Save fuel, reduce fatigue, and have fun with global positioning system software and a laptop.
Jim Brightly, F358406, Technical Editor
My father was a member of the United States Navy when I was young, so I spent a lot of time moving from station to station with my parents. Since my mother was somewhat directionally challenged at the time, I was forced to learn how to read a map at an early age. Back then, using a map was the primary method of finding your way from one place to another, and for some folks, it still is.
No one could have foreseen what would happen when the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched into orbit in 1957, except perhaps Arthur C. Clarke “” who envisioned the advent of the communications satellite. Now, more than 20 sophisticated satellites are in geosynchronous orbits dedicated to global positioning. And through the use of these satellites, technology has given us global positioning system (GPS) navigation.
Today, more and more new motorhomes and other vehicles are delivered with in-dash GPS navigation systems. These are cool options, but they’re also expensive and can be used only in that vehicle. I like things that are versatile, so it makes sense to me to employ a laptop computer and GPS software.
Stand-alone GPS units also are available. While these can be transferred between vehicles, they can’t be used to receive e-mail, explore the Internet, or manage digital images. I also have heard that many cell phones now include a GPS function, but outside of large metropolitan areas, cell coverage can be spotty. Plus, reading those tiny screens is difficult. So, if you happen to be directionally challenged, if you want to save fuel, and if you wish to reduce your fatigue by driving shorter distances, let’s see what a trio of new GPS software packages offer.
For this article I tested CoPilot Live 11 from ALK Technologies; Street Atlas USA 2009 DVD Plus from DeLorme; and Streets & Trips 2009 from Microsoft Corporation. All of these programs are DVD-based, so your computer must have a DVD drive. To evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, I downloaded them onto a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium (Q1 UP) ultra-mobile personal computer (UMPC), which I will discuss at the end of this article.
ALK Technologies Copilot Live 11
Loading the CoPilot Live 11 may take some time, depending on the computer’s DVD drive speed, data transfer speed, etc., so be patient. You also should be connected to the Internet when you load the software so that you can register it with ALK Technologies straightaway. In addition, if you have access to a printer during initial loading, you might want to print the program’s complete user guide, although the included Quick Start Guide was all I needed to get going.
Using the software is simple and intuitive. CoPilot Live 11 follows the letters and numbers for an address and will jump ahead with offerings of shortcuts. I did notice that my home address wasn’t in its database, but I’m used to this since my street’s name and tract’s name are very similar and often get switched in mapping databases. Programming any GPS navigation system is like learning to do anything; the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Such was the case with the CoPilot Live 11, as inputting the destinations became simpler the more I did it.
I found CoPilot Live 11 to be very motorhome-friendly. Leaning on the company’s vast foundation of long- and short-haul trucking data, the program includes information on low overpasses, narrow roads, and overly steep slopes. Once you’ve input your coach’s height and width, CoPilot will route you around these obstacles. It also automatically informs you of trip costs once you’ve input the proper data. In addition, finding the nearest Walmart, campground, fuel stop, rest area, or other point of interest (POI) is made easy using the “Find nearby POI” button from the main menu, or by enabling POI notification. Its guidance view choices include 2D, 3D, and Driver Safety, and you can enter up to 50 addresses in one trip.
Once on the road, CoPilot Live 11 will guide you to your destination with detailed text-to-speech spoken directions. (Note: The voice command volume for any GPS program is more a function of the laptop than the software and may be difficult to hear and understand in a motorhome.) If you’re on a tight schedule or have a distinct dislike for traffic while traveling, especially with a towed vehicle attached, the optional CoPilot Live traffic service (available when connected to the Internet) can detect and warn you about congestion on your route. You can choose to avoid or ignore each incident manually or automatically. It’s also possible to check for traffic incidents in other places “” just enter the town or city name.
My only quibble with the system is minor, and might not matter to others. Call me old-fashioned, but I grew up playing Monopoly, using the race car as my game token. Therefore, I prefer having a more realistic map icon than the fuchsia triangle in a white circle that I found in the 3D tracking option in CoPilot Live 11. I would like to see several icon choices, such as a motorhome, a car, etc., including color choices. It would go a long way toward personalizing the GPS for its users.
System requirements: Microsoft Windows XP (with Service Pack 2 or higher) or Vista; 400 MHz processor or better; 128 MB of RAM; DVD ROM; 2 GB of available hard disk space; Internet connectivity (recommended); requires a 32-bit laptop; and an ALK GPS receiver (except model # CCSF) or a third-party GPS receiver that is NMEA-compatible.
Pricing: CoPilot Live 11 North America “” $149; CoPilot Live 11 North America with GPS receiver “” $249.
ALK Technologies; www.alk.com, (888) 872-8768, ext. 550
Delorme Street Atlas USA 2009
Street Atlas USA 2009 is a navigation program that comes in two levels: standard, which is fine for most people, and Plus, which is aimed at businesses and advanced users. In addition to maps of the United States, each also covers Canada (street-level detail) and Mexico (main roads). For laptop use, you also will need the Earthmate GPS LT-40 satellite antenna or receiver, as some folks call it. I used the older DeLorme Earthmate GPS LT-20 antenna, because I’ve had it for several years. If you already have the LT-20, it’s compatible with Street Atlas USA 2009.
Using Street Atlas USA 2009 is quite easy, is very intuitive, and will almost lead you by the hand through the system. Admittedly, I have used Street Atlas before in its earlier versions, so I was familiar with its features and felt comfortable using it from the start. However, the included tutorials and demos will help first-time users learn the program’s main capabilities in quick order.
I must admit that I was intrigued by 2009’s 3D feature, which uses a red car icon on the moving map, because we were driving a Jeep of the same color. The 3D perspective displays a more horizontal look at the streets and roads ahead.
Street Atlas USA 2009 software delivers a wide array of high-end trip-planning and navigational features, including automatic road routing; more than 4 million places of interest; voice directions with street and road names and numbers, and responses to your spoken questions and commands (if your PC is equipped with the necessary hardware); automatic recalculated routing if detours or side trips take you off course; and a GPS “radar” function to locate nearby restaurants, lodgings, and other places of interest while traveling.
With the 2009 release, both versions of Street Atlas USA include UMPC support, plus hundreds of thousands of added roads and updated road names. In addition, several sports venues “” professional, college, and NASCAR “” have been added. Another plus is that the software disables the PC’s automatic screen sleep timer when the program is in use, so the computer screen remains active while you’re traveling.
Also new with the Earthmate GPS LT-40 is the NavMode option, which includes a “cockpit view” showing improved use of navigation information and user controls.
System requirements: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic/Home Premium/Ultimate/Business with 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended), Microsoft Windows XP (Service Pack 1 and later) with 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended), Microsoft Windows 2000 (Service Pack 3 and higher) with 64 MB RAM (256 MB recommended). Macintosh: Intel-based Macintosh computers running Boot Camp for Windows XP. Hardware requirements: Intel Pentium 900 MHz or higher processor (1.8 GHz recommended); 700 MB hard-disk space is required (1.8 GB if all map data is loaded to the hard drive), 3D-capable video card with 32 MB VRAM (64 MB VRAM recommended).
Pricing: Street Atlas USA 2009 “” $39.95; Street Atlas USA 2009 Plus “” $59.95; Street Atlas USA 2009 with Earthmate GPS LT-40 receiver “” $69.95; Street Atlas USA 2009 Plus with Earthmate GPS LT-40 receiver “” $99.95; Street Atlas USA 2009 with Earthmate GPS LT-40 receiver and Topo USA 7.0 “” $149.95.
DeLorme; www.delorme.com, (800) 561-5105
Microsoft Streets & Trips 2009 With GPS Locator
Anyone who has purchased a new PC during the past several years has been given a choice of preloaded Microsoft software. Within many of those packages you more than likely will find a current version of Microsoft Streets & Trips. A well-traveled, motorhome-owning friend of mine from Alberta, Canada, has been using Streets & Trips from the first time he bought a laptop for his coach, and he loves it. Upon his recommendation, I called Microsoft and asked whether the company would like to be involved in this article. A qualified “Yes!” was the answer; qualified because they were still testing version 2009 when I called, and the representative couldn’t assure me that it would be available before I left for FMCA’s St. Paul, Minnesota, convention.
Not having received the test copy before my trip to the Midwest, I was unable to put it through its paces on my 3,500-mile round trip. So, after I returned home I planned an entire day to test the new software. Living approximately 100 miles from Las Vegas, I decided to use that city as my destination. After loading the program into the UMPC, I looked up the addresses of several companies in a Las Vegas phone book (along with locations in Henderson, an adjacent city) and programmed them into the system. Although not quite as easy for me as Street Atlas USA 2009 (because of my prior experience with the DeLorme product), I was able to input the addresses as multiple destinations, and the farthest as the final stop. I then used it to reverse direction directly back home in Arizona.
After setting up the computer in my motorhome, I turned on the micro-switch on the GPS receiver, plugged it into the USB port on the UMPC, fired up the computer, booted up Streets & Trips 2009, opened the route file to Las Vegas, started my engine, and off we went. To test the automatic rerouting feature, I purposely took several wrong turns between the stops, and Streets & Trips 2009 performed flawlessly. Although it doesn’t have the 3D perspective found in DeLorme’s program, it does have a cockpit driver perspective, and I found no flaws with the performance of Streets & Trips 2009. (The GPS receiver I used is to be replaced with a smaller, more compact unit without an on-off switch in the final versions of the software package.)
Streets & Trips 2009 is packed with tools to help you find all of those gems and destinations “” be they close to home or anywhere in North America. The program has more than 1.5 million POIs, such as restaurants, national parks, and ATMs. The software’s “Find Nearby Places” feature allows you to search a radius up to 50 miles to find select POIs and then gives you detailed directions and contact information. Streets & Trips 2009 also comes with a free trial membership to Entertainment online, which allows you to trim expenses by taking advantage of special savings at restaurants, hotels, and special events.
Road construction updates, available online at no additional charge, will inform you about local, state, U.S., and Canada construction updates and road closures. Streets & Trips 2009 will then create routes that bypass such problem areas to minimize delays and unexpected stops. The program also helps you find the most efficient route and provides easy-to-use tools to calculate traveling expenses before you even begin your trip. Using your coach’s tank size and mileage per gallon, along with the current price for fuel, the Streets & Trips 2009 fuel consumption manager will calculate a cost estimate for each trip.
System requirements: Microsoft Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 and later) with 1 GB RAM, Microsoft Windows XP (Service Pack 2 and later) with 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended), Microsoft Windows 2003 (Service Pack 2 and higher) with 256 MB RAM. Hardware requirements: Intel Pentium 900 MHz or higher processor (1.8 GHz recommended), and 1.8 GB of available hard-disk space.
Pricing: Streets & Trips 2009 Standard “” $39.95; Streets & Trips 2009 with GPS Locator “” $74.95.
Microsoft Corporation; www.microsoft.com/streets, (800) 642-7676
Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC
The primary reason I chose to use the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC for this test rather than a laptop was its size. A portion of the test involved driving to and from my home in Arizona to St. Paul, Minnesota. Since I had a hotel room awaiting my arrival, I drove my 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. A full-size laptop just gets in the way in a Jeep, so that’s why I decided on the Samsung Q1 UP. The device measures approximately 9 inches wide, 5 inches high, and 1 inch thick, and weighs just under two pounds, making it a space-friendly alternative.
But don’t be misled by the Q1 UP’s small stature, because it can support all your PC applications no matter where you find yourself. It features an adjustable 7-inch touch screen, and the latest Intel ultra-low-voltage CPU. It could very well be the ultimate tool for the RVer who wants to bring it all without carrying it all.
The included Windows operating systems (either Vista Business or XP Tablet) support all PC applications, just as your home and office computer do, only the Q1 UP does it all anytime, anywhere, in quick-time thanks to its Intel Core Solo Processor (1.33 GHz, 533 MHz, 2 MB). The device includes Wi-Fi connectivity as standard, as well as Bluetooth 2.0, enabling you to connect to your favorite Bluetooth device.
The device’s bright LCD touch screen features 1024 x 600 dpi resolution and 300 nits of brightness, for vivid viewing indoors or out. And its use of advanced LED backlit technology reduces overall battery consumption. When you check e-mail, you can reply via the split-QWERTY keypad (half the keys are on one side of the LCD screen and the other half on the opposite side). The Q1 UP is also a “tablet,” which means you can use its stylus to take notes, write e-mail, boot up programs, etc., right on the screen.
The Q1 Ultra Premium offers up to seven hours of continuous run time on its standard six-cell lithium-ion battery. And with its integrated biometric fingerprint reader, the Q1 UP keeps files safe and secure.
Pricing: Q1 Ultra Premium with XP Tablet “” $1,299.99; Q1 Ultra Premium with Vista “” $1,449.99.
Accessories: The one accessory you will need right off the bat is the external RW +/- Dual Layer DVD drive to load the GPS software. The drive also can be used to burn photos, files, etc. onto DVDs and CDs. This portable, external DVD drive offers USB plug-and-play connectivity, and it writes dual-layer DVDs for movies or large presentation output.
Using the QWERTY keypad on the face of the Q1 UP, I found the buttons somewhat tiny and multifunctional, so I suggest the external USB-based keyboard, which is compact but comfortable. The keyboard features a pointing stick and a two-button touchpad for added convenience.
One of my criteria for a laptop is that it must operate on 12-volt-DC power, and Samsung’s Auto Power Adapter gives the Q1 UP that capability. When you are traveling and need a quick charge, just plug this adapter into the vehicle’s DC power port, and your ultra-mobile PC will be charged up and ready to go in no time. Or leave it plugged in to power the navigation device when in use.
Other accessories available for the Q1 UP include the Organizer, a portfolio that protects the Q1 UP and its keyboard; Samsung’s own GPS Navigation Package, which is said to be an extremely compact and easy-to-use GPS locator with excellent software compatibility; a USB Data Sync Cable that makes it possible to transfer data directly between two computers via USB; a docking station that supports Q1 UP on a flat surface while charging the onboard battery and a second battery, and features three USB 2.0 ports, audio out, MIC in, and a Kensington key lock; and an optional external eight-cell power bank that offers up to 11 hours of continuous run time.
Samsung Corporation; www.samsung.com/us/consumer/index.html, (800) 726-7864
One more suggestion
In closing, I have one more suggestion. Check out the mounting hardware available from National Products Inc. The company’s Ram Mounts provide in-vehicle mounting solutions for navigation systems, laptops (including UMPCs), cameras, camcorders, and many other electronic devices. For more information, visit www.ram-mount.com or call (206) 763-8361.
For those of us who grew to adulthood in the days when the only satellite circling Earth was the moon, these new GPS units and their capabilities are simply awe-inspiring. Enjoy them!