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Hackable In-Car GPS Unit?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the what-I-want-is-an-r2-unit dept.

Hardware Hacking 208

gigne writes "I'm in the market for a new, in-car GPS/sat nav. I am preferably looking for one that has live, up-to-date traffic information and route planning that doesn't make you want to cry. I'm not quite dumb enough to drive off a cliff, but something that doesn't even try and lead me to watery doom is preferable. The only thing I absolutely must have is the ability to hack it. It would be preferable if it ran GNU/Linux, but given a convincing argument, I would be swayed to another OS. Without wanting the Moon on a stick, what is the best device that would offer a decent modding community and a good feature set?"

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208 comments

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Android (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498535)

Tmobile G1 running telenav.

bam. done.

Re:Android (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498761)

I don't know which one is more of a miracle - that a black man was elected president of the U.S.A., or that he can speak proper English!

Proprietary Issues (5, Insightful)

juanergie (909157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498543)

Companies comercializing GPS devices are in the business of making money. I am inclined to believe you would run into proprietary and legal stuff should you plan to hack or reverse-engineer the device. Maybe some provide an API?

Re:Proprietary Issues (3, Insightful)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498619)

It is perfectly legal to do whatever you fucking want with an electronic device you own, at least in most countries.

Re:Proprietary Issues (1)

JobyOne (1578377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498645)

Unless that would involve breaking or circumventing any encryption, for any reason (at least in the USA)...stupid DMCA.

Re:Proprietary Issues (2, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498783)

What he proposes would be quite legal in the USA even if part of the firmware is encrypted. Breaking DMCA-protected encryption for interoperability is explicitly allowed.

Re:Proprietary Issues (2)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499669)

or for adding functionality...

Re:Proprietary Issues (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500025)

Unless that would involve breaking or circumventing any encryption, for any reason (at least in the USA)...stupid DMCA.

More specifically, you cannot traffic in tools that make it possible for others to do that. It's also not true that it is disallowed for any reason ... there are exceptions and that list gets updated from time to time. It's still bullshit, but it's not absolute.

Re:Proprietary Issues (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498663)

It is perfectly legal to do whatever you fucking want with an electronic device you own, at least in most countries.

Excellent. I shall now go around bludgeoning people with my keyboard.

Re:Proprietary Issues (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498767)

I hope that is an IBM Model M keyboard, otherwise you will just end up breaking your keyboard.

Re:Proprietary Issues (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498667)

Unfortunately that is only true if it does not involve software or data.

Re:Proprietary Issues (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498699)

Unfortunately that is only true if it does not involve software or data.

You're the guy who wants to go bludgeoning people with his keyboard, aren't you?

Re:Proprietary Issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498807)

Who told you that?

Re:Proprietary Issues (0, Redundant)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500179)

If you plan on bludgeoning people with a keyboard I recommend a Model M. The steel plate adds stability and mass.

Re:Proprietary Issues (2, Informative)

juanergie (909157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498675)

I don't doubt it is, but please check this site where they explain reverse engineering further: http://www.chillingeffects.org/reverse/faq.cgi [chillingeffects.org]

Re:Proprietary Issues (5, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498981)

It is perfectly legal to do whatever you fucking want with an electronic device you own, at least in most countries.

Never without qualifications. For example:

Microwave radiation.
Basic electrical safety.
Eavesdropping on protected frequencies. {Cell phones][Radar]
RFI

There is surely the potential for civil liability:

Your device catches fire and incinerates your cousin's $56,000 daysailer.
You taser-shock your girl friend.
Your faulty navigational display sends your mother-in-law off a cliff.

   

Re:Proprietary Issues (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28499017)

Hey, what me and my girlfriend do in the privacy of our bedroom is no business of yours!

Re:Proprietary Issues (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499071)

Your faulty navigational display sends your mother-in-law off a cliff.

That's not faulty, it's working precisely as intended.

Re:Proprietary Issues (4, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499113)

Well, it is illegal to eavesdrop on protected frequencies. But it is not illegal to modify a radio set to do so.

You can do whatever you want with an electronic device you own. But if you do something illegal with said modified device, you'll get in trouble for doing the illegal thing. Not for modifying the device.

As it should be.

Re:Proprietary Issues (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28501513)

In this state its illegal just to have devices that *can* be modified to do certain illegal acts (like changing MAC addresses...)

Re:Proprietary Issues (1)

dlgeek (1065796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28501635)

That's not true. The modification itself is illegal. 47 CFR 15.121(f) [gpoaccess.gov] :

(f) Scanning receivers shall have a label permanently affixed to the product, and this label shall be readily visible to the purchaser at the time of purchase. The label shall read as follows:

WARNING: MODIFICATION OF THIS DEVICE TO RECEIVE CELLULAR RADIOTELEPHONE SERVICE SIGNALS IS PROHIBITED UNDER FCC RULES AND FEDERAL LAW.

Re:Proprietary Issues (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499219)

Yeah don't taser her bro. You don't want your girlfriend to end up as a melted pile of plastic...

Also, your nav system sounds perfectly functional to me, some might consider paying extra for that feature.

g1 (5, Interesting)

blackomegax (807080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498569)

what about the android platform. telenav, and soon garmin will be on it.

Ask Microsoft (3, Funny)

cwike (1481913) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498577)

Everyone famously knows tomtom runs (GNU/)Linux, and uses FAT formatted memory cards, just ask Microsoft.

in-car computer (4, Informative)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498585)

Sounds like you want something more than a TomTom. Peruse the forums at mp3car.com and you'll find tons of information. Build a computer in there and you can have whatever flavor of GNU/Linux you like. Add GPS and you're done. Add EVDO and you have Internets to watch pornhub while traveling down the interstate.

Re:in-car computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498643)

I found the cheap Navigo to be pretty good. Costs less than £50 and runs WinCE and provides MP3 playback as well as doing GPS. Not investigated it too much yet and just running the default software, but I think you can just stick a different .exe onto the SD card and it'll run that instead of the default GPS software.

Re:in-car computer (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28499369)

Get a PDA with window mount and a built-in GPS, few on deal extreme. Get one of those, buy TomTom's PDA versoin, comes on a CD. Available at their website. install it on the device. Also since this is a PDA that looks like a GPS, you can pretty much do what you want with it.

Here is one http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.8545

Re:in-car computer (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499767)

watch pornhub while traveling down the interstate.

Did you just advise him to drive one-handed while watching porn while also driving down the interstate? You must have the strangest carpool ride ever.....

Re:in-car computer (3, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500603)

Agreed. And If you go this route, you'll be interested in this list [berlios.de] , since it tells you which GPS units are likely to work well the gpsd on Linux or *BSD.

Mio GPS (4, Informative)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498599)

I own one of these and it is hackable [google.com] . Good luck!

Uh, it's called Windows Mobile (5, Interesting)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498609)

When I drove from California to NC, I wrote a custom app that read the GPS lat/long coordinates, searched a database of 5000 fast food places, gas stations, and hotels within 1 mile of I-40, so I could find where I wanted to go even if it was 70 miles up the road, and hit a great big button to search for it so I wouldn't wreck my car, and then enter the coordinates in the navsat program to start driving me there.

Does that count as hacking it?

I did it on my PocketPC. Does that mean Windows Mobile still sucks and is useless for hackers?

Re:Uh, it's called Windows Mobile (4, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498655)

When I drove from California to NC, I wrote a custom app that read the GPS lat/long coordinates, searched a database of 5000 fast food places, gas stations, and hotels within 1 mile of I-40, so I could find where I wanted to go

I believe that's called making your windows GPS function like a proper GPS ;)

Re:Uh, it's called Windows Mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498697)

so I wouldn't wreck my car

Ah, but with all that hacking, can you still prevent the device from wrecking itself? I know I can't.

My Windows Mobile devices rarely see more than a month of uptime before I am forced to reboot because some feature silently fails without providing any hints as to why.

Re:Uh, it's called Windows Mobile (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498875)

There are plenty turn-to-turn navigation apps for windows mobile which already have POI databases.

So yes, I second that. HTC Athena is a pretty decent device with a huge screen, internal GPS and a full keyboard. Good both for hacking and for navigation and is pretty cheap at the used devices market (got one for less than 200 euros).

Simple (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498617)

iPhone

navigon (3, Informative)

eobanb (823187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498659)

I have a Navigon 2100, which runs WinCE but it is quite hackable. The whole OS and related data is stored on an SD card; you can simply plug it into an SD reader, replace the files, maps, everything.

Re:navigon (1)

Smooth and Shiny (1097089) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498787)

Yeah, I have the 2100 Max and the 7200T. I love the Navigon units, but they are no longer manufacturing units for North America sadly.

Newegg right now (sorry if mentioning the site is bad around these parts) has the 2100 3.5" and the 7200T. The 7200T they have for about half of the MSRP ($440).

Re:navigon (3, Funny)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499981)

I have a Navigon 2100, which runs WinCE but it is quite hackable. The whole OS and related data is stored on an SD card; you can simply plug it into an SD reader, replace the files, maps, everything.

Interesting... so if you can replace the maps, any idea what program would convert OpenStreetMap [osm.org] data to the appropriate format for the Navigon? I have one of these useless doorstops (thanks to the absolute crap map data that it ships with) and i'm trying to rehabilitate it, since Navigon's support told me to go fuck myself (in those words).

Easy options (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498665)

Many car GPS units use a cut down WinCE. There are plenty of these around, and they are cheap. I use a Binatone X350 to run XCSoar [xcsoar.org] . MS can provide the development environment if you want it.

I also have a TomTom. I bought it because the OpenTom [opentom.org] stuff meant there was a development environment for it. I never went further than getting a few simple non graphical progams compiled for it, but the information is all there if you're keen on development.

Obligatory XKCD Reference (4, Informative)

BobReturns (1424847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498685)

Randall Munroe had a cool python program on his blag at one point for a simple GPS program for linux. Can be found here [xkcd.com]

Get a TomTom. (2, Informative)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498735)

It runs Linux, uses mplayer for media output, and is very hackable.

http://www.webazar.org/tomtom/index.php [webazar.org]

Tripmaster is the #1 3rd party app that you can install. There is lots of other stuff you can do to it too.

Re:Get a TomTom. (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498775)

I have the 720, and it is great.

P.S. Hey Slashdot, can we get an edit button!

Re:Get a TomTom. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498855)

I have the 720, and it is great.

P.S. Hey Slashdot, can we get an edit button!

I wish Slashdot had an "Edit" button that when clicked would say "quit being lazy and proofread."

Re:Get a TomTom. (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499009)

I did proofread. I didn't think till later to add the model information.

You're a couple of generations too late (2, Informative)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498737)

Earlier TomToms had a developers kit. With the latest versions of the OS that offer many new features, like text to speech and use of faster aquiring GPS chips, they've removed the ability to do any kind of hacking. A real pity. I came into the game just a little too late. So I get the nice features, but not the nice hacks.

Re:You're a couple of generations too late (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498809)

> ...they've removed the ability to do any kind of hacking.

No they haven't. They've just stopped providing a convenient kit.

Re:You're a couple of generations too late (4, Informative)

commlinx (1068272) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499379)

Without the developer API you can still access the functions that were there, you just need to roll your own code. The site http://www.opentom.org/Main_Page [opentom.org] is a good reference for source code and documentation.

I've got a TomTom One V3 that doesn't have Bluetooth and got console access by running a scope over the external connector to determine the functions and attached a TTL to serial converter, I've posted details of the connector pinouts for anyone interested http://blog.peter-johnson.com.au/?p=49 [peter-johnson.com.au]

OpenMoko (2, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498743)

Sure -- try a FreeRunner. Sure, it's nominally a smartphone but it's got your key requirements: GPS, decent graphics, networking, audio I/O, and ssh.

Arduino + GPS Shield (1)

sgrover (1167171) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498749)

I've been looking into this recently as well. Best bet I've found, in terms of "tinkering" ability is to use an Arduino [arduino.cc] and a GPS Shield [adafruit.com] (more details here [ladyada.net] ). The two of these (and the GPS chip) will cost under $150, but allow you to code it to do whatever you want. Throw in a TouchShield [liquidware.com] and you begin to open up possibilities. The downside is the time/effort needed here. The "convenience" factor is not part of this solution... :)

Re:Arduino + GPS Shield (1)

arh9623 (49521) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498869)

+1, The Arduino is blowing up. It's very usable.

Re:Arduino + GPS Shield (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500203)

+1, The Arduino is blowing up. It's very usable.

Usable for what? A grenade?

Moon on a stick (4, Funny)

garryknight (1190179) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498759)

I've just written a hackable gnu/linux satnav program that runs on a USB stick. It's called 'Moon'.







Disclaimer: No I haven't.

Re:Moon on a stick (1)

pickled doughboy (700747) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499911)

M-O-O-N that spells GPS!

not exactly "hackable", but... (5, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498763)

the new garmin units plug in like a usb thumb drive and you have direct access to their .GPX data files. The files are in flat XML, heavily documented, and very flexible. (apparently garmin has gone away from NMEA/serial, good riddance)

They come with two pieces of software, one that runs locally on your computer and the other is a browser plugin that I assume gives java control over the same things. I was very impressed with the software, but it does have its limits. (such as building routes) But since the files are xml you can use any off the shelf standard .GPX editing program (there are several, and I recently wrote my own too) to edit things how you need to. Some are free, most are pay. But the software for the garmin is free with it.

You can't ssh into the thing, but as far as file/format goes, this is about as "open" as it gets. FYI I have an Edge 605, use it on my bike. It's got a really small screen unfortunately but those are the breaks for small and long battery life.

Lots of potential (3, Interesting)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498777)

I think the market has lots of room for improvement. It would be nice to have, not just a GPS system, but an in-car computer. Imagine if the computer could hook up to OBD-II, odometer, speedometer, radio, rear-view camera, a cell/wireless network, and other in-car systems. It could track fuel usage on every trip, overlay Wikipedia geographic coordinates, log milage information for tax reasons, record traffic stops (even capturing a few minutes of video prior to the stop), and countless other things.

A good system would boot up in less than two seconds, start playing music where it left off, and instantly switch on a rear-view camera as soon as the car switches to reverse. Most existing systems have only a few of the aforementioned features, they tend to run fairly slow, and they have startup times that leave you wonting for music.

I think a feature-complete system would require a fast processor, a large display (probably requiring custom dashboard work), and a lot of wiring.

My own research turned up Navit [navit-project.org] which looks pretty good for the navigation piece.

Re:Lots of potential (1)

alan_nsb (786245) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500525)

This would require work but could customized to your own desire. http://www.buglabs.net/products [buglabs.net]

Omnitech GPS sold at Staples or Nextar (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498793)

The most hackable GPS I have seen and owned is the Omnitech 4.3 inch GPS unit sold at Staples. On a good sale day you could get the GPS unit for under $80, and some have even found them as cheap as 50-60. They run Windows CE5, and all of the files are stored on the SD card so it's incredibly easy to modify. There are already SD card images on the net that include multiple GPS programs like iGo8, TomTom, Nav N Go, Destinator, etc. and also come with a lot of games, programs, utilities, Office for PocketPC, etc. The Omnitech GPS can be had on eBay for as little as 70-80 dollars new if you can't find it in stores. If you cannot find an Omnitech unit, the next best thing would be one of the lower tiered Nextar units sold in Kohl's and Best Buy. I also own the Nextar 43NT (this is the one I use on a daily basis) and my GPS unit normally runs iGo8 as the GPS naviation program, and I also play games on it when I have down time, and have even been known to watch an XviD TV episode on the highway on long trips.

The downside to almost all GPS units though is that they don't accept SDHC cards. Theoretically 2GB is the maximum for a non-SDHC card to hold, but Transcend does market a 4GB non-SDHC card on Newegg for around $14 bucks. They all have about the same processor speeds and RAM though....the more you pay for the unit, the more you're paying for the software that comes on the device. Do yourself a favor and stick with the cheapie GPS and hack the unit to your satisfaction

Why not try... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498799)

The Nokia N800 and a Bluetooth GPS.
1. It runs GNU/Linux so very hackable (comes with a Nokia-written Debian-derivative, but you can install a completely free Ubuntu derivative)
2. GPS stuffs are in the bluetooth box so no legal issues
3. There is no 3

Or perhaps the N810, it has a (somewhat usable) built-in GPS (or you can use a bluetooth one again) and it comes with most of a car mount (you just have to buy the bit that fits your car). N800 might too though...

A linux PDA and Navit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498805)

Get a linux PDA (Nokia n800/n810 or sharp zaurus?) or maybe even a small netbook, bluetooth or USB GPS and run navit (http://navit.sourceforge.net/) on it. Navit displays moving maps (from opensstreetmap) on screen based on GPS data.

Freerunner (4, Informative)

wurp (51446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498843)

Get a Freerunner. It's an open phone with: GPS, internet via gprs, accelerometers, full bluetooth, wifi, 640x480 touchscreen. It runs any of several flavors of Linux (including Debian or Android, but my personal choice is SHR) and there are already Free gps programs that use OpenStreetMap (TangoGPS or Navit).

It's about $250, IIRC, but of course you can carry it around and use it to browse the web and receive calls, as well as using it in-vehicle for navigation.

It doesn't get any hackabler.

Re:Freerunner (2, Informative)

sgrover (1167171) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499097)

turning on GPS and Bluetooth (supposing you needed BT for some reason), gives you about 1 hour of battery life, in my experience. The Freerunner does "fit the bill" in a number of ways, but it's battery life, and steep learning curve (compared to a TomTom type tool) score it lower. (I've been trying to get the GPS stuff working reliably on the FR for a week or so - getting the base system stable is um, troublesome in my case at least)

Car charger is probably $5. Fixed that. (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28501553)

Hey, almost any car GPS is going to be plugged in; I assume that if the Freerunner is an open phone, it probably uses some fairly standard power plug.

Of course, if you meant that the battery life using a car battery is about 1 hour, that's a more serious problem... :-)

Re:Freerunner (1)

ingsocsoc (807544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500419)

>

you can carry it around and use it to browse the web and receive calls, as well as using it in-vehicle for navigation.

Except that it hardly works. Soldered on that 1mm capacitor yet?

Re:Freerunner (2, Insightful)

wurp (51446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500629)

I actually have a Neo 1973 - no need for the capacitor, nor is there a need for it in the newest Freerunners. I do agree that he should read up on it and hang out in #openmoko on irc.freenode.net to see what to expect. Early on, software was very buggy. Now, afaik, the only persistent problem is short battery life (about a day with normal usage).

"it hardly works" is inaccurate. There are issues he should understand *is* accurate.

A Nokia N810 with Maemo Mapper . . . ? (3, Informative)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498851)

. . . it fit's your GNU/Linux/Hackable requirements . . . I dunno about the "live, up-to-date traffic information and route planning " stuff. But worth taking a look at.

Re:A Nokia N810 with Maemo Mapper . . . ? (1)

mabs (2595) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499193)

N810 is perfect for hacking, lots of gps fun to be had. Like getting a gpx file from your favorite geocaching site and track some caches down; maemo mapper using festival tts engine and a reliable data connection (uses google maps); and there's wayfinder for your commertial nav class app. The only reason i use tom tom is that none of these are reliable solutions in rural australia, neither is tom tom, but at least i can correct tom tom errors enroute. Maemo.org - os2008, have a look.

Re:A Nokia N810 with Maemo Mapper . . . ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28499811)

Wait, you got a GPS signal with a Nokia N810? Could you link to the details of the proper animal sacrifice ritual?

Re:A Nokia N810 with Maemo Mapper . . . ? (1)

quenda (644621) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500081)

Wait, you got a GPS signal with a Nokia N810? Could you link to the details of the proper animal sacrifice ritual?

Sure,
http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.9415~r.60561251 [dealextreme.com]
(external GPS unit - OK, I have an n800, but I'm sureit works with the n810 :-)

Maemo Mapper is great, but its just a map program, not a navigator. It can download maps as images from Google maps, Virtual Earth, Yahoo, Openstreet, ...
It's fantastic when you don't have an internet connection. And it's open-source.
You need do download routes from elsewhere.

Re:A Nokia N810 with Maemo Mapper . . . ? (1)

JesseL (107722) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500285)

Wait, you got a GPS signal with a Nokia N810? Could you link to the details of the proper animal sacrifice ritual?

http://betalabs.nokia.com/betas/view/gps-beta-nokia-n810 [nokia.com]

"Assisted GPS (A-GPS) provides assistance data for GPS calculations within the device. This application enables A-GPS on your N810 Internet Tablet device and provides improved performance and GPS fix times."

Android (1)

simonloach (974712) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498881)

What about something like an android phone, they come with GPS. Then you also have a pretty cool phone to go along with it. I have no idea what apps there are for mapping but I would hope there would be something good by now.

Define hackable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28498889)

What exactly are you trying to hack the GPS to do?

blue-sky ideas ... (4, Interesting)

timothy (36799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498933)

I really would like an R2 unit / the earthly equivalent.

First, I have a penchant for getting lost. As in, it's happened in my own neighborhood -- GPS device, while in some ways it's a crutch, also helps me *learn* streets by taking me the (or a) correct way a few times. As the saying goes, sometimes crutches are useful.

Second, I like to drive long distances / cross-country (for instance: I plan to go east in not many weeks from now on this route -- and back to Seattle via a slightly less direct path -- ), and would like something that can fake AI pretty well as a travel aid. ("Infotainment!")

Right now I have a decent-enough (discontinued, middle-end) Garmin, which took me several GPS-buying attempts to settle on, and it does a lot of things well (interface is OK, and it plays MP3s). But a guy can dream ...

I know this is not yet a reasonable demand for products in my price range, but I'd like to be able to use moderately complex spoken demands / requests / ideas, Star Trek (or Star Wars, or Hitchhiker's Guide) fashion, some of which would require either a really big data store or (at least intermittently) an internet connection:

"Plot me a course to the nearest used bookstore, artoo."

"How much longer if I take a route with no tolls?"

"Does that Taco Bell have a 24 hour drive through?"

"What happened at this battlefield? Give me the short version."

"Play that interview from EconTalk.org about the difference between law and legislation, and then some up-tempo Bach."

"What are reviews like on this cheap motel?"

Re:blue-sky ideas ... (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500041)

Flubbed above; corrected below:

Second, I like to drive long distances / cross-country (for instance: I plan to go east in not many weeks from now on this route [tinyurl.com] and back to Seattle via a slightly less direct path [tinyurl.com] ), and would like something that can fake AI pretty well as a travel aid. ("Infotainment!")"

timothy

What about an Android phone? (4, Interesting)

jafo (11982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498939)

It has a GPS and compass, wireless, maps and searching... And the full source code to the OS is available with a fairly good development environment, if you can cope with Java or wait for one of the other available scripting systems they're talking about. You want hackable? Do a "git" of the phone software source, and you can do a "make" to produce new firmware. With the exception of a few Google-only applications, like the gmail app, you've got everything you need. There are community members that are doing their own builds, I've had good luck with the jesusfreeke builds. I've written several applications with a friend of mine -- nothing GPS-based yet, but an IP address calculator and an app that turns the Android into a webcam, and will automatically take pictures and upload them to an HTTP or FTP server. See http://slackey.com/ [slackey.com] for more information. The benefit is that if you can use it for your phone, it's not another device you have to keep with you and keep charged. The down-side is that it only works with GSM phone providers. The biggest thing for me has been that it's something I'd have to be carrying anything, for when I'm on-call. So, it's literally not another thing that I have to keep charged and with me. That's been the biggest issue I've had with the Palms and other GPS devices I've had, and the Nokia 770/N810. It's a GPS that is SO much more useful than the typical GPS. Of course, all IMHO. Sean

Pioneer AVIC (3, Informative)

gregmac (629064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28498969)

I just got a Pioneer AVIC-F700BT (http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/Products/Navigation/In-Dash/AVIC-F700BT). It doesn't quite do everything you asked, but there are other models that add traffic updates, etc.

It runs Windows CE (bear with me here..), and has ways to boot into it. There are people that have hacked the firmware, and added various features to it - check out avic411.com. I haven't tried this myself, but it doesn't look overly difficult. I get the impression that community is not really full of "programmers" per-se, more just enthusiasts, so it's likely that someone who actually knows how to program would get quite far. (Note, I am a programmer, I just haven't had time to mess with my car stereo which works satisfactorily).

Pros: relatively cheap (note: the MSRP is $900-something, but it can be found for $500), has pretty decent maps, decent directions, plays MP3s from USB/CD/SD (and DVD, in some models), ipod interface, has XM/Sirius capability via add-ons, bluetooth with voice recognition (which works extremely well)

Cons: slow-ish bootup time (~7 seconds to playing music, another 7-10 before UI is fully available), music-related voice control features only work with ipod (eg, "play songs by ____" doesn't work on cd.. but you can say "next track" or "change source to FM" - which frankly, is kinda useless), playback from SD/USB won't resume right where it left off, it always starts the song over, fast-forward/rewind is frustratingly slow (both of these are probably fixable via firmware, or even hacking.. unfortunately, they contribute to mean I can't really listen to podcasts, which is one thing I was hoping for with the ability to use SD cards). Ships with a stupid "feature" where you can't change Nav destination/settings while driving (luckily, this is easily bypass-able by connecting an extra wire while installing).

I'm quite happy with it, honestly, and I'd definitely recommend the unit. Like I said, I haven't really gotten in to hack it yet (I likely will), but then again, I haven't really needed to.

I think you've got to make a decision. (2, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499013)

How much is your time worth?

Yes, you can screw around hacking GPS units. The question is, why do that instead of buying an ultramobile PC with GPS and navigation software?

Do you save money? No. Not if your time is worth anything. Also, if you're going to depend on this, say to equip your business or something, you have no guarantee you can do the same hacks when you replace the devices.

Do you learn anything? Well, sure, especially if you're the one who puts the time in to figure out how to do the hack. But less than you'd learn if you spent the same time just building software on a platform where the manufacturers are scheming to make your life miserable.

Are you striking a blow for freedom? Nope. You're sending your money to a manufacturer who's trying to restrict people's freedom. They don't really care if you manage to hack the thing, only that the process makes it worthless to most users. So maybe you should support folks who are marketing and supporting platforms, and save yourself a bundle of time too.

Of course, if the dedicated GPS units are better for their purpose than putting navigation software on an open PC, you can buy both; a GPS unit for navigation, and a UMPC with GPS for hacking. If your time is worth anything, you're still ahead.

I speak from experience, as an inveterate opener of cases and tweaker of things that are not supposed to be tweaked. It's only worth buying something to hack if the act of getting this thing to do something the manufacturer doesn't want it do has some kind of twisted appeal to you. One possible exception is if there is something unique about the hardware, which is certainly not the case for most GPS units. In fact they probably lack things you'll want, like certain interfaces. If there were a device that was amazingly cheap and known to be super hacker friendly, I might be tempted, but probably wouldn't bother. Where the manufacturer is trying tie your hands, why give them money for the privilege of spending your time escaping?

If you've bought one without the intention to hack it, and then you get the itch, sure go for it. That's a different story. But I think you'd be nuts to buy one for hacking if that's a high priority for you.

Re:I think you've got to make a decision. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28499147)

A good GPS unit will have accelerometers to be able to tell where you are when GPS cuts out. This is especially important in places like New York City because of all the bridges and tall buildings that block the GPS signal.

dom

Re:I think you've got to make a decision. (1)

sgrover (1167171) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499175)

You seem to have made an assumption that the commercial GPS units are suitable in EVERY possible need. The edge cases are not covered in most cases and still need a way to start from an existing solution that does most of what may be needed. An example. GPS Datalogging is well known/solved. But throw some custom analysis on there. Perhaps you want the unit to automagically know which trips are business trips and which are personal, and then provide a nice convenient report showing the total business usage of the vehicle. I've yet to see a commercial device do this. And that's just ONE sample. Of course, if you are simply trying to recreate a basic GPS data logger, then yeah it's probably better to spend $100 bucks or so to buy one.

I think you've lost the point (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499717)

Yes, you can screw around hacking GPS units. The question is, why do that instead of buying an ultramobile PC with GPS and navigation software?

Talk about missing the point...

You know, I think your attitude is the problem with consumer electronics today. They give you GPS with maps and you think "hey! That's cool! Now I can get navigation!" Some time later they come out with turn by turn spoken directions, and you're thrilled with that too. And then you come here on slashdot and argue against the open products, because they might be hard for you to use, or people might put them to uses the manufacturer had not intended.

Look: people are clever. Give them neat gear with open interfaces and they'll put it to creative uses the manufacturers had never considered - and publish the source code for anyone to use. If the features are interesting, useful and most importantly, popular, they'll wind up in the next generation of the manufacturer's products and you will benefit. It's like having a half billion geeks working for free.

Fortunately for you and for the rest of us, most manufacturers have figured out that they don't have the corner on creativity and so they make open, or "hackable" interfaces that allow us to bend these devices to unintended uses that they can then adopt in your next generation product.

Pioneer AVICs... (3, Insightful)

FourG (81910) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499043)

There's a healthy hacking community for Pioneer AVIC in-dash units (http://www.avic411.com/). The current generation (F-series) is basically a Mio Windows CE 5.0 Navi that runs iGo 8.0 and interfaces to an AV board for sound out. It uses a Parrot Bluetooth for the handsfree but it's not a full BT stack so no A2DP. The interface Pioneer had an external software house design has been rather bemoaned for some frustrating "quirks", so there's a lot of motivation to hack the units at the moment. There is a way to launch external apps from the iGo script interface now and there's even an effort to write a new interface from scratch that launches from the SD slot (sort of like MioPocket for some of the PNAs). There may also be a way to use SDIO 802.11b/g wireless cards with the units that was borrowed from gpspassion.com.

Pioneer will be releasing a new series of in-dash units soon (X series) and a 3.0 firmware release for the F-series that apparently removes the ability to use the backdoor method many of us use to hack the unit, so if you do decide to get one make sure it's only got the 2.0 firmware on it.

An easier solution (1)

nickj6282 (896871) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499545)

What about a netbook with a built-in mobile broadband card? These can be had for $400 or less (probably much less if you can get the mobile provider to subsidize the device). Add a decent GPS software package that includes a USB receiver and you've got a ~$500 GPS that can do it all with no hacking required.

Hell, a high-end GPS unit with half the screen size will set you back the same. But with this setup, you can take it out of the car when you get to where you are going and have a handy little netbook.

Some good work from a friend (1)

bnoel (1447271) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499641)

http://mboffin.com/earthbridge/ [mboffin.com] this is something you may want to check out... B

Magellan RoadMate 800 (1)

Bordgious (1378477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499683)

I have a Magellan RoadMate 800 which runs a stripped-down version of Windows CE. With just a button-press combination you can view a full windows desktop environment with touchscreen behind it and run whatever programme you want. It's super easy as it has an SD slot and 20-40GB of internal memory to do just about whatever you want with it.

Check out the Advent ADV3500PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28499797)

Check out the Advent ADV3500PC GPS, it's a VIA 1GHz based unit, and is loaded. It's one sale right now @ Buy.com for $270. I have one sitting on my desk and it's one of the most fun toys I have owned in a while. Check out the thread below for more info: http://www.cocoontech.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=13829 [cocoontech.com] Its main function is GPS, but it can do so much more. I also use it in a home automation environment, and considering getting a second one as a CarPC.

Just talking about this today! (1)

NukeDoggie (943265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499893)

I was just talking about this with my wife today. We just got a Garmin, and it's nice and everything as a GPS and Bluetooth phone integration and has other useless stuff (Games and msn? UGGH) but it's not integrated into the car like it should be. What is wrong with the car manufacturers, why hasn't Apple done an iCar? If I turn up my music I can't hear the directions.
And having my car computer on the cellular network for web updates of traffic etc. Also having engine computer diagnostics on my screen would help. Also, having mileage and Trip statistics and memorys of places and cell phone hands free and ability to hook my USB drives up for mp3 jukebox... Don't forget voice recognition. And it could phone the ambulance if I crash. All in one built in unit.
But I guess it's too much to think someone would build it into a car where it belongs and it would *JUST WORK*...
So I will have to do like the poster is talking about and hack up my own system... And Linux is a great start.

Mac Mini (2, Informative)

miggyb (1537903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499925)

I've heard a lot of people have had success with putting a Mac Mini in vehicles. There's even a site dedicated to it: http://www.macvroom.com/ [macvroom.com] Downside is that while the software hacking would be relatively easy (there's already GPS software for OS X), the hardware would be the hard part. You'd have to find a place for it in the car, as well as a touchscreen, and possibly a keyboard.

Don't ask Slashdot, ask OpenStreetMap (2, Informative)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28499955)

Seriously, the OpenStreetMap [openstreetmap.org] folks have this one figured out already. See their GPS reviews [openstreetmap.org] wiki entry on their site for your guide to what GPSs are hackable.

Why not the HTC G1? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28500073)

It runs Linux, Android has an SDK, it has Google maps and GPS apps for it, is open and low cost...

Omnitech GPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28500231)

Look for an Omnitech unit, they were sold at Staples for $70 and very hackable. You can put basically any vendors GPS app on it and it runs WinCE . You can play games, run apps including media players.

Good forum for details is... http://www.techsmarttips.com

Hope that helps.

OpenStreetMap (2, Interesting)

ingsocsoc (807544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500493)

The first thing we need is free map data. All current maps have very tight legal terms, which makes this kind of thing impossible. Check out http://www.openstreetmap.org/ [openstreetmap.org] , there might already be decent maps where you live. For navigation you can use TangoGPS [tangogps.org] but there are other programs available too.

Re:OpenStreetMap (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28501023)

The US Government Tiger road maps [census.gov] are free (and the basis for much of NavTeq's data I believe in the US).

Quo Vadis [marcosoft.com] for the original Palms used those maps for navigation when you plugged a GPSr into your Palm.

That was my first in car nav system back in 2002! And it was nice having the separate screens, the GPSr showing speed, average speed, odometer with the map on the Palm separate.

Although hardly the most bleeding edge tech, obviously there's tons of development for Palms. (Absurdly inexpensive too, just $5 or so for a Palm and tens of dollars for a basic GPSr.)

how about IPhone (2, Interesting)

Trieuvan (789695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500495)

Iphone has gps and you can do crazy stuff there ...

Nokia N800, N810 (2, Insightful)

delafield (1586825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28500639)

The Nokia N800 and N810 both run a version of Debian and can do GPS. The N800 (what I have) does not have the GPS antenna built in, but you can purchase an antenna from Nokia and connect via bluetooth. The N810 has GPS antenna built in. You can run the free maemo mapper (openstreetmap.org) or purchase a commercial product from Nokia (NavTech). And the Nokia N800 and N810 are great for lot of other things too. I teather the N810 using bluetooth and AT&T. With that you can create a port forwarding ssh tunnel and have any GPS daemon listening in on your coordinates from anywhere. A personal tracking app. See maemo.org. Regards, Delafield

yuo 7a1l it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28500831)

conflicts that members' creative ARE ATENDING A To the crowd in fun to be again.

It is the maps (1)

grotgrot (451123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28501089)

All the stories about watery doom are almost nothing to do with the GPS and entirely due to the maps. The GPS can only give as good instructions as the underlying map data. Map data on highways is usually fine as they don't change much, many people use them and the information is easy to incorporate. Smaller roads change more often, there are lots more of them, and the company making the maps is less likely to keep completely up to date with them. Nowhere do I see how you intend to deal with maps.

Dashdaq (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28501295)

Check out dashdq. It's an arm9 processor running linux and the source is available. Mine is still on the way so I can't say how hackable it is yet but it might be a good starting point.

http://www.dashdaq.com/

Get an iPhone 3G (1)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28501447)

Or the new 3GS one. It has a GPS receiver, and there are a variety of applications which can utilize that to offer mapping and directions. Plus the backend is OSX - once you jailbreak it, you can ssh in and do all sorts of hacking.

Why NOT ask for the moon on a stick? (1)

lotho brandybuck (720697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28501491)

If you did have the moon on a stick, and a sextant, and an almanac, and knew how to use them, you'd never be lost. Not so sure about the traffic updates...
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