GPS – 1

Over the last few weeks I've been playing with some new GPS hardware and software.

The hardware is a Mio 350 Pocket PC, with a built in GPS reciever. It's currently on sale around the traps for a very cheap price, but with no mapping software.

The hardware is a typical Windows PPC. The display is brighter than others that I've seen, which, for its use as a GPS system, is a good thing, but in the basic design, there is a fundamental flaw: When it's turned off, there's supposed to be a safety mechanism to prevent the unit freom being turned on accidently. you select the "lock device" option on the screen.

And yes, it locks the device.

Well, not quite. 🙂

The screen is locked, but not the buttons.

So, any time that the buttons get pressed, like when you put the unit in your pocket, or a handbag, or maybe just by holding it …  the unit switches itself on. For a system that's ostensibly supposed to prevent you from using the battery, it fails miserably.

Ok … the Mio software is almost good. It seems slow to react; certainly, on the same hardware, it doesn't seem to track your travel as well as Tom Tom does.

That said, it does have a copuple of very nice features. Almost very nice features: like the screen locking on the hardware, some of the software features have some fundamental design flaws that make this an almost good product.

For instance: it displays a 40kph speed zone sign when you're in a school zone. Or when it thinks you are: I've seen a couple of instances where there wasn;t a school within coo'ee, but up came the warning!

It's not quite in sync with where the zones actually are, often times coming on when you're just about to leave the zone. Oops!

And it pays no respect at all to the times when school zones are enforced. Fair enogh that it might not know the days on which schools are on vacation, but 10 o'clock at night? I don't think so!

So … a good idea, but they've cocked up the implementation of it.

In showing you the upcoming route, as you approach a manouevre it has a display element indicating (sort of) how far till you need to make that manouevre. That's good, as almost is the little black arrow that bounces around pointing you in the direction that you need to go. But that arrow is a bit small; it's very easy to not see it.

As for the routing itself … oh dearie me.

Could somebody please tell their programmers that in NSW it's against the law to execute a u-turn at a set of traffic lights?

And that if you seem to not be going according to the direction their map suggests, perhaps it's because you've elected to go a different way, and it needs to try to resolve itself more quickly than trying to force you back onto what it thinks is the best path.

The sad fact is that none of the software I've seen seems to take any notice at all of the fact that you, the driver, will possibly have some local knowledge of the conditions (and traffic) that might be encountered along any given route, and thus it fails to save what I might describve as one's favoured route.

I see that as a major flaw, but I need to emphasise, this seems to be a problem in all of the GPS software apps that I've seen thus far.