Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My GPS Sucks

If my GPS were a girlfriend, I guess that would be a good thing.

Last week, I decided to bring my GPS along to get me from Boston Logan to the hotel out near The Company, rather than any printed directions. There was a time I had it memorized, but I haven't been out there in nearly 9 months. I programmed in the address of the hotel and the address of The Company, and then stuffed it in my coat pocket for the trip.

I was cavalier. I didn't print out any directions.

Oddly enough, I learned that this GPS (the TomTom Go 720, which I highly do not recommend) can apparently be rendered inoperable by airport Xray machines. It refused to acknowledge the presence of GPS satellites upon powering up in the Hertz lot at Logan. I say refused to acknowledge because it said "weak GPS signal - are you inside a building?" on the map page, and did not show my current location, but when I went to the Satellite info screen, it was tracking 9 satellites, 6 of which were at 100% signal strength, and the remaining three were around 75%.

I ended up telling it to route me from Logan to the hotel, and then display me the text directions. So I'm driving down the highway with my fancy GPS performing the function of a maplight and printout. I got so pissed that I stopped at the rest stop halfway there and began a system restore via the USB cable and my laptop. But not until I jotted down the directions in case the system restore made it forget where the hotel was.

After about 10 minutes, I got tired of waiting, and I set the laptop and GPS down on the floor of the car and used my scribbled directions and the map light.

The driver's map light was burned out in my rental car, I also learned.

Once the system restore completed (~20 minutes), it worked just fine. Wonderful. Now I know that whenever I travel, I have to lug along my laptop and the GPS USB cable just-in-case.

It also decided to forget how to connect to my cell phone via bluetooth during the trip. The phone said it was connected, but the GPS said it was unable to connect. I had to delete the phone from the bluetooth setup and re-pair it.

The user interface is a disaster. Take simple things like routing you to a location. You'd think a GPS would have the whole "route me to a destination" thing down, since that pretty much the only frigging thing you absolutely need from a GPS. But no. Routing to a destination is easy enough, but once you get there, it gets stupid pretty fast.

For instance, once it announces, "You have reached your destination," I would expect it to stop routing me. The Alpine-based system in The Mrs.'s minivan does that. Not this one. It continues trying to force you back to the same spot until you tell it to stop. Parking lot entrance is 100yds past the address? "You have reached your destination... Turn around when possible." To stop this, you have to erase the route.

The "take me too..." button is the very first thing on the menu. Perfect. The "erase route" button is the 4th thing on the 3rd menu screen. Touch screen, push next screen icon, push next screen icon, push erase route, push yes.

Except, oddly, sometimes it doesn't do this. I haven't figure out exactly what is the trick that makes it think you're there vs. think you overshot. I think it may have to do with what side of the street you're on vs. what side the address is on (which it often guesses wrong). I dunno. More experiments are necessary.

Now, as far as I can tell, the real reason I got this vs. the Garmin turns out to be somewhat of a sham. The ability to correct a map and share with others the corrections. A couple days after getting the thing, I made three corrections -> adding a traffic circle at an intersection next to where I work that was built well over a year ago, deleting two streets next to where I work that do not exist, and extending a road a little south of where I live that they extended about 9 months ago.

I dutifully walked through the pages of somewhat confusing menus to make these changes. Next time I docked, they were uploaded. However, I'm still waiting for them to show up in a map overlay. The advertising that you can correct your map a BS. You can make map correction suggestions, then they apparently go off to central for someone to batch up into an overlay file, and then you get them only when released from there for download by the general community. This is not "correcting my map". I made sure I checked the "accept corrections I make myself" option. I even uploaded a couple of the corrections three times. Nothing.

I'll let you know the lag time if these changes ever actually show up on my own map.


Manly Lesbian said...

Are you going to forward this to the manufacturer? You should!

blogauthor said...

Please stop living my life!

I did the same thing once - I had been lulled into a stupor, thinking (or not, in this case) that my GPS would take me everywhere, anytime. It did. Until. It died for no particular reason. The problem was that I was driving home from Bethesda MD and had just left .... and I had utterly NO clue how to navigate the city streets back to the freeways, nor what roads to take back home. Highways, I figure I'll just go south and hope for the best, but the city streets? No hope. I dialed a friend who used to live in Bethesda (thank god she was in my contacts on my cell phone and that my cell phone also did not die), and she navigated me out to the highway. After that, I was on my own.

The happy ending (no, not that kind) is that I am home. I've even been to and from New Zealand since then - without the use of a GPS.

p.s. I have the Garmin, its about the same as you describe in terms of interface and usability. Identical in fact. The cool feature is you can choose a male or female voice and an accent or language you desire. We prefer a female Swede.

Fat Moother said...

I don't drive anyplace I don't know how to get to except Windsor Connecticut and various doctors in Amherst.

CherkyB said...

"We prefer a female Swede."

Don't we all...

Craig said...

To each their own, I guess...I have a TomTom 720 and love it. Yes, it does have its idiosyncrasies like every GPS but I find it easier to use, better built, and more reliable than the others. Its biggest weak point for me is the POIs, but I also have an iPhone and would rather rely on Google Maps for POI info than a static database.