Pharos’ Pocket GPS Portable Navigator

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INTRODUCTION

Just as you thought pocketnow

had covered all of the available Pocket PC GPs systems

out there, Pharos comes along with their Portable

Navigator package, and of course we had to take a

closer look at it! As an aside, last year it seemed

like most GPs systems out there were targeting the

iPAQ, and they forced you to connect a cable to the

ActiveSync port at the bottom of the iPAQ. My hunch

is that GPs makers saw the iPAQ as the only viable

target device, since it was much more powerful than

the other models, until the crop of similar Pocket

PC 2002 devices hit the market. Now that we have so

many (basically identical from a specification standpoint)

worthwhile devices to choose from, the GPs makers

broadened their horizons and began to bundle their

receivers in the CompactFlash form, to benefit all

users. The Portable Navigator system comes with the

iGPS-CF, a CompactFlash Type I GPs receiver. Like

the TeleType WorldNavigator, the iGPS is a NMEA-compliant

receiver and as such will work with most common GPs

software packages out there. Here, we focus on Pharos’

own Ostia 2002.


MAP SETUP

  

Unlike all of the other major GPs products we have

surveyed thus far, Pharos does not include a “rich”

desktop client with Ostia 2002. Why? Pharos doesn’t

make desktop applications, that’s why! Such a premise

excites me, because this would imply their Pocket

PC client would be fully optimized for the platform.

We’ll determine soon enough if this the case. The

only desktop component is the “download manager,”

which, despite its simplicity, is rather painful to

use!

Here’s

the kicker. To install maps, you must insert either

the northeast, southeast, or west map CD-ROM. If you’re

going cross-country, you’ll need to install maps from

two separate CD’s using this process, quite a bit

tedious. MapHelper is straightforward to use: just

right-click on the region your interested in to zoom

in.

When

you’re at this level, you can’t see further detail.

Click on the name of a town or city . . .

and

you’ll be asked if you’re interested in the associated

area. No, you cannot select multiple regions, and

you can’t see which regions you’ve already sent to

your Pocket PC, so keep track.

Now,

that particular region will pop up as a WinZip Self-Extracting

file. Unzip the files to your hard drive and then

use ActiveSync to drag the files over to your Pocket

PC. The positive part of all this tedious clicking

is that you can drag the maps anywhere on your Pocket

PC (pending it’s in a My Documents folder, in main

memory or a storage card). A region that covered a

10 mile radius consumed almost 12 megabytes of storage

space, about three times that of Pocket

CoPilot.


TECH SPECS

A common denominator of

all my GPs reviews has been a focus on the technical

aspects of the receivers, and as such, I have collected

specification sheets for all.

Performanced
Antenna:Integratedpatch antenna
Frequency:1575.42MHz(L1), C/A code
Sensitivity:-140dBm (typical)
Channels:12simultaneously “all-in-view” tracking
Operationmodes:2D/3Dautomatic selection
Acquisitiontime:Coldstart: 45 sec

Warm start: 40 sec

Hot start: 8 sec

Reacquisition:0.1sec
Positionupdate:1Hz
Accuracy:15m2D-RMS, (95%)
Interfaced
Protocol:NMEA-0183,RS-232, 8-N-1
Datarate:4800bps
NMEAmessage:GGA,GLL, GSA, GSV, RMC, and VTG
Physicald
Dimension:57mm x 49 mm x 21 mm (2.2″ x 1.9″ x 0.8″)
Weight:68gram w/o cable (2.4 oz)
Environmentald
Temperature:Operation:-20 to 80 degree C

Storage: -30 to 90 degree C

Dynamics:Altitude< 20,000 m

Velocity< 900 Km/h

Acceleration < 3g


HARDWARE EXPLORATION

With the maps installed

on our Pocket PC, it is now time to check out the

accessories and what not that come in the box. Pharos

sent me a complete package, with not only the receiver

and software but also a car cigarette adapter and

a mounting kit.

Box

shot.

Back

of the box.

Inside

the box you’ll find the three map data CD’s, an installation

CD, a car power kit, an external antenna (not pictured),

and a mounting kit.

 

Interestingly,

Pharos included an HP Jornada adapter for your convenience.

None of the other packages had this adapter.

Here

is the iGPS-CF receiver. Another huge antenna, but

not quite as enormous as the WorldNavigator.

Though

it’s large, the iGPS-CF is still Type I.

Here

is the tiny insert for the external antenna.

To

use the antenna, just connect the two gold-plated

ends (male into female).

I

found the mounting kit to be too much of a commitment–you

need to attach a sticky pad (adhered to a magnet)

to your iPAQ. Because I use a SilverSlider,

I wasn’t going to attempt the adhesion.

The

other end sticks to your car by way of your car’s

AC vent, which is a fine for those with rectangular

vents, but not fine for those like myself with round

vents. I had to resort to using an Arkon PDA mount

throughout the review.

Here

we have the iGPS-CF inserted into a SilverSlider,

surrounding an iPAQ H3850.

A

side shot to give you an idea of how far the receiver

extends.

   

size=2>So far, so good. The

next leg of the reviewing trip is where we actually

take a trip with the package. How does the accuracy

and map detail compare to the competition? Read on

and find out.

>>

Continue to software exploration

 

Jump

back to page one


SOFTWARE

EXPLORATION

Ostia 2002 is a Pocket

PC-only product, so you’ll be relieved to know that

it feels like it was designed for Pocket PC, and it’s

not a rough port from their desktop version.

Upon

first run, Ostia presents you with a splash screen

and steps you through the process of configuring your

GPs receiver.

We’re

told that if we crash, it’s our fault. Very comforting.

Next,

we choose the style of receiver we will be using.

The first is the CF style, which does not require

a COM port. The second is the device-specific receiver

that plugs into the proprietary port at the base of

your Pocket PC.

Next,

we select the device we’re using. Not completely sure

why we are asked for this information, though it likely

auto-senses how to access the GPs receiver. To begin

accessing satellite data, select GPS–Enable GPs (the

red frown will change to a yellow ambivalent facial

expression).

After

a considerable amount of time (satellite acquisition

time from a cold start often took up to ten minutes!),

you’ll finally get data, and your little friend will

turn green. These pictures are not retouched; there’s

actually a smiley face in the command bar. You can

view your current position by selecting GPS–GPS Info.

During the wait, why not read a chapter of your favorite

novel?

GPS–Sat

Info shows you which satellites are accessible (gray

bars) and which you have properly connected to (blue

bars). I typically had access to eight satellites,

though if you are lucky you can access twelve satellites

in parallel.

To

start doing anything in Ostia, we need to open a map

file. Note that you can have more than one map can

opened at a time, if, for example, you need to create

a cross-country route. The idea of having one regional

map for an entire trip makes a lot more sense than

opening up several maps for a long trip, which has

a big impact on performance.

Moving

throughout the map is a matter of clicking the blue

arrows and dragging your stylus across the screen

to draw a zoom box. I’m ready to drive. Let’s create

a route.

Under

“Find,” you can define a route based upon

an address, intersection, POI, or Waypoint. We’ve

seen each of these options in previous reviews. Here

we’ll look at a route based upon an address.

Enter

a piece of the street name (don’t include street specifics

like the part of the road, else you’ll get no “hits”).

Instead of clicking several times, as in the other

programs, highlight the entry you want, and hit “Next.”

 

 

Highlight

the town or city.

Enter

the address and hit “Finish.”

Finally,

you can store this destination as a Waypoint for future

reference. We’ll rely on iGPS to set the origin, so

select Destination from this screen.

Although

you’d expect your route to be immediately calculated

at this point, you must first select Find–New Route

for the calculation to take place. If iGPS is running

and enabled, the trip origin is automatically set

to be your current location. Conversely, if you are

planning this without GPs access, you can point to

places on the map and define your selections as a

trip origin or trip destination and create a route

based upon those two points. Either way, once that’s

done, you are presented with your first driving instruction.

The

map presented has three colors: green surrounds your

origin, blue defines the length of the trip, and red

denotes the destination.

If

you’d like to zoom in on either the origin or destination,

do so from the View menu.

Selecting

View–Directions gives you a turn-by-turn output of

your trip. Make sure you look for “NO NAME”

street, else you’ll find your way to NOWHERE!

Defining

a route by intersection brings up the same street

explorer as above, but route by POI is a bit different.

Unfortunately, Ostia’s POI database is pretty limited.

Though the categories are broad . . .

there

aren’t many items within each category. Hopefully

this aspect of the program will improve with time.


PERFORMANCE

AND ACCURACY

size=2>Cold start acquisition

time was unbearably slow for the iGPS-CF. It was so

slow, in fact, that I complained to Pharos that my

device was broken because I would stare at the Satellite

Info pane for several minutes and see only three satellites

get accessed, assuming that something was wrong. I

even tried driving several miles into a more open

area, and the same thing occurred. My problem, of

course, was that I wasn’t allowing the receiver enough

time to set itself up. Once the software is running,

re-enabling iGPS takes only ten seconds or so for

data to begin pouring in.

   

size=2>Turn-by-turn navigation

was taken care of by a soft-spoken female voice without

any huge arrows telling me where to turn, though large

signs are something I’ve come to appreciate. My only

notification came from the voice and information in

the direction pane at the bottom of the map screen

(not full-screen like Pocket CoPilot or TeleType).

Accuracy was on par with the Copilot system, though

not as stellar as the WorldNavigator from Teletype


HELP SUPPORT

size=2>I’m sorry to report

that no paper manual comes in the Portable Navigator

box, a trend that most software companies seem to

be following today. If you want to read the manual,

you’ll have to snatch

it online. Other online offerings include a FAQ

page and a support

contact page.

size=2>After complaining about

not being able to connect to more than three satellites,

I received an e-mail back from Pharos within a business

day.

Once

you have registered

your GPs product, you can freely download driver updates

as well as updates to Ostia and the map database.

 

A

quick overview of basic Ostia functions is available

in a Help file.


OPTIONS

Since there aren’t any

exotic package bundling options, we’ll spend this

section talking about software options; several are

worth mentioning that affect the use of Ostia.

You’ll

likely want to keep Auto Reroute enabled at all times,

though I find that it wasn’t too quick to suggest

a new path (it would repeat “Off Path! Off Path!”).

Heading Up keeps the top of the map pointing in the

same direction as your traveling. Turn off the voice

if she bothers you.

If

you opt to use another receiver with Ostia, you can

manually select the COM port here. Teletype is more

friendly to other GPs systems in that you can actually

view the NMEA data being transmitted by the receiver.

It’s more of a guessing game with Ostia.


SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

size=2>Ostia 2002 (v3.30) is

a mere 700 kb installation and uses around 800 kb

of program memory when active, about half the requirement

of most other Pocket PC GPs software products. Maps,

however, tend to be quite large. A region with a ten

mile radius surrounding Philadelphia took up twelve

megabytes on my iPAQ. If you use an SD card, you’re

in luck; else, you’ll be scrambling to uninstall some

applications. Too bad these CF cards don’t have a

chunk of ROM memory! Portable Navigator works on any

Pocket PC or Pocket PC 2002 device with a CompactFlash

Type I card. It does not run on a desktop or laptop.


BUGS AND WISHES

   

Satellite

acquisition time off a cold start is inexcusably long.

I’ll tolerate up to two minutes. But up to ten minutes?

Unacceptable! Again, I tested the cold start time

from various points in my region (each separated by

at least ten miles). I am confident my location wasn’t

the problem because once I had satellite access (a

green smile), I had full-strength access to eight

or more satellites. Warm start time was better than

any of the other packages I’ve used, which surprises

me given the cold start wait.

   

If

you are planning short trips, where you remain within

one map’s boundaries, you’ll have no problem, but

getting several maps’ data onto your Pocket PC is

a tedious process. First, you must click on each region

within MapHelper, which will launch a WinZip Self-Executable.

Then extract those files to a local directory. Then

move all of those files over to your Pocket PC. Pocket

CoPilot’s execution of this is far superior. I reckon

I’m dodging an important issue: the map files are

very large. Though they compress about 50% using ZIP,

once on your Pocket PC, they are (sophisticated math

here) twice the size of the original ZIP file. So

each of the three data CD’s has about a gigabyte of

data on it. Not sure how many of you have anywhere

near that in internal memory, but I’m stuck with 64

mb, most of which is already used by other stuff.

Don’t expect to keep many maps on your device at a

time. It is for this reason that the device-specific,

non-CF version of Portable Navigator might be a wiser

purchase, so you can slam a CompactFlash card into

the CF slot.

   

A

pretty significant quirk is that if you happen to

be somewhere that has no map data (for example, a

new residential street that is tangent to any number

of older, major roads listed in the Ostia database),

Ostia gets confused and refuses to create a routing

for you, not even one that starts at a predefined

point closest to your current location. Even when

I manually selected a close road as the origin and

another point as the destination, I got the same complaint.

Perhaps I was doing something wrong here, but it would

make sense that since I was forcing a known origin

to be used that my current position wouldn’t be factored

in.


PURCHASING

   

Pharos

cuts us all some slack by selling the Portable Navigator

at a reasonable price. Dream Pages sells the Mobility

Pack, which includes the iGPS-CF, Ostia 2002 with

US maps, an external antenna, a PDA mounting kit,

and a car lighter power adapter. All of this is

available for $289.95, about $50 less than the

Pocket Copilot and $50 less than the Teletype WorldNavigator

with software. For $219.95, you

can get the Starter Kit, which has everything

mentioned above minus the antenna, mounting kit, and

car lighter adapter.


PROS


  • Pocket PC-friendly

    client

  • Points ofinterest included automatically
  • Client issmall and undemanding
  • Warm satelliteacquisition is fast
  • Regularsoftware/database updates free online


CONS


  • Cold start

    requires up to ten minute wait

  • POI databaseis very limited
  • Reroutingfeature is easily defeated
  • No largearrows to indicate suggested turns

  • Downloading

    maps to Pocket PC is tedious


OVERALL

IMPRESSION

For $250, Pharos’ Portable Navigator

is a great deal, but the insane cold start acquisition

time is difficult to ignore, unless your normal use

for a GPs system is to plan long trips where a ten

minute wait is insignificant. I typically use a GPs

product to take me somewhere much less than 100 miles

away, so I don’t want to be waiting that long. The

software is competent and feature-full, and does everything

I need, though a richer POI database would be nice.

I would also suggest that MapHelper more easily allow

for data downloads to the Pocket PC, meaning you don’t

need to manually send things over. Ask me where I

want to store the maps (main memory or storage card

if I have a built-in SD slot) and do the transferring

without having me go through the ActiveSync file movement.

  

Should you prefer other Pocket PC software to Ostia

2002, because the iGPS-CF is NMEA-compliant, most

products will accept the receiver. Experiment and

find for yourself a database that has the newest gaps

in your region. Please let us know in the discussion

thread if you have worked with Ostia and found the

database to be particularly weak or strong.

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About The Author
Jared Miniman