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Tag: GPS

Running Multiple GPS on the Road

Posted by tomwiles at 9:58 AM on April 8, 2013

As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been playing around with GPS various devices and mapping software for several years. Maps and GPS’s have radically improved over the years. Does the perfect GPS exist? Not yet. So what is the solution? The solution I’m currently using is multiple GPS’s running at once. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” you ask. Not really. Let me explain my current setup. I have a special Garmin GPS that is aimed at commercial truck drivers as well as those driving around in large motorhomes and other recreational vehicles. It differs from a standard Garmin or other stand-alone GPS unit in at least a couple of important ways. First, the user inputs the overall dimensions of his or her vehicle. The Garmin attempts to calculate routes based on known truck routes. It attempts to calculate routes based on keeping to known truck routes, and avoiding roads and routes that trucks and large vehicles are prohibited from. Secondly the Garmin has a database of truck stops, truck washes, scales, rest areas, etc. These two elements are theoretically updated with each new periodic map update. The Garmin does a decent job, but it has its quirks. I also have a Google Nexus 7 which has the excellent built-in Google Maps and Google Navigation, which are actually two separate apps that are tied closely together. I have found the Google satellite view and Google Street View to be invaluable aids on a daily basis as I am constantly having to find and go to places such as warehouses I’ve never been before. I can usually get a great idea of the size of the place, how it is laid out, if there is truck parking either on the property or nearby, etc. I also have the TomTom for Android GPS app along with a subscription to TomTom’s excellent HD Traffic service. Since I have a full-time data connection via a WiFi hotspot, I often run the TomTom software in parallel with the Garmin since TomTom’s HD Traffic service is generally pretty accurate when it comes to major traffic tie-ups and slow-downs. But wait, there’s more. Let’s say I’ve got the same destination programmed in to both the Garmin and the TomTom software, but I want to know how far it is to a particular point of interest along the route, for example a particular truck stop. The TomTom software continues to run in the background as I go to the Nexus 7′s menu and start Google Maps and/or Google Navigation. Yes, it is easily possible to have TWO completely separate navigation programs running on the Nexus 7 at the same time, even in the background. Of course if one runs any GPS program it’s a good idea to have the Nexus 7 plugged in since it will drain the battery in just a few hours’ time especially if one keeps the screen turned on. Also, with both the TomTom app as well as the included Google Navigation app running simultaneously in the background, it is still possible to open the regular Google Maps app and search and browse the satellite views as normal. As an extra aside, I frequently also have an app such as Audible or DoubleTwist running in the background attached via Bluetooth to a Bluetooth stereo speaker setup. The Nexus 7 is easily able to handle all of these tasks in stride with no slowdowns or stutters. So I find that having multiple GPS apps available in front of me (stuck to my windshield on the Nexus 7 via an inexpensive windshield mount I found on Amazon) to be an invaluable extra navigational aid. I personally believe one of the Nexus 7′s biggest strengths to be the built-in GPS chip, a feature that the Amazon Kindle HD’s lack, as well as all iPads that lack a built-in data connection. A built-in GPS chip really adds tremendous amount of value to any tablet, regardless of what the intended use might be.

Update On Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard For iPad 2 & iPad 3

Posted by tomwiles at 7:08 PM on October 20, 2012

Belkin Bluetooth Folio KeyboardRecently I purchased a Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard for my iPad 2. The unit operates via Bluetooth. When I initially began using it I noticed there was a rather prominent problem with rather frequent lost or multiple keystrokes when a given key was only hit once. I didn’t know if this was a Bluetooth problem, or a problem with iOS 6 taking too many CPU cycles on an iPad 2. An iPad 3 might not suffer from the same lost keystroke problem when connected to a Bluetooth keyboard since it comes with a faster processor with much improved performance.

So, I started a bit of troubleshooting. One of the things I suspected might be stealing CPU cycles was app notifications. My one and a half year old iPod Touch really became sluggish after installing iOS 5 on it. I was able to mitigate the sluggish iPod response problem somewhat by turning off push notifications for the vast majority of apps. So, I turned off all of the push notifications on my iPad 2.

Turning off all push notifications did seem to help, but did not entirely fix the problem. I started experimenting with typing old standby typing phrases such as “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” This phrase seemed to type in just fine with no lost keystrokes. But then when I started typing other things, I noticed the lost keystroke problem immediately reared its ugly head once again.

What could the problem be? What about that automatic spell check that is enabled by default in iOS 6? Could that be an issue? I went into the iPad settings and turned off the automatic spell checker, along with the automatic correction feature, as well as eliminating the sample shortcut that comes with iOS 6, and that helped out even more.

For good measure, I also went through and deleted as many apps as I could that I really don’t make use of on my iPad.

Since my iPad 2 is WiFi only, I also have an external “Dual” GPS unit that connects to the iPad via Bluetooth so I can use the iPad as a GPS device with apps such as TomTom, USA Atlas (Hema) and Co Pilot. I noticed if I turn it off while I’m using the Belkin Bluetooth keyboard, it helps reduce the occasional lag problem even more.

All of these things combined have improved the Bluetooth keyboard response dramatically. There are still a few dropped keys now and then, but at this point they are much less frequent to the point where the keyboard is now quite usable.

It’s likely that had I never upgraded the iPad 2 beyond iOS version 4, there likely wouldn’t be a Bluetooth keyboard lag problem. Why is it we seem to always scream for the latest iOS updates, but then ultimimately end up annoyed by poor performance?

Magellan RoadMate Commercial Truck GPS Navigator 9270T-LM

Posted by tomwiles at 9:44 PM on July 5, 2012

The Magellan RoadMate 9270T-LM is a 7” inch touch screen GPS aimed at the commercial trucking industry. I’ve spent a lot of time with it in real world situations and at this point feel I can give the unit a fair review.

I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting with GPS units aimed at commercial drivers. I live with these things 24/7 and at this point I’ve got a pretty good idea of what a commercial GPS should do. In this review I’ll be using my current Garmin trucker GPS as a bit of a yardstick to compare the Magellan unit to.

The box includes the 9270T-LM GPS itself, along with a long, heavy-duty base unit with dual suction cups capable of securely attaching the unit to virtually any big truck dash, no matter how large or oddly shaped it is. It comes with an AC adapter, which must be assembled with the included prongs for North American AC power outlets. It also comes packed with a USB cable for connecting the unit to a computer for updates, a 12-volt power adapter to power it with a 12-volt vehicle power socket, as well as a very rudimentary user’s manual. The box says the unit can be updated with software for both Windows and Mac, however the website seems to suggest that their Mac update software is limited to certain GPS models.

The Magellan 9270T-LM comes with lifetime maps – that’s what the “LM” stands for. It also comes with lifetime traffic updates, which are accomplished via a passive FM radio system present in many areas of the country. It has a bright 7” inch touch screen that makes the unit easy to read and use. Overall vehicle dimensions can be readily customized, as well as specifying whether or not one is hauling hazardous materials for routing purposes.

The 9270T-LM’s navigation seems on par with the Garmin trucker GPS I’ve had for the better part of a year. It seems to follow truck routes and also is cautious about routing large truck’s around roads it isn’t sure about. One quirk I found with the integrated points of interest is that it does not seem to include the Blue Beacon chain of truck washes, which is a major omission unless I happened to run into some quirk in it’s integrated POI database. I am constantly having to look for truck washes at times on a daily basis so I can get my refrigerated trailer washed out prior to reloading it, so the more complete the integrated POI database is, obviously the better.

In use, the unit warns of an upcoming turn two miles before, then again, as you get closer. It also chimes at both turns and at freeway off ramps. It automatically (and quietly!!!) quickly recalculates if you happen to go past a turn or an exit.

One of the features I really like is the way inputting cities, streets and address numbers works. It is predictive (attempting to predict the names of cities and streets so you don’t have to type the entire words) with a large onscreen keyboard that takes up most of the screen, making the keys easy to hit. It also speaks each letter or number as you hit it, making it easy to tell if you’ve made a typing mistake as you spell the names out.

On the negative side, the unit is fairly inflexible in how it allows you to customize the main screen to your own individual tastes. My existing 5” inch Garmin trucker GPS allows a tremendous amount of flexibility in the multiple pieces of real-time data it allows the end user to simultaneously display. I like to have the current time of the time zone I’m in always displayed, along with the speed limit of the road I’m on, the speed my vehicle is actually traveling, along with how many total miles are remaining for the entire multi-stop trip.

The 9720T-LM has a pop-up display accessed by tapping on the screen that displays the remaining distance, the ETA, the actual vehicle speed, and the elevation. It also displays the direction of travel but I’ve found this digital compass feature to be completely unreliable. This transparent slide-up data display bar stays up for a few seconds and then slides back down with no way to force the information to remain on the screen. It is unfortunate because the large 7” inch touch screen ends up with a lot of wasted screen real estate. I discovered by playing around with it that it is possible to pick one of those pieces of data to display in the lower right corner of the main screen by default. After tapping and getting the slide-up display in position, tap and hold the piece of data you want to remain displaying in the lower right corner and it will stick once the data display slides back down off the screen. The most useful piece of data for me personally and one I find myself constantly monitoring is the current vehicle speed, especially when traveling down two lane roads and going through small towns, which can sometimes be notorious as speed traps.

The Magellan 9720T-LM is capable of multi-stop routes, making it possible to enter a multi-drop trip into the unit all at once, however it falls short in that it doesn’t offer the total miles for the multi-stop trip readily available on the main screen the way the Garmin does. The 9720T-LM only displays the mileage distance to the next programmed stop. This is an important omission for most irregular route commercial drivers, because it is often necessary to calculate the total mileage for a multi-drop trip.

One feature I’d like to see in any GPS is the ability to manually adjust the average prediction speeds myself to particular vehicles. My truck has a 63 MPH top speed, not 65, and not 70. If I could adjust the top speed for about 60 MPH for freeways, and even slower for secondary two-lane roads, the overall ETA predictions would be far more accurate for trucks in the real world.

The 9720T-LM does seem to have some speed limit data for certain freeways, but the data seems to be incomplete. This lack of speed limit data might be revised in future map updates. Going back to my Garmin, it has speed limits for the vast majority of roads, including secondary two-lane roads.

On the plus side, the 9720T-LM calculates routes very quickly compared to my Garmin. On the other hand, the unit can often be somewhat unresponsive to on-screen taps, with delays sometimes of up to a second in some cases before it responds. This delay factor can end up being frustrating if you’ve tapped twice or more thinking that you just didn’t tap hard enough, only to find yourself tapping on something you didn’t intend to and having to start over. To be fair, to an extent my Garmin suffers from the same issue. I don’t know if this is a slow processor problem or a problem that better programming practices could fix.

The 9720T-LM’s integrated speaker located on the back of the unit is loud enough for me to easily hear in my truck at freeway speeds.

Under the “One Touch” menu in the upper right corner of the display, it offers the ability to program in a total of twenty frequent destinations and even save multi-stop trips making it possible to eliminate having to re-enter the same trips over and over again for drivers that are constantly making exactly the same trips or constantly going to the same destinations.

If you are looking for a large 7” inch touch screen GPS for a commercial truck or even a large recreational vehicle (RV), the Magellan 9720T-LM is a nice choice. It offers good routing capabilities for large vehicles, along with a big, beautiful, easy-on-the-eyes display.

Hijacking a Drone

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 1:09 PM on June 30, 2012

droneDrones are unmanned flying vehicles which are controlled by operators from thousands of miles away. They are used extensively in Afghanistan to track the Taliban’s activities. There has been increase talk among law enforcement in the United States that using drones might be useful in fighting crime. There is a Federal mandate that would permit drones to be used in US airspace. There are many questions involving the use of drones including privacy rights, lack of search warrants …. There are also technical questions. Right now the biggest problem that the DHS and the FAA are facing involving drones are jammers which don’t control the drones but simply jam the signal. This is the way the Iranians insist they were able to bring down a drone in 2011. Although that is still disputed by the US who insist it was operator error and not Iranian jamming that caused the drone to land off course.

However solving the jamming problem maybe easy compared to the problem of spoofing. Spoofing is where the drone is actually controlled by a third-party. In order for spoofing to be successful the drones GPS system must be hacked. That is what the University of Texas, Cockrell School of Engineering did under Assistant Professor Todd Humphreys when it hijacked a drone using $1,000 worth of equipment and custom software. These drones were using unencrypted software that the University of Texas team was able to hack. Their signal was more powerful than the GPS signal that the drone was receiving from the satellite that was originally controlling it. They were able to over ride that GPS signal sending the drone where they wanted to. As you can image this is a huge potential problem. Imagine what would happen if a terrorist group was able to hack a drone and send it where ever they wanted it to. They could control it from anywhere and sending it crashing into buildings with no risk to themselves.

Right now the DHS is still working on the jamming problem through the Patriot Watch and the Patriot Shield programs but the programs are underfunded and haven’t even started looking into the spoofing problem. Before we allow drones to fly above US cities we might want to find a solution to both jamming and spoofing first.

GNC-2012-03-19 #751 April Road Show

Posted by geeknews at 1:08 AM on March 20, 2012

April is going to be simply a crazy month, so I am prepping the travel studio to take the road show to a whole new level. Lets see if we can get green during the road show :). Laid back Hawaiian style show tonight Geek fans.

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GNC-2012-02-23 #744 Listen and Win!

Posted by geeknews at 12:58 AM on February 24, 2012

Unexpected Trip to Washington DC next week. I get back to Hawaii on Thursday, will make a decision on Monday show in next day or so. Listen today to get your name in the hat for the show 750 giveaway.

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iOnRoad Warns Drivers of Danger

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on February 6, 2012

As well as being a really bad pun, iOnRoad is an augmented reality app that helps car drivers become safer drivers. Courtney gets into the fast lane to find out more about this app which was awarded a CES Innovation Honoree prize.

Available for Android smartphones now and the iPhone soon, the app uses the smartphone’s camera, GPS and accelerometer to provide warnings and guidance to car drivers as they drive. By looking at the white lines, the car in front and correlating data from the GPS and accelerometer, the app can warn about lane departures, tailgating and speeding. The iOnRoad includes a couple of other features, including reading text messages and a car locator.

Obviously the phone has to be mounted on the dash with a view to the front of the car, but you can test the app using the video here. The app is currently free with a charge of $9.99 to be introduced in the future.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDR News.

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Magellan Roadmate RV

Posted by Alan at 11:14 PM on February 4, 2012

magellan logoMagellan recently showed of the Roadmate RV, a specialty GPS unit made for recreational vehicles.  This isn’t the typical GPS device you would place in your car, but a very specialized unit made specifically for the RV.  For instance, automodile drivers don’t generally have to worry if their car will fit on a particular road.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Andy Smith of TPN got a look at the new Roadmate RV.  This GPS unit will let the driver know about specific road conditions based on the size of their vehicle, such as if the road is too narrow or if there are low bridges.  It can also direct the user to RV friendly campgrounds.

The Roadmate RV has a large 7 inch screen.  Users can also uncheck their vehicle profile and switch the unit to their car for standard navigation.  You can find more about the fautures and pricing by watching the video below and also by visiting the Magellan web site.

Interview by Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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DeLorme inReach Two-Way Satellite Communicator

Posted by Andrew at 12:23 PM on January 29, 2012

DeLorme LogoAndy talks to Jim from DeLorme about the new inReach two-way satellite communicator, perfect for those really out of the way places.

The DeLorme inReach is a tracking and communication device that uses a satellite radio link to transmit text and GPS location data, rather than the mobile phone network. Owners can communicate via text message from anywhere on the planet, not just those areas with mobile phone coverage, and it’s ideal for hikers and extreme sports enthusiasts who might have an emergency far from a phone signal (or simply want to reassure family that they’re ok.)

The inReach has two modes of operation, one where you use the control unit directly, the other where an Android smartphone app talks to the control unit via Bluetooth. The app is needed for two-way text messaging, mainly as the control unit doesn’t have a keyboard, but there is a dedicated SOS button on the control unit for emergencies. Other smartphones may be supported later.

The inReach costs $250 and a monthly subscription is required for service priced at $9.95 per month. The units are available now.

The inReach is impact-resistant, waterproof, floats and weighs 8oz. Battery life is 60 hours on a pair of lithium AAs. Overall, it’s an ideal emergency backup device but please note, gadgets like this are not a substitute for proper planning, preparation and equipment. Always tell someone your plan and expected return time.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Take Control of Your Car with Mavia

Posted by Andrew at 11:06 PM on January 25, 2012

Mavia DeviceTodd chats to Madison of Mavizon about their new Mavia automotive product which keeps tabs on your vehicle in more ways than one.

Mavia is a small box (see picture left) that plugs into your vehicle’s ODB-II port – that’s the connector used by technician’s to check on the car when there’s a problem. The Mavia combines readouts from this port with its own internal GPS receiver to provide location and technical information that is sent back to an online hub at www.mymavia.comAndroid and iPhone client apps can be downloaded too.

The MyMavia hub will show data on the vehicle such as gas mileage and distance to next service, plus any diagnostic error codes. MyMavia can interpret some of the diagnostic codes and it enables the owner to consult other resources, online or otherwise, to find out more on what’s wrong with the car. MyMavia incorporates location services too, showing where the vehicle is on Google Maps and there are connections to social sites like Foursquare.

The Mavia is in a beta testing phase so pricing is not confirmed but is expected to be around $200. The device will be available from retail outlets later in the year and requires no special fitting; it’s a self-install.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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