Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gothamist: Map of the Day

This site has been calling my attention lately. It posts regularly (but not daily) a "Map of the Day". Here is the link to the Maps Archive. Most of them are NY related. Like if biking through Brooklyn and Manhathan appeases to your senses, here then.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cellphones, planes and GPS

IEEE's Spectrum Magazine spelled out on its March issue, the model of cellphone that reportedly caused several planes to loose their GPS fix. It is the Samsung SPH-N300. An expired page on BestBuy website says that the "Samsung's new dual-band SPH-N300 is the first phone in the U.S. to meet the Federal Communications Commission mandate for Enhanced 911 capabilities."

And now Back to the News

GPS ads are closer than you might want:

According to BrandWeek "Dunkin' Donuts and Cold Stone Creamery [ads] began appearing on in-car GPS devices to alert drivers to nearby locations and, in some cases, offer special deals". They closed an agreement with TomTom.

The idea is that an user will be able to download an icon or logo of a company like Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins "so they can easily spot the popular chains when they are on the road". TomTom devices will also beep when a driver is within the range of a store.

Also according to BrandWeek, a similar deal was made by Garmin so that its users will be able to access coupon discounts through their Nuvi receivers and other products.

Now on the Tracking News Dept., Montreal Mayor is having a hard time to convince works to use GPS. He might have a valid point there, but the issue here is misuse.

Finally, the British-based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, EPSRC is sponsoring a Location-based project that according to AdvancedImagingPro " aims to significantly enhance the current map-based user-interface paradigm on a mobile device through the use of virtual reality and augmented reality techniques".

Cabrilho

And going back a bit one other thing I need to mention: Cabrilho was a Portuguese Sailor & Navigator, whose services the Spanish Court contracted to survey the coast of what is today's San Diego.

If you go across the Coronado Bridge visit the top of the Park with his name, you will find a statue, at the top of the hill. That was a gift from Portugal and it has the correct spelling of his name on it.

During the 50's, the President signed an order picking today's spelling.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Brasil

Now that I brought this to the table, let me just say a few things:

[BTW, for a more updated view check "Lula".]

1. Now, a Brazilian can buy gas without fear of having to pay tomorrow 3 times more of what [s]he did a month ago. Brasil became self-sufficient in its production and extraction of gas. Now it needs to learn how to refine it in bigger quantities. And please, if someone start to tell that the idea, development and implementation of engines that run on ethanol didn't start in Brasil better be prepared to argue very well on his/her beliefs.

2. It even happens with fissile fuel: Brazil wants to be capable and independent in the production of nuclear fuel. We, as a country, are P-A-C-I-F-I-C-I-S-T-S. I have to spell it out like that so you don't get it wrong. The idea is money. Or are you concerned that we might even be able to pay out our debts and not keep feeding your interests??

3. FIFA's Futebol (the real thing if you know what I mean) World Cup starts in a month and a half, so state your business or get out of the way of my TV! But in respect to one of the greatest coaches Brasil had, I will keep my mouth shut for now

Tchau TelĂȘ.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

People Tracking

I'm not even going to talk about all of the teen, kid & whatever else tracking news that popped up in my screen in the last couple of weeks. My point about this whole issue is: keep track of those who actually need tracking. Seniors, older people that get lost and can't find their way home. Look at examples in Japan and Ohio. Trust your kid, be with them. Here another, similar opinion on the issue.

Workers are also being included in the current tracking list, like this article shows about New York workers. There is a lot at stake here. Be aware. Don't let the atmosphere of fear scare you. Remember your freedom, keep it, close. Otherwise, just call it by its name: this is called trespassing, like we learn how not to do in our prayers and the Bible.

I might be a bit paranoid when seeing these things, but as a Brazilian that grew up during its worst dictatorship times (btw, didn't you had anything with that?), it is quite easy for me to notice some of the signs I kept of one. It always ended with "National Security" being used everytime someone in the government wanted to close an argument.

Cycles, right?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Symbian, Nokia and LBS Development

Symbian is a funny OS. Using a freeware like FExplorer you can see that the internal file system of the Nokia 3660 has four "drives", like disk drives or mounted systems if you want to get to it. [BTW, FExplorer website is up & running again. Take care Dominique!]

C (writable Flash Memory), D (RAM), E (Disk/Memory Card), Z (ROM). LBS put a good overview of the Symbian Series 60.


At Nokia's website this is the start point for Location Based Development. It is all there.

Here is a link to the Nokia White Paper for the Location API for Java.

Deep down in the C++ docs you will find this to confirm that this is indeed, Assisted-GPS:

"Location Acquisition C++ API uses only Mobile Location FW Location Server to provide location services to the client applications with both synchronous and asynchronous method calls. However, even if Location Server does not exist on the system, certain parts of the Location Acquisition API (such as position data classes) can still be used. Valid for Symbian OS 7.0s or later."

A-GPS Phones

Nokia launched the 6255i about a year ago with "AGPS for E911 services". A-GPS is also provided by the models 2270, 2280 and 2285. And more recently models 3585i, 3586i, 3587i, and 3589i.

Coding Challange

With all these pointers you might even consider Nokia's Challange, the current one still on-going. You might need to rush.

Bluetooth phones and Fitness Extras

And if you are looking for Nokia models that work with a Bluetooth GPS here is the list: N90, N80, 9500, 9300, 7610, 6682, 6670, 6620, 6600.

Finally, if you are into fitness check the "Nokia Fitness Monitor and Nokia Xpress-on(TM) GPS".

Cingular's GSM Assisted-GPS Implementation

I raised the issue a while back, before the BlueTooth adventure. I did look up TruePosition, which has a product called TrueNorth System that includes Cingular among its clients for PDE services for their GSM network.

From the website you get that TrueNorth provides "Position Determining Equipment (PDE), Serving Mobile Location Centre (SMLC) and Gateway Mobile Location Centre (GMLC) hardware and software [...] providing E-CID, A-GPS, U-TDOA and AOA."

U-TDOA is the one acronymn to look up from the list to understand the triangulation technique used here. And just to see how the pieces are putting themselves together: "TrueNorth is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Group with offices in U.K. and Sweden." [NYSE: L, LMC.B]

Pulver

From an old issue of the Pulver Report: "Cingular is using E-OTD and CGI-TA (Cell Global Identity-Timing Advance, a low-accuracy fallback, accurate to about a kilometer) for GSM and is using TDOA for analog and TDMA."

And more interestingly:

"Cingular is deploying location technology solely to meet the FCC E911 mandate. They do not have plans to offer location-based services. One possible reason [...] suggested for this is that Phase II accuracy requirements are not particularly suitable for most services. For example, 100/300 m or even 50/150 m is insufficient for high-accuracy applications like turn-by-turn directions".

BTW, Jeff Pulver currently publishes a VOIP Report and is the one behind Vonage. Now he is doing the same for video.

Avon is calling, the River.

After Crackpot it seems Britains are still wondering if GPS is that reliable after all. Here is more food for thought.

Gizmodo saw it first.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bluetooth trip to Europe

I'm pretty happy right now. After a week and a half without posting (I had to either get it or give it up) I got a not that useful setting to work in what I hope is an introduction to Bluetooth.

For me Bluetooth is an European Invention & Standard. You might need to think like an European to get it fast. It took me a while, a south-american transplant that somehow tries to keep its best roots (or routes) at close contact, to get it right.

First I didn't have a Bluetooth GPS Receiver at hand while using a Nokia 3660 phone so: How can I check the GPS packages available for this phone? New Nokia phones will include what I believe are Assisted GPS chipsets for the US market. The 3660 doesn't have either one. True or assisted GPS.

Bluetooth GPS Receivers

eBay had some at about $80, mostly shipping from Taiwan. Didn't quite felt like it. Semsons came up with a good organized way to scope the available landscape. But again $80 bucks was about the lowest acceptable. Bottomline: I wasn't going to fork that amount to try this thing.

Not sure where I got the idea. Guess started while thinking about a way to get Bluetooth out from my existing receivers, then I thought about the DeLorme USB cable and I guess the idea of a USB to Bluetooth converter just become available for use.

To call it a converter doesn't even begin to fill what really happens when you add the software side of this equation but for now, it will do. I found one at NewEgg for $20 including shipping. BlueTake, model 9si. A little thing that you become afraid of losing forever anytime you have to put it away somewhere.

Bluetake requires you to give your life away at the support site for driver downloads so be forewarned. On XP it installs quite a few new devices. But the only one I'm interested right this moment is the serial comm port service.

But I had just realized that I would have to try all this under a roof, so no real fix was going to be available. Can a GPS Simulator give this phone a fix?

GPS Simulators

Recap: "Ok, I don't have a Bluetooth receiver. But I got GPS receivers I can have acting as a server, and/or I could just plain use a simulator, playing a random log so that I could link that thru a serial port, to the Bluetooth bridge and finally to a GPS app running on the phone."

I still had the trial of GPS Simulator from SkyLab installed and start playing with it but I could not set a value from the empty comboboxes for a serial COM port. It had a Bluetooth button I could push, but who knows what I could really get from it.

gpsfeed+

To make your life easier go straight to the gpsfeed+ project page at SourceForge and get the executable. Key points: set the right COM port value (keep the colon, :) and under Connection check "Serial" on.

But just for the sake of completion, there is another option: the shareware gpssimul which doesn't include support for COM ports above 4.

By default, gpsfeed+ will start to walk around circles, by outputting corresponding NMEA sentences for that kind of a path. (Reminds you of those labirints monks use to meditate.)

Blue Soleil

By default, BlueSoleil (an interface installed with the BlueTake converter) starts both serial port services on the PC. You can use ports COM8 or 9 so, go back to the Serial settings on
gpsfeed+ and change COM1 to COM8. Now don't be a snob and stay on the easy menu or view of the Blue Soleil interface.

It shows a cool sun at the center if nothing is happening. So, to begin the party go the the Nokia and select Connect. Pick Bluetooth and shift to the tab at right. That shows the partnerships your device have established.

There is a passcode value exchanged between the devices that are trying to establish a secure partnership. Provide the same value in both ends.

Also keep an eye on Tools | Configurations | Quick Connect... to see or start making things happen.

Partners

Back to the Blue Soleil easy view you can now see either a MAC ID or the device name circling your PC Sun. [One interesting side effect of BlueSoleil is that you will get key communication states between the PC and any other Bluetook device as tooltips at the bottom of the XP screen.]

So, flashbacking a bit: GPS simulator outputs through COM8; Serial COM service on BlueSoleil on port COM8 already started. Now you need something in the phone trying to use a GPS Receiver.

MapViewGPS2

I won't be able to explore everything you get with this free package, let's just say that it is a lot. MapViewGPS2 also has a bigger brother, so this looks like really good stuff on a first impression basis.

Maps can be used in both versions. A utility that converts basic image formats into OziExplorer map format can be used to generate compatible map data. Calibration is another story. Check the pretty international message board and FAQ to a link to an FTP site with pre-calibrated maps. Here are some screenshots of an older version of the old brother.

You will also need to copy the maps to a subdirectory under the application folder. I found FExplorer to be a great File Manager for the Symbian 60 series, but today I couldn't get to their site.

[And if you have been wondering about the screenshots ScreenSnap is a freeware available at SmartphoneWare.com that does the job quite well. Infrared does the rest of the transferring.]

Back to MapViewGPS2 and its big brother, you got basic modes of operation where you either browse on a little world map or actually see GPS data. Before having this setup, I was able to move the location pointer around the little world map and see San Francisco showing up at the status bar as its current location. [BTW, the image above is from GeoViewX, but that package won't let you connect to a GPS in trial mode].

In the GPS view you have four screens to scroll around. Under Layout you can change the amount of info provided. Highly recommended. But for the scope of this post, the sole objective here is to start talking to the GPS simulator running on the PC on the serial COM8 port.

Changing to the GPS mode, select GPS and Connect.

Back to the Solar System

Now I can see a little arrow flowing from the Sun to the little icon of a cell phone with Nokia under it. Or the device name you picked for yours. I could also see several start/stop connections between the server and the client let's say.

Then magic happen. The phone started showing up the movement in the circle. It's GPS data, a compass moving around in sync, speeds that didn't make much sense but it was really cool.

I couldn't quite get a fix with the data sent by gpsfeed+ and the range from the Bluetooth signal was surprisingly large, so make use of good passcodes if you are concerned about intruders.

And finally here are some pointers of other GPS packages available, including SmartComGPS, MapViewGPS' big brother.

All of this a week and a half later. But it was a cool trip.

Welcome back.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nokia: Notes on European Design

It is amazing the amount of controversy I can get by just mentioning the 3660. Nokia changes its models so much, that one of them, had the numbers in a different order.

The 3660 does look kinda cool, but the more you use the more you start to wonder. It does feel a bit heavy, and too plastic and not that solid. No zoom in the camera, and a funny keyboard. It is definitively its own style. The joystick thingy is quite too small, and it should have some sort of friction, like rubber, in it.

I like it for the fact that I can upload a .SIS package through infrared, install it from its inbox and be happy. That makes life a lot simpler (except for two steps, two files, too long a process like with Wayfinder).

The fact that I don’t have a GPS receiver does count, but for now I’m wondering about GSM tracking and the pletora of freeware available for one to play with. Check the snapshots for the kind of data you get to see on them.

There is good instructional material at this website from a package called “GSM Position Locator”, a commercial package for sale at Handago.

MCC translates to (Mobile Country Code); MNC stands for Mobile Network Code which according to the GPL page above "identifies GSM network within country". You will also see references to LAI as the Location Area ID, and CID or Cell ID. More about this here.

But back to the 3660’s, I wonder how Cingular implemented E911 on these phones. It might be software running in the phone itself that could perform the triangulation necessary to provide its position. Symbian API might say something about it. GSM is an European protocol, signal, frequency all of that. GPRS supported by this and other models from Nokia is way cool. Internet Radio, why any other way? An independent technology that came before GSM itself. New phones target EDGE or EGPRS which Cingular implements in US.

And you have a whole OS: Symbian, to play with. Kind clunky sometimes, takes a bit too long to start-up, but after a while you begin to see some usability conquests. Anyhow. If not, just for kicks, and some ideas out-of-the-box.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Geominder: "Got Milk?" [tm]

If you checked HereCast you will dig Geominder from Ludimate. The article on A2B mentioned it as a LBS possible use case. It runs on Symbian Series 60 devices.

Let's say you want to stop to buy groceries on your way home. So you run Geominder while walking by the store. The phone knows approximatelly where you are and you can then save the location data associating it to a recognizable icon.

Milk

You know that you are running out of milk so, you record a voice message to yourself reminding you of the fact, set the alarm on and go about your life.

Later in the way home, your phone starts beeping. You check it and there is your reminder, if you can't remember why, you then click the voice message and all becomes suddenly clear. Milk!

You need to keep Geominder in Standby, running in background. And the location is pretty approximate because is it based in the location of the GSM Cell tower with the stronger signal around. I would say that the alarm went off a couple of hundred feet from the original location. But still, close enough.

If you want a repeated alert use "Set 'Active after' to" a value between 5 mins and 8 hours for the corresponding location. This, next time you go about the place, will trigger the alarm once more if you go there after the time interval set.

I'm not sure this is the best app idea around, but it is a start.

Wayfinder Mobile Navigator

It is not that common to find evaluation versions of navigation software. You won't find versions of packages like CoPilot, TomTom, iGuidance, Destinator or Ostia out there. A great invitation to piracy. [To be fair, TeleNav does provide trial versions of its Java package to Motorola iDen phones and other devices].

So it is quite refreshing to see someone offering a trial of its product to the public. WayFinder as posted earlier is a Symbian Series 60 and PocketPC/Mobile Windows package of a group that spun off the Swedish-based Ericsson.

This link should take you to the Free Trial download. For United States, you need to select between your choice of providers. I used T-Mobile Internet (not the VPN type). Cingular and AT&T Wireless customers also got the choice. From the Welcome screen you will see that maps from TeleAtlas are used.

To make full use of the package you need a BlueTooth enabled GPS Receiver so that your Nokia phone can read NMEA data through a serial protocol, but even without it you can access all menus and dialogs. You can purchase a car kit that includes a BlueTooth GPS Receiver with Wayfinder Navigator for US$ 99.95.

Installation

Give away your phone number, model, preferred language and email for a SMS. I never got it but managed to download the .sis package file thru a link from another SMS. You can also try InfraRed to the phone (see below). Install to the memory card (don't choose the phone memory, it requires at least 1.5Mbytes adding some 400K for maps).

Receive by SMS

Send "a SMS with the word Wayfinder in it to +4670932017".

"You will receive two messages. One includes a link with the application. The second is a text message with information."
Notice that the SMS refers to Getwf.com so click over it to install the downloader, only after running it you will be offered the choice to actually download and then install Wayfinder. You can also download it by opening a Wap Broser and going to http://getwf.com.

No List

I didn't get the first SMS with the GPRS configuration for the Nokia model I registered with so I got a "package list missing" error message while lauching Wayfinder for the first time. To get around this I selected "Check for Update" and a download for the missing list started.

After the download completed I skipped the security risk, picked English twice, one for the launcher, another for the installer and confirmed the install. Just pressing that left button.

But it didn't warn me that it wouldn't fit in the main memory. So I ran out of space at some point. So, do remember to pick the memory from the card instead of the main memory so you won't run into the same issue (1.1Mbytes for Wayfinder itself, not counting maps).

[But if you do get stuck go back to GetWayfinder and select Check for Update, that should get you another download.]

After adding space I was able to get the second part installed to the Memory card which had enough space. Half an hour later the new icon at the top menu showed up named WayFinder. Wow.

Finally, Using it

Allow WayFinder to connect to the Internet thru GPRS and if you are provided with service, it should succeed. After that select the 5 day trial option, instead of the Activation options below.

The main menu gives you the following options: Map, New route, Favorites, Communicate.

Under Options you can create a new route, connect to the Bluetooth GPS, arrange settings (volume, sound, backlight, GPS Auto reconnect, Internet access point) and how to activate the product after the trial under Services.

Not having your current location, makes the phone guess that you were last seen in Europe so zoom into Paris or London or Oslo and get directions to the icons in the maps. You can see at least hospitals, stations, info centers, gas stations, etc.

From the top menu by hitting the right arrow you can scroll through views as Map, Guide (visual directions), Itinerary (step-by step instructions) and Destination (speed, distance, time to goal and arrival time).

You can send your currrent position thru SMS, keep a list of favorite routes and create them. A route can be created from a point in the map, from a search or by looking up at categories like airport, terminals, hotels, museums, parking, gas stations, so on. You can also select by country where US states get listed along with European countries.

Under Settings you can also set use of backlight, if you are in a car, taxi or walking as a mere pedestrian; set units (miles & feet or yards), positioning of map heading, automatic rerouting, route optimization (time, traffic info, distance) and if you want to avoid toll roads and/or motorways.

Notice that the whole vocabulary sounds pretty British and probably the main target for the product. You can also set the size of the cache for map images (2MBytes default) and which categories you want displayed (including Wifi spots).

After the route is created, you can listen to the directions by selecting one by one in the trial version. For prompts related to your current position you will need to have a GPS receiver connected to the phone.

In English, the prompts are pre-recorded messages with simply indication of which direction to turn (or go around a roundabout) in a female voice with British accent.

Remember that you are paying for it every time you get a map refreshed or while panning and zooming into it. Check this page for some idea of cost and for the product specs. You can also create and save routes online through MyWayfinder.com.


The documentation is pretty well done with a very visual User Manual that shows every step along the way, nice job.

Bottom line:

Maps, POI and directions data from TeleAtlas.
No Voice Directions prompts during trial.
Bluetooth GPS required.
Free 5-day Trial.
Painful and tedious installation process.

InfraRed

The Nokia 3660 (and other models) have an infrared communication port so you can transfer .SIS files from a PC equipped with infrared port and a phone.

SIS are packages for a Symbian OS executable. If you install the Nokia PC Suite, it will get installed and working the corresponding InfraRed driver under XP.

Just get close enough to trigger XP to recognize it and use the Wireless Link to transfer files among devices. From here you can choose at Wayfinder's website between a SMS link or InfraRed transferrable download.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A2B's Sam Critchley Hinting at LBS Way

Sam Critchley from A2B feeds the news with his LBS views in a good article released by Reuters that also mentions Gravity Monkey Mologogo and Geominder from Ludimate. A Nokia-based (Symbian Series 60) package that "allows you to create location-based reminders that stay attached to physical locations".

I need to reply Sam about a comment he made some time ago regarding my preference to GpsDash as a GPS Navigation package for the PocketPC. I do subscribe to Stefan's software, which I recognize as a true, single developer effort (as many packages in the area). I do believe location applications are too fantastic tools for self-discovery.

So I can't have preferences regarding a particular tool. The goal is what counts. Or what you make of it. The tools change along the way. The tool allow us to find our own way, to buy milk, remind us of what we are after, help us get there.

So right now, with the past 6 months behind us, in the worst Winter California had at least in the last 12 years I've been around here, sun rays can again show where we are supposed to head.

Virtual and Real are about to mesh in a big way. Welcome to the Aquarium!

Going to Crackpot? Use the map

And not the GPS... This one is hilarious but it can get tragic. Digital map makers really need to show everyone that they can trust their directions.

First seen at /.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wayfinder: Free directions available

During trial. WayFinder, based in North Europe is making available a trial version of their GPS Navigation software for Symbian Series 60 and Windows Mobile devices.

Started as an internal project at Ericsson, Wayfinder goes after the Nordic region (but its website shows that it is all over the place) and Nokia seems to be a big partner. Most of the phones supported by the package are from them.

For U.S. you need to use a GPRS provider like Cingular, old AT&T Wireless or T-Mobile. GPRS stands for General Packet Radio Service. Internet over Radio. IOR.

And why should you care about it? Because with GPRS you can surf "without needing Internet provider assistance, allowing you to visit WAP sites directly from GPRS phones". More about this here.

Check the history of the project. I tried on a Nokia 3660, thanks to a couple of friends and will report back soon. If you happen to match the requirements above head to the WayFinder website.

You will also need a Bluetooth GPS receiver that outputs NMEA 0183 through a serial protocol, like the one Nokia sells but you can probably get others to work with. The app doesn't seem to use A-GPS but there are packages available that make use of GSM tracking.

BTW, are you living under 200 feet from sea level?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jeepx.net

Jeepx is growing up. One year old today.

I plan to keep posting here too, but I'm still not completely sure about how this will happen, so I will play this by ear.

Not ready yet, but in beta. Bless.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Adeo: GPS training buddy

Want to hear that you can really get to the top of that hill while you listen to your iPod? Adeo promises to keep you motivated. You can pre-order the US$149.95 gadget and sign-up for its web-based Activity Planning.

"[It] utilizes GPS to monitor stats like your speed, distance, time, pace, and calories burned."
But you might not like the idea of having your iPod telling you what to do...

First seen at TechLiving.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Telmap provides GPS Navigation for MapQuest

But it is not available yet. Meanwhile you can check if your phone model is supported.

Telmap clients run on Symbian, Java, BREW and BlackBerry. The map data coverage seems to match with that provided by NavTeq.

Telmap also provides a server platform and hosting services.

For now you can try the other services available from MapQuest (a division of AOL) for mobile devices including the free MapQuest for Small Screens.

TelMap's Press Release and PC Mag article.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wow! Did you know about this?

Could Global Warming Become a Runaway Train?

If there is one page we are all going to...

And BTW, in case you haven't noticed this is *not* an April's Fool joke.