back to article Why are sat-nav walking directions always so hopeless?

I stumble on a large root. At least that's what I think it is. For all I know, it could be a low fence, a rotting corpse or a very hardy badger. Some dodgy software has led me here, maybe some even dodgier software is waiting to mug me behind the next tree. It's past 10pm, the moon's just ducked behind clouds and I can't see a …

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  1. Vinyl-Junkie

    As you might expect...

    ...the Ordnance Survey app is excellent for walking in the UK.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: As you might expect...

      The Ordnance Survey map is even better.

      Or equivalent if you in Johnny Foreigner land, which I suppose I'm in, though you can get a good cuppa tea here.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        Re: As you might expect...

        The annual subscription to the OS app (which includes both Landranger and Explorer maps) is about the cost of two printed OS maps (which you always need for anywhere you are visiting as you can guarantee that it will be on the boundary of two maps!). You can download as much of the map as you wish to your device, so you are not reliant on having a data signal, and you can use the credentials you create your subscription with to log into the OS website, where you can print off as many parts of the map as you like, if you wish to have a printed version with you while you walk.

        Unless someone turns off both GPS and the phone system it will always be able to triangulate you and so it is impossible to get truly lost. It will also track your activity if you wish it to so you can see how far you have walked (including vertically, it has the best terrain height information of any mapping app I've used). You can plot routes in advance and then follow them without either ruining your map or discovering halfway around your walk that the pencil you used to mark it has rubbed off.

        It also includes an augmented reality function where holding your phone up to the view will tell you precisely what you are looking at.

        This is one area where new tech really does beat the old tech hands down.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

          Re: As you might expect...

          Love Ordnance Survey maps! However, living in the Netherlands it doesn't quite make sense to get the app, although I am tempted to get it when next we go on holidays to the UK.

          Regarding tea: It is possible to get good tea at my work, but only because I make it myself from ACTUALLY BOILING WATER and REAL BLACK TEA (are you listening, catering staff? No? Thought not). As my (German) colleague who also likes a proper cuppa always says: "The problem with the Dutch is that they always make tea of boiled water". He may be right. The water may actually have boiled in the distant past (and don't get me started on the difficulties of getting actual tea-flavoured tea).

          1. Russell Chapman Esq.

            Re: As you might expect...

            I haven't lived in the UK for a long time now. Always bring back a box of Yorkshire Gold Tea when I visit family. If I want a cup of tea in a bar. I take my own teabag and ask them to put it in the cup and use the hot water from the espresso machine to fill it. They look at you a bit odd but it works

            1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: As you might expect...

              Crikey, I would need to be back in the UK extremely frequently for a single box (evn the big ones) to sffice for long...

            2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: As you might expect...

              Yorkshire Tea is plentiful & cheap in London Drugs (Canadaland).

              My disgust for Red Rose tea has now become a good humoured (several times a day) coment at work.

            3. Tim 11

              Re: As you might expect...

              In spain recently I asked for "te negro con leche" which I understand to be the normal way to request the closest approximation they have to a proper cup of tea.

              A couple of minutes later, a teapot appeared, accompanied by an empty cup but apparently no milk. I thought I'd give it a stir before asking for the milk but when I opened the lid, I found the contents of the teapot was a teabag and hot milk - no water at all

          2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: As you might expect...

            "and don't get me started on the difficulties of getting actual tea-flavoured tea"

            I'm lucky to often hang out with anglophile dutchies, so they will have earl or lady grey. And the good stuff too.

            I also drink it black, which helps with the furuner tea :)

            They still drink it too weak :)

            They way I'd make tea for me and my ex was:

            1.Put the teabag in her cup,

            2. Fill with boiling water

            3. Wait for a five count

            4. Take tea bag out, put it in my cup

            5. Fill my cup with boiling water

            6. Wait until I am unable to get a spoon into the cup.

            Then again, even Dutch cafe coffee is, quite frankly, shit. The only OK coffee I find is in coffeeshops (the smokey kind) since it's usually only a euro a time.

            Luckily I'm friends with Syrians and Turks. Amazing coffee, although being awake for the next 12 hours can be a bit of a pain.

            1. Mike Pellatt

              Re: As you might expect...

              Earl or lady grey singles them out as anglophiles ?? WTF ??

              Those are PonceyTeas, incapable of producing Proper Builders Tea. And they taste all, well, flowery.

              1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

                Re: As you might expect...

                "Earl or lady grey singles them out as anglophiles ?? WTF ??"

                *shrug* it's what the anglophile dutch I know drink. It's what I drink. I quite like flowery builders tea :) But I also take it black or with lemon (or brandy).

                I'll note that my anglophile generally have had more "high teas" in the last year than I've had in my lifetime, the vision of what is british versus what brits actually do can vary quite a bit.

                Getting dutch people to try builder tea is pretty much them getting us to try drop. They aren't sure it's not some elaborate practical joke.

            2. macjules Silver badge

              Re: As you might expect...

              One day I will move abroad and open a tearoom specifically so that when someone orders an espresso, I can pour them a cup of hot water and, perhaps a minute later, pass them a handful of coffee beans. See how they like it, the bastards.

              Move to San José. They already do that there. It is called 'Designer Coffee'

          3. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

            Re: As you might expect...

            "The problem with the Dutch is that they always make tea of boiled water"

            Your Dutch colleague is quite right; you shouldn't use boiling water on some tea because it will scald the leaves and ruin the flavour.

            "The best temperature for brewing tea depends on its type. Teas that have little or no oxidation period, such as a green or white tea, are best brewed at lower temperatures between 60 °C and 85 °C (140-185 °F), while teas with longer oxidation periods should be brewed at higher temperatures around 100 °C (212 °F).[49] The higher temperatures are required to extract the large, complex, flavorful phenolic molecules found in fermented tea, although boiling the water reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water."

            source: newbielink:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea

        2. Fred Dibnah
          Coat

          Re: As you might expect...

          "Unless someone turns off both GPS and the phone system it will always be able to triangulate you and so it is impossible to get truly lost."

          There is one other scenario, in which your phone's battery runs out. Which is why taking a paper map & a compass as backup is sound advice.

          BTW don't get me started* on how shit google maps and their alternatives are. White roads with grey edges on a pale grey background doesn't make for readable mapping, especially on a phone in broad daylight. OS is the gold standard to which all other maps should aspire.

          * Looks like I did that myself. I'll get me gore-tex jacket.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: As you might expect...

        "though you can get a good cuppa tea here"

        My early experience of tea in rural Ireland was that it was boiled for several hours before serving.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: As you might expect...

          My father used to tell a story of going into his brother's kitchen, to find the teapot on the gas to boil. When he lifted the lid off, the flames from the gas were coming through the hole burnt in the bottom of the pot.

          1. Shooter
            Unhappy

            Re: As you might expect... @ Phil O'Sophical

            Had a similar experience a few years back...

            Got home late one evening and set the kettle on the ceramic-top stove. Sat down to wait for it to boil, and promptly nodded off for about an hour.

            Woke up to a peculiar smell in the air and tracked it down to the stove, where the (non-whistling) kettle had boiled dry and welded itself to the stove top!

          2. EarthCitizen

            Re: As you might expect...

            So his brother had dementia and forgot to take the teapot off the stove.... It happens. Doesn't make good tea though.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: As you might expect...

          'My early experience of tea in rural Ireland was that it was boiled for several hours before serving.'

          Indeed, my Mother's family has an Irish branch and if the tea wasn't like tar and didn't have a minimum of 3 heaped spoonfuls of sugar in it, it wasn't tea.

          This isn't limited to Ireland, the rest of the family are Scots, and apart from one 'genteel' family branch we all had tea boiled like tar. My earliest memory of tea was having a billy cup of a hot strong sweet black liquid lovingly brewed/stewed over a oil barrel brazier for 20 minutes or so on a building site my father and uncles were working on back in '68-69, ok, I was 4-5 years old (health and safety? hah! this was back in the good old days...).

          I find it hard to find a decent blended tea nowadays, Lyons Red Label was the most drinkable for years, but the taste has changed, probably a new blend which now doesn't work with my local water supply, so usually stick to Darjeeling.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: As you might expect...

            There's a version I've had in Israel which is a concentrated brew that is left in an urn and diluted to taste for drinking. First time I met this I got shouted at for drinking it neat. I hadn't realised :I'm from Manchester.

  2. TonyJ Silver badge

    Hahaha...

    I'd always wondered what our USAnian friends have against people with a love of walking.

    1. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: Hahaha...

      I think they're pathologically afraid of it in some areas. I had a friend who lived in Palos Verdes, south of LA, and she reckoned she'd call the police if she saw someone walking around the area, as "no-one walks here". I did walk down to the local mall a few times whilst staying there and got stopped twice by the police to ask what I was doing. As soon as I opened my mouth they realised I was just a crazy Brit who didn't know any better.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Hahaha...

        @Vinyl-Junkie

        Just remember...

        Nobody walks in L.A. ~ Missing Persons

      2. cray74

        Re: Hahaha...

        I did walk down to the local mall a few times whilst staying there and got stopped twice by the police to ask what I was doing.

        It's interesting how US history - short as it is - shapes things like walking. Manhattan is an emphatically pedestrian city with something approaching adequate mass transit. As a student, I had no trouble walking around the core of Atlanta, getting from campus to interesting malls or DragonCon on foot.

        On the other hand, cities that grew up after the arrival of the car are car-obsessed, like the suburbs of Californian metropolises. Orlando is particularly nasty because it set a lot of its core roads in the 1950s-1960s when air conditioning made Florida real estate attractive and Detroit told the US no one would walk anymore. But then its population exploded from about 100,000 to 2.3 million in 50 years thanks to the Mouse's arrival. The car-oriented road system is unfriendly to pedestrians to begin with but has had trouble growing to accommodate the population. Orlando has something like twice the national average rate of turning pedestrians and bicyclists into road pizza.

        1. Tikimon Silver badge
          Angel

          Re: Hahaha... - the times are changing!

          Know how every new tech widget is going to totally replace something else? That happened with cars in the US. Why walk when you can enjoy post-war affluence and drive? Suburban areas also spread out more than stacked-high cities, so destinations frankly moved out of walking range. A three-block city walk is nothing, but a five-mile walk down a highway is something else.

          Times are changing! Planners are building new with sidewalks again, nice broad ones. Sidewalks and paths are being retrofitted where they didn't exist. Walking paths and trails are proliferating, now that local governments have realized what a draw they are. Many of us will be stuck with a car or transit for a long commute. But more every day, we can walk our neighborhoods and to the local stores. Things do improve sometimes!

        2. david 12 Bronze badge

          Re: Hahaha... -- history and walking --

          Cities that were designed after the development of coummuter RAIL are difficult to walk it. It just turned out that a city designed with railways or street cars as the loss-leader for real-estate development, converts easily to one where take your own car to the city.

      3. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Hahaha...

        So the reason nobody walks is because nobody walks.

      4. jmch Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Hahaha...

        That's just how their cities are built. At the Florida office of an ex-company, there was a big food court just 200m away... but across a busy road with no way of crossing. No underpass, no overpass, not even a freaking zebra crossing, there was no way to access the road except by car unless you were feeling particularly suicidal.

        So everyone drove across in their car gigantic truck. The distance from the office to the office car park + food court car park to the food court was at least as much as the distance from the office to the food court.

        Utter madness!

        1. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: Hahaha...

          I was visiting Pheonix for work about 10 years back, and my colleagues and i were told by the hotel not to walk in the neighbourhood after dark or in the early morning. The reason - there were apparently 2 serial killers active in the area (competing for a high score apparently). This was confirmed as not a joke by our host company.

          Needless to say, we stuck to the bar for the evenings!

          1. yakbutterfly

            Re: Hahaha...

            I remember that - one of them moved out to my neighborhood, then turned out to be two people who snitched on each other when they were collared. Good times.

      5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hahaha...

        "As soon as I opened my mouth they realised I was just a crazy Brit who didn't know any better."

        Well, obviously. I've not been to the US recently, but based on all the TV shows I see, there's always a parking spot right outside whatever place you happen to be visiting, even in New York City. Why would anyone walk more than 10-15'?

        1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

          Re: Hahaha...

          But on US TV, especially NY, if you walk in front of a car they *never* see you and *will* run over you. If you survive, the response is "Heyyy am walkin here!"

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Hahaha...

      what our USAnian friends have against people with a love of walking

      The barrel of a gun?

      To be fair, they're not against walking, per se, it's any deviation from their established norm that they seem to find inordinately suspicious.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Hahaha...

        what our USAnian friends have against people with a love of walking

        No recreational activity allowed unless it involves lots of expensive equipment. For example: rugby is played by blokes equipped with nothing much more than a strip of insulating tape around their ears, while every American "football" player wears about $1000 worth of protective gear. Cycling used to be a fairly cheap activity until the Americans got interested.

        It's hard to make walking expensive.

        1. Timmy B Silver badge

          Re: Hahaha...

          @Kubla

          "It's hard to make walking expensive."

          Seen any of the ultra-light walking types? That can get very expensive.

        2. David 18

          Re: Hahaha...

          @Kubla Cant

          "It's hard to make walking expensive."

          Millets et al seem to be giving it a bloody good try!

          1. Timmy B Silver badge

            Re: Hahaha...

            You think Millets are expensive? Have a look at Cotswold Outdoors. Or Costworld as we call them ….

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Hahaha...

          "It's hard to make walking expensive."

          You've obviously seen millennials visiting the Lake District!

        4. Grinning Bandicoot

          As an USian who enjoys the observations here I wish to note that its obvious that this never heard of REI with its large catalog of shoes. Also I should note it would more proper to refer this particular land's inhabitants as WEn since were all united. as

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Alert

            Millets

            Holy Zarquon singing fish haven't they gone bust yet?

        5. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Hahaha...hard to make walking expensive

          Walking boots £250.

          Waterproof jacket possibly with fleece included £250.

          Waterproof trousers with multiple pockets. Say £125.

          Shirt. Oh, go on, to you £85.

          Need a small rucksack? Hat? Walking poles? GPS?

          Not hard to spend a grand or so, especially if you are a badge fairy who loves North Face.

        6. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Hahaha...

          "rugby is played by blokes equipped with nothing much more than a strip of insulating tape around their ears"

          Eh, you're being rather unfair here.

          I've played social rugby and American Football, in the UK and NZ.

          My social gridiron kit cost exactly the same as my social rugby kit: nowt, sponsored by the local gamblers. Most of the gridiron players had $20-$50 boots, Lycra shorts and cheap cotton underkit. The social rugby team spent roughly twice the amount on their boots, and high-tech sports clothing under their uniforms. Also seen front row head gear that cost more than a gridiron helmet (!?!) so it's perfectly possible to spend silly on either game.

          The pick up games (touch) also involved the total cost being a ball. Whichever one we played with :)

          I'll also note that while there were a lot of lifters on each team, there were many more juicers in rugby than gridiron. Even at super casual levels. Apparently even happening at schoolboy levels.

          "No recreational activity allowed unless it involves lots of expensive equipment."

          Nah, it's just another way of displaying your Veblan goods. It's the same way that you can go to gym in old shorts, t-shirt and plimsolls. Or spend hundreds on cool/useful kit, that looks nice and expensive :)

      2. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Hahaha...

        "the barrel of a gun"

        ALL rise for the Australian National Anthem

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: what our USAnian friends have against people with a love of walking

      Maybe it's not so much 'anti walking' as being extremely 'pro car'.

      My theory is that it has something to do with the considerable percentage of US citizens that have been conceived on the back seat of a motorcar.

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: what our USAnian friends have against people with a love of walking

        "My theory is that it has something to do with the considerable percentage of US citizens that have been conceived on the back seat of a motorcar."

        I was conceived in the back seat of a car, or so my parents told me before I screamed TMI and stopped listening. I walk everywhere, sometimes very long distances, sometimes with heavy packs.

    4. ShortLegs

      Re: Hahaha...

      "Hahaha...

      I'd always wondered what our USAnian friends have against people with a love of walking."

      Its difficult to monetarise.

    5. TonyJ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Hahaha...

      Hmm I was referring more to the spelling differences but that little joke seems to have been lost on everyone.

      Oh well. It's Friday and it's time to go home. :)

  3. Timmy B Silver badge

    Too many apps

    People over-depend on apps for navigation when walking and then blame them when they get lost. We've lost the ability to tap into things like wind direction, star / sun / moon location and several other dependable clues to navigation and location. It's a shame, really. But then I don't know how many people nowadays spent time as youngsters out late, fields away from home, having to find their way back. That's a bigger shame, I think.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Too many apps

      A good tip that I heard the other day...

      If you get lost in the city in the morning, walk against the crowd. If it's in the evening, walk with the crowd. That'll most likely get you to a tube station. In the suburbs, the opposite applies.

      1. arctic_haze Silver badge

        Re: Too many apps

        If lost in a forest go always down. You will reach a stream or gully and leave the forest along it. Going up will inevitably end on a hilltop.

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