Streets and Trips Offers Guiding Hand
By Jim Bray
Navigation systems are popular options on cars these days, and
they really can help the navigationally-challenged driver find his
or her way from point “A” to point “B”.
But what if you can’t find your way out of your garage and
your car doesn’t have one of these DVD-based systems? Well,
there are many hand held devices available, though I haven’t
tried them and can’t comment on how they work. But I have
tried a computer-based system that I don’t think is quite
as good as the built-in ones, but which on the other hand you can
take with you regardless of whether your vehicle has a nav system
built in. You can even take it with you under your arm.
It’s from Microsoft, and it’s a hardware/software package
called Streets and Trips 2006. The version I tried also comes with
a little GPS locator that looks like a microprocessor that you can
stick onto your vehicle with a suction cup. It plugs into your notebook
PC and turns your portable or pocket PC into a navigation system.
And it works pretty well if you set it up properly.
I didn’t set it up properly the first time, sticking it on
a side window of the vehicle I was reviewing at the time, and my
co-navigators were cackling with delight as the notebook computer
showed us barreling across farmers’ fields when we were clearly
tooling along a multi-lane divided highway at breakneck speed. So
at the first stop I moved it to the front windshield and it worked
fine from that point on. I speculate that it was confused by the
side location the first time, but I really don’t know.
The system will give spoken directions telling you where to go
– kind of like having an electronic spouse on board –
though its voice isn’t as good as some of the in-vehicle systems’.
And if you decide to second guess its chosen route it can recalculate
from your current location. There’s also a “Locate Me”
feature that uses Wi-Fi hot spots to help you figure out where you
are assuming, I suppose, that you have your eyes closed, I suppose,
and can’t see around you.
This is a pretty neat way of learning to find your way around a
new city if you’re on a business trip, or getting to a bunch
of meetings when you’re unsure of the location. And besides
the live coverage, you can pre-plan and print out your route the
way you can with Google, and it’ll supposedly give you current
information about construction along the way.
Unfortunately, it also features one of those stupid lawyer screens
you have to click through, which we’re probably stuck with
until the day someone orders all the lawyers outlawed. Okay, maybe
we can keep one around, just in case….
The GPS version of Microsoft Streets and Trips sells for about
$129 US ($150 Cdn.), which is cheaper than the built in option you
can get in cars, though of course you need to have your notebook
or Pocket PC along with you if you want the live navigation aspect
to work. But chances are you will anyway if you’re using it
A non-GPS version of the software is also available for about forty
Who’d have thought you could have a back seat driver who
was actually helpful?
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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