solar flare coming - GPS may fail

According to NASA “the Sun is waking up from a deep slumber” and we can expect to see a big rise in solar activity in the coming few years. Solar storms, or solar flares to be more specific or large explosions on Sun’s surface that produce huge amounts of energy causing radiation over a wide spectrum including radio waves and gamma rays. We humans are protected from much of this phenomena thanks to our atmosphere but our high tech gear orbiting the Earth are not as lucky.

GPS satellites may simply damage from the heat and our radio communications may be disrupted. Sun does this about every 11 years - called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Next CME is going to peak in 2012. Our GPS satellites have no particular defense from these solar flares and according some experts this may be first time our high tech GPS and satellite communications be challenged seriously.

10th anniversary of disabling Selective Availability (SA) of GPS signals

About ten years ago selective availability (SA) of GPS signals were disabled to make the super accurate technology open to everyone on earth rather than just the U.S. military. Thanks to that decision made in 2000 today we’re able to find tupperware containers in the woods (geocaching), get turn-by-turn driving directions, geotag our point and shoot photos, and a lot more.

We would like to take this moment to thank immense U.S. military budget for making GPS satellites possible and the Clinton administration for opening the signals for everyone on the planet.

Here you see some charts showing before and after SA removal.

SF transit system speed plot using GPS

Here’s a nice visualization of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency - aka Muni. It was plotted with data from NextBus which uses Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking satellites to provide accurate vehicle arrival/departure information.

  • Black < 7 mph
  • Red < 19 mph
  • Blue < 43 mph
  • Green > 43 mph


faux news scares people about GPS jammers recently ran an article about GPS jammers, warning everybody about its dangers, potential threats. They of course did not forget to mention terrorists, airplanes, and provided a couple of links on where you could purchase them.

Article says a GPS jammer that can fit in a shirt pocket can conceivably bring down an airplane. We’re going to go ahead and call BS on this one. To our knowledge no commercial airlines rely on GPS to figure out where they are or help them land, take off, etc (actually just started).

A more realistic use of a GPS jammer would be for a thief to use one of these to stop OnStar or potentially any other lo-jack system to figure his/her whereabouts.

In case you are wondering importing, owning, or using GPS jammers in the U.S. of A is illegal.

What are your thoughts on this? Should citizens be allowed to use ‘personal’ GPS jammers in their own vehicles for their own privacy? Go to our poll about GPS jammers and vote!

Garmin G3X

Garmin just announced that they would include Synthetic Vision in their G3X. We’re not really sure what the heck Synthetic Vision does or what this G3X glass cockpit is capable of but it really sets Garmin apart from other names like TomTom, Mio, etc.

Aviation products has been a part of Garmin’s lineup since the 90’s and brings in a good chunk of their income. And do not forget their marine GPS units as well. In addition they have a really wide range of road GPS navigation units, offer one of the best solutions for athletes (even golfers), great handhelds for those who like outdoors, and, and, there’s that nuvifone.

We always give them a hard time for being kind of expensive with their nuvi’s or zumo’s but it is not easy being a company that offers products that cost between $100 to $10000.

Keep up the good work guys. I hope you sell a lot of these G3X things.

Southwest Airlines start GPS guided landings

GPS technology has been around for a looong time but it wasn’t being utilized in commercial airlines as a guide up until now. Southwest Airlines has recently changed that by starting satellite assisted runway approaches. This has been in the making for a long time now and is part of a bigger project called NextGen that aims to modernize the airline industry.

This simple switch is going to cost the airlines close to $200 millions however it can be recouped by fuel savings GPS technology may provide.

What happens with regular ground based radar navigation aid is that the approach to a landing strip is staircase style where at each step you have to ask for clearance and throttle back the engine which wastes fuel. GPS guided navigation for landings will allow for direct approaches.

The satellite-assisted landings will let pilots descend in a much straighter line, without having to throttle back, saving fuel, cutting noise and reducing environmental impacts.

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the original GPS navigation patent

It was about 40 years ago when Roger L. Easton applied to USPTO to get a patent for “Navigation System Using Satellites and Passive Ranging Tecniques”.

The abstract was this:

A navigation system wherein the navigator’s location is obtained by determining the navigator’s distance (or range) from one or more satellites of known location. Each satellite transmits multifrequency signals that are derived from a stable oscillator which is phase synchronized with the navigator’s equipment that produces similar multifrequency signals. Phase comparison between the signals received from the satellites and the locally produced signals indicates both the distance between the navigator and the satellites and the navigator’s location. In determining his location, the presence of the navigator is not revealed since no interrogatory transmission by him is required.

If there’s a little bit of geek in you, you can check out the full patent here.

Just recently Roger L. Easton made it to The National Inventors Hall of Fame, taking his rightful place next to names like Edison, and Bell.

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navigadget now has a mobile theme

If you’re looking at this page from a popular mobile device you should already be seeing our new mobile theme. We just installed it earlier this week and would like your feedback on it.

It should load a lot faster since it doesn’t load images for the main page and it should look familiar since we went with the popular iPhone app look.

The screen capture to the right is from a myTouch 3G Android using drocap2 application.

You should still be able to leave comments to this post just like the regular theme. Come on you already text ~ 100 times a day… You can drop us a short line.

Homer using GPS navigation

Homer Simpson using a GPS navigation system…


Visualization of GPS tracks

Let’s look at something different for once. Visualization of GPS tracks. Enjoy the video:

A few people walked around with GPS trackers for a couple of days going about their business. Together they draw Amsterdam from the void.

The animation is done with Processing.

Read more about it here.

Anybody recognize the music? Shazam didn’t pick it up.