Is your older GPS device about to go bonkers?

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Do you own any GPS devices or equipment that relies on GPS to function? If so, now is probably a good time to check whether or not those products are protected against the GPS Week Number Rollover issue — a sort of mini Y2K Bug for GPS receivers that will occur in April.

The bug isn’t disastrous and should only hit a small number of GPS devices, but for those impacted the results could be severe, resetting the receiver’s time and corrupting its location data. Only older devices are at risk, though, and if you’re just using a commercial device the fix is simple: just check that its software is up to date.

The rollover issue itself is caused by the fact that GPS systems count weeks using a ten-bit parameter. This means they start counting at week zero and reset when they hit week 1,024. The first count (or “GPS epoch”) started on January 6th, 1980, and the first reset took place on August 21st, 1999. That means the next one is due this coming April 6th.

When the rollover happens older devices may reset their date, potentially corrupting navigation data and throwing off location estimates. GPS relies on precise timing data to operate, and each nanosecond the clock is out translates into a foot of location error.


Read more at The Verge


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Henry
Henry

I’ve also been informed that my old TomTom will no longer be updated. Perhaps this is industry wide.

Roger Marble

Garmin info and reply. https://support.garmin.com/en-US/?faq=zWQY6Z2kFiAuY9kDnDBgZ6&searchQuery=gps%20rollover
Looks like not much to worry about unless you use a GPS as your timepiece.

RV Staff

Thank you for the updated info from Garmin, Roger! We’ll post it where everyone can see it, in case they miss it here. —Diane at RVtravel.com

Wayne
Wayne

I had a 10 ten year old Magellan and we set out on a trip 5 weeks ago. My friends were making fun of me and this “old” unit and suggested I get a new garmin. So I did. We are in Arizona and California and so far the “new” garmin has steered us wrong about a 3 rd of the time. Even to RV parks that have been at. Location for 30 years. Two days ago I pulled out the old Magellan and put the same address in both units. Yep New Garmin was a half a mile out.… Read more »

Roy Ellithorpe
Roy Ellithorpe

April Fools!

Wolfe

I’m curious of the source for this information… I worked for Orbital Sciences Corporation and Magellan in when GPS was first being built out and I dont recall 10 bit counters because that would be strange data alignment-wise. Further, the week number is mainly used only for display in any unit I’ve seen and has absolutely nothing to do with the nanosecond timer that produces the location triangulation. Certainly “never say never” but this is actually news to me…

Tom
Tom

I work for a timing company in August of 99. Between this and Y2K we kept several people employed and very busy for over a year and a half before this. The US government even had a task force to handle potential problems that would be caused by the GPS rollover and Y2K. Nothing eventful happened and life went on.

Wolfe

Yep… my company du jour did major code reviews for Y2K (found nothing because we’re not idiots) and had many engineers in a bunker just in case that night. Suffice to say, the world did not end. Avoiding rollover within your working range is C-101…

Doug/ND
Doug/ND

Is this how cell fones work too? Seems they go just so long and – walla, like magic – no software updates anymore.

Wolfe

No, that is planned obsolescence and forced sale of new hardware by your cell provider. I replaced two phones last year that were 4G LTE+ and Verizon insisted up and down that they would not work on their network even though they were already working fine on the network. Verizon hates unlocked phones, or phones not bought from them at 5X markup. Same hardware, just not crammed with their junk apps and spyware.

Tommy Molnar
Tommy Molnar

Gee, you mean my aging Magellan Meridian Platinum handheld GPS that I use for Geocaching could be rendered useless? They just don’t make things like they used to . . . . 🙂

Wolfe

I think I mentioned I also have one of those,, as well as a Magellan 2000XL if you remember that ancient brick!! It’s a navigation tool and a tent stake hammer! We’ll see!

Tommy Molnar
Tommy Molnar

Was the 2000XL the tall, skinny GPS that didn’t have maps? Only a “line” that you could follow back to where you started? If so, I had one of those sitting on the dash of my p/u waaaaay back. It slid off the dashboard, plopped on my plush floor carpeting – AND DIED. Magellan offered me a big discount on a newer GPS (Which I took) but I can’t remember exactly which one it was. Sport?

Wolfe

Correct… a dense brick that fit well in hand and nowhere else without a custom cradle. Seriously waterproof, great for hiking or even aircraft, but no roadmaps for routing. They came out before consumers really knew about GPS, so all raw locator function and no art. If you recall, the Meridians only got maps 64MB at a time, IF you put in an SD card, and still didn’t have routing either until a firmware update late in its product life. Now that GPS is built into devices for a couple dollars, folks forget GPS was once many hundred dollars for… Read more »

Tommy Molnar
Tommy Molnar

And we still have three of the Meridian Platinums because we still use the “Map Send” Topo software with all 48 states included. We can pick out sections of a state (large sections!) and head off Geocaching or ATV’ing. Now they only sell a couple of states on each piece of software – and for more than we paid for the original 48 state mappage. And of course, we can’t use that old stuff in any of the new GPS’s. Grrr. These old GPS’s are slow to load and ‘find themselves’, but they still do the job.

Bob Godfrey
Bob Godfrey

Funny how they don’t tell you this stuff when you originally purchase the product.

David Lange
David Lange

How can I check?

Wolfe

Look at your GPS mid April? Lol!

George
George

So … what does it take to cure the GPS reset problem if you have an older GPS.

Patrick Granahan
Patrick Granahan

Might be time to buy a new unit.
My plan is to do that if my GPS fails after
April 6th.

Vic Bunn
Vic Bunn

Sounds like a simple modern day solution—buy a new one! For us people who grew up in the ’40s & ’50s that’s difficult to swallow.

Doug/ND
Doug/ND

Amen Vic! Such a throw-a-way society – and they want us to recycle and replace these expensive convenience “toys”!

Dry Creek
Dry Creek

Well, I *do* tend to buy a new rand McNally Road Atlas every couple of years…..
We also update our copy of “The Next Exit” when we do. Both are available on Amazon.com.