oldSTAGER No.103
April/May 2007

 

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Track Logging

I’ve mentioned before that I make good use of the Memory Map (MM) digital OS maps. The product has been ideal for general map work, and in particular transferring 1:50000 maps of areas I visit to my PDA.

When I came to planning the Cloverleaf Rally and preparing the marked maps for competitors, I thought MM would be just the job. There were several key problems however. Marking a route and then changing it was burdensome. Overlaying labels for controls and notes was difficult and inflexible. Tracking the distance along a marked route was intermittent and inaccurate. There had to be a better way, and there was – another digital product called TrackLogs (http://www.tracklogs.co.uk).

I only wanted the maps for the Cambridge area and that was the first bonus; I could order a bespoke 60km by 60cm map from the OS grid – which was just the right extent I required – for only £12. The software and map arrived on a DVD two days later. There are plenty of other standard map options up to the whole of Great Britain for £150 (which is £50 less than the MM equivalent), plus 1:25000 scale and aerial photography overlays.

Drawing a route is easy. You mark a series of “trackpoints” on the roads you are using and these are automatically joined to form the route. For accuracy of distance measurement the trackpoints should be close together along twisty sections of road. The resultant route is displayed as parallel lines enclosing the selected roads. There’s ultimate flexibility here since you can select the colour and width of the lines, and the fill colour (and its transparency) between them.

Changing the route is achieved intuitively by dragging existing trackpoints and/or inserting new ones.

Adding markers on the route is achieved by using “waypoints”. Just drag an appropriate waypoint from your tool box and drop it on the route. You end up with a line from the route to a descriptive box which can contain a symbol and multi-line text. Again, colours, fonts, lines and position can be customised. There are plenty of pre-configured waypoints, but I’ve added my own for frequently used rally markers such as an MTC, TC, PC, Give Way etc. (See Below)



One of the supplemental displays is the “Routecard”. This is a list of the waypoints and the distance travelled between them. So I could see, for example, that the distance from MTC1 to TC2 is 4.657 miles, and TC2 to PC3 was 2.291 miles and so on. The more accurately you draw the route, the closer the calculated mileages will be to those measured by a trip meter on the road.

The Routecard also shows the time due (based upon an input start time) at each waypoint. By default this uses a single average speed for the whole route, but subtle use of a feature pointed out to me by the product’s support staff (who are a friendly and responsive bunch of guys), allowed different speeds to be set for different sections of the route. However, this wasn’t as useful as it sounds because some strange rounding problems and the lack of seconds in the time displays meant I had to resort to a separate spreadsheet to derive an accurate time schedule. The fix and enhancements are promised in a future update.

When you come to print your route, all necessary options are there: the whole route on a single A4 page, just a sub-set for, say, a regularity; or the whole route in 1:50000 scale with overlaps so that you cut and splice the whole thing together.

There’s no inherent way to save the displayed map as an image file but just fill your screen with a map and use any screen capture software.

An interesting feature is the ability to “fly” a camera over the route and create a movie; you can set the height, angle and speed of your view. So, as well as having marked maps on the Cloverleaf, competitors will be able to see a five-minute Crow’s eye-view of the route before they start.

Although Tracklogs is designed primarily for walkers, its adaptation for rallies has been easy and ultimately rewarding.