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GPS PLUS*


Since the creation of GPS, the Global Positioning System, people have looked at things it can be used for, besides the obvious, knowing where you are exactly.

If you get a basic standard GPS unit from Maplin, you can plug it into your laptop and go wandering about and the computer will track where you've been. This is the "breadcrumb trail", a set of points in virtual space which map onto the physical terrain. You can draw your own maps, put your own mapping points in (as per geocache), and write computer programs to do interesting things with the data.

GPS becomes more useful for getting from place to place when MAPS are added. This could in theory be done with freely available maps such as Open Streetmap, or with generally available maps such as Ordnance Survey, but there has been an unfortunate tendency for early 21st Century Sat-Nav (satellite navigation systems sitting on dashboards in cars telling the driver which way to turn at the next junction etc) to have maps which are a problem! For one thing they are proprietary rather than open, for another they are sometimes "expireware" (a very disreputable practice), and there is a general problem of the misuse of a monopoly. Many of those things could be solved by allowing the GPS and Maps to be separable, and by allowing free open-source maps to be usable. It's a global problem, so now is the time to see about defeating it.

Besides in-car sat-nav, GPS devices take on a variety of forms. Hence, GPS PLUS. * Incidentally, the term "GPS Plus" is a term coined by Xyroth of Xyroth Enterprises and is an open-usage policy term, ie it's not TM (trademark™) anyone else. This counts as prior art. GPS Plus devices include such things as heart-rate monitoring devices, so you can go running or cycling and have your GPS breadcrumb track and heartrate plotted in data which you can then use. (Let's hope it's using an open standard and not Microsoft-only!). For cycling, cadence (pedal rotation) is also recordable. GPS Plus devices sometimes also include digital barometers so your altitude can be logged as well (GPS isn't so good on its own at altitude logging as an aneroid barometer). To get an idea of the remarkable range of GPS Plus devices that are available, have a look around the site of Garmin. You can get Orienteering GPS units by which you can run around the countryside and not become lost. You can even get dog-tracker GPS, although it's primarily for the serious business of hunting, rather than for keeping an eye on where your semi-feral pet dog is.

GPS Plus devices also appear where the ideas of GPS and personal organiser converge. It's all very well having a mobile phone with your friends' phone numbers in, but with a Personal Organiser GPS Phone you can have your friends' addresses in, and then the gadget can navigate you to a friend's home. Well, it's one way to save money on phone calls and keep fit at the same time!

Beware of remotely controllable GPS in mobile phones! Some of the more authoritarian governments have introduced laws to make inclusion of GPS in mobile phones mandatory. This is VERY BAD as it allows the secret spying services of the government to spy on people. Officially they pretend that's not what they are doing, but we the paranoids know different! Also, the idea of secretly trackable GPS in mobile phones was introduced on the excuse that it would help to catch crooks. This probably worked for about two weeks, after which all crooks of any level of seriousness adopted methods to confound the system. They turned off their phones when about to be in an area to commit a crime, and they got stooges to buy job-lots of cheap PAYG phones which they used as part of the disposable budget in the commissioning of their crimes. In other words, the evil government spying and surveillance system did no good versus criminals but allowed The System to spy on innocent people. That's typical of this type of thing, and the sort of stuff that Fighters for Liberty should seek to nobble before it happens again with some other new technology that the powers-that-be seek to misuse against us all.

On a happier note, there's the GPS Watch, which combines knowing where you are with knowing what time it is, so you can have a non-normal rate of time running on your watch in order to avoid jetlag, and for other purposes. Incidentally, there's nothing wrong with having GPS, provided you don't rely on it 100%, as it's a receive-only system. The problems start where your gadget can transmit and give away your private location to others without your sayso.

GPS Plus sometimes combines Global Positioning System with Crowd Sourcing, so folks in general out there wandering around the world can put a mapping pointer at a location and publish info about that locality on the Internet. Responsible geocaching is to be encouraged.

Important Technological Matters:

In the interests of considerate design, it is important that future developments of GPS Plus devices is done so that the different aspects of each device work independently. It's no fun having a mobile phone which stops you being able to use the phone/PDA/GPS just because the expireware maps have expired!

In particularly, failure modes of externally dependent components should be eliminated from spoiling the use of other components of the system. So, if your maps are no good anymore, your GPS should still work. If your GPS fails because of force majure but you've still got your maps, you should still be able to use the maps like you would a paper map. And, if you go into "flight mode" where your phone is disabled from transmitting, you should still be able to play the games in your phone.

Further info: Read some of the GPS Shops pages on currently available devices. There's quite a range. Garmin are doing especially well, although I've a bit dubious of their Linux-compatibility at present! Also, what about Tom Tom