Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Manning the stand

It was the PocketGPS meet in Basingstoke this last weekend, and given that the hotel used was all of 3 miles from UK SatNav's home, it was thought that it was too good an opportunity to miss. Therefore, the guys manned a stand, selling the full range of SatNav systems and accessories.

The meet was very busy with approximately 500 customers and exhibitors squeezed into a small conference hall that ideally would have held only half that number. Exhibitors included Navman, Tomtom, Garmin and AVMap themselves, plus other luminaries such as The AA, ALK (CoPilot) and TeleAtlas. Although the stands were small, the exhibitors had a lot to offer with some new systems, new software and a lot of technical knowhow. Everyone appeared to be very knowledgeable about their topics, and their was a lot of lighthearted jousting about the relative merits of the products on show. The PocketGPS raffle was as popular as usual, with many new SatNav systems being given away. ALK also gave away large numbers of their new CoPilot software, leading to somewhat of a stampede to say the least!

Given that the week prior to the meet had been such a busy one for new product shipments, UK SatNav had a lot of new kit on the stand, including: Tomtom One, Tomtom Rider, Becker Traffic Assist 7914, Garmin Nuvi 350 and Garmin StreetPilot 2720. The Tomtom One seemed hugely poular, mostly due to the low price and the much publicised new chipset (SiRFStar III) which offers much faster GPS seeks, and better coverage. Given that the Nuvi has this chipset too, but it isn't mentioned on the packaging or specification sheets, I think Garmin are missing a trick there...

It was a great show, and many thanks to Mike Barrett and his team at PocketGPS for organising it. UK SatNav are sure to attend the next meet given the experience at this one.

What on earth??

With thanks to Volker...

I think we might be giving this particular product range a miss this Christmas!

Pee and Poo!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Class ad...

Caption anyone? Thanks Volker...

Gotta get one - Sony Ericsson p990i

Yes, I know, I have only had my Nokia Communicator 9500 for 6 months, but it feels like the time to change already. The 9500 is just too bulky when I already have to carry around a Nokia 8922 that my day job supplies - however I couldn't do without the keyboard or WiFi that the 9500 delivers.

So what is there out there, and the catch here is that the SatNav phone account is with Orange in the UK, who have a limited phone range at the best of times..

Well there's the Palm Treo 650...

which is fabulous in that it syncs well with the Macs we have at home, and has a usable keyboard, plus the 1000s of Palm applciations that are available. However, I've always struggled with the Palm OS, in that it just seems too clunky, and single-tasking. Plus it doesn't have Wi-Fi, so not the one for me...

There's also the Orange SPV M5000, or HTC Universal as most may know it...

This is fabulous new system with touchscreen and stylus, plus a clamshell-style full keyboard. It looks like a great spec, with Wi-Fi, bluetooth and full web browser. However, Mac support is severely lacking, and a 3rd party app would be needed. I also hate the idea of running a Windows-based OS on a phone. My previous SPV E200 crashed too many times while attempting to take calls.

So, I need another alternative. I thought about a Sony Ericsson p910i, but its getting a bit long in the tooth now, and lacks Wi-Fi. However, there is the Sony Ericsson p990i being discussed in a lot of the forums, and a few reviews are beginning to surface. It has the full works - bluetooth, thumb keyboard, stylus, touchscreen, WiFi, FM Stereo, 2MP camera, 3G etc. etc. Plus it is Mac iSync compatible.

If only it was out before 2006! That's a long wait...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Relicore Clarity: Automated application discovery at its best

In the past month or so, we've found another tool to add to the kitbag, and a very impressive one at that. Relicore Clarity automates the process of documenting server and application configurations, by automatically discovering new applications, processes or files on servers in your managed environment. It then maps all interdependencies through a sophisticated Web-based GUI and tracks changes any changes to the enviornment in real time. Great stuff.

This would be pretty good in its own right, but for me the key is that Clarity has interfaces into HP Openview and Tivoli out-of-the-box. In HP's case, this means that the ServiceDesk Change Management Database (CMDB) can be automatically populated by Relicore, creating Configration Intems (CIs) for all the applications on your enterprise or desktop systems. Once in the CMDB, Openview can then create Service Maps (or Relicore can do this itself) within the Service Navigator product that fully map your enterprise application environment.

This really is a super product for any ITIL-compliancy project, particularly one involving HP OV ServiceDesk. For more info, contact either Relicore direct, or their chosen partner in the UK, CompelSolve.

SatNav for RV owners - in a word, BIG!

A solution for those with very wide dashboards, or very poor eyesight, or both... The new Garmin Streetpilot 7200 and 7500 models. With an enormous 7" (480 x 234 pixel) TFT touchscreen, traffic information (as an optional extra), full European maps on board, MP3 facility, and deadreckoning on the 7500, these new models are sure to be as popular as they are big when they are released in Europe in late December.

Recommended prices are yet to be announced in the UK, but are estimated to be £999 for the 7200 and £1,099 for the 7500 model. Professional installation is recommended for the 7500. Looks good!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Google do it again...

You have to admire those folks over at Google, amazing technology after amazing technology, they really are pushing the boundaries.

Try this for size... "Google Local for Mobile":

GLM on phone

Here's the deal - it's a service that runs through a Java application on a number of mobile phones, giving mobile mapping, route planning and local information.

As with Google's browser-based mapping services, you can view either a map, satellite view or a overlaid combination of the two.

Superimposed on this is local business information, currently, but we can see that with Google's penchant for adding advertising to everything, this may be soon added to.

As Digital Lifestyles have found, though currently this does not interract with the GPS-type features of the GSM protocol, this can be unlocked later. Also, with the number of combined GPS/GSM/GPRS devices coming onto the market (Gizmondo for eaxmple), there is nothing to stop Google from moving into the Navigation market too, but with additional advertising/commerce type features.

Clever stuff!


Now here's a thing... Google for "failure" and...

a Google bomb, me thinks!

itSMF Conference, Brighton

Just spent nearly a week down at the itSMF conference at the Brighton Hilton Metropole, managing a stand that the company was running. It was a great week, with some good positive conversations with customers, the odd lead, and a great chance to learn where the ITIL Service Management push is heading.

The conference was entitled "Pragmatic Service Management" which I thought was spot on. The ITIL movement has been very descriptive in the past, effectively stating that this is the standard, and you must adhere to it. This has effectively forced all company that wish to be ITIL-compliant down the same path, no matter what size the organisation or the IT infrastructure being managed. It is clear that this isn't working as well as it might, and a more pragmatic, adaptive approach is required.

Most vendors and service providers represented at the event seemed to have come to the same conclusions at the itSMF, and were trying to work with customers on a modularised process-change approach, with focus on the measurable business benefits (especially cost of course) that would be realised from ITIL-adoption. In particular, those companies offering consultative approaches rather than product-driven solutions seemed to be popular with the attendees.

The only downside for me was that the conference was split over 3 floors of the hotel, and the exhibition itself was split into 4 small halls. As exhibitors in the green hall furthest from the sessions, it was tough getting the customers to spend enough time on the stand. Forunately, next year, the conference is to be held in Birmingham in a much bigger location with a single exhibition hall - should be an event not to miss.

Magellan Roadmate 800 Review

At UK SatNav, they have run the Roadmate 800 (RM800) for a week or so now, and first impressions are very very good.

The high end Magellan range (700, 760 and now the 800) have always been very impressive units with great feature sets, lovely screens and data entry and very large address books with multiple-destination routing. This contrasts with the entry-level Roadmate 300, which is best forgotten, and about which we will say no more...

The brand new RM800, released in early November 2006, offers a vastly reduced price compared with the RM760, at just £549. This now brings it into the realm of the Tomtom Go 700 and Navman iCN550, both of which are great systems, but do have gaps in their feature lists. As you can see from the product details on the site, the RM800 adds full MP3/AAC playback and photo viewing to the RM760 spec, plus a rechargeable battery (roughly 2 hours duration) and (for me at least) the key features of 3D birds-eye view and multi-destination-optimisation.

The MP3 playback works fine, though the speaker is a little tinny. Sound playback through the headphones is very good, and will easily suffice for the odd trip on the train etc. The unit is a bit bulkier than an iPod but obviously gives you the navigation features too - it is far thinner than both the TTG700 and iCN550 though. Photo viewing is great too, though I am struggling to find an application for it! A 240v mains supply is provided, so you could leave this at your workplace to charge the unit for the journey home. As the unit is battery powered, I imagine it would be great for finding streets on foot in the Big Smoke. A 20GB hard drive provides masses of space too.

Address entry and routing has worked flawlessly. Both the buttons and touchscreen are very tactile and work well. The unit does only have 5-digit postcodes, but as discussed previously, this really isn't an issue. Only 2-5% of your time with a Satnav system is spent entering addresses, it's the rest of the 95%+ that matters, and the RM800 excels. It has the latest NavTeq maps (so superior to the TeleAtlas ones in cheaper units), and offers many different options for each route. The unit also has the acclaimed SmartDetour functionality for routing round delays on the road. POIs can also be imported onto the unit (camera locations etc.) Very impressive.

The screen is bright and very clear, and the long flexible mount will put the unit close to the driver for those with poor sight. The unit is supplied with both screen protectors and a good case, so the screen should stay in good condition. The 3D view is clear to follow, and cleverly is combined with detailed schematics of each turn as it is approached, before automatically returning to a wider view. The unit also automatically switches to a more muted night-time view (cleverly mapped to the time AND date, so seemingly matching dusk time) which avoids the blindingly bright displays at night that other units (Navman iCN650 for example) suffer. The RM800 also has the nice feature of a chime that coincides with the turning being suggested, thus avoiding distracting the driver at busy junctions/roundabouts, and a bar at the bottom of the screen that graphically demonstrates the progress to the next turn. All nice, intuitive, thoughtful features.

In summary, we liked it, a lot! A great system for the Executive that drives a lot of miles each year, or for those that travel by public transport that would appreciate the combined GPS/MP3 functionality. At £549, this is great value too.

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]

It had to happen!

Thanks to Volker...

Although, at Sony have had the good sense to now pull all the Rootkit DRM-protected CDs, a "sorry" would still be welcome though...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

BirdFlu epidemic hits Paris

As the owner of 4 chickens, I was starting to worry about BirdFlu, but maybe it does have some positives!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Web - can we ever escape it?

From The Register:

Opera is to supply its browser for the TopSeries in-flight entertainment system Thales sells to operators of the larger Boeing and Airbus planes. So next time you are browsing the web at 30,000 feet, you know who to thank.

The company says its browser was selected because it can be deployed easily in so many languages, including Arabic. Opera describes this as its "internationalization features" (don't ask us), and notes that this includes support for bi-directional scripts.

Brad Foreman Thales' VP of in-flight entertainment systems said: "The Opera product is an excellent fit to our system architecture. It provides the flexibility and utility that our customers are asking for."

So, not content with most of us spending our working lives (and increasingly our leisure time too) staring at a web browser logo spinning whilst waiting for more pointless images to download (excluding this page, of course), now we can do it whilst travelling too! Sometimes technology moves faster than it needs to I feel!

Garmin Nuvi - the perfect travel companion?


These lovely new SatNav units came into our sticky paws today - the Garmin Nuvi 300 and 350.

In many ways, they appear to be a perfect gift or purchase for the travelling businessman. Combining the now standard SatNav features such as importable POIs (Camera locations anyone?), WAAS GPS accuracy and the new SiRFStar III chipset (giving improved GPS signal in most conditions), the Nuvi adds great new ideas such as MP3 player, picture viewer, and audio book player. However, for me, where it really scores is by integrating features that travellers have always needed - world clock with alarm, optional language converter and currency conversion.

Therefore, this really does seems to be a great travel companion. Now, you're probably thinking, my PDA could do all that so what's the big deal? Well, where I've always felt that dedicated transferable SatNav has scored over PDA-based solutions is in making them intuitive, efficient and fool-proof to use. I wouldn't feel comfortable giving a PDA and bluetooth GPS receiver plus assorted cradles and cables to one of the more senior members of my family, as I just know I would be getting the support calls for weeks... Whereas, the Tomtoms and Garmins of this world are succeeding in making the devices truly user-friendly.

In my opinion the Nuvi is one of the sexiest of the devices available today, with beautiful styling and very classy build. With the TMC traffic-avoidance module optional on the 350, it really does make a compelling story.