La Slog 2020
Bulletins

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Bulletin 18 (August 24, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

La Slog results are now final.

The "Google Costs Top-up" aka OFCAWS subscriptions has just passed £500. I am expecting more (please sign up if you haven't already) so I feel confident that the target of £600 will be achieved.

Thank you for your additional support. My costs are covered and the balance will go to the awards kitty.

The top 10 overall plus the best "newbie" and best "feedbacker" will be receiving a La Slog memento.

The best "newbie" (first time TTRer) was Ian Oakey, but as a top-10er, the award goes to the next best "newbie" - Preston Ayres.

The best "feedbacker" (and newbie) for polite positive feedback goes to Lyn Gale.

I will source the awards over the next few weeks. To save postage costs I will arrange for the awards to be sent direct to the each winner's postal address. So could all winners send me a PM with their preferred address please. I won't place the awards order until I have the complete set of addresses so I can get a volume discount. So don't delay your response.

Well done everyone. Keeping logging-in to TTR for future event announcements.

"Crow"
August 24, 2020 @ 11:00

Bulletin 17 (August 12, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

OFCAWS

OFCAWS, see PM of August 7th, is now available. Click on the OFCAWS button on the Competitor Portal page.

Registration is free for a 24-hour Trial Period, but I hope you will become a paid subscriber, particularly those who have volunteered to assist with the recovery of Google Fees.

Your TTR credentials will give you access, but you may want to set up your "home" location for the maps.

If you have non-TTR friends who might like to register send them to: https://tabletop.ity.me.uk/OFCAWS/OFCAWS.php.

Payment details will be in your registration email: £25 (minimum) for a one-year subscription. The first £600 of subs will go towards Google Fees with the residual for La Slog awards. Thereafter, subs will go the charities supported by TTR.

This is the first (public) offering of OFCAWS. In a private guise this software has been around for almost 10 years, but the conversion to new technology and maps may have introduced a few wrinkles.

Use the new OFCAWS forum to provide feedback, feature requests and problem reporting.

La Slog

It's almost over; just 5 days left. It looks like the top places have more or less been decided although there is a late run coming from World #1 Marcus Duyzend.

Thanks to those who have provided (generous) feedback and What's Next comments.

No conclusion from me until La Slog is wrapped up.

"Crow"
August 12, 2020 @ 21:00
 

Bulletin 16 (July 26, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

THE END IS NIGH, or rather Leg 100 will be released on Monday, and then you will have another 20 days to mop up the route cards you havn't done yet. Leg 100 is a bit different and some of you will make a guest appearance.


New Software & Maps
Many of you have tried out the new TTR resources and have given me great feedback. Thanks. The latest version has just been uploaded.

The most common problem for some has been the OpenSpace maps not displaying. I think in most cases this has been cured by clearing your browser cache of files and images, and ensuring hat you start TTR securely via https://tabletop.ity.me.uk/default.php. If this doesn't work for you let me know.

Some have commented on the map "bouncing" when dragging. This is deliberate. The new platform is sensitive to stopping the map being dragged outside its defined boundaries. You should still be able to access all the detail you need.

Captured programming errors will now pop up a message box. Do what it says to send the details to me by PM.

There is a new "Tracker" feature. When you hover over a marked point the location and distance details will pop up in a box. Unhover or start dragging and it will disappear. Right-click now has two functions: 1) as normal, within 200 map metres of a marked point and it will be deleted; now also 2) the tracker box will pop up with location information. You may wish to use 2) instead of the Roamer.

There's two new Development legs:

Leg 6
In mapping terms this is about as complex as it can get. Your route takes you from Kent, through the Channel Tunnel, Calais, ferry back to Dover, Kent.  You'll need to plot your Kent routes on OS maps and swap to Open Street maps in France. It will take a while to master the necessary operations. The whole route uses OS's grid system since it's been fooled into covering the required bit of France. Bonus points if you get it right first time!

Leg 7
This is the first Route Card that is based completely on Latitude and Longitude coordinates. It's a little dash round part of NSW, Australia and it starts outside the Table Top Public School. Of course the Open Street maps aren't as colourful as OS, but this shows what can be achieved within the latest TTR platform.

An interesting point about the new technology is that it's not confined to just geographical maps. It's possible to load your (image) map and invent a coordinate system to go with it. Older Competitors (pre-1986) may remember the Rally Round board game. You can see a stand-alone version of the board map by clicking Rally Round Map. You might occasionaly see this in future TTR events.

Ordnance Survey
I've been discussing the TTR website with OS over the last few months. TTR (Development Rallies) is one of first to be rolled out using their latest browser technology and OS were eager for feedback. From my point of view the key issue was the new charging/credit scheme which accompanies use of their maps.

I've been monitoring your usage of the Development Rallies over the last few days (thanks for diverting from La Slog to help me out) and correlating this with the number of transactions recorded by OS. If my maths and projections are sound, it looks like the new scheme will safely accommodate a La Slog type event without "tiles" outage or additional costs. That's a big relief to me.

An additional consideration was how long the "old" OpenSpace maps would be available. The expected cut off date is September 2021.

As a result of the above I've decided that future TTR rallies will be based on the new maps/technology. There are new features available which I won't now retro-fit to the current software. The new software is pretty close to being 100% fit for purpose. All the map sets will be used but I expect i will be gradually weaning you away from OpenSpace over the next year.

Google Charges
No company benevolence has been offered. I thought at least Covid Masks Manufacturing Ltd or Two Metre Rulers Inc could donate some of their profits to a good cause, but presumably none of you work for or own these companies.
This is a final call. The proposed deal: sponsorship from an organisation for £600 will 1) pay my personal debt of £428.07, 2) give me leftovers for a few La Slog awards and 3) give the donor a branding and adverts for the next TT Event e.g. The Two Metre Rulers TTR Championship 2020-2021.

World Rankings
After everyone's massive effort on La Slog, I can't let that go unrewarded when it comes to World Ranking points. Trouble is, considering La Slog as a single event seems a bit disproportionate in allocating ranking points. I regard La Slog as about equivalent to four regular events, so my initial idea is to calculate overall performances for La Slog is 25 Leg chunks and treat Legs 1-25 as the first event, 26-50 as the second event etc.
For those that are bothered let me have your comments.

The Next Event?
Traditionally the TTR Championships runs from October to March, but are you TT'd out for this year? As always I am a glutton for punishment, but above all a glutton for making money for charity, so I am eager to host another event soon.
Despite my gluttony, I would be demotivated to craft an event and then be let down by number of entries.

Pessimist that I am, I believe the effects of Covid-19 will be long lasting and will continue to impact on one of our other pastimes - real rallying. Whether that enthuses you for more TTR soon, I've no idea. But I intend to let RoboCrow find out.
In the next week you will receive a survey PM(s) from RoboCrow in an attempt to gauge your future interest. The survey will require simple Yes/No answers. If you don't reply, I'll take that as (hopefully short term) lack of interest. If you do reply, I shall study your responses and come to a conclusion.

There are number of possibilities: run the Championships as normal; have a breather for a few months, or maybe another marathon - this time a "Gols Al", La Slog backwards i.e. John o'Groats to Lands End!

Whatver you/we decide it will be based upon the new maps/technology.

"Crow"
July 26, 2020 @ 10:00

Bulletin 15 (July 15, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

New Software & Maps
The new maps and software, as described in Bulletin 14, will be uploaded in the next few days for testing. These resources are not subject to the current OS "Tiles Limit" so maybe you could try them out when the limit shuts you out from La Slog?

Access is via some new Development Rallies on the Event List, ranging from typical to extreme use of the new maps.

Leg 1
A simple plotting exercise using the maps you are used to (OpenSpace) albeit displayed and controlled via new technology. Start your examination of the new Control Panel and it's facilities.

Leg 2
Another easy route but this time using the new OS Leisure+ Maps (1:50000 and 1:25000) extended to include 3 zoom levels of detail from the OS Road map set. A typical configuration that will be used in the future.

Leg 3
Map Mania. Plot from SHs on a 1:25000 map, but explore the full set of maps available to you.

Leg 4
A Regularity on OS Leisure maps. There are three ways you can run this.
1) Normal. You plot the route and control the car.
2) Robot 1. Enter the Rally. Click Start then click Robot ON. When the Route Card displays, plot the route. The car will automatically follow your plotted route. Sit back and watch.
3) Robot 2. Enter the Rally. Click Robot ON first then click Start. The Master Route will be displayed. At the scheduled start the car will automatically follow the Master Route.  Sit back and watch.

Leg 5
Your first rally in France using Open Street maps. For future foreign rallies the storing of geocoded points will need to be as Latitude and Longitude, but this example is using a "stretched" OS grid as it's close to the UK.

Do your best to "break" the software: plot as normal and then try odd things; experiment with the new Control Panel; swap from map set to map set; zoom in and out; switch the Roamer on and zoom; play with Spy.

Send me PMs with any problems you find. Note: the Help has not yet been updated to reflect the new interface but everything should be self-explanatory.

Google Charges
The new charging/credit charitable scheme from Google seems to be working. Since the big hit in April on the standard scheme, there have been no net fees to pay even with the high level of current La Slog activity. So hopefully my out-of-pocket costs have plateaued at the £428.07 I've already paid. How do I get that back? There's a number of options:

1) I still have the last tranch of over £800 to transfer to the NHS. I could take the fees from that, but morally I can't/won't. Everyone paid their fees on the basis that NHS would be the beneficiary, not me.

2) I could ask all paid competitors to stump up another £4 per head. I know many of you have offered to pay, but the admin of chasing and processing would be a burden. No.

3) I could absorb the cost myself. I'm well on the way to that already by cutting out my pre-dinner (currently bread 🍞 and tap water 🥛) indulgence of a glass of red 🍷 and pretzels 🥨. The frugal diet and abstinence has played havoc with my mental health. 🤓

4) I could take money from the next fund-raising TTR events before paying the balance to charity. That's not very equitable since the burden shifts away from La Slog competitors.

5) Here's what I favour. One of you/Some of you must work for a company, or have an "in" with a company that hasn't been compromised by the Covid-19 restrictions. If that company could donate £428.07 to the TTR fund, I'd be happy to brand the next TTR competition with their name and adverts. Make it a round £600 and I'll put the balance to awards for La Slog competitors. With all the effort you have put into this competiton it's a shame I can't dish out a handful of small trophies/medals to those that have done well, complained the least or have contributed to the success of La Slog.

Think 5). Contact your bosses and benevolent company owners, or PM me with other ideas.

"Crow"
July 15, 2020 @ 00:30


Bulletin 14 (July 6, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

A Note About Map References
Any via references (OS British National Grid - BNG, Latitude/Longitude, What3Words) in the Route Cards are translated from the geocoded points supplied by Google Maps. A Google Maps geocoded route may not always align with the roads that you see on OS maps. A good example can be seen in Practice Leg 18. View at ZOS2 (highest resolution 1:50000) using tramline 1 and you will see that in many cases the tramlines are offset from the roads. This is because the OS maps are raster images, which means they are simply fixed images (aka dumb maps) rendered down from larger versions to fit on your screen or paper map. Compare this to photographs: if you shrink them you will lose detail and incur blurring. Plus of course the roads are artificially wider than the true scale otherwise they would just be thin lines on the map.

Now go back to Practice Leg 18 and zoom in. You will see that the tramlines will now follow the roads more exactly. It's the reverse effect of shrinking a photograph; you'll get greater definition when you enlarge an image.
Another way to experience this is to place a "Write" marker on your plotting map at the highest zoom level. Place it in the middle of the road and then zoom out to 1:50000. Depending on the accuracy of the rendered map at 1:50000 you might witness the marker point no longer indicating the middle of the road.

Why am  telling you this? Two reasons. 1) It adds to your knowledge about the construction of maps, and 2) It tells you that the most exact positioning of a via reference should be vewed at the highest zoom level available to you. General Regulation 3 has been updated to cover this.


TTR Development Detail
It may come as no surprise that many of the keenness navigators have a technical, often software-based background. A few competitors have enqured "how do you do that?" and since the development platform for the TTR software is about to be significantly changed, I thought it would be appropriate to share some detail. If this is of no technical or topological  interest to you, skip this section but read how these changes might affect you in the next section.

Two programming languages are used. Javascript: which controls everything you do in your local browser; and PHP: which runs at a remote server to deliver customised screens and to talk to the backend MySQL databases which store rallies, attempts, profiles, messages and forums.

The OS maps are accessed using Ordnance Survey's OpenSpace API (Application Programing Interface), whch are pre-built libraries to display and control the the maps, and deal with overlayed markers and images. Much of the API uses a well accepted mapping API called OpenLayers. OpenSpace is free to use but it does have a throttling of 100,000 "tiles" per calendar day as some of you may have encountered towards the end of a busy TTR day.

OpenSpace has been around for about 10 years and has been used for digital table-top rallying since 2012. About 3 years ago OS launched Openspace's uitimate replacement - an API called OS Maps. The core linkage to the OS map services remained but all the other processes now had to be handled by OpenLayers (version 2). Devlopment platforms were available but pricing had yet to be announced. Conversion was going to be time-consuming, but the demise of OpenSpace would be notified well in advance so I didn't rush into an early implementation.

The Google Directions Service (a subscription service) runs in the background to calculate the "shortest" geocoded route between two points marked on an OS map.

Over the last year I have endeavoured to convert the existing TTR software to the new OS standard. Most of the conversion was fairly straightforward until I realised that to use all the facilities I needed, the base API should really be OpenLayers version 3, 4 or 5 or to be as future-proofed as possible, version 6. The trouble was, the simple coding of OpenLayers 2 became bloated and verbose in the higher versions. Getting the very complex TTR procedures to work developed into a nightmare of frustration. I was on the verge of giving up and hoping OpenSpace would continue to be available in my TTR lifetime.

When the Google Directions Service charging problem cropped up a couple of months ago, I searched for free or cheaper alternatives. There are other services out there but free, cheaper or ease of use weren't their selling points. I did however come across another mapping API, Leaflet. I'd heard of it before, but had dismissed it for lack of pedigree and user base compared to OpenLayers. I dabbled with Leaflet in my Geocaching applications and soon became a fan with its ease of use and flexibility. Applying Leaflet to the TTR software was a development revelation and I soon had a prototype for the rally design program, a program which would exercise Leaflet to the full.

Soon I was designing rallies, now accessing OS's new map set and other map sets (more on this later). When I ran the (old) Plotting program against the new designs the route checking went crazy. Matching, as it does, each geocoded point from the design and plot, every one was different! There had to be something wrong in how the points were constructed in, the new Design vs. old Plot, programs. Relevant here is that Google Directions supplies coordinates as Latitude/Longitude (obviously as it maps the World not just Britain) and they need to be converted to the BNG as East and North offsets. In OpenSpace the conversion was achieved through an in-built routine; in OS Maps the most accepted external library (Proj4) was being used. I experimented for ages and dscovered that the old/new East/North coordinates difffered by around 10 metres; not significant in day-to-day use, but crucial when comparing the matching of two routes. Which was right? I got in touch with the OS technical staff. The answer was a surprise:

"However, from looking at this so far, they (the technical staff) advise that the transformation using the current proj4 conversions is correct and hence the more accurate one. Therefore any older transformations not using this mechanism (such as the ones in the OS OpenSpace framework) would be relatively inferior and less precise."

Well, the asnswer was totally unexpected. I must say I had wondered in the past why published Lat/Lon to East/North conversions had always slightly differed from the TTR sofware, but assumed that the OS had to be right as mapping was their core business. The bad news is that all current and previous conversions in the TTR software were slightly wrong. The good news is that they are consistently wrong between the Design and Plotting programs, so you would never have known the difference. The additional bad news is that when the new (correct conversions) TTR software is rolled out, it will compromise all (old) Designed route cards i.e. the (new) Plotting program will never be able to match routes. Not sure how I will deal with this at the moment.

With that problem put to bed the program changes continued - see update below.

On July 1st Ordnance Survey officially rolled out the OS Maps API with a pricing plan. The scheme is similar in nature to Google - a value of credits per month (£1,000) before having to pay for transactions. Supposedly the credits are equivalent to "100 concurrent users requesting a computer-screens worth of map tiles every 10 seconds". That sounds pretty much like a busy La Slog day, so hopefully there will no OS usage costs for the events. Nonetheless, I won't want to get caught out with unexpected charges like the recent Google hit, so I'll be giving the plan a thrashing before it's put into production.


TTR Development Features
The biggest change you will see from the developments above will be the set of maps available ... hold your breath.

1) The current set of OS maps (1:50000), district and street maps. Exactly the same as now, but displayed with new technology. These will remain while OpenSpace is still available.
2) The new OS "Leisure" maps: Nine levels of zoom, at the highest levels 2 x 1:50000 and 2 x 1:25000.
3) The new OS "Road" maps, majoring on roads. 13 levels of zoom down to building level.
4) The new OS "Outdoor" maps, majoring on outdoor features. 13 levels of zoom down to building level.
5) The new OS "Light" maps. A "bright" version of 4).
6) The new OS "Night" maps. A "dark" version of 4).
7) Open Street Maps; 20 levels of zoom.
8) Google Maps; 20 levels of zoom.
9) Google Hybrid Maps; 20 levels of zoom with road and satellite views.
10) Google Satellite Maps; 20 levels of satellite zoom.
11) Google Terrain Maps; 20 levels of "dark" terrain.

Most future plotting/real-time events will be based upon 2) (the equivalent of Landranger and Explorer maps) plus the four highest levels of 3) for detail.
I've yet to appreciate the use of 4), 5), 6) and 11) but 7) to 10) might be used occasionally for variety.

From usage so far, the maps display more cleanly and with fewer "pink" tiles.

Other features are not so impacting. The user interface has had a makeover. The Roamer dynamically resizes depending on the scale of the map, and you can use Spy at any level to have an enlarged peek of 1:50000 details.

For those who want to have a play (and I encourage you to do so to give me bug reports), I'll be publishing a testing platform in a couple of weeks.

"Crow"
July 6, 2020 @ 22:00


Bulletin 13 (June 10, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

Handy Tools ...
... that I mentioned in Bulletin 11, have you used them? If you zoom in and out a lot on the maps you will find the zooming tools will give you a "cleaner" re-display of a map: visually smoother and less chance of blank map tiles. Scroll wheel zooming with a mouse gets throttled by some browsers making the process visually clunky and occasionally broken.

Half-way there ...
... will you make it to the end? I hope so. The plotting activity is frantic at the moment; I am very relieved the website is holding up under the strain. I've received over 4,000 result emails now! No, I haven't had time to read them all, so I'm relying on you bringing matters to my attention by a) Emails? - NO - I have enough already, b) Portal/Private Message - YES - preferred, for problems (particularly giveaway ones), c) Forum - YES - but general enquiries where the answer would be of benefit to the TTR community. I'm not policing the system 24/7, but should currently respond to most issues within 3/4 days.

Software Changes
I will shortly be uploading some revisions to the main Plotting Screen. They are mostly internal or visual - not procedural. They affect Plotting Rallies only and will have been tested in that environment. The main change concerns Straight-Liners (see below). I can't guarantee that there may be some side-effects on Real-Time rallies. The latter won't impact upon La Slog as every Leg is a Plotting Leg. However, if you dabble in any of the Real-Time Practice Rallies, there might be a few flaws; if you spot any please let me know.

Straight Liners (SLs)
After some hefty experimentation I've found a way to detect "straight-liners"!

There are two aspects to this:

1) When you submit a route for marking, your route is saved automatically before being passed to the checking process. At every saving operation I will now examine the route for "straight-liners". If one is detected there will be a pop-up message alerting you to the minor/major point(s) (minor = the cumulative number of all your geocoded points, major = your numbered sequence of plotting points) where this has occurred. You can click 'STOP' or 'Continue'. STOP will be the normal response so that you can correct the problem.

Occasionally there might be a false positive; this will be rare and will happen when you have two adacent clicked points without any intermediate geocoded points.
Moving or deleting the offending point(s) will cure the problem and suppress the pop-up message.

You may not always want to do correct problems if you have marked points, say, which take you round a sparsely geocoded triangle.

When you click the 'Continue' button; your save will take place and will be followed by a submission if that's what you selected.

2) I have programatically analysed all submissions and have detected where marked solutions have straight-liners. Since late starters will benefit from this new feature, I will be allowing re-runs for all those existing submissions affected so far.


Below is the (long) list of SLs ordered by minor point number within username within leg. All these attempts will have their submission revoked so if your "TTR" username appears below: revisit the affected leg, remove the straight-liner(s) (ONLY - I trust you not to correct any other plotting errors) at the points shown and resubmit.

False positives (there were quite a few instances where competitors had clicked an adjacent point after the start TC or just after the end TC) have been excluded where I've spotted them. If not, you can ignore the flagging and just re-submit as is.

This may not be an exhaustive list since it was run a few days ago, but if, in a few days time, you suddenly see a re-run opportunity (Yellow car instead of a Red car in the Rally List) you'll know why. If you have any undetected SLs let me know. However, any SLs that you leave without correction after the "detecting software" has been installed, will stay as they are.

"Crow"
June 10, 2020 @ 21:00


LS2005
TTR19045(2005) TTR19051(1538,1539,1613) TTR19066(4115) TTR19074(4218) TTR19079(4071) TTR19105(2937)

LS2006
TTR19066(3548) TTR19079(4021,4022,4023,4024)

LS2007
TTR17075(2885,2886) TTR17092(2806)

LS2008
TTR17002(1310) TTR17020(1428) TTR17039(433) TTR17047(1987) TTR17139(756) TTR19043(1006) TTR19045(288)TTR19049(615) TTR19075(700) TTR19079(1358,1695)

LS2009
TTR17205(2175)

LS2010
TTR17119(3016) TTR17129(3023) TTR19045(2212) TTR19074(2782) TTR19079(1494,2779) TTR19083(2526)
TTR19093(2829)

LS2011
TTR19045(4124) TTR19064(4090) TTR19074(3915) TTR19079(4094)

LS2012
TTR19079(3797)

LS2013
TTR19079(1372,1373,1554,1555)

LS2014
TTR19093(3670)

LS2015
TTR17054(2738,2739)TTR19043(1385)

LS2016
TTR17201(2385)

LS2017
TTR17035(428) TTR17201(3005,3006) TTR19066(3106) TTR19093(3107)

LS2018
TTR17201(705,706) TTR19093(2086)

LS2019
TTR17059(2198) TTR19093(2310)

LS2020
TTR17059(2871) TTR17194(2429) TTR19093(2549)

LS2021
TTR19079(1126,1127)

LS2023
TTR17020(2699) TTR17029(534,535) TTR17129(2806) TTR19079(1314,1315,2628) TTR19093(2700)

LS2024
TTR17043(2301) TTR19093(1631)

LS2025
TTR17020(2025) TTR19005(1582) TTR19079(1830)

LS2026
TTR17047(1780)

LS2027
TTR17075(1858) TTR18736(1947) TTR19093(1899,1900)

LS2028
TTR17035(137)

LS2029
TTR17047(1671) TTR17075(1636) TTR17153(557,558) TTR19049(560)

LS2030
TTR17020(1183) TTR17201(1119) TTR19014(1183) TTR19066(1106) TTR19079(761,762,1045)

LS2031
TTR17020(797,798) TTR19079(313)

LS2032
TTR17075(2917)

LS2033
TTR17047(2130) TTR17075(2436) TTR19066(106) TTR19102(2119))

LS2035
TTR17153(2326) TTR19079(2472,2473)

LS2036
TTR18790(1636) TTR19079(1659,1660)

LS2037
TTR17047(1918))

LS2039
TTR19079(2958,2959)

LS2040
TTR17201(3230)

LS2041
TTR17059(2687,2688)

LS2042
TTR18783(2168)

LS2044
TTR17070(615) TTR19079(1219))

LS2050
TTR17075(243)

Bulletin 12 (June 6, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

Ordnance Survey
I think the tiles limit was reached at about 9pm this evening. It seems on cold/wet weekends TTR plotting has a preference over outside activities. I am pleased to keep you occupied but it does mean occasionally that the OS quota gets exceeded late in the day. My usual advice: plot earlier in the day or just wait until the next day. No panic - you still have 70 days of plotting achead of you.

Google Mapping/AP
Google is constantly updating its geocoding. Major issues are when it takes account of real-life road closures/openings and avoids/uses impassable roads in its routing feedback. This has happened a few times before, after a TTR master route has been set, leading to a mid-competition revision/re-running of a route card. This hasn't occurred yet on La Slog - fingers crossed.
Minor issues are when it slightly adjusts its geocoded points or tweaks its routing algorithms.
I obviously don't know this is going to happen, since my crystal ball is about as reliable as a Michael Fish hurricane warning (1987 for our junior plotters).
There is a minor issue on Leg 40. Early attempters had AP go LWR at a particular junction. For recent attempters AP has chosen the SWR. Route-planning motorists wouldn't notice; TTR plotters do, when a few seconds appear on their results feedback. I've re-marked Leg 40 based upon the latest route so the original "clean-sheeters" will have picked up a couple of seconds penalty.
I don't have a provision for dealing with alternative valid routes. Verifying routes is complex enough without adding another coding tier. I don't want the admin of analysing Leg 40 results and granting re-runs to some competitors. I am only talking about a few seconds, which I don't think will matter in the long run. If it does for you, remind me when La Slog has finished and I'll revisit then.

"Crow"
June 6, 2020 @ 23:50

Bulletin 11 (June 3, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

A few coming updates to tell you about.

Maps
From Leg 51 onwards you will also have access to the OS Vector maps when zooming in and out. But remember, your plotting should always be based upon what you see on the highest resolution 1:50000 (ZOS2) maps. Mark your via points betwen junctions and let AP take its natural course, unless I specifically require you to, say, take the LWR round a visible triangle, when you may need to go to the Vector or Street View maps to get the necessary clicking precision.

Handy Tools
Top right of the Plotting Screen there will be a clickable link called Handy Tools. This will display a small window of commonly used operations: Freeze/Unfreeze, Hide/Show Route, Tramlines, Scale/Pan, Spy, Roamer, Undo, Zoom In, Zoom Out, Close. Drag it to a convenient place on your screen and use as necessary. Click Close to remove it.

Map Images
Some of the Legs in the second half of La Slog will have images overlayed on your plotting map. These will essentially take two forms: 1) images that will block parts of the route cf. Black Spots, 2) images that mark or indicate the route to be followed. As an extreme example of usage try out the new Practice Leg 18.

Regulations
These have been updated to include the quirks of La Slog 2020 and to cover Map Images above. Revised Regulations which should be studied are: 6 and 12.

The above should in place by tomorrow morning.

"Crow"
June 3, 2020 @ 11:00



Bulletin 10 (May 24, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

The final 50 route cards have been completed and will be uploaded in the next few days. The map below shows where you will be going from June 8th to July 27th. You may not be able to go abroad any time soon, but why would you want to when the virtual Scottish Highlands are beckoning. I've not been (physically) further north then Edinburgh, but when lock-down is over visiting the beautifully remote roads of the area will be high on my bucket list.

Ordnance Survey
Apologies for the the OS maps not being available on a couple of late evenings recently. The TTR quota per day is 100,000 "tiles" and normal usage is 60,000 to 80,000. Clearly there were two days when competitors had prioritised plotting against gardening or DIY. It will undoubtedly happen again, but no panic, start early in the day or wait until the following day if the quota is exhausted. Remember you have until August 18th to finish La Slog - that's 12 weeks away!

Messaging/Forums
I get stacks of PMs (Portal/Private Messages) and the Forums are busy. Forgive me if, for the sake of keeping on top of competition admin, I give a cryptic reply to your message/posting, delete when it's resolved or delete without comment. The latter will only happen if you can self-service your own answer, it's an issue already covered, or your praise/criticism adds nothing to a debate. I have to be a bit terse at times because I do neeed time to tend non-(24/7)TTR life.

Particularly vexing are messages aound 09:15 ("Na, Na, I've found a shorter route than you"). Late morning I usually check the first few submissions of the daily route card and adjust the route and re-mark if necessary; so please be patient.

A reminder that direct email queries will go answered. So far I have received over 2,500 emails with your marked solutions; just scanning those is a big enough task. "Scan" is significant here, I won't always spot an issue in your comments, so you may need a subsequent forum/PM prompt if the issue remains outstanding.

Google Mapping Services
I've been in contact with Google about the burden of charges in using their mapping services. They have replied sympathetically and I have put in an appeal to reduce them on the basis of charitable/non-profit usage. Watch this space.

"Crow"
May 24, 2020 @ 13:30


Bulletin 9 (May 17, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.
So, you've got here .... ... I am here (Inverness) ... ... just need to finish legs to here ...

I've also improved the results display.

"Crow"
May 17, 2020 @ 23:00


Bulletin 8 (May 9, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

Progress Report

It looks like most competitors have settled into a routine: one Leg a day, or a few every few days.

There have been a handful of Leg glitches with shorter routes or unclear instructions. These are being corrected/re-marked as soon as I can investigate. Unbelievably I do have a life outside of TTR, so I won't always respond instantly to your queries/moans. You can reduce my workload by holdng back on any Forum postings or PMs if you have an issue. In particular, if you have the same issue as one already reported, wait for a solution. The competition runs until August, so there is plenty of elapsed time to resolve problems. Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint - although it might be the latter if you wait until August 16th to tackle 100 Legs (La Slog lock-down is on August 17th).

And please don't post giveaway or issue-less comments to the Forums; they will be deleted without follow-up.

Analysing your submissions and comments, a recurring issue is distance. You must mark an instruction compliant route that has the shortest overall distance from the start TC to the end TC. Intermediate control distance is not relevant. If you've found a shorter distance from, say, the start TC to PC1, the possible reasons are: a) you haven't followed instructions, b) you've used a "white" on CRO, c) you've compromised your overall distance (you'll possibly have a WA/WD at the PC). If your route is truly shorter than the master, I will eventually spot it and run a re-marking.

Perhaps you've also been tackling the other TTRs around? HRCR's Sequestration, HERO Virtual and Blackpalfrey's Covid have all now finished but Peter Rushforth's Targa Resto in Casa is in it's early stages. Somehow I managed to find a bit of time to try the first three, but my excuse for performing like a romer-less beginner is a) La Slog admin and b) working on a major code conversion to handle Ordnance Survey's new mapping framework. Excuses. Excuses.

Of course the big difference between the La Slog and the other TTRs is that I use digital maps. There are limits to hosting this way. As an Ordnance Survey registered developer my "key" to access its mapping database is restricted to 100,000 "tiles" every 24 hours. You can see the usage figure at the bottom of the Control Panel on the plotting screen. This is a fairly generous quota and even with the heightened La Slog activity should still be ample.

Google Maps usage is a bit different. Everytime a route is redrawn - adding, deleting, dragging a marker, a request is sent in the background to Google Maps to provide its best connecting route and geocoded points. Again I have a developer "key" to accommodate this. I get "billed" each month which is offset by (normally generous) "credits". The whole of the 2019-2020 Championship cost me a staggering £6.02. No big deal.

The picture has changed drastically with La Slog. First Google has changed its "credit" scheme and significantly lowered its free threshold - all without notification. With a 100 (longer than usual) Legs and a 100 active competitors, usage has rocketed. A service that was essentially free will need to be costed and added as a non-charitable portion of future entry fees. Based on Google's forecast La Slog will cost me £600 per month until it ends in August! That's a Big Ouch for me.

One bit of general (and cost-saving) advice is to be as frugal as possible with your route-marking points. On many of the long straight-ish legs place a marker at the start and end, and then insert as few as possible via points to give you the route you want. Every point-to-point section becomes a Google request, so the fewer the better against the request quota.

Keep plotting; only about 80 more Legs!


"Crow"
May 9, 2020 @ 22:00
 

Bulletin 7 (April 25, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

A reminder about "straight-liners"

Very occasionally AutoP(i)lot (AP) will, after creating, deleting or dragging a point on the route, draw a straight line between points (a "straight-liner") rather than follow the road. This will occur if the Google Servers are busy or you have a network outage; a pop-up message may highlight the fact.
It means a geocoded (road-following) route could not be created between two points and the only way to keep the route continuous is with a straight line. This is not a situation the TTR software can recover from. Just wait a few seconds and carry out your operation again, or save your route and try later.

Don't leave "straight-liners" on your map as this may incur missed control or "time" penalties. It's a competitor's responsibilty to check the route before clicking Submit Route. Straight-liners will not occur between Submit Route and marking. Straight-liners can only happen while a route is being manually adjusted i.e. there is communication with the Google servers.

When you view your solution after submission, if you see a straight-liner on your route it was present when you submitted!

However, I have added a feature which might help you. If you click on the Tramlines button while holding down the Ctrl key all the geocoded points along your route between your markers will be shown as small blue dots. These show best when used in conjunction with Tramline 1. If the route between two markers is straight and there are no dots, you probably have a straight-liner. Drag one of the bounding markers slightly and the dots should re-appear to confirm your correction. Repeat the button/Ctrl process to turn the dots off. Don't keep the dots on permanently, the feature uses resources and "blurs" your marked route.

"Crow"
April 25, 2020 @ 20:45

Bulletin 6 (April 22, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

Print Map
Somebody raised a query about the Print Map feature.

The usual TTR map boundaries are set so that the OS 1:50000 plotting area fits nicely on an A4 page. However with the larger areas covered by the La Slog legs these now get cropped (to the centre region of the map) and detail is lost. Re-scaling the map to fit wasn't an answer since roads would be blurred. My oversight has been fixed.

The print map now appears the same but you can drag the displayed (A4 size) area or scroll up/down/left/right with the keyboard arrow keys. If you want to print the whole map of a La Slog leg then you need to print in A4 sized sections and stitch together.

Printing is done via your browser. Right click on the map and choose Print. In any dialog minimise any margins so that the map will fit onto an A4 page.

"Crow"
April 22, 2020 @ 23:00

Bulletin 5 (April 19, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletins below.

Unidentified Payments
I have one I can't identify tagged as:  07-01-16 153**611. Please let me know if they are yours otherwise you won't be able to login in compete tomorrow.

Some Tips

Always mark your final point slightly beyond the finish TC otherwise you might be penalised for not visiting the control correctly.

When using AutoP(i)lot (AP) to automatically plot the bulk of route, remember that the route it (Google Maps basically) chooses will be a fastest, safest route which will not necessarily be the shortest you are trying to achieve. Create extra points on your route and drag/drop them around to reduce distance. When you hover your mouse over a marked point the distance to that point is shown in the bottom left of the Control Panel.

Conversely, when AP chooses a route through a town be vigilant about the roads it selects. Sometimes it might use a "white" which will be wrong if the route card says Coloured Roads Only (CRO). You may not be able to use certain roads in a town because AP will not go the wrong way down a one-way street.

Be careful when you are creating points, particularly in a town. There are many geocoded driveways and no through roads just off the main route. Inadvertantly using these ("off-routers") will add extra distance (and thereby penalties). Zoom-in to examine and re-adjust points as necessary.

Practice legs 15, 16 and 17 are identical to La Slog legs 1, 2 and 3. So practice first to find your optimal route before attempting La Slog.

In busy periods some of the OS Map tiles may show as pink or with the words "Please Wait, Map Data Loading". Just wait a few seconds and refresh the map by dragging it or zooming in and then out.

The Messaging System has changed slightly so that you can now send and cc to recipients. Use should be obvious but it's not documented yet. Only message me for critical events.

New La Slog forums are now open. By all means use these to communicate comments or queries, but DO NOT give away any details which might help another competitor to solve/gain advantage on a particular route card.

Good Luck from 09:00 tomorrow.

"Crow"
April 19, 2020 @ 23:00


Bulletin 4 (April 18, 2020)

Over £5,000 raised and record for a TTR Event. THANK YOU.


Bulletin 3 (April 15, 2020)

This is where you'll be plotting on the first 50 Legs of La Slog 2020.
 


Bulletin 2 (April 13, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction and Bulletin 1 below.

95 entries, surely we'll get to a 100? If everyone had paid their entry fee, then £5,000 would have been raised for NHS Charities. Come on unpaid guys and gals.

50 of the legs are complete and I've reached Yorkshire. Each leg doesn't take too long to create, but being creative with the navigation does. I've kept the navigation to be simple and varied. Solving the navigation should be easy (95% of the time), but then finding the shortest route through it will be challenging. As I've said before, I can't guarantee my initial master route will be the shortest (I am only human/avian?), so please be patient while I monitor solutions and run any necessary re-marking.

If you put all the legs together the route should be continuous without using the same road twice. Assume this is the case. There will be a departure direction for each start TC and an arrival direction for each end TC. I don't want you going against rally traffic and having an accident.

Don't email me and only message me if have a serious problem or comment. With around 100 answers for 100 days I will have at least 10,000 emails in the next few months ... so I will be quite busy!!!

You won't be able to Login or tackle Practice Legs for most of the coming Friday and Saturday. I have some new software to upload in order to accommodate the extreme demands of the La Slog 2020 event.

I'd love to give out some prizes for the best performances. If you've discovered something new, useful and surplus to requirements if you've been locked-down and tidying your home, let me know so that I can earmark it for an awards list.

"Crow"
April 13, 2020 @ 21:00


Bulletin 1 (April 5, 2020)

Read this in conjunction with the Introduction.

I am well chuffed with (80) entries so far. I wonder if we'll get up to a round 100, that'll mean at least £5,000 for the NHS. Thank you so much for your generosity; many have paid over £50. Could those that haven't paid yet (> 20) please let me have their money soon. £3000 has already been passed to NHS Charities.
Total money raised by TTRs has now exceeded £20,000.

I have one unidentified £50 payment tagged as 07-04-36 308**934. Let me know if it's your payment.

There must be lots of untapped entrants/donors still out there. Please spread the word to our motor sport friends.

Guess what? I've been busy designing 100 route cards for you. 20 done and I've got to mid-Wales on the Land's End to John o'Groats journey. The task is not onerous since it stops me watching the on-going (bad) news. Plus the routes are straightforward. Start from the previous Leg's finish then set the next finish about 20 miles away (obviously as the Crow flies). Find a few twist and turns and features, and create a simple route card. Set a few PCs to check the route.

Each route card will be a handful of simple instructions: no complicated maths, devious ciphers or hours trawling the Internet for information. The general route will be pretty obvious, but finding the shortest overall route from the start TC to the finish TC might be more challenging. Devote the time you save on solving to looking for ways to save mileage. Drag and delete marked points until you are happy before you submit for marking.

I expect some of my own master routes will not be the shortest. No worries, periodically I will look at your solutions and if there are shorter routes the masters will be updated and everyone's answer re-marked. Please don't send me messages about your shorter route unless a correction hasn't been made within a couple of weeks.

Please keep your communications to a minimum. No emails; use the Competitor Portal for critical help.

When you are marking your route make sure your last mark is beyond the finish TC. I noticed on some of the practice legs that competitors had tried to position the marker on the TC, fell short, and were penalised for missing it. Go beyond.

The first Leg will be open at 09:00 on April 20, and subsequent legs at 09:00 on days thereafter. So you'll have 100 consecutive days of plotting, or you could save them up and tackle in batches. All legs will remain open until 20 days after the 100th leg opens.

Enjoy and thanks for your support.

"Crow"
April 5, 2020 @ 21:00