Saturday, June 30, 2007

TomTom One Caught Speeding!

While writing my post about TomTom One, which I bought recently, I realized that the device is speeding! TomTom One has a feature that enables users to preview the route in a demo mode. TomTom previews the route and all the turns as if you were driving the car, while you sit in your chair. The interesting thing is that my TomTom was "driving" 75mph on the 101 freeway which has speed limited posted at 65mph - standard in the Silicon Valley!!!

TomTom One "driving" 75mph in 65mph zone

A simple explanation is that TomTom bases all its calculations (as well as preview) on the real life speeds rather than "posted" speed limits. I must admit there isn't too many people out there driving 65mph or less on Freeway 101. ;-)

How TomTom Saved My Day

TomTom One in 3D Map Mode

As probably any other technology junkie out there, I had been looking at the evolution of car navigation systems and thinking about how cool it would be to have a device that could really make it easy to travel in a unknown area without having to worry about studying maps ahead of time or having another person filling out the role of a navigator.

A friend of mine bought a TomTom One recently and was telling me how great this device was. Not that he's untrustworthy person, but for some reason I accepted the information but didn't decide to take any further action.

On our last trip to Yosemite, I didn't pay attention to the direction I was driving for a moment and forgot to take a turn that I should have. This little mistake cost us 1 hour delay, wasted gas and created some frustration. At that point I revisited the information from my trustworthy friend and started looking for a GPS car navigation system that was affordable, yet feature rich and reliable.

Consumer Reports made it clear that TomTom One is the way to go. Other reviews as well as information from my trustworthy friend confirmed this.

Last week, my TomTom unit arrived, after I ordered it on the Internet. It looks good, is compact, and is very easy to use. In the following days I started to get to know it during my daily commute.

TomTom One is slim! I bet that many American's envy its figure :-)

It wasn't until last Thursday, that I had to put my TomTom into a real-world test. The main project that I work on right now at Sun is customization and deployment of Confluence for soon to be launched Atlassian, the company behind Conluence, organized Atlassian User Group meeting in Stanford, that I was joining.

Even though I have been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 2 years now, I don't know Stanford very well. The meeting was taking place in the Stanford campus, which is beautiful, but can be pretty challenging to navigate through thanks to many little streets with many intersections through out the campus. Combine all of that with my "talent" for doing things last minute and you get a person rushing to get somewhere where he's never been before. Sounds like a good challenge for my brand-spanking-new TomTom, right? ;-)

Well it really was. I left from Menlo Park campus much later than I originally planned to, so I quickly jumped into my car, input the destination address and headed out into the unknown.

TomTom picked a route that most likely I would have picked as well if I studied the maps or used Google Maps*. The fact that I didn't need to watch out for turns and making sure that I was on the right street made the whole "rush" much easier.

One thing that I observed during the first ride with TomTom was that the 3D maps that TomTom uses by default are really good. At first it seemed unnatural for me to use 3D maps instead of birds eye's view 2D maps. But after driving with the 2D maps on I quickly switched to the 3D view. It really is much easier to keep track of where you are and where you need to go on the 3D map!

There was one point during my travel to the meeting, when I truly appreciated having my TomTom. When I was already in the Stanford University campus, navigating through a maze of little streets, my TomTom said "Turn right", I tried, really tried - but the sign "Road construction. Road Closed" didn't let me go through. I had to take the only possible turn that there was and ignore the instructions. If I had just a small scrap of paper with driving instructions on it, I would have been lost. With TomTom there is no need for panic, I just took the only turn that I could, TomTom realized that something went wrong and recalculated the route taking into consideration my current position, successfully navigating me around the road construction.

I got to my destination on time and it wouldn't have been like that if it weren't for my TomTom One.

Night Mode

No product is perfect (at least not in my eyes ;-) ), so here is a few things that I'd like to see improved:
  • Reorganized menu - some items that are often needed are buried deep in the menu structure (e.g. clear route), others are not found where one would look for them (e.g. edit favorites)
  • Map Share technology recently announced with the TomTom Go 720 model, should become standard feature for all TomTom GPS products - to make this feature really useful they need to gain critical mass and to do that they should offer it in all products
  • Redo the TomTom Home application - currently I found almost no value in this app - it's just shopping desktop application that happens to be able to backup your TomTom. Did I mention that it crashed on me at least 5 times on my Mac during the few minutes that I used it so far?!? All in all the app is next to useless. Features like creating an itinerary, reviewing past trips, showing some statistics are lacking.
  • There are absolutely no statistics offered for the current trip, or just after reaching the destination. Americans love statistics, so it's interesting that such a feature is missing in a product that is successful on the American market ;-)
  • Rama brought up a good point while we were talking about the device - there is no way to tell your current elevation. Isn't that like the most basic feature of a GPS device?
  • The device seems to be a closed platform - software-wise as well as hardware-wise. I wish it was possible to write plugins that would make it possible to add some of the features that I miss. I haven't found any "developer" section on the website. If it was possible to connect the device with something else than bluetooth cellphones, it would be interesting to see what could one do with a combination of a TomTom and a SunSPOT - temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity and acceleration readings, anyone? How about switching TomTom to the night mode when it gets dark outside? How many other possibilities would opening the platform enable?
  • Last but foremost - I'd appreciate having a button which when pushed would make a car in front of me disappear. There should be a limit on how many "clicks" one can make per day or week though, to avoid a large scale abuse of this feature, which might have undesirable side effects :-D

See also: TomTom One Caught Speeding!

* btw have you heard of the new real-time route adjustment feature? It would be really great if it was this easy to adjust the route in TomTom.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Survived Upgrade to MacOS X 10.4.10

Last night I installed the freshly released update for Tiger (update 10.4.10).

The installation went fine, but took unusually long time, which made me a little worried for a moment (a spinning wheel is not the best indicator of progress).

After the problems I (and many others) had with 10.4.9, I recommend doing at least these steps in order to install a MacOSX Update:

  • close all the apps
  • backup important stuff
  • launch Disk Utility and verify the disk *and* disk permissions
  • start the installation
  • don't touch your machine until the update is done
  • start praying

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

No Mustang for You Tiger! - JDK6 Only in Leopard

There are times when I hate to be right and today is definitely one of those days.

Just a month ago I wrote an entry "Where is Apple JDK6", in which I proposed an explanation for the sudden stop of releases of Apple JDK6 developer previews.

Today I read some news coming from WWDC, that proves my theory.
the fact that Java 6 will take advantage of new features only available in Leopard and the fact that the latest Java 6 preview requires the absolute latest Leopard preview confirms the suspicions many have had: First, Java 6 will not be released for OS X until Leopard ships. Second, Apple is going to continue its trend of forcing you to upgrade to the latest version of OS X if you want to use the latest version of Java.

Well, thank you Apple! As if the delay of Leopard due to some phone was not enough. :-/

One would hope that after Java went open source, it would be easier for Apple to integrate it into MacOS without any big delays. But apparently that's not the case.

Apple probably needs JDK6 as a feature of Leopard so that they can claim that Leopard has 300 new features. Without JDK6 the number would be 299 which doesn't look good in marketing presentations.

Sunday, June 10, 2007 Aqua Development Snapshot - First Impressions and Comparison with NeoOffice

I came across the news that the first OOo Aqua build was released. This is still an early alpha and as my brief testing proved it's not suitable for any kind of production use.

First impressions are good though. OOo Aqua looks a lot like NeoOffice. There is still of lot of areas where OOo Aqua is lacking behind, but the improvement from the X11 based OOo are definitely noticeable.

OOo Aqua


The application is much faster than the X11 version and feels more like a Mac application than X11 application. If any of you tried running OOo via X11 on a Mac you know what a pain it is :-/.

My shallow experiments showed that OOo Aqua uses only half of the memory compared to NeoOffice. If the stable release will keep this feature it will be a huge improvement and a slap in the face to NeoOffice.

Don't forget the NeoOffice numbers don't include memory used by X11

Some users claim that the alpha version of OOo Aqua is faster in certain areas than the current NeoOffice (see this in-depth review). I didn't notice a big difference between the two, except for performance in window resizing where NeoOffice is faster (but still terribly slow compared to any other Aqua application).

Overall I'm impressed about the results of only a few weeks of active development since the project announcement in the May. OOo Aqua developers keep up the good job!!!

(If you ever wondered why OOo Aqua and NeoOffice are two very similar projects that run in parallel, then here is a couple of answers that shed some light on this situation)