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 Post subject: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: May 23rd, 2011, 5:21 pm 
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Joined: August 29th, 2006, 7:57 pm
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Location: Toronto
My Spot Connect arrived from gpscity.ca in Calgary a couple of days ago and I thought I’d share some initial impressions and try to answer any questions curious and interested fellow-paddlers might have. I got the Spot for this summer’s Wabakimi canoe trip and this October’s hiking/climbing trip in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real.

What does it do?

The Spot Connect is meant for those off-the grid adventures where cellphone coverage has been left far behind. It has all of the features of a Spot GPS Messenger but can be paired with a smartphone running Apple iOS or Android iOS . If you are not familiar with the Spot GPS Messenger click on this link- http://www.findmespot.ca/en/index.php?cid=102

The Spot Connect info page http://www.findmespot.ca/en/index.php?cid=116 lists the smartphones which are compatible - my iPod Touch 4G makes it. (Right now Blackberry and Windows smartphones are out of luck.)

Compatibility:

• Apple iOS:
Made for iPod touch® (2nd, 3rd and 4th
generation), iPhone® 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G*

• Apple iOS: ...This is I am quite sure a typo and
should read Android iOS
Platform 2.0 or later*

Once you have have installed the appropriate Spot Connect app and paired your smartphone via bluetooth with the Sport Connect and , you can now use your smartphone keyboard to type and send customizable messages of up to 41 characters from wherever you happen to be. This is, of course, on top of all the other features available to the Spot GPS Messenger.


How much does all this cost?

1. the initial cost of a smartphone that does Apple iOS
or Android 2.0 or +

2. the Spot Connect itself - $180. (including tax)

3. the Basic Service Plan- $100. a year (auto renewed!)

4. extras

I added the Track Progress feature for $50 a year

and the Type and Send Messages- 100 messages
for $30.

So, all told, it comes out to $360. for a year which may seem like an extravagance until that one instance when you really need it. Next year the cost comes down to $180. as I will only need to renew (or rather, forget to cancel!) the service package.

Some additional costs to consider- extra batteries if you are out there for a while. I plan on taking 3 extra sets. Also, I bought an external 5000 mAh lithium battery (google ‘Richard Solo’) for my iPod Touch (930 mAh) which should provide me with five recharges for the iPod in the field. I’ll find out in the next few weeks if it will actually recharge my ipod that often.

Yesterday I did a bit of cycling along the Lake Ontario shore from the Beaches area of Toronto west to Port Credit, mostly via Lakeshore Blvd. Before I left I ducktaped the Sport Connect to my handlebar. Then I turned on the Track Progress feature and set off. This feature allows others to follow your progress on-line in almost real time by making use of a Spot-related web site where the way points are posted every ten minutes while the feature is enabled. The Spot web site describes it like this

http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=111

Check out here to see the results of my bike trip-

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/face ... RzGML07Isu

My first test with the Spot was good but not perfect (novice user, natch!) The way points do not start or end where they should- the tracking only started maybe 15 minutes into the ride and the end point was not recorded, only the point less than 10 minutes from the end. The stretch across Humber Bay sure looks funny; maybe tracking a canoe moving at one quarter the speed of the bike will eliminate such oddities. When I got to the turn-around point at Port Credit Bridge I used the “type and send” feature to send a customized email message back home; it arrived almost instantly.

All in all, I am impressed with my new techno toy. You can look at the Spot Connect from different angles: safety and security, peace of mind of those at home knowing all is well thanks to messages created in the field, and live-time progress tracking... I think it was a good investment and look forward to putting it to use in as many off-the-grid adventures as I have the time to get to. Maybe in ten years even our boreal forest will have cell phone coverage and the Spot Connect’s GPS capabilities won’t be needed. Until then- my Spot will do the job.

The following link is the pdf file of the Spot Connect manual- http://faq.findmespot.com/index.php?act ... &data=1297

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Last edited by true_north on May 24th, 2011, 6:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: May 23rd, 2011, 6:56 pm 
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Joined: June 20th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 2803
Location: Toronto, Ontario Canada
Just a comment on battery life (based on the original SPOT).

My first set of Lithium AA (Eveready Ultimate) lasted for a very long time with at least 60 days of 6 - 8 hours in tracking mode.

The second set were Eveready Advanced (the cheaper ones), they lasted almost as long but not quite.

Battery use for this device seems to be a non-issue.

Not sure if it applies to the newer models but when you get the red indicator of a low battery you have a couple of weeks at least before they actually go dead.

Not suggesting you travel without a spare set of course.

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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: May 23rd, 2011, 8:19 pm 
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Joined: October 24th, 2007, 1:52 pm
Posts: 516
Location: Beaumont, AB
My experience with battery life for my SPOT is similar to that of recped.

With respect to tracking mode, my experience is that even though the SPOT manual says a position is being sent every ten minutes when in this mode, it is typical (for my device) for the tracks that I view to have positions received on-line about once per hour. Either the frequency of tracking signals being sent out varies from what is stated in the manual, or only a few of the sent signals are being recieved.

There is also some variability in positions being sent out by the SPOT. Several times I have left the SPOT on overnight while in tracking mode. Even though the actual device does not move, there is always a pretty significant scatter in the positions plotted online. My experience is that on-average, the positions are spot-on (excuse the pun). However, some of the positions have been out by several hundred metres or more.

regards
dave

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"Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing" - Henry David Thoreau


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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: May 23rd, 2011, 8:51 pm 
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Joined: August 29th, 2006, 7:57 pm
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Location: Toronto
recped and ice-breaker, my fear of dead batteries got the better of me! The Spot web site notes that a set of batteries in Track Progress mode should last 4.5 days. I am assuming that is 4.5 x 24 hours- so if we were to leave the Spot Connect on for 9 hours each day there would be enough juice in one set of batteries to Track Progress for a 12-day canoe trip. Another fresh set would more than cover the rest of our usage. As it is, my Sony camera uses the same batteries so they can do double duty if necessary.

see here for Spot info on battery life-
http://faq.findmespot.com/index.php?act ... &data=1330

Ice-breaker, re: the tracking mode, I was kinda skeptical about the 10 minute gap between signals being sent. There is no way I cycled all around Humber Bay in 10 minutes as waypoints 2 and 3 suggest. Maybe it all comes down to where those Globalstar satellites are when you're on the move. Getting multiple readings for the same point does seem a bit odd for sure!

I am glad to have some time to play with it and understand its quirks before I really want to use it out there.

If you have one, are you overall happy with it?

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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: May 24th, 2011, 12:01 am 
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Location: Toronto, Ontario Canada
Quote:
If you have one, are you overall happy with it?


Yes! I keep mine in the pocket of my PFD, I don't doubt that it's sending out a signal every 10 minutes but they don't all go through. Unlike the OK message which is sent three times the tracking messages are sent only once. If your unit fails it's connection at the moment of sending then you will get a gap. This could be something as simple as a thick cloud passing or perhaps wearing a canoe as a hat! I notice that when I have it on the dashboard of my car it rarely misses.


It's rarely a mistake to have a few extra batteries and the lithium are so much lighter than NiMh I normally use.

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"What else could I do? I had no trade so I became a peddler" - Lazarus Greenberg 1915


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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: July 18th, 2011, 11:50 pm 
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Joined: March 28th, 2002, 7:00 pm
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Location: Etobicoke, Ontario Canada
Comment on the battery life: 3 AAA in SPOT-2 will have about 30% shorter life than 2 AA batteries in the original SPOT-1. One of the reasons is that SPOT-2 in tracking mode sends current track + 2 previous tracks. This enhances the likelihood of each track message going out, but drains extra juice. Still, the battery life in SPOT is formidable. I rent them anywhere in North America year round and typically change the battery three time a year. Buy Ultimate, it's worth it. Buy them in bulk, too. The great thing about lithium batteries is their long shelf life. I mean really long.

Comment on SPOT-2: it doesn't float, unlike SPOT-1. Think many people don't realize that. You need a floatation case for SPOT-2 when taking it for a swim.

Comment on Connect: Not the best solution for everyone. SPOT-2 is hands down the best model for mitigating risk, as your back up to sat phone. It's awesome for tracking long trips as well. Connect is better suited for users who are heavily into social media and need to post frequent updates during long trips. This, of course, because you can send messages at will. Otherwise, you depend on one more gadget (your phone) to work and be juiced up. Good thing Connect has 911 button.

Question for you: many of my friends and paddling acquaintances go on extended, predominantly Northern, canoe and rafting trips. Many carry SPOTs. Some of you are among them. I’m usually left with a bunch of SPOT Shared page urls that I try to save as favorites but with mixed success. I lose them frequently, or can’t be bothered to look them up.

So I thought wouldn’t it be nice if, while sipping morning coffee in my armchair, I could open 1 web page and see where everybody is at the same time? I’ll be a super-charged armchair traveler! Probably wouldn’t get any work done.

There's the other side as well. Some of us go extended trips to get away from it all, family and friends included. Last thing we may want is for people to know where we are. Heck, I sometimes don’t want to know where I am myself.

Back to the original idea – I’m asking for you feedback. Would you consider such a page useful?

http://www.avantura.ca/tracking-share-spot.html

It’s a proto-type. Work in progress. Aleks


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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: July 19th, 2011, 12:30 pm 
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Joined: June 5th, 2003, 2:50 pm
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Location: Toronto
True north.. I recognize you were only "testing" your spot via bicycle...but when cycling you have to consider map my ride http://www.mapmyride.com/ which comes with a free iphone app. Its incredibly accurate and you can also share your ride with friends. Unfortunately it only works with cell towers so we are out of luck in the great un-celled north.


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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: July 19th, 2011, 3:28 pm 
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Location: Toronto
Aleksg- thanks for the insightful comparison of the different Spot Messengers and the Spot Connect. I'll agree with the drawback of the Spot Connect-i.e. needing to bring along an iPhone or iPod Touch and battery backup for yet another gadget! Your info about the one page on-line where trippers can post their adventures is useful. I already set up a link at the site for an upcoming Wabakimi canoe trip. This is where I get to see how the SPOT Connect really works- i.e. keeps the folks back home up to date on where the canoe is. Given the fire situation north of Wabakimi right now, that is not such a bad thing!

Gunnelbob- how you doing? I actually downloaded that app onto my iPod Touch a few months ago only to realize that it requires GPS to work and the iPod does not have GPS! Too bad because the app makes the iPhone (and Android phones, etc.) that much more of a useful tool, given all the things it can be made to do. BTW- my brother and I got a spot on the Don River paddle that first Sunday in May. I was looking for you but didn't see anyone who looked like your pic. I hope you paddled down too- it was raining but it was still awesome. NW Ont could use some of that rain now.

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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: August 7th, 2011, 3:06 pm 
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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
recped wrote:
Yes! I keep mine in the pocket of my PFD, I don't doubt that it's sending out a signal every 10 minutes but they don't all go through. Unlike the OK message which is sent three times the tracking messages are sent only once. If your unit fails it's connection at the moment of sending then you will get a gap. This could be something as simple as a thick cloud passing or perhaps wearing a canoe as a hat! I notice that when I have it on the dashboard of my car it rarely misses.


Hi RecPed,

It's all about the position of the SPOT, I think (i.e. what my tests with SPOT showed). I have SPOT almost always enclosed in a small pelican case. It doesn't make any difference on the result whether case is open or close. What does make a BIG difference, though, it the position of it. If you put it lying down, face up, you get almost always good result. If you put it sideways or even upside down, it doesn't work very well. That's why it works so well from your car's dashboard.

That's just my experience.


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 Post subject: Re: Spot Connect- Using it for the first time
PostPosted: August 8th, 2011, 2:46 pm 
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Joined: October 27th, 2006, 5:51 am
Posts: 2688
Location: Montreal
I'm testing my new Spot Mesenger while on vacation in Kenora Ontario. We go out for 20k kayaking day trips from my sister's cottage 5 km south of Kenora and run tracking. Additionally, I send an OK signal every couple of hours and when we get home I check out the results and so far they are impeccable.

2 days ago we decided we didn't want to do an out and back trip so we pre-arranged with my sister that we would send a "come get us" message around 4pm. It worked flawlessly and as we loaded the kayaks into her big Lund she was still receiving the redundant e-mails on her iPad. The location was pin-point accurate.

Very cool device. Performs as advertised in my case.


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