The Russians Are Spoofing! The Russians Are Spoofing!

Russian authorities appear to be systematically messing with GPS and other GNSS signals in multiple locations, a new report from the Center for Advanced Defense Studies concludes (CBS News, Foreign Policy, Moscow Times, Wired). The tactic is called GPS spoofing: broadcasting a false GPS/GNSS signal in a specific location to fool GPS/GNSS receivers and render them unreliable or unusable. The incidents appear to correlate with sensitive Russian facilities, active combat zones, and the travel itinerary of one Vladimir V. Putin. In one case, while Putin was opening a bridge between Russia and Crimea, nearby ships were suddenly informed by their GPS/GNSS receivers that they were dozens of kilometres away from their actual position.

Pasha Omelekhin’s Berlin Transit Map

Pasha Omelekhin

Among other things, Pasha Omelekhin’s redesign of the Berlin S-Bahn map brings the dog back: the Ringbahn’s route is roughly in the shape of a dog’s head, but in most Berlin transit maps since the 1930s it’s been shown as a circle. It also shows rivers and channels, and adds other curves to give Omelekhin’s unofficial map a flowing, organic look. [MetaFilter]

Happy GPS Week Rollover!

It’s probably overstating things to compare the GPS week rollover to the Y2K bug (The Next Web, The Verge) but it’s hard not to see some parallels. In each case, it’s a function of too little memory assigned to timestamps.

One of the things that GPS satellites do is transmit precise timing information. It does this in part by stating the week as a 10-bit integer, counting from week one. That means the date number rolls over every 1,024 weeks. Every 19.7 years, then, the GPS week “rolls over” and a new GPS epoch begins. It’s already happened once: the GPS era started on 6 January 1980, and the first rollover occured in August 1999. The next one takes place—oh dear—tomorrow. Cue the mass hysteria.

How will our GPS receivers respond to that rollover? Because it’s happened before, and because consumer GPS tech doesn’t necessarily stay in use for long periods of time, it’s unlikely that your or my GPS receivers are affected. Anything released in the past two decades would have programmed after the last rollover. Also, receivers might have have had an offset to the 1,024-week limit programmed into their firmware, starting the clock from the date of compilation rather than August 1999, so devices affected may not be affected all at once. U.S. government agencies note that GPS receivers that conform to the IS-GPS-200 specification should not be affected: PC Mag pins that on devices manufactured in 2010 or later.

My own legacy GPS receivers—a Garmin eTrex Legend H and an Oregon 450t—date from just before 2010, and while I haven’t used them in years (when your smartphone has built-in GPS, dedicated receivers are superfluous in the most common use cases), I’m half tempted to fire them up and see what happens. Both TomTom and Garmin claim that the vast majority of their devices are unaffected, but neither go so far as to give us a list of affected devices. Firmware updates are apparently being issued for some of those affected devices—but again, a list would help.

In any event, it appears that using GPS for location, even on an affected device, will not be broken: at worst your tracklogs will have inaccurate timestamps. Receivers that use GPS for accurate timekeeping that have not been updated to handle the rollover might run into some trouble, though. And, like Y2K, any problems might be in industrial or embedded systems rather than consumer tech—and from what I’ve seen online they’ve been getting warnings about this for years.

In other words, as far as I can tell, the GPS world will not come crashing down tomorrow.

The Geography of Partisan Prejudice

The Atlantic maps political polarization in America. “The result was surprising in several ways. First, while virtually all Americans have been exposed to hyper-partisan politicians, social-media echo chambers, and clickbait headlines, we found significant variations in Americans’ political ill will from place to place, regardless of party.” Includes an interactive map with county-level data based on polling and analytics.

Search Results for Forgotten Towns

Online maps are giving ghost towns a new life, of sorts. The Daily Southtown’s Ted Slowik looks at the case of Gilletts, Illinois, a forgotten milk stop on the Rock Island line. But thanks to its listing in the USGS’s Geographic Names Information System and the fact that it’s surrounded on all sides by medium-sized cities and towns, doing a search on Gilletts generates all kinds of results.

Shopping for a new home? A search on Zillow produces 12 results of homes for sale near Gilletts. Trulia, another real estate website, generates 84 results.

Searching for a job? The website Indeed shows 718 employment opportunities within 5 miles of Gilletts. Another site, Simply Hired, shows 563 jobs available within 5 miles of Gilletts.

You can find Gilletts on Mapquest. You can get the forecast for Gilletts on AccuWeather’s website. If you’re looking for a hotel room, can show you more than 70 rooms available and their distance in miles from downtown Gilletts.

Except there is no downtown Gilletts, since it was never anything more than a depot where trains stopped to pick up milk that local farmers sold to markets in Chicago and elsewhere.

But according to Yelp, there are 115 places to eat, 233 things to do and 353 places to shop within striking distance of Gilletts.

The same is no doubt true with any named point on the map, and to be honest this is probably how it should be. Web services are providing results based on proximity to a given location: there’s no judgment about the significance of that location. You’re the one who put the ghost town’s name into the search engine: here you go.

An Exhibition of Historic Maps of New York City: New Amsterdam to Metropolis

Untapped Cities has photos from an exhibition of historic and antique maps of New York City at the gallery of Manhattan rare book dealer Martayan Lan. New Amsterdam to Metropolis: Historic Maps of New York City features maps of the city dating back to the 16th century. It opened last November and runs until the end of May 2019. Some (but not all) of the maps, the New York Times notes, are for sale, which is what happens when it’s a rare book dealer rather than a museum or library doing the exhibition.