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Review - Pharos Ostia v6
Posté le 12 avril 2004 à 18:54:56 par gpspassion.

Review - Pharos Ostia v6

UPDATED 01/2006 - version 7.5 comments by Dan725 - > HERE<

Here's a review by Paul, moderator of our forums and experienced PocketPC GPS user who will share his experience with Pharos Ostia v6 by Pharos Science and Applications

Pharos Ostia is a program that has been around for a long time. It is many people's introduction to GPS programs because it is one of the few that has a penetration in the retail market. However, Ostia is usually a "waypoint" for users, as it has been relatively lacking in features and surpassed by other programs out there. Recently Ostia Version 6 was released, and it is time to see if it is capabable of playing with the newer programs available.

One word of praise for Pharos, however. Originally I started with Pharos several years ago, and switched away from it not long after. Recently I decided to see if anything was new and lo and behold Version 6 was available. Pharos still had my registration in their database and I was entitled to an upgrade from my version to the most recent program, as well as the newest version of their maps, for $30. This is good customer service by any standard. By the way, their site is confusing in that they sell GPS receivers and most of the site is dedicated to GPS/software bundles. If anyone wants to buy just the software it is available under the "Accessories" section of the site for $79.95. They also have a Canadian software package.

My upgrade was all web based so I downloaded the software and the maps from their site. The software installs normally, and the maps are downloaded by city. This is an unusual method, but it works rather well. For each state they list the major cites, and when you download the map for the city you get all the surrounding counties. The maps for New Jersey, for example are downloaded by downloading four cities. The program also includes a map loader for the PC, which is a map of the US with "blocks" representing the city/county downloads. It is actually a very easy way to choose the maps you need. Also available are highway maps for the Central, Northeast, Southeast, Central and Western states.

Start-up and Map Screen

On start-up you are presented with a blank screen (1.startup). Maps must be manually selected and loaded into the program (2.load maps). Ostia uses TeleAtlas maps and these have the drawback of large map sizes compared to programs that use NavTech maps - sometimes 2 to 3 times as large. At the bottom of the map screen ( screen) you see the file loading function, the find function, the view function(which allows you to view text directions, GPS Info and show and clear the Smart Finder and Smart Traffic functions), the Tools function (which allows you to run a simulation of the your route - similar to TomTom; run the GPS wizard, record a trip trace, store favorites and access the various program options). Also is a red smiley face that turns green when you have a satelite lock, and yellow to indicate that the GPS is acquiring a signal. Next are zoom in and zoom out buttons, which are too small to use while the PPC is being used in a car. Zooming in and out can also be accomplished by diagonal strokes on the screen - from top left to bottom right to zoom in, and the reverse to zoom out.

Map Management
Map management is not one of Ostia's strongpoints. To navigate an area, that area's map must be manually loaded by the user. Up to 10 maps can be loaded, but the manual recommends a maximum of 3 for good system performance. If one follows the recommendation, then really we have a starting-point, end-point and highway-map implementation. This type of map management requires extra work from the user, as can be seen in the File menu, where there are commands to List Active Maps and to Close Maps that are not needed. Once the maps are loaded, the program will navigate from map to map automatically. This system is rather primitive compared to what is available in Routis/TomTom/PocketMap, etc.

Smart Navigator
Points of Interest do not display on the maps!! You can use Find to go to one, but there is no option to have them display along with other map features. The way to get POIs to display is to use Pharos' Smart Navigator feature. This provides traffic info and an expanded selection of POIs through Pharos' servers. This can be accessed by using wireless internet access on the PPC or through synchronization with the host PC. The traffic display will show black, red, yellow and green dots for traffic that is <15mph, <30mph, <45mph and above 45mph. It does not, according to the manual, provide any routing information around the slow traffic areas. Seemingly, the only way to show POIs on the screen, according to the manual, is to use the POI service and download the latest POIs in the categorie(s) you want. While this might solve the perpetual problem of outdated POIs, it isn't a very useful option if you are on the road. According to the manual this is a service you must pay for - either traffic or POI or both. The website says it is free for 2003, but unfortunately I have been unable to make a connection through my PC to check these functions out. Given the problems with ActiveSync, nothing should be inferred from this problem.

It doesn't seem to me that these functions will be too useful. A bunch of dots on the screen showing traffic speed does not help much if you are in an area you are not familiar with. Ostia does not have an "avoid" function, like TomTom, so you will have to manually plot a route around the slowdown. This isn't much help if you don't know the area you find yourself in. I would rather try to fly to the moon with feather dusters as wings then try to manually plot a route around a traffic jam in Los Angeles.

GPS Screen

GPS initilization can be done manually or through the use of a Wizard (4.GPS Wizard). Once the GPS is started you can view either Compass Info (5.Compass) or GPS info (6.GPS). I don't know if it shows too well in the screenshots, but these screens have a sort of "primitive" look in terms of presentation. This is fairly typical of Ostia, as the graphics are very simple and do not have any of the polish that other GPS programs are using today. Ostia also has the annoying habit of not using close buttons. In the GPS screen, for example, the way to get back to the map is to tap the screen, not to hit the X button on the top right. Many screens are like this, and even though I know this I keep instinctively hitting the X and minimizing the program. Poor ergonomics.

Route Planning

Route planning is fairly standard in that you select an origin and destination, just like in other programs. After doing this you are asked whether you want to create a route. Destinations can also be created using your Contacts on the PPC. Ostia also allows you to create Multi-stop routes, which not many other programs allow. Up to 10 stops can be added to a route. When using this function you are presented with a screen which allows you to change the order of your stops. (8.multi) By selecting Multi-stop Route all the stops will be included in the route. Optimize will create the most direct route through all the stops. Route to Final Destination will create a route from origin to destination will all the stops in between (9.route to final) and Route Stop by Stop will create a route starting with the Origin to the first stop, then from the first stop to the second, from the second to the third, and so on (10.stop to stop). For someone who needs this type of function Ostia could prove extremely useful

In terms of local planning Ostia creates routes about as fast as any of the other programs I've used and the local routes I created were just fine. However, when it comes to long distance navigation Ostia gave me nothing but trouble. It refused to create my "test" route from NJ to Buffalo, NY, and trying to create a 150 mile route to Albany gave me "out of memory" errors. This was running on an Ipaq 3955, WM2003 and no other programs on the machine. I tried a number of times to create these routes without success. This does not bode well for those who use the program for long distance navigation.


The navigation screen is fairly standard, with the route marked in blue and a compass rose. You have the usual choice of 3 basic screens: large map (12.large map) direction arrow (13.direction arrow) and split screen (14.split screen). These are toggled by the small green arrow at the bottom. Note, however, that Ostia does not give you ETA or time to go, which all other programs of this class offer. When you tap on a street you get a callout with the street's information (11.tap). No points of interest are shown. Parks and bodies of water are shown but many of them have no names and tapping on them does not produce a callout. Verbal directions are easy to understand and re-routing seems to be about average in speed. The maps do not show exit numbers on major highways, and the voice prompts do not give them either. One has the option of choosing fastest, shortest or no highway for routing and either miles or kilometers can be displayed.

Ostia is a competent program which, unfortunately, is still vastly outshadowed by its all of its competitors - and Routis and Mapopolis are not much more expensive. One often sees glowing reviews of Ostia, but I suspect these are done by people who are not familiar with the competition. If you are only using the program for local driving then it would appear to be pretty good. To me, the Smart Navigator feature do not seem to be particularly well implemented and certainly the traffic function leaves a lot to be desired.

Excellent Multi-Stop feature
Low price
Good upgrade policy

Primitive GUI
Problems with long distance routing
Lack of features compared to competition

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