Monday, May 25, 2009

Tracking employees with GPS

Q. I recently found out that the company I am working for has been tracking us through a GPS service on our mobile phones. What bothers me is that we are supposed to always have our phones with us. This means they know where I am away from work, weekends and evenings. Any employee can log on to the Web site and know where I am. Is this legal?

A. Yes, it is probably legal.

Companies probably should not track their employees when they are not on duty, but as long as you have been made aware of your company’s policy, they are not invading your privacy under the law. It is possible that this sort of action will be illegal in the future, but for now, it is acceptable.

If you want to keep your job, your options are not good. If you take a stand, you may lose your job. If you sue your employer, you must then endure the hardship of a lawsuit just to prove you were right. (And you will probably need to find a new job as well.)

Houston Chronicle - United States

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Surveyors need to be registered

Surveyors need to be registered
Sunday Vision, Uganda

The way the surveying profession is being run in this country leaves a lot to be desired. Various qualified land surveyors, quantity surveyors and valuation surveyors are being deliberately denied registration by the Surveyors Registration Board.

They have made applications for registration many times which the board keeps rejecting, giving lame excuses.

The situation is quite alarming as, according to the list published last year, there are only 83 registered surveyors in Uganda. It is interesting to note that of over 200 students have graduated in Land Surveying from Makerere University since 1994 but only 10 have been registered. One wonders how the 10 were considered and the 190 rejected.

Most members of the board have there own private surveying firms. The fear of competition from the young surveyors has, therefore, resulted in them being blocked by denying them registration.

We appeal to the respective authorities to intervene to save the terrible situation in the matter of registration of surveyors in this country.

Concerned Surveyor

Monday, May 11, 2009

Trading a motorcycle for antique compasses

When I was in the Army in Germany back in the late sixties and early seventies, a friend and I each bought a BSA motorcycle. I bought the 650cc Lightning, and my friend bought the Firebird Scrambler. Both were twin-carb models, and the only other difference was that the Firebird had upswept tailpipes and a slightly different gear ratio, more suitable for off-road riding. Here's a 1970 shot in Germany:

The Army had a program whereby you could get out of the Army in Germany and you then had a year and the Army would still fly you back to the US for free. So, we both got out and drove our motorcycles all the way to the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco. As we were returning to Tangier, the clutch on my bike went out, so we put the bikes on a Czech freighter bound for NYC. After returning by train to Germany, we flew home, had a new clutch installed in mine in NYC, and then drove them to Oklahoma City. Just outside OKC, the oil pump on my bike went out so my parents came with a trailer and got us. And so, my bike sat in my parents' garage from the Spring of 1971. I always figured I'd get it fixed so I could putt-putt around town, but finally realized that I'd never get it fixed. Here's a shot in my parents' garage:

One of the writers for the magazine, Jeff Lock of Akron OH, has had an award-winning 35-year career in antique automobile restoration. About 10 years ago he decided to get into 18th century survey instrument restoration and he's had a few articles in the magazine about that (you can search for Jeff Lock on our website to see his outrageous photography. He even made a presentation at Oxford). When Jeff heard that I had the bike, he said he'd never done a motorcycle restoration and offered to trade the bike for an antique compass. So, on one of my road trips, I stopped by my parent's house and picked up the bike and drove it to Akron. Jeff decided that the bike was worth two compasses, and here's what I traded for (instrument shots by Jeff):

Young & Sons Explorer’s Compass: This miniature compass, made to the very high standards of Young & Sons work, is a smaller and more easier transported version often used where its diminutive size was advantageous to the surveyor. Very few of these, because of its size, are recorded.

Plane Table Compass (a.k.a. trough compass): This professionally-manufactured, Colonial plane table compass is unique in the fact that it has a complex needle lifter mechanism internal to the case. The style of needle and rope knurling of the needle lifter screw suggests a high level of competency in manufacture. The thick ivory scale, extending from 30-0-30 on each side is expertly divided and the case is constructed from Cuban mahogany and retains a warm, reddish-brown hue.

Here's some shots of me and Jeff in his workshop in Akron:

And here's Jeff's efforts thus far on the restoration:

All in all, I'm pleased with my trade. Instead of a motorcycle I hadn't seen or ridden in nearly forty years, I now have two compasses that I can enjoy every day.

February and March articles posted

Editorial: Raising the Stakes
Having once spent time blue-topping hubs for I-40 west of Oklahoma City, I can probably safely say that wood pounding is something surveyors won't miss when it comes to new technology methods--like machine control...
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Point to Point: GIS Follies
This just in from the You've Got To Be Kidding Department: There has been a serious attempt to develop algorithms to convert vague metes and bounds calls into mathematical data...
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The Caves of Naica
Since it began operation in the late 1800s, the Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico has proven to be one of the richest silver deposits in the world. In 1910, at a depth of 120 meters, a small cave was discovered. Named the Cueva de las Espadas...
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Descending to the Challenge
In one sense, it was an exceptionally straightforward job: all that Illinois' V3 Companies was being asked to do was survey a mostly straight, 1,600-foot long, limestone quarry tunnel...
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Training Recruiters: A New "TwiST"
A question often asked of surveyors is "Are we doing all we can to get the word out to the next generation of potential surveyors?" As a professor of geomatics at Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT)...
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A Visit to Altus Positioning Systems
For Olympians "Citius, Altius, Fortius" is Latin for "faster, higher, stronger." For surveyors, Altus Positioning Systems draws its name from the Latin word meaning high and deep. High (in terms of their GNSS satellite-related equipment) and deep (from the heavyweight lineup of...
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A Visit to Septentrio Satellite Navigation
I first became acquainted with Septentrio Satellite Navigation in 2001 when the company's CEO, Peter Grognard, made a presentation that was favorably received at a Civil Global Positioning System Service Interface Committee (CGSIC) conference...
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Vantage Point: Selling the Profession
A few months ago, I was deposed by the plaintiff in a suit for which I was serving as expert witness. The peculiar part was that the defendant had hired me, so I had an inkling that this would be an adversarial affair...
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Parallax: Acts of Notice
Years ago, making the transition from strictly construction surveying to land surveying, I took employment with a tactless, rude and crusty old surveyor that really had a massive heart of gold. This fellow suffered from an affliction that I have unfortunately witnessed far too many times in our profession ...
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March 2009 articles:
Editorial: Trimble Dimensions 2009
Defying the economy, Trimble's fourth annual user conference hosted more than 2,400 registered attendees from 67 countries. In his opening keynote, Trimble CEO Steve Berglund presented refreshingly candid remarks by saying that 15 months ago (at the last conference), participants were ....
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A Visit to Amberg Technologies
As I have written before, one of the things I enjoy most about my job as editor is bringing new technology to our readers, so it gives me great pleasure to present something entirely new in this issue. Last November we journeyed to ....
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Refined Dimensions - High-definition Scanning Helps Redefine Oil Refinery Fabrication
Today's modern oil refinery is a huge, efficient industrial facility that takes crude petroleum pumped from deep within the earth and turns it into useful products such as ...
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A Line Runs Through It - PLSC Supports New 40th Parallel Exhibit
The northern Front Range of what is now Colorado was a pristine wilderness well into the 1850s, trampled only by a small number of trappers and explorers, and by the ...
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ASTM E57 - 3D Imaging Systems
In 2003, in response to a request from the scanner manufacturers and consumers of scan data, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) agreed to develop standards and specifications for both equipment and methods. Subsequently, the American Society for ....
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Conference Review: Leica's HDS Conference Encourages New Scanning Companies
In past issues of this magazine, I have been intemperate in my praise of laser scanning's potential to remake surveying, engineering and, indeed, all of infrastructure. Or was I? Because the continued ....
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A Teen's Lunar Quest
Operation E.A.G.L.E is not a military project. It is a scientific endeavor undertaken by 16-year-old Rebecca England, a sophomore at Demopolis High School in Alabama. While many teenage girls are focused on celebrity ...
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Vantage Point: When Saving Is Not Equal to Preserving
We try to "save" buildings for many reasons­to save a slice of history that happened there, to reflect life as it used to be, to save samples of a famous architect's work, and sometimes just for their sheer beauty. But what does it mean to "preserve" a building? Does it mean to ...
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Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. I enjoyed "Hidden Point Offset" by Shawn Billings [Nov 2008], but have a small bone to pick, with all due respect to Mr. Billings. If one uses Mr. Billings' formula of Nl - [(Nl - Nh)/(HRl - HRh) * HRl substituting the appropriate terms for ...
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April/May articles posted

Editorial: SPAR 2009 and the Carlson User Conference
The American Surveyor has covered a whole lot of territory since our last issue! As part of a second road trip, I attended both SPAR 2009 conference in Denver and the 2nd Annual Carlson User Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, with a quick trip out to Logan, Utah in between (more on that leg of the .... Read the Article
WowFactor: SOKKIA Mobile Reference Station
As GPS has been adopted by surveyors, its proven benefits­higher productivity and efficiency­have been recognized. The unfortunate tradeoff to these benefits remains the high system cost of a traditional base and rover setup. To reduce the costs of GPS surveying, many countries have installed a permanent RTK infrastructure which .... Read the Article
A Model Home For NASA's New Space Telescope
NASA commissioned construction of an environmental simulation test chamber which was completed in 1964 at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. The facility, Chamber A, was invaluable for testing spacecraft and satellites before deployment to space. By testing spacecraft in an environment similar to ... Read the Article
John Austin Survey
To become an owner of land in 1824 under Mexican law one had to do certain things­pay a fee, take possession of the land, perform certain rites, and reside on and cultivate the land for a minimum of two years (this also meant defending one's life and properties against any war parties of ... Read the Article
Conference Review: GNSS - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? - Part 1
A December 2008 meeting hosted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California brought together not only the "Big 3" GNSS constellation providers but the new kids on the block as well, driving home the point that while GNSS may be "worldy" by nature it is getting "worldier" (if I can coin a term) by the .... Read the Article
Equipment Review: JAVAD GNSS Triumph-1
In the world of precision GPS, Javad Ashjaee continues to push the industry ahead with new technologies and new options. With roots that date back to the early days of Trimble Navigation, Javad was integral to the creation of the first combined GPS/ GLONASS system. More than a decade ago he was .... Read the Article
Direct Reflex vs. Standard Prism Measurements
Upon reading Mr. Pepling's product review of the Spectra Precision Focus 10 in the October 2008 issue, I took notice to one of the paragraphs on page 52. Mr. Pepling, and hopefully others, thought it would be interesting to see the results of a test comparing traditional prism measurements to ... Read the Article
Field Notes: Contemplating Cooley
Rules for retracing the subdivision of sections are well and good provided the rules were followed in the first place. Sometimes they were not. If you have already made that discovery for yourself, my story will sound familiar. If you have not, read on anyway. With a job like this it's better to live ... Read the Article
Vantage Point: Mapping the Zone
In March of 2007, the National Academies/National Research Council (NRC) informed me that I had been provisionally accepted as a member of "the National Research Council's Committee on FEMA Flood Maps: Accuracy Assessment and Cost-Effective Improvements". The first official meeting of ... Read the Article