Using your iOS device for offline navigation

One of the coolest and possibly the most expensive feature of an iPhone or iPad is the maps / navigation feature.

Pocket Earth iOS icon

On our recent vacation to Maui, we wanted to have live maps, but not have to rack up expensive data to do it. A bit of Internet sleuthing turned up PocketEarth, a very cool app that performs exactly as advertised — delivering offline navigation and mapping without a live internet connection.

Using Pocket Earth, I simply:

  • downloaded relevant maps while at the condo or before I left home
  • created routes I’d likely use
  • added potential points of interest
  • saved everything to my iPhone

And it worked like a charm!  Here’s a map of the stretch of West Maui where we spent a lot of time.

West Maui map in Pocket Earth

And here’s a bit on how it’s done – from the support forum:

PocketEarth is designed for offline use and makes it easy to avoid data roaming costs by allowing you to download maps and routes in advance and use them offline, even with GPS.  Here is some information and suggestions to make sure you don’t get charged!

GPS usage is always free, however downloading data is often not!  To avoid expensive map downloads, we recommend downloading all of your destinations in advance from a WiFi connection. Please see this forum post for information on how to download entire countries or regions with PocketEarth.
Once you have downloaded all the maps you may need, you can disable downloading to be sure PocketEarth won’t download anything. Just go to Settings > Network Mode and change it to Offline Mode or WiFi Only.
Alternately, you may wish to prevent all of your apps from using up your limited and expensive data plan, not only PocketEarth.  While the Airplane Mode will certainly do this, it will also prevent all GPS usage! Fortunately there is a better solution which will still allow you to use the GPS in PocketEarth and other apps while preventing cellular downloads: In the device’s mainSettings App, just go to General > Network and disable either Cellular Data completely or just Data Roaming and it will prevent expensive data usage while traveling abroad.

Please note that using the GPS “offline” (when both WiFi and Cellular are unavailable) works well, but may take longer to find your initial location. From our experience this is usually 30-40 seconds, but in some cases can be up to 2 minutes.

My thoughts
Quite simply a no-brainer purchase. For $2.99 (CAD) in the iTunes store, this is likely one of the best navigation and mapping purchases I’ve made. Regularly updated, community supported, and uses a lot of open data sources. Hard to beat that.

 

How your mobile phone or tablet could save your life

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Believe it or not, there are many ways your mobile smart phone could be used when you find yourself in the middle of an emergency situation,  aside from the obvious — making a phone call for emergency assistance, I mean.

The recent events in Japan and New Zealand have shown that when disaster strikes, getting the most accurate information is likely the best way to make choices that could save your life.

Browser
Provided the event hasn’t taken out the local mobile network, your mobile phone’s browser will help, linking you with many local, national, and international news services, as well as many different channels of communication (email, voice chat, twitter, etc).

Hardware
f1.jpgBut there are other ways your smart phone can help. For example, many smart phone’s display screens are bright enough to be used as a makeshift flashlight when the power goes out. Color Flashlight is a leading Android app and Flashlight 4 is one of the most popular ones in Japan right now.

As well, most phones these days know where they are in the world, either by triangulating between communications towers, wifi sources, or built-in GPS systems. Tie this in with any of the popular mapping applications and you have a good visual understanding of where you are. Helpful when you have to find an alternate route or transportation system in an unfamiliar city.

An app for that? You bet!
As you can imagine, there are many things that you could need in an emergency. And, of course, there are some apps that can help.

During the Tsunami warnings following the Japan earthquake, information like that provided by this Hawaiian-developed Disaster Alert app helped keep islanders informed about the impending waves.

And after an event, finding people and shelter is a priority.

Google launched their Google Person Finder during the Christchurch earthquake, and updated it for the Japan event.

And the American Red Cross has released their free Shelter View app.

So as you can see, with just a few bookmarks, perhaps an hour of app-store browsing, and a few dollars investment, you can have a pretty good emergency preparedness kit all tucked neatly into your mobile data phone.

I think it’s time I started on mine, what have I missed that I should add?
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It’s cold! Pamper your tech

frost_250.jpgWith the amount of gear I have around I’m surprised this doesn’t happen to me more often.

The weather in Edmonton has been rather cool of late, in the -20 to -30 degree range in fact. And today, since it’s warmed up to a reasonable -2, I decided to drive the car, rather than our other, warmer, SUV.

After digging it out, scraping it off, and jumping in to wait for it to defrost, I rummaged around in the centre console — and discovered that I’d left my TomTom GPS in the vehicle since the fall.

Hmmm, this was not good. Weeks of cold-soaking the batteries at extreme temperatures can harm their life, and perhaps even physically damage them.

As well, bringing the device into a nice warm room also has it’s own hazards. As anyone who wears glasses and shovels snow in Canada knows, moisture quickly accumulates on these frozen devices. Wet electronics are not a good thing.

So, what can you do to keep your gadgets safely working through the winter? Here’s a few ideas:

Don’t let them freeze (duh)
Staged Warming – If they do freeze, warm the slowly, in stages, in a humidity free environment. In my case, I left the GPS in my garage for an hour (warmer than outside), then moved it to my car (warmer than my garage), and finally moved it inside the house. This reduced the shock to the components, and reduced the capacity for humidity to form as the unit was warmed.

Outdoor use
Cameras, music players, phones — keep them in an inside pocket, next to your body if possible. This’ll keep the batteries warm and extend the charge of the unit. Cold temp reduces the power of a charged battery.

While not all electronics are designed for Canada’s extreme cold swings, there are things you can do to enjoy your devices in the great outdoors. What do you do to keep your tech working in the weather?
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Where’s Waldo?

This week I started using Gowalla — a check-in application/game for mobile devices similar to Foursquare, which means nothing if you’ve not used FourSquare either…so let me explain. …more



This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.


Go Go TomTom!

I’ve been a GPS and in-car navigation fan for years…mostly because I can’t navigate my way out of a wet paper bag, so my wife’d have you believe 🙂 Which is why when I was given the opportunity to take a look at the TomTom GO630 navigation system, I jumped at the chance. …more



This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.