Archive for November, 2009

iPhone GPS showdown! Navigon vs. TomTom 1.2

Yesterday, TomTom put out a long-awaited update to version 1.2.  In addition to updated map, POI, and IQ Route data,  it also packed in text-to-speech, lane guidance, and compatibility with the original iPhone and iPod touch.  Previously, they had announced they would also include Live Traffic as a free addition but that feature isn’t in this release.

Navigon put out a new update a week or so adding Live Traffic (as an add-on feature).  There may have been other new features, but they were no where near as dramatic as the list TomTom just released.

I didn’t post a Blog entry about this before, but in my previous tests of TomTom vs. Navigon, TomTom was roundly trounced.  It wasn’t even close.  This new release marks a huge update for TomTom, bringing them almost completely up to date with Navigon’s feature list.

To be honest, I’ve been rooting for TomTom since the initial announcement months ago.  But the cold reality of it was that the previous version of TomTom was no-where near as good as Navigon.  The only feature that TomTom won on was their POI data.  In daily use, while on a trip to DC, I found everything I was looking to find in TomTom’s POI database, while almost every time the Navigon database turned up nothing.

So, how does TomTom stack up now?

1. Text-to-Speech:  TomTom offers many, many more voices to guide you.  Unfortunately, only the ones with (Computer) listed next to their names perform text-to-speech.  There’s only one English speaking voice, and their text-to-speech doesn’t sound as good as Navigon’s.  Sorry, TomTom, but for English speakers, Navigon wins this round.  (If you speak another language though, TomTom may be superior to you).  Oh – I shouldn’t forget this: TomTom’s text to speech sometimes seems a bit late, being spoken just before the turn itself.  On the other hand, Navigon generally told you a good 15-20 seconds before you arrive at the turn, enough time to start looking for the turn.  Perhaps some people prefer directions like this, but I like Navigon’s approach better.

2. Lane Guidance: I like TomTom’s new lane guidance feature.  But, I honestly think I like Navigon’s a little bit better.  Lose the flashing green arrows, TomTom.  They are annoying.

3. Original iPhone & iPod Touch support – This is a great new feature to have.  I’ve not tried it yet, but it’s a very nice addition.

Ok, now about the general usability of each…  I’ve got to hand it to Navigon yet again.  While using TomTom today, it felt as if it were not as accurate as Navigon.  It’s hard to describe what I mean by that, but it’s just the impression I was left with while using it.  After thinking some on it, I think I realized why though.  Navigon, when coupled with the TomTom Car Kit, has very smooth animation as you drive along and go around turns.  By comparison, TomTom has somewhat jerky animation.  I honestly think that’s why Navigon “feels” more accurate.  One more thing about accuracy.  TomTom seems to try extremely hard to place you on a road.  Try going into a parking lot with TomTom (while using the TomTom car kit).  Then try the same thing with Navigon.  After showing you on the road for a few seconds, it pops you off into the parking lot area, where you actually are.

When all is said and done, Navigon is still the champ.  I’ll probably try out TomTom some more in the coming days, but I don’t expect to use it as frequently as I use Navigon.  Perhaps TomTom can clean up some of these things for version 1.3, along with adding the real-time traffic data.  Come on, TomTom, I really want you to pull this one out!

November 19, 2009 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

TomTom Car kit update

This is an update to my previous post about the TomTom car kit.  I really like the accuracy that I see in Navigon’s software when I’m using the TomTom car kit.  The GPS section simply works great.

When sitting idle in my car, or when I’m driving at low speeds, the bluetooth feature works well.  My car, a Honda Accord, is not very quiet at highway speeds, though.  When on the highway, I can’t hear the person on the other end very well via the TomTom’s bluetooth feature.

The TomTom mount is very nice, as long as you don’t mind not using a case.  It’s great that it charges it while you drive as well, so you don’t end up at your destination with a dead battery.  The added accuracy of the GPS chip makes it as good as most standalone units.

November 19, 2009 at 6:02 pm Leave a comment

TomTom’s Car Kit for iPhone – A Jack of All Trades

I picked up a TomTom Car Kit tonight at my local Apple store.  It’s truly a Jack of All Trades, combining the functions of a mount, a charger, a hands-free bluetooth speakerphone, and an enhanced GPS chip.  One thing it is not:  Cheap.

I’ve been waiting for over a year to get a hands-free solution for my car.  I’ve looked at several bluetooth headsets, but have held off buying them because they each had some sort of shortcoming.

I’ve read that the JawBone, for example, works great, but there are sometimes fit issues, plus the idea of having to charge the headset seemed less than optimal since I wanted to use it pretty much exclusively in my car.  That, and the price tag seemed a bit steep.

I’ve looked at the various Parrot brand car kits as well.  They are supposed to be great units, but require some hard wiring, and are pricey.  The low end unit attaches to the cigarette lighter and has it’s own speaker, but it’s reported to be fairly low quality, while retaining about an $80 price tag.

I have an iGo charger and tip for my iPhone.  I think the tip for the iPhone was about $10.  I don’t recall the cost of the cable itself, but it was probably $5 to $10.

For a trip that I recently went on, we bought a Griffin Window Seat.  This is basically a mount with attachments to work with an original iPhone, an iPod Touch, or a iPhone 3G (or 3GS, since the body shape is the same).  It has no charging capability, and you can’t use any sort of case with it.  (It was fine for our trip, since it was almost solely used with an iPod Touch to play Sesame Street for our 20 month old when he started getting cranky, which can happen on a 13 hour drive.)  This mount is on the clunky side, but works.  It runs about $30.

We mostly used Navigon’s iPhone app on our trip.  We used it pretty much daily to get around the Washington DC area.  It performed pretty well, but occasionally we’d lose GPS lock.  Fortunately, this never happened at a time that we needed to turn.  Sometimes we’d come to a stop light and, while waiting for the light to change, it would adjust our position backwards, then it presumed we had turned around.  I believe our most common issue was that it would jump from the road we were driving on to a neighboring road.  In both of these last two cases, it would attempt to re-route us until it realized where we really were, which sometimes took far longer than you’d expect.  In familiar areas, this re-routing isn’t a big deal, but it is when you are very unaware of the local roads.

In my initial quick test of the TomTom Car Kit, I used it for a phone call and was happy with the speaker volume.  I was not at highway speed, though, so this may yet have issues.  I’m impressed with the GPS tracking in my limited testing.  I only used it for a short trip, but it tracked my position with much better accuracy than my iPhone alone.  It seemed to tell me to turn sooner than my iPhone alone, and reacted faster when I intentionally turned opposite to the directions Navigon gave me.  I’ll try to use it over the next few days and plan to post again with any issues I run into, if I run into any.  Oh – Note that I’m using it with Navigon, not the TomTom application.  It appears that the iPhone will prefer the TomTom GPS chip over it’s own.

At any rate, it’s not cheap, but considering that it provides similar functionality to a $30 mount, an $80 speakerphone car kit, a $15-$20 charger, and enhanced GPS (don’t have a comparable dollar value), I’d say it’s a reasonable deal if you want all this functionality wrapped up in one device.

November 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

Mac OS X, Flash Games, and non-admin accounts

My kids like DinerDash, and pretty much the whole generation of flash-based games that have come along since DinerDash made a big splash.  Originally, they played it on a Windows machine, but we have since added a Mac to the stable of kid accessible machines.  I tried installing BookWorm Deluxe on the kids Mac for them to try out.  Unfortunately, it only ran under my account.  All of the kids have Managed accounts to take advantage of the parental controls in Mac OS.  Most recently, I tried YoudaSushiChef, but it behaved similar to the others.  This perplexed me, as I tried setting the permissions via the GUI, to no avail.

I searched the web, thinking that lots of others must be having the same issue, using either Managed accounts or Standard accounts, but I couldn’t find a peep about it anywhere on the Internet.

The support team at YoudaGames was very nice, but not terribly helpful, almost as if they don’t even test their game on Mac OS.  (With today’s development tools, it wouldn’t surprise me.)  After exchanging a few emails with them, they offered me a refund, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet.

Finally, today I was thinking about it, when it struck me…  The GUI only shows Ready and Write permissions, not Execute!

Anyhow, I opened a Terminal and did:

cd /Applications
sudo chmod -R 777

Then entered my password when prompted.

Finally, I tried launching it from one of the Kid’s accounts, and it started right up, working just like it should.  Same thing worked for BookWorm, so it will probably work for most any flash-based game on the Mac.

November 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment


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