Archive for April, 2013

Boston tragedy and GPS coordinates

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2013 by bleiglass

The recent events in Boston and Watertown kept me glued to the News channel. If you want to be mean, call it voyeurism, though I consider it more a form of empathy with the innocent victims, coupled with the unexplainable urge to be present when public history is made. There are very few such moments in my life, Apollo 11, the birth of my son, Challenger and 911, moments which one will never forget where you were when it happened. I feel that Boston, as tragic as this event was for some, will most likely not get a permanent place in this short list.

In todays age of social media and transparency, every piece of information is archived and distributed, and most importantly, it can be cross referenced. With some keystrokes on your computer, you can be very close to actual events.

This thermal image was taken from a helicopter was released by police, showing the terrorist hiding inside a boat on private land in Watertown next to Boston




Interested in everything nautical, I entered the GPS coordinates in Google, more to see how accurate it is…


Watertown, a couple of miles west of Boston.



… and zooming in while switching to satellite view, there is the boat trailer during better days, not knowing what drama will unfold around him a few month later.



I am not saying I approve or disapprove this complete transparency, I am sitting on the fence here, but today we all should know and understand the massive change this electronic transparency represents. The clock can not be turned back.


And the live feeds you ask? They exist today via helicopter for local authorities and some TV stations, and more robust via drones or satellite for the more international and very secret stuff, though even today you can find atomic power stations in Iran and nuclear test sites in North Korea via Google Earth.

Maybe it just a question of time for a “Google Live Satellite Feed” or a “Google Live Streetview CCTV feed” to be released for public consumption.


Using GPS coordinates on your Garmin Zumo 660

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2013 by bleiglass

The riding season starts, and its time to refresh some GPS knowledge and how best to use your Garmi Zumo 660

Some time ago, I wrote a article about the different formats to express the exact location of a position on our globe. From traditional nautical to modern geotagging, its simple math, though hearing North and West some nostalgia vibrates in the background for the saltwater sailor in me.

You can read the full article here: Understanding the formats 

In a nutshell, I like to use the slightly simplified format, called Decimal Minutes, for several reasons. First, the traditional nautical format is long, with degrees, minutes and seconds, and the “modern” geotags are for me to many numbers in one row. I feel that “Decimal Minutes” can be communicated very efficiently, truncated into 3 sections with max 3 numbers, like : >North51< – >12point< – >314<. Even if your mobile reception is bad, you should easily understand that and note it down without errors.


Also, I like to know that I live 12 minutes (and a bit) north of the 51 degree. The “Decimal degrees” notation is for me a step to far away from tradition and the roots of navigation, and it does not sound very exciting and robotic that I live at 51.20523.

On our Zumo 660, all 3 formats (and many more) work, you can decide as default which one you want to use, all you have to do is being consistent and not mixing up the different formats, otherwise we may never meet again.

Lets have a quick look on how to enter GPS coordinates, its very easy in few steps.


Once you reach the entry screen, you will see the entry format you selected as default. Entry of  numbers is very easy, and to change from W to E, just use the up/down arrows, or simply advance with the forward arrow key.


Now that you enterd all coordinates, press DONE…


If you press GO, navigation will start, but wait: if you want to save your entry for future use, better “Save” it now, before starting to navigate.

Oh, and how to change the FORMAT default? Easy, when you are on the entry screen, press FORMAT, select the current FORMAT, and change it. This however needs to be done just once, for fun have a look how many formats there are. And do not touch Datum WGS 84, I have no idea what then happens…


I hope this helps clarifying some of the issues, and we find each other on our next rides.