Greetings gadgeteers. I’ve been on a column-writing hiatus, due to traveling to El Paso to attend the wedding of my wife’s cousin. 529 miles (with 5 kids in the car), and we’re still in Texas. If we’d driven east we would have gotten to Mobile, AL, after crossing through Louisiana and Mississippi.
For a recent birthday my wife gave me one of those GPS mapping receivers that you suction cup to your windshield. I won’t mention the name because this isn’t really the kind of column where I review things. I did have some observations about it however.
As an aside, from the above paragraph, you might have guessed a dark secret about EDN’s Gadgeteer. For a guy who writes a column about gadgets, I don’t actually own very many. I have a “slider” cell phone with a camera, which is a big step up from my last cell phone that basically only made phone calls. The only reason I got it is because it was refurbished and therefore came free with my plan. I used to have a PDA, but never really integrated it into my habits so it basically sat idle. I have a video camera that actually takes 8mm tapes, and writes on them in analog format. It works perfectly well, although the irony of that item is that I’m too busy keeping up with kids to actually get it out and video tape them. For all I know 8mm tapes may not even be available anymore. TV? 40″ CRT model connected to rabbit ears. They turned off the analog broadcast and it was weeks before I noticed.
So back to the GPS receiver. It worked pretty well on its first use, the aforementioned trip to El Paso. Not that you need much navigation to travel 529 miles on only two highways. The user interface could use some work. It has a touchscreen which works pretty well, the buttons are zoom in/out, and a button to take you back to the main menu. What it needs in addition to these buttons is a mute to turn off the annoying voice. When you exit the highway because one kid is about to wet himself, and you’re desperately scanning the horizon for a gas station (or even just a tree), the last thing you want is that annoyingly calm voice telling you “Recalculating. Turn right. Recalculating. Make a U turn. Recalculating.”
It reminded me of the scene in Robin William’s movie RV (4:50), where the Lola, the female GPS voice says “Turn right,” and his wife says “I think you should go straight.”
“I said straight.”
Yikes, talk about paralysis.
The GPS receiver. Other things I noticed are that once you create an address book entry you can edit some portions, of it, but not the address. It also has the annoying habit of constantly rotating the map so the car icon always points up. That’s handy when you’re following directions through town, but just wrong when you’re cruising down the highway and watching your progress, and you see I-10 running straight up and down the screen.
One feature I liked is that it automatically zooms way in when you’re getting close to making a turn, then zooms back out when you’re done. All in all, it did sufficiently well on its probationary trip that I decided to keep it.