BoatU.S. magazine, fact check please!
We interrupt the normal new electronics programming for a brief rant. I just read this in the November issue of Boat.U.S., reportedly the largest circulation boating magazine on the planet (and generally quite good):
“But before you have visions of hitting ‘print’ on your computer and getting a high resolution quality chart, boaters need to understand the terms ‘raster’ and ‘vector’ charts. A raster chart is essentially a snapshot of a paper chart, composed of a bunch of dots, like a newspaper photo. While the resolution is not good enough for printing, it’s fine for a computer program and screen display.”
Say what!?! Everything printed is a bunch of dots, and the native resolution of most raster charts is 254 dots per inch, very darn close to the 300 dpi standard for quality glossy magazine images. Just about any decent charting program can print rasters very nicely at full scale (the only real trick is printing from the file, not the screen image).
The BoatU.S. article, titled “Charts Go PC”, starts with a decent explanation of NOAA’s new free RNC (and ENC) download policy. But then it veers into shaky territory like the above and various other misunderstandings about vector/plotter charts. It’s a shame because boaters are confused enough about marine electronics, software, digital charts, etc. that the “expert” magazines should be going out of their way to provide accurate information.
I wouldn’t rant on this subject—and risk sounding like an arrogant ass—except that I regularly come across electronics errors in the boating press. Lord knows, for instance, how many times I’ve seen Ethernet and NMEA 2000 treated as though they were essentially the same (not!). At any rate, take care to treat printed words with appropriate caution (and if you’re an editor please consider having technical articles from uncertain sources double checked by an expert or two).