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Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Part 1

There's always a lot of discussion about off-road navigation , what works, what doesn't, what's best and what's not, so I've compiled what I've learned over the years about off-road navigation systems, having tried just about everything out there in the last 20+ years. Take this for what it's worth and it's not Gospel, just observations from personal experience that might help you with choosing a suitable system.

I thought I'd add one point here about this entire topic and why there's a need for a discussion about off-road navigation vs on-road navigation. There is an absolute plethora of navigation tools to help you get about on normal roads, in cities etc, on foot, bike or car, and now even directions within buildings (or soon to become available), but off-road navigation has been, more or less, a second rate effort compared to what's been put into assisting the average person drive their car into rivers, paddocks, boat ramps and what not.

The technology and information has been available for years, but the maps have often been sorely lacking. We do have more options available than what we had only a few years ago, but it's still no where near as good as what you can get if you just want to drive around city streets. The market for the latter is huge, which drives what's available, but it is a shame that the former isn't catered for in the same detail, when it really wouldn't take much more to do so. Some of the examples that I talk about show that it's possible, but very few take up the challenge to go the full extent. So what I hope to cover here is a rundown on what will serve you reasonably well when going off-road, using the best technology and maps available.


First off, you need some form of hardware on which to install your off-road navigation software and maps. Options are:
  • A Windows CE device – often a handheld device like the old PDAs, 7” tablets commonly available on eBay or an in-dash unit.
  • A Windows, Android, iOS (Apple) tablet/phone.
  • A Windows or iOS laptop/notebook.
I’ve deliberately left out any Linux devices, as they simply don’t have adequate support for navigation with full mapping features, even though you can run emulators that will support Windows applications. But if you already have a Windows device, there’s no point in creating problems for yourself by attempting to run Linux software.


Next you will need software that will support navigation. Options are:
  • Software only - Oziexplorer, Memory Map, Garmin (Basecamp, nRoute etc), Magellan (not known at this stage), CompeGPS/TwoNav (I was alerted to this recently and it appears to be similar to the others, but in a two part application).
  • Software with maps - Route 66, iGO, Nokia.
  • Software with on-line maps - Google Maps, Bing Maps, Open Street Maps.
You can find other software around, but these are probably the most common ones available.

Then, depending on what hardware you have, will determine what software you can run (excluding all manufacturer hardware options). Options are:
  • Oziexplorer – Windows CE, Windows PC, Android, Windows Phone 6 (at least it works on mine).
  • Memory Map – Windows PC, Android, iOS, Windows CE (but no technical support).
  • Garmin – Windows PC in a limited sense, as it requires sourcing unsupported software.
  • Magellan – iPhone, iPod.
  • Route 66 – Windows Phone, Android, iPad, iPhone.
  • iGO – Windows CE, iPhone.
  • Nokia Maps – Nokia Phones.
  • Google/Bing/Open Street – All smart phones.
Map Formats

Then, you will need maps to install on your device. Map format options are:
  • Oziexplorer - Maps in TIFF, BMP, JPG, PNG format, or BSB, BSB 4, BSB 5 and later,NV.Digital, ECW, MrSID, Maptech Terrain Navigator maps (.024,.100,.250) and Maptech Aeronautical charts (.AER), Kompass, which are normally converted into the proprietary Ozi format with free Ozi software.
  • Memory Map – Proprietary map format or conversion from other formats with purchased software.
  • Garmin - Proprietary map format (but free with selective devices).
  • Magellan - Proprietary map format (but free with selective devices).
  • Route 66 - Proprietary map format.
  • iGO - Proprietary map format.
  • Nokia - Proprietary map format (free with all Nokia smart phones).

There a number of maps available for the various navigation software and these are the most readily available ones:
  • Hema maps for Memory Map and OziExplorer -
  • ExplorOz (EOTopo) maps for Memory Map and OziExplorer
  • Spatial Vision maps of Victoria for OziExplorer
  • Oztopo maps for Garmin systems
  • Google/Bing/Open Street Maps - Proprietary map format (but free to access).
You will need to purchase most maps; however, Nokia Maps come free with the phone, iGO is often installed into the navigation device and Google/Bing/Open Street Maps require an internet connection to download. There are other similar mapping software available, but most that I'm aware of only really support street navigation.

GPS Antenna

Finally, you will need a GPS antenna that will provide the location signal for your software. Options are:
  • Oziexplorer - Any Magellan, Garmin, Lowrance, Eagle, Silva/Brunton, MLR GPS receiver or NMEA compatible GPS antenna/receiver (be it serial, USB or Bluetooth).
  • Memory Map - Most USB or Bluetooth GPS units.
  • Garmin – Garmin GPS units only.
  • Magellan – Magellan GPS units only.
  • Route 66 – Windows Phone, Android, iPad, iPhone in-built or Bluetooth GPS.
  • iGO – Any GPS.
  • Nokia – In-Built or Bluetooth GPS.
  • Google/Bing/Open Street – Whatever GPS the device will support.

Some may ask why I’ve included such devices as mobile phones and the reason is that some of the mapping software provides detailed off-road mapping as well as general street navigation. I have Route 66 on my mobile phone and iGO on my stereo head unit and both show just about all tracks anywhere in the bush and will allow full voice navigation if required. Most dedicated off-road systems do not provide voice navigation, but simply show where you are at any point in time or may indicate where you should be heading.


Another important thing to note is that there are two types of map formats available for navigation systems, vector maps and raster maps. Vector maps are mathematical representations of the roads, contours, terrain etc; whereas, raster maps are simply images of the printed maps, such as a JPG image.

Vector maps are useful in that they can scale without any loss of detail, where raster maps need to be displayed in their native size or the image will break up. Vector maps can also move around as you travel and keep pointing in the direction that you’re travelling, where raster maps usually can only orient in north up mode or can only do 90 degree movements to adjust for travel direction. Raster maps are often more detailed than vector maps, but much depends on the effort that the supplier has put into providing relevant detail.

Oziexplorer and Memory Map use raster maps and the rest use vector maps.

One final point about vector and raster maps. While vector maps can scale etc, they rarely show details like contours and significant delineation between terrain features etc. Raster maps being scans (or original software images of paper maps), often show more details that can be useful when navigating. Though sometimes it's a matter of swings and roundabouts.

In Part 2, I'll discuss how each option works, what's involved in setting things up and what needs to be considered to get the best out of the available options.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Part 2

The first thing I’d like to mention is that size does matter, screen size that is. A small screen is all well and good if you have the eyesight of a teenager and/or only want to do street navigation, but anything under a 7” screen is going to be almost useless and even a 7” screen with raster maps can be very difficult to read off-road.

That’s where the new 10” tablets come into their own; they offer a good compromise in screen size that allows relatively easy installation in your vehicle and they are generally a lot lighter than any laptop. And with touch screen technology on all of them, using the controls can be very easy while on the move. To this end, I’ll be mainly talking about tablets, but much of this can also be applied to the other form factors as well, and I’ll point out specifics relating to the others when necessary.


As I’ve pointed out, there are basically three tablets options available, Windows, (though limited in options at the moment), Android (lots of options) and iOS (basically the iPad). Windows has traditionally provided the greatest variety in navigation options, but that has changed somewhat with the arrival of the iPad and Android. Android appears to be the fastest developing system at the moment and probably due to the fact that it isn’t as constrained in the developer world as is the ‘walled garden’ of iOS. Windows systems may start growing when Windows 8 comes along, as it is getting good reviews with its new interface, yet will maintain the ability to run traditional Windows applications as well.

The other thing that you need to consider when deciding on a tablet is whether it comes with an in-built GPS, or ability to connect an external USB or Bluetooth GPS. Some tablets have a very limited number of ports and this can cause frustration when wanting to attach peripheral devices and, from what I understand, Android devices can have some limitations regarding Bluetooth devices. An in-built GPS can be very handy, as it allows easy use outside of the vehicle and reduces the number of wires required. On the other hand, in some circumstances, an in-built GPS may not provide a strong and stable signal compared to an external GPS antenna (mounted outside the vehicle or at the base of the windscreen etc).

On the subject of GPS antennas, these seem to change as much as mobile phones styles. There are a number of types available, but one of the most common is the SiRFstar GPS module and I believe they are now up SiRFstar V. What this means is that the later the version, the better will be its capability and speed at locating and holding on to satellite signals. You can buy some very cheap GPS units, but I would not buy any unit that uses less than SiRFstar III technology.

A final note on global positioning technology (commonly referred to as GPS) and that is the fact that it consists of several systems. The one that people usually think about is the GPS system that is controlled by the US Air Force and has been used around the world for decades. When people refer to GPS, it’s the US NAVSTAR that we are really talking about, but it's not the only one about. A while back, Russia implemented their own system called Glonass, which is not compatible with NAVSTAR and generally not available for common use, but that may change. Additionally, a new system is currently under development in the EU, called Galileo; this will be a rival system to NAVSTAR and will be wholly privately owned and managed. Galileo was established in order to remove the shackles of the US controlled GPS system and provide many more options, including better resolutiion than NAVSTAR, much to the angst of the US. However, Galileo is still in its very early days and has suffered numerous setbacks, including the European financial crisis, so don’t expect Galileo to be appearing anywhere soon. However, you can get Galileo compatible GPS modules right now if you want and I have one that is also GPS compatible.

Update: It looks like GLONASS will be available to the common man sooner than I thought, as Garmin has introduced a GPS/GLONASS compatible receiver (http://garmin.blogs....le-devices.html, https://buy.garmin.c...=109827&ra=true). This could be very handy in mountainous and deeply forested areas.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
So what do you choose and what are the benefits?


Probably the most used and well known off-road navigation system is OziExplorer. It’s been around the longest and has earned a reputation for being a good, solid, off-road navigation system, with some very powerful features. OziExplorer has traditionally been a Windows only system, either CE or PC, and only recently has it produced an Android version that is still under development, but working very well in its current form.

An oft made criticism of OziExplorer has been its complicated interface and this is definitely true. It has a fairly steep learning curve and for anyone familiar with Photoshop, like Photoshop, most people use only a fraction of its capabilities. This is, in my view, one of the shortfalls of OziExplorer and it desperately needs a Windows version somewhat like Photoshop Elements, or even Photoshop Lightroom, for those that only want to do straightforward things, which in most cases is show where you are and record where you’ve been, and do so with simple, easy to use controls; much like what is available in the Android version.

If you use Windows CE, you can create simplified controls, but that’s not an option when using a Windows PC. The Android interface is a lot better, with simplified controls for basic features. OziExplorer should have had a simplified user interface a long time ago, similar to what is available in every basic navigation system currently available. Whether that will ever arrive is anyone’s guess.

As OziExplorer uses a proprietary format, you have to convert your map information into that format. There is a free application available from OziExplorer that does this and it’s not overly complicated, but it is another hurdle one needs to overcome before you can start doing anything with the software. Maps can be created by scanning existing paper maps, converting images available in soft copy form such as Hema maps, or buying pre-converted maps from specialist suppliers.

To use OziExplorer, you must buy the PC version and then if you want to run navigation on a Windows CE or Android device, you need to purchase an additional licence; but if you're using a Windows tablet, then you have all the features at hand. You can’t produce trip plans etc for the Windows CE or Android version without the full PC version.

The OziExplorer web site:

Memory Map

Memory Map has been around for a few years, but recently has been making some inroads into the off-road navigation scene. I haven’t personally used it (at the time I wrote this), but have installed the software and had a look at the basic free map of Australia.

Memory Map has been designed to work on far more platforms than OziExplorer (and most other mapping systems that I'm familiar with) and in an opposite vein to OziExplorer; Memory Map provides the map reading software for free and requires you to purchase their maps or convert certain map formats using their conversion software. Having used the trial version, I don’t think that there is a huge difference in the interface, though the Memory Map interface is tidier compared to OziExplorer and the buttons are significantly larger. Large buttons are especially useful when using a touch screen; however, once you’ve selected some action with one of the buttons, the resulting screen or dialogue box that appears is just a basic one with small buttons. In other respects, Memory Map is similar to OziExplorer in what it does and how it can display information. One very neat feature is the ability to run two screens at the same time, one in regular size and the other enlarged for closer detail (within the limits of the raster image).

Setting up a GPS, in my view, isn’t as good as with OziExplorer, which provides very comprehensive support for GPS models and will do such things as a system search to find the port to which the GPS is connected. With Memory map, you have to manually find the correct port, which for some can be a daunting task. I tried out Memory Map with a GPS (a u-blox GPS/Galileo board attached to a GPS antenna) and setting it up is much like it is with OziExplorer (though OziExplorer does have a GPS search function in it's configuration panel).

That’s as much as I can confidently say about Memory map, not having used it for real world navigation (now updated further on).

The Memory Map web site: Memory-Map Aus/NZ | Topo Maps | Marine Charts | GPS Software for PC Android and iOS


I've included ExplorOz in this section because it sort of compliments OziExplorer and Memory Map through the maps that are now available as well as trek notes that can be used with both systems, available from the ExplorOz website. ExplorOz has recently embarked on producing a completely new Australia map and I have the latest production and, while it isn't quite as complete as I expected, the quality is overall very good. The mapset is being developed at a rapid pace and should soon be providing some very good mapping for off-roaders. I'll provide more information when I can get some more information from the developers.

EOTopo @ ExplorOz Articles

Spatial Vision

I've included Spatial Vision in this section as well, as they provide Ozi Explorer formatted maps for Victoria. At his point in time, In have limited information about the level of accuracy of tracks provided in the maps.


I’ll mention Garmin because I have it installed on my tablet and have the Garmin Topo Australia maps as well, but Garmin has completely dropped the ball when it comes to off-road navigation by giving up on PC based navigation support. As a bit of background, Gamin offers a range of mapping software, for free, that allows you to load maps, plan trips etc on a PC (using an application called Basecamp), but it does not offer a navigation program. Some years ago Garmin did offer such a program called nRoute (which was free) and then replaced that with a program called Garmin Mobile PC (purchase only), but then removed that entirely from its inventory. So now there is no supported navigation software available, except for that incorporated in Garmin GPS and hand held navigation devices.

So how am I able to use Garmin Topo maps on my tablet? Well, clever and dedicated GPS fans have kept these old files and other support stuff alive and nRoute is still available for download. It’s a pretty easy thing to install, but there are a few hoops to jump through to get everything working 100%. The annoying thing, however, is that nRoute does not offer the same level of detail and colour separation that you get with Basecamp, as the formats used by both programs are slightly different, so the level of information is not carried across.

Because nRoute (and Basecamp) use vector maps, one can zoom in and out at will and not lose any detail. In my view, vector maps are what every navigation system should be using. That said, I generally prefer Oziexplorer over nRoute, because it’s easier to see the separation between contour lines and tracks. As a side note, with vector maps, it’s easily possible to change the way everything is displayed on the map, ie colours, line strengths, points of interest etc, it’s just whether that has been programmed into the software. Garmin hasn’t done that.

The Garmin web site: Garmin | Australia | Home


Magellan is much like Garmin, in that the products they offer are very similar and work much the same way. It seems that both of these GPS providers appear to have embarked on road only (pun intended) handheld units, be they dedicated GPS units or mobile phones. So I’m not going to say much more about Magellan, as they don’t support tablet computers at the moment. I’m sure that will come, but I fail to understand why it hasn’t happened already.

The Magellan web site: Magellan Handheld GPS | Australian GPS, Maps and Accessories


I'll add this system, considering that it's something that I wasn't aware of earlier, but noting that it's not something that I've tried. As best as I can understand, CompeGPS and TwoNav are separate, but related products, where you use the former to plan trips etc and the latter to actually navigate about. I gather it's a bit like OziExplorer for PC for trip planning etc and OziExplorer for Windows CE/Android for navigation. I did download the free trial of both pieces of software, but when I tried to enable the trial, I was required to provide so much personal detail that I uninstalled the lot. I could have provided false information, but I don't see why I should have provided anything more than an email address.

The CompeGPS/TwoNav web site: CompeGPS TwoNav GPS, software, maps and dual navigation

In Part 3, I’ll cover the remaining options, as they may be of interest to some and in Part 4 provide some opinions on what's what.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Part 3

Route 66

Route 66 was originally designed for portable devices like PDAs and mobile phones, but is now available for Android and iOS devices, including tablets, but it appears that Windows phones are no longer supported. I’ve been using Route 66 with my Windows phone for many years and still find it one of the best navigation software options that you can get. I’ve updated the software whenever a new set of maps becomes available, as it has managed to save my skin a number of times when trying to find my way somewhere I haven’t been before.

The level of track detail that is available with Route 66 is surprising; there haven’t been many tracks in the bush that have not shown up on the phone while out and about in the bush. I’ve even pinned our campsite and then gone for a drive off-road and later asked the navigator to get us back to the campsite, and it hasn’t faltered, taking a completely different and shorter route back, but it's a pain to look at that small screen. I’m assuming that you get exactly the same program for an Android device, so if this is the case, it’s potentially a viable option for a combined street and off-road package.

The Route 66 web site:


iGO is very similar to Route 66, being one of the many options available for street navigation and which is often thrown in with various Chinese supplied navigators and car head units. My 7” head unit came with iGO8 pre-installed, with all of Australia covered and, like Route 66 when in the bush; just about every track I’ve been on has been displayed on the screen. The level of detail isn’t as good as with Route 66, but a track is a track, so in general terms it’s just as good. But off-road, just about doesn't really cut it.

Now iGO is a complete enigma when it comes to finding anything about it. It’s a European based system; however, when you go to the iGO web site, you can’t find anything about Australia, yet clearly the program is available. I find it a useful program for seeing what roads are coming up if I’m looking for something and have it enabled all the time while driving, but when I want to navigate somewhere, I use Route 66. The funny thing is that the iGO web site actually lists support for 4WD routing in Australia, for iGO Primo, which is the very latest version. That said, I wouldn’t go looking for iGO as a starting point.

The iGO web site:


I’ll just mention Nokia, as I have a Nokia 6110 mobile phone that was the first phone with free navigation software. This software covered all of Australia in detail and had every 4WD track based on whatever map datum was available at the time. For a time after that, Nokia dropped the free map support, but has once again introduced this with all of their smart phones. The quality of navigation is very much like that with Route 66, except that you don’t ever (at the moment anyway) have to pay for any map upgrades.

The Nokia web site:


There are other products similar to Route 66 and iGo; CoPilot being one which I tried many years ago and found to be utterly awful, as it was only designed to provide turn-by-turn voice guidance and would not work unless you set a destination. Judging by their web site, that’s still how it works.

The CoPilot web site:


Google/Bing/OpenStreetMap are mapping services that are increasingly being used by those who depend on mobile services; be it smart phone, tablet, laptop or whatever. The supposed advantage of these mapping options is that they are real time and provide additional features not available to systems that are pre-installed in devices.

In part that is true, but their effectiveness depends on having an appropriate internet connection and data service. In the bush, this is not going to be a common occurrence, for the moment at least. But as things develop, it seems that these services will allow you to download maps for use while off-line and that may be a big change in the way we view navigation software.

The Bing Maps web site:

The Google Maps web site:

The OpenStreetMap web site:

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Part 4

I’ve intentionally left out systems like VMS, which for most people is completely out of their price bracket, compared to what you can get from eBay (though very good if you can afford a unit), and others like the Hema navigators which still only provide small screens. So where does that leave you and what should you get for off-road navigation? Unfortunately, for detailed navigation that provides visual results similar to good quality paper maps, the only options that I'm aware of are really OziExplorer or Memory Map, and maybe CompeGPS/TwoNav. Which are are better? Flip a coin.

For vector maps that allow far greater flexibility and options, Route 66 appears to be a potential option, but not having seen it perform on a tablet, I couldn’t guarantee how well it works overall in off-road situations. The sad thing is, one of the best and most versatile navigation systems that I’ve ever owned, died through lack of interest. There was a program called The Ultimate Map of Australia (TUMAUS), http://www.mapsdownu...TUMAUS-VIC.html, which delivered just about everything you wanted/needed in an easy to use package. It was simply brilliant. Unfortunately, it’s now only available to our New Zealand neighbours, TUMONZ - The Ultimate Map of New Zealand. Now in transverse mercator (NZTM) featuring LINZ Topo50 scanned maps. Why no one has since produced anything like this is beyond my understanding.

One of the things about tablet based GPS units, where the tablet does not have an in-built GPS, is that the configuration setup can be daunting for those not familiar with computing systems. For the most part, external GPS units are not 'Plug and Play' as are most USB peripherals and rely on what is called a COM (communications) port that the computer creates. When you plug in an external GPS, a COM port is often automatically created, as long as the GPS driver is available, but it doesn't automatically tell the navigation software what the COM port is, you have to find it yourself (at least that's how Windows based systems work). That's what often causes immense frustration with many users, as they don't know where to start. This is how you can find the COM port:
  • Open Control Panel (depending how your user interface is set up the menu location may be different to other setup, or you can type in the search field Control Panel and it should bring that up as well as show Device Manager)
  • In the Control Panel screen, find Device Manager and click on that (or System and then Device Manager)
  • In Device Manager, find Ports (COM & LPT) and click on the arrow to open up the list
  • You should see one or more items and one should clearly identify the GPS, with the COM port listed in brackets (this is the number that you select in the software panel of the navigation program to identify where the GPS can be found)
Another thing that I might point out about GPS units is that some tablets come with the ability to install a GPS module into a mini-PCIE slot contained inside the unit. As far as I know, this is not possible with iOS devices and most Android ones as well, but if your unit does support this feature (laptops and notebooks usually will support modules), be aware of the pitfalls should you go looking for a GPS mini-PCIE module (such as through eBay). Just about every manufacturer will provide support for only certain identified devices and if you buy a module that hasn't been given that support, you will be out of luck getting it to work. The problem is that devices are often identified at the computer's BIOS level, which is hardwired and, other than through BIOS updates, can't be changed.

Just about any USB antenna will work, but again it depends on whether drivers are available for the antenna, this is important when considering smart antennas (antenna and GPS combined). I have an outstanding USB GPS antenna (SANAV GM-48 ), but it has no driver support whatsoever for Windows 7 and I can't get it to work. This antenna was designed for Windows XP maximum and I haven't been able to find any way to get it to work with Windows 7 (that's Windows 7 Home Premium and I may have to update to Windows 7 Pro to get the XP compatibility function, which may help). So if you go looking for such antennas, make certain they are supported by your OS. Usually you won't have any issues with Bluetooth based GPS antennas. I have a Bluetooth Nokia LD-3W GPS antenna and it works fine with my Gigabyte tablet and it uses SiRF Star III technology, so it's reasonably good. But with Bluetooth GPS antennas, you have to always be aware of battery status, though you can connect them full time to a car power source.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Part 5

I'm posting this as a guide for those who have purchased a head unit, or any handheld using the Windows CE operating system, with navigation capability and want to install OziExplorer CE. This assumes that you have purchased the CE version of OziExplorer and have the key,

If the head unit came with an SD card and navigation software, such as iGO, you need to ensure that you have an SD card with at least 4GB of storage, so that you can install OziExplorer compatible maps.

Step 1

Go to the folder in your PC where you downloaded and extracted the file and copy the OziExplorerCE.key that was emailed to you file into that folder. Then insert an SD card into your PC and copy the entire folder into the SD card so that you can see a main folder called wince_core_runtime_arm amongst the navigation software that came with the head unit. In that folder should be a copy of all the PC files and the key.

Step 2

Next put the SD card in the head unit and select the GPS program and then exit the program, which should then take you to a settings menu. These are all slightly different, depending on the unit, so you’ll just need to hunt around until you find the right menu. In the settings menu, you will have an option to select where the navigation software resides ie which folder, select the wince_core_runtime_arm folder and when that opens, select OziExplorerCE.exe and hit OK, and then work your way back to the settings menu.

Step 3

Once in the settings menu, select navigation and the GPS should start with OziExplorer. However, unless you have compatible maps, you will only see the world map that comes with the software.

Step 4

If you have OziExplorer compatible maps, then you need to install them at Step 1. Go to the folder or CD/DVD that contains the maps, copy them and them paste them into the Maps folder that is within the wince_core_runtime_arm folder. When you have started OziExplorer in the head unit, you will need to tell the program where the maps reside. The Maps folder is the defaut folder, so it should pick them up without assistance. You can create additional map folders and name them what you want, if you have a variety of compatible maps.

Step 5

You can go back and forth between navigation programs via the navigation settings menu.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Part 6

I thought I’d provide a bit of a rundown on Windows OS based devices, and this applies to all tablets, notebooks, laptops and PCs that run on Windows, which include pretty much all versions of Windows. The Windows OS has been the most ubiquitous system for running navigation systems for many years and there are any number of navigation programs and peripheral equipment that are compatible with the Windows OS. The huge user base has ensured that Windows has been the dominant OS for anything to do with consumer navigation (excepting devices that are pre-installed with navigation software amd maps).

With the advent of tablets, the personal navigation scene is changing rapidly and so what I’m writing about needs to be tempered with the fact that I’m only discussing the Windows OS environment and associated devices. I’ll leave out mobile phones and personal navigation devices (like the Tom Tom etc) from this discussion, as they form an entirely different class of navigation device; while this discussion is about large-screen, portable devices, able to be used in vehicles. I will make some comparisons to the other tablets, such as Android based ones, as some comparisons have to be made so that the Windows discussion makes sense.

The beauty of Windows based devices, be it a tablet, notebook etc, is that they generally come with everything that one expects to find in a full blown PC, plus a few extras, but in a reduced form factor. So everything that you are familiar with in your desktop environment, translates directly to the portable device. Windows based notebooks and laptops have been used for in-car navigation for years and this is where OziExplorer has gain a significant foothold in the market, as it was just about the only relatively inexpensive and easy to use system available for most people.

Firstly, let’s talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Windows based devices, and for this part, I’ll use my Gigabyte S1080 tablet as an example. The Gigabyte is a 10.1” form-factor capacitive, multi-touch, 1024x600 tablet, running an Intel Atom dual core processor clocked at 1.66GHz, supplied with 2GB Ram, with either an 64/128GB SSD or 320GB 2.5” 7mm form-factor HDD, with a plethora of I/O ports and running Windows 7 x32 or x64. All the specifications can be found here: http://www.gigabyte....spx?pid=3690#sp. The 320GB, Home Premium version currently sells at less than $540, not a bad buy for such a fully specified tablet (aka PC).

The downside of the Gigabyte tablet is that it is heavier than the usual Android or Apple tablet, for example, it weighs 825g with 320GB HDD (according to my scales, ~850g according Gigabyte) vs the Galaxy tab 10.1 at 565g. Dimensions are much the same, other than depth which is 14.9mm vs the Samsung at 8.6mm. Battery life is also a lot less with the Gigabyte (and most Windows based devices) being around 4hrs vs the Samsung at 9hrs. But it’s difficult to do a direct comparison, because the Gigabyte battery duration is not specified for any particular task, whereas the Samsung is specified for video only. That said, the Gigabyte has a 4000mAh battery vs the Samsung’s 7000mAh battery, so the Samsung battery is almost twice the capacity and so one would expect it to last longer.

When the battery in the Gigabyte starts to fail, I might see if a larger capacity one is available, as it’s a common battery type and form-factor. Mind you, it does take an external battery as well, but that simply adds to bulk and weight. That said, Windows devices do tend to have a lower overall battery life than the competitor’s tablets. But that’s not really an issue for in-car navigation, as one is most likely to have constant power to the tablet while driving.

But where one gains with the likes of the Gigabyte is the fact that one has available numerous I/O ports, which most tablets lack, and the ability to add and swap components internally. The Gigabyte allows you to change the HDD, the battery, add components using the mini-PCIE connector (but with some limitations mentioned previously due to the BIOS), add a vast array of software and even install Linux or Android OS. The latter is an interesting development and something that I’ve dabbled in, but not yet managed to get working satisfactorily. Linux works a treat.

The important thing of course is that one can install a wide variety of navigation software and use a similarly wide array of GPS devices to supply data to the navigation software, and with the addition of a simple application called Franson GPSGate; you can run multiple navigation programs using just one GPS unit. For example, I can run OziExplorer and Garmin nRoute at the same time and just switch between the two at will, depending on what I want to see. I can use a dedicated internal GPS, a USB GPS or a Bluetooth GPS; all will work fine with the tablet and Windows. The Android and iOS based tablets now have a pretty good range of software available as well, so I wouldn’t say that Windows is exclusive in any way.

While the following is not a sales pitch for Windows, one of the things that I do find comforting with a Windows based system, compared to Android, is that Android systems seem to be very much tied to the hardware and when new versions appear, you cannot (or cannot easily) upgrade to the new software version. That, from what I have read, might be an issue with Windows 8 when it is finally released, as I believe that there will be a version more or less tied to a hardware specification and a version that is more akin to the current style. I can’t think of anything worse than an OS completely locked to the hardware and unable to be updated.

One thing I didn’t mention is that Windows based devices are traditionally aimed at business users, which is why they have the specifications often lacking in Android tablets, which are mainly aimed at the consumer market and social type activities (though not saying they can’t do other things as well). The Gigabyte is not the only Windows based tablet around, but they are far fewer than Android versions. The nature of Windows based tablets will likely change with the advent of Windows 8, which is designed specifically around gesture and app based environments.

Following on from that, one of the things where Windows has lagged in the tablet environment, when compared to Android and iOS (specifically iPad) is the way gestures work. Android and iOS are clearly ahead of Windows and is a point that is often made when it comes to Windows tablets. That said, it depends on what one is after and I’m not convinced that it’s as big a deal as it's made out to be and very much clearly depends on what you actually want to do with a tablet. For most of the things I do with my tablet, I prefer a mouse (or I use the thumb mouse) and keyboard most times, but when using the tablet for navigation, gesture control may not really be something that is entirely practical (note: this view has somewhat changed as described later on). The other point, which I mentioned previously, is that the controls provided by most navigation software is not really touch/gesture friendly anyway (with icons being far too small) and not something easily used in a moving vehicle in any case (nor should one perhaps).

Windows based tablets certainly aren’t the in thing at the moment, but that may change come Windows 8. But one should note that many people use not just tablets, but notebooks and laptops as well, for in-car navigation. You can often buy a notebook/laptop, with a larger screen, for far less than a quality tablet and possibly get far more functionality for your money. Many people already have a notebook/laptop and getting in to in-car navigation with tools already available is a far cheaper option than going directly to a tablet. In many cases, it might be a better option to try things out this way, rather than find that a tablet doesn’t really address things all that well. With a notebook/laptop, you can fairly easily make up a support so that it can sit on the passenger seat (as long as there’s no passenger), rather than try and make up relatively complicated supports for a tablet.

I started out using a notebook for navigation and know of others who still use this approach without drama. I used to use a small 9” Fujitsu notebook (I still have it and it works fine), dash mounted for navigation, but with my eyes, the screen resolution was far too high for comfortable reading, especially on the move. This is an aspect that one needs to consider when looking at any device that you might want to use for navigation, as many tablets are moving to higher resolution screens so that video renders better, but this in turn this makes other things much harder to read, if you don’t have the eyesight of a typical teenager. With LCD screens, you can’t generally lower the resolution in order to make writing and the like larger and easier to read, so some visual aspects become poorer, rather than better.

So while many don’t consider or even think that a Windows based system is worth considering for in-car navigation, it can have a valid place depending on many factors. It may not have the wow factor of the latest tablet or whatever, but it has a solid background with a lot of legacy support that may be of greater benefit that having the latest and greatest device, which is soon surpassed by the next latest and greatest device.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Part 7

I thought I'd do an update on Memory Map. I once again installed the software and this time I also downloaded the Hema Eastern Australia map set, as well as the UBD Victoria map set, and then activated the demo (which lasts for 10 days). I won't go over what I wrote previously, as that's all still mostly valid, but with the map sets now installed, I had a better idea of how things worked.

Firstly, the Hema maps are excellent, buy far the best and easily read maps that I own next to my Rooftop mapset (I also have the Garmin Topo Australia mapset as well as the Maptrax Vicmap1:25,000 mapset). While the Hema and Rooftop maps are raster maps and don't scale seamlessy like vector maps, on the 10" screen, the detail and text is very easy to read and doesn't break up too badly when scaling out. The tracks, rivers and contour details and colour separation is outstanding, making it very easy to know exactly where you are on a track while on the move. On the subject of moving, the software picked up the GPS quickly and accurately (that's with my u-Blox GPS). I haven't tried it out yet while actually in the Patrol using the Garmin GPS, but will do so later, especially to see if the maps automatically move across from one to the other.

One other thing to note is that afer you've downloaded and unzipped the Hema map files, you can store them initially anywhere you want, but you must then copy the unzipped file into a C:/Maps folder that you need to create. I simply referred the software to where I initially downloaded and unzipped the maps file, and when trying to activate the maps, nothing would happen. It was only when I found a PDF instruction file that it highhlighted the importance of creating the C:/Map folder (though the help file indicates that you can store maps elsewhere) that things worked. Also, the license that you buy allows you to operate the maps on two PCs, or a variation, depending on what you choose. Using the maps on a large PC screen for trip planning is excellent and is something I will be trying out and comparing the exprience to that of OziExplorer. Though one annoying aspect is that the dialogue box used to open various maps allows you to select maps to open in a new window, which allows you to tile the maps on one screen, but this option isn't persistent. That means you have to remember to select the check box every time, or else the new map just replaces the current one. It's not a big deal, just annoying.

What I did find interesting with the Hema maps is that there are several versions covering often the same areas, but with more extensive coverage overall. For example, there is an East Gippsland version that goes (measuring west to east) from Dargo to Cape Howe and then there's a High Country Victoria Eastern and Western versions, that cover from approx Jamieson to Omeo and Lindenow to Orbost respectively. These are from points on the lines of longitude. What's interesting is that I was expecting the High Country maps to have more track details that the East Gippsland map, but when I look at a common point like Buchan, for example, the East Gippsland map has more tracks marked than the High Country one. Though the level of detail, countours/names/etc are better in the latter. Obviously this is something to consider when out and about. However, because you can have two or more maps open at the same time, you can get the best of both worlds, but only if you have a large enough screen.

The Hema maps are so good, that I bought the Eastern Australia set and I think this will become my default software when out and about in the High Country. On a further note, the great feature about the Memory Map system is that you don't have to buy an entire set of maps covering all of Australia, you can buy just the area/s that you need and at $39 for the Eastern Australia set, that's pretty good value. Now there's one thing about buying the maps that isn't all that well set out and that's how you actually pay for the maps. It took me a bit of time to figure out how one actually buys the maps. You download the maps from the web site, but there's nothing there that enables you to actually pay for them on the web site.

What you have to do is go into the Help/License Information section of the menu, then click Sign In (if you registered for the trial, you'll have a username and password), then select Online Info and that will take you to the Memory Map web site where you can buy the versions that you want. Be sure to select carefully, so that you don't inadvertently buy a version for your phone, when you actually want one for your tablet. From there it's pretty straight forward as it takes you to a shopping cart. Once you've done that, you have to got back to the License Information dialogue box, select the software you purchased and then click Activate. All done and you can now use the maps indefinitely.

I also tried out the UBD maps, but they really aren't of great value to me, as they only cover a limited number of towns (thought still fairly extensive) and so the Route 66 maps in my phone are much better in total coverage, so I deleted these maps and don't intend to buy them.

If you're thinking about which way to go with off-road mapping, try out Memory Map before you settle on anything, it may become your choice.

I'll provide more feedback after I've had some time seeing how it works.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Part 8

After some playing around with the maps themselves, there are some shortfalls in what you can actually get. If the High Country is of interest, then you're pretty well covered, but if you want areas in the western or central part of Victoria, for example, then the coverage is not there. Here's an overall map that shows exactly what it covered by the Eastern Australia maps (note: this map shows all of Australia's coverage, so you need to look at just the eastern seaboard):

The link will take you to the relevant page and you can get a bigger image by clicking on the map. As you can see, a lot of Victoria and Queensland isn't covered, which is a bit of a shame.

To illustrate what sort of map detail etc you can get with the maps, here's a screen shot showing Buchan using the High Country Victoria Eastern map, the East Gippsland map and the Vic State map, respectively; all on the same screen on my PC. The level of detail clearly varies with each map, but it's interesting that the Vic State map shows terrain to some extent, whereas the supposedly more detailed East Gippsland map does not show that or contours and you can see that the middle map shows more tracks than the left hand one. I'm not sure why the differences, but it's something to be aware of when you choose a map option for navigation.

The Vic State map is actually very good, and likely so will be the other state maps, especially if you are travelling across state and interstate, as it gives excellent detail of all major and minor roads, as well as many lesser roads. It's almost a complete replacement for an Australia road map. This can be very useful for seeing the big picture when planning and travelling and the fact that you can have this and other maps open at the same time is a very smart feature.

I did a drive today and tried to use the Garmin GPS module, after changing the settings in Memory Map, but something was amiss and the Garmin GPS did not show up. I don't think it's a problem with Memory Map, but possibly something to do with the tablet recognising the GPS, as I couldn't find it identified in Device Manager. I'll have to do some further research tomorrow and see if I can figure out what's wrong. I have a feeling that I may have to invoke GPSGate so that the Garmin GPS can be read. Update: I had another look at the map (Vic State map) that I was running today and lo and behold, there's a track marked, covering the route that I did today. So clearly the Garmin was working, but I didn't see a marker when I started running it; something to check.

There's another feature that I tried out with Memory Map and that's the 3D World, a feature which renders the map you're using in three dimensional mode. Here's a 2D shot of the image, followed by a 3D rendering:

From my point of view, the 3D rendering is interesting, but more a novelty feature than something truely practical. I couldn't work out how to exactly move the 3D map around, other than tilt, swivel and enlarge the render. It also took a lot of hunting to find the 3D rendering files, and only through a Google search did these come up. In this respect, the Memory Map map web site is seriously lacking information, unless I've completely missed something along the way. I might point out one good thing about how the 3D map works and, that is, it's displayed in a separate screen to the original, so you don't have to lose your main map. Here's the link for the 3D elevation data files:

Another interesting observation about Memory Map is that it has excellent touch control response on my tablet and, noting how many say that Windows 7 is not very good when it comes to touch control, this is quite surprising. I can move the map around easily with one finger and it reacts well to two finger control (pinch and expand) to reduce/enlarge the scale of the map, so it's clearly been designed to work on tablets and other mobile devices. This aspect makes it very good for in-car use, as this pretty much negates what I said earlier about the icons in the menu bar, including my comment on touch controls, as one of the most often used features for me when off-road is simply enlarging the map scale or moving the map about to see what's coming up.

Another small feature I thought worth mentioning is that the night mode is one of the better thought out features, compared to many navigation devices that I've used. In most devices, the night mode normally is not much more than a reversal of all colours, so the light background become black etc. With Memory Map, night mode overlays a light red layer over the background, which is ideal when operating at night. It still leaves all map features visible, but a bit like night operations on a war vessel. OziExplorer also has this feature and provides even more options.

The other feature available with Memory Map is the ability to merge maps into one seamless map and I believe that OziExplorer has this feature as well. The method for doing this is very easy; however, I couldn't get it to work, as every time I tried doing this, I got an error message. I've emailed Memory Map with a description of the issue and hope to get an answer in time. Contacting Memory Map through the web site was an impossible task, as the only technical contact method was through a typical set of mandatory questions and one question required you to provide a serial number, what for I have no idea as there are no serial numbers for the software or maps, and so the transmission failed every time. Fortunately, when I went into the help menu of the software, they had a technical services email address listed: [email protected]. Whether this achieves anything I'll just have to wait and see, but why this address isn't displayed on the web site is beyond me.

Update: To my surprise, I received an answer the next day and the issue was quickly resolved; all I had to do was uncheck the read only box in the folder properties and merge immediately worked. However, one annoying aspect of the merge function is that you can’t define where the merged map is saved and it goes into the Programs folder, which means you have to hunt it down and then move it to the Maps folder.

This is an image of part of the merged map showing how it deals with map boundaries (it looks kind of off, but it’s quite seamless in the rest of the image):

This is the problem with all maps that are derived from scans of paper maps and I don’t understand why you can’t get the Hema or Rooftop maps as a proper digital image without all the stuff that obscures the map itself; afterall, that's what they were before the extras were added for printing.

I might point out one more nifty feature and that's the ability to synchronise views. What that means is that you can have two maps open at the same time, displayed side by side or one on top of the other, and as you move one map around, the other will follow suit. What's so great about that? Well, you can have the same map open on two panels and both at different scales, so you can see a close up and a wide view of where you are, or where you are going. But they don't have to be the same map, if you have two maps that cover the same area but with different detail, for example, the Vic State Map and the High Country Victoria Western map, moving one will also move the other so that they both move in concert but showing different detail. The three maps that I showed above, if synchronised, will all move about to keep the position in view for all maps as you move one map about, or when connected to a GPS, when the map moves about. That is one very handy feature and the great thing is that you can expand either map to show it full screen, move it once and then reduce it to show both maps and the other one will be at the same position.

And just one more update and that's to do with printing maps. Memory Map must have one of the easiest designs for printing a screen image that I've used so far. All you do is select the print option, select the scaling mode, and if you select 'Print Selected Area', a green box overlays the screen that you can then adjust (in which case the box goes red) and you can then fully control the print area to whatever you want. You can also print to a scale, which will automatically cover the required area to match the chosen scale. This is a screen capture showing the final selected area before printing:

As a side note Memory Map sell a paper that is ink jet and laser printable and supposedly completely waterproof, but unfortunately it only comes in A4 size and is a tad expensive, but could be useful for those that like to hold a paper map in hand.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Part 9

One of the features that many people want with an off-road navigation program is the ability to do trip planning in advance on a PC, using a large screen, and then transfering the trip to a mobile device. Both Memory Map and OziExplorer provide the ability to do this, but after working with both in parallel, I find Memory Map to be a lot easier to get your head around, due to it's simpler interface. No matter how many times I've tried, I just can't get comfortable with OziExplorer and usually give up in frustration; this is not a fault of OziExplorer, it's just me and probably a lack of patience. It's like that Photoshop analogy I gave earlier; Photoshop is such a powerful program, that unless I use it all the time and have really studied how it works, I always feel frustrated when trying to do something relatively simple that I haven't done for a while. With Memory Map, it's just a matter of clicking on the New Route icon in the menu bar and, either with a mouse or your finger (if using a touch sensitive tablet), plot out your trip. It'll record each click as a waypoint and at the end, you'll have a full record of the trip with coordinates, altitudes etc available for viewing. You can then save the trip as an overlay that can be recalled at any time or exported to a second device. You can also modify the way the trip is displayed through colour changes to the track and line styles etc.

In one respect, trip planning is very similar to OziExplorer, in that the idea is to use the PC version to plan trips and then transfer the trip plan to a mobile device. To this end, I haven't yet tried out how the trip will display on my Windows tablet, when using it to follow a pre-planned trip (I'll try it out when I plan to do a slightly longer trip). A nice feature is that I can have the trip overlay open and then change to a different type of map covering the same area and the overlay transfers and scales correctly to the new map. You can also have several maps open at the same time and the trip overlay will display on each map. Here's a screenshot of such a trip plan showing the trip on two different maps:

Once you've drawn your trip, you can either save the overlay file to your PC and then copy it to another similar device, like my tablet, or transfer it to mobile device connected to the PC or to a GPS. I connected my Garmin eTrex to my PC, selected the COM port and then selected Export to GPS and Route. When I checked the eTrex, the full route was installed. That had to be the easiest transfer I've probably ever done. In fact, contrary to my earlier issues, I found that a Garmin GPS connects pretty much automatically. One of the issues that I had was that when a GPS connects and your position is located, the marker that shows your position isn't quite as clear as with OziExplorer, which will show a much clearer position marker and you can even create your own markers. I haven't found a way to improve the marker sign or colour on Memory Map (it's a red circle that almost blends in with the map details - a blue circle would have been much better).

There are other things available on your map as well, such as elevation profiles, provided that you've downloaded the elevation data from the Memory Map website. This is what the elevation profile looks like for the above trip - the scaling is somewhat exaggerated in this screen shot:

Again, this is a feature that also available on OziExplorer.

There's one feature about Memory Map that isn't as good as OziExplorer and that's map conversion. OziExplorer has a pretty good (free) program available that will convert certain map formats into the .ozfx/.map format that OziExplorer reads. Whereas, with Memory Map, you need to purchase a map conversion program that, in the trial, didn't provide what I'd call ideal maps. It's easy enough to convert various map formats and then calibrate them, but I was stuck with very large TIFF files, which were the only ones that worked. I haven't received any response from Memory Map explaining how to overcome this or whether the licensed version does an actual conversion to the Memory Map format, thus saving significant disk space. If one only has the relatively limited space available with the likes of Android tablets, then you won't be able to store many maps if they have to be in TIFF format to work. The Memory Map program does a conversion of a TIFF format on the fly, but appears to still require the TIFF file as it doesn't same the converted file, or that's what it appears to be doing. I hope to get a clear answer from Memory Map.

I've also recently been trying to convert and calibrate some MapTrax files (available in ECW format), but for the life of me, I can't get the calibration to accurately reflect the actual position. I have accurate coordinate data with the ECW files, but when I use that to calibrate the maps, they can be way off from the actual position. I had slight success in converting the coordinate data (which is in UTM) to degree and minutes with a conversion program, but it's still not ideal. More work need with this if it's to prove effective.

Update 1: I finally figured out how to get the conversions and calibrations to work and the end process turned out a lot easier than I anticipated. I finally also worked out how to retain the converted files and get rid of the TIFF files. It all works very well, but more on this later.

Update 2: It's turned out quite surprising how effectively both Memory Map and OziExplorer, used together, have enabled me to create more functional mapsets using the power of both systems. Where one falls short in one aspect, the other takes up that task with aplomb. To be quite honest, I don't think I could have achieved, or only with great difficulty, what I wanted without owning both Memory Map and OziExplorer, and their extensions.

Update 3: In trying to find a solution to my problem, I sought help from a couple of GPS forums, one being the Memory Map UK forum. There certainly doesn't seem to be much information available on map conversion in Memory Map, but what information I did get, eventually led me to figure out what I needed to do.

One interesting thing that sort of became a debate on one forum was a degree of antipathy towards Memory Map, most especialy because it was perceived that Memory Map required a proprietry map format. I still can't for the life of me see what the diference is between having to convert maps to the OziExplorer .ozf format or to the Memory Map .qct format, or one favoured program (TwoNav) that was being foisted on me. This is one issue that everyone needs to understand when considering a navigation system for use on a tablet that uses Windows, Android or iOS, rather than a handheld GPS. It doesn't matter what you choose, you still have to get maps from somewhere and that usually means buying them; paper versions or digital (I'm talking about the honest way of getting maps), quality ones don't come free.

So if every program can convert/read those formats (or there is a way to to convert one format to another), it doesn't really matter if the end result is a conversion to a proprietry file format that the mapping software can then read. That's where the swings and roundabout come in, as every mapping program has its advantages and disadvantages, you simply have to consider which features are the most important to you and what you want to do with the mapping program. I have several different mapping/navigation programs, simply because I've acquired them over the years as different products have become available. So what have worked and what haven't?

Garmin held a lot of potential, but after they dropped all support for mobile mapping on a PC, the system became almost useless. The mapping works, as does real time indication of location, but the map detail is rubbish because the only working mobile application (nRoute) does not render the higher quality map detail that you get with Basecamp (the diffence is huge because the map format has to be converted to an older format). What's even worse with Garmin is that they often tie your ability to use the software to one device, ie handheld GPS.

OziExplorer is still a great program and offers incredible versatility as I've found out in this exercise of map conversion. The downfall with OziExplorer is that it isn't designed for tablets/touch screens, everything still appears to be based on the assumption that the user will be working with a desktop PC or laptop and then transferring the information to a handheld device. Only the Android version has been designed for touch (and the Windows CE version to some extent), but it comes with a number of limitations from what I understand, ie it is really only a substitute for a handheld GPS in function.

Memory Map is designed from the outset to be more tablet/touch compatible (whether by design or not, it works) and provides some very neat features that are great for off-road navigation (for example, the dual screen) and it has a much simpler interface for vehicle use. It could do with some improvements (more ability to change settings), but as a whole, it seems to bridge the gap between OziExplorer for PC and OziExplorer for Android (or similar Android, iOS devices).

There may be other mapping programs about, or in the wind, and I suspect that with the introduction of Windows 8 and the new Surface tablet, those who have been ignoring Windows devices may start to produce or reintroduce their products for Windows.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Part 10

The image quality displayed by the various navigation systems is also very important, moreso when you're using smaller screen devices. Here's an example taken of a screen shot from my PC of the same map using Memory Map and OziExplorer (the Memory Map image is one converted from a TIF file).

Memory Map:


The Memory Map image was created by converting an ECW file into a TIF file and then converted to a Memory Map .qct file. Oddly enough, saving the same image into a TIF file, using OziExplorer, produces pretty much the same quality image as one converted using IrfanView, but with a lot smaller file size, which doesn't really matter, as you discard the TIF file anyway. The ECW file is approx 19MB and the .qct file is 20MB; still a fairly large file. The OziExplorer .ozfx file is only about 6MB, so a lot smaller, but the strange thing is that when I tried to open the .ozfx3 file, OziExplorer consistently showed that the file that was open was an ECW file. I'm not sure what's going on here, and whether OziExplorer is converting the ECW file on the fly into an ozfx3 file and still showing the original file name. That doesn't really sound right.

That said, the Memory Map version of the image file produces a much cleaner image and holds up a lot better when enlarged beyound its native resolution. This is a fairly substantial difference and, for me at least, makes a pretty big difference when trying to read a map on the move. I guess OziExplorer has decided on a compromise between file size and image quality and that's why there's such a significant difference in the rendered images.

On the other hand, here's a comparison of what's happening with Garmin maps when using their only available navigation program nRoute and their latest mapping program Basecamp, you can see the significant difference in image quality between the two (these are using exactly the same maps and it's even more pronounced when looking at tracks etc).



When off-road, tracks on nRoute can be almost impossible to see at times. It does make one wonder what exactly goes through the marketers' minds (as it can't be anyone else to blame, as software engineers wouldn't do this) when they make decision that destroy a potentially great system.

So one thing you really need to check is the quality of the mapping imagery, by giving the trials a go, before you commit to any one system. At least then you'll know what you're going to expect on your device when you go off-road etc. Note that these are examples from my systems and you should only use them for illustrative purposes, as different devices and systems may perform differently.

Update 1: I just converted 280 ECW files into TIF files, using IrfanView with reduced colour depth - 256K, and it only took about an hour. That map set covers pretty much half of Victoria from a line of longitude just east of the CBD. The quality of the TIF files is excellent, as good as above and much smaller, though the entire map set is still nearly 6GB. What remains to be done now is to calibrate the maps and then I'll have a complete set of topo maps to complement the Hema and Rooftop maps that I already have. There'll be a bit of work involved in calibrating each of the files, but now that I have the workflow sorted out, it's not going to be nearly the chore that I'd envisioned.

Update 2: I've been slowly calibrating the map files so that I can read them in Memory Map, which has revealed a few shortfalls in the system. I'm almost convinced that the people who designed the application, have never done extensive map calibration, using Memory Map.

The first issue is that the background colour of the Memory Map screen is pure white, with no option to change the colour to anything else. This presents a real problem when calibrating maps, as you often don't know where the map ends and where the background starts, because of maps that have sections of white in the corners (quite a few to be exact). There is a workaround fortunately, which adds a small amount of time to the calibration process, and that is to open up the associated .tab file for the respective ECW map file. This will give you the uncalibrated corner markers for the map (0:0, 10822:0 etc), which you can type in the calibration dialogue box and, using OziExplorer, find the accurate lat/long for each corner. But if you don't have these .tab files, you're out of luck.

The second issue is that for the calibrated maps to work, you have to create a boundary around the map using the route marker tool tool. This requires nothing more than selecting the route icon and then clicking each corner of the map until you get back to the start, and then selecting, from the menu, 'Boundary from Route'. The problem, once again, is that if you have a white corner against a white background, it's impossible to know where the corner is, because it blends in with the background. Just about any colour but white would have been better. Also, I simply don't understand why the boundary can't be created automatically from the calibrated lat/long corner points, as I'm pretty sure that this is how OziExplorer works.

The third Issue that I've found, which once again adds to the processing time, is that when you want to clear the screen and calibrate a new map, you have to go through a number of repetitive steps, rather than a simple selection that allows you to select 'Calibrate a Map' (my words), which resets everything and opens a file menu that allows you to select the next map. You now have to make four selections before the current map is cleared and a new map is ready for processing, which is quite absurd.

I've actually passed this feedback on to Memory Map, but all I've heard in return is that these features aren't available. Doh! I know that, which is why I've pointed out the shortfalls so that you can hitch your trousers up and fix them! Despite these frustrations, I like the way that Memory Map works and I'm looking forward to completing the calibration of my maps (about 50% complete) and then testing out how they work in real world of off-road navigation. If it's a complete crock, I'll let you know.

Update 3: I've finally finished the calibration, boundary setting etc and transferred the finished files to my tablet. It was a slightly longer task than I thought, but eventually I got through the lot. One thing I found out, after I'd completed the calibration and boundary marking job, was that I could have enabled a setting called 'Show Map Outlines', which would have given me the exact edges of each map for the boundary setting task. I don't understand why Memory Map support couldn't have told me this when I raised the issue before I started calibrating.

I had one major session of frustration after I'd completed the calibration task, and that was the transfer of the completed files to my tablet. When I did a copy and paste of the files to the tablet, and then deleted all the TIF files, all the Memory Map .qct files reverted to a 95K file with no map info whatsoever. I thought for a while that I'd lost everything that I'd done and was ready to scream bloody murder. Fortunately all of the work wasn't lost, as the data was stored in the .jpr files, but because of some utterly weird programming techniques and lack of documentation, the .qct files were only temporary files until you correctly copied them. So I had to resurrect all 280 .qct files by opening each map in succession and not refreshing in the interim ie, clearing the previously loaded map, and then copying the entire lot to a thumb drive and deleting the TIF files in preparation for transfer. I was able to do this on the tablet, but because my PC is significantly faster, I did it on the PC (because I'd also done a refresh on the PC) and then completed the transfer. The end result is excellent as far as image quality is concerned.

As an additonal comment, I've reverted back to the Nokia Bluetooth GPS, as after a test drive with the Garmin GPS18x USB unit, its signal acquisition ability seemed way inferior to the humble Nokia. I've been frustrated by the Garmin's preformance previously as well, as it seemed to always lose signal while my cheap GPS antenna connected to my Chinese head unit would just about always stay locked on. I'd like to locate the Garmin on the roof, where the signal would be more reliable, but the magnets are so weak that they wouldn't hold the unit in place for very long. I'll just have to see how things go. Mind you, the Bluetooth GPS will be handy, as I can take the tablet out of the vehicle and still get GPS signal.

Update 4: Another very neat feature that I discovered is that, say you have the Vic State Map open to see a wide are of the state, you can right click on any point on the map and a dialogue box opens, which allows you to select an option that shows maps that are available at the cursor. OziExplorer has a similar feature where you can click an icon to find a map north, south, east or west, or maps around the current map, but the Memory Map option is much neater, as you can scan for maps anywhere over a larger area. Here's a screen shot showing the dialogue box:

Chosing from the list in the drop down box opens that map and closes the original one. If you want, you can select 'Map List at Cursor', which opens the main dialogue box for map selection, so that you can open a selected map in a new screen, giving you the ability to view multiple maps at once. This is another very useful feature if you have a number of maps available that show different degrees of detail.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Part 11

Over the years, I’ve collected a number of different GPS antennas, smart antennas and purely GPS receivers. As I pointed out earlier, one of my favourites, SANAV GM-48 USB GPS, no longer seems to work because of lack of drivers, but the others are still working fine. In my collection, from oldest to newest (newest being about a year old), I have a Nokia LD-3W Bluetooth GPS, a Garmin eTrex Legend HCX, a u-Blox mini-PCIE GPS with an attached cheap Chinese antenna and a Garmin GPS18 USB smart antenna. I decided to do a limited test on the performance of these antennas, by setting them up in turn on my study window sill, which faces west and is partly obscured by dense trees etc and connected to my tablet. I used Oziexplorer as the program for observing the performance, as it has a much better visual representation of satellites and signal quality than Memory Map. So going from the newest to the oldest, a quick, but very unscientific rundown follows.

Garmin GPS18 USB - was able to see 12 satellites, but could not properly lock on to any of them, no matter how long I left the GPS connected. I’ve actually left it connected to my PC with OziExplorer running and get the same results. The signal quality was very poor at all times, but it was able to get a fix, just barely.

u-Blox mini-PCIE GPS - was a complete bust, totally failing to pick up anything more than one satellite and was having difficulty holding on to that as well. I suspect that the issue may be more to do with the antenna than the u-Blox unit itself, as I have had this working quite well when outside. But it’s under difficult signal conditions that you want these units to work solidly and when they don’t, they’re not of much use.

Garmin eTrex Legend HCX - locked and loaded almost instantly. It pulled in a strong signal from the outset; easily beating all the other units. I’m not sure what makes the handheld unit so much better at finding and holding a signal, but compared to its sibling the GPS18, it was better by a very healthy margin. I’d actually use this as my main GPS with the tablet, were it not for the awful positioning of the USB socket at the back of the unit that makes it a pain to locate anywhere on the dash. Also, heat is not a good friend of the eTrex, as the rubber surround has already come adrift and I'd be loathe to leave it on the dash for fear of other bits being affected by heat from the sun. But I’ll still carry it along as a reserve, as when connected by USB, you don’t need batteries installed.

Nokia LD-3W Bluetooth GPS - surprisingly, the Nokia was nearly as good at finding and holding a signal as the Garmin eTrex Legend HCX. It picked up as many satellites as the Garmin and the signal quality wasn’t that far behind either. Considering that the Nokia is quite an old unit in technology terms, it performed surprisingly well. Noting that you can pick these up on eBay for around $30, with chargers and all (, it’s probably not a bad buy for someone who wants a reasonable quality GPS smart antenna that will work with just about any device that has Bluetooth. The other good thing about the Nokia is that it has a replaceable battery, which means that it's a device that should go on working for a long time, versus units that are completely sealed.

SANAV GM-48 USB GPS - has got me truly baffled. I've managed to get the tablet to recognise the GPS as a valid device (Prolific) and issue it with a COM port (my x64 PC won't recognise it for some reason), but while my mapping programs are able to receive NMEA data from the GPS, I just don't seem to be getting any GPS fix. I've had the GPS sitting outside for quite a while to ensure that it has enough time for a cold start, but nothing seems to be happening. Update: I am totally chuffed! I've managed to get the GPS working, I'm not sure what I did, but it's doing what it's supposed to do. As a final resort, I left the GPS connected for much longer than before and when I went back to have a look, it had picked up all the satellites available and giving correct positioning. It will not work with Windows 7 x64 (can't find the drivers, even though I did download them), but does work with Windows 7 x32.

Garmin GLO - As I mention in an update earlier, Garmin has introduced a new Bluetooth GPS unit that reads both GPS and GLONASS signals. This could prove to be a very effective unit, as you now have the opportunity to read a significantly greater number of satellites, 24 additional ones apparently. This would be a boon in areas where the traditional GPS units struggle, such as urban areas or deep mountainous and forested locations. Apparently signal acquisition is also much faster and more frequent with the Garmin GLO than traditional GPS units. The odd thing is that Garmin seem to be promoting this for use with Android tablets and iPad only, and not other Bluetooth enabled devices, so there appears some uncertainty as to whether it will work with other devices. My understanding is that Bluetooth is a standard and therefore should work with any Bluetooth enabled device (depending on backwards compatibility of the Bluetooth version). It may be that once again the marketers are at work, thinking that no other GPS users exist but those with an Android or Apple product. My only concern with the device is my less than satisfactory results with the GPS 18 USB; I'd want absolute confirmation that it has better signal acquisition capabilities than this disappointing device.

Update 1. I now have the Garmin GLO and can confirm that it does indeed work with any device, and signal acquisition and retention is excellent. Many thanks to Prestige Communications for excellent service and patience with many questions:

This has by no means been a definitive test, but hopefully it will provide some insight into how at least three common GPS options (in this case two, premium, dedicated units), I'll ignore the u-Blox, perform when compared in the same working situation.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Part 12

Continuing on with aspects of using Memory Map, I came across an issue when I tried to view some maps on my tablet. I received a notification that I had to activate my Import Maps function. I couldn't figure what was going on here, as I'd purchased an Import Maps licence for my PC, which I'd used to convert maps to the Memory Map format and then copied those to my tablet. After quite a bit of searching and reading some fine print, I discovered that the Import Maps licence is only good for one device, you need to purchase a license for each device on which you want to install and use converted maps.

This certainly peeved me off, as the descriptors on all the Memory Map sites imply that you only need one license to generate maps in the Memory Map format, which can then be used on any device with the Memory Map software. Here are extracts from the Australian and US sites:

If you have access to maps in other formats or want to scan and calibrate paper/digital images, you will require the "Import 3rd Party Maps" license extension.
This is an in-app option and may be purchased and activated from within the software. A free Demo period is available.
All Memory-Map software applications are Free. However, this FREE software is limited to working only with maps published in the Memory-Map proprietary formats. If you have access to maps in other formats or want to scan and calibrate paper/digital images, you will require the "Import Maps" license extension.
I've notified Memory Map of this issue, as I believe this could be viewed as deceptive marketing.

On a somewhat favourable note, the purchase of an additonal licence wasn't overly expensive, less than $20. Simply open up the Help/License Information dialogue box from within Memory Map and click on the Online Info button and you'll be taken to the online shop (provided that you've registered). From there, the purchasing is quick and painless. This is the dialogue box that shows what has been licensed and activated, as well as selection options:

The GPS Features and Printing license are free, so I'm not sure why they need to be listed here.

The other selections (Mobile Device and SD Card) are for connection that apply for mobile devices or devices that use an SD card. I don't use these, as everything is accessed directly through the tablet.

1995 GQ TD42 NA
12,390 Posts
fck me that is a LOT of info to digest! You should make kits, I'll buy one.

Not a bad idea at all - Ray if you were to put together a few different kits based on potential needs of the purchaser, I reckon you could sell a few.

Fantastic information, although I am yet to read all of it.

10,899 Posts
so for the average punter. go any windows tablet or laptop with memory maps and a decent gps dongle and you have a pretty decent package. long as good quality maps are used and generally easier to operate than oziexplorer.

Part of the furniture around here
19,131 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
so for the average punter. go any windows tablet or laptop with memory maps and a decent gps dongle and you have a pretty decent package. long as good quality maps are used and generally easier to operate than oziexplorer.
I've seen Ozi on Android (the cut back Ozi version)and it works quite well, but has some limitations on what can be done, so I'm assuming that Memory Map will work at least as well. I haven't seen Apple navigation, so I can't comment.

I'm using Windows, because I've used Ozi for so long and there were no alternative OSes for Ozi until recently. I changed to Memory Map after trying it out, because I found it much better suited to a tablet, Ozi is still mainly a desktop PC tool.

The maps are the biggest issue with any navigation system. No one seems to provide extensive, up to date and detailed off-road maps. I have maps sets from four different providers and not one of them is fully up to date. The Hema ones are the best overall, but very limited in coverage, though enough for what I need.

The Garmin ones are the most extensive, but at least three or more years out of date. What's ironic is that every time that I open Garmin Basecamp, I get a reminder that the maps are out of date and that I should go to the map store. When I check, it's still the same out of date map set Garmin is trying to sell me.

So to summarise, you don't need a Windows device, as products like Memory Map and Ozi will work on Android and/or Apple. Also, there are vector maps available for Android/Apple, like Route 66 etc, that may be able to provide very good off-road navigation as well as on-road navigation, but I haven't tried them out.

nissan gu patrol
20,674 Posts
Apple nav programs are like all Apple stuff, simplistic and made to just do one or two things. I've got a couple running on my iPhone with Hema2008.

Androzic (Ozi on Andriod) is good, I have this on a Samsung Galaxy Tab II, but not as good as when I had Ozi on my Asus Eee PC (got rid of that as it was too cumbersom and awkward to use). Androzic has it's limitations and I really don't like how Android works, so I try and avoid it were possible.

I don't need anything in particularly, but would like a purpose built tablet style GPS/Map. Apple and Android hardward can do it, but they are not designed to do it and become a little annoying to use IMO.

490 Posts
I have a wi-fi iPad 2, looking at getting the Garmin bluetooth GPS you mentioned.
Using these 2 units together what is your best recommendation for maps that will allow me to plan routes on PC & then load to iPad?
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