TravRoute Pocket CoPilot 2.0 GPS Jacket Edition

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   My
recent review
of CoPilot 3
is still too fresh in
my mind for a complete from-scratch review of
their new offering. But much is new; a short
review of just the changes doesn’t do the program
justice. I’ll try not to make you read the older
review very thoroughly. I’m using CoPilot Live
4.0.4.7.

WHAT’S
HOT

   Besides bumping the
revision number to 4, TravRoute has changed
the name to CoPilot Live. The new name showcases
the single biggest feature new from CoPilot 3,
first on this list of new features:

  • two-way
    communication with a base station
  • improved
    guidance (alerts while passing points of interest,
    destinations and freeway exits mention which
    side of the road, adjustable warning before
    approaching turns)
  • more
    routing options (waypoints, toll roads, quickest
    or shortest, auto or big-roads-only RV, ETA
    adjusted according to driving habits)
  • new
    navigation modes
  • expanded
    and customizable Point of Interest database
  • online
    help (not extensive, but welcome)
  • new,
    freshened graphics and skin
  • new,
    annoying software registration

COPILOT
3 REVISITED

   A short recap of
my CoPilot 3 review might be useful. For
the full experience, see that
review
. An abbreviated one goes like this:

   CoPilot
comes with software for both a desktop PC and
for a Pocket device. The desktop software is
necessary for downloading maps to the device.
I had troubles installing the software but the
map downloading interface is one of the best.
Also included is a GPS receiver that plugs into
the Pocket PC’s Compact Flash slot (there
are other configurations as well), a cigarette
lighter power adapter, and an unimpressive sliver
of plastic for mounting your device on the dashboard
of your car.

   The
Desktop program for loading maps onto the Pocket PC
is very flexible and easy to use. But I was
surprised to discover that previously downloaded
maps were erased when downloading additional
maps.

   CoPilot
offers several options for entering an address
to which you’d like guidance. It has built-in
lists, it can read addresses from the Pocket PC’s
address book, and of course you can give it
a new location. The address book option is a
good, quick shortcut for entering a destination.
However address book entries which happened
to lack the name of a personal contact could
crash CoPilot 3.

   While
guiding you in your trip, CoPilot’s preferred
display screen is large, bright text and an
iconic abstraction of the next approaching turn.
A turn arrow, that is. As the turn approaches
it shoves some of the text out of the way to
make room for a small road map with your path
outlined.

   There,
that’s most of it. That was heavy on shortcomings
to contrast them with improvements in the new
version.

COPILOT
3 IMPROVED

   My biggest complaint
against CoPilot 3 was installation woes.
Something has to be primed on your Pocket PC
before CoPilot will install to a flash card.
I don’t know whether that’s been fixed. My device
has been primed, by CoPilot 3, and installation
of CoPilot Live was easy and straightforward
for me. However just as in the last version,
when installing to an SD card the Pocket PC
pretty much locks up for about two minutes at
the end of the process as it finishes installing
Pocket Speech, the speech synthesizer responsible
for vocal directions. If CoPilot refuses to
install to your SD card; if they haven’t
fixed the problem, install to main memory and
then remove it using the “Remove Programs” application
in your device’s Settings menu. It should then
cooperate with your SD card wishes. But
hopefully this is no longer a problem.

   CoPilot
Live’s Desktop program for loading maps onto
the Pocket PC has a slightly changed interface.
Perhaps my familiarity with the program has
tainted my judgment but I think the new interface
does a good job of addressing the previous version’s
lack of clarity about map downloads needing
to be repeated. It’s a subtle change but welcome.
Scratch one CoPilot 3 objection.

   The
most serious bug I found in CoPilot 3;
an address taken from the address book could
crash the program, has been fixed. Scratch another
objection.

   Some
of my more minor complaints remain unaddressed.
CoPilot is still unfriendly about being launched
after being installed but before map data have
been downloaded. Also, when entering destination
addresses, CoPilot will not recognize street
names using abbreviations like “mtn” for “mountain.”
But overall CoPilot Live is considerably improved
over its already quite good predecessor.

SETUP

   Like CoPilot 3,
CoPilot Live installs on both a desktop or laptop
and on the Pocket PC. The desktop program
can be used to look at maps and plot trips just
like the Pocket PC version. But its main
use is downloading maps to the Pocket device.
All map data come on a single CD. This covers
roads for the entire continental United States
and major roads in Canada and Mexico. Aso included
is a Points of Interest database: a list of
businesses and attractions searchable by name
and category.

   A
subset of the full CD’s worth of maps can be
downloaded to the Pocket PC by region.
CoPilot does a particularly nice job of this.
Search for MAPS in the
CoPilot 3 review
for details.

   CoPilot
estimates the amount of storage you’ll need
for a selected map area before downloading.
In CoPilot Live, the estimate is still a little
low but pretty accurate. The true space required
is the same as in the previous version: some
45 MB for a 300 mile radius around Denver;
70 MB for a 300 mile radius around San
Francisco. And unlike the previous version,
CoPilot Live saves storage space by downloading
only the points of interest for the map region(s)
selected, rather than for the entire country.

   CoPilot
Live offers a pretty impressive Points of Interest
database. Included are utilitarian sites such
as service stations and hotels but also a fine
collection of esoterica. You’ll find vineyards,
one of my favorites in a navigation system;
parks; libraries; government buildings, restaurants
from fast food to fine dining, and many other
sites. It’s not a complete listing. Music and
video stores for example are missing. But the
desktop program allows you to import additional
points of interest from a text or spreadsheet
file.

   Note
the download wizard by default omits several
categories of interest from the download. Many
of the omissions are for arguably unpopular
categories. Libraries. Parks. Liquor stores.
Heliports. To download every Interest you must
click the Options button and be certain everything
is checked. This means unchecking and rechecking
each of a couple of dozen top-level categories.
Handily it can remember your selections as a
new default, so this need be done only once.

   During
map download a “Quickstart” option is also available.
I have no idea what this does. With or without
Quickstart installed program launch time is
identical (about 18 seconds on my 400 MHz
XScale Axim) and satellite acquisition time
highly variable in any case. It does use another
10 MB of storage space but I suspect its
real purpose is something more useful.

   TravRoute
must be having piracy problems. In CoPilot Live
there’s a new and annoying registration process
involving Microsoft-style, dyslexic-challenging,
20-random-character registration keys, and
an an unlocking procedure requiring communication
with TravRoute. The program will run only once
before you pass the registration challenge.
This challenge can be met automatically with
internet access on your desk/laptop host machine,
or by hand. I chose the hand solution, which
still requires email or as a last resort, a
telephone call. Because I used an email account
hosted by a service provider with overagressive
spam policies it was several days before I could
launch CoPilot a second time. I guess I bring
these things on myself.

TAKING
A TRIP

   There are only three
things you can do with CoPilot. This is not
to demean it; it’s like saying the only thing
you can do with a spreadsheet is crunch numbers.
You can take it driving, like a dog but more
helpful and less slobber. You can prepare to
take it driving, yes I’m counting that as thing
number 2. And you can play at taking a trip.

   These
three things correspond roughly to the four
“modes” CoPilot runs in and you can see by their
number my classification scheme is already breaking
down. The four modes are named Planning, Guidance,
Navigating and Walking. I think my list of three
makes more sense, so I’m sticking with it.

   Planning
is the “play at taking a trip” thing I mentioned
above. I’ll discuss it below. The other three
modes are what I’ve called “driving” and we’ll
cover that below, too. The second thing, preparing
to go driving, is largely unchanged from CoPilot 3
and I’ll cover that by referring to my earlier
review
. Quickly, the task is just to enter
a destination (or several!) to which you want
guidance. There are several ways to enter a
destination: enter an address by hand; pull
an address from your Outlook Contacts address
book; get an address from CoPilot’s built-in
Points of Interest database, or from a persistent
list of previously used addresses; and selecting
a location by pointing to it on a map.

   Points
of Interest is a typical address entry screen.
Enter a state, then a city. Select a type (or
not) and enter the first few characters of its
name (or not). Tap the “Find” button. CoPilot
presents a list of matches. Tap one from the
list then tap OK. This all works well and even
better, almost all these fields are also popup
menus which list likely choices from which a
quick selection can be made. The City popup
presents a list of several cities previously
entered. But it does have an annoying habit
of sometimes insisting on one of those cities;
replacing a new one with one from its list as
soon as you’ve finished laboriously tapping
it in. That would be a handy feature if it worked
a little better.

   Also
problematic, the most recently used city is
preselected upon entry into the POI selection
dialog. Actually that’s more convenient than
problematic. But if there are multiple possible
matches for that city and state, and this is
more likely than one might imagine since CoPilot
considers as separate cities a ridiculously
extensive list of little hamlets and suburbs
and things that I had no idea were cities, the
preselected city may not actually be the same
as the one most recently used. This situation
can be corrected by reselecting the city from
the dropdown menu, but you’ll need to do this
every time you enter the POI dialog.

   A
few other changes have found their way into
CoPilot Live. “Point to a place on the map”
is available only in Planning mode. To use the
feature in Guidance mode you must switch to
Planning mode, point to a place on the map,
then switch back to Guidance. I don’t remember
the extra mode switch being necessary in CoPilot 3.

   On
the plus side, there are many more Points of
Interest in the database. Also new, and this
is an excellent feature, you can (often) scroll
the map by dragging it with the stylus, in any
direction. This is much quicker than using scrollbars.
(To be precise, the action taken when dragging
in the map is an adjustable preference. It can
also be set to zoom in to a rectangle dragged
out on the map. Personally I prefer the “scroll”
choice.) Oddly, neither scroll nor zoom functions
in “Point to a place on the map” mode; a place
where it would be most handy. And on that screen
the upper scroll arrow on the vertical scrollbar
is missing, making stylus scrolling even more
missed.

TAKING
A TRIP: PLANNING

   Trip playing, or
a dry run if you prefer, is half the fun. I
can see where you’d disagree but I sometimes
have CoPilot calculate trips just for the fun
of it. And oh yes it’s also no doubt useful
for real purposes. Like planning an actual trip,
one imagines.

   To
plot a trip, enter one or more destinations,
and an origin. As in CoPilot 3, the icons
across the top of the screen control choices
for entering addresses. The heart summons a
list of favorites, meaning recently entered
addresses. The house and briefcase are two special
favorites: home and work. The rolodex allows
a new address to be entered, either tapped in
afresh or pulled from an Outlook contact. The
pushpin is points of interest, a built-in list
of possible destinations. The flag is for finding
a point on the map. The wheel-and-arrow button
instructs CoPilot to plot the route. No, there
are no tooltips. And it’s about time I noted
that the graphics have been updated in CoPilot
Live with a nice 3D look.

The
trip highlighted in green.
The
same map zoomed out two levels.
The
same trip in text form.

   As
in CoPilot 3, the icons across the top
of these screens allow you to return to address
entry mode; switch between map and text directions;
increase or decrease detail and clutter; zoom
the map; plot a new route but avoiding a selected
road; and scroll the list of text directions.
The vertical scrollbar also works to scroll
the text directions screen.

   Road
avoidance works only in Guidance mode, not here
in Planning. This puzzling restruction may have
been placed because while the feature works
well enough for rerouting around a single road
in your proposed itinerary, it can do only that.
There’s no provision for building or editing
a list of roads to avoid and indeed it forgets
about the road you previously told it to avoid
as soon as you give it a second.

   CoPilot 3
could map routes with multiple destinations.
CoPilot Live can as well. Live can also treat
an intermediate destination as a waypoint, a
general area, rather than an exact location.
In practice while driving a waypoint can be
skipped. At some point while guiding you to
your next destination in sequence, I’m unsure
exactly when, if it’s a waypoint it decides
you’re close enough and after an ignored turn
it will consider a waypoint completed and continue
on to the next.

   CoPilot
Live calculates a route from Palm at Roth in
Palo Alto (Stanford University) to Yosemite
Valley to be a 185 mile excursion touching 14
roads, and takes 10 seconds to do so on my 400 MHz
X-Scale device. Readers of the CoPilot 3
review with a good memory will remember a much
more complex route requiring about the same
computation time. There are interesting differences
between the CoPilot route and the same path
as calculated by MapQuest. MapQuest makes it
a 192 mile trip touching 16 to 19 roads, depending
on how you count these things. Try it. It’s
a messy trip. Memory tells me the MapQuest route
is more likely but I have no doubt CoPilot can
get me there.

TAKING
A TRIP: DRIVING

   I mentioned CoPilot
Live runs in any of four modes and spent a lot
of text describing Planning. It’s the other
three that take you places. Guidance is the
expected in-car mode. It tracks your position,
instructs you how to reach your destination,
and re-routes when you miss a turn. As in CoPilot 3
there are two main Guidance screens: one displays
large text instructions, the other displays
somewhat abbreviated text and a small map. The
following screen shots illustrate the different
modes, all taken from the same location except
the text-only screen. That one is displayed
only at speed, and I had trouble getting a screenshot
from my illustrative urban location without
piling into something stationary. As before,
CoPilot can be forced to stay in the guidance
screen with the map if you prefer.

Text
guidance (default)
Map
guidance (slow speed or near a turn)
Guidance
with menus (available by tapping the screen)

   Navigating
mode tracks your current position on a larger
map, but gives no instructions and takes no
heed when you deviate from the prescribed route.
Walking is like Navigating but the map additionally
indicates the direction and distance to your
destination, should some shortcut beckon.

   Also
new in CoPilot Live is a configurable display
of extra information in the Guidance screens.
CoPilot usually displays estimated time of arrival
and distance to the destination at the bottom
in white text. Above that in yellow it can be
configured to display any of several other available
tidbits such as the road you’re currently travelling,
the intersection name, your elevation, current
speed, and current time. You can cycle between
the available displays by tapping the icon at
their left. These little buttons are not only
tempting, but also small, requiring concentration
to hit while driving and you know you’ll want
to.

COPILOT
LIVE

   Sadly the “Live”
feature, two-way communications, I can’t speak
on from experience. It requires a mobile internet
connection on the Pocket PC. Given one,
it seems that CoPilot will report status back
to the base station. Yes, by “status” I mean
the folks at home know where you are and how
fast you’re moving (as well as destination,
heading and ETA). Commercial fleet managers
take note. For those of us who dream in Orwellian
colors, fear less. CoPilot can be configured
to not report speed.

   Pocket
CoPilot will also accept short text messages
and report back simple answers, such as this
homey example taken from TravRoute’s website.
I don’t know whether text messaging works both
ways because of my sad lack of hardware.

   Another
“Live” feature I couldn’t try is “Check Traffic.”
All I know about this comes from the mere presence
of a tantalizing item in the Tools menu. The
potential of such a thing is awesome but I’m
guessing that if this feature worked well it
would get its own toolbar icon or perhaps be
completely automatic, rather than a menu item
requiring two careful stylus taps to access.
You don’t want to be the cause of traffic,
after all. I imagine this would be a difficult
feature to make practical but it’s a great idea.

THE
EXPERIENCE

   Once again I refer
you to my earlier
review of CoPilot 3
for a wordier story.
As then I’m still impressed by the practicality
of the user interface. I’ve completely stopped
navigating by paper map and I plan to put the
expanded Point of Interest database’s knowledge
of vineyards to use soon.

   My
affection for the large text and small map display
remains mixed. I appreciate its practicality.
I think CoPilot Live’s user interface is a little
less pure. The idea behind CoPilot 3 was
clearly all about big buttons, easily tapped
while the user is distracted by more important
things. CoPilot Live is prettier, offers more
details and options, and is I think a little
better organized overall. But it’s not all big
buttons any longer.

   Guidance
from CoPilot is generally excellent, and when
I misinterpret its directions it’s quick to
plot a recovery for me. But occasionally I’d
say it misleads me. In particular I’ve stumbled
into one confluence of roads where CoPilot gave
me really unhelpful directions. I suspect a
glitch in the map data. Another example, there’s
a freeway exit where I sometimes find myself
whose access road offers two right-hand turns
in quick succession. They loop around and lead
off in opposite directions. It’s a kind of mutated
cloverleaf. CoPilot tells me to “bear right”
on this exit but it doesn’t mean the first right.
Sometimes I wish for more map, less chat.

   In
my review of CoPilot 3 I claimed cold starts
were very quick. That is, the software could
quickly get a fix on your current location and
be ready to go even when launched with no initial
record of your location. I swear this was true
until I wrote the review. From that day on,
a cold satellite fix has always required five
or ten minutes, which is I think a more typical
time. CoPilot Live is just the same. Cold start
times generally run five or ten minutes but
occasionally less than a minute. Even a warm
start, which is what you’ll get after that first
cold one if you happen to be in the same location
as when you last quit CoPilot, often requires
several minutes. Though it is sometimes fast
enough that it will be ready for you by the
time you’ve entered a destination.

   Unlike
CoPilot 3, CoPilot Live really doesn’t
want to be run from a locked Secure Digital
card. It runs very very slowly and then the
entire device runs very very slowly even once
you’ve quit CoPilot. Five seconds to refresh
the Today screen slow. In a few minutes or after
a soft reset, I think it was the latter, the
device recovers. I’m curious to know what the
heck it’s doing even after the application has
exited. But it’s all better if you run CoPilot
from unlocked media. This is disappointing to
me: I like running on locked media.

   And
here’s why I like running on locked media. Because
I had a bad SD card, every fifth or tenth
time I used it, CoPilot would eat itself and
need to be reinstalled. It writes to a surprising
number of files in its program directory, and
it’s very sensitive to corrupt data in those
files. It’s all better now that I’ve reinstalled
to a new SD card and turned the old one
into paste with a clawhammer. I have pretty
much all the luck. And a new-found fear of flash
memory.

   This
error was clearly a hardware fault. However
this would also not have been a problem if CoPilot
didn’t insist on scribbling in its own program
directory. That’s generally bad programming
practice and a few small files nicely sequestered
in a CoPilot directory inside the main “my documents”
directory wouldn’t be the most taxing deposit
CoPilot made on main storage.

   I
imagine also that this would not have been a
problem had I installed CoPilot to system memory.
This is not so onerous; it requires only about
6 Megs of main storage space and I’d recommend
it if I could figure out how to make CoPilot
use maps from an SD card with the program itself
running from main storage. I imagine it’s possible
but I had troubles and my patience for this
stuff isn’t bottomless.

CUSTOMER
SERVICE

   You’ll notice if
you’ve been reading along that I’ve had a few
problems. As before with CoPilot 3, TravRoute’s
customer service has always responded to my
email within a day. They didn’t have any actual
help to offer with my faulty SD card problem.
I was probably the first. Yay me.

   The
cost of my update from CoPilot 3 to Live
was the cost of shipping. They won’t do this
for everyone of course; I got the deal because
I bought the older version recently. You’d expect
such treatment, but it’s still nice to get it.

SYSTEM
REQUIREMENTS

   Pocket CoPilot runs
on an extensive list of devices. Seemingly anything
with a MIPS, SH3, StrongARM or XScale processor
running Windows CE 3.0 or Pocket PC 2002
will do. ALK’s website (see PURCHASING below)
will recommend a configuration for your specific
device; a very nice guesswork-saving feature.

   It’s
possible to run on a 64 Meg device without
a memory card using a very small, local mapset.
But really you’ll want a storage card for map
data. Devices like the Axim which have both
built-in SD and CF card slots are handy, since
the CF slot will likely be used by the GPS antenna.
It wants about 6 Megs of storage for the
program, as much map storage space as you care
to use up, and, according to the documentation,
up to 12 Megs of working RAM while running.
It was using only 5 when I checked after launching.
CoPilot Live actually seems to have space requirements
slightly smaller than its predecessor.

   To
use Live communication, you’ll need a Pocket PC
capable of a connection to the internet while
simultaneously connected to the CoPilot GPS
antenna. A Pocket PC phone or one that
supports Bluetooth along with a Bluetooth phone
should suffice. You’ll also need data service
from your wireless carrier.

   The
desktop machine must be at least a Pentium II
with 32 Megs of RAM running Windows 95
and a CD ROM drive. You’ll need hard disk
space for installation. The documentation claims
100 MB of space will suffice but it wants
to store the entire map CD on your hard disk.
While it may work with only 100 MB of hard
disk, it wants more like 900.

BUGS
AND WISHES

   TravRoute has actually
granted some of my wishes in that earlier review.
But wait! There’s more.

  • Scrolling
    the map is difficult in “Point to a Place
    on the Map” mode.
  • Maps
    can often be dragged in any direction using
    the stylus. It would be very nice if this
    worked on all maps, and if the map could be
    dragged while driving (or waiting at a stoplight,
    anyway) to see a little beyond its edges.
    But it bounces unexpectedly and quickly gets
    lost.
  • The
    City selection is sometimes ignored during
    address entry.
  • CoPilot
    would be less sensitive to marginal flash
    card media if preferences and state information
    were saved to main storage, away from the
    program directory.

and
carried over from my earlier review:

  • The
    error indication when attempting to run the
    program before any maps have been installed
    is not helpful.
  • An
    ability to re-route around undesirable roads
    in planning mode would be nice.
  • In
    planning mode, it would be nice to be able
    to select a road in the text directions list
    and then go to that position on the map.

PURCHASING

   CoPilot Live with
US maps can be purchased directly from ALK
Technologies
, the parent company of TravRoute.
It’s available in several configurations customized
to individual Pocket PCs, and costs US
$300 to $350 depending on the hardware that
goes with your PC. A software-only update is
available for $229. I found discounted prices
available from resellers to be not very discounted.
European versions are available from TravRoute’s European website
and an Australian version from their, yup, Australian site.

PROS

many old, some new.

  • Program
    and data can be installed on a flash card.
  • Map
    installation to the Pocket PC is easy
    and flexible.
  • Nice
    display with good use of the Pocket PC’s
    screen.
  • Good,
    usable interface, if slightly nonstandard
    in places. Important controls and text are
    large and accessible.
  • Integration
    with Pocket Outlook’s address book.
  • Easy
    detour routing.
  • A
    fairly extensive Point of Interest database,
    considering space limitations.
  • Very
    configurable routing options, including avoiding
    toll roads or small roads.
  • Unlike
    every other similar program I’ve encountered,
    CoPilot doesn’t force you to “accept” some
    silly screen full of words, words, words before
    it can be used.

   I
can’t mention the new feature that gives Copilot
Live its name because I haven’t had occasion
to use it. That may be a big Pro for someone
else.

CONS

  • The
    nonstandard user interface is sometimes annoying.
  • Useless
    Pocket PC mounting hardware.
  • Sometimes
    in complex intersections it seems to misguide
    me. Or perhaps I’m just hopeless.
  • See
    BUGS above.

OVERALL
IMPRESSION

   CoPilot Live is an
even better program than its predecessor. As
before I think it has a very practical interface.
It’s quite pretty now, c’mon that’s important.
And it’s even more useable. In particular I
like the ability to drag a map with the stylus
but wish it worked a little better. Discounting
my early experience with a faulty Secure Digital
card and the rare questionable instruction,
CoPilot Live has guided me flawlessly and paper
maps hold little joy for me now. Perhaps it’s
because I live in what is basically a 100 mile
long city, it’s become indispensible and soon
I’ll probably forget how to drive anywhere unaided.

 

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About The Author
Jared Miniman