Saturday, September 30, 2006

CoPilot Sat Nav software on the Motorola A780 linux smartphone

I have been trying out the satellite Navigation software built in to my Linux-based Motorola A780 mobile phone. It is ALK Technologies CoPilot Live, and comes preinstalled on the European model complete with maps of Europe. The installation CD's are required for adding extra maps and points of interest to the microSD card. Unfortunately I could not install this on my laptop using CrossOver as it failed to find the second installation CD. Maybe there is a way around this but I just borrowed a windows machine to do the installation. Its a shame that a Linux based phone has windows only supporting software!

On the whole I find it in some ways superior to
Directions on my laptop. The routing is fast and accurate, the directions more accurate for difficult junctions, and the route recalculation fast. It can be slow to acquire the position on start-up. Entry of way-points is OK, but does not use the last two letters of the post code, relying instead on you picking the "cross street". Unfortunately cross streets are not widely used in the UK when giving directions (more a US thing) so you can end up miles from where you want to be. Actually English used is generally of the US variety in the text for points of interest, rather ironic as it is not sold with US maps. The voice, thank goodness, is English and pleasant. There is no facility to input or display OS grid references. Instead it works in Lat and Long. It is not clear what survey datum is used.

I was able to download a database of LPG stations in the UK from here as a comma separated text file, and the windows software that came with copilot live was able to import it as custom points of interest using an "import wizard". Speed and red light cameras are available on the CD as "safety cameras", and while they were not already installed on the phone's microSD it was easily done.

On the whole it is a good piece of kit, and I would recommend considering buying a smartphone fitted with CoPilot as a serous alternative to a dedicated in-car "Sat Nav" system.

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