A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Hewitt Schlereth
Date: 2011 Feb 14, 10:49 -0400
I've had StarPilot on a TI-89 Titanium for over a year, and you're right - it's terrific. I also have it on an HP Mini Netbook running XP Home. The huge difference on the PC is the size of the screen for the graphic display of the sky-plot and sight-analysis programs.
With the TIs tiny porthole, it's possible to read the screen (a magnifying glass is a big help here). But what a difference on the PCs 10-inch screen. I saw a brief demo of StarPilot on iPhone and that's where the big difference lies - the iPhone screen. And it's in glorious hi-res technicolor as opposed to the calculator's grainy black and white.
About a month ago, George Brandenburg, you asked:
"I was curious to see what exists on the iPhone for Cel Nav and found three apps ranging from very pricey, to pricey, to pretty cheap. Has anyone tried any of these? There are some interesting reviews posted, but I didn't recognize anyone from NavList. - George B
iPhone Apps (descriptions attached)
It's funny (or sad!) the way you refer to $50 as "very pricey". The iPhone market shot itself in the foot to a large extent with the 99 cent app. But you know how it goes -- you get what you pay for. Of course, it's quite possible that someone will release a free or very cheap iPhone app that does anything and everything you might want in the world of celestial navigation. People do these things for political and philosophical reasons, sometimes plain old vanity, and sometimes as loss-leaders for other software that they (we) sell.
As for these specific apps, I had planned to download a few more and try them out to see how well they work. I HAVE BOUGHT StarPilot for iPhone but so far not the others. I also know of at least two other NavList members who have purchased StarPilot for the iPhone/iPad platform.
StarPilot was created by Luis Soltero some fifteen years ago, and it was originally built for programmable calculators. This is still considered the primary platform for this software and with good reason. Calculators are physically robust. They rarely break unless you beat them with a hammer. They usually have components which are not especially sensitive to EM pulses, static discharges, even a little water. Also, these calculators, as Soltero points out, are ubiquitous, and that's a really good point. If you lose one in the mid-Pacific, you can usually replace it at your first port of call at the local office supply store. And, yes, they have those these days even on smaller islands in the middle of nowhere. Then again, "these days" changes so fast that it may well be easier to buy an iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch).
Due to the calculator heritage of StarPilot, the iPhone version will disappoint on one key measure: the interface. The iPhone version appears to be a nearly exact clone of the calculator version. To enter an angle, a keypad pops up, looking just like a calculator keypad, and to enter, e.g., 35d 22.1', you type out on the calculator keypad "35.221" (I may have the details wrong here, but this is the general "pattern" of data entry). The iPhone software is not intuitive. It has to be learned much like the calculator versions of StarPilot. Don't get me wrong. It's not difficult to learn, just a bit annoying that it hasn't been re-worked for this platform. I think that the logic here is that the iPhone version is really "training wheels" for the calculator version which is the one you should take to sea. As sweet as iPhones and iPads are as 21st century all-purpose computing devices, they are, I would say, afraid of the rain!
The StarPilot software in general is battle-tested. I've tried it out on a couple of different platforms, and it works really well. It's EXCELLENT. The calculations and data can be trusted at almost every level. The lunar distance calculator that's included is a bit of an after-thought and somewhat quirky, but who cares anyway? Anyone doing lunars is already quirky! Luis has noted that his software can be used for analysis of historical sights going back even two hundred years, however there is a flaw in his ephemeris calculations which increases linearly with time and would be problematic for some sights more than fifty years in the past. That's a very minor issue for the vast majority of users, but since you personally, George B., have expressed interest in historical sights, I though I should mention it.
One problem with the Apple app store is that they intentionally make it difficult for software publishers to provide trial versions of products. There are ways to do it, but they're problematic. In the case of StarPilot, however, there is an option. Since the various versions are nearly identical, you can try it out on a different platform, like Windows, and it will run and work almost exactly as it does on the iPhone or iPad. I am fairly sure that you can apply to get a trial version of the Windows version of StarPilot from Luis Soltero's web site: http://www.starpilotllc.com/.
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