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NG WeekendExplorer 3D software Field Report - Sonjia Leyva

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  • Sonjia Leyva
    Here ya go. Html version can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2hxs6l Sonjia National Geographic WeekendExplorer 3D software Field Report I have
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 26, 2007
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      Here ya go. Html version can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2hxs6l

      Sonjia

      National Geographic WeekendExplorer 3D software Field Report

      <Snip!> I have deleted the initial report portion to save space - it's there in the html version.

      Field Report (June 26, 2007):

      I have had the opportunity to test the National Geographic WeekendExplorer (Los Angeles Region) software on a several hikes during the past few months. In this field report, I shall focus on how the software performed in general, and how well it worked in conjunction with two hikes in particular.


      Field test #1: The WeekendExplorer Program in general

      As discussed in the initial report, I have two computers: a PC that my husband built for me and a Gateway MX6214 Notebook (see above for system information on each). My initial plan was to use the PC for most of the testing, and my laptop as a sort of "back up" in case I wanted to check out some features while I was at work. However, I had to abandon that plan as I simply could not get the 3D fly-thru feature to work on my home-built computer. I had intended on contacting National Geographic's customer support on the matter. An extremely busy work scheduled in conjunction with two rounds of the stomach flu forced me to put doing so on hold for a while. Thus, most of my testing was done on my Gateway MX6214 Notebook.

      Another problem I noted on my PC was with other National Geographic Mapping software. I had previously installed the TOPO! State Series (California, v. 3.4.2). We are planning a trip to Sequoia National Park (California) in August, and I wanted to check out the area. I navigated my way on the level 1 reference map (the default when the program opens) to the Sequoia area, insterted the appropriate CD into my CD ROM drive, and tried to access the level 5, 7.5' map series just as I did in the TOPO! version 3.4.2. The new version of TOPO! wanted me to register the disk. OK. I'll do that. But it wouldn't let me. I was all set to write a really negative review on the fact that the new version was not backwards compatible with older versions, when I remembered my laptop. The older version of the program had never been installed on my laptop. I opened the TOPO! 4 program, navigated to the Sequoia area, inserted the disk and tried to access the level 5 maps. I again got the "Do you
      want do register this disk" dialog box. I check the appropriate boxes and was asked to insert the installation CD. I did, the program thought for a minute, and the State Series software was registered. The cool part is that there are 10 disks to the California State series, and I only had to do this once and all of the disks were registered. Very cool.


      Field test #2: Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro, CA

      I love to go to Cabrillo Beach - it's in the middle of an urban area, but tucked away along the southern edge of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and thus is usually not very crowded. I take my Oceanography students here to study the three types of beaches present, in addition to the tide pools, wave cut terraces, and examples of cliff erosion. I am quite familiar with the area, so I navigated my way to the appropriate area in the WeekendExplorer program to begin the test. My goal was simply to see how the program calculated the profile and 3D rendering compared to the reality of the terrain. First, I used the "route tool" to trace the route along the base of the cliffs. I initially found this difficult to do. But then I used the "hot spot magnifier" (see screenshot below, lower right corner) which magnified the area and made it much easier to trace the route.

      Screenshot of Cabrillo Beach showing the route drawn in the program by me in red, the regional and hotspot magnifier maps are on the left.

      Once I had created the route, I right mouse-clicked on the route and selected "Build Profile" from the dialog box. As I had expected, the profile generated was nice and flat (see screenshot, below) with the exception of the 25' (7.6 m) "hill" at 0.3 mi (0.5 km). I attribute this to the difficulty I had in keeping the route plotted in the correct place and I probably placed the route on the cliff face inadvertently.

      Next, I right mouse-clicked again and this time chose "3D Fly-Over". After a few seconds of calculation, the program opened up a window to the left and "flew" through the short route (see screenshot, also below). Very cool.

      So, how did the program's results compare to reality? To the left is a photos of the wave cut terraces and tide pools at Cabrillo Beach taken roughly at waypoint WPT029 on the map above (Santa Catalina Island is visible on the horizon on left side of the photo). While rocky, the "trail" is fairly flat with little elevation gain.


      Field test #3: Eaton Canyon Falls, Pasadena/Angeles National Forest, CA

      I decided to test the program's ability to work with GPS units. First, I went to National Geographic's MapXchange site (accessible from the main page at http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/). MapXchange is where TOPO! users can download routes and trails for free to use with the TOPO! software programs. I downloaded a series of routes for trails to waterfalls. One of the trails included was the one to Eaton Canyon Falls. This is a trail that my family likes to hike although we have never yet made it all the way to the falls as my nearly five year old daughter would rather play on the boulders than finish the hike. However, we decided to head to Eaton Canyon on Memorial Day and try to hike to the falls.

      After I downloaded the trails I opened them in the TOPO! program. The lower portion of the screen shows the trails available to view (see lower left corner of screenshot below). I selected "Eaton Canyon Falls" and the program loaded the trail with waypoints onto the screen. Using the same methods I did with the trail at Cabrillo Beach, I created a profile of the trail and did a 3D fly-thru of the area.

      The profile and 3D rendering looked pretty much as I expected - fairly gentle in the beginning, and getting steeper as you entered the mountains. Below is a screenshot of the profile and 3D rendering. On the right is the map of the area, with the green line on the map the route I downloaded from National Geographic's MapXchange site, the blue line indicates the profile as calculated by the program (profile is shown on the bottom), and the red arrow indicates the direction of the fly-thru. The image on the left is the 3D fly-thru of the route (looking northwest).

      Next, I exported the waypoints and route to my Magellan GPS using the "Export (to GPS or .txt) Wizard". I followed all of the directions in the dialog boxes - and connected my GPS to my laptop - and voila! the data was transferred.

      Memorial Day dawned bright and hot. Hiking Eaton Canyon turned out not to be the best decision we could have made that day. Many other people had the same idea, and the trail to the falls narrows and there is a lot of boulder hopping involved. The resulting combination was not good - too many people, too small of an area. Still, we headed off with Ben carried by Robert in Julia's old Yakima Grasshopper Child Carrier (BGT test) and me trying to keep Julia from jumping off the really big boulders and checking the route downloaded from the TOPO! program into my Magellan GPS. I was impressed - the route downloaded AND the profile and 3D fly-by matched very well with the actual terrain. While Robert and Ben had to turn back what is called the halfway point (thus named because we were halfway to the falls in terms of time; trail wise it is actually roughly three quarters of the way to the falls) as Ben's right leg was rubbed raw by the Grasshopper. Julia REALLY wanted to see the
      falls, so we kept on going, checking the GPS every now and again to test the accuracy of the route. And she did it! This was the first time Julia made it all the way to the falls! I, and other hikers, were pretty impressed as there is a lot of boulder hopping/climbing towards the end and she was one of the youngest ones at the falls who made it there without help.

      Author and daughter, Julia (5 years old) at Eaton Falls. I'm wearing my Coolibar Women's Sun Hat (BGT test) and MountainSmith Relay Daypack (BGT test). Julia is wearing Mochila, her Dora the Explorer� backpack.


      So, what do I think of the National Geographic WeekendExplorer TOPO! program thus far?

      Pros:

      - TOPO! version 4 is very similar to previous versions so I didn't have to relearn where everything was.
      - Older and other TOPO! maps integrate seamlessly with the program
      - Ability to exchange data between the program and my GPS
      - Appears to do a good job in recreating what the terrain looks like both in profile and 3D imaging.

      Cons:

      - The most detailed map level available are the USGS 7.5' quadrangles. This is both good, and bad. Good, as the USGS basemaps are familiar. Bad, because many of them haven't been updated (the paper versions) in literally decades. Bad, too, because if you need to get more detail, it's not available. The program has the ability to magnify the area up to 400%. This does not really show additional details, however, but simply magnifies what is already there.
      - 3D capabilities don't seem to work on my PC. This may not be the program's fault, however, and trying to figure out what is wrong is on the list of "things to do" for the next report.


      Future plans

      - Figure out why I can't use the 3D features on my PC
      - Find and test areas that I have NOT previously been to, so that I do not have any biases in regards to the accuracy of the terrain depicted.
      - Export data to my PDA via the Pocket TOPO! program.
      - And finally, while this is outside of the "WeekendExplorer" portion of the program, I plan to use the software to plan our trip to Sequoia in early August.

      Stay tuned for the Long Term Report, due August 28th, 2007!

      Thank you to BackpackGear Test and National Geographic for the opportunity to test the National Geographic WeekendExplorer 3D!







      Sonjia Leyva
      http://www.geophile.net
      "Geologists are Scouts who hated to give up camping when they went to college, so they majored in geology." Ellen Sue Blakey






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    • Sonjia
      Sorry. Wrong tinyURL. Correct one is http://tinyurl.com/2hcnc8 I need to go to sleep now! Sonjia
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 26, 2007
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        Sorry. Wrong tinyURL. Correct one is http://tinyurl.com/2hcnc8

        I need to go to sleep now!

        Sonjia
      • pamwyant
        EDIT: National Geographic Weekend Explorer FR – Sonjia Leyva Good looking report Sonjia. I have just a few edits for you. Your daughter is a cutey. She
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 27, 2007
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          EDIT: National Geographic Weekend Explorer FR – Sonjia Leyva

          Good looking report Sonjia. I have just a few edits for you.
          Your daughter is a cutey. She looks really happy to be out hiking
          with Mom.

          Pam

          *********************
          I navigated my way on the level 1 reference map (the default when the
          program opens) to the Sequoia area, insterted the appropriate CD into
          my CD ROM drive, and tried to access the level 5, 7.5' map
          series just as I did in the TOPO! version 3.4.2.

          ### EDIT: spelling of *inserted*

          To the left is a photos of the wave cut terraces and tide pools at
          Cabrillo Beach taken roughly at waypoint WPT029 on the map above
          (Santa Catalina Island is visible on the horizon on left side of the
          photo).

          ### EDIT: …is a *photo* of the wave…

          ### Comment: This isn't totally clear from the way you wrote the
          report, but it sounds as if you compared the route at Cabrillo Beach
          to past hikes, and did not hike it after making the map? If so, this
          only leaves one actual use of the software for the "field". It
          sounds like you had some circumstances beyond your control (illness
          and maybe a busier time than usual at work). Hopefully you will be
          able to get in at least 4 more days hiking in the LTR phase, using
          maps made with the software.

          The profile and 3D rendering looked pretty much as I expected -
          fairly gentle in
          the beginning, and getting steeper as you entered the mountains.

          ### EDIT: Not as I enter the falls, I've never been there. (Gentle
          reminder not to use the word "you".)

          Still, we headed off with Ben carried by Robert in Julia's old Yakima
          Grasshopper Child Carrier (BGT test)

          ### EDIT: Sonjia, a new policy started several months ago not to
          link to other reports we have done, so please remove the link and
          reference to it being a BackpackGearTest test.

          While Robert and Ben had to turn back what is called the halfway
          point (thus named because we
          were halfway to the falls in terms of time; trail wise it is actually
          roughly three quarters of the way to the falls) as Ben's right leg
          was rubbed raw by the Grasshopper.

          ### EDIT: … had to turn back *at* what is called…

          Author and daughter, Julia (5 years old) at Eaton Falls. I'm wearing
          my Coolibar
          Women's Sun Hat (BGT test) and MountainSmith Relay Daypack (BGT
          test). Julia is
          wearing Mochila, her Dora the Explorer™ backpack.

          ### EDIT: again, remove the links and references to the other
          tests. I'd recommend leaving the references to clothing and packs
          out totally, as it really has nothing to do with the current test.

          Bad, too, because if you need to get more detail, it's not available.

          ### EDIT: reword to avoid using "you".
        • Sonjia
          Pam Thanks. We like Julia, too. She had a blast on that hike and can t wait to go to Sequoia in August. I made all of the necessary changes. I did hike the
          Message 4 of 4 , Jun 29, 2007
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            Pam

            Thanks. We like Julia, too. She had a blast on that hike and can't
            wait to go to Sequoia in August.

            I made all of the necessary changes. I did hike the Cabrillo beach
            area and rewrote that section to make the point more clear. I also
            included how many days I went out as I realized that wasn't clear,
            either.

            I made some changes to the report other than the ones you requested.
            I will repost the new report in a bit. Thanks! Too much to do all at
            one time does not make for quality work, I'm afraid. Thank goodness
            for summers off!

            Sonjia
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