MapPoint External Method

Instead of creating a MapPoint display within a window generated and controlled by Balloon Track, it is also possible to just Run MapPoint externally and have Balloon Track "talk" to it asking for various objects to be placed on the map or various tasks to be executed.

Just as with the Internal Method, you can show MapPoint Maps of two different scenarios. The first is a prediction only map. When you are on the main screen of the program you can run a prediction and click MapPoint and the External MapPoint Controls window will appear and the MapPoint will start and draw the track of the prediction. Because this is a view of the prediction only, the "Tracking Icon Labels" selection box is made invisible. Likewise, the "Create Driving Route to Current Balloon Position" button is made to disappear:


In the example screen shots below, a tracking simulation is being run to give you an idea of what you can see and do in this mode.

During a flight, if you open the Flight analysis screen and click on the MapPoint button then two windows will open. This first window:

When running predictions you can select "Plot Multiple Predictions on MapPoint Map" and then run sequential predictions. Each prediction track will be plotted on the map without removing the prior prediction. If "Different Colors for Each Track" is checked then the program will rotate through the four colors you selected on the Setup Screen's Maps tab (for MapPoint, Ascent, Float, Descent and Realtime. It will use each color to plot the entire track and not separate the plot into ascent, float and descent colors. If you plot more than four tracks then the program will recycle through those four colors. If you do NOT check different colors then the standard colors will be used for each phase of every flight. It can get a bit confusing looking at it like that but the labels for each position carry an identifier (1, 2, 3) to indicate which track is which.

You can tell MapPoint you want to see no labels for the prediction, only the titles of each prediction point (Launch, Burst, Landing) and you can specify you wish to see ALL the information. You can tell MapPoint you want to see the predicted track for the balloon and when that prediction is displayed you can "Remove Predicted Track" as is shown above. The titles for all of these buttons toggle back and forth between do this action, and undo this action. You can have MapPoint draw the range or footprint circle around the tracked balloon. And, you can create Driving Routes to either the predicted touchdown or the actual current location of the tracked balloon.

In the above MapPoint 2004 screen capture, the ascent phase of the flight is painted with a green line, if the balloon floats, that phase of the prediction is painted in white and the descent phase is in red. The pushpins/symbols along the track line denote the takeoff, burst and landing points in the prediction. The blue line represents an actively tracked balloon (either via APRS or from a simulation file) and the icon/symbol at the end of that line (red circle) indicates the current position of the balloon.


Here Balloon Track is instructing MapPoint to show the full information available for each PushPin on the Display (both Prediction and Tracking)


And this is the MapPoint window displaying all that information.

So, the bottom line is, everything you can see in the internal method is available here in the external method. However, it may be more reliable. Once the program is in the hands of MapPoint 2004 users on a variety of platforms, we'll see. I sure hope this is more reliable.

If this turns out the way I anticipate and shows a more stable environment with less problems with MapPoint, I may discontinue the Internal Method all together. That would depend on how many folks are still using MapPoint 2002 if I can't get it to cooperate with this method, or if I can manage to get 2002 working, it would simply depend on me. But, who knows, there may be some folks for whom the internal works and this crashes and vice versa. I'll just wait it out for a while and see what type of reports the various methods generate.