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Thinking Aloud

January 18, 2015

The Party Crashers

These days getting the United States, Russia, China, and Europe to agree on a common policy seems to be an increasingly rare event.

That’s why the long-standing comity among system operators in the GNSS sphere is particularly notable and welcome. “Interoperable and compatible” is the first principle espoused by the four nations under the aegis of the International Committee on GNSS.

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By Dee Ann Divis
November 22, 2014

Year 10

Every so often, anthropologists — and maybe a few mathematicians — have a field day puzzling over the origins of our positional base-10 numeral system.

Oh, not the historical origins themselves, the Hindu-Arabic innovations beginning in the 5th and 6th centuries. That’s all pretty much agreed.

No, I’m referring to the possible physiological inspirations, the readily visible digits at the ends of our limbs: 10 fingers, 10 toes.

Coincidence? Does nature have coincidents, or does it abhor them like vacuums — o horror vacui?

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By Inside GNSS
September 27, 2014

A Learning Experience

My favorite bumper sticker this month: “Oh, no! Not another learning experience!”

After 20 years of putting together a European GNSS program, disappointment over the skewed launch of the first fully operational Galileo satellites is palpable and widely felt. For end users, it is uniformly bad news, and no system provider that sincerely wants to achieve interoperability and robustness in a system of GNSS systems can relish the European program’s current difficulties.

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By Inside GNSS
July 27, 2014

The Next Big Mac

Here’s the coolest “technology-meets-ingenuity-meets-sustainable-economics” story that I’ve heard in a long time: the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) Reboot Project, a crowd-funded rescue mission to repurpose a 36-year-old NASA spacecraft.

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By Dee Ann Divis
May 18, 2014

Papering Over Safety Gaps

Well, I could have taken up the subject of the deteriorating condition of U.S./Soviet, excuse me, U.S./Russian relations. But there are only so many windmills that I have time to tilt at.

So, rather than tracing the dissolution of bilateral GNSS cooperation in the wake of Russia’s reclaiming the Crimea and, who knows, perhaps eventually a large swath of eastern Ukraine, I thought I’d turn to an only slightly more remediable issue — GNSS carriage requirements.

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By Inside GNSS
January 22, 2014

Won’t Get Fooled Again

How many times, as some once-promising politician stumbles up against his pull date, have we heard that irreverent anthem of The Who invoked?

Thousands? Millions?

Yes, back in the wreckage of the second George Bush’s second term, Barack Obama looked pretty good by comparison. Even then, though, raising the banner of “Hope” before the eyes of a desperate nation was a risky thing to do.

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By Inside GNSS
September 13, 2013

Peer-to-Peer Counseling

First I thought to title these comments, “Learn from the People,” but readers might have confused me with Chairman Mao. (I spent some time recently around the Yangtze River, although I didn’t take the opportunity to swim in it as the Great Helmsman did.)

In any case, my thoughts turned toward the masses and the mass market as a result of working with the authors of an article in this issue on cooperative authentication. They have extended a chain of innovative proposals drawing on the crowdsourcing concept of data sharing among nearby GNSS users or “peers.”

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By Inside GNSS
July 17, 2013

Phones, Drones and Privacy

Every breath you take . . .
Every move you make
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

I originally planned on titling this column, “Waiting to Inhale,” recalling these lyrics and an editorial I wrote more than four years ago about my sense of relief at the departure of the second Bush administration.

I called that one, “Waiting to Exhale.”

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By Inside GNSS
May 28, 2013

Living in an APNT World

It’s all about the backups now. The alternatives. The gap-fillers.  

Back in the 1990s, when I first came across the U.S. Federal Radionavigation Plan (FRP), I learned that the rise of the Global Positioning System drove the biannual FRP process because of the expectation that GPS would enable the government to shut down many pieces in the hodgepodge of positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems.  

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By Inside GNSS
March 23, 2013

Droning On about UAVs

One of my fond memories as a boy growing up in rural northeastern Oregon is sitting on an apple box in the basement of our house reading back issues of National Geographic.

All those wonderful color photos. And the maps, with their little illustrated explanations of Roman ruins in England or Babylonian irrigation practices in the Fertile Crescent!

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By Inside GNSS
January 23, 2013

The GNSS Merry Go Round

The whole GNSS world should have a warm spot in its heart for centripetal forces.

After all, a centripetal force — in this case, gravity — is what keeps planets in rotation around our Sun and satellites, around the Earth.

Centrifugal force, of course, is what throws us off a merry-go-round or carousel. Centripetal force is what keeps us on board.

For those on a merry-go-round, the centripetal force is not gravity, but rather the tensile strength of our arms pulling us toward the center of rotation, at right angles to the motion of our seats.

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By Inside GNSS