Friday, April 11, 2008

Addicted to GPS

The Angeles Crest Highway (highlighted in red)The Angeles Crest Highway
Image via Wikipedia
Some technologies are transformative. Cell phones are one example. (seen many payphones lately?)

I think GPS is another. Right now, I'm in LA, coastering... We have a part year exchange student (he was a switchout from another family) and I decided it might be fun to go coastering somewhere with him (and my son) during spring break. We're Cedar Fair season pass holders, so Knotts Berry Farm was an obvious choice. (most of the other CF parks aren't even open yet)

We arrived Wednesday around noon and decided to spend the half day sightseeing. I love the Angeles Crest Highway drive into the mountains, I try to drive there every time I'm in LA (it's a thrilling, curvy, steep, narrow drive) and wanted to share it. So up we went.
Mount Wilson (California)Antennas atop Mount Wilson
Observatory at left
Image via Wikipedia

I'd not been to Mount Wilson (which hosts the Palomar Observatory as well as a lot of transmitters) before, so we decided to take a drive up there on the way back. It's a very impressive outcropping. Circling "Video Drive" we went past one transmitter after another. As we passed a particularly large and impressive stone blockhouse-like base structure, the audio system in the rental Prius buzzed. Thinking nothing of it, we got some pics and started back.

On the way back down the mountain I noticed the GPS wasn't updating, it showed us still on the Angeles Crest Highway even after we got back to Glendale. A power cycle or two didn't seem to have any effect. The unit was receiving signals from the satellites, and could route to saved locations, it just thought it hadn't moved.

It dawned on me that we had no idea exactly how to get back to the hotel in Buena Vista, and LA freeways are not exactly trivial to navigate if you're confused. Fortunately my Blackberry also has GPS and integrates in with Google Maps nicely, so we were able to get turn by turn directions and limp back.

Magellan customer support is notorious for how bad it is. So I was a bit concerned about how to recover from that. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I connected the data cable, and tried to read some of the logs on the device. This caused it to display some error popup windows and lock up... this time, after power on, it went through a hard reboot and the GPS seems to be working again. Whew!

But the thought of doing the next few days without GPS was positively scary to me. Apparently I'm addicted. I've gotten very used to being able to blithely go where I want to go and have the GPS straighten me out if I take a wrong turn.

Agree that GPS is transformative? Disagree? What technologies are you addicted to?

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