OK. Confession time. I dislike the name of this column—this is no sermon from the top of the mountain and not quite the appellation for a man who rides to work on a 1955-design-new-manufacture Royal Enfield motorcycle and has a 1972 Lambretta parked in the garage awaiting some TLC, which have more to do with my digits than digital. Also, my fellow Lounge columnists have way cooler sounding columns: Hey Sukumar, wanna swap?
Occasionally, this column will enlist the help of friends to recount adventures in their digital life. One of them is Arun Katiyar, CEO of www.seraja.com, whose video post on his car satellite navigation system (http://arunkatiyar.blogspot.com/2006/06/acquiring-my-coordinates.html) had me hooked. So I asked him to do a review for GG:
SatGuide Navigation System
SatGuide is India’s first Navigation System. You get a PDA with a version of Windows sitting in it, so in the event that you get bored with navigating yourself around a bunch of Indian cities, you can always play some music on it while you check your ‘To Do’ list and read downloaded mail.
How does SatGuide work? The only difference between your normal PDA and this one is a tiny antenna that flips open and checks for some two dozen satellite signals. Once it locates these signals and figures out your coordinates, using the GPS, you can switch on one of several pre-loaded maps: Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune.
The interface is a little crude and the graphics aren’t too hot. So, if you are expecting to feel like you are in the 21st century, chances are you’ll need to revise your opinion. But the maps that turn up are usable and easy to follow. Just key in your destination, decide which roads you want to avoid on the way and SatGuide draws up a route for you, giving you turn-by-turn visual and audio instructions as you move. Complete with a voice that you can pick from (Jerry, Jane, Janice and the likes).
Ah, it does feel good to use SatGuide, despite all its failings. For one, you feel reassured as you see street names, banks, hospitals, restaurants and historic landmarks turning up on the screen minutes before you hit them.
Then you discover why SatGuide isn’t so hot—the traffic police just turned a street into a one-way and SatGuide is trying to take you the wrong way! But it isn’t a problem, just avoid the street, take the next turn you think works for you and SatGuide re-calculates the route.
The great part about SatGuide is that you can mark some 1,000-odd locations on the system that actually don’t exist on the maps. For example, you can mark the location of your home as a “Favourite” on the map. Then, when you are lost, just say, “Take me home” (or the equivalent for SatGuide) and it shows you the route! Personally, the voice-based prompts on the system make it fun to drive with. You feel you have company and if you miss a turn and SatGuide admonishes you, it can be fun.
The SatGuide has miles to go in terms of interface and completeness of roads and landmarks. But it is getting there. Strictly for the early adopter.
Note: The after-sales service is lousy. This reviewer asked the company for a highway map of India and was told they would send it by email on payment. When we asked the local dealer for the same map, he said it wasn’t out in the market. Not having the time to make repeated phone calls, this reviewer used a reliable Eicher roadmap instead to drive down from Bangalore to Puducherry.
Log in at http://www.satguide.in/ for downloads. The Mio A700 phone uses SatGuide and is priced at Rs31,990.
Write to Harsh Man Rai at firstname.lastname@example.org