OT: Odd old coordinates

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OT: Odd old coordinates

Greg-110
I thought maybe some old timers could help me out. I have a set of about 30 waypoints from 1997. The author says in his report of the time that they were using a GPS, but I contacted him and he doesn’t remember any of the details. A typical coordinate is given as 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W. Some of the points can be located on a map, so I’m pretty sure it’s degrees minutes, but the last three digits don’t make sense. Since some are greater than 600 it’s not seconds with another significant figure, i.e, a missing decimal point.

Any ideas? I’m thinking there was some “convention” early in the personal GPS receiver days. The original information is at http://traditionalarctickayaks.com/horton_trip_journal.htm

Greg


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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Jason Slagle

On 6/30/16, 10:37 PM, "Greg" <[hidden email]> wrote:

I thought maybe some old timers could help me out. I have a set of about 30 waypoints from 1997. The author says in his report of the time that they were using a GPS, but I contacted him and he doesn’t remember any of the details. A typical coordinate is given as 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W. Some of the points can be located on a map, so I’m pretty sure it’s degrees minutes, but the last three digits don’t make sense. Since some are greater than 600 it’s not seconds with another significant figure, i.e, a missing decimal point.

Any ideas? I’m thinking there was some “convention” early in the personal GPS receiver days. The original information is at http://traditionalarctickayaks.com/horton_trip_journal.htm


------

Probably degree, minute, decimal minute.

Jason

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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Greg-110
> On Jun 30, 2016, at 7:56 PM, Jason Slagle <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>
> On 6/30/16, 10:37 PM, "Greg" <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> I thought maybe some old timers could help me out. I have a set of about 30 waypoints from 1997. The author says in his report of the time that they were using a GPS, but I contacted him and he doesn’t remember any of the details. A typical coordinate is given as 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W. Some of the points can be located on a map, so I’m pretty sure it’s degrees minutes, but the last three digits don’t make sense. Since some are greater than 600 it’s not seconds with another significant figure, i.e, a missing decimal point.
>
> Any ideas? I’m thinking there was some “convention” early in the personal GPS receiver days. The original information is at http://traditionalarctickayaks.com/horton_trip_journal.htm
>
>
> ------
>
> Probably degree, minute, decimal minute.
>
> Jason
>
Yes it is. As you and Don Huston pointed out. But I missed his post and misinterpreted yours. Sorry I wasn’t paying attention. 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W becomes 68 35.067 N 123 54.817 W. I also posted also on stackexchange and then I realized my error.  Only one of the waypoints didn’t work out, but it had an obvious error. One of the StackExchange responders pointed out that that was a common way to do it then. A NEMA convention.
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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Robert Lipe-4
Looks like you got the answer you needed - and let's thank them for that - but let's clarify that this is an "old" convention.  It's actually the default on most consumer grade handheld GPS units and it's very common.  This convention is called "decimal minutes" (DDD MM.MMM) and it's widespread because it avoids the funky punctuation of DMS (degrees, minutes, seconds) and the frequently long numbers associated with DDD (decimal degrees).  Pretty much a pair of phone numbers represents a location as accurately as a handheld is going to locate anyway.

There are other conventions and they certainly have their place (for example, a survey site may have one corner insanely surveyed with everything described as X/Y meters from that point...)  but it's not like this is some obscure coordinate format that's lost to the sands of time.

RJL

On Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 5:47 PM, Greg <[hidden email]> wrote:
> On Jun 30, 2016, at 7:56 PM, Jason Slagle <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>
> On 6/30/16, 10:37 PM, "Greg" <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> I thought maybe some old timers could help me out. I have a set of about 30 waypoints from 1997. The author says in his report of the time that they were using a GPS, but I contacted him and he doesn’t remember any of the details. A typical coordinate is given as 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W. Some of the points can be located on a map, so I’m pretty sure it’s degrees minutes, but the last three digits don’t make sense. Since some are greater than 600 it’s not seconds with another significant figure, i.e, a missing decimal point.
>
> Any ideas? I’m thinking there was some “convention” early in the personal GPS receiver days. The original information is at http://traditionalarctickayaks.com/horton_trip_journal.htm
>
>
> ------
>
> Probably degree, minute, decimal minute.
>
> Jason
>
Yes it is. As you and Don Huston pointed out. But I missed his post and misinterpreted yours. Sorry I wasn’t paying attention. 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W becomes 68 35.067 N 123 54.817 W. I also posted also on stackexchange and then I realized my error.  Only one of the waypoints didn’t work out, but it had an obvious error. One of the StackExchange responders pointed out that that was a common way to do it then. A NEMA convention.
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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Greg Troxel

Robert Lipe <[hidden email]> writes:

> Looks like you got the answer you needed - and let's thank them for that -
> but let's clarify that this is an "old" convention.  It's actually the
> default on most consumer grade handheld GPS units and it's very common.
> This convention is called "decimal minutes" (DDD MM.MMM) and it's
> widespread because it avoids the funky punctuation of DMS (degrees,
> minutes, seconds) and the frequently long numbers associated with DDD
> (decimal degrees).

I have the impression that in nautical usage, this is the preferred form
of coordinates, vs land-based usage that prefers DMS.  So I think it
isn't actually unusual or old for harbor/charting usage.  And the
article is about kayaking.

Howeer, IMHO it is irregular to write it

> 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W

instead of "68 35.067 N 123 54.817 W" even if one leaves out the
degree/minute symbolcs.



I also don't disagree that this may have just been an artifact of
default settings.

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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Robert Lipe-4
Agreed. The missing radix separator is not common. If there had been a decimal mark, you'd have probably have had the visual nudge you needed to recognize it. Land maps (of a scale where UTM just doesn't work) commonly include DD MM.SSS grids or graticules.

On Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 12:33 PM, Greg Troxel <[hidden email]> wrote:

Robert Lipe <[hidden email]> writes:

> Looks like you got the answer you needed - and let's thank them for that -
> but let's clarify that this is an "old" convention.  It's actually the
> default on most consumer grade handheld GPS units and it's very common.
> This convention is called "decimal minutes" (DDD MM.MMM) and it's
> widespread because it avoids the funky punctuation of DMS (degrees,
> minutes, seconds) and the frequently long numbers associated with DDD
> (decimal degrees).

I have the impression that in nautical usage, this is the preferred form
of coordinates, vs land-based usage that prefers DMS.  So I think it
isn't actually unusual or old for harbor/charting usage.  And the
article is about kayaking.

Howeer, IMHO it is irregular to write it

> 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W

instead of "68 35.067 N 123 54.817 W" even if one leaves out the
degree/minute symbolcs.



I also don't disagree that this may have just been an artifact of
default settings.


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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Greg-110
In reply to this post by Greg Troxel
Kayaking = nautical. Good. I don’t know if most boat captains would agree. And the kayaker probably didn’t think of himself that way. It’s probably how his GPS reported it.

But I agree that the missing decimal point is really confusing. If it’s decimal minutes, put in the decimal!  But given the vintage of this standard and the information, keeping things very simple and compact (although I doubt a space is more compact than a period) was the norm, given the value of storage.

But it is a bad standard when it doesn’t make sense, when the original poster (the “nautical” person) had no idea what is meant, and when it’s subject to misinterpretation. But I realize that old conventions stay around a long time.

Side note: about ten years ago I made a 911 call about an injured person and since it was a “wilderness park” and I had my GPS set in decimal degrees I tried to give the coordinates to the 911 gentleman and he insisted that decimal degrees were wrong and no one would understand them he refused to write it down and convey it to the helicopter pilot.  I changed my GPS to read out in DMS and gave him those coordinates.

Greg

> On Jul 7, 2016, at 10:33 AM, Greg Troxel <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> Robert Lipe <[hidden email]> writes:
>
>> Looks like you got the answer you needed - and let's thank them for that -
>> but let's clarify that this is an "old" convention.  It's actually the
>> default on most consumer grade handheld GPS units and it's very common.
>> This convention is called "decimal minutes" (DDD MM.MMM) and it's
>> widespread because it avoids the funky punctuation of DMS (degrees,
>> minutes, seconds) and the frequently long numbers associated with DDD
>> (decimal degrees).
>
> I have the impression that in nautical usage, this is the preferred form
> of coordinates, vs land-based usage that prefers DMS.  So I think it
> isn't actually unusual or old for harbor/charting usage.  And the
> article is about kayaking.
>
> Howeer, IMHO it is irregular to write it
>
>> 68 35 067 N 123 54 817 W
>
> instead of "68 35.067 N 123 54.817 W" even if one leaves out the
> degree/minute symbolics.
>
> I also don't disagree that this may have just been an artifact of
> default settings.


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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Robert Lipe-4


On Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 1:02 PM, Greg <[hidden email]> wrote:
Kayaking = nautical. Good. I don’t know if most boat captains would agree. And the kayaker probably didn’t think of himself that way. It’s probably how his GPS reported it.

Actually, this is an interesting opportunity for me to take a poll for my day job.  If you're looking at a map-like substance, you probably expect to be able to set the units for linear measurement. The most obvious is statute vs. metric (with sensible scaling) but nautical miles, smoots, chains, furlongs, and such all have a place, too.

Are these "funky" units ever used for altitude?  As a boater, do you think "I know I have N nautical miles to go because I know that mountain I can see is M nautical miles high"?  Are altitudes (of objects or the camera pose) ever really measured in these "funky" units?  If you chose Nautical Miles, would you expect camera pose and elevations to be reported in meters while distance along the surface of the earth is Nautical Miles?

Side note: about ten years ago I made a 911 call about an injured person and since it was a “wilderness park” and I had my GPS set in decimal degrees I tried to give the coordinates to the 911 gentleman and he insisted that decimal degrees were wrong and no one would understand them he refused to write it down and convey it to the helicopter pilot.  I changed my GPS to read out in DMS and gave him those coordinates.

This is something I've thought a lot about. If you're a human, especially one not immersed in this stuff, there's a lot of finicky punctuation and the chance for ambiguity. If you happen to know the hemisphere (as a 911 operator in Western Samoa certainly would) it's pretty easy for a computer to make a good guess. We try to get this right in GPSBabel. Search in Earth is even more ambitious about trying to "do the right thing" if you type some collection of numbers.

Trivia: "bar" is a valid MGRS grid reference. I broke search learning that lesson...


Back to the original meta question, if lat/lon aren't ambiguous enough, there are many more ways of expressing a location. You can get a sampling at https://github.com/google/open-location-code/blob/master/docs/comparison.adoc - and even that leaves out options like UTM, MGRS, UPS, and more.  It's messy.

RJL

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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Greg Troxel

Robert Lipe <[hidden email]> writes:

> Actually, this is an interesting opportunity for me to take a poll for my
> day job.  If you're looking at a map-like substance, you probably expect to
> be able to set the units for linear measurement. The most obvious is
> statute vs. metric (with sensible scaling) but nautical miles, smoots,
> chains, furlongs, and such all have a place, too.

For horizontal, I expect miles, km, and nautical miles these days.  With
metric, one can change to m for small things.  The others are messy.
Humans may want to see feet for small distances.

Chains/furlongs/rods are really not relevant to almost all users.

There is also US survey feet vs international feet.  But I doubt people
want to see it on maps, and it's so close that for a map it doesn't
matter.

smoots I would sort of love to see (I used to live at one end of the
bridge) them, but I think the audience is small and really it's not
worth the UI clutter.   (Yes, I know that was a joke.)

> Are these "funky" units ever used for altitude?  As a boater, do you think
> "I know I have N nautical miles to go because I know that mountain I can
> see is M nautical miles high"?  Are altitudes (of objects or the camera
> pose) ever really measured in these "funky" units?  If you chose Nautical
> Miles, would you expect camera pose and elevations to be reported in meters
> while distance along the surface of the earth is Nautical Miles?

For altitude, I expect feet or meters.   Might as well be independent,
but nm would go with feet.

>> Side note: about ten years ago I made a 911 call about an injured person
>> and since it was a “wilderness park” and I had my GPS set in decimal
>> degrees I tried to give the coordinates to the 911 gentleman and he
>> insisted that decimal degrees were wrong and no one would understand them
>> he refused to write it down and convey it to the helicopter pilot.  I
>> changed my GPS to read out in DMS and gave him those coordinates.
>>
>
> This is something I've thought a lot about. If you're a human, especially
> one not immersed in this stuff, there's a lot of finicky punctuation and
> the chance for ambiguity. If you happen to know the hemisphere (as a 911
> operator in Western Samoa certainly would) it's pretty easy for a computer
> to make a good guess. We try to get this right
> <https://github.com/gpsbabel/gpsbabel/blob/08871709ec0f16190e39140215ccaddce9985d44/csv_util.cc#L468>
> in GPSBabel. Search in Earth is even more ambitious about trying to "do the
> right thing" if you type some collection of numbers.
That struck me as lame.  I would think the dispatch software would be
able to take any coordinate system in common use, including decimal
degrees, DDD MM.MMM, DMS, UTM, and maybe even MGRS.  15 years ago here I
would have said NAD27 vs NAD83/WGS84, but now NAD27 is hardly used.  And
the police can see 40m anyway usually.

> Back to the original meta question, if lat/lon aren't ambiguous enough,
> there are many more ways of expressing a location. You can get a sampling
> at
> https://github.com/google/open-location-code/blob/master/docs/comparison.adoc
> - and even that leaves out options like UTM, MGRS, UPS, and more.  It's
> messy <https://xkcd.com/927/>.

At least openlocationcode is far saner than what three words.


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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Terry Brown-2
In reply to this post by Robert Lipe-4
On Thu, 7 Jul 2016 15:22:31 -0500
Robert Lipe <[hidden email]> wrote:

> If you happen to know the hemisphere

And when you don't, I guess you're out of luck.  I deal with a lot of
coords collected by field crews and they almost get them completely
correct in terms of +/- N/S W/E etc.

Which was fine until I worked with coords from Lake Victoria in Africa,
the equator runs through it, there was a region where the ambiguity
couldn't be resolved.

Cheers -Terry

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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

SRE
In reply to this post by Greg-110
At 11:02 AM 7/7/2016, Greg wrote:
>Side note:...I had my GPS set in decimal degrees I tried to give the coordinates

I pre-planned to get camp coordinates via FRS radio with line of sight
between two peaks. No problem communicating, but the person reading
off the coordinates *said* it was decimal degrees when it was *really*
degrees plus decimal minutes. He even read it as one number when his
Garmin was showing a space and a dot. So I headed for a place at least
a quarter mile from where the group was camped. Fortunately they saw
me coming down the hill and fortunately it was almost dark and
fortunately I saw their headlamps winking at me! (In other words,
even when it's punctuated correctly and described by the GPS as
dd mm.mmm people will still think it's dd.dddd or dd mm ss and get
it wrong.) I see no reason not to use plain old decimal degrees,
like GPX uses, except that old-timers can't conceptualize a single
number latitude unless it's UTM.


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Re: OT: Odd old coordinates

Robert Lipe-4
He even read it as one number when his Garmin was showing a space and a dot. 

"Computers don't make mistakes. People make mistakes." :-)
 
like GPX uses, except that old-timers can't conceptualize a single
number latitude unless it's UTM.

Plain old decimal degrees are great for programs. That's what every (sane) program uses behind the scenes, converting at display time or input time.

UTM is awesome for a paper map when the area covered is small enough that you can ignore that the planet isn't flat.  For a hiker, for example, being able to use pythagorean to compute distances is just the ticket.  If you're trying to fly a plane across a couple of UTM zones, and aren't comfortable with formulas like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Transverse_Mercator_coordinate_system, your head will explode.  Great Circle math isn't exactly a breeze, but at least you're not dealing with distortion at the edges of each zone.

Oh, and it doesn't have the ambiguity that band "S" is in the northern hemisphere.

For those into nerdy things, there is actually an ISO standard touching on this.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_6709  THat said, I think the standard is actually kind of weak, but it's at least useful to be able to point to a formal standard that strongly encourages 'I don't care if you call it "צאָפן", the letter we use to represent the "top" half of the planet is "N"'.



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