Monday, January 8, 2018

Can evolution be revolution? The new Garmin GPSMap276Cx

Defying time is not done easily, especially in the fast-moving world of technology. Certain things defy the odds by defying time and their reasonable expiration date. Consider the Land Rover Defender for example. In its various incarnations as a 90 or a 110, later as the Defender brands of both of those, and even reaching back to the Series III, IIA, II and I, its lineage has spanned a significant portion of motorized overlanding history, yet it is still iconic and well recognized today as a highly desired overland vehicle. 
When looking at electronic technology, we can’t expect timeframes to match those of automobiles, but still there are standouts. Consider the GARMIN GPS map 276C, the best overlanding navigation GPS device ever made. Introduced in 2004 as a direct descendant of the GPSmap 176, the 276C boasted a ruggedized, water-resistant frame, a gorgeous (for the time) high-resolution color display, new (again at the time) USB connectivity and support of external memory cards. Added to this was an intuitive operating system, actual buttons that could be manipulated by feel when driving or riding, even when wearing gloves, and genuinely useful functions such as a trip computer, track back (reversing a track log), tide charts (good for camping on beaches), sunset and sunrise times (good for planning sundowners and game drives), and customizable data fields that could display an appropriate level of information for genuine navigation, and Garmin had a winner. One that has not been matched since by the company, to the point that a GPSmap 276Cs can still fetch in excess of $500 on eBay. When Garmin stopped production I bought myself a back-up unit—which may have been prescient as my original 276C was stolen in Utah on the way to military training. That unit, and the back-up, have done dozens of expeditions with me, from a London-to-Cape-Town journey, to guiding in Central America, Southern Africa, Australia, and South America—always with unassuming and steady reliability while recording hundreds of thousands of track points and thousands of waypoints, providing unerring navigation confidence from dead reckoning in the Sahara to turn-by-turn guidance in Guatemala City. 
Lest you think the 276C had no flaws, let’s look at some. Early firmware had issues acquiring satellites; later firmware would parse and truncate saved track logs. The memory cards pre-dated SD card technology of a reasonable physical size, so Garmin produced propriety cards in the then acceptable memory capacities of 64, 128 and 512 megabytes. Enough at the time, but with maps getting ever larger, even the 512MB cards have long outstayed their useful life, and with transfer speeds from the computer to the 276C of 12 hours or more to fill the largest cards, it seems there is some low-level USB protocol issue at work. Yet despite these shortcomings, I was unwilling to give up the 276C in favor of the more modern offerings for mobile devices. I’ve used the Hema maps app in Australia and Gaia Maps for the iPad alongside my 276C looking for a successor, but the schizophrenic multi-tasking world we demand our mobile devices live in is no place for a navigation platform. Both Hema and Gaia lose signal and crash at random times that are probably more to do with the GoPro app, mail, and WiFi than to do with them, but leave distressing if not dangerous holes in the track log. Sure, I use my iPhone and iPad for navigating around cities and finding breweries, but for crossing deserts or recording tracks to guide clients on, neither has shown the robust reliability that the 276C displayed on every outing. 
Less than a year ago my good friend Nick Taylor and I discussed this whole problem over a beer (yes, at a brewery found and navigated to by iPhone). As often happens when beer is involved, our solutions got grander and grander, from starting a company that would build a 276C emulation app for mobile devices all the way to actually producing the 276 with modern technology like SD cards and support for GLONASS. This was our Garmin GPSmap 276C version of bringing the Land Rover Defender back to life. It seemed like an entirely plausible and reasonable plan, the only issue being getting the rights out of Garmin. 
Well, maybe someone from Garmin was at that same brewery and overheard us, because in October Garmin released the GPSmap 276Cx. It is a complete update of the 276, retains the buttons and the interface of the original, yet incorporates just about every update we thought of and more. Needless to say, as soon as it was available I had one on the way.
Once again it has a beautiful high-resolution sunlight-readable color display, this time larger at five inches, housed in a slightly larger, but still ruggedized case. Garmin rates the water resistance to IPX7 which is great for motorcycle applications. The proprietary Garmin memory cards have been replaced with micro SD cards (hooray!) up to 32GB in size (64GB cards may be compatible, but Garmin admits to not having tested them) to complement the eight GB of internal memory. The purchase of a 276Cx includes a one-year subscription to Garmin Birds-Eye Satellite Imagery, which is like having Google Earth on your GPS and is well worth of the high memory demands it entails. 
On-board power can be provided by either the rechargeable lithium-ion battery included, or three AA batteries. Line power can either come from the USB connector or from the touch contacts on the AMPS mount provided with the GPS. Compatibility for external GPS antennas is standard, though I found the on-board antenna to be very sensitive even through a Defender windscreen, and using the HotFix ability satellite acquisition was incredibly quick. After losing reception through the Eisenhower tunnel in Colorado, the 276Cx re-acquired satellites in less than a second after exiting the tunnel. Satellite capabilities have been expanded to include the Russian GLONASS constellation, a welcome addition, though no word yet on Galileo (European constellation) compatibility. All of the customizable data fields present on the old 276 are still there, with the addition of fields for external sensors as well as the new onboard barometric altimeter and electronic compass. The trip computer, sunrise and sunset and tide information are all still in their familiar places, so no capabilities have been lost on that front. A full 250 track logs can now be stored on the GPS (the 276C could only handle 14). In addition the 276Cx can interface with mobile devices running Garmin Connect via Bluetooth. This allows real-time weather information to be displayed (so long as your mobile device has a data connection), which is a fantastic feature. With WiFi capabilities now included the 276Cx can get firmware updates (needed, see below), can update live position information on the internet, and can connect to other WiFi-capable Garmin GPS units for sharing data. Data transfer for maps can still be done over USB, on modern drivers so that gigabytes of data can be transferred at realistic speeds (minutes) rather than the days required for the last 276. All great additions to what was already a leading device
However, as with all new things, there are already some issues with the 276Cx shown during my testing. Thefirst is somewhat cosmetic, but I find annoying, and involves the re-draw rate of the display. When driving, the screen does not refresh in the nice smooth flow we have come accustomed to on phones and tablets, but rather each re-draw is a bit of jerky, and, while not functionally problematic, it is unfortunate for a brand new device with an otherwise very nice display.
The firmware that came loaded was version 2.1, and I found I could not calibrate the electronic compass without it crashing software. Updating to version 2.3 of the firmware solved that issue, but there are still some others. One of the most-used functions on the old 276C was the Enter/Mark button that could be held down to drop a waypoint at the current location. I used it all the time for marking intersections, gates, restaurants, embassies, you name it. While the function exists on the 276Cx, the waypoint is, bizarrely, not created at your current location, rather at some other random-seeming location back on your track log, sometimes miles back. The only way I found to fix this was to offset the current location by a few meters using the cursor, and then drop the waypoint at that location. Certainly not the easy seamless feature it was on the original 276. Also, worryingly, I found that the track log would stop recording when I switched from the map page to any other page, such as the trip computer. When I returned to the map page the track log would resume, but my seamless track log (one of my most lauded 276 features) was broken. 
My final gripe is the information provided for the active track log. I love the addition of elapsed time, moving average, min and max elevation etc., but I really miss the progress bar that marks how near-to-full the active track log is. Even a percentage would be welcome, but the new active track page does not show anything like that except total track points—which we can relate to the 20,000 point maximum for a saved track if we remember the 20,000 part. 
I really hope these issues can be fixed in software and will just require a firmware update. On the hardware side, I’m a little leery of the touch contacts interface on the on the mounting bracket. It provides power and communication to the GPS, but I have never been a big fan of touch contacts as opposed to a proven plug and pin contact for reliable connection on overland vehicles. Only time will tell on that, and I will report back because I think the 276Cx is going to replace my 276C as the primary navigation tool on all my upcoming trips.
If Land Rover could produce as solid a contender for the new Defender as the 276Cx is for the 276C, then all would be right with the world. Small issues notwithstanding, the GPSmap 276Cx is now the best GPS on the market for overlanding; a direct replacement of the GPSmap 276C. Bravo Garmin.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tutima M2 Pioneer vs. Alpina Alpiner 4 Flyback

Two sporty chronographs, the Tutima M2 Pioneer and the Alpina 4 Flyback Chronograph Manufacture, fight to see who’s king of the hill in this comparative watch test from the WatchTime archives. Original photos by Nik Schölzel.

The Tutima M2 Pioneer is a successor to Tutima’s well-known NATO pilots’ chronograph, launched in 1985, and is the official service watch of German military pilots. The Alpiner 4 Flyback Chronograph Manufacture from Alpina was designed as a watch for adventurers, mountain climbers and winter-sports fans. We pitted these two tough chronos against each other to see which would carry the day.

The Tutima’s design fulfills all expectations for a modern pilots’ watch: a high-contrast dial with white displays on a black background, red accents, bar-shaped markers and unadorned hands. Everything is laid out for maximum legibility. The matte, titanium case has a truly contemporary look with recessed, neoprene-inlaid pushers, a deep-set, screw-down crown and integrated lugs. The bidirectional bezel, with its minutes track and luminous dots at 5-minute intervals, gives the M2 the appearance of a sophisticated tool watch. The edge of the bezel is grooved with a combination of small notches and arched cutouts. (This bezel is what distinguishes “Pioneer” versions of the M2 from the other models in the M2 collection.) A Kevlar strap with red contrasting stitching and a matte, titanium folding clasp opened by means of push-buttons provide the finishing touches.

One can immediately recognize the M2 Pioneer as a pilots’ watch, but the Alpina’s identity is less easy to pin down. It is sporty-elegant, with a stainless-steel case bearing matte and polished finishes, shaped pushers with polished beveled edges, a generous amount of luminous material on its hands and markers, and silver-colored tracks around the subdials. It all looks great, but doesn’t explicitly say “expedition” or “mountain trek.” This could be an advantage, though, since most people don’t often find themselves beneath frozen waterfalls or bivouacked on a mountain. The Alpina is available with either a steel bracelet or an alligator strap; the strap version looks right paired with a suit.

Tutima has completed its move from Ganderkesee, Germany, back to its original home in Glashütte, and is producing all of its watches there. The company now proudly prints the Glashütte name on the dial. The requirements for doing so are that the company create 50 percent of the movement’s value in Glashütte and assemble both the watch and movement there.

The watch is powered by an ETA 7750 that has been heavily modified so that it has the same display layout as the Lemania 5100, the movement used in Tutima’s original NATO Chronograph. (Lemania stopped making the 5100 in 2002. Tutima had stocked up on these movements before production ceased and used them until its supply was depleted.) The layout, with a center-mounted minutes counter, 24-hour subdial at 12 o’clock and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, has historically been a popular one. Tutima calls the movement Caliber 521.

Once the fully threaded caseback is removed, the in-house, skeletonized rotor, decorated with a gold seal, jumps into view. The seal bears the Tutima logo, the Greek letter tau. You can also see the refined design of the pusher bearings. They are made of a single piece and move within a precisely shaped opening in the case. The finishing of the bead-blasted case, made of titanium, is superb. The caseback shows an image of a double-decker biplane. The case is water resistant to 300 meters. An inner case made of iron-nickel alloy protects the movement from magnetic fields.

Alpina also gives its movement antimagnetic protection (as CITIZEN ECO DRIVE NIGHTHAWK ) with a soft-iron inner case liner. The watch is water resistant to 100 meters. Opening the fully threaded caseback reveals a movement that goes beyond Tutima’s modified ETA 7750: Alpina has developed its own chronograph movement, a challenge that even large manufacturers often avoid.

The automatic Caliber AL-760 is based on the three-hand Caliber AL-710. The chrono function is performed by a separate, dial-side module. Its small number of components, just 96, is meant to ensure greater durability. To reduce the number of parts, Alpina had to employ several tricks. The column wheel, for example, does not consist of several columns but is star-shaped. Alpina also takes a different tack with its clutch (which engages the movement with the timing mechanism when the chronograph is activated). The new design is a cross between a rocking pinion and a horizontal clutch. The clutch lever moves an arbor with two pinions to create a connection between the lower, regular-time level and the upper, chronograph level.

Despite the chronograph’s low number of components, the engineers were able to integrate a flyback function. This allows the start of a new timing interval when the chronograph is already running: when you press the lower chrono pusher, the hand flies back to 12 o’clock and instantly starts moving again.

Alpina managed to avoid two structurally related weaknesses of modular chronographs. First, the engineers were able to incorporate a pointer-type date display rather than a date disk, which in most modular chronographs is sunk deep beneath the level of the dial and can be hard to read. Second, the pushers are in line with the crown. In most modular chronographs, the crown and pushers are on different horizontal planes. Very little can be seen on the movement side, but the embellishments that are visible − the asymmetrical, blackened rotor, côtes de Genèvedecoration and blued screws – make up for what is hidden.

The case, which features polished, beveled edges and trapezoidal pushers, is superbly made even though its design is not as unusual as that of the Tutima.
Since 1938, the “4” in the Alpiner 4 name has stood for four distinct sports-watch properties: antimagnetism, water resistance, shock absorption and resistance to rust. Naturally, these features are still found in the new Alpiner 4. But it also boasts excellent high-contrast legibility, contrasting subdials and luminous material on its hands and markers. The Tutima M2 Pioneer offers even more. It glows even brighter than the Alpina does, thanks to the full Super-LumiNova coating on markers and hands and luminous dots on the bezel. The chronograph hands are also visible in the dark: on the Alpina, they aren’t.

In terms of ease of use, the Alpina has a jump on the Tutima. The crown is large and easy to grip and unscrew. The pusher action is exceptionally smooth. On the Tutima, the pushers are easier to operate than you’d expect, given that they’re recessed, but the reset pusher requires a lot of pressure. The crown can be difficult to unscrew, and despite its ridges is hard to pull out to the second position – it’s good that you need do so only every two months to correct the date.

The M2 runs with great accuracy. The timing machine recorded an average daily deviation of +1.3 seconds. When the chronograph was running, the gain was reduced by just under a second per day. The Alpina showed similar results. Its average deviation was somewhat higher (+3 seconds per day without the chronograph running and +2.5 seconds with it). The positional deviations were small for both watches – an important criterion, since positional errors cannot be as easily corrected as the average deviation.

With its leather-lined Kevlar strap and low weight, the Tutima was much more comfortable to wear. The Alpina’s steel bracelet, large caseback surface and crown that touched the wrist resulted in minor subtractions in the comfort score.

The Alpina wins on the value front. At $4,750, it is the most economical Swiss manufacture chronograph on the market and is very well made. The Tutima costs $1,350 more but has no prestigious manufacture title (even though Tutima does make in-house movements for other models). But the buyer gets an exclusive, practical chronograph display with an easy-to-read, center-mounted minutes counter. Both watches have their advantages and drawbacks: which one you prefer depends on whether you want a dyed-in-the-wool tool watch or a sporty-elegant one you can wear almost anywhere.

Manufacturer: Tutima Glashütte, Altenberger Strasse 6, D-01768 Glashütte/SA, Germany
Reference number: 6451-02
Functions: Hour, minutes, small seconds; 24-hour display; chronograph with center-mounted, 60-minute counter and small 12-hour counter, date
Movement: Tutima 521, based on the ETA 7750, automatic, 28,800 vph, hack mechanism, quick-date adjustment, 25 jewels, Etachron regulator, Incabloc shock absorber, Glucydur balance, 44-hour power reserve, diameter = 30 mm, height = 7.9 mm
Case: Titanium, sapphire crystal with nonreflective coating on both sides, screw-down crown, fully threaded titanium caseback; water resistant to 300 meters
Strap and clasp: Kevlar strap with titanium safety folding clasp
Rate results (Deviations in seconds per 24 hours, with chronograph switched off/on):
Dial up -1 / -1
Dial down +4 / +4
Crown up +2 / 0
Crown down +1 / +1
Crown left +1 / -2
Crown right +1 / +1
Greatest deviation of rate 5 / 6
Average deviation +1.3 /+0.5
Average amplitude:
Flat positions 297° / 273°
Hanging positions 262° / 238°
Dimensions: Diameter = 46.5 mm, height = 16 mm, weight = 124 g
Variations: With additional titanium bracelet and changing kit ($6,700)
Price: $6,100

Manufacturer: Alpina 1883 Genève, Chemin de la Galaise 8, CH-1228 Geneva, Switzerland
Reference number: AL-760BS5AQ6B
Functions: Hour, minutes, small seconds, flyback chronograph with 30-minute counter, date display with pointer hand
Movement: AL-760 based on the AL-710, automatic, 28,800 vph, hack mechanism, quick-date adjustment, 32 jewels, fine regulator with eccentric, Incabloc shock absorber, 38-hour power reserve, diameter = 30.5 mm
Case: Stainless steel, curved sapphire crystal with nonreflective coating on both sides, screw-down crown, fully threaded stainless-steel caseback, water resistant to 100 meters
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless-steel bracelet with safety folding clasp
Rate results (Deviations in seconds per 24 hour, with chronograph switched off/on)
Dial up 0 / 0
Dial down +6 / +5
Crown up +2 / +4
Crown down +2 / 0
Crown left +4 / +2
Crown right +4 / +4
Greatest deviation of rate 6 / 5
Average deviation +3 / +2.5
Average amplitude:
Hanging positions 294° / 268°
Vertical positions 290° / 257°
Dimensions: Diameter = 44 mm, height = 14.88 mm, weight = 205 g
Variations: On alligator strap ($4,750)
Price: $4,750

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

12000mAh Portable Power Bank Battery

Weighs at only 8.9oz, it pack's 12,000 mAh battery in a small package, enough to charge your mobilephones and more. Perfect for everyday use, longer trips and emergency situations.


Highest quality Li-Pol battery with capacity of 12,000mAh (LTE battery is rated as ~2,000mAh)
Dual USB outputs to charger 2 devices at the same time
Give your smartphone up to 95 hours of extra talk, internet, and video time, so you can truly enjoy what your phone can offer
2.1A output to charge your lte or tablet efficiently
Compatible with all cell phones with micro USB connection, such as Blackberry, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, etc.

the battery comes with a number of different tips. This ensures that it is as universal as possible. In addition to a wall adapter and a cable for charging the battery the system includes tips for Sony PSP, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, miniUSB, microUSB and, of course, Apple mobile devices. Last year this nice array of tips would have been important. Yes, we’ve all become a bit boring with regard to what we actually carry day in and day out, but something tells me this won’t last for long. I’m not sure what new device will woo each of us, but I have no doubt there will be something.

DC 5V/1A
Output: USB1: DC 5V/1A; USB2: DC 5V/2.1A
Battery capacity: 12,000 mAh
Dimension: 5″ x 3″ x 0.92″ (127mm x 76mm x 23mm)
Weight: 8.9oz (250gram)

this battery is a beast. It has a huge charge capacity (like GOAL ZERO YETI 400 )and yet it is fairly compact and light. It is also simple to use. There is one button on the top that, when depressed, shows you how much charge is available and begins the flow of current.

On one end you will see the microUSB charging port that will make sure the battery is up to a long, grueling day of use. To the left of it is a 1A USB port. This will charge your lte as ac. On the other side is the 2A USB this charges as a dc current.

And, of course, the battery can be used as a flashlight. The first time I saw an external battery with this feature I was like “Why?” Then I actually started using it and discovered that it comes in rather handy. The light on this one is bright. That, combined with the capacity a fully charged Power Bank will offer would likely mean this light could be turned on at the start of CES 2012 and still be going when it comes time for CES 2013. (Okay not so much, but you get the point.)

This Power Bank 12,000 mAh Battery is a huge battery in a small package. It is well made, feels quite sturdy, packs a punch and has pretty much all the tips you are going to need

I bought mine off ebay for 25 bucks. best 25 i have ever spent. my self with my lte. My wife with her 3D down to my ics tablets. all have fully charged and still it had juice. i leave it laying around all the time. i hardly ever have to charge it up fully.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Aspen sells solar energy operations to Noy Fund

Aspen wants to focus on its core business of income-producing real estate.

Nine years after Aspen Group Ltd.'s (TASE:ASGR) entry into the environmentally friendly energy market, the group is now on the way out. Aspen notified the TASE today that it had signed an agreement to sell 49% of this activity, under the Aspen Solar name, to Noy Infrastructure and Energy Investment Fund 2 for NIS 55 million, with an option to sell the remaining 51% to Noy 2 later. Completion of the deal, scheduled by the end of the year, is contingent on several conditions.

Aspen believes that the first part of the deal will increase its equity, which totaled NIS 450 million at the end of the first quarter, by NIS 12 million, and that it would yield the company NIS 53 million in free cash flow, which it will use to reduce its leverage and for investing in its core business of income-producing real estate.

The company is also predicting that exercising its sale option will provide it with NIS 57 million more in cash flow, making a total of NIS 110 million, and increase its equity by another NIS 12 million. If Aspen does not exercise its option, Noy Fund 2 will have the right to purchase the remaining shares.

Noy Fund still investing in energy

Aspen Solar currently owns 273 small solar energy facilities around Israel with a capacity of up to 50 kilowatts each and an aggregate capacity of 14 megawatts. Through a Dutch subsidiary, Aspen also owns a solar park wit a lots of solar panel (for example: GOAL ZERO NOMAD 20 ) in southern Italy with a one-megawatt capacity.

According to the agreement between the parties, Aspen has an option, at its sole discretion, to demand that Noy 2 Fund purchase the remaining shares in Aspen Solar within two years of the date on which the first stage of the deal is completed at a price "to be calculated according to the formula set forth in the agreement."

For the Noy Fund 2, managed by chairman Pinchas Cohen, managing partner Ran Shelach, and managing partner Gil-ad Boshwitz, the deal is a continuation of its strategy of investing in renewable energy. It already became a leading player in this field with the Noy Fund 1, with an emphasis on solar business.

Aspen explained that the sale "had been made according to the company's business strategy and goals for the coming year of selling all or part of its holdings in environmentally friendly energy in Israel, and focusing on income-producing real estate."

In September 2008, Aspen decided to consider a possible entry into environmentally friendly energy, and began making deals two years later. Just under a year ago, in May 2016, Aspen announced that it was considering the sale of its solar business, and reported having received a number of offers for the acquisition, and negotiations with various investors.

In 2015-2016, Aspen's revenue from solar energy totaled NIS 35-36 million a year, accounting for 17% of its total revenue of NIS 192-193 million a year. Aspen's annual gross profit from solar activity was NIS 12 million, with an operating profit of NIS 12-12.5 million a year. The company's revenue from solar business in the first quarter of this year rose 7% to nearly NIS 8 million, and its quarterly gross profit shot up 40% to NIS 2 million.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

10 Tips for Standing Out From Competitors in Business

There’s no one right way to stand out in business. It takes creativity and innovation. The methods vary but the goal is the same — to distinguish yourself and beat out the competition.

Members of the online small business community have plenty of insights into what makes different businesses stand out. Read on for a full list of tips in this week’s Small Business Trends Community News and Information Roundup.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Google, Microsoft, WordPress Make Small Business Headlines

When customers go online to search for a local business, they look for things like reviews, location, hours and other general info. Since Google is one of the first places most customers turn to when looking for such information, it’s important that the search engine makes it easily available.

To that end, Google announced a redesign for Google Plus local pages. But that wasn’t the only big name that made headlines this week. Microsoft, WordPress, GoDaddy and more all found themselves in small business headlines. Read on for a full list in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information Roundup.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Experts Share Better Ideas for Business Dashboards and Brand Marketing

You can learn a lot from other entrepreneurs. You can look at their successes, their failures, and even read or listen to what they have to say.

Members of the small business community have plenty of valuable knowledge to share. Here are some of their most valuable business lessons in this week’s Small Business Trends community news and information roundup.

Can evolution be revolution? The new Garmin GPSMap276Cx

Defying time is not done easily, especially in the fast-moving world of technology. Certain things defy the odds by defying time and th...