Monthly Archives: May 2013

New ADL Radio Firmware (V 4.01.116) for ADL radios in ProMark 500, ProMark 800 and EPOCH 50’s, recalled ADL Vantage Pros and ADL Vantage Pros in the Summer

There is new firmware for the Epoch 50, ProMark 500 and ProMark 800 devices. If you are having problems with receive radios hanging up, these updates will fix most of them:
  Epoch 50: [ here ]
  ProMark 500 with Internal ADL: [ here ]
  ProMark 800 with Internal ADL: [ here ]
There are also updates for external radios (think ADL Vantage and ADL Vantage Pro) connected to the external serial port.
  ProMark 500 with External ADL: [ here ]
  ProMark 800 with External ADL: [ here ]
I just checked and this software version is NOT available from Pacific Crest directly. (Although I believe it is being widely distributed by dealers.)
Is this update important? Yes, I think so. Le t me describe problems that you may be seeing:
Base Radio (ADL Vantage and ADL Vantage Pro less than 18 months old):
Some radios have a propensity to ‘lock up’. When this happens, the red Tx LED will be locked on. The radio will be transmitting an open carrier and your battery will be quickly discharged and the radio will be as hot as a cheap pistol in a western gunfight (sorry, I can’t resist.) The ON/OFF switch will still work and resetting the power (either with the switch or by power cable) will get your unit working again. This problem is worse with over the air (link) rates of 4800 baud.
Rover Radio (ProMark 500 and ProMark 800)
Rover will work for a while and then misteriously stop receiving corrections. You won’t be able to check or change the radio frequency from the data collector. You have to turn off the receiver, wait for a minute and restart to fix. Again, this problem is worse with over the air (link) rates of 4800 baud than it is with 9600 baud.
ADL Vantage Pro Radios and Summer
As it starts to heat up this summer, remember that your ADL radios will self limit output power when they get hot. There is a great fan unit [ see here ], to mitigate this. We have a pile in stock as it gets really hot here.
ADL Vantage Pro Radios in Serial Number Range 1212 through 1231
On another ADL Vantage Pro note, if you have an ADL Vantage Pro radio with a serial number that starts with 1212 through 1231, and it has not been back to Pacific Crest to be ‘rebuilt’ you probably should consider sending it in. There is an known problem with the radio not starting below 25 deg F. I believe that radios above this temperature will eventually fail.
Contact your dealer or PCC directly for confirmation:
  1.408. 481.8070
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New Firmware and GNSS Toolbox for ProMark 120 and ProMark 220 Receivers

New firmware, GNSS Toolbox, ProMark Field and ProMark Office software is available for the ProMark 120 and ProMark 220 receivers.

The new firmware has these enhancements:

o better RTK Engine for harsh conditions (more RTK Fixes under heavy canopy)

o GLONASS Only mode supported

o QZSS tracking supported (this won’t make much difference unless you are in asia)

To download these enhancements:

o browse to

o click on ‘Products’ then ‘GNSS Surveying’

o click on ‘ProMark 120’ or ‘ProMark 220’

o click on ‘Support’ (you may need to login at this point)

o click on the file you want to download (at the bottom)

o then click on the file link on the left.

You are going to want download these files:

GNSS FW v2.1 (W213Ht26) & GNSS Toolbox v3.5 
GNSS FW v2.1 (W213Ht26) Release Notes
GNSS Toolbox v3.5 Release Notes

ProMark Field SW v3.5 (including RINEX Converter v4.3)
ProMark Field v3.5 Release Notes
RINEX Converter v4.3 Release Notes

All of these files are also available on the older FTP site:

in the normal places. Be warned that you will need a real FTP client (like FileZilla) to get the filesets. There are too many files to manually download them.

Survey On!

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New Distribution Method for Current Devices

Current Spectra Precision products like the ProMark 220 are now having firmware releases posted to the website, instead of the ftp site at

This should make life much, much better for customer’s who don’t have access to FTP transactions.

It also makes finding the correct firmware for a device much easier. You browse to the device on the Spectra website, click on Support and then choose the file the download.

I am going to have a more difficult time figuring out when new firmware is released. Currently I run a script which checks the entire FTP site, automatically downloads any new files and builds a list of the new files.

If you have not signed up for my mail list, you can do it [ here ]. It is my only way to automatically inform our (iGage customers) that new firmware / software may be available for your equipment. I realize that there are many more subscribers than we have customers (1,800+ at this point.) That’s okay too!

If you would like to receive automatic notices like this by email [ click here ]

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MiFi vs. Sim Card

Last October I buried comments about MiFi vs. Sim Cards in a post about Using a Z-Max receiver with a network connection.

Well, a week ago I purchased a used ATT MiFi device on eBay (AT&T Sierra Wireless Aircard 754S Elevate 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Modem Router) and had a (wait for this) FANTASTIC experience.

I bought a used MiFi device because I did not want to encumber my #1 sim card (I have two) with a contract. The device was shipped within an hour and it worked perfectly when I received it. But it would not log onto the local ATT network.

So I called ATT described what I wanted to do and was immediately escalated up a level to an amazing support guy. He made the back-end changes to the card’s registration and the MiFi worked (they just added LTE in Salt Lake so the speed at my house hovers around 20 Meg download which is 10 times faster than the DSL. The card is good for 5 GB of download, you probably only need 200 Meg if you are only going to survey.

When I made the change, I was positive that the card would no longer work in the SP/Ashtech devices. However everything I have tried so far (PM100, PM120, PM220, PM500, PM700, PM800, LT30, MM10) has worked just like before.

[I want to reiterate that the ATT Tech Support guy (who I probably should not name, but will) Aarron Lequia was simply-absolutely-amazing. He made the changes and then patiently waited for me to try the card in a 1/2 dozen devices, just in case I wanted to revert back to the old configuration. The customer support at ATT could not have been any better.]

Now, back on topic:

Advantages of Using Mi-Fi to Data Collector Method

  1. You can see the status of your internet connection on the Mi-Fi screen:
    With a glance, you know your MiFi device is online.
  2. The Wi-Fi connection from a Surveyor+ to the MiFi is bullet-proof. It just happens and works every time.
  3. You can get a Mi-Fi device from Verizon for use where ATT and TMobile have no service!
  4. Typically the price for a Mi-Fi subscription is lower than a sim card. And because no phone service is associated with the Mi-Fi, there is no tax on the service.
  5. You can use the Mi-Fi with other devices (tablet, laptop, multiple rovers), leveraging the internet service investment.
  6. The data rate connection is way faster with the MiFi. In the case of a PM220, it appears to be 100 times faster. If you are using Dropbox to move DXF files, this could be a big deal.
  7. My cell phone does ‘data roaming’ in South West Wyoming. But my MiFi does not (I do not understand why.) So my MiFi gets unlimited roaming data but my phone does not. By connecting my phone to the MiFi I can minimize my roaming data.
  8. There does not appear to be any tax appended to the MiFi bill. (But holy cow, there are plenty of taxes added to my cell phone bill.)
  9. We install a small tool that allows us to remotely control the screen and keyboard on your data collector. If your phone does not support  simultaneous voice and hotspot, then we can’t talk to you while we fix your receiver.

Disadvantages of Using a MiFi

  1. Plan costs a bit more per month.
  2. On the PM120,220,100,200 and MM120,100 you have to have a WiFi card in the side of the unit.

Disadvantages of Using a SIM Card in a Rover’s Internal Modem

  1. Once you make a connection, you can’t read the signal strength on any of the devices I sell. The signal strength from before the data connection is shown, not the current signal strength.
  2. Entering all the passwords, user names, server names is a pain in the butt. (This is now mitigated as I just leave everything blank and it works the first time.)
  3. The data collector and GPS internal modems do not support 3G and 4G connections.
  4. The card can only be used with one device, unless you remove it which is difficult.

Interesting Complaint with MiFi

One note on MiFi. I have heard complaints from others that their data collectors will disconnect WiFi from their MiFi while they walk or drive around a neighborhood.

The problem is: they have to ‘reconnect’ to the network when their data collector moves between networks.

I have never personally seen this and I believe it to be a bad configuration in the data collector. The setting is “Automatically Connect to Open Networks”. Obviously it should be ‘unchecked.’


So, if you’re thinking about provisioning data service to get network corrections, I still recommend a MiFi device.

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New ProMark 800 Firmware V1.6 Released

New ProMark 800 firmware was placed on the ftp site yesterday (May 21st, 2013).

You can read more about the change here [ Info ]

You can download the installation file here [ V1.6.S812Ku26.tar.bz2 ]

The firmware enhances Z-Blade performance under ‘difficult’ (think canopy) conditions; adds QZSS tracking and improves TTFF (Time To First Fix) performance with VRS systems.

I have loaded this new version and I am going to admit that the changes are subtle. Not because they are not there, but because the PM800 had such high performance with the previous version.

If you have not tried a PM800 under canopy yet, you should get your local dealer to run out and give you a demo. The PM800 is just amazing: the performance when traversing under heavy canopy would have been unthinkable a year ago.

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Repairs on Legacy Equipment

We can now offer repairs on legacy Ashtech equipment:

  • MM6, MMCE, MMCX, PM3, PM100, PM200, PM220 screens and touch-screens
  • ZMax Battery Re-Cells

Prices are reasonable and we are including FedEx 2-day return shipping. You can see a list of the repairs and prices [ here ].

For many repairs, the factory is a great option. But for some items like PM3 screen replacement our price is $1,100 less!

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NGS FTP Site Up-Down-Up-Down: No GNSS Solutions Download

Update: 3:51 PM Mountain Time: CORS is back up!

The NGS website and related CORS data resources have been up and down since last Friday.

It appears that UFCORS is working now. The ANTCAL database is up too.

But the FTP access appears to be broken. This means that GNSS Solutions can’t automatically download data.

You can manually test the FTP server by placing browsing to:

if you get a blank listing, then the NGS site is broken. If you get a directory, then it is probably up.

I have gotten a 1/2 dozen complaints in the last 30 minutes, so don’t feel picked on. 🙂

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ProMark 700: I love this

Okay, I am a late adopter on this one… I received my ProMark 700 receiver on Monday. It is really nice, and I am embarrassed to have not gotten one earlier.

Here is my short list of reasons to check out the PM700:

  1. Unbelievable light weight: 19.990 oz
  2. Long 10 hour life on a short charge
  3. One button operation (really!)
  4. Two LED’s: charging/on and Bluetooth
  5. Quick turn on, perhaps 15 second from turning on to tracking
  6. Fantastic performance (indistinguishable from a PM800)

The single power connector is high quality, and the receiver comes with a cigarette adapter so I can charge it at lunch time. (Not that it needs it, because the 10 hour life is more than enough to get me through a day.)

The bottom mount (the 5/8” hole on the bottom) is plenty tough enough for mounting a 20 oz receiver.

I can read the LED’s outside.

The manual is a single page.

The RTK performance in the Utah VRS is spectacular. I dependably get 2-second fixes in front of our office, north of the big blue spruce from full inverted dumps.

I did a couple hundred dump-fixes on Tuesday and the range was less than 1 cm in trying conditions. In fact, it was the quickest 100 dump-fixes I have ever performed because the receiver is smoking hot fast.

Over the weekend, I will run some long occupations and report on low angle tracking errors in a later post. I will also try to compare the PM220 and the PM700 directly.

This is a great network survey rover. And it is a great precision GIS receiver.

And did I mention that the price is pretty good too?


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Spectra Precision Dealer Meeting

Wow, I am just back from the Spectra Precision / Ashtech Dealer meeting in Ft. Lauderdale Florida (May 8-10, 2013.) The venue was spectacular and the meeting and presentations were all really interesting.

Some of the highlights for me were:

Survey Pro V 5.3 enhancements:

  digital leveling is added back in

  shapefiles can now be loaded as active backgrounds (COGO, Stake, Picks)

  support for RTCM delivered datums (you are going to hear a lot about this)

  two prism offsets (brilliant)

I was introduced to the new .survey file last year, but I did not really get how cool having a single ‘active’ data file for collection is. When you change an observation, all dependant values (think side-shots, traverses) automatically are updated.

Another neat trick happens when you run a level loop through a GPS observed point. The point attributes are split, GPS controls XY and level controls Z. Then the elevations will propagate through subsequent measurements separately from XY position.

This is really neat stuff and the internal complexity must be just crazy. Kudos to the SurveyPro team for getting it right.

There was a confirmation that Mobile Mapping is an important part of the SPNA (Spectra Precision Nikon Ashtech) portfolio. Mobile Mapper Field is an active product, as is the desktop tool.

The ProMark 700 is really cool, more on this later because I received my demo PM700 two days ago and have been playing with it quite a bit.

The new SP UL633 Universal Laser really is nifty

There was an announcement (May 9th) of a ‘Spectra Precision Preferred Support Program.’ Basically it emphasizes the importance of purchasing equipment from a great dealer (like us) who can provide the 1st line of support for products. Customer’s needing factory support will have it available, but there will be a cost (either pay as you go or an annual support agreement.)

I really like the program as it was presented. Typically 10% of customers generate 90% of the support calls. It is not fair to penalize the other 90% (the ones who take notes, have a stable employee base and might crack a manual) for the problems of these few. Plus charging for support and training emphasizes the value of dealer support. In other words, when we provide support for free it is often perceived to be of no value.

It was great to see all of our dealer friends from South America and Canada. Some of us have known each other for more than a decade. We skype often, but only see each other in person every couple of years at these functions.

All in all it was great fun. And definitely worth the time.


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