Wednesday, December 20, 2006
i.Trek M5 & Odyssey V4
Posted by Steve Sharp in "HARDWARE" @ 09:00 AM
Figure 4: Any combination of landmarks or places of interest can be displayed.
I Know Where I Am, But Where Am I Going?
While having a good GPS receiver is the most important part of a GPS navigation system, the GPS data doesn’t do anything meaningful for the user without easy to read and accurate mapping software. I reviewed the i.Trek M5 with the InfoGation Odyssey V4 street mapping software. The Odyssey V4 software is contained on one DVD and has street level maps for the continental US and Canada. The Odyssey software application requires 4 Megabytes of memory to install the “compressed” version, or 10 megabytes for normal installation. This is pretty intense memory usage, but since it can be installed to expansion memory, it’s not too terribly bad. It is easy to choose a map for download to the Pocket PC using the Map Manager that is included on the DVD. The maps are broken up into approximately 110 megabyte files.
So, for example, I could download the map of all the Alabama and Georgia streets in one file, but if I wanted the map of Texas, I’d either choose west Texas or east Texas. To InfoGation’s credit, they were mindful of limiting the size of the maps, but needless to say, the user needs to have at least 128 megabytes of free expansion memory in order to download a map to the Pocket PC. I will acknowledge, right here, that my old iPAQ 6315 has a puny processor and I’m using a plain old SD memory card for expansion memory. I already know that a slow processor + slow storage media means longer transfer times. I must note, however, that it took over 30 minutes to transfer a 110 megabyte map to my storage card.
The software installs easily enough, although I had some difficulties with registering the software even though I had a valid registration number. I was told that this problem pertained to the version of software that I received as a review copy, and I was assured that consumers who purchase the software will receive a version that has had this bug fixed. Also, I must also add that I received excellent customer service from Kent at InfoGation, and the matter was quickly resolved.
On the up side, the mapping software is easy to set up, it has an intuitive interface for entering beginning and destination street addresses, and the input screens for addresses employ buttons that are large enough to allow the user to enter addresses without using a stylus. The Odyssey software also has different views to suit the user’s preferences, allows the user to choose points of interest, display hotels, restaurants, gas stations, airports, auto service stations, banks/ATMs, and/or bus stations. The user can choose to display any one of these, any combination of these, or all of these entities. The software also allows the user to have the software calculate either the fastest or shortest route to a given destination, or to choose routes that avoid interstates or toll roads. The Odyssey navigation software also has an audio function that gives turn by turn directions. The volume wasn’t very loud, and I had to turn my stereo off completely to hear it, but it’s there and it does work.
Figure 5: Choose 2D or 3D maps, with more or less detail.
The i.Trek M5 is a compact, accurate, attractive GPS unit that comes at an affordable price. InfoGation’s Odyssey V4 navigation software combined with the M5 GPS receiver provides functionality that rivals the pricey navigation systems sold by the big time companies that are relentlessly running ads for their products. While this set up is not “cheap” at $144.99, it’s a far cry from the $400 starting price for many of the turnkey systems that are currently on the market. For those who own a Pocket PC with Bluetooth and have the expansion memory to handle the demands of the maps and software, this set up works very well, and provides a cost effective solution to purchasing a turnkey system.
Steven Sharp is a senior systems analyst by day and a freelance writer by night. He is a 40-year-old native and lifelong resident of Huntsville, Alabama. He has been freelancing for 18 years and his second book, The Art of Empowered Parenting will be released by Nitro in October of 2007.