What You Need To Know Before You Go

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Auto navigation systems have improved a great deal since they were invented by the US military in the Sixties and Seventies. In fact, their development is a continuous process, as you can easily imagine. I remember in the Eighties when you received a fix on your location every twelve minutes or so.

This meant that ‘sat nav’ was fine for shipping and yachts, but not much good for cars or other fast-moving vehicles. They were also very expensive and quite large, not like the units that cyclists can get in a wrist watch these days.

Despite the fact that sat nav has advanced far enough for companies to be able to produce reasonably priced auto navigation systems, there are still glitches with them. But there is nothing new about that, it has become standard practice to start selling a product while it is still at some phase of development.

Look at MS Widows for an example; it is nearly thirty years old and still does not work perfectly – it is still ‘under development’. The same holds true of auto navigation systems.

And part of the trouble is with the software running the device. Software is a very problematic thing, as Windows proves to its users every day. I am not necessarily knocking Windows software, it is probably the best of its kind, but then there is no real competition for it and that is a shame for all the usual reasons such as apathy, high-handedness and over-pricing, just look at Windows ‘Vista’. What an expensive heap of junk that was.

Needless to say, if Microsoft cannot get their software right, then auto navigation systems cannot either. Therefore, it is imperative to use an auto navigation device that either regularly updates itself automatically or allows the user to do it manually.

You need the latest bug-patches to the software and the latest updates to the maps. Ideally, the unit should update itself every day automatically, but you should do it manually at least before each extensive journey.

The signal is clearly very significant as well. In order to get a fix on your location at least three satellites have to be able to ‘see’ your auto navigation system. If a fourth can verify the data, then so much the better.

This means that you may vanish ‘off the radar’, so to speak, if you are travelling under ground or in mostly built-up locations. Being tracked by one or two satellites is not good enough, there is no triangulation.

It is rational to assume that if you have a clear view of the sky, then the three or four satellites should have a clear view of you, but it is not an infallible check. The best thing to have with you is still common sense. Do not just depend on your auto navigation system blindly. If you think it is giving you a false reading, it might be.

In this situation, the best thing to do is think about whether you or it is right and check it with a map if you have one. If all else fails, employ a bit of advice often made by Windows support, switch the unit off, count to ten and turn it back on again – in other words, reboot it.

Owen Jones, the writer of this piece writes on many subjects, but is at present concerned with Hybrid Electric Engines. If you want to know more please go to our website at New Hybrid Vehicles.

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