking up valuable short-supply desktop space, and if you are silly enough to put your postcode in, then you are at a serious risk of crime. This is a security disaster waiting to happen, as per the cautionary tale of sat-nav! Also, we are not sure if it's possible to delete a home postcode erroneously entered, in which case it would make the machine a liability! Hopefully this isn't true, but watch this space; we will find out more.

There are a variety of problems with Sat-Nav. As well as the terminology being erroneous, the units for driving are different from those that are customised for walking or cycling. No-one's realised it's possible to construct general-purpose considerate design devices which can be used for wide ranging purposes.

As well as the problems of GPS (Global Positioning System) there are also problems with the MAPS. This is the business of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and it includes such companies as Navteq and TeleAtlas and Facet Technologies , and ESRI, Geograph IL, as well as LBS. When buying a Sat-Nav, make sure the MAPS are not expireware! Ideally you should be able to buy maps which you can keep, print out, and use even when the satellites are not functioning. The virtual sat-nav maps should be at least the digital equivalent of a fold-up paper map, where although it goes out of date, you still have it. Sadly, some Sat-Navs on the market have expireware maps which you effectively have to pay rent on, and if you don't keep on paying for the updates, the maps disappear at some point, leaving you lost. (I have even heard of a situation where an owner of a sat-nav PDA device found that just because they had failed to pay ongoing rent for new maps, the old maps were deleted and the device was disabled so that even the phone address book was unavailable. This type of thing is entirely unacceptable and goes against the philosophy of considerate design). Hopefully, the continuation of the Open-Streetmap project, and/or the Sat-Nav companies getting their act together and starting to be fair to their customers, should get this problem sorted out, preferably soon!

There are also issues with the compatibility of a Sat-Nav & GPS units with computers using various operating systems. You should be able to get a route-mapping output and have it printed out. You should be able to input your own marker-points on the maps, and you should be able to export the data. The Sat-Nav should work of its own accord and not be dependent on an external computer. You should be able to download maps over any Internet connection. (You should NOT be compelled to have a silly Microsoft computer in order to facilitate obvious functionality). A well-designed Global Positioning System unit (and sat-nav) should work with Linux as well as the Apple Mac and Microsoft. If it's Microsoft-only, avoid. The world is moving on towards a more open-source way of doing things. If Sat-Navs don't keep up with the modern reality, they are mapping the old world with its bad old ways of doing things.

The problem of the disappearing maps has been described as "doubly expireware" by some, as the maps themselves are on a per-seat rental basis, and the firmware (ooh, bad word), is also updated. At some point the firmware is incompatible with your machine and then it dies. This may sound like great fun for the companies that make these things, leaving you as a muggins, but customers have a habit of biting back, usually by being more careful in future, asking questions before buying, and refusing to buy products that aren't going to last or aren't going to be any good.

The fact is that Geo-spatial data is fundamentally common-property, so it seems a damn cheek of some of these companies to try to "homestead" it, grab it, or claim to own it and to deprive everyone of it or to have copies of it for the common good.

This page is expected to be connected with a page about first-hand experiences of Sat-Nav and its downsides, at Xyroth Enterprises