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Monday 4 September 2006

Where the fuck am I? [DrDave]

GPS systems seem to be on their way to becoming ubiquitous for motorists in the same way that mobile phones with loudspeakers and MP3 playing capabilities are ubiquitous for cunts on buses. It really is a marvellous technology, and one that you can very easily come to depend on.
However, living in London and having no car, it often occured to me how useful a personal pocket version of these devices would be. Something with the same software as Tom Tom devices, but which could be stuffed in your pocket and whipped out only when you need specific directions to the Raymond Revue Bar (or whatever seedy haunt you're after).
Oh, you can already get such a device, many in fact, but they're all quite pricey for something you won't use very often. Besides, I've already got a PDA form factor device in my M500 mobile phone. Surely I could get something going with that?
Then I found this. Unbranded, cheap as chips, but with good reviews and compatible with most GPS software for the PocketPC. Enthused, I shelled out the 40 quid. Firstly, mobilefun were brilliant. I ordered at 4pm on friday after, paid £2.50 for delivery and it was with me at 10am on saturday. Second, the device is tiny. About the size of a matchbox so it can easily be dumped on your pocket and forgotten about.
Setup is quick: turn it on, pair it with your mobile over Bluetooth and you're away. The TomTom 5 software sees it as "other Bluetooth GPS device" with no problems. Like all GPS, it has problems getting a signal indoors, unless you stand by a window. Once outside though, you're fine and it acquires solid locks very quickly. Buses tend to hit and miss, and I couldn't get near enough to a window on the cattle truck train I used this morning.
To test it, I had a wander around central london yesterday with the device in my jacket. Navigation at walking speeds is a little weird and really shows up some of the extrapolation that the software does by necessity - one minute you'll appear to be walking up one road then suddenly you'll flip to another one as the +/-10m accuracy problems in GPS resolve. On the whole though, it is very useable. And with a headset on your mobile, you can get the directions without even turning the screen on, very useful for preserving battery life.
Very handy little gadget!


  1. I bought a TomTom One last week, predominently to fit into our shitbox fiesta. Amusingly the TomTom costed about 60% of what we paid for the car! It really is a quite remarkable device. I was sort of expecting something a bit cheap and basic but the display is top notch, the speaker is loud as hell and the touch menu system is bloody superb. It's also pretty remarkable in that it gets satellite lock just about anywhere so long as there's a window in the room which is, if you've any knowledge on how GPS works, verging on the miraculous. All in all, it strikes me as a spectacular bit of technology for not a whole hell of a lot of money. Sometimes it takes stuff like that to make you realise the age we live in.
    Course then I find out that the Fiesta doesn't actually have cigarette lighter so I'm going to have to plumb it directly into the fuse box or something. There's always gotta be a snag...

  2. I bought a SIRF III chipset bluetooth GPS a few months back from (who incidentally do a gps navi prog for mobiles) - it comes to about £45 and is an awesome receiver - very accurate up to 20 satellites, and doesn't even need line of sight - very high sensitivity and very accurate. Pairs with anything and comes with a car charger or charges over USB.I have a pocketpc with tomtom, but just use nav/gps software on my mobile - like nav4all, or mobile gmaps (yep - mobile googlemaps) - - it's awesome and means you don't need a pocketpc, just use the phone. On a recent trip to Spain, finding the hotel from the hire car was a breeze with this combo (GPS & Nav4all).I've also synced it with my laptop for things like Autoroute, which similarly works brilliantly.