(I read somewhere last week that 5% of all blog posts in the world are apologies for the blogger not posting anything for a while. Rather than contributing to the statistics, I’ll skip that part ).
Currently, I’m in Israel again. Not exactly a vacation – I’m actually working close to 14 hours a day to make sure my customer meets his deadline. It’s been a while since I developed so intensely, overcoming language, environment and browser limitations – I kinda missed it. Don’t tell anyone, but I would probably have done it for free, just for the challenge .
One of the disadvantages of leaving my ex-employer is that now I have to pay my phone bill, along with all the tiny extras. I immediately realized that paying AT&T $10/month for their GPS software (which covers US and Canada only) is not fiscally sound.
My friend came to the rescue: he suggested I get a GPS device that can be hacked to include more maps from around the world. That will allow me to take it with me to Europe and even Israel. He recommended the Mio Moov series, as it is known far and wide as extremely hackable. He actually went a step further, and used CraigsList to get me a like-new Mio Moov 500 for $70 (retail price: $120 at Radio Shack, or 1400NIS in Israel – roughly $350!). For that price, the seller also included a 4GB SDHC card (thanks Brian!).
The Moov 500 is actually a small computer, running Microsoft’s WinCE 5 OS. It has a 4.7” touch-screen, an SD card reader and a loud speaker. As the system boots, it launches the bundled Mio Map 2008 software. The software itself is great and well-worth using (I like the lane-alerts, letting you know in which lane to drive on the road so you won't miss the next turn), and you can add other navigation software (some are free, some you have to buy).
At this point, all you have to do is apply a simple hack that removes that shortcut, and adds a Windows File Manager – and you can now boot to the Windows desktop (I’ll let you find those hacks in GPSUnderground and GPSPassion on your own).
Now you can add your own software and maps bundles (get them or buy them on your own – I got some through joining a beta test with a company). You can also add skins, icons, labels - anything you think will make your navigation life easier.
I added Israeli and UK maps – and they work great. It actually warned me of some traffic changes in my own hometown that were added while I was away.
I also added a (freeware) media player. The SDHC card allows me to listen to quite a lot of my own music. The app actually plays video files as well – but I think that may be one of the last things you need in front of your eyes while driving .
You can add more applications – any app that runs on Windows CE – but I fail to see the use, as it’s extremely difficult to manipulate a calculator or a Solitaire game while driving.
In short, the Mio is one of the best purchases I made in a while. While not the latest model out there, it’s extensibility and hackability make it perfect for a traveling tech Guy like me.