Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Routing the Competition... a review of Pharos' iGPS-BT and Ostia 126.96.36.199
Posted by Doug Raeburn in "HARDWARE" @ 10:30 AM
With factory installed navigation systems for cars still commanding premium prices, a Pocket PC-based navigation system can provide a good measure of the functionality of those systems for a fraction of the price. And the Pocket PC-based systems are evolving to take advantage of the changing face of device technology. Early designs of GPS add-ons for Pocket PCs were based either on CompactFlash or on an iPAQ expansion sleeve, requiring the Pocket PC to be mounted on your windshield. Such units are still available. But the latest wireless technology allows the GPS receiver and the Pocket PC to be physically separate. This opens up mounting options for the Pocket PC, which no longer needs to be mounted on the windshield, and allows your passenger to play navigator (along with Jawbreaker, if so desired).
So how is life on the road with Pharos' iGPS-BT? Let's find out... I'll drive and you take shotgun.
Figure 1: Receiver and dock separated
The iGPS-BT is a compact translucent device, 2.3" x 3.4" x 1", weighing three oz. with its lithium polymer battery. It's a two-piece unit, consisting of the small GPS receiver which slides into the larger dock. The dock contains the battery and serves as the charger. If you're a heavy duty GPS user, you can buy an additional dock so that you can charge one battery while using another. The battery itself can also be swapped. Battery life is claimed to be approximately six hours of continuous use on a single charge.
The kit that I received had lots of pieces. It includes a car charger, a vent mounted PDA holder and a DC charging adapter. The DC charging adapter is a handy splitter that allows you to connect the iGPS-BT and your Pocket PC to an external power source at the same time. It doesn't come with its own charger because the charging adapter allows you to charge the GPS battery with your Pocket PC's charger. I didn't try the PDA holder, since it requires putting Velcro on your PDA, something that I'm disinclined to do.
The kit also includes a nylon pouch with a belt loop for the iGPS-BT. Finally, the whole works can be stored in a high quality nylon travel case.
In use, the translucent iGPS-BT has the requisite blue lighting so that you won't forget that it's a Bluetooth device, and to ensure that your passengers will ask you about the cool-looking glowing blue thing on your dashboard. It has non-slip feet on the bottom so that it doesn't slide around in use. My car has a little place just above the instrument cluster that fits the iGPS-BT perfectly, and I never had any problems with it moving at all.
Since we're dealing with hardware, PC software and Pocket PC software, there are a few steps to the setup.
The first thing you do is install all of the software. The installation consists of standard Windows PC and Pocket PC installation routines. Simple and straightforward. When you're done, you have the Pharos MapFinder software installed on your PC, and the Pharos Ostia navigation software installed on your Pocket PC.
Then you're ready to tackle the hardware. First you set up the Bluetooth service. To do so, turn on the iGPS-BT and then go into the Bluetooth Manager on your Pocket PC. Set up a new connection using the "Explore a Bluetooth device". You'll find the iGPS-BT offering a service of GPS RFcom. A PIN number (provided, of course) is required to establish the partnership. Save this service as a shortcut.
Next, start up the Ostia software. Under the Tools menu, they have the Receiver Wizard, but it doesn't really work for the iGPS-BT. Under Tools - Options - Select Comm, you set the port to COM8. Apparently this is the port that is always utilized by this service.
That's it... tap on the red smiley in the toolbar and you see a message box that allows you to enable the GPS. In my case, the connection occurred in under five seconds.
One caveat... the main memory of my iPAQ 2215 is fairly full, so I decided to install the Ostia software on my SD card. Then when I started using the software, the automatic location of addresses from Contacts didn't work, nor did the voice instructions. I found out through the Pharos site that they recommend installing the software in main memory. When I did so, everything worked correctly. Of course, you can (and must, given the size) install the maps on a memory card.