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The Interactive Datastorm Users Location Map

by Don Bradner

The Map
As we were traveling down to the rally in Tampa in October of 2003, Datastorm User Bill Harris suggested that it would be interesting to have a map showing everybody's location as they converged on Tampa. I put together a rudimentary map, which has evolved significantly since that time. Click on the thumbnail at right to see the map as it currently exists. The map originally covered North America, but now it is global.

Datastorm Users Map
How do I use it?
Bookmark the link for the map. When the map is displayed, you can click on any location to zoom in on a smaller, but still wide-area map (10 degrees of longitude, 7 of latitude). Click anywhere on the next map to go to one that is 2 degrees by 1 degree, and from that one (when there are users shown) you can click on a user to drill down through 4 more levels all the way ot street detail. Below each map you can click on a user name or number and likewise zoom in.

Each user is represented by an icon. The vast majority of us have regular .74 meter dishes, and are represented by red satellite dishes. Those with .98 meter dishes are cyan, and large 1.2 meter dishes have blue icons. Members who want to list themselves, but do not have a dish (or the dish is not where they are) will have a + (plus sign) instead of an icon. There are slightly different icons for tripod/manual dishes vs automatic ones. Dealer installers who ask for it are shown in green.

To the left of the user list (except on the main map) is a column for a mail icon. If the user allows you to e-mail them, that icon will be a link to their e-mail address.

How do I show my location?
You first must be a member of the (free) discussion forums here. If you are not already a member, use the tab above to go to the forums and register. If you are a member, go to the tab at the top left of any forum page, which says "Map Form." Click continue on the next page, then enter your data. It will remember all options chosen, so this is the only time you will need to choose a dish type, and whether or not to allow e-mails. If you choose to allow them, enter your e-mail address.

Your latitude and longitude are entered as Degrees and Fractional Degrees, which is how the Datastorm Administrator shows them. If you are obtaining your location from another source there is a good chance that it will be in Degrees, Minutes, and Fractional Minutes. Rarely will it be Degrees, Minutes, Seconds. A GPS which shows your longitude as 82.18.236 West means 82 degrees, 18.236 minutes. You can convert that to degrees yourself (divide the minutes by 60), or you can have the form do it for you. Put 82 in the degrees box, and 18.236 in the minutes box (along with the numbers for latitude) and click the Calculate button. You will see 82.30393333333333 appear on the left (way more significant digits than we need, but that does not matter).

When everything is filled out to your satisfaction, click the Plot Location button. The page to which you are submitting has a link to the map, or you can use your bookmarked link later. It will typically be about 30 seconds before you are plotted on the map, although your location at the bottom of the page will show the new values immediately.

To keep the data fresh and reasonably accurate, you are required to submit your location periodically even if you haven't moved. The default is every 10 days, but you can change that, with options between 5 and 30 days. You can submit the same data again as frequently as you wish to keep your location showing.

E-Mail Notifiers Are there people who like to know where you are? Are you interested in where specific other members are? There are two options available at the bottom of the map form to setup tracking lists. The first list is for e-mail addresses of people who would like to know where you are. They do not have to be members here or have anything to do with satellite internet. Each of these people will receive an e-mail when you move. You will also be able to see a list of anyone who is following your moves.

The second list is of members you would like to "follow" as they move around the country or world. Enter the member number(s) and they will be added to your list, and you will receive an e-mail when they move.

Restrictions and other details: Mails to people on your e-mail list will come from you, and will not be sent if you have not provided a valid e-mail address for yourself. Mails to you when others you are following move will come from the system (my account).

You may block someone from following you, although since you are publicly on the map I would hope you do this very rarely. Anyone who is following someone must themselves be on the map or they will not receive the notification e-mails.

For both types of e-mails, sending only occurs when both latitude and longitude change a modest amount, so no sending occurs when you are just renewing an existing location. If you want to test, a recommended way is to move a full degree in both lat and long, wait a couple of minutes for the system to catch up, then move back again. You can suspend e-mails on the map form page if you want to avoid sending e-mails on the "fake" move.

Google Earth Links Each of the maps have links to Google Earth at roughly the same zoom level. These can be fun to play with, particularly since you can pan the map around to see things outside the borders of what you are shown with the Datastorm Map. The level of detail varies depending on where you are.

Submitting the data directly
There are several utilities that can submit your map data. Some can pull location directly from a Datastorm controller, and some also allow manual location submission.

Datastorm user Sterling Udell produced the first such utility, DSLocator. An article fully describing his utility, with free download, can be found here.

DSMapSubmit, with a full article here, is a comprehensive tool that offers maintenance of mailing lists as well as location updates.

The Datastorm Administrator program also has a limited map submission feature built-in.

Datastorm user Joe Keenan has written a utility for the Mac which can be downloaded here.

The newest utility is DSAndroidMapSubmit, which is for users of Android-based phones and other devices, and uses the built-in GPS for location.

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