Friday, November 25, 2005

Street Map Software

So far I have been avoiding to cover street maps software. But I guess the time has come. Yesterday going to a friend's house I realized that I didn't remember how to get there. My wife asks then, why don't you use your GPS to go there? Don't you love those questions?

Well, for that trip to Fremont I grabbed the AAA map for the area, found their street name and refreshed my memory about the way to get there. But it was obvious that after looking to all the topographic related packages for the PocketPC I had to start getting down to the vector-based, street map packages.

PC Pro, a UK-based magazine published a review of several hardware/software solutions on its October '05 issue. Most of these products were packaged with maps geared towards the European market including the Mitac Mio 168, Navman, Garmin iQue models, and PDA's from Acer and HP.

I started this blog looking at DeLorme Street Atlas USA 2005 for Windows. DeLorme also produces a PocketPC version that can be used with the Windows counterpart (but is in fact a standalone product which includes a CD with maps of the whole U.S.). It currently sells for about $35 US$. You can download a small Flash demo that shows how you can select an area from a map on the PC and transfer it to the PDA.

That's one thing I would like to avoid: to have to prepare a map for a given route beforehand. Microsoft Streets & Trips also works in a similar fashion, but according to reviews from users that got it at Amazon, the PocketPC version is a joke. But for 25$ after rebates with free shipping (both PC and PocketPC versions) the price is almost worth just to take a look at it.

PaPaGo USA 5

Browsing at GPS related packages at PocketGear I had made a note to myself about PaPaGo. My guess it that they probably use this name mostly for its onomatopoeic characteristics than any real meaning. But in any case here is a link to the Papago Tribe that used to live in Southern Arizona.

HiNav lists as the company behind the develoment of this product. Maction shows up in the splash screen, but there are also quite a few other brands involved, including MatlasTech and Mobuy. Check this link for a description of the product in English.

PaPaGo 5 USA includes a Windows PC product, the PocketPC version and one map. Follow the directions from PocketGear which basically tell you to download the PocketPC installer, the Windows Installer and a map from http://www.matlastech.com/USA/download.htm. While there get also the PDF of a good User's Guide in English.


The installer for the Windows version is a self-executable RAR file and will display a dialog in Mandarin Chinese. Just hit Enter to select OK.

You can try their product for 3-days (and not 15 days as mentioned in the installer dialog). You can get a registration code for US$ 29.95. That's for one map. For extra maps you will need to fork another 30 bucks. The actual name of the installed product is KingMap 2 USA (Version 2.2, Build 217).

As you already noticed the one drawback about this product is that you have to buy maps per region in order to use it. The map for Northern California [60MBytes] covers from Monterey (35 degrees 47 minutes North) to San Francisco Bay Area, all the way up to Eureka (42 degrees North) including Sacramento and Central Valley. It is all there. Its map data is provided by TeleAtlas with layers covering roads, streets, points-of-interst (POI's) and landmarks.

Usage

In my case that would suffice for the trip to my friend's house. You can start by finding your location by street name, position (lat/long), area or place. After finding it you can hit the Go button to have the area on the map for that location displayed. Right click the point, select Route | Start Route.

Now do the same for the destination point. Find it in the list, hit the Go button, right-click it on the map and select Route | End Route. You are done. Connect your GPS card, select GPS | Enable GPS and you will starting hearing the directions from a female voice in perfect English. You can also add stops along the way.

Both versions also provide a simulation mode where you review a track. Hit the play button on the Track Bar on the PocketPC (or the play button on the Windows version) and you will see a little green car driving along the desired route.

You select between miles and kilometers in the PocketPC version, but the Windows version only shows distances in kilometers. At least I couldn't find a way to select miles.

If you happen to miss a turn, it will let you know that you are off the originally planned route and offer the newly designed turns to go back to it. The volume from the PDA isn't that loud so you will need to check the screen often times to make sure you are taking the right turns.

You can also plan a route by GPS, which will take your current location as a starting point and you then only need to provide the destination for the route. After a trip you can save a log (in binary format) and/or track (in text format) and replay it later with the PC or PocketPC version. You can also import waypoints into a My Places database for use with the Route Planner.

What I like about PaPaGo/KingMap is its simplicity. No overload of features, easy to grasp menus, install & go. Plus, it just looks nice.

3D & more

The latest version of PaPaGo 9 (not available in English at this time) offers vector-based maps in 3D, like TomTom Navigator 5. In fact, TomTom includes maps for the whole country and you can find it for about US$129.

Here you can read a feature comparison of some of the packages mentioned on this post and PocketGPSWorld covered PaPaGo in a lengthy review a little more than a year ago.