3D, Connected Services, MSN Direct Receiver
Here's a review of what's new and improved in Streets and Trips 2008 (Autoroute 2008 in Europe) by Marvin, a member of GpsPasSion since 2004 and experienced Laptop GPS user.
If you have questions or comments, you can use this thread of the forums.
What's new in Streets & Trips 2008 / AutoRoute 2008
This is not a full review of the program. It only is a review of new features in the 2008 version. A full review was written here a few years ago, as well as reviews of new features of versions 2005, 2006, and 2007.
Perspective Map View
- (Other GPS navigation products call this feature simply"3D-view".) This is a feature which has been on the very top of many users wish list for a long time. And rightfully so. This feature is to allow drivers to view the map "tilted" by a certain degree, so the view of the roads on the screen would resemble what we would see through our windshield. People who are familiar with this feature from having used it in various navigation systems know that the benefit of 3D is the ability to view more detail of our immediate surrounding, yet at the same time being able to view quite far ahead (with less detail). On a regular "2D" map, if you wish to see more detail of your surrounding you would have to zoom in, and if you wish to see more of the road ahead you would have to zoom out.
While I'm glad to see "Perspective Map View" included in the 2008 version, I'm not certain if the current implementation of it is going to
lead to many people actually liking it or using it.
Click to enlarge
The GPS location icon is positioned way too high, unnecessarily showing too large portion of the road we have already passed, but not enough of the road ahead.
I was going to use "Dynamic turn view" instead of "Keep position centered", because in "Dynamic turn view" the GPS icon is close to the bottom of the map most of the time (and that's where it should be all of the time), but unfortunately the "Perspective map" is not available when "Dynamic turn view" is enabled.
Because "Use Dynamic Turn View" and "Display as perspective map" cannot be used together, there is not going to be the automatic zooming while using this new feature.
I've also observed that when outside a certain zoom level range, the map will turn to its regular "2D" even when 3D ("Perspective map") has been selected by the user. I would prefer the perspective view stays available at all zoom levels. (3D is especially useful when zoomed all the way in - which is not available in this 2008 version). The above screenshot depicts zoom sliders at positions beyond which 3D turns to 2D.
Also I would like to see the map tilted by a much greater degree.
I wish there was a way to turn off the new bar on top which shows heading and current time. It takes up valuable map space. Click here to see it better in larger size.
To summarise, I'm glad Microsoft has moved to implement "3D", but I wish in the future there will be some form of Beta testing done by customers who use the product on a daily bases. Streets & Trips is an excellent product, but it has some unfinished features which make some aspects of it look very amateurish - especially the GPS related features. For a comparison, please view a sample of excellent 3D-view implementation by iNav Corp in its iGuidance navigation software. Click here to view a screenshot.
- This is another long-awaited feature. In their own words: "When you miss a turn, Streets & Trips 2008 will automatically update your directions to get you
back on track."
While other GPS navigation products recalculate a new route instantly, S&T 2008 recalculates automatically only after you are quite a distance from your originally plotted route. This at first actually caused me to think the feature wasn't enabled. I spent quite some time searching through the program's options to find where to enable it. Well, it didn't require enabling, it just required me to drive a bit further away.
In my estimation I need to be at least 100 meters (or 300 feet) off route before Streets & Trips 2008 calculates a new route. I wish the recalculation was performed instantly as soon as the red Off Route appears on the screen. I'm curious to read feedback from other users after they had a chance to live with this new version for a while.
Unfortunately this new automatic re-routing feature is not optional. It is mandatory. There is no setting to allow users to turn this feature on or off. Some users may not wish to use any form of automatic re-routing, but there is just no way for users to turn this feature off. Streets & Trips has always been marketed as a trip planning product. But now, after some people spend their precious time painstakingly planning their trip through the roads they want to take, or the roads they need to avoid, they may find themselves at the mercy of this new automatic re-routing feature. It's OK for a simple GPS navigation device not to have the option to turn off automatic re-routing, but it is not okay
at all not to have such option in a sophisticated #1 best selling trip planning software program like Streets & Trips.
A year ago I added automatic re-routing feature into S&T Keys, my freeware add-on for Streets & Trips. It at first wasn't an optional feature either, but after some users spoke up against it, I added the option for users to turn off automatic re-routing if they so desire. The following is a user feedback I received at that time: "...Regarding S&T Keys, is there anyway that you can toggle auto-rerouting on and off, or is there a version that is available without the auto-rerouting feature? I'm an over the road truck driver who uses Streets and Trips every day to do all his routing and navigation, however, the auto-rerouting feature is a feature that I can't afford to leave up to chance since I drive a big rig and the last thing I need to happen is to be arbitrarily rerouted through a residential area or onto a restricted route with a possible low overhead obstruction. Consequently, as it stands now, I'm unable to use the current product because of the auto-rerouting feature..."
Streets & Trips is a "home" product, but judging by discussions on various trucking forums it is used also by many professional truck drivers. Also the European version of MS AutoRoute is popular among truckers. But even if Microsoft doesn't want to modify the program to suit the professionals, why not do it for the owners of RV's. Every RV-related forum I have read has had many Streets & Trips fans. And there are other reasons for which even drivers of smaller vehicles may want to rather not use automatic route recalculation. It's
a great feature, but users should have the option to disable it or enable it.
I cannot properly review the new "Connected Services" functionality because the service is unavailable outside the USA at this time. But here is at least a little bit of info I'm able to provide.
The new optional "Connected Services" feature allows users to view traffic conditions right on the map. The red line on the above picture indicates a road segment with slow moving traffic.
Check gas prices.
The above screenshot is of a new "Connected Services" pane in
Streets & Trips 2008.
In the MSN Direct Receiver Configuration panel you may notice that I'm receiving FM signal at 100% strength at 107.1 MHz (even in my basement, in Richmond Hill, about 30 km from downtown Toronto). But at the moment no city in Canada is covered by this service in Streets & Trips. To view the most up-to-date coverage area, visit this MSN Direct web page. You may also find screenshots and more info here.
Microsoft Streets & Trips w/Connected Services package includes:
* MSN Direct FM receiver for receiving traffic information and gas prices;I'm looking forward to reading feedback on these "Connected Services" posted by actual users very soon. Please do post your positive and negative experiences.
* A special USB adapter cable which also servers as an FM antenna;
* iGPS-500 - a GPS receiver based on SiRFstarIII chipset
MS AutoRoute 2008 - I do not yet have the European version of this product, but I will try to make a guess about the possible major changes to the map coverage. I'm going to base it on the press releases by Navteq from the 12 months period preceding the release day of the last year's version of AutoRoute 2007 (MS seems to acquire new map data early when they start working on a new version).
I think it is reasonable to expect the following new countries added to AutoRoute 2008: Albania,
Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia & Montenegro. In addition to that, Irelandand Poland will now most likely include 100% coverage. And as usually, map data will be aproximatelly12 months newer for every country.
MS Streets & Trips 2008
I see newly built streets in this 2008 version.
I also see street level coverage in small remote areas which were just a dot on the map in earlier versions. The above screenshot is of a small community named Faro in Yukon Territory.
How up-to-date is the map data? In the past years it seemed Microsoft acquired new version map data when they started to work on a new version of the product. The last version of S&T 2007 started to sell in the fall of 2006, so I would expect the map data, whose main supplier is Navteq Corporation, to be version Q3 - 2006. However, in the credits I see (c) 2007 Navteq. Either Microsoft managed to find a way to include newer Navteq data in this product, or the 2007 is there by an error. I lean towards the latter, especially because only about a month or two ago I noticed finally newer map data in the Microsoft's on-line map service http://maps.live.com/ and the credits there went from (c) 2005 Navteq to (c) 2006 Navteq. Nevertheless, the map is, as always, approximately one year newer.
The 2008 version introduces product activation. S&T can be activated on-line, a procedure which takes only a few seconds, or it can be done over the telephone. After installation you don't need to activate the program immediately. The software allows 60 days of usage with out activation. However, some features (for example the new connected services) may not be available before the product is activated.
I successfully activated the product twice - 1st on my mobile PC, and 2nd on my home computer. When I attempted to activate 3rd time, on another laptop, the product activation wizard informed me I exceeded the number of activations allowed. I was offered a phone number in case this was an error.
I don't see a way for users to de-activate the product on one computer, if they wish to install it on another computer. Some programs allow for this to be handled on-line, but I suspect a Streets & Trips 2008 user would have to do it over the phone.
Even when GPS tracking is enabled it is now possible to draw rectangles for the purpose of zooming to a specific area, or for the purpose of setting an area to avoid. This was not possible to do in the 2007 version while GPS tracking was enabled. Thanks for fixing this one!
In previous versions users complained that the landmarks category was impractical to use because it was cluttered with major car dealerships. In the 2008 version I see vast majority of dealerships correctly placed in the Auto Services category. Thanks for fixing this one, too!
Some 3rd party applications caused the above error when the 2007 version of Streets & Trips was closed by users. I'm aware of three such applications which caused the above pop-up to appear. They are S&T Keys (my freeware automation tool for Streets & Trips), Full Screen 2000 (an application which can force any program into full screen mode), and Hack-It Pro v4 (a desktop management application that allows control over window behaviour)
In S&T Keys version 2.41 I managed to bring this issue mostly under control, but I'm glad that I will not have to deal with this annoyance in the future. Thanks much for fixing this!
Ever since the "Create GPS trail" feature was introduced in the 2005 version, it was associated with a know issue. After prolonged use of the feature, the CPU usage of Streets.exe goes up to 70%, 80%, 90%, etc. This hinders the performance of the program. Certain features on the map, for example street names and the GPS icon, will take long time to refresh. To reproduce the problem is quite simple: enable "Create GPS trail", and then drive on a highway for an hour. Watch the performance deteriorate. A known workaround is to either disable the feature for a second, and then enable it again, or save (Ctrl+S). This issue is still present in the 2008 version, as far as I can tell.
When "Keep position centred" is enabled, the GPS icon should not move at all. It should be pinned to the absolute centre of the map. The map should move, but the icon should stay completely still.
There should be a new option to "Keep position on the bottom". The existing "Dynamic turn view" feature doesn't do a good job of keeping the position on the bottom (when "Rotate map to follow travel direction" is enabled). The GPS position icon may be found literally anywhere on the screen. While the icon may be sitting on the bottom most of the time, it often times starts climbing to the top in the most inappropriate of times - right when one road segment ends and another one starts. Such behaviour is not seen in car navigation systems these days anymore. Because of this "travelling icon issue" drivers cannot just quickly glance at the screen to see where on the map they are. They first may need to take an extra second or two to visually locate the GPS position icon on the map, because often times it may not be where expected.
The whole "Dynamic turn view" feature should be changed so it just acts as an automatic zoom, and the GPS position icon should just be pinned to one
Zoom function should be fixed so it zooms not to the centre of the map, but rather to the GPS position when "Arrange map view" is enabled. (When "Arrange map view" is not enabled, then it is OK to zoom into the middle of the map.)
(+) and (-) 15% may not be enough when you plan a bicycle trip or if most of your daily scheduled stops are in a busy downtown area. Users miss the old speed adjustment method of pre-2005 versions.
Some lakes and rivers still keep disappearing when we zoom-in closer.
If you have questions or comments, you can use this thread of the MS Streets and Trips, AutoRoute, and MapPoint" forums.