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Using Plane Plotter with Internet sharing

This version was saved 9 years, 5 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by David-Taylor
on January 11, 2015 at 9:58:31 am

Added link to Plane Plotter mobile, replaced some abbreviations to help newcomers.

Why can't I share?


Registered version is required


Access to the shared server requires that you register Plane Plotter.


Internet access is required


Plane Plotter will require access to the Internet to be able to share.  Therefore you will need to enable the program in your firewall.


Accurate PC time is required


If the clock on your PC isn't correctly set, or if the Time Zone is incorrect, the sharing server may reject your data, or you may get aircraft in the text list but not on the chart display.  The acceptable tolerance is 15 seconds.  Errors larger than this will prompt a reminder to alert you to the fact that the performance of the sharing system is being prejudiced by the clock error.  You can install NTP to keep your PC spot on.


Time Settings required for your PC


The time shown on Plane Plotter and Ship Plotter (in the bottom right corner) is UTC, which does not alter between summer and winter.  There is nothing to "set" or "unset" when the clocks change.  For users in the UK, UTC will be the same as wall clock time in the winter, and one hour behind wall clock time in the summer.


For correct operation use one of the following methods:

  1. Set your PC so that is it always works in UTC.  Set the PC time to UTC, and the time zone to Casablanca, Monrovia, Reykjavik using the Control Panel, Regional settings (Clock, Language and Region, Date and Time in Vista).  There is no summer time adjustment required.
  2. Set your PC to the correct time zone, correct local time, and correct daylight savings time enable.  This way, the PC will run in UTC internally (both Windows and various other operating systems do this), but PC programs will display the local time to you.  Plane Plotter and Ship Plotter will continue to display UTC.  To clarify: for a UK user this means setting the time zone to GMT - "Greenwich Mean Time - Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London", checking the box which says "Automatically adjust clock for daylight saving changes", and then ensuring that the PC shows the same time as the wall clock.  GMT or BST will displayed by the PC according to the time of year, but Plane Plotter will always show UTC in the right-hand status-bar panel.
    There is information from Microsoft here.


You should use software like NTP to keep your PC's time accurately synced, and you must have accurate time if you are uploading data, especially for Mlat.  Click here for how to install NTP.


Is my NTP working?


Obtain a command prompt (Start, All Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt;  or Windows-key-R, cmd), and enter an ntpq -p command after NTP has  been running for a few minutes.  Note that a space is required between the "ntpq" and the "-p".  If the "reach" field is 377 for each listed server, NTP is working correctly, and the "offset" values will give you the milliseconds offset between your PC and each remote server.  Here's an example showing just three servers.  You can see that the PC is within 10 milliseconds of each of the servers.  The "*" (asterisk) against one of the servers (the first in the list below) means that NTP is synchronised to that server, and is probably working perfectly.  You should have at least one server with an asterisk against it.

There is more information about the output here: http://www.meinberg.de/english/info/ntp.htm#ntp_status


C:\>ntpq -p
     remote                refid      st t when poll reach   delay   offset  jitter
*utserv.mcc.ac.u     2 u  570 1024  377   28.200    6.514   1.506
-linnaeus.inf.ed   3 u  855 1024  377   31.690    4.212   0.769
-dnscache-london    2 u  213 1024  377   24.135    2.389   1.203
+mallard.zanker.   2 u  974 1024  377   35.814    0.989   0.876


Note that NTP has a maximum clock error it will correct of 500ppm (43.2 seconds per day, or 1.8s per hour), so if you see the offset gradually increasing by more than this rate you know that your PC's clock may be too inaccurate to disciplined by NTP.  Please contact David Taylor for a potential cure if your PC's clock is stable but inaccurate (rather than unstable!).
There is a check-list and troubleshooting guide available for more information.




Can anyone see my data?


People often ask: Is my data getting to the shared server? Even if you set up a second PC to download from the server, there can sometimes be so many plots that yours are difficult to see, particularly if others are covering your area.  There are a number ways to check:


  • You can see a real-time plot of UK, European, Australian and World sharers here: http://www.coaa.co.uk/pp-user-charts.htm.  If you are sharing but not on that map, be sure to update to the most recent version of PlanePlotter here => Download PlanePlotter.
  • In Plane Plotter version 5.4.6 and later, use the Help Test Networking, Check sharing status menu function which opens the Network sharing test page, where you can see the error in your PC's clock, the number of aircraft uploaded and downloaded, and your status for raw data and multilateration.  If the web page does not open, you probably have some security setting that prohibits a program from launching your browser or you have no browser or no Internet connection.  If you are not already using that version or higher, please upgrade as soon as possible from here => Download PlanePlotter.  More information on the Networking Test Functions, and their use in multilateration testing.
  • For earlier versions, Bev has provided a program called PPuser which helps you check this. Download the PPuser.exe file from the Yahoo PP files area.
  • Alternatively: access the URL: http://www.coaa.co.uk/planeusers.php?serial=PPnnnn, where nnnn is your Plane Plotter Serial number.  Your serial number is what you submitted when you registered, and is also in your registration e-mail from COAA.
  • You can see what versions people are using here: http://coaa.co.uk/ppuserversions.php - be sure to use the latest version!
  • Why isn't all my data shared?  From Plane Plotter V4.5 onwards, there is a new facility to share data without positions, so you should ensure that in Options, Sharing Setup you have the Upload positionless data box checked.  This will help others who can use the data with add-ons such as MyCircles.


Why do I not see shared data?


  • Not registered.  You must register before you can access the shared server.  This is in part to offset the running costs of the shared server.
  • Clock wrong.  The usual reason for failure to see shared traffic is that your PC clock is wrong.  Check the displayed time, the date, the daylight saving setting and the time zone setting.  If your screen is wide enough, check the UTC time display in the bottom right corner of the Plane Plotter window.  Make sure that it shows the current UTC time.
  • Only uploading or not sharing at all.   In the toolbar, you will see a blue square to the right of the Map button.  That indicates three states of sharing.  Click the button to change the state from one to the next.
    •   Two arrows: normal sharing, up and down.  Any data you have will be sent to the sharing server, and any data for your displayed region will be downloaded from the sharing server.  Click to change to upload-only sharing.
    • One arrow, facing up and to the right.  This indicates that you are sending data to the server, but not downloading it.  For many users, this is not a usual state, and likely means you've pressed the button by accident.  Click change to download-only sharing.
    • One arrow, facing down and to the left.  This indicates that you are downloading data from the server, but not uploading it.  Click to go to no sharing sharing.
    • Two arrows with a red line.   Both upload and download sharing are disabled.  Click once to restore upload and download sharing.
  • Wrong chart calibration.  Other possible causes are incorrect chart calibration so that the downloaded data is windowed to some meaningless place.
  • No area defined.  If you have not opened a chart or outline and are displaying the View..Aircraft screen, Plane Plotter will not know your area of interest.  Switch to your chart or outline and the sharing will then retrieve the data that you want to see.  Then you can switch back to View..Aircraft, if you wish.


David Taylor notes: Perhaps the best timekeeping software you can get, and it's free, is NTP.  Here is a link to a Windows version, and to how it performs on my PCs.



How do I select the area I want?


See this excellent animated tutorial from Bev:  http://www.coaa.co.uk/pp-maps.htm

It shows you how to start from a world map, how to zoom in to define a region, how to remove the pixellation after zooming, how to use the Outline maps, and how to use the map-like Open Street Maps feature.  Well worth a look, even if you are an experienced user.


Share codes

Share codes are used to identify the originator of shared data.  They consist of two symbols: a letter followed by a letter or number.  Share codes are case sensitive; "aa" is not the same as "aA".

All new installations of Plane Plotter default to a share code of "--".  If and when you share data and upload any aircraft, the system will allocate a unique share code to your Plane Plotter installation.  If you only download data, or until such time as your new installation uploads aircraft data, it will not be allocated a share code and you will retain the default share code "--". 


Note: The system allocates a unique share code only after it is established that the installation is going to be uploading a significant number of aircraft.  This will take less than a minute for a Mode-S receiver with a decent antenna, but it could take a while for a user who is only decoding ACARS (with infrequent position reports) or one who has their antenna in a safe in the basement.  It is therefore possible, but unusual, to see "--" as the origin of a message and would be most likely to occur in a low density area (in terms of traffic or users) or from an isolated and perhaps new or infrequent ACARS decoder.

You cannot change your share code and it will remain exclusively yours for as long as you connect regularly to the sharing system.  If you do not use the sharing system for several weeks, the share code will be cancelled and it will be allocated to another user.  If you later access the sharing system again and upload aircraft data, you will be allocated a new share code at that time.

It perhaps also needs to be explained that the system's record of allocated share codes is separate from the database in the Plane Plotter user group.  The group database is only accurate and complete to the extent that the respective users keep it so.  The fact that the group database says a code is, or is not, in use, is no guarantee that the system will concur.


Is there a list of share codes?

There are two lists of share codes in the Plane Plotter:


  • There is a definitive, automated list here:  http://www.coaa.co.uk/sharerlocations.php  which gives share code, approximate latitude and longitude, and is suitable for machine readable applications.  There is not enough precision in the location values to allow your precise location to be determined.  The page provides a link you can right-click to save to your PC, or to click and read directly.  The list is updated automatically whenever share codes are cancelled or issued.
  • There is a database derived from the list above here.  Edit your own entries to provide more detail.
  • This web page: http://www.coaa.co.uk/pp-user-charts.htm  shows the approximate location of sharers who are currently active.  It colour codes the share codes to distinguish validated Ground Stations, uploaders and downloaders.
  • There was also hand-crafted database here: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/planeplotter/database/1/edit where users can enter their own details.  If you upload data, please do enter your information as it allows other users to see a little about you (like your name and town), and who else is in their area.  If your share code or location changes, please remember to modify the database.  You don't need to give your exact location or street address, just as much information as you feel comfortable with.



What is my share code?


Your full share code, that others will see alongside shared data from you, can be seen in the "Help, About" menu or by clicking on the yellow question-mark ["ABOUT"] button at the top right of the toolbar, and looking at the extreme right of the top line of the pop-up window.  The window shows your registration number and your full public share code.

On your own charts and lists, your share code will be shown with the first letter replaced with a "*".   Thus if your full share code is "az", on the chart and aircraft displays you will see your own local traffic tagged with "*z".  The asterisk denotes that it is your own traffic and among other things, it enables you to sort the data in the View..Aircraft list to show your data at the top of the list.  Left click on the "sh" heading of the sharer column to sort the list by sharer.


Can I plot sharers on my PC?


You can now download a .GPX file directly from:  http://www.coaa.co.uk/sharerlocations.php  and use that to plot sharers' locations on your PC.  The instructions on that page tell you:


  "To use as a GPX overlay, right click on (link on page) and save the sharerlocations.gpx file to your Plane Plotter chart directory.  Note that Windows will try to change the file name extension; force it to be ".GPX".  When you have saved it, select the GPX file using Options..Chart..GPX overlay."


For historical interest only. here's a note from a prolific Plane Plotter (and Ship Plotter) add-on author the late W Curt Deegan, reminding us how the sharers can be added to your Plane Plotter display.  Curt takes up the story:


A couple years ago, Bev placed a script in the Files section named  "sharers-gpx.vbs".  This script creates a GPX file, using the information in the text file produced by the web site: http://www.coaa.co.uk/sharerlocations.php  which contains the latest list of active sharers.  The GPX file Bev's script creates, can then be used to mark the approximate locations of all active sharers on the PP chart or outline view.  To do this, follow these steps:


  1. Place the downloaded sharers-gpx.vbs script file in your PP folder.
  2. Open the script file with the Notepad editor.
  3. Verify the paths in lines 13 and 14 of the file, pointing to your "chart files" folder and the PP folder respectively, are correct for

    your installation.  If not make the necessary changes and save the file back in the PP folder.

  4. Download the sharerlocations.txt file from the above link, and place it in the PP folder you set in step 3.
  5. Run the sharers-gpx.vbs script file by double-clicking on it.  This will create the sharerlocations.gpx file in the chart files folder.
  6. In Plane Plotter, Options, Chart, GPX overlay, Define GPX overlay, click on the sharerlocations.gpx file name and then the Open button.  This will set that GPX file for use by Plane Plotter.


Following this procedure, PP will place markers on your chart or outline view, identifying each sharer by share code.  If you see no GPX markers you may need to toggle the display of them on.  Any time you need to update the markers, repeat steps 4 and 5 of this procedure.  So long as you don't change step 6, it doesn't need to be done again, Plane Plotter will automatically use the latest sharerlocations.gpx file data.


Why can't I see registrations with Plane Plotter?


Since the aircraft registration does not feature in ADS-B messages, there is no registration information in the system by default.

Registration information has to be added somewhere and the final responsibility for doing that is yours, as the end user of the data.  If you see NO-REG, it means that you have not done the necessary to populate a database (by importing it from a friend or from the files area, or by making 'look-up' enquiries for yourself).

If you are lucky, some of the contributors of the data that you enjoy, may have added on registration data from their own sources but the final responsibility is yours.  You are the one who can fix it.

If you copy someone else's basestation.sqb, make sure that you know where you put it and tell PP where to look for it, using Options..Directories..SBS1.

Otherwise, you need an empty version of basestation.sqb (ask in the Yahoo group; as the file, even when zipped, is too big to fit into the files area) and put that somewhere suitable and tell PP where, using Options..Directories..SBS1.  Once you have done that, all your registration look-ups will be saved if you check Options..Mode-S..Kinetic..Update registrations.

In both cases, if you are using Vista, make sure that the place you choose is writeable by PP.  Directories in the C:\Program files\ root cannot be written although Vista may deceive you into thinking that you can by virtualising the directory.


Taken from Bev's message to the Plane Plotter Yahoo group: message 24041


How much bandwidth does sharing take?


Bev wrote in recent messages on the Plane Plotter Yahoo group (message 3642) (message 6417):


One record for one aircraft is 105 bytes.  That corresponds to 4.5Mb per month per aircraft.  The server downloads records for all the aircraft that show on your current chart display.  If you average 10 aircraft on the screen, the monthly download would be around 35Mb.  If you average 100 aircraft, the monthly download would be around 450Mb.  Because of the way the sharing server throttles the data if you are displaying a very large area with lots of aircraft, the total is unlikely to exceed the 450Mb figure.  On the uplink it will always be less than that although I think many ISPs only meter the

downloaded data and not the uploaded data since their capacity problem is always in the downward direction.


Of course, if you check the Upload only option, then the download bandwidth would be negligible.


How can I upload positionless data?


Many Plane Plotter users, particularly those with an interest in General Aviation or military aircraft which may not have ADS-B, get a lot of value from sharing of positionless data, even though those aircraft can't be plotted on the Plane Plotter chart view.  To do this on your system if you are using an SBS-1 or RadarBox, be sure to use the TCP port connection.  In Plane Plotter, Options, Sharing, Setup, ensure that the box Upload positionless data is checked.



Why do I download so few planes, or fewer planes than before?


It may be that in the area you have specified for the chart, there are few planes broadcasting position data - it is not equally used in all parts of the world.  It may also be that you are downloading positionless data (see: Options, Sharing, Setup), and this will count against your download quota on the server.  Either uncheck "Download positionless" if you don't need the data, or wait a little longer for the server to send you all the aircraft visible in your selected region.  Please note: uploading positionless data costs you nothing, and is very helpful to others.  Please don't switch off positionless uploads.


Are you asking for too much shared data?  Bev noted in this Yahoo group message:

    You can infer [whether you are receiving all aircraft in your chart area] from the number of aircraft downloaded [shown in the first numbers field at the bottom right hand side of the window].  If it is being limited by the system, it will be 100 or 250 or some round figure.  If it is 67 or something like that, then you are seeing all the aircraft on the chart.


Can I use a second instance of Plane Plotter at home?


You may want to have your main installation close to the aerial and another remote computer on which you can view Plane Plotter.


Remember though that the rule is one router, one raw data supplier ... one Ground Station.  You cannot ask for the second instance to be validated as a Ground Station if it uses the same WAN IP address, i.e. it lives on the same connection to your ISP.


It is possible to set up a second instance of Plane Plotter to "see" Mlats, but that second instance cannot request a manual Mlat.


Having hypersharing set on more than one instance can also cause problems if both instances of Plane Plotter are running at the same time.


An alternative is having Plane Plotter mobile installed on your (Android) phone or tablet.


What is Hypersharing?  Why do I data from others when Upload Only is set?


There is sharing and there is hypersharing.  The two are separate functions although they are not completely independent as I will explain.  Please see the description of hypersharing in the glossary for more information.

  • "Sharing" relates to data sent to and from the sharing server.  "Upload only" refers to data sent from Plane Plotter to the sharing server and with that option set, whatever anyone tells you to the contrary, no shared data comes back from the server.  Sharing is refreshed every 60 seconds.
  • "Hypersharing" relates to data received directly peer-to-peer from other users who are validated Ground Stations.  Hypersharing is updated at one second intervals cycled round the contributing Ground Stations on your current chart.


Although hypersharing is not the same as sharing, there is a connection between the two because a user who enables hypersharing, receives the list of contributing Ground Stations as part of the download cycle of the regular sharing transaction.  Accordingly, hypersharing can only start to work if regular sharing (not Upload only) sharing is in operation.

Having received the Ground Station list to allow hypersharing to operate, it will continue to receive data peer-to-peer even if regular sharing is turned off or if the server becomes inaccessible, as happened this morning.  However, there is currently a time limit of 10 minutes for this to continue.  After that, Plane Plotter discards the list of contributing Ground Stations and hypersharing will cease to operate.  The concept will allow us, if necessary in the future, to slow the regular sharing cycle, to reduce the server load, while retaining an update rate that a centralised system could not hope to match.



  • Hypersharing will not start to work unless you have regular sharing (not upload only) enabled.
  • Hypersharing will continue to deliver data from other users for 10 minutes after you have selected Upload only or have turned off regular sharing.  After that, you will not receive any data from outside by either method.

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