Fun in the Sun, Snow, Water, Mountains, Desert, Woods or Almost Anywhere Else

By Hal Reid

_Here we are in the midst of summer, you are working, the kids are out having fun and your next weekend will be dedicated to cleaning the garage, mowing the lawn or hosting some ne’er-do-well relative.

But let’s scroll forward to a time when the kids are all gone… gainfully employed. You have finally made a professional contribution the equivalent of inventing warp drive, full size holographic map projections on the desktop, or something else that effectively secures your retirement. Now you can bag the house and the yard, especially the ride-‘em-mower, and become the visitor instead of the visited. You buy an RV, which is the closest thing to an unlisted address.

Soon you are the visiting relative, filling up your relatives’ driveways with your huge RV. They get to park in the street and clean up the oil spots you left (what, no sewer hook-up?). Payback is great. You, of course, are on your way, traveling the country, seeing the sights. You have your cell phone, but you also need high-speed Internet access for email, surfing the Web, finding RV parks, and maybe even for submitting an article or two to Location Intelligence magazine. For mobile Internet access, HughesNet has a deal for you.

This RV Internet service from HughesNet, called Datastorm, was originally created by a company that was subsequently acquired by Hughes. The users of this original product formed a users group – found at DatastormUser.com.

From the Datastorm website:
The Datastorm is a motorized self-pointing two-way Internet dish that is typically mounted on a motor home, travel trailer, or similar recreational vehicle. The Datastorm does not provide in-motion Internet, but deploys with the push of a button when the vehicle is stopped, typically taking about 4 minutes. Most Datastorm users are connected via the DirecWay system.
While being on the Internet is certainly benefit enough, the Datastorm users group takes it to the next level. They recognize that RV-ers are social beings and want to keep track of the friends they make during their travels. So the users group has a map showing where the users are. The maps are created using MapPoint, so the controls are generally self-explanatory. The Datastorm users can link to email addresses and see several other characteristics of each user in the legend. This map shows 504 members. (I have abbreviated the list in the legend to make the image smaller.) The up-to-date map is here.

The location of Datastorm’s members in the U.S. (Click for larger image)


If you click on the user, you get a zoomed-in map of that user’s location. The boxes to the left of the user names are messages that you can see if you mouse over them. For example, one user’s message says, “We are in Fan Belt, IA for a few days, then off to Radiator Springs to see Cars.”

The location of one specific member. (Click for larger image)


The Datastorm users group reaches outside the U.S., and those members can also be mapped, in Europe and elsewhere.

A member in China. (Click for larger image)


This mapping application is not limited to users of the HughesNet system, but that system was the only mobile satellite system available when the group was formed. There is a user’s forum for discussing VOIP (voice over IP – e.g. Vonage) and other related technologies. The group also hosts rallies.

This service just might offer the perfect compromise between independence and isolation - selective access with the outside world. It’s certainly indicative of the fact that mapping applications are becoming pervasive.

Published Saturday, July 15th, 2006

Written by Hal Reid



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