back to article Worldwide GPS may die in 2010, say US gov

The global positioning system (GPS) operated by the US government could fail as early as next year. According to a report (PDF) by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent and nonpartisan agency charged with keeping track of government efficiency (or lack thereof), "It is uncertain whether the Air Force …

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No problem

The US is already going to have to buy access to its own space station from the Russians. When their troops need to make sure they precisely target the local infants school, they can buy access to GLONASS.

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@ Nexox Enigma

"It is always handy to be able to do some navigation with something that's definitely going to exist in the near future - Earth's magnetic field, for instance."

Until the next time it drops to zero and comes back with direction reversed.

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Coat

Chuck Norris Doesn't use GPS

because he's so tough he stands still and his destination comes to him.

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@charles manning

>GPS is used as the timing source for numerous applications including cell towers etc.

>

>No GPS means no cell phone calls.

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>Sure, you could in theory retrofit every single cell site with a v v v accurate clock, but that's not >going to be viable.

Umm , riiight. So care to explain how cellular systems worked before GPS came on the scene then?

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Paris Hilton

Who pays for it and who gains from it?

From my understanding the Americans run and maintain this system and the whole World uses it for free? Do the people who make the chips that allow the use of GPS pay any contribution towards the running of it, in the ame way a patent tax is applied for using a patent inside a chip/design!

Of course this isn't anything new, take for example the 2012 Olympic that benefit the whole country - people in the London are get the priveledge of paying a extra charge each month towards this yet get no extra level of access to the games above and beyond anybody else in the country. indeed on balance those in the London area end up paying more than the cost of a 1st class flight from anywere in europe and back and then some towards the games, so even geographicly they get handicapped. But they do get extra chances to get tickets, oh wait, no they dont.

Back to GPS. If its a World needed thing then those that use it, ie the World should pay for it. Otherwise its a bit unfair and we all know how small unfair things esculate. But hey we are all used to this and false econemies built up upon layer and layer of broker percentages. So only the middle men actualy make any money and so much that it hurts both directions.

I wouldn't be supprised if the American let it fail in places just to highlight oh yeah you get what you pay for.

There are many ways to cover this, but fairest and easiest to manage is at the level were a levey is placed upon the chips that enable this. Ok it will cost little more, well actualy it dosn;t cost more its just more fairly costed.

You do all realises that if France ran and managed the GPS system and were in this state, they would just dwitch it off for a day or two and get your attention directly instead of the indirect approach, gota respect them for that, no matter what you say about the French. That said can also respect that America aint pushing for cash and crying for it. But anyway you look at it, on balance is it fairly financed!!!

Paris - coz bottom line its a no brainer

Anon - because its the internet and I dont have MP expense insurance }->

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Happy

Trains

Southern Railway uses GPS to open train doors. This is serious. They may have to bring back slam door trains.

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@@charles manning

I was wondering that myself -- are there really applications where NTP over copper or radio signal from Rugby aren't accurate enough?

Because if there are it is yet more proof that GPS and it's repercussions are enabling technologies and not just something that replaces maps -- and if not then why the hell is anyone bothering to use GPS for timekeeping?

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@ Trains

> They may have to bring back slam door trains.

and buffet cars. Wahay!

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@Cameron Colley

ntp from rugby no longer exists, they pulled down the last of the big masts 2 years ago, from memory its now transmitted from germany

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@Jess Baughan

They merely moved the transmitter to Cumbria, and the 'Rugby' clock is live and well. Germany has its own version. The Rugby clock's callsign is still MSF I think. Both MSF and GPS are tied to atomic clocks.

GPS doesn't do leap seconds very well, but MSF does them just fine. It's a bit odd to see a digital clock that uses MSF say 00:59:60...

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@@@Charles Manning

The commenter saying that one SV is OK for timing if you know where you are in 3D space is correct. However to get the timing exactly right requires algorithms that communicate with multiple SVs. It also needs the ground stations.

GPS timing is way more accurate than anything you can get with rugby or ntp over IP though a dedicated wire with no repeaters etc could probably substitute. Running that out to every tower is just not practical. GPS timing is also very cheap with receivers designed for timing applications costing way less than running 50m of cable.

Precise timing is also used to keep the intertubes flowing

These applications don't just use GPS to keep your wall clock up to date. They use it as a precise timing source for receiving and transmitting and keeping the signal timing between cell towers etc synchronized.

nanosecond stuff.

Rugby doesn't work for these because propagation through the atmosphere is too variable over any reasonable distance.

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@Jon

"For truely accurate time you will need to know your position (and i'm not talking about time zones). To work out the EXACT time where you are you must work out how long it took the signal to reach you. You do that by knowing exactly where you are. Yes this could be stored once when the tower is created, but to do this acuratly enough you would probably need to use a GPS based method to site the mast anyway"

No argument here. this is part of the iterative calculations involved in getting a GPS fix.

However I'm not sure some of those problems apply when the time source is in a fixed location relative to the tower. Doppler shifts and corrections for relativistic effects can be left out. One example would be survey cameras developed in Switzerland which use highly accurate inclinometers to image the sky exactly vertical ( and I think they can work in daylight). From them its a case of using the exact value for the speed of light to calculate a correction at about 3.333ns/m. . This could, in principle, get to 1 m accuracy given a well surveyed (and they should be) site for the time code transmission, coupled with very good pointing.

Once in place only earthquakes should move it enough to make re-calibration necessary.

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Paris Hilton

Why GPS Was Invented In The First Place !

Forget your military and other applications. There are 2 basic factors behind the invention and development of GPS. Firstly your wife does not have to navigate, so ending the inevitable row that leads to divorce ! Secondly the later generation of navigation units continuously show the estimated time of arrival, which the kids can clearly see from the back of the car, so ending the 'are we nearly there yet ?' question that is the cause of many a family dispute. It can therefore be argued that far from being a tactical military system to aid targetted destruction, GPS is actually a PEACEKEEPING system for the reasons previously given.

Now, I can read an Ordnance Survey map and follow a compass bearing at night over open terrain with the best of 'em. I learnt how to do this thanks to the Scouts, in a time when kids out at 3am using map and compass was still considered OK. Hell yes you got lost, but you also learnt how to work out where you were, the old fashioned way. And you had some fun at the same time !

The old fashioned ways will always be there to fall back on, and we need to maintain these skills. One common factor with old and new methods of navigation is the need for accuate maps, be it for helping you work out where you are, or how to get to where you want.

I like GPS, and hope it's available (or an equivalent system) for many years to come. It is just so useful. My reasons for liking it are many, to list but a few :-

1) end of arguments with wife over navigation. Worth its weight in gold !!!!!!

2) end of 'are we nearly there yet ?' question from the kids. Again worth its weight in gold !!!

3) recording my bike rides. Speed and altitude profiles, so thats why my legs were killing me about 1/3 of the way up that hill ! Good record of training and improvement.

4) recording my dinghy sailing, particularly on the sea. If a sea mist comes in you can't see anything on the shore and the wind can change direction so you can't use that as a reference. I have a tactical compass (for racing) and combine that with local knowledge to continue sailing whilst not having shore landmarks to use for navigation. GPS just peforms the task of backup navigation system for me in these circumstances. It just verifies that my sailing on a given bearing is taking me where I think I'm going. The compass and local knowledge are the primary navigation as these are the natural way anyone sails a dinghy.

5) in-car navigation GPS often takes you down roads you would not normally choose if you were using a map or road atlas. If you end up stuck in a river, it's 'not good :-)', but if you end up seeing some wonderful countryside BONUS !

For reasons 1 and 2 above, I would be quite happy to pay a subscription fee for the use of GPS or a device access fee, and as you see, it gives me other benefits.

Long live GPS, but I *CAN* live without it.

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I wonder...

...how much the powers that be have bunged this chap to say this...

I can almost hear the EU reaching for their begging bowls to fund their own (now essential) GPS system...

Forgive me for being so suspicious, but we're talking about politicians here!

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Alien

finally

does this mean that crackheads won't be stealing GPS from my car anymore?

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Dead Vulture

Way down south in New Zealand

A few years ago one of our Air Force Hercules left Antarctica to come back home , and their space age electronic navigation systems went u/s.

The crew had to drag out a Sextant (fortunately carried onboard) .Also fortunately could remember how to navigate the old way.

It is a long way from Antarctica to New Zealand and it wouldn't take much of an error to miss the place, and find only great expanse of ocean.

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Happy

Good!

Perhaps all the arse'oles who rely on their GPS and when it tells them to do something they just do it without even a look to see if anything/anyone else is in the way will reaquire some visual skills and stop running others off the road!

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Go

I miss my GPS

I have an old Magellan, it finally gave up about a year ago. Very handy device.

I'm a guy, and I'm not afraid to use a GPS. Don't know what that has to do with anything.

Yes, I know how to read a map. Used to buy a Thomas Guide every year when I was living in S. California in the '80s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Guide I even once helped a GF learn how to read maps.

I've been using Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, and Mapquest for years. They're great, but they're not perfect either.

I'll tell you what, though. For me it's comforting to have the GPS there. A Google printout may not help much if you take a wrong turn. Complex intersections can be difficult to describe properly and easy to misunderstand. Whoops! That's a one-way street, going the wrong way. And I find cities particularly difficult; most have wild combinations of odd intersections, one-way streets, bizarre traffic patterns, and lots of distractions all rolled into one. I remember one particularly annoying trip into Philadelphia to see a headhunter -- after four attempts I never found the address, and then on my way out I made a wrong turn and ended up in New Jersey. Which I didn't have any maps for at the time, not having expected to go there. *sigh*

Having a GPS to help guide me out of mistakes, bad data, unexpected road closings, and so on makes city driving a lot more comfortable for me.

I have yet to drive into anybody's yard, into any lakes, off any cliffs or over the Atlantic to end up in Surrey because I trusted the GPS and didn't pay attention. I also have enough smarts to stop texting at intersections and look around before crossing.

YMMV, but the GPS is just a tool just like any other. Use it intelligently and it will be beneficial. Use it badly and you will have problems.

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Lost in cyberspace

It would seem that many of you posting on here as super navigators seem to have lost your way in cyberspace. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the Register a site for Tecky geeks and gadget fans. If you eschew all gadgetry in favour of sandals, lentils and old fashioned pen and paper, what the hell are you doing reading this... get out in the country and hug some trees.

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@baza

"Good old GSM, which is found quite extensively worldwide, even the US, will be juuuuuust fine! Truly GSM is the work of geniuses."

Invented by the French (Groupe Special Mobile).

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Linux

What if...

I don't have an iPhone, does this mean that the GPS features will continue to work for me?

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Paris Hilton

@ DutchOven

I remember one time, must have been nearly twenty years ago now, I was young (< 10), and my family was waiting between a wedding and the reception. To keep me amused, my mother was asking how to get from point A to point B (something I seem to recall her doing not infrequently, for the same reason). Apparently, this really impressed the person at the next table over - to be fair, that was probably more to do with my age at the time rather than the lack of GPS or other navigational aid.

Paris, because she can keep me amused any day.

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