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April 1, 2011

Spot Recalls SPOT Satellite Communicator

Filed in Gear , News

SPOT Satellite Communicator and Delorme PN-60wSpot LLC has issued a product recall on the SPOT Satellite Communicator which is bundled and sold exclusively with the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w. This comes just over a year after Spot had to recall its then recently introduced second generation SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger, or what is now known as SPOT 2. And, as was the case then, it appears the contract manufacturer in China installed a part that was not up to spec.

According to Spot, “in certain incidents, intended messages may not be transmitted, including requests for help or emergency assistance, when the SPOT Satellite Communicator is used at temperatures below 40 degrees Farhrenheit/4.44 degrees Celsius.”

It is important to note that this recall DOES NOT impact the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w handheld device itself or any other DeLorme product. Spot also says that this out of spec part does not impact any other products in Spot’s line-up.

Click here for details on the recall and how to get your SPOT Satellite Communicator replaced if you have one.

March 24, 2011

ETS Joins Coalition to Save Our GPS

Filed in Musings

GPS AT RISKEquipped to Survive Foundation has joined the newly formed Coalition to Save Our GPS, which is opposed to the unusual and unsound waiver by the FCC for LightSquared to use its satellite spectrum for high-powered ground-based broadband transmissions that may interfere with GPS signals before testing has determined that it is safe to do so and that it does not jeopardize the millions of existing GPS users.

Doug Ritter, Equipped to Survive Foundation Chairman, issued a statement, saying, “Equipped To Survive Foundation represents the users of distress alerting devices (ELT, EPIRB, PLB and SEND) that rely upon GPS to provide the most accurate location. Accurate location significantly speeds rescue and is often the difference between life and death in disasters, emergencies and other survival situations. Any interference or disruption to GPS would significantly jeopardize the safety and survival of those who need rescuing and would also significantly increase the peril to those who risk their lives to perform these rescues. Moreover, interference or disruption to GPS could result in many more lost or imperiled individuals who depend upon GPS to safely find their way, increasing further the risk of loss of life.”

Ritter further stated, “the FCC’s abuse of normal procedures in granting this waiver is an affront to the many millions of GPS users who deserve better. We joined the Coalition to Save Our GPS in order to help ensure that users of distress beacons with GPS will be represented in whatever resolution may be developed to this potentially disastrous situation. We need answers and we need proof from real world testing that existing GPS users will not be adversely impacted by this effort, or it cannot be allowed to go forward.”

More information and links to express your support of this effort can be found at the Coalition to Save Our GPS web site: www.SaveOurGPS.org

December 12, 2010

Sneak Peek – ACR ResQLink PLB – Smallest PLB Yet

Filed in Gear , News

UPDATE: July 21, 2011: FCC approval granted, now available for purchase.

(3D CAD images provided by ACR – click for higher resolution images – the images are an accurate representation of the new PLB I examined.)

ACR ResQLink in HandIt’s been a long time coming, but I just got a firsthand look at ACR Electronics’ answer to the popular McMurdo FastFind 210 PLB. The new ACR ResQLink 406 MHz PLB (model PLB-375) is ever so slightly smaller and lighter than the McMurdo at 3.9″ (99mm) x 1.9″ (48.3mm) x 1.3″(33mm) and 4.6 oz (130 g). That compares to the FastFind’s 4.17” (106mm) x 1.85” (47mm) x 1.34” (34mm) and 5.3 oz. Enough for them to lay claim to the “world’s smallest and lightest” PLB title.

The price is not yet finalized, but expect it to be competitive with the McMurdo’s $250 street price.

This First Look is based on ACR provided information and my short opportunity to get some hands-on experience with a pre-production unit. It appears to offer some clear advantages compared to the FastFind, beyond the small difference in size and weight. What ACR have done, essentially, is to put their SARLink PLB on a severe diet, while keeping its desirable features.

As with all previous ACR PLBs, the ResQLink has a flexible blade antenna wrapped around the case that is very easy to deploy one-handed. Just slip the tip from the retaining clip and rotate it up into position. It has detents at both the perpendicular and horizontal points for flexibilitywhile in a pocket or some such arrangement. Its design configuration is to be set down on its back with the GPS antenna oriented to the sky and the antenna perpendicular to the body of the PLB. I like that ACR have added a retainer on the side of the PLB opposite the antenna pivot that the antenna slips into, addressing one of the minor annoyances of prior models of ACR PLBs, the antenna sliding away from the body while stowed. This one is much more secure when in the stowed position.

ACR ResQLink ButtonsThe activation and test buttons are covered by the plastic encased base of the antenna when stowed. Rotating the antenna away from the stowed position gives access to the two buttons on the side of the device. That’s very neatly solves the need for two separate physical actions required by the regulations and keeps the buttons safely protected from inadvertent activation when stored.

The ResQLink uses a 66-channel GPS for very quick acquisition of location, like its previous generation brethren that had very quick time to first fix, and has a full GPS self-test, which I prefer. It can also be used with ACR’s 406Link.com subscription-based web site for through system testing and limited messaging with GPS location. Two days of free testing are included so that the new owner can assure themselves that the PLB is working by testing it up to the COSPAS-SARSAT geostationary satellites and back down to an earth station.

ACR claims that the ResQLink will always exceed 5 watts output, which they claim to be better than the McMurdo’s measured nominal 4.6 watts. They are claiming typical battery life of 30-40 hours at -4 degrees F (-20 C), considerably more than the minimum 24 hours requirement.

ACR ResQLink in HandThere’s a flashing white LED “strobe” that automatically activates when the PLB is turned on that is visible through the clear plastic front of the body. Results of test mode operation are enunciated via this LED as well. A good size lanyard attachment point is provided, along with a lanyard to secure the PLB to you.

it is not inherently buoyant, so a float pouch will be an available option. ACR rate it as waterproof to 33 feet (10m) for 10 minutes.

ACR plans to keep the exiting AquaLink models in production as they feel there is a market for an inherently buoyant PLB, even if it is larger, plus they will keep the digital display “View” versions of the existing models around since they feel the display provides a compelling feature set for some purchasers.

From my point of view, I prefer the smaller, lighter new ResQLink for all uses. As I always say, “if it isn’t with you, it can’t save you™” and you are much more likely to carry the small ResQLink than a larger PLB. For marine uses or where you might end up in the water inadvertently (aircraft ditching, for example), as long as the PLB is connected to you by a lanyard, which you need to do regardless of whether or not it is buoyant, you are good to go.

The new ResQLink is small enough to easily fit into a pocket or can be carried in an appropriate-sized cell phone holster on your belt.

I found the ergonomics of the ResQLink to be very good. It is easy to grip securely, there’s enough exterior elements on the case to assist in that, and very easy to operate one-handed. Both are definite advantages over the McMurdo FastFind.

Notwithstanding some non-obvious issue, which given ACR’s reputation and past experience I don’t expect, the new ResQLink incorporates enough notable advantages over the McMurdo FastFind that it appears to be the next must-have PLB. Expect availability of the new ResQLink in the first quarter of 2011.

We will have a full report and images of the real PLB, along with side-by-side images with the McMurdo FastFind 210, as soon as we can get our hands on one for more than a few minutes.

UPDATE: July 21, 2011: FCC approval granted, now available for purchase.

November 20, 2010

Film Review: 127 Hours

Filed in Musings

An inspiring film about a life-and-death struggle

Review by Wil Milan

127 Hours PosterIt’s difficult to make a suspenseful film when it’s about a true story and everyone knows the ending. That was the challenge for director Danny
Boyle
(of Slumdog Millionaire fame) with the film 127 Hours, the story of Aron Ralston, the young man who in 2003, his hand pinned under a boulder in a remote desert canyon, had to cut off part of his arm to free himself. But director Boyle (who also co-wrote the screenplay based on Ralston’s book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place) and actor James Franco (Spiderman films,
Pineapple Express) have met that challenge, delivering a dramatization that is not only very accurate, but transports the audience to see and feel Ralston’s predicament, his suffering, despair, and ultimate triumph.


The story made headlines at the time and the premise is now well-known: Out for a weekend of canyon-climbing, Ralston accidentally dislodges a boulder and ends up with his hand pinned by the boulder at the bottom of a slot canyon.
Far from civilization with little food or water and having told no
one where he was going, Ralston is suddenly faced with the type of situation few ever survive.


Actor James Franco is masterful in his depiction of Ralston. He compels the audience to experience Ralston’s
evolution from a bop-along, cocky thrill-seeker to his moment of shock when he is first trapped, then through times of rustration, despair, regret, bits of humor about his own plight, the memories of family and friends that sustained him, his resignation to his own death, and finally the surprising thoughts and events that led to his climactic suffering and euphoria of escape, only to realize that what he still faces is probably beyond what he can endure. Franco’s rendering of a man in extremis ranks among the best such portrayals on film, a tour de force that’s a shoo-in for a top
Oscar nomination.


Though the film is a dramatization, Boyle and his crew took great pains to portray the events accurately. In a recent BBC interview Ralston remarked that upon first seeing the film he was so caught up in its realism that he felt he was there again and found himself weeping through most of the film. Boyle took pains in even some of the smallest details: The rescue helicopter and pilot seen at the end of the film, for instance, were the actual helicopter and pilot who swooped in to rescue Ralston in 2003.


James Franco in 127 HoursWhen this film first opened in a few cities two weeks ago, much was made of reports of people fainting during one bloody scene at the climax of the film at the first Toronto screening. This reviewer can only conclude that there must have been some particularly squeamish people at that screening. The scene of Ralston’s self-amputation is indeed bloody and certainly both shocking and painful to watch, but the gore is not played up and the scene is kept short. That scene felt to this viewer like the minimum necessary to portray something of what Ralston went through, which in real life took more than an hour rather than the very few minutes on film. And it is nothing like the orgies of blood and gore seen in many popular action and horror films.


My criticisms of this film are few and perhaps nit-picky: The seemingly endless and obvious product placements become tedious. The flash-back to a “sex party” in a station wagon seemed gratuitous, though not very graphic. Most of
all, one can’t help thinking that Ralston, a search-and-rescue
volunteer who should have known better, was indeed very heroic in his actions, but was in his predicament only because of his own dumb mistakes and carelessness. Whether that’s a valid criticism I’ll leave to the reader, but certainly the film serves as a superb object lesson on many things not to do (including drinking one’s urine — never, ever do that, no matter how thirsty). Perhaps, in the long run, serving as a strong lesson on the value of wilderness preparation and forethought may be the film’s greatest value.


That said, I highly recommend the film. The strong tension throughout the film and a few scenes may be a bit too graphic for pre-teen children, but for anyone else it’s a superb
film, a very powerful story masterfully told not only in direction
and acting but also with first-rate cinematography and an excellent original score. Overall, a film not to miss.


This review was authored by Wil Milan. Because I and Equipped To Survive have an unfortunate history with Aron Ralston, I felt that I might be unable to give an entirely objective review of the film, so I asked Wil to attend the film preview and write this review. — Doug Ritter


Film web site: www.foxsearchlight.com/127hours/ (includes trailers, sound track samples, and several videos about the film, original event, and location)
Filmed on location near Moab, Utah.
Running time: 94 minutes

March 1, 2010

Reworked SPOT 2 Received

Filed in Gear , News

(Click on images for higher-resolution photos)

Re-worked SPOT 2(Updated 03/03/2010) While I was away this weekend the replacement for my recalled SPOT 2 arrived, as promised. This morning I unpacked the padded envelope and found a few surprises. Besides the reworked SPOT with a “You’re good to GO!” sticker on it (more on that shortly), there was a $2-off coupon for Energizer lithium batteries, a new set of adhesive-backed instruction decals for the back, an Addendum to the User’s Guide that originally came with the SPOT 2 and a spare black rubber band that goes around the SPOT 2, hiding the joint between the two halves.

I called and asked why they included the band and was told that it must have been a mistake because it wasn’t supposed to be included and nody had a clue why it was in my package. Guess I am just lucky.

A quick examination of the “new” SPOT 2 showed it had clearly been reworked, it was not a new unit, which was confirmed by SPOT. The case showed some signs of having been used, with black marks on the back. I was told that besides fixing the battery minding circuit by replacing the incorrect out-of-spec part originally used, they also made another modification.

PRV holesIn the recess on the back there are now two very small pinholes (see image). These are backed with a Gore-Tex membrane, effectively making them one-way pressure relief valves. Apparently the battery warning issue wasn’t the only problem that was discovered in the original SPOT 2. Seems that when taken to higher altitudes by pilots, the unit would turn itself on during the descent as the vacuum created by the lower pressure inside the unit sucked the buttons down (the opposite problem we saw when taken to depth and pressure outside activated the buttons). The new one-way “valves” prevent that from happening. The Gore-Tex membrane allows air through, but not water.

Speaking of which, the Addendum changes the original depth rating of 5 meters for up to 1 hour to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. We were told this was a precautionary move since it was feared that the original seemed to encourage users to take it diving and such, with potential for problems to occur, and they didn’t want to encourage that sort of use. I’m not sure I agree with their reasoning and even then, not sure why they would reduce it by so much. Why not halve it, if that was a concern? Only time will tell if this has any negative consequences for users. We know that at least a few warranty claims were rejected on the original SPOT, with a similar 1 meter for 30 minutes rating, when they quit working while running a river and the like, even when it wasn’t immersed that deep or that long. With the original SPOT 2 specs, which we tested to and found to be accurate, we were encouraged that the SPOT 2 was substantially better in this respect. UPDATE 03/02/2010: While SPOT initially claimed that there was no actual reduction in how waterproof the SPOT 2 is, they have now confirmed that this is an actual reduction due to the Gore-Tex membrane “valves.” I’d have to say this is a disappointing move by SPOT. If anyone has any issues with the waterproofness of the new SPOT 2, please drop us an email. We’ll be testing it again at our earliest opportunity.

battery coverWhile on the subject of waterproofness, we noticed that the battery cover didn’t seem to fit very well on what was clearly a new seal. Both the top and bottom of the cover were raised when the cover retention screws in the middle were tightened down. SPOT told us that the seal would still seal just fine. The cause, we were told, was that the new seals they could get in a reasonable time-frame were a harder durometer rating than the original, so don’t compress as much. They said that waiting for the original seals would have added considerably to the time it would have taken to return the units to customers. All I can say is that it doesn’t look great, but it isn’t so bad as be more than a minor annoyance. We’ll see how well it works when we test the SPOT 2 at depth again. I suspect that SPOT may end up replacing a lot of these seals with the correct one for some disgruntled customers.

The Addendum has revised battery life times and a fair number of cautions about situations that could shorten the battery operating life. There is also a caution about dropping the unit and potential battery failure and a suggestion to replace the batteries if dropped. That is a bit worrisome. Only time will tell if that’s just lawyers being cautious or going to be a real problem for users who might bet their life on this device. Click here to read the Addendum:

Addendum

It may be a few weeks until we have time to do much testing. After inserting the batteries in the replacement SPOT 2, we did a Check OK test and it properly showed up on our account and sent a text message. That confirmed not just that it was working, but also that SPOT had replaced the original EIN on the account with the new EIN as their previous email indicated they had done. A check of the billing also showed the promised free three-month extension of service.

We’ll let you know how well everything works when we have time to do some testing.

February 24, 2010

Recalled SPOT Owners get Additonal 2 Months Service

Filed in Gear , News

(Replacement SPOT 2 received. Check it out here.)

Today I received notice that the replacement for my recalled SPOT 2 has shipped and was happy to see that they are offering those whose SPOT 2s were recalled an additional two months of service beyond the one added month originally announced. I had thought the original offer was pretty cheap of them, this is much more respectful of the hassle their screw-up caused customers. (Read about the recall of SPOT 2 here.) They have also seamlessly migrated the IEN from the old unit to the new one, or at least that’s what they are promising. Here’s the email I received:

Thank you for returning your SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger (SPOT 2) as instructed under the SPOT Product Return Program. Your replacement SPOT 2 has shipped and you should receive it within 7 to 10 business days.

Spot LLC has performed an ESN swap migrating your complete profile and message contact information to your replacement SPOT unit. Your new ESN number [0-8054288] has been updated in your account. Simply access your existing account using the same username and password you have assigned during login at www.findmespot.com.

Your SPOT 2 is all set to go! Please make sure to install new AAA Energizer® Lithium Ultimate 8X batteries. We recommend that you test your SPOT 2 unit by sending a Check-in/OK message. A message should appear in the My GPS Locations section of your account.

Again, thank you for your patience. For your inconvenience, we are extending your existing service contract by 3 months, an additional 2 months more than originally promised at no cost to you. Your account will update automatically within 30 days reflecting your new renewal date.

SPOT is dedicated to providing you with only the highest quality satellite communications products. We appreciate your business.

Enjoy your adventures!

Sincerely,

The SPOT Team

Questions? Please call 1 (866) 727-7733 or email SPOTexchange@findmespot.com

(Replacement SPOT 2 received. Check it out here.)

February 17, 2010

SPOT 2 Replacement Units Shipping

Filed in Gear , News

(Replacement SPOT 2 received. Check it out here.)

I received the following email this evening from SPOT regarding the replacement SPOT 2 units for those recalled previously. (Read about the recall of SPOT 2 here.) If you own a second generation SPOT and have not checked to see if your unit is subject to the recall or have been waiting until the replacement units were available to return your, make sure you you do so now.:

Subject: SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger Units are Now Available!

Dear valued SPOT customer,

Great News! SPOT Satellite GPS Messengers are starting to ship.
Shipments to customers will begin on Thursday, February 18th, 2010. We expect to have all customer returned product out our doors by the first week of March.

As you know, in December we discovered that the SPOT 2 unit failed to meet battery and messaging operating specifications. At that time we issued a “voluntary” product recall. Okay, in this instance “voluntary” meant that SPOT was choosing to recall the product because we weren’t happy with it. We understand that this may have caused some confusion. Let’s be clear now – we continue to urge you to return your SPOT 2 unit with an ESN number equal to or less than 0-8053925 to be returned for replacement. Please visit www.findmespot.com/exchange for more info.

As we mentioned in our last e-mail communication to you, we put SPOT 2 under rigorous product testing. We know you have been waiting, and are impatient to use your SPOT. We hear you! We want to assure you though that SPOT LLC has taken the necessary extra steps to ensure this product meets all our rigorous tests. We pulled the product and retested. This meant environmental and user tests. We were thorough – we need to be.

The SPOT product has initiated over 550 rescues worldwide and has sent millions of “peace of mind” messages. There is no way we are going to let you hike into the woods, drive into the mountains, sail off into the ocean, or just enjoy your weekend getaways with a product we are not satisfied with. SPOT is an emergency messaging device. We take that seriously. We take our commitment to our customers seriously. Therefore, we apologize for the wait, but we can now tell you the product is ready for your hands.

Sincerely,

The SPOT Team

(Replacement SPOT 2 received. Check it out here.)

February 5, 2010

SPOT 2 Recall Update

Filed in Gear , News

Feb. 17, 2010: Replacements for Recalled SPOT 2s Shipping

Responding to the recall of new SPOT 2 Satellite GPS Messengers, we sent in our SPOT 2 a couple weeks ago and today received the following email from SPOT:

Dear valued SPOT customer,

Spot LLC appreciates your cooperation in the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger (SPOT 2) Product Return Program. We know you are eager to receive your SPOT 2 replacement unit and Spot LLC is dedicated in providing you with the highest quality product as soon as possible.

We are happy to inform you that the testing for replacement SPOT 2 units is nearing completion. We anticipate having more good news with specific timing soon. In efforts to keep you informed on the status of your claim and the SPOT 2 product availability, we will provide you with email updates on a weekly basis. You can also review regular updates at www.findmespot.com/exchange.

The Product Replacement Program has been expanded. Please check the ESN number on your SPOT 2 unit (located in the battery compartment) or in your SPOT account. If you have a SPOT 2 unit with an ESN number equal to or below 0-8053925 and have not submitted your SPOT 2 replacement claim, please visit www.findmespot.com/exchange and complete the simple Product Replacement form. All claims must be submitted by March 31 to be eligible for a replacement unit. If you have already submitted your claim, thank you.

Have questions?

Please call toll-free 1 (866) 727-7733 or Email: SPOTexchange@findmespot.com

Thank you for being a SPOT customer. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

The SPOT Team

Feb. 17, 2010: Replacements for Recalled SPOT 2s Shipping

January 8, 2010

Latest Update on SPOT and DeLorme

Filed in Gear , News

SPOT and DeLorme Unveil First Handheld GPS With Satellite CommunicatorI have a few more details to provide on the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (read the original post here) However, it is just a few more details because from my discussions with SPOT it is clear that a lot of the specifications and such are still under development. So what do we know?

The wireless communication is via 802.15.4 “Zigbee” protocol, not Bluetooth or WiFi. I asked about possible adaption of the SPOT Satellite Communicator to other platforms (such as iPhone, BlackBerry, etc.) and was told that it was technically possible (we already figured that out), but the spokesperson I spoke with could provide no further information. I was also not able to ascertain if this concept will remain exclusive to DeLorme and if so, for what term.

The SPOT Satellite Communicator retains its own GPS receiver, so the SOS button the the SPOT is fully independent of the PN-60w. The location of the SOS button, as seen in the photo on the side of the SPOT, has not been finalized. The SPOT Satellite Communicator will use two AA-cell non-rechargeable Lithium batteries, same as the PN-60w.

The free-form text messages will be limited to 58 characters. Each message will also include the GPS location (Latitude and Longitude). That obviously takes up a significant part of the potential message length, so one wonders if they might eventually allow a user to use those bits for a longer text message. You don’t necessarily need that information to be included. Text entry is via a keyboard on the screen navigated via the four-way switch. Only mildly annoying, and for short messages, acceptable.

In addition to the existing SPOT SOS and Help messages, I was told that they expect to provide an additional 10-14 user-defined canned messages to be sent, as opposed to the one additional with the standard SPOT 2. These are messages to enter via the online interface, not into the PN-60w. This will allow you to avoid the awkward text entry in many cases, just select the appropriate canned message and send it.

Unlike SPOT, which allows only a single group of contacts to be notified, it is anticipated that you will be able to have “more” contacts and be able to group them in various groups. You will also be able to identify a particular contact to receive a message. At this point, they do not plan to allow you to enter a contact number or email from the device in the field.

Finally, one of the things they couldn’t provide was the cost of the subscription or even how it would be priced. No word yet if it will be a simple added cost for unlimited messages, a cost per message or if different plans with different levels of service will be offered. Certainly, the appeal of this will depend in part on the cost, so without that to factor in, it’s difficult to evaluate the package.

More details as I get them.

January 7, 2010

SPOT and DeLorme Unveil Handheld GPS with Satellite Communicator

Filed in Gear , News

(See latest Update for more information.)

SPOT and DeLorme Unveil First Handheld GPS With Satellite CommunicatorAt the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Spot LLC, and well-known GPS manufacturer DeLorme announced the world’s first handheld GPS and satellite communicator product. The DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator will be the first handheld GPS capable of sending user inputted real time text messages from remote locations. This is clearly a significant advantage over the very limited pre-defined messages allowed using the existing SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger. Note that this is still a one-way device, it cannot receive messages via the satellite link. The following is distilled from the press release.

(click on images for higher resolution photos)

The SPOT Satellite Communicator, designed exclusively for the new PN-60w, merges SPOT satellite message functionality and DeLorme state-of-the-art GPS mapping via wireless. Together, this product pairing offers broader messaging capabilities. Users can send freeform text messages using the PN-60w’s keyboard to select individuals or groups from the field even from remote areas world-wide.

SPOT and DeLorme Unveil First Handheld GPS With Satellite CommunicatorEstablished SPOT technology allows real-time location updates and the ability to summon help in an emergency. Custom messages and waypoints can easily be shared with social networking sites like SPOTadventures.com, Geocaching.com, Twitter, and Facebook. As an emergency back-up, the SPOT Satellite Communicator has stand-alone capability to send location-based SOS notification to an emergency response center.

“Today’s announcement combines the latest in sophisticated handheld GPS with SPOT satellite communications providing one-of-a-kind, custom messaging and sharing of geo-location information with others in real-time,” said Peter Dalton, President of Spot LLC and Chief Executive Officer of Globalstar Inc. “We are excited to partner with DeLorme in bringing to market a new wireless GPS solution to consumers.”

“For the first time, people will be able to type custom text messages using the Earthmate PN-60w internal keyboard and then transmit wirelessly to the unique DeLorme SPOT Communicator for sending satellite messages around the globe,” said Caleb Mason, DeLorme Vice President.

Users of the PN-60w can easily manage their profile online including custom maps and message history utilizing a fully integrated user interface designed by SPOT. Information can be kept fully private or shared with family and friends using custom tools like SPOT Shared Pages and SPOTadventures.com.

As a stand-alone GPS, the Earthmate PN-60w delivers premium navigation features including a 32-channel GPS chipset, blazing-fast dual-core processor, 3-axis electronic compass, sensitive barometric altimeter, elevation profiles, and GPX file transfers.

At CES, DeLorme also will be announcing new worldwide map data for the PN-60w, including high-resolution color aerial imagery.

The PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator is scheduled to be available in spring 2010. The PN-60w and SPOT Communicator bundle will have an MSRP of: $549. No information yet on any additional charge for the text messaging capability over the standard SPOT Alerting and Tracking annual subscription of $100 and $50 additional, respectively.

Some more details can be found on the DeLorme Blog.

(See latest Update for more information.)