Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Northwest Passage with Starpath, plus its nav rules app


Twenty-three days on a Russian ice breaker following Roald Amundsen's 1903 route through the Northwest Passage? Hell, yes, especially with David Burch -- navigator extraordinaire, and Starpath founder-- riding along as tutor and guide to the vessel's bridge. If I had the money and the time (heck, it took Amundsen three years), I'd seriously consider this opportunity. For one thing, the venerable Kapitan Khlebnikov is going back into government service, and this may be her last Passage passage. And for another, the high latitudes -- where compasses, celestial navigation, and even many forms of modern communications all get dicey -- are what nav-obsessed gents like Burch live for...
I've never actually met David Burch, but we've corresponded occasionally for years (and I'm a fan of his work). Most recently it was because Starpath just released a professional-level Nav Rules app, and David asked me to try it. It's a seriously data-rich and multifaceted program, and I'm pretty sure it's everything a person needs to study for the critical rules section of a USCG license test (90% correct answers required!). But while I hope to never take one of those GD tests again, it's hard to imagine a resource that will better sharpen me up for the many rules-of-the-road situations I'll encounter on my way South next fall.
   Well, I take that back. It is slightly irritating to run Starpath's Nav Rules on an iPad. Like most all apps designed for the original 320-by-480 iPhone and iPod Touch pixel resolution, it will run on an iPad but without taking advantage of the pad's much bigger screen. Yes, I doubled the pixel count in the screens below, but Nav Rules on the iPad could easily put both the flash card and the question on one 600-by-800 pixel screen. Which would speed up my re-learning process (though of course you want the rule the question is based on to be a link away).
   However, I'm quibbling about an Apple issue, really; I just don't think they're sufficiently upfront about how much better iPad-specific and Universal apps look on the big boy. In fact, Nav Rules will likely be one of the very few iPhone apps I use much on the pad.  And, by the way, if the $30 price tag is a bit much for you, check out the free nav rules resources at the bottom of that product page. Funny thing: If you should happen to book passage on the Kapitan Khlebnikov with David Burch, one of the few navigation issues you won't see much of is rules of the road.


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