Monday, April 30, 2007

Ortovox S1 hits the streets running

Ortovox S1 hits the streets running:It has been a long wait for the Ortovox S1 but it seems to have been worth it. Supplies of this revolutionary avalanche transceiver are slowly making it into the shops. Original slated for the start of the 2005/2006 season the S1 is 18 months late. Development beset by a number of problems and Ortovox's desire to get things right. When we tested a sample of the S1 in January 2006 it seemed to live up to its promise of simplifying the search process, especially when there is more than one victim.

Worth reading this article and Halstead's review if you are a backcountry skier considering a new transceiver. However, some points in the article and in the review make me a bit wary:

Original slated for the start of the 2005/2006 season the S1 is 18 months late. Development beset by a number of problems and Ortovox’ desire to get things right.
It may not sound like much of an issue but in the heat of a search it is easy to outrun a beacon by rapid movements and this can lead to confusion. [...] Halstead reports that the beacon could take 12-15 seconds to catch up. A representative from Ortovox told us that a software update is scheduled for the autumn and that all current Ortovox’s will be recalled.
Only when the S1 was totally maxed out with too many transceiver signals (like 20-30 signals = think LOTS of heli skiers milling around a parking lot) did it really "lock-up," for a longer amount of time.

There is a cost to complexity in SAR gear. It can increase confusion in the field, and obscure bugs can cause major mistakes. A device that locks up in one situation may lock up in others: lock up may indicate a deadlock broken eventually by a time-out, and the possible causes of deadlock are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Long delays followed by product release followed by a mandatory software update raise software engineering process concerns. Additional complexity with the built-in digital compass may also lead to unnecessary bugs. Ortovox is a deservedly famous pioneer in transceiver development, but even very experienced designers are not immune to the digital featuritis Kool-Aid.

I like simpler. In recent transceiver practice in a multiple deep-burial scenario, the two fastest and most accurate searchers were an old-timer with an analog transceiver, and me with a first-generation digital Tracker DTS. Searchers with more advanced digital transceivers did not show any advantage.

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