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Mapopolis Navcard for Palm
Posté le 21 février 2005 à 12:52:53 par gpspassion.

...the Little Engine that Could...

Here's a review by Paul, moderator of our forums and experienced PDA GPS user who will share his experience with Mapopolis Navcard for Palm by Mapopolis



Preface - The Little (routing) Engine that Could
Mapopolis has been around for a long time as far as mobile GPS goes and is well known for their unusual sales model. The software is free and you buy the maps.bWith the release of the new Palm NavCard ($149) and TripCard ($99) Mapopolis has provided a third alternative to their Palm and PPC offerings. The NavCard is a 1GB SD card that contains the latest, 2005, NavTeq maps and a GPS navigation program. The TripCard is the same, but it is for mapping only and cannot be used with a GPS or for active guidance.

Now here's the Little Engine part. The NavCard, which will be reviewed here, is the only PDA program, for Palm or Pocket PC, that can route you from one end of the country to the other, all on the Palm, without any recourse to a PC. And it does this on a Palm, no less!!! How does it work? Well, let's take a look.

The NavCard
This is a 1 GB SD card that comes set to the locked position. When you insert it in your Palm for the first time it automatically checks to see of Mapopolis and Pspeak (the voice guidance engine) are installed on the machine. If they are not it offers to install them and then proceeds to do so automatically. Only 3K of free space remains on the card. The card also comes with a 1 page instruction sheet which is pretty basic. A lot of the features of the program are not described, and I only found out how to do some things, such as hide the navigation pane, by watching posts in the Mapopolis section of our forums. I think a little more explanation would be in order for many novice users. It is, however, a pretty foolproof setup system and I can easily see this being pushed out to users in an enterprise environment. Little or no support will be needed for the installation process.

The NavCard contains the Mapopolis program, Pspeak, for text to speach directions, and the maps. The map files are divided into regions, but this is irrelevant to the user, as the program can access all the data and there is no need to load or change counties, states or regions. The whole of the US is available in the program on a seamless basis. The user no longer has to pay any attention to the map files on their machine. Quite an achievement!

The Program
As mentioned above, the program is automatically loaded onto the Palm. The TripCard works on the palmOne Tungsten T3, T5, C, Zire 72, Treo 600, Treo 650, and Tapwave Zodiac. The NavCard is the same, except Mapopolis does not list the 650 as a supported platform. This is a much wider range of products than Mapopolis's main Palm competitor, TomTom. TomTom only is listed as running on the T3 and T5 (ed - although it is known to run on the Treo 650 as well)

I tested the program on my Tapwave Zodiac 2 and Tungsten C. Since the Tungsten C does not have Bluetooth, the major testing was done on the Zodiac. The Zodiac is capable of portrait and landscape operation so that's why some of the screenshots appear in different orentations. Once fired up we are presented with the following screens:



At the bottom of the screen we see a series of 11 zoom buttons. The current level is marked in dark blue. Too be honest nobody will ever use all these levels. Here is the most zoomed out one from my location in New Jersey:

Notice that, unfortunately, Mapopolis is still using the scale bar instead of actually telling you what the zoom level is. They do this in all their programs and I find it absolutely useless. It's time they changed this.

Next to the zoom buttons is a box. Clicking this will allow you to draw a zoom box. Next is a down arrow, which will call up a list of previously used locations and center the map on the one you select. The final button brings up the menu. As you can see the folks at Mapopolis like pink!

Here is the menu:


The Settings section allows you to configure General Settings. The Geomark setting allows you to set your own, personal POI.


Since the Palm cannot multi-task, like the PPC, you will loose your route if you switch away to another program. The Regenerate route at start checkbox will re-do the route when you come back to the program. The display is quite configurable as can be seen in the settings menu above. There are 3 font choices and colors of the background, night colors, roads, water, route, and landmarks can be customized.

Then comes the Navigation Settings pane, see screenshot above that lets you do the following. Highway preferences are Neutral, Favor and Avoid. Voice prompts are Full, Minimal or None. The Display pilot data calls up a small box with bearing and heading information. I don't think most automobile users will have any use for this. There is another Settings screen for configuring your GPS. You can select a serial, bluetooth,m CF, infrared or special connection. I used Bluetooth with my Fortuna ClipOn. You can also set the program to start your GPS when the program starts.

Navigating around
Plotting a route with the NavCard is quick and easy and when you press the down arrow you get a listing of recently used destinations.


Much to my surprise it is very easy to find addresses. You first enter the state and then the city or zip code. I had expected long delays because there is so much data on the card. Searching was quick and easy, however. You can search by actual address, by street or place or from the Palm address book. You can search on partial words, also. For example, if you want to go to Washington Boulevard you can just enter "wash" and all entries starting with these letters will appear.

I was also worried about the time it would take to generate a route, but this was speedy, too. On my Tungsten C (400MHz) it took 43 seconds to do a 225 mile route from NJ to Alexandria, VA. A 772 mile route to Chicago, IL took 1:16 on the Tungsten C and 2:27 on my Tapwave (200MHz). A 2,846 mile route to Portland, OR took 3:56 on the Tungsten C and 5:03 on the Tapwave. It should be pointed out that there is no other program for a PDA that can compute this final route. Mapopolis for the PPC can do it, but it is a complicated process that was found by one of our members and the program, itself, was not designed to do this. By the way, once you go into any form of navigation the program switches from landscape to portrait mode.

For the routes I tried, Mapopolis computed the same routes as my other programs. Here is a typical display (note the pink!)


We have the typical Mapopolis display of road names - every road is listed - making Mapopolis one of the best programs to use in congested areas. The navigation pane shows the distance to your next turn, the name of the next road, the name of your current road and the ETA. I have two complaints about the screen. First the representation of your car is a red arrow and, as you can see above, it is sometimes almost impossible to see when it intersects the red hash marks showing the route. Second, I think the navigation pane is overy large and given how high up the present location cursor is, a lot of "forward looking" real estate is wasted.

When you tap on the screen you get an information callout:


In actual use the response of the system is quick and snappy. I thought there might be some lag, given the relatively low power of my machine, but there wasn't. Recalculation was also quick. I was very pleased with the Bluetooth setup to my ClipOn. As a matter of fact, I have found Bluetooth much easier to use on the Tapwave than on any of my PPCs. Unfortunately there is no way to power my Tapwave from my car, so I was unable to do my usual 1000 mile test and was confined to local use. Written route directions are handled in an interesting way. There is an option to save your written directions to Memopad. Once you select it every route is saved as a memo and you can sync these to your PC and print them out - or beam them to other Palm users. This could be very useful in a number of circumstances.

Points of Interest seem a bit limited. They include: airports, ATMs, bus stations, city hall, commuter rail station, ferry terminal, higher education, hospital, named place gas station, police station, train station, restaurant.


Pspeak has been controversial in the forums, but I found that it worked just fine. It uses a male voice and has plenty of volume on my Tapwave. It does a remarkable job of correctly pronouncing road names. It's use is optional, but I wouldn't be without it.

The GPS screen gives adequate, if minimal, information



It's Great and has a lot of "Pink"
Never in a million years would I have thought that all this would have been possible on a Palm.^The program is quick and responsive. It doesn't have a lot of the frills of its Palm or PPC counterparts, but it gets the job done - and gets it done well. I would only hope that they carry over the routing ability to their other Palm offering or to the PPC version. There are no immediate plans to do this, though, I am told. The TripCard would seem to me to be valuable in an enterprise situation. At my company we have sales people who fly all over the country and having door-to-door directions available in their Palm would be a great benefit. The Tapwave, by the way, makes a great platform for this. It has two SD slots, so one could be used for the NavCard and the other, which is SDIO, could be uses for an SDIO GPS. A very small package indeed.

You can join this discussion thread for questions, comments and updates.

 
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