About The Map
From time to time, we get an email or other contact from someone who is either baffled or concerned by the map link on our site. The baffled ones aren't sure how the Internet knows where we are, and the concerned ones are worried that someone might be tracking our every move... Of course, some people would just like to know how it works. Here's the answer:
We connect to the internet using a two-way satellite system. This is the Hughes Direcway internet satellite system, which is widely available for home use with a fixed-mount dish. Our dish has the same reflector, transceiver, and electronics as the fixed model, but happens to be mounted on a motorized base that controls azimuth, elevation, and skew (tilt of the oblong reflector) by command from a PC inside the bus. This is the "Datastorm" system, made by MotoSat. In order for the PC software to "find" the satellite in the sky, it needs to know the position of the bus (lattitude, longitude, and altitude), the "heading" of the bus (which way it's pointed while parked), and how tilted the bus is. Accordingly, the motorized base contains a GPS receiver (for position), a magnetic compass (for heading, as the GPS is useless for this while parked), and tilt sensors, all of which report back to the PC software. It also has a temperature sensor for reasons I can't fathom.
Odyssey with her satellite dish deployed:
When we park the bus at our intended camping spot (or sometimes even when parked for lunch or shopping, if we want to get on the 'net), we fire up the PC and tell it to "find the satellite." If we have a clear view of the satellite in the sky (trees or buildings can preclude this) and we are inside the "footprint" of the satellite, the dish will "lock on" and, after a brief "handshake" with the Hughes network, we will be on the internet. Pretty cool, actually.
Once we are on-line, we have a program we can run on the PC which takes the lattitude and longitude coordinates from the built-in GPS, and uploads them to a web site maintained by the "Datastorm Users Group." This "group" is actually a loose-knit collection of users of Datastorm dishes, unaffiliated with Motosat, and the web site is actually maintained by a Datastorm afficionado in Arcata, CA (who, in real life, owns a pet supply store). The web site takes these coordinates and produces a map showing our location. Zooming the map out will reveal locations of other Datastorm users who have registered with the site and uploaded their positions.
What all this boils down to is this:
- The map only updates when we run the program.
- The position shown on the map is where we last updated it, not necessarily where we are in real time when you view it.
- Since the Datastorm can only be deployed while parked, the map can not track our progress, it can only display end points.
- If we are out of the satellite footprint, or we are blocked by trees, we can not update the map and it will remain on our last update point.
Click here for the map.
The dish folds flat against the roof for travel: