Feb 28 2009

APIC Moving Map Review on Mio C320 (Doesn’t Work)

Category: Aviation GPS,RamblingsDaniel @ 12:35 pm

Approach Systems Inc’s APIC Moving Map software, although very cool looking, AND the availability of a totally free version, is not compatible with the Mio C320.  According to their website, the program is not compatible with any program running Windows CE.  Even though the Mio does indeed run WinCE, I did try installing it anyway and sure enough, it doesn’t work.  Oh well.  If the makers of APIC decide to ever make a version for Windows CE, you bet I’ll be first in line to test/try it!

I will say the PC version (especially the free version) is very cool and if you have an ultra-mobile notebook PC with a GPS receiver, definitely give this software a shot.

Test Specs: Approach Systems APIC tested on February 27, 2009 on Mio C320
Pros: Cool looking, but doesn’t work on Mio.  Give PC version a shot.
Cons: Does not work on Mio C320.

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Feb 27 2009

NavGPS Pro and NavGPS Basic Review on Mio C320

Category: Aviation GPS,RamblingsDaniel @ 5:54 am

The next program on my review list is NavGPS Basic / NavGPS Pro series of software.  Both versions looked pretty cool on their website so I again was hopeful this could be a viable option.

I was a little intimidated by the install process as this wasn’t as “turn-key” as PocketFMS, but I finally got it installed and working.  Here’s how I did it.  The download page offers three different versions for the Pocket PC platform, luckily the first one for the ‘ARM/XScale” processor is the correct one for the Mio C320.  You then need to be running your Mio just like a Pocket PC.  So, you’ll need have installed and be running “PocketMio” on your Mio and then “activesync” on your computer and install through that.  (I’ll post separate instructions on how to turn your Mio into a fully functioning Pocket PC later).  Anyway, when you install the NavGPS package through activesync, it may also throw up a message stating the installed application may be incompatible, but allows you to continue.  navgpspro_sampleObviously do continue and everything will install fine and work fine (clearly it is compatible).  Once installed, the program will load and ask for your registration info.  If you are just trying the software for 30 days, you can leave it empty (which is what I did).

Running the program the first time it looked very promising.  The software had a hard time finding the GPS unit automatically, but if you go into the preferences and set the GPS port to “Com 2” and the Speed to “57600” it runs fine.  The program has many of the same features as Pocket FMS and other high-end aviation GPS programs.  See their site for the full details on the Pro version.  The one GREAT thing I noticed right off the bat is that the program ran a LOT faster than Pocket FMS.  It still wasn’t blazing/instant, but things were reasonable this time.  Also (and this is very good), when the screen redrew itself after a zoom in/out, it would have the airspace and airports/fixes draw first (almost instantly).  The topography and ground detail would come in shortly after (if you have the Pro version).  THIS I could live with and made complete sense.  I don’t know if they planned for this, but I definitely like it.

The only major negative is that the software is definitely created for a “standard” pocket PC, using a stylus/pen and supporting hardware buttons.  Obviously the Mio has none, so the shortcuts you could assign to hardware buttons are lost here.  Furthermore, many of the on-screen menus and buttons are way too small to click with your fingers (especially during a flight).  You’d definitely need to use a pen/stylus to perform the actions you need.

Bottom line is that this is definitely a solid application.  Hopefully future versions will be a little more “finger-friendly”, but I’m going leave this one installed and test it in the air on my next flight.  The standard version is $99 and the pro is $234, both reasonably priced.  I will also play more with the Pro versus Basic versions to see which really has the features I personally would need to use.

Test Specs: NavGPS Pro version 4.5 (and NavGPS Basic version 2.5) tested on February 26, 2009 on Mio C320.
Pros: Lots of features, good data, good maps, basic version would get the job done.
Cons: Buttons/menus too small to operate with just fingers.

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Feb 26 2009

Pocket FMS Review on Mio C320

Category: Aviation GPS,RamblingsDaniel @ 5:15 am

I’m starting my review series of various GPS applications for my new Mio C320 with the Pocket FMS application.  I heard promising things about this software from other blogs, so I decided this would be a good place to start and I had high hopes.

mioc520-08Overall this program has a TON of features.  From multiple moving maps to in-depth flight planning and even weather, the PocketFMS people did indeed include many great features.  The included databases and maps are up-to-date and very detailed.  You can click on basically ANY data point, airport, airspace, NDB, VOR, etc., and this program will give you applicable data.  Obviously you aren’t supposed to use this as your primary navigation/data source, but if you DID happen to forget everything in your plane except for Pocket FMS, you’d have the information you need to get around.  See their features page for all the great things the program can do.  I’ll also give them props for including detailed step-by-step instructions and the ability to install on “unlocked” personal navigation devices (PNDs) like my Mio C320.  This program installed very easily as advertised and I was hopeful this would be an awesome trial.  For €150 per year (they are based in Europe) this program would totally seem worth it too IF I decided to buy…

HOWEVER, the only problem (and unfortunately this is the killer) is that this whole application runs ridiculously slow on the Mio C320.  I can’t address the speed of this program on other handheld systems, but even on my home office PC, the desktop version of the software ran slowly.  There’s clearly a LOT of information being processed and put on the screen and that takes computing power/time.  I tweaked the settings as much as possible (checked their forums) to help boost performance without much incremental benefit.  Obviously, when you are flying at 110 knots or so, waiting 10-15 seconds for your map to refresh after a zoom in/out (not exagerating), this program becomes useless.  Even the extra text data when you click an airport, let’s say, takes a good 5 seconds to load.  Getting back to the map takes 10-15 seconds again.  This wastes precious time and more importantly takes your eyes off the sky and your focus off flying the plane.

Bottom line is that I’m glad I tried this software and they DO provide 30 days to test it out for free on your own device, that’s nice.  So, I recommend checking it yourself and hopefully it’s faster for you.  But, for me, this program doesn’t cut it and I’m not going to be spending my money on Pocket FMS for my Mio C320.

Test Specs: Pocket FMS version 1.2.1 tested on February 25, 2009 on Mio C320.
Pros: Tons of features, tons of data, good maps, great information.
Cons: Too slow to use.  Period.

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Feb 25 2009

Quest for Affordable Aviation GPS

Category: Aviation GPS,RamblingsDaniel @ 5:58 am

As I’ve been flying more and more in our club’s newest Cessna 172SP, I’m really loving a moving map GPS system for situational awareness.  Unfortunately, only ONE of our club’s planes has this moving map and guess what, that plane is usually booked the most.  The other 172’s do have GPS, but nothing with a visual/map.  Furthermore, since it’s usually just my wife and I flying, I wouldn’t mind taking the 152’s up more again (like in my training days), but they don’t have any GPS at all.

Granted, I am still comfortable flying with VOR navigation and good ‘ole dead reckoning pilotage, but I must admit I like having the GPS to remind me of controlled airspace, distances from airports (very useful), and my general location.  As a result of all this, I’ve always been on the lookout for a nice handheld GPS system at an affordable price.  The relatively new Bendyx/King AV8OR looks really cool and relatively affordable at ~$700 versus the $1500+ for a good color moving map aviation GPS system, but that’s still way above what I’d want to pay to support my hobby at this time.

I’ve always thought it should be easy enough to “hack” some sort of other GPS system to use for aviation, and sure enough other people on the web agree (Google it).  After researching a ton, I heard great things about the Mio handheld GPS systems, built originally for car/walking navigation, but they run the Windows CE  / Pocket PC operating system and there’s plenty of other software to throw onto it.  Anyway, figuring I wouldn’t mind a decent navigation system even for my car, I dropped a minimal $93 to buy the Mio C320, which I received this week.

I’m going to play with my new Mio C320 with every/all aviation GPS mobile applications I can find and report back with my experiences on each.   Hopefully one will prove a winner!  My first test will be with the Pocket FMS application (as that was what was recommended elsewhere on the web)…wish me luck.

If anyone else has experience with either the Mio C320 or another personal navigation device (PND) and using it for general aviation, let me know!

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Feb 15 2009

First Flight of 2009 and Learning a Valuable Lesson

Category: RamblingsDaniel @ 5:03 pm

I had my first flight of 2009 this morning and I learned a very important lesson.  January was a tough month to fly weather-wise and I was traveling a lot for work.  All those flights on United and listening to “Channel 9” (the air traffic control radio feed) had me itching to fly into a towered airport.  My neighbor just turned 30 on Friday and since he had never been in a small plane before and the weather was supposed to be nice I invited him and his wife to join me and my wife flying.  I had planned to fly us into Janesville (KJVL) to grab lunch at the Kealy’s Kafe restaurant on the airport (another first for me).

ziploc-gallon-freezerThe weather was looking beautiful and the takeoff went flawlessly.  About 2 minutes into the flight, though, my neighbor mentioned was feeling a little sick.  2 Minutes later he confirmed it was only getting worse, but urged me continue on.  About 40% of the way to Janesville, he was starting to look rather green and I was thinking he was gonna’ lose it any second.  I didn’t have much to use to “catch” his airsickness, and I felt bad telling him to puke in his shirt, so I suggested he use my headset bag if he really had to ralph.  Although we were almost halfway to Janesville, I decided it would be best to turn around and head back to Westosha.  I tried my best to keep things as smooth as possible, even “rounding out” my pattern as best I could to avoid very steep turns to land.  Luckily he was able to hold back the pukes and we landed without incident.

The lesson I learned is to always carry a large sized Ziploc bag or two, and keep one ON your person, in case something like this happens again.  I highly doubt if he used my headset bag that I’d be using it much more in the future.  Thankfully everything worked out.  I’ve also heard that the smell of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) can help alleviate queasiness.  So, maybe I’ll try to get my hands on some of those little alcohol wet-naps to have on hand for the next time (hopefully never though).

After landing back at Westosha, I dropped off the passengers and did 2 quick laps around the pattern to stay current with club rules (and just for practice).  I’ll have to hit Kealy’s Kafe sometime in the near future to make up for missing it today.   Overall, though, my neighbors did say they enjoyed the flight.  I guess he simply had too much booze a few nights ago for his 30th birthday and never fully recovered from his hangover.  Hopefully we’ll go up again sometime soon.  It was nice to get back in the air even with all this drama though, I must admit!

This flight I logged 0.8 hours of flight time.

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