Thursday, December 01, 2005

PaPaGo & Mapopolis TestDrive

I decided to take both PaPago and Mapopolis for a test drive to San Francisco. My setup includes a holder for the PDA from Arkon and a battery car adapter for the Toshiba. After having some trouble listening to the directions I decided to connect a cassete tape adapter to the PDA's earphones output. (That same setup can be used for an iPod).


With PaPago you can set your destination on a single map and as soon as the GPS gets a fix you hear the announcement from a female voice. PaPaGo keeps full .wav files with specific sentences recorded with good sound quality and volume.

It won't give you street names but generic directions like "turn left on the intersection" or "exit the highway in 600 feet". There are two settings that you need to change from their default values right away or you might get really annoyed when you start hearing "please slow down" while going past 60 miles per hour. The default setting (2nd warning sound) is made using kilometers (100 km/h) so convert the corresponding mileage you consider safe for your car and driving style and use it to change the original value.

Lost

Most of the time I knew where exactly I had to go and when I had the "attention, deviation from planned route" message announced it was either because the GPS was a bit off from the curves on the road, or because I had decided to take my own way instead of the fastest, shortest route proposed. On the way back I decided to follow the directions as planned and put myself in PaPaGo hands after really getting lost around Campbell. It planned a new route and took me thru streets that I would probably take as dead ends within residential neighborhoods with curvy blocks and small alleys. When I finally start driving east on Hamilton Ave. I still had my internal compass going North. That was a nice surprise to find yourself again with the help of a nice package like PaPago.

Mapopolis

[Update Jan/07: Mapopolis is going out of business.] From an Ohio based company, another package that provides free trials is Mapopolis. It runs on the PocketPC and it is also available for Palm OS 3/4, 5 and Windows Mobile Smartphones. You can try it with its free Map Viewer currently in its version 4. You can download demo maps (two a day, pick them wisely) of the Navigator type. Mapopolis MapPacks are sold in two flavors: Platinum ($34 each), without GPS capabilities and Navigator ($99 each), with. These maps use NavTech data and cover a full region instead of a single city or area.

From the main menu with quick options to select you load a map for the area of interest. Find addresses with number and street name. Set them as the starting point and another for your destination. Pick the options for the route, hit ok and it gets draw in the map.

Mapopolis will provide turn-by-turn directions with visual and audio instructions, a large number of POI's and a pretty cool way of zooming in and out on its maps. While installing pSpeak, its text to speach engine, you can select the language for the voice directions. I picked the default setting: English text to speech, female voice. You can also select Male, and British Female which I choose imagining their "luvely accent". You can also choose among Francais (French), Dansk (Danish), Deutsch (German), Espanol (Spanish), Nederlands and Italiano (Italian). But don't try to install it to a CF/SD Card. It couldn't install pSpeak and locked up after launching on the first time.

Well, as soon as the female fragments started coming out as any primary text-to-speech engine would give you I was off the game. I know it is not an easy task to get a good engine going on a PDA, but in this case I would just choose from a good .wav file with generic directions as provided by PaPaGo instead.

The one thing about the map that really turns me off is the way the names of the streets are laid around their shape. So instead of vertical and horizontal alignments you have any sort of placement which gives it a pretty weird look. Couldn't find a way to turn that off besides turning the display of the street names itself. On the plus side, Mapopolis offers quite a bit of information of restaurants, hotels, ATM's and other POI location with its maps. But I didn't quite get how the map of San Francisco was only 1 Mbytes in size while the one from Santa Clara was 3.5Mbytes.

Mapopolis is a full-featured product with probably all you'll ever want from this type of software, if you can get past the voice engine and the chaotic visual it might be a good choice.