Wednesday, August 3, 2011

'Spot' Made Easy!

One of the main drawing points of the whole Gyrox experience that keeps people glued to their computer screens when Norman is flying has to be the ‘Spot’ Tracker. This ingenious piece of modern technology allows everyone around the world to keep track in real time of where Norman is as the route he flies is tracked on a map. We have always tried to make the ‘Spot’ page one of the most publicised links on our various media formats, with the intention that this would allow the general public to feel part of the journey.

But, as is usual with modern technology, not everything can seem that straight forward and we do get regular queries about the operation of the ‘Spot’ tracker website. Because of this we have decided to do a ‘Beginners Guide’ to Spot in the hope that this will enable everyone to make the most out of their own ‘Spot’ experience.
So, let’s look at the basic page.  It is a map and on that map is marked the track of Norman’s flight. Each numbered arrow marks an update to the route being tracked. This can be as often as 5 minutes or as long as an hour or more, with 10 minutes being the average. The length of each track between each update marker can be of any length as it depends on the time between updates, the speed of the aircraft and whether there were any other maneuvers that had to be taken which weren’t seen by the tracker.
This does mean that between each update point the track is a straight line. Therefore it doesn’t show any deviations to the course that may have happened mid-way between update points. Sometimes this will show that Norman has flew through a mountain or building when in reality he flew around the obstacle but this detour wasn’t shown as it happened between updates.
If you have opened ‘Spot’ for the first time you will see a basic ‘street’ map of an area of the globe where Norman is now. As illustrated, you can see the track Norman has taken through the islands of Japan. This may seem a bit basic when showing the area and we will explain how to make this a more interactive and visual experience in a bit. For now, please note the ‘button’ near the top left of the screen (marked by a big yellow arrow). This button, with two tiny arrows, can be clicked to open up or close a side pane.
With the side pane opened you get a full log of the journey so far, showing the last 50 updates or the last seven days tracks, depending on which is suitable.

The side pane log has a number of columns that can be used to inform you of what Norman has been doing.  The first column on the left has a small box with a cross in it. Click the cross and the row opens up for that update and shows the detailed information just for that posting, including Time, latitude and longitude. Clicking the minus sign will close the row back to normal.
The second column shows the time since the last update and includes the date and time in relation to your locality. (Date only appears if update is longer than 24 hours previous)
The third column gives the CAA registration of the aircraft, in this case our own ‘Roxy’ – G-YROX. Of course, personal taste will decide whether you like the pane open or closed, but it does help to check it out to see how long since the last update was posted.  More from this pane to come a bit further on.
Of course, the main visual experience to be had is watching the track make its way across the map. But there is much more to the map than is first obvious.
If when you first open the ‘Spot’ page it will more than likely appear in ‘road map’ format, similar to the image above. This basic map is ideal for seeing the region, locale or whole continent as it will show the different countries and cities without too much detail getting in the way. But as you can see in the image below, there are 4 different formats to see the map in. The four yellow arrows point to the ‘buttons’ that are clickable and on clicking will change the format of the map.

The default is ‘Map’ and gives you a white map with roads, cities and boundaries marked clearly. The button marked ‘Satellite’ once clicked will give you a Google earth image which clearly shows buildings, forests, shorelines, airports and everything else you would expect from a satellite image. What it doesn’t show are any place names or road markings. But if you want to see an unhindered view of the land then is probably the best choice for you.
Possibly the best choice of all is the ‘Hybrid’ format. This shows a full Google Earth image but has all place names and other informative details overlaid. Ideal for checking where the airports are or seeing what interesting places Norman is flying over, the Hybrid option is ideal for a much more involved viewing session, although it can get busy with information the more you zoom in.

One of the main queries we get during a flight is ‘the tracker hasn’t updated for 30 minutes, is there a problem with Norman or is it my tracker?’
Thankfully, we never have to say that it is a problem with Norman, and it may just be that the updates have been updating slowly. But there is a tool on the website that can be used to ‘hurry things up’.
The yellow arrows point to two buttons on the left hand pane. When either is clicked this will ‘refresh’ the track updates and you will see the last update at the top of the left-hand pane and also any new movement of the track in the map pane. If this doesn’t work and there is no update then it probably means that the tracker hasn’t updated since the last time shown. This could be because of a number of reasons that have been discussed elsewhere on this blog.

As with other online maps, like Google Earth, it is possible to zoom in or out to get a closer or wider view of the area where the action is taking place. This is easily achieved by using the zoom controls on the left of the map pane, as shown by the yellow arrows on the image.
This control consists of a calibrated slider that can be moved up and down using your mouse. When your cursor is placed over the slider control it will change into a hand and when left clicked will enable it to move the slider up or down. At each end of the slider is a box with a + or a – sign. Clicking either of these will also zoom in or out, one gradation at a time. You can also click any of the gradations on the slider bar and the map will zoom to that level. It is best to play around with this tool to get used to the different levels of zoom.
As can be seen by the image, you can zoom right in to see individual buildings and vehicles, but you may get a screen saying that ‘There is no detail available at this zoom level’. This will mainly happen in desolate areas with no details, for instance, over the sea, deserts, forests and tundra. If this happens then you have zoomed in too far and all you need to do is zoom out, one gradation at a time, until the details reappear.
Back to the left hand panel and a little bit extra about the options available.
The yellow arrows show a couple of controls that are not readily identifiable as such. Between each column title is a line. This line, when you place your cursor over it turns into a double arrow icon which can be left clicked and held down to enable you to move the line in either direction, opening up that column to see more of the details or vice versa.
You will notice that in the ‘Time’ column there is a small arrow, in this case pointing down. If you click this then it will sort the ‘times’ either by the most recent downwards or the oldest update downwards to the most recent. Clicking on a ‘time’ update will take you to that position on the map. For instance, if you clicked to see the next to oldest update then the map would move to show you where that update was posted.
At the side of each column title is a little box which when clicked will bring up a dropdown menu with a number of other options.
Finally, a few tips that may be of use to you during your ‘Spot’ experience.
·         Your cursor will appear as a hand on the map pane and if you left click and hold then the map can be ‘grabbed’ and moved around easily.
·         ‘Spot’ is a portable device and as such can sometimes be carried by Norman when he is not flying. So please don’t worry if it looks as though Norman has flown into Temple or has parked ‘Roxy’ in a hotel, it’s just that Norman has carried the transmitter with him on his land travels.
·         The ‘Spot’ system is a satellite based application and therefore doesn’t have 100% coverage around the globe. To check whether Norman is in a good coverage area please check out the ‘coverage’ page by clicking here.
·         There are other ways to enjoy ‘Spot’ and in fact we may not have discovered everything it can do yet but if we find some new things we will let you know
Norman wearing the bright orange 'Spot' transmitter on his belt during a walkabout at the Giza Pyramids. (Photo courtesy of Eddie Gold)
Hopefully, this blog post has been informative and of assistance to you and if it has helped you to enjoy your viewing experience and also has answered some of your queries, then we can feel happy knowing that you too are seeing the wonderful adventure to the full as we are doing.
The Gyrox Team
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(Unless otherwise credited, all images on this blog are the property of GyroxGoesGlobal and may be used with prior permissionfrom
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1 comment:

  1. Spot on ! Very good info and well worth watching Norman's progress on each leg of the circumnavigation. Its compelling viewing for sure. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck,... Paul