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Pure GPS


There are political problems with old-style GPS. Both the early military GPS by the USA and the later European Galileo system have problems in that they can not be relied upon. If the USA or Nato decides to blank out any specific region of the world, then there's no GPS there! For example, supposing The Yemen got a bit uppity, then both the USA and Europe could decide that blank the GPS sky over Yemen and then the people there would have to navigate by map and compass instead. Plus, if China decided not to negotiate on some issue or other, the Western powers could blank out all GPS over China. It's as easy as that.

In a way it's understandable that the United States would want to prevent its enemies in times of war from using its navigation system, but as with many of these dodgy things in politics, it goes a lot further than that. As with nuclear bombs, we're all under threat.

The problem is that we can not rely on old GPS, or Improved GPS, and so... Who else would like to put up a Global Positioning System set of satellites? Ideally such a system should exist and be independent according to international treaty so that it's there for everyone. There is a treaty that the Panama Canal can be used by all nations and that it's independent of political persuasions and factions in the world.

What if no country can be trusted to put up a GPS? Then, we'll use alternatives. The first thing is to make sure that in any GPS PLUS gadget, the different components are separate, like the tools in Unix/Linux, not all bungled together like in Microsoft. The next thing is to have independent self-contained systems which provide navigation even if GPS disappears. For example, the ability to use a map and compass, knowing where places are, having independent databases of location, etc. It's possible to get an inertial navigation compass which can work out where it is by dead-reckoning, and using marker points that existed before the outage of GPS, it's then possible navigate despite the outage! Such inertial systems tend to drift and aren't very accurate, but they are at least independent of external influences, and can be synchronised to known landmarks.

Maybe open-minded public common-good places like the Open Source Geospatial Foundation would care to consider the possibilities.

I was first alerted to the inherent problems in Global Positioning Systems when I heard that the USA threatened to shoot down Galileo unless they were allowed to jam it. Europe has caved in on this and allowed the USA to jam Galileo, which means that it would only take there to be a trumped-up war on somewhere for some stupid reason, and then places are selectively blanked-out. To sum it up, no-one can truly rely on the GPS/Galileo system long-term. A free, good-for-all solution has to be found. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because your Sat-Nav in your car still works even if you're in a country that's an "enemy of the USA" at some arbitrary future time. THEY can cut your geographical region off any time!

It has to be admitted that launching loads of stuff into orbit is expensive, even if strategically advantageous, but there are cheaper alternatives. I think that caching of data on the ground will get a long way to creating an open-commons database of the world's landmarks, and if that's kept in many places as a chaotic backup, it will be free of the threat. This could also be very handy in a post-apocalyptic world where the powers-that-be have fallen.

Meanwhile, during the time available, while GPS is still working, you can get a GPS and start recording positions of landmarks!