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The Rover report - Team FIN member Chuck Myers tests DTN’s latest information tool.

During planting, you do lots of thinking in your tractor cab. While brainstorming solutions to your problems one day, you finally think, “You know, I really should sell that last bin of corn.”

To see if the price has reached your desired target, you flick on the tractor radio for market news. Unfortunately, a ball game delays the market report. So you sit and wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Isn’t there a better way?

Enter the DTN Rover. This service gives you around-the-clock access to daily agricultural news, market quotes and weather in your truck, combine or tractor.

“This type of information is your agricultural survival guide,” says Mike Moore, DTN Rover product manager, Omaha, NE. “It gives you the bare-bones information that lets you know what the market is doing when you aren’t close to a radio or a DTN monitor. Users receive an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the information that they need.”

How it works. The Rover downloads information via cell phone into a Palm Pilot. When the Rover calls DTN over the cell phone, information is downloaded in 1 1/2 to 3 3/4 min. Once the data are downloaded, the user can review the information without using more cell phone minutes.

This spring, Team FIN member Chuck Myers from Lyons, NE, is testing a DTN Rover. Myers receives futures and cash grain quotes, current local and regional weather forecasts, and closing market news comments from the Rover. The tool also has an e-mail function.

Full signal needed. When the Rover makes a good connection to DTN, Myers likes using the Rover. “You don’t have to wait for the market report on the radio, or quit field work in order to drive home and check the markets,” he says.

However, sufficient cell phone connections are vital to successful Rover operation.

To best download information, Moore advises that producers use a three-watt bag cellular phone. “That’s the strongest receiver,” he adds.

Myers uses such a phone to download DTN information. But because Myers lives 20 miles from three cell telephone towers in his area, he resides in the outer reception radius. Thus, his cell phone often runs on a signal of one-half to two-thirds strength.

That’s sufficient for cell phone conversation, but the weak signal causes problems for the Rover. With a signal at one-half strength, the Rover quickly disconnects from DTN or locks up the Palm Pilot.

At two-thirds signal strength, the Rover connects and downloads information in most cases. But during the download, the Palm Pilot flashes a “slow connection” icon. When this happens, 3 to 10 min. pass before a download is complete.

Only when Myers drives to the top of a hill for an unobstructed full-strength signal does the Rover work to its full potential. “I found that I have to actually stop the tractor at a spot where the signal is good and sit and wait for the download to complete,” he says. “More than half the time, my download attempts fail.

“If I could connect every time, I’d buy one,” Myers adds. “I really like getting the information in the field, but if the hassle of making a good connection doesn’t improve, I can’t see buying one for myself.”

If you’re interested in the Rover, contact DTN at 800/511-0095. All you need is a cell phone and Palm Pilot equipped with DTN Rover software. Monthly service with Internet access is $19.95. If you don’t have Internet service, you can buy 100 min. of monthly DTN Rover use for $24.95, or 200 min. for $29.95/month.

Myers plans to continue testing the Rover. Check this section of our Web site for updates on more of his discoveries about the Rover’s capabilities.

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