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Playing with a new toy, a GPS device

While on vacation in Hyannis, I got annoyed with the one way streets odd layouts so I went out and bought a GPS unit.  I had wanted one for a while, and this was a first good excuse to get one.  The Hyannis Staples had a Magellan RoadMate 1412 on sale, so I bought one.  Staples had it for $250, but you can get it cheaper online.  It’s your basic consumer GPS, nice big screen and text to speech (TTS).  It doesn’t have Bluetooth, MP3, or any other non-GPS functionality.  I would have liked having Bluetooth, so I could use it as a speaker for my cell phone, but that would have jacked the price outside the range we wanted to pay.

It worked pretty well and made it a lot easier to get around Cape Cod.  It did have an annoying habit of trying to send me down a one way street the wrong way, but after I ignored that direction a few times it stopped sending me that way.  That would be a fault of the NAVTEQ map used by the Magellan, if you look at Pine Ave on Google Maps (also using NAVTEQ maps), it’s not labeled as one way for any stretch of it.

While writing this post, I visited the NAVTEQ site and found that they have a form for submitting feedback on their maps.  I decided to let them know about the missing one way restriction.  The first thing that I found is that the feedback page fails with Firefox 3.0.1.  As part of the data entry, it loads a map based on the address that you are reporting feedback on.  With FF3.0.1, it never loaded the map and just displayed the text “Please wait. Map applet is loading”.  After a few attempts, I filed it under the “EPIC FAIL” category and launched the page with IE7.  It worked with IE7 and I was able to report the missing road restriction without any problems.  When it prompted me for the GPS device, it did not have the 1412 model listed, but I was able to enter it in manually.  When I tried to save the report, it threw an IE runtime error message: “Object doesn’t support this property or method”, but it processed the report.  Many of the links on NAVTEQ’s site threw runtime error dialogs, it got annoying after a while.

After some poking around on the Internet, I found a site called www.gpsreview.net, a fan site for GPS devices.  They had a section for Magellan RoadMate units, so I started browsing the messages.  I learned that there was a newer firmware, 1.34, than the one I had (1.28).  According to the message thread, the newer firmware has a faster touch screen response time plus a few other features.  In this case, faster is better, so I grabbed the firmware.

The 1412 has a standard mini-USB connector, but does not come with a USB cable.  If you have any device that uses mini-USB, then the odds are that the cable that came with that device will work. I keep a USB to mini-USB cable with each PC that I use, it just makes life easier.  If you need one, look for a “A Male” to “Mini B, 5 pin Male”.  Something like this.  It shouldn’t cost more than a couple of bucks.

The installation instructions included a note about having the battery in the 1412 at full charge before upgrading.  Don’t ignore that warning.  When you run the firmware upgrade, you connect the GPS unit to your PC, but you have to unplug it after the firmware has been transferred over to the device.  When the GPS unit is plugged into a PC, it runs in a “USB Connected” mode and normal GPS functionality is disabled.  It has to be disconnected from the PC to complete the firmware upgrade.  That means it’s on battery power.  Magellan claims a full charge will last up to 3 hours.  The only way that is going to happen is if the screen brightness is turned all the way off.  You’ll want to lower the brightness down to the dimmest level that you can still read before doing the upgrade.  After you unplug the cable, the installation process continues on the device and it rebotts a couple of time.  It didn’t take long and the battery held out.

After the upgrade was complete, I started up the 1412.  I brought up the map and the there were no streets.   It appears to be lost.  Being a fan of The IT Crowd, I immediately turned it off and back on again.  No change, just a relatively blank display.  I pressed the little tow truck icon at the bottom of the display to bring up current location.  That showed a blank street location and the while the latitude was correct, the longitude was very close to 0.  Well a longitude of 0 degrees is at the prime meridian, so I started zooming out on map display.  When I zoomed out far enough, I could see that I was in the Pyrénées, in central France.

That’s not good.  France is a non-trivial distance from upstate New York.  I was doing this inside an office building during a heavy rainstorm and it looked like the GPS unit was only picking up four satelites, where it usually picks up quite a bit more.  After some poking around on the unit, I found a “Set GPS Position” option where I could enter in a street address to reset it’s position.  I entered in my office street address and the map went back to normal.  I though that I had somehow toasted the GPS device, but it was back to normal.  All in all, it’s a cool device.