You know the guy that for some reason lurking deep in his youth simply refuses to read the manuals for things, certain that he can get it to work? That's me. Just because I think I can get things to work, doesn't always mean that I can. It most certainly means that I will rarely surf the shortest path to the objective. Sometimes that's fine, since I enjoy learning this way. I took exactly this approach to trying out our new Bad Elf GPS when I finally got a pre-production unit in hand.
This afternoon, after lunch, I took a ride over to my local Apple Store to pick up a WiFi only device with which to try the GPS. I have an iPhone 3GS, but that already has a GPS built-in, so it wouldn't really give me the feedback that I was seeking. At the Apple Store, I picked up a new 32G iPod touch 4G and had it activated in the store. I poked around at it for a few minutes, since the store offered a WiFi connection. I downloaded and installed the free MapQuest 4 Mobile app and set a course for home before leaving the store. My expectation was that I would be able to cache the route in memory and follow it home with the GPS tracking the directions.
When I got out into the parking lot, I waited for the satellite lock on the position. I got the lock, but the MapQuest application seemed to want to reach back and pull the map data again. I switched over to the Google Maps application, which showed my position as a blue dot against a gridwork of grey squares. What I really needed was a good offline mapping and navigation software app, so I drove down the street to Starbucks for a large coffee and some free WiFi to download the Tom Tom navigation app. I had no idea what I was in for in terms of download, so after twenty minutes of what appeared to be no download progress on the free WiFi, I decided to drive back to the office and try another strategy.
When I got back to the office, I initialized the new iPod touch with my MacBook Pro, used iTunes to download the Tom Tom USA app (more than 1GB!), and then synced to move the new app to my iPod. I plugged the Bad Elf dongle back into the iPod, opened up Google Maps to get a lock on my location, while WiFi was also turned on. Sure enough, the blue dot popped on the screen immediately showing the broader circle, which indicated that the position lock was determined by my Comcast connection, rather than by the GPS. I saw that the GPS LED was still blinking as it was seeking a satellite lock for position information. After a minute or so, the light went solid green and I had the satellite lock.
The next step was to fire up the Tom Tom app and see how it worked with the Bad Elf GPS. So, I started up the Tom Tom app and waited for the satellite lock. It took a little longer than I expected as I impatiently waited for the LED to stop blinking and go solid. The delay was probably due to the fact that the internal battery for the GPS wasn't charged, so the satellite data was not already stored on board the GPS. Once it was locked in, I selected the little crosshair icon in the lower left corner and a blue arrow appeared indicating my position. I hopped in the car and drove around town for a while and everything worked great!
Just as promised earlier, my route to a solution did not follow the shortest path. However, it did give me the opportunity to learn some interesting things along the way. I'll address some of these in separate blog posts to follow. That way the information will be easier to find in the future. I'll come back and update this post with links to the new posts.
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