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SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

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SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby Steve_C » Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:16 pm

I have just discovered that most hikers using the Spot Satellite Messenger system have not been able to send a signal since Friday.

I have a JMT hiker friend, whose last signal appeared Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 11:03:33 PM (Pacific Daylight Time). No more signals have been received until a single Check-In signal today, Aug 25, at 11:41 AM. (and no others in the past 4 hours).

Others are reporting the same problem. I'll keep the information updated on WhitneyZone:

SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Anyone with a unit, maybe you could turn it on and see if any messages get out, and report. (Mine is signalling, but nothing has been received). Thanks.

Edit Sunday 8/25/13: At 3:30 PM, things seem to be working again. The JMT hiker's unit is now sending signals, and so is mine from my back yard. Maybe this was just a 50-hour blackout due to some internet server crash.



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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:59 pm

And there's the problem. expectations.

It's a technology that can fail. It's why I tell my wife to not expect me back 2 days after the exit date. I don't want to harass SAR.

Can we lower our expectations on the tech and rely on ourselves for a change?

no i don't carry a spot.. yet.. Like my friends need another reason to stare at a website.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby oldranger » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:14 am

My spot worked perfectly last night (24th) from eagle cap Wilderness in NE Oregon. Signal did not go out Friday night but it was in a Zip lock bag out in the rain during a pretty significant thunderstorm.

Mike
Mike

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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby fishmonger » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:28 am

I had a spot for 4 years I think. Got rid of the unit this year. The orange lump is just dead weight unless you need to call the SAR posse, and then you don't even know if your call made it out or not.

Mine worked about 80% of the time when tracking (sometimes failing for hours at a time in open terrain), and only 10% of the time when sending OK messages. Yes, I can read and follow instructions. I also know about Globalstar's incomplete satellite network. It simply wasn't working well enough to justify the weight and annual subscription cost for a rather limited one-way messaging device.

I now have a sat phone. With my limited use it is cheaper to operate per year, and so much more useful. Yes, more expensive up front, but every time I needed to communicate in the wilderness in the past it wasn't a 911 situation, and tracking only cause confusion at the remote end where people have no idea what is going on when you fail to send tracking data.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby sekihiker » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:15 am

I know of only one failure of SPOT until last Friday. Four messages on Friday and four on Saturday did not get through. It failed again on tests on Saturday evening from my backyard then twice again on Sunday from my home, once with new batteries. My wife and daughters weren't too happy about the lack of messages. Hopefully, SPOT will post online when they are having problems with their equipment so those expecting messages will know there is a problem. I just ordered a new SPOT Gen3 because my annual rate will be reduced. I hope the problem is not more than a simple technical glitch. SPOT gives my family a lot of peace of mind, at least most of the time.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby Tom » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:30 am

I am in the mountains to avoid technology and the rest of the world.

I pick fishing spots that I know aren't popular and I am too paranoid that other people that fish differently than I will find out where I fish.

I also give my wife a "drop dead" due date and leave an marked map in the car.

I know the risks.

I know the rewards.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby SweetSierra » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:29 pm

This weekend I also discovered that 5 SPOT OK messages didn't go through from Friday evening through Sunday. I contacted SPOT and they said they were having technical difficulties (with the OK messages) during the weekend time period. An OK message sent today went through. I don't know what those technical difficulties were but SPOT said they were resolved.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby Steve_C » Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:20 pm

Following up here...
Yesterday, I was in contact with the SPOT rep from SoCal. When it was over, SPOT Customer Service even called me!

The situation occurred as a result of someone applying a software upgrade to a server in the system. The upgrade failed, knocking out the server. It took them about 50 hours to get the system working again, but whoever was involved failed to even notify the SPOT Customer Service OR the rep I talked to, until it was all over.

It left a lot of people watching for hikers' signals, and not seeing anything, and that caused a few to get really worried. Fortunately it is all working again. In my communications with SPOT people, I have stressed multiple times, that they need to have something in place to let people know when the SPOT system is having technical difficulties that last for over perhaps 30 minutes.

This really underscores what we hikers need to tell those watching: The system can fail, and when no signal is received, it may only be technical difficulties, or problems with the unit, or batteries, etc. etc. No signal is not a reason to become alarmed.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby fishmonger » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:36 pm

Steve_C wrote:It left a lot of people watching for hikers' signals, and not seeing anything, and that caused a few to get really worried.


this is exactly why I will never use any such device again - it doesn't do any good when things are working, it's like "d'uh, he's on the trail," but it creates uncertainty and worries when not. The benefits are marginal at best, while the potential fear it creates is something best avoided.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby tim » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:49 pm

fishmonger wrote:this is exactly why I will never use any such device again - it doesn't do any good when things are working, it's like "d'uh, he's on the trail," but it creates uncertainty and worries when not. The benefits are marginal at best, while the potential fear it creates is something best avoided.


Didn't your satellite phone stop working for a day due to a similar server crash?
I understand your point that expecting to have position reports and not getting them is a problem, especially if customer care dont know of the problem. But there's still a huge benefit in having a last known position if things go wrong and you can't ask for help. No way would I give that up if I was traveling on my own, especially after what happened last winter. A satphone or other device (eg PLB) that allows you to call for help is also useful, but it's a different capability than someone knowing where you are. Spot, inReach etc give you both sorts of capabilities, which is why I prefer them.

I'm told that the server problem was at the gateway in Western Canada. So it knocked out the West Coast, but if you were closer to the Texas gateway then the service was still working. That may be why the odd message got through, if the satellite receiving the message was over Arizona and relaying it through the Texas gateway.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby tomba » Tue Aug 27, 2013 9:28 pm

My SPOT Gen3 successfully sent last message Friday 8/23 around 10:20am, then no messages until Sunday 8/25 around 4:10pm. I kept trying to send OK messages and some tracking (when crossing harder terrain) every few hours. I set expectations that it may not work, so it didn't cause anxiety.

I am glad that the failure of sending messages was due to an exceptional event and not an indication that it is likely to keep failing in future. Although, of course, the server outage reflects poorly on the company, which is consistent with some poor reviews.

I got SPOT instead of DeLorme InReach because it weighs about half as much.
-- Found trash? Please pack it out. Thank you.
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Re: SPOT Satellite Messenger Problems

Postby fishmonger » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:41 am

tim wrote:
fishmonger wrote:this is exactly why I will never use any such device again - it doesn't do any good when things are working, it's like "d'uh, he's on the trail," but it creates uncertainty and worries when not. The benefits are marginal at best, while the potential fear it creates is something best avoided.


Didn't your satellite phone stop working for a day due to a similar server crash?



yes, but my satellite phone doesn't draw a map on a web page that is being presented to folks at home as a record of my status, so if I don't call, they aren't alarmed. Isn't that quite an obvious difference? If you promise tracking, then the tracking should at least tell users that the system is flawed or has gone belly up so they don't spend the next day on the phone with rangers and worry.
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