Sunday, July 01, 2007

More GPS testing along with my Amplirider.

Temps in the high 80s to low 90s, sunny with a bit of a breeze.

Another beautiful sunny and hot day in the forecast for us in Colorado. I decided that using the GPS software on my Nokia N800 to get me to two local BMW Motorcycle dealers would be a good test of the software now that it's licensed.

I hooked up the N800 to a small amplifier called the Amplirider. It accepts inputs via 3.5mm connectors from up to three devices and outputs to your headphones. It can be hooked up to your motorcycle's battery but you can also hook up a cheap battery case from RadioShack to avoid ground loopback noise which I encountered when I was using it while hooked to my motorcycle's battery. Gary is the guy who makes these amps and he was very helpful in helping figure out a solution. Check out his products at his site: Click Here.

The best part about this amp is that it comes with a remote volume control unit to allow you to adjust the volume on the fly. Handy feature as I discovered during the ride when wind noise increased or decreased depending on my speed.

Why use the amp? Well in my case I did not strictly need it since the N800 functions both as a music/media player and a GPS with the Navicore software. However, for you readers out there with a separate GPS unit, you can then hook it up and your MP3 and be able to listen to both while riding. You may have to play with volume output on the MP3 player, as I had to, so that you can hear the GPS voice prompts over the music.

The amp is well made and compact, highly recommended, specially due to the prompt and helpful customer service provided by Gary, it's maker.

So, on to the Navicore GPS software testing. The sunny conditions again made the screen usable, but just a little more than barely. You can make out the major icons indicating future turns, sometimes you can make out the street name where the turn will be but the roads are visible along with your positional arrow icon most of the time.

I found that riding with the sun behind me, it was more usable than when the sun was in front of me. Why? Because with the sun in front, your riding jacket if it's light-colored as mine is, reflects on the N800's screen. However, I learned to place my left hand between me and the N800 and then the screen was readable once again.

Note: Some of the smaller items on the screen, like the time, mileage count and sometimes the street name are not visible (at least to my old eyes) most of the time. The voice prompts, along with the map display, got me where I was going with no problems.

I was using the "bright sunny day" display mode for the ride today. The background is dark green, roads are pale yellow and your route is highlighted in blue. Your positional arrow as you can see above is light green. Notice the turn arrow guides in the upper right Very helpful to give you an idea of what turn you'll be doing next to stay on course. The data fields below the turn arrows? Not visible to me, your mileage may vary.

Speaking of the voice prompts, the came through loud and clear. Couple of things I noticed, it tends to warn of coming turns at the .2 mile mark...however, it's really closer to .1 miles before you're at the point where you turn. Something to keep in mind.

More helpful were what I called the "preparatory prompts" I would get. Prompts such as "prepare to turn left", "get in right/left lane", "stay left", you get the idea. I purposely turned off one time to take a picture of the Mile High/Invesco Stadium and listened to the GPS nag at me a bit to get back on course. : ) Once I stopped to take the picture below, the nagging ceased.

After getting me back on course, I arrived at the second dealer with no issues. The prompt you get from the GPS is "Arrived at the waypoint" I think, or something similar.

From there I headed to the last waypoint which was home. I should mention I had been using the GPS in "shortest route" mode, so it disregarded the I-25 slab and took me down Broadway and from there into some side street. I stopped and switched to "fastest route" mode. It recalculated things for a few seconds and advised me to do a U-Turn.

Saw this as I headed home, thought it worth a stop and a picture.

Outside of CabooseHobbies

The GPS software directed me to the closest onramp to I-25 and from there I followed the slab to I-225N and then Parker Road, Smoky Hill Road and then home. It guided me with its prompts and display right to my cul-de-sac. Very nice and pretty accurate so far in terms of its map database.

Back home in the garage, note the display is much more readable in the shade.

I like this GPS software, I wish the N800's display was a bit brighter in bright sunlight but I don't think any matter of shading I can come up for it will improve things. Only thing I can think of is a fully enclosed box through which I would look at the display but then I wonder how it would look on the motorcycle and whether it'd interfere with my flipping up my tankbag at gas stations to get to the gas cap.

I already cannot raise/lower the windshield while the N800's mount is attached. A bit of an inconvenience but not too bad.

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