Updating Charts is a Bit of a Mess

Globally the whole business of updating charts is in a bit of a mess at the moment and probably will be for a while. Most national hydrographic offices are fairly well set up for maintaining their paper portfolios. This is no great surprise as some of them have been in this business for a century or more. However with the advent of electronic charts a lot of things have to change. The whole production process needs to be reorganised (not cheap) and some of the basic ways of thinking about charts have to change.

Raster charts are commonly produced as facsimiles of the paper charts. In a simplistic system they are literally scanned from the paper originals. This can give rise to inaccuracies for a range of reasons not least of which are distortions in the paper and non-linearity in the scanner. Scanning at a resolution appropriate to the electronic chart can cause a rather jagged appearance which is most noticeable in diagonal lines and known as aliasing. The raster chart has far fewer dots (pixels) than the corresponding paper chart and this can compromise appearance. A better production method is to create the raster image from the same electronic chart images used to drive the paper printing process. There are still some issues here with re-projection which need to be handled correctly but in general this is a cleaner and more accurate process. It also allows image processing such as anti-aliasing which gives a better visual impression when the electronic chart is displayed.

In either production technique the updating of the raster charts follows on more or less naturally from the time served paper chart update process. It is then common for the vector charts to be produced from the raster data, more or less indirectly from the paper chart production mechanism. At the end of the update chain are the third party chart producers who copy the official data sets and repackage them in a variety of ways. Quite naturally these are the last types of charts to get updated.

But this is all changing because this is not a good way to handle vector data and vector data is the future. It is a separate issue as to why vector charts are the future or whether it is the right future but for now it definitely is the future. The IHO and other august bodies are committed to this and substantial funds are being invested. This matters because creating vector data from paper charts is just not a good way of doing things.

In the vector world everything is an ‘object’ like a light or a depth contour or a traffic lane. Each object has ‘attributes’ like the color red or a certain depth. Each object also has a position (the ‘vector’) so it is represented as a point, a line or an area. These objects can be quite readily managed in a simple database but the natural way of organising them is to tie them more directly to the raw survey data. So when a report is received that a new wreck has been found it is just entered into the database – no intervening chart required.

Vector charts are now a cinch to produce. A cell is just a collection of all the objects in a given geographical area. The problem of actually displaying the chart data is palmed off to the ECDIS or ECS. Paper charts and raster charts are a bit more problematical because the traditional role of the cartographer has been taken out of the loop. Have you ever wondered why a modern chart display simply just does not look as good as a paper chart? Well this is why, there is no longer a cartographer involved to lay out the chart and make it look ‘just so’. Instead we have a dumb computer, and they are all dumb, attempting to reproduce the sort of work that takes a human many years of training and experience. It just doesn’t work so well.

Now to be fair the automated vector to raster production processes are getting better but none the less there is still a complete role reversal. The raster chart becomes a second class citizen to the vector chart and the paper chart ends up at the bottom of the pile. Instead of being the primary focus for updates it becomes the last. There are undoubtedly many advantages with vector charts and with paper charts generated from vector databases. However, for the foreseeable future, they are never going to match the visual quality of the charts that have become standard fare for the mariner for many years.

Last in the chain will always be the third party chart producers. Fortunately as their update feeds become predominantly more electronic (just another output from the database) then these updates should become more timely. Ultimately they should be able to match the official charts for accuracy.

Just now we are in a great transition phase. Some hydrographic offices are pushing ahead with vector only systems while others just deal with traditional paper charts. Most are somewhere in between and possibly a bit unsure of which way to go or how it is all going to shake out. Meanwhile the mariners can look forward to improved electronic charts coverage and more rapid updating. They can also anticipate charts which do not look so good and which, in some cases, are going to cost more. Maybe this is just a classic engineering compromise.

5 Tips to Create Overnight Success With Your Home Business

There are a lot of runners in a race, but how many get the prize? Two or three at the very most! The others finish in the also-ran category. Similarly, in business there is lots of competition everywhere. Only a few develop into a big and successful business. But the consolation here is that, the also-ran, also earns enough money.

Home based business is a new breed that is making every head turn and cash registers ring. If you are into it, then you already know the knack. But what if, only with a little more effort, your home based business achieves overnight success? Here are some tips.

Offer unique product / service

If you do not wish to end up as an also-ran, then you should not run the common race. Run in the direction that takes you to prizes that know one else knows about. Take the path know one else dares to tread. This is the first key to success. Develop your business over an idea that is unique in nature or offer services that know one has thought about or develop a solution to some problem that many people face. The uniqueness of your products and services will put you on the fast track that know one else is running on. It allows you to grab the prize before anyone else catches up. But then, being unique is no walk in the park. Look around for possible clues. Think about capitalizing on your very own talent or simply, follow your passion.

Focus on the target

Are you allowed to change your track while racing? Never! So do not change your track in business as well. Do not wander. You should always maintain your track with a specific target in mind. Concentrate your energy over the same pursuit. This will allow you to achieve expertise in your chosen business. Chart your step by step course towards, a bigger and better business. On the way, stay focused. Utilize available resources to the maximum. Seek guidance from the experts, or online. Sharpen the skills that will help you along the way.

Staying focused on your goal will give you some clues that may prove to be beneficial for your success. This will open up hitherto unexplored tracks to success.

Promote your biz

You should get talking about your business. Utilize every possible medium to make its presence felt. Put banners at eye-catching places. They don’t need to be very big or hording. Places like community centers, bus stops, parking slots, etc… are equally effective. Distribute pamphlets at social functions or at traffic junctions. You should publish relatively small ads in newspapers. Also do not miss out on electronic media such as local TV networks etc…

Most importantly, get blogging about your business. Post blogs on popular websites and offer your business as a solution to someone’s problem. Blogging is a new rage and many businesses are utilizing it to the max to promote their business. Learn the basics of blogging. It doesn’t require technical expertise or many creative skills. You can do this relatively easy for the sake of promoting your own business.

Build a team and relationships

Every successful business needs a team to support its activities. Build up your team. Your team should, possibly, have an expert from each sphere of business activity. It should have speedy distribution channels. Your team should also give excellent after the sale support. If you are the sole owner and operator of your business, you should build up your contact base. Expand your business relations and ensure that being alone does not turn out to be an excuse for inferior services.

Remember success is nothing but putting valuable points into practice. You have these points, putting them on the right track will ensure the success of your home business.

Business Plans 101

A business plan acts as a road map or compass; without it you will get lost in your business.

The biggest mistake is simply putting it off.

A plan contains a description of your business, an evaluation of your main competitors and several financial calculations.

But why are so many people so afraid or intimidated to write these plans of actions?

Many new business owners are so over-enthusiastic about their business concept, that they are desperately eager to begin and do not have the patience to look at the economic realities involved in their business.

Filling out the many financial forms in your plan can be an overwhelming process for any new business owner. Many are so intimidated by the financial calculations that they want to skip this process. If you recognize either of these tendencies in yourself, it is even more important that you prepare your financial calculations carefully and pay attention to what they tell you. Do not try to get out of it by telling yourself that your financial estimates will be wildly off base and yield useless results.

To alleviate this type of intimidation many have with a plan, it is imperative that Certified Public Accountants, bookkeepers, business plan or financial consultants be a part of your business support team. If you do not have these experts to assist you with your plans, you can take a course in accounting and buy the latest accounting programs.

Other resources to help you write a business plan include books, colleges and universities that work with Small Business Development Centers and counselors and mentors at the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). They provide low-cost classes on how to write business plans from $40 to $60.

Remember you are the brains of your business; your accountant is the heart and your attorney is the lungs. An accountant helps you keep track of your money and an attorney helps you protect it.

Since over 90% of start-up businesses are funded by private sources such as retirement or pension plans, unemployment insurance payments, savings accounts, divorce settlements, child support payments, etc., many people skip the business plan stage.

Even if you do not need money to start your business, writing a plan will help you see if your idea will be strong from the start. Without a plan, you leave far too many things to chance.

If you started your business without writing a plan of action and now you are close to running out of funds, then chances are you need to write an expansion business plan to look for other financing options while you move your business to the next level.

When seeking out funding for your business you need to make yourself known to financing sources well in advance of asking for financial help; approach multiple sources of financing; educate yourself on the available financing options; know which options are available to your type of service or product; determine which options to pursue at various phases of your company’s growth and always be ready to prepare your business for financing.

You definitely will need a plan if you are going to apply for a business loan, need investors, have business partners, have a management team, or are selling the business.

You can use your plan as a tool to generate interest from financiers, prospective employees and strategic partners.

Before you even start to write your plan, get copies of loan applications used by banks, commercial finance companies, and government. These applications will give you a good idea of how much financial information you will need to include in the business plan.

The most standard plan is a start-up plan, which defines the steps for a new business and the expansion plan which will take the business to the next level or to a larger market.

The plan count is not a good way to estimate how good your plan will be. Instead, measure the plan by readability. A good plan should provide a reader with a general idea of what a business owner is trying to accomplish after skimming or browsing over it for 15 minutes. The more standard start-up and expansion plans developed for showing outsiders normally run 20-40 pages of text, easy to read, well-spaced text, formatted in bullets, illustrated by business charts and short financial tables, plus financial details in appendices. Never write a business plan 50 or more pages.

At a minimum, your plan should have the following sections: Executive Summary, Company Description, Product or Service, Market Analysis, Strategy and Implementation, Web Plan Summary, Management Team, and Financial Analysis.

The most important part of your plan is the Executive Summary. The Executive Summary is an outline of the entire business plan. If you do not have a good Executive Summary, chances are the SBA, bankers and potential investors will not read the entire business plan.

Just remember that the most important audience for a business plan is YOU! Only you are accountable to all of the statements, claims, stats and facts inside of your business plan.

Remember by skipping the business plan stage chances are your business will face many, many risks and you might find yourself out of business within 2 to 5 years.