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Rand McNally
URL: http://www.randmcnally.com/

Palm Infocenter.com Bottom Line:

The Price:
$199 MSRP
The Pros:
  • All inclusive!
  • Nice construction
  • Best mapping interface for Palm I've seen to date
  • Excellent PC Software

The Cons:
  • PC software requires disk swapping and dedicated internet connection
  • No waypoint capability
  • No compass
  • No typical GPS long/lat/elevation data

Palm Infocenter.com Ratings*:
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*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



StreetFinder GPS for Palm V
Robert Zach (zachr@lucent.com)
7/10/2000


Want to use your Palm to find your way?  Clip on Rand McNally's GPS receiver for the PalmV and do just that!

The StreetFinder GPS is an all inclusive kit containing the Palm V/Vx clip-on GPS Receiver, StreetFinder Deluxe Software, Car Mount, 12V Car Adapter, 2 AAA batteries, and a Carrying Case that will fit both thee Palm and Receiver.

I was impressed at the completeness of the kit.  As much as I expect this, it is getting rare these days unfortunately.

As you can see below the packing is nice; very professionally done.

Rand5.jpg (60012 bytes)Rand6.jpg (61639 bytes)

Here is a shot of the palm with GPS attached lying on top of the vinyl carry case.

Rand2.jpg (36308 bytes)

By the two shots below you can see that the style is very similar to the clip-on PalmV modem. The back of the unit has the release mechanism, battery door, and reveals the receiver componentry is manufactured by Magellan; very well known in the GPS market.   On the front, the hotsync button can be used to start the satellite acquisition process.  The unit will shut off after 90 seconds of no use.

Rand3.jpg (28854 bytes)Rand4.jpg (25096 bytes)

To being using the device you must first install the StreetFinder Deluxe software onto a PC.  The software comes on 3 CDs - one is an install CD and the others are Eastern and Western U.S. map data CDs.  The install process also has you select a user profile to install the StreetFinder.PRC file to on the PalmV (~145K).

At this point you go to work with the PC software.  The PC software allows you to make map snapshots or directions to transfer to the Palm. You can zoom in and out to get just the right level of detail (Rand suggests at least level 7).

As you zoom in, you can see detail including POIs (points of interest) such as restaurants, hotels, schools, parks, banks, etc. This information can be included in the map information synced over to the Palm.  Simply select an area and the detail level you want and click on the "MapShots" button. A map will be generated and automatically queued for your next hotsync. This process also gives you the opportunity to see map size...and these can be MONSTROUS creating long HotSync times.

At this point you have a map in the Palm and you're on your way.  Clip on the GPS receiver and power it on...run StreetFinder on the Palm and select GPS.

Once a signal is acquired, and this can take a LOOONG time the first time (up tp 20 minutes according to the documentation), a crosshair will begin to plot your location on the map as you move. Cool! If you travel off that map, game over. Not so cool.

The other mapping function you can do is address to address directions. However, this is not nearly as nice. My home was nowhere to be found on either Eastern or Western CDs, that's right the software isn't smart enough to know not to search the Western CD for an address in PA.  This causes needless CD swapping.

OK let's assume that you do get address-to-address directions ready, the software then goes to the Internet for the directions.  Seems to me the software should be either ALL CD based or ALL Internet based, not both.  This seriously hampers the "mobility" of the product.  On this point I believe that a competing product, GeoDiscovery Geode, will be ALL Internet based.

While I do have issues with the PC side of this application, I must say that the Palm side software has one of the slickest interfaces for a Palm app that I have ever seen.   The software uses toolbars on top of the map that all can individually hide with a tap. Very Slick!

Another nice feature of the Palm software is that when you first use it any tap on on the toolbar produces a dialog box that explains what the feature does.  There is a check box that says "don't show this help again".  I thought this was very nice, it speeds learning of the application without having to RTM ;-)

The Palm app will show you where you are on a map as you travel and give very nice listed address-to-address directions or individual driving directions with large directional indicators.  I do have some nit picks with this aspect of the Palm app - these aren't as serious as the PC side but worth a mention. 

First of all, with all this positional data, why can't the directional information be automated?  By this I mean, take you through the directions with things like "make right turn 50ft" and automagically guide you.  Secondly, if you drive off a map I can see where a compass might come in handy.  The software has no provision for a GPS compass, which is simple to implement.  On this second point I did find a shareware app that provided just this.  And, as the Rand receiver outputs standard NMEA, this third party software worked quite well (a plus)!

It seems that since the kit includes a car mount (with a very functional spring loaded system to hold the GPS attached Palm!), seen below, that most of the above comments (good and bad) are all geared toward auto travel.  But, this is a GPS receiver so on my wish list for a next release of this software would be to also have Rand McNally include a simple waypoint function and longitude, latitude, elevation information.  This way I could go into the woods with my Palm and find my way out ;-)  I think this falls into the same category as the compass feature - it's simply just what I'd expect from a GPS unit.

Rand7.jpg (44964 bytes)Rand9.jpg (50074 bytes)

On a final note, as long as we are talking wishes, I really wish the car adapter and receiver had charging circuitry!  It is very curious why the Palm III model is rechargeable for a non-rechargeable device, and the PalmV GPS unit takes batteries for a rechargeable Palm.  Being as one would normally leave the Palm and receiver on all the time while traveling, it would have been nice to see some simple charging circuitry added to charge the Palm and the GPS unit together while on the road.

All in all, I think this is a really nice product.  The hardware and software are for the most part very well produced - from packaging to functionality.  And for all this the price seems reasonable.  I hope Rand McNally will give some thought to making the software updates as suggested, and solving the charging issues in version 2.0 will make for a 5-star product!

-Rob

Operational Note:   As mentioned initial GPS satellite acquisition took some time.  I did determine that either a HackMaster hack or the Palm Keyboard driver may have been causing me problems.   A soft reset with PgUp made serial port access, and thereby GPS access, much quicker.  Maybe Rand McNally can look into this.

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Rand McNally Satellite locks

Phil Yeadon @ 7/10/2000 5:11:43 PM #
I have had the GPS unit for a couple of months now and experienced problems getting satellite locks, I read this article and immediately disabled my installed hacks and got locks in minutes.
I would be intersted to know if any one else has had similar experiences.
RE: Rand McNally Satellite locks
Rob Zach @ 7/10/2000 6:37:09 PM #
I am glad the review was useful for you. I hope that Rand McNally will look into this aand determine if there really is an issue or not. I suspect they will.

Rand McNally Satellite locks

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/10/2000 8:13:59 PM #
I, too, have had problems getting satellite locks. If I have the GPS unit in it's cradle above the dashboard, it takes a few minutes. If I have it in my hand, it takes forever. No hacks or anything installed.

I was also disappointed by the quality of the maps. One street that ends IRL they show as continuing, and they're missing my whole subdivision, which has been here for at least 6 years.

Their map compression algorithm needs some serious help, as well. The map of Austin, TX, is 2200KB. Definatly not a product for a V, ya gotta have a Vx for it to be useful. Solus Pro appears to have better compression, but they're claiming maps from '98, and I'm not thrilled about shelling out that much money after expecting something better from the bundled software.

Preocupation.....

Deren @ 7/11/2000 10:21:48 AM #
My preocupation is:

Existing sofware and maps for only US. and Canada Countries??

I need The StreetFinder GPS for Palm in Lima Perú.

Some GPS lock ups but lots of PC lockups

rji2goleez@earthlink.net @ 7/11/2000 11:41:10 AM #
I love the GPS unit and the maps (even though they are memory hogs). However, I've experienced numerous PC lockups while using the CD-Rom software. I've heard others complain about the same problem. Anyone come up with a resolution?

As a result, I use the GPS unit with Quo Vadis version 2.0.

Mac?

Kurt Tappe @ 7/11/2000 1:47:58 PM #
"To being using the device you must first install the StreetFinder Deluxe software onto a PC."

And if I don't *have* a PC...???

You'd think that since Palms come with the ability to synch to MacOS, that developers would figure out they can't just release PC versions of their Palm products. *sigh*

-Kurt

RE: Mac?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/14/2001 10:27:46 AM #
is there any program that will work with a MAC? The unbit is now on sale for $50 and I'd like to get it but I ma using a MAC.. also is there another program that takes up less space on the palm?


StreetFinder GPS/Palm V Comments

Dan Antzoulatos @ 7/11/2000 8:05:56 PM #
Some additional comments/gripes about the StreetFinder GPS/Palm V unit:

1) Any map of a reasonably sized area (e.g., Washington, D.C. w/beltway) is >1.5Mbytes without points of interest. Can barely squeeze this into a Palm V. With all the points of interest (restaurants, banks, etc.) files covering such an area easily exceed 2Mbytes.
2) Cannot produce large area maps without the surface streets. E.g., would like just the freeways of Southern California. Without any points of interest, this would result in a >10Mbyte file (which takes a looong time to produce on the PC).
3) The GPS unit, plugged into the cigarette lighter, does not charge the Palmpilot. It would have been so easy since the mechanical connection is there! So you can't leave the Palm Pilot on for long trips, even though the GPS unit is happily working off the car's DC.
4) Often have to fuss for 15-20 minutes to get the unit to acquire a lock after a short period of non-use. This renders it useless for short trips. Better off with a paper map.
5) The GPS unit often "freezes" after a period of time. Resetting it requires removing all power (including batteries) and then a cold start (~15 minutes). Don't know if this is a software/hardware interaction, but it sure is annoying.
6) The street map detail is very good, but as stated in the review, it would be nice to (optionally) display the underlying GPS data, i.e., Lat/lon, altitude, speed, heading.
7) Trip directions can only be created on the PC with access to the Rand/McNally web site. The PC software does not have that logic.
8) No Documentation on the GPS hardware. (What's the button for?)
9) No Mac-support. You need a PC to create any maps.
10) No non-US maps.

Otherwise, ... I'm very happy with it.

GPS That Works

MadMax @ 7/12/2000 9:30:17 AM #
While I am a fan of my Palm Vx; (I have been an OmniSky user since early
BETA days, I have the Kodak PalmPix camera with the Palm Dock adapter,
and seemingly every other paraphernalia that has come out for the V.
Unfortunately, the Rand Mc Nally is not the choice of the Road Warrior.
Yes, I have tried it, & returned it do to reasons listed above among
other things. Instead I use my StreetPilot from Garmin.
http://www.garmin.com/products/streetPilot/index.html" CLASS=NEWS TARGET=_NEW>http://www.garmin.com/products/streetPilot/index.html
Coupled with the pre loaded Metro Guide cartridge(s) I can find
virtually any street, restaurant, gas station, bank, etc. For those who
only need major roads, the unit comes standard with just that. It runs
on batteries or car adapter. No, it does not charge but I have a rarely
used the batteries so they last at least a month(6 AA).
The whole setup listed above will set you back a cool $550! But I never
get lost & have Zero problems with this bad boy!

The Road Warrior

Power Drain

Thomas @ 7/29/2000 4:25:58 PM #
I do now have my second unit after the first one was returned (very quick service that was), but still problems show up. Power drain is around 80mA during operation. After switching off GPS recognition in the software, power drain is still there. Even after disassembling it from the Pilot. After about 2 minutes power drain increases to 125 mA, falling back to 80 after another couple of minutes. No auto switch off after 90 seconds, thou. The only way to bring current back to zero is to remove a battery for a second.
AAA Batteries do not last long especially with the usually quite long satellite detection times (1 hour at most). I found that with QuoVadis software detection was much faster than with Compass, GPSFinder. I cannot use the Streetfinder Software anyway as I am living in Germany. I would very much opt for a rechargable device including recharge of the Palm Vx which itself does not stay up very long either in GPS mode (2-3 hours).
RE: Power Drain
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/4/2001 5:48:54 PM #
hi!
i just bought a streetfinder gps for my palm IIIx. Since i will go back to germany after my us-stay i would like to know what my options are regarding the use of the software. is there any other software providing non-us-maps. is it compatible with the gps device?
matthias

Fishing

Fish @ 8/4/2000 5:13:21 PM #
I need maps to pacific sea, for information of Fishing:

Tides, waves, temperature, ubication, satellital information etc

RE: Fishing
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/4/2000 2:48:51 PM #
For tides and currents info.

I found/use a program called TideTool

Not connected to GPS.

See http:/www.toolworks.com/bilofsky/tidetool.htm

Good Program and it is freeware.

Dave Beatty
dave@techie.com

RE: Fishing
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/4/2001 10:26:00 PM #
I am also looking for GPS mapping support for the Palm that has nautical charts and harbors, fishing data, etc. Has anyone seen a product specifically for use on board a boat for navigation, fishing or anything else?

Hacking the StreetFinder!

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/16/2001 11:42:47 AM #
Hi,
I picked up a streetfinder not for my old Palm Pro.. I picked
it up for my outdoor robot that I am building.
I'l be posting what I have found on my website.. nfn.homeip.net
First I will post the pinout. Next a DB9 female connector
for it so you can use it with any computer. I have this working
with my Palm Pro. Sometimes a satellite lock takes 3 minutes or
so, I am looking into why this happens. Possibly the antennea does not
have enough gain, I was looking at the data and several of the
sattelites that were visable had poor signal strength.


RE: Hacking the StreetFinder!
AlphaServer @ 10/6/2002 10:38:17 AM #
What INIT string did you use to start StreetFinder ?

I connected the GPS to the computer using the RxD, TxD and GND signals, but it waits for a Init string I guess...

Is there more connections needed for it to work?

Please reply to alphaserver@netcabo.pt

Thx!

Using Rand Mcnally GPS for a PC?

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/19/2001 12:52:22 AM #
I have a Rand McNally GPS for a pc and would like to know what is the pinout for the Palm IIIc Cradle and the GPS unit. Does anyone If I can use an adapter for the GPS unit?
Thank You!!
Tomp

RE: Using Rand Mcnally GPS for a PC?
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/27/2001 2:51:13 PM #
They sell an (optional) palm to serial cable on the rand mcnally site store. I assume ( warning - danger!) the pinout is standard on this cable ( Palm's site has the serial cable pinout posted. I'll be trying this setup ( palm gps to laptop ) myself once I get my unit, sure hope it is standard.
- Byron

RE: Using Rand Mcnally GPS for a PC?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/18/2001 5:30:41 PM #
same her... i was looking for a way to hook up my palm III GPS to my laptop for those long trips. I'm sure there is a way!!!

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