Electronic Design

A Trip With A CoPilot

Finding decent UMPC software for ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) or mobile Internet devices (MIDs) is a challenge, even though these devices often run a standard operating system such as Windows XP. The problem arises because of screen size and the target audience for many of the applications. In most cases the target will be a full size laptop or desktop machine with a large screen and mouse. Touchscreens are just now appearing in the mainstream and high resolution displays are the norm.

The screen size of UMPCs is small, although larger than a cell phone, and a touch interface is the norm—although Bluetooth keyboards and mice are handy. Unfortunately, applications written for the desktop do not always translate well to the small screen. Menus require at least a stylus to navigate and reading much of the text requires better than eagle-eye vision. Worse yet, most applications assume at least a 1024 x 768 resolution where multiple window panes is an advantage. This is not so on a smaller screen where real estate is at a premium.

This is why I find applications like Alk Industries’ CoPilot to be such a find because they allow operation without pulling the stylus out of its holder and it can be used without a magnifying glass. Its screen interface (Fig. 1) is clean and on par with GPS navigation interfaces that have done well with small screens and touch interfaces since their inception. Granted, CoPilot is a GPS navigation system, but I have tried Windows-based alternatives with fair (but not optimal) results. On the other hand, CoPilot fits the bill.

The first thing I had to setup after installing the program on Windows XP was the GPS unit. I hate wires and this Bluetooth unit was great. The Samsung Q1B (see A Long Look At Samsung’s Q1B) I use daily has built-in Bluetooth support, but not a built-in GPS unit, so this was quite handy. It can be placed on a dashboard without having connecting cable and it works as well as a wired unit.

One major advantage over most GPS systems is the ability to configure routes using a desktop machine or by remote access of the UMPC. The ability to see lots of information on the screen (Fig. 2) was useful when creating and reviewing route information. This is often tiresome on a small screen GPS nav unit.

Once a route has been chosen, CoPilot is on par with any good GPS nav system with 2D and 3D map presentation capabilities (Fig. 3). It has night or day options, whereas the Samsung Q1B, like many GPS nav systems, lacks the necessary hardware to automatically detect low light situations.

The key difference between CoPilot and most of the alternatives was the touch screen interface operation was a breeze. Functionally, CoPilot matches or exceeds most GPS nav systems on the market. It handled rerouting and voice output without a hitch.

Recommendations CoPilot is what you want if your UMPC or MID device will be your navigation system. I highly recommend it. The software alone is only $99. Go for the Bluetooth GPS module if you do not have a built-in GPS unit already. That bundle is $199. The mobile edition comes with a 2-Gbyte micro-SD memory card with a MiniSD and SD adapter. I used the CD laptop version to install it on the Samsung Q1B.

For those looking for trucking support there is a CoPilot Truck version. It can handle routing restrictions such as height, hazmat limitations and toll avoidance.

ALK Industries
www.alk.com

Samsung
www.samsung.com

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