Monday, 30 March 2009

GPS tracking - a mini review


At the risk of this beginning to look like one of those other, dime a dozen blogs here are my thoughts on personal GPS tracking software. It's become a recent interest of mine. While travelling and exploring the city, I would love a record of my movements, for personal use of course.

My requirements didn't seem too grand, but are seemingly difficult to deliver. What I wanted was:

* Software that could run on my Nokia N82.
* The ability to track the movement live via the data connection.
* The ability to store the location information to be sent later, when no data connection is available.
* Integration with fully functioning googlemaps, I want to be able to share my "tracks" etc on my social networks or save to My Maps.

Doesn't seem that complicated. I have tried out four solutions:
* findonmap.com
* 3D tracking
* GPSed
* Sports Tracker

Simply put, they are all disappointing. findonamap.com worked, straight away, but the phone application is very limited, no ability to store co-ordinates and it isn't always clear what it's doing. Any problems with the data connection or the satellites are difficult to diagnose and at times going out of range the application would simply stop working, leaving your track half completed. Their website is limited and although it does plot on googlemaps, you can't do anything with the plotted paths, no ability to share or export. Pretty useless in my opinion.

3D tracking was my favourite. It almost did everything I needed, but again the route is plotted on Google Maps but with limited ability to do anything with them. However, it does allow you create a path to be used on Google Earth so I guess that could be shared. The phone software was simple to use and clearer than findonamap.com, particularly when diagnosing problems. The website only works with Internet Explorer, strangely.

GPSed had promise, the phone application looks sophisticated and the website comprehensive, complete with an online community sharing their “tracks’. Problem is, I couldn’t get it to work on the phone and with no information about what was wrong, it was impossible to fix. I’ll keep trying with this product but to be honest after two days of trying every possible setting (phone and software) I think it might have problems

Sports Tracker is well written and slick, as you would expect a product from Nokia to be, but it’s clearly aimed at runners, joggers and walkers so the feature set is aimed at those specific functions and could not fulfil my requirements.

For now, I am going to stick with 3D Tracking. All in all I think the community has a long way to go to produce a product that works well, is professional and comprehensive in its feature set. If you know of any other products I should try, give me a shout.

1 comment:

The Camera Fanatic said...

Great blog.

I own both the Nuvi 660 and the 760, I'm writing this review for people having trouble deciding between the two as the price difference between the two products at the time of this review is about 100 dollars. I'm not going to focus on the feature differences, as that information can be easily obtained from specifications and online reviews. The 660 was a fine product back in 2005-2006, but the new 760 outdoes the 660 in practically everything, but there are some key usability fixes that make the 760 a better buy for the frequent user.

http://tinyurl.com/gnuvi760

1. 760 has much better fonts for street names than the 660. This may seem like a trivial update to some, but the 760's fonts greatly improve visibility. The 660 uses all capitalized text for street names on the map, and the font is incredibly cartoonish and unaligned, something like the scribbling Comic Sans font on the PC. The 760 uses your standard Verdana-like font with street names in capitalized and lowercase letters. The fonts on the 760 are smaller, cleaner and surprisingly much easier to read while driving. The maps end up looking professional, and not some cartoony children's video game.

2. 760 has better rendering in 3D map mode than the 660. In the 660 when you are zoomed in under 3D map mode, the roads close to your car are displayed incredibly large, so large that they run into other roads, making the zoom function essentially kind of useless for dense roads. The 760 does not oversize your roads just because you zoomed in to view smaller roads in detail. This fix is very nice for those who drive in places with dense roadways, like New York City.

3. No antenna on the 760 makes hooking up your Nuvi to the cradle one step easier. On the 660 you need to flip up the antenna before attaching the cradle. For people who park their cars on the street overnight, removing the GPS from the cradle for storage in the console or glove compartment is a must, and it's a lot easier hooking up the 760 to the cradle than the 660. It's hard to aim the 660 to its cradle in the dark as you have to align both the bottom edge and the charge port under the antenna. In the 760, the charge port is directly on the bottom of the unit; you can attach it to the cradle with one hand in the dark easily on the 760.

4. It takes the 660 a good 45 seconds on average (sometimes longer than 2 minutes) after boot up to locate the satellite on a cold start. If you have firmware 2.6 installed on the 760, the satellite acquisition time after boot up is between 10-20 seconds. After the firmware update, my 760 also holds a stronger lock to the satellites than my 660, I can get satellite lock inside my house with the 760, whereas I can't get a lock with my 660 (adjusting the antenna does very little).

5. The ability to set multiple ad hoc viapoints on the 760 means it's a lot easier creating alternate routes (very handy to avoid a specific interstate or a high traffic road). Whereas the 660 gives you just one viapoint.

UPDATE: This GPS is currently on sale at Amazon… now is your chance to buy one, if you haven’t already. You can find the product page here:

http://tinyurl.com/gnuvi760

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