Saturday, November 05, 2005

MemoryMap Navigator

From all the packages that I've been looking at recently MemoryMap Navigator 5.02 seems like the most promising. Beware that Google will list its British website first mainly because they are based in UK, partnering in the United States with MapTech, maker of OutdoorNavigator. So, most of what is covered in this post refers to their American website.

To start, download and install Memory Map 10-day trial which includes a free PC Host map utility and the PocketPC package. With the map utility you can import DRG's (Digital Raster Graphics).

For California you can download DRG's and their corresponding .tif and .tfw files with NAD83 or NAD27 georeference at UC Davis. Please notice the flashing link on the download page to a survey. Make sure to respond. This way you can prove the need for this service and help obtain support to keep this service online.

To import a DRG, download the corresponding .tif and .tfw files, select Map | Map List and hit the Refresh Map List... button. There select the directory where you saved the files by hitting Add Folder. Press Ok, and you now should be able to see the DRG listed in the Map List dialog. The same dialog allows you to send the map to the PDA.

DRG name details

DRG names have a funny look. They start with a "o" for Ohio-code. In my case I had the file o36121h8 where 36 corresponds to the latitude, 121 to the longitude, h which corresponds to 8th row within that latitude/longitude square or the one on top (a in the southmost row) and 8 is the column in the lat/lon square where columns are numbered from 1 to 8 from east to west).

But back to the map utility, with that you just created a .qct file (QuickChart) compressing the original 8Mbyte file down to five. For more on importing, scanning and calibrating maps check the PowerPoint presentation on MapCalibration in the install directory (viewer included).

It is quite impressive the speed with which MemoryMap displays images, zooming in and out in a snap. That's quite an accomplishiment considering the original image size and the processing power of a PDA.

If you interested in obtain maps of Canada, you can also purchase eTopo digital maps compatible with MM at MM also supports MrSid file format which stands for "Multi Resolution Seamless Image Database". These files can be converted into .tiff format with utilities available at LizardTech, the creator and owner of the MrSid format.

Transfering the map to the PDA can be accomplished from the same map utility. Somehow the utility informs that the version of the PDA package just installed is outdated. Just choose to re-install/update it. You can pick where you want the map copied to, like Main memory or SD/CF card storage. But be aware that MM trial won't plot your position with a GPS connection, for that you will need a full license ($99).

MemoryMap 3D

Another feature available in the map utility is MemoryMap 3D, which also requires a full license and from the looks of the videos available on their website, it seems quite a ways better than what is offered by Topo! Streets & 3-D Views from National Geographic. In order to display a 3D map you need to obtain the corresponding QuickChart Elevation Data (.qed). For that you can fork another $120: $95 for the California State Memory Map Discover DVD (or any other state) and $25 for the corresponding elevation data.

But you can try it with an old map with elevation data from Mountain Desert Island (.qct & .qed). Probably the least populated area in the planet. And quite flat. Not that exciting. But the fact that you can control the intensity and positioning of the light is pretty cool. You can also sync both views either vertically or horizontally. The free viewer also lacks printing, GPS programming, real time plotting and all Pro features.

Map Server

If you select the menu option "Web | Download Maps from the Internet" it will load your default browser (Mozilla Firefox in my case) and you might get a "requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or greater" message but even if you use IE 6.0 it will still complain about it.

So, open your IE browser and go to
there you will be able to buy DRG's directly from MemoryMap for $1 buck a piece.

Memory Map website also points you to a USGS website where you can download aerial photos [DOQQ] and to USA Photo Maps at which "downloads USGS aerial photo and topo map data from Microsoft's free TerraServer Web site, saves it on your hard drive, and creates maps with GPS accuracy."

NOAA Marine raster navigation charters can be downloaded for free from MapTech's website. Everything else requires you to fork some cash.

Bottom line

Memory Map Navigator costs 99$ including the PC version and the PocketPC package. In the professional version ($225) you can import ERSI Shape files for overlays, use night colors in the PocketPC and perform large-format map printing plus remote tracking thru the MemoryTrack addon that connects to a proprietary server to provide information on multiple parties.

MemoryMap offers a compreensive set of features that require a good chunk of exploration for someone make full use of it. To me so far this might be the most significant competition offered to the Topo! packages from National Geographic.