Friday, 24 July 2009

Testing times... a first look at ALKs CoPilot v 7 Trialware...

I'm trying out new software on the new phone now...

The main thing I'll use on the move (aside form the internet, and I'm doing that now via Opera Mobile from my partners' home this weekend) will be satnav software, of course. Since I got cheesed off by TomTom's total ignorance of it's long-term customer base, I've been looking for other products to go with whatever new PDA/phone I got. Now that I have the phone, it's time to try the software!

I'm ditching TomTom, for the reasons noted in previous Blant entries, main amongst these being a complete and utter lack of map updates - and software updates come to that - for PPC users, which has had a telling rebound effect for TomTom. To be blunt, TomTom (and this is the polite version) hacked off their formerly loyal PDA/PPC customer base, by ignoring them and concentrating on PND users instead, causing a large number of these former TT v6 customers to go to other manufacturers and products.

The upshot was that up until TT v7 was released this year (and which is STILL an obselete product as TomTom PNDs have been issued with v8 for almost a year now), the others had time to improve their products and get an edge into TT's virtual PDA/PPC satnav monopoly.

So, first on test is the free trial version of ALK's CoPilot version 7, one of TomTom's main rivals now that Navman have left the PDA/PPC satnav scene.

Initial downloading and installation of CoPilot was excellent; Downloading was straight-forward, with the software downloaded right off ALKs free trial page, and the maps from a page notified by immediate e-mail. Both the downloadable files (program and map files) came down the pipe and were transferred to the Touch Pro 2 via ActiveSync without a hitch; Installation was easy, but it was immediately after this that the problems started.

Once I'd accesed the intitial configuration files, I then tried to get CoPilot to accept my old TomTom v6 'OV2' Point Of Interest files, as ALK advertised that CoPilot could handle them. Well, it may well do, but certainly the evaluation copy that I'm using had major problems - I'm not convinced that "operator error" was the cause, as the software crashed each time I tried to import the Pocket GPS World OV2 camera files.

I eventually gave up, and downloaded the native CoPilot formatted CSV files instead. This went swimmingly, of course.

I found the menus in CoPilot to be reasonably intuitive and easy to use. I found, though, that the handling of "Safety Cameras" was a tad disappointing, when compared to TomTom: you don't get the option to have dedicated icons for the various types of cameras and speeds - for example, it doesn't differentiate between red light, Gatso, or even SPECS cameras. Likewise, you can't get dedicated warning icons for the various types of cameras. This is where TomTom definately scores over CoPilot.

Where ALK's CoPilot scores hand over fist over TomTom, is in the way it handles the Touch Pro 2 PPC's increased WVGA screen real estate (800 x 480 in portrait mode, as I await a Brodid clip car mount for the new phone) with ease - not once did I get any pixilation, pauses, hangs or video trouble - it was smooth and seamless, just the way it should be.

I did have one major problem, though.

The software got caught in one of those many and small GPS black spots you tend to find dotted around the place. TomTom handled these well, it just paused until it got a signal again, recalculated your position, and carried on.

CoPilot though, suffered a major hissy fit. On LOS (Loss Of Signal), it paused alright, and despite getting a valid RAS (Re-Aquisition of Signal) a few seconds later, petulantly refused to acknowledge this, remaining paused. Luckily for me, this happened in Bracknell at a place I know reaponably well enough not to have to use SatNav to drive through, and just as I was about to nip into the KFC (they HAD chicken this time!) for my better half. I was avble to stop the car in a safe place (the KFC car park, actually!), shut down the paused CoPilot, and re-start it, in order for the software to relise that yes, there was indeed a valid GPS signal coming in.

I had been half-expecting this problem, to be honest - it's been noted by others on various forums over the last few months. ALK need to look into this rather quickly - if it happens on, say, a motorway, where you're unfamiliar with the area, and cannot safely re-start CoPilot, you could find yourself with a very annoying and costly missed turn. NOT what one wants from bleeding edge technology, of course.

So, all things balanced out thus far, if TomTom v6 is graded at, say 7 (lack of maps is a big problem), then while CoPilot should get a 9, it also gets a 7, due to the LOS/RAS issue.

We'll see how it behaves for the rest of the 14 days of the 15 day trial period...

Watch this space :)

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