GPS

Jul. 30th, 2009 10:42 am
adrian_turtle: (Default)
As I mentioned in the previous post, my old TomTom has become a handheld brick. It lasted 20 months. I used it 10-20 times/month, sometimes in the car and sometimes on foot. It made a lot of trips easier and less scary for me, probably pushing a fair number of them across the feasibility boundary. The user interface was pretty convenient, except for rebooting (which I didn't consider at all when making the initial selection). I talked to TomTom tech service several times in the first month I had the device, and was told its failure to respond didn't indicate a problem with the unit--I should just reboot the thing. I think I rebooted it more often than I used it, and I was pretty annoyed that rebooting was so ergonomically unfriendly.

The friend who lent me his GPS for yesterday's trip to Westford said he had never needed to reboot it. It's a Magellan, and it's needed replacing twice (theft and breakage), but it never froze and needed rebooting. I found it fairly easy to use, and I'm sure I could get accustomed to the user interface quickly enough.

I need to buy a replacement device. I'm looking for a fairly low-end model--I don't want a wide screen or a subscription to constant map and traffic updates. I want a screen that doesn't flicker, and reliability. A lighter device would be nice, because I often want to use it as a pedestrian, and a few ounces can make a difference to my hands. I'm not willing to sacrifice durability for light weight, though. Dropping my old TomTom on the kitchen floor or sidewalk didn't seem to make any difference to its performance. That's a feature I didn't even think of until I heard about the dashboard mount for the Magellan slipping, and "Well of course the glass shattered." Do any of you have positive or negative experiences to share?

When I was shopping for a device in 2007, I don't think GPS devices came with MP3 players included (except possibly the most expensive ones, which I wasn't considering anyhow.) Now it seems like Nextar has MP3 playback in all their devices, and Garmin has it from the 360 on up. (The refurbished Garmin 360 prices seem reasonable.) I usually carry a Palm Pilot and use it to listen to audiobooks, or occasionally to listen to music. It's a nuisance in the car, because I don't like the idea of using headphones in the car...but the little speaker built into the Palm is often not loud enough to hear over road noise. Have you used the combined devices? Are they useful, or a nuisance? Can you ask the GPS system to direct you somewhere, then start listening to an MP3 as you drive? Does it just stop reading for a moment to say, "left turn ahead, 1 mile" and then go back to the book, or do you have to choose between navigation mode and book mode?
adrian_turtle: (Default)
Where I come from, we called the road between Plymouth and Ann Arbor the Plymouth-Ann Arbor Road, as is only sensible. Actually, that's just the wishful thinking of nostalgia. In Ann Arbor, we called it Plymouth Road. And in Plymouth, they called it Ann Arbor Road. I was within a few weeks of my 19th birthday by the time I saw a street sign that actually said "Plymouth Ann Arbor Road," and I figured out the connection. (Previously, it hadn't occurred to me that Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor had anything to do with the city of Plymouth. *eyeroll* It's not like Concord Road in Southfield has anything to do with Alcott's Concord. I thought streets were just named for cities when town planners ran out of presidents or got tired of trees.) Even with this background knowledge, I still didn't appreciate that the Chelmsford Road to Billerica and the Billerica Road to Chelmsford are different roads.

My GPS often has trouble finding a signal. Many times, it gets stuck, and I have to reboot it before it will work. I looked up directions on Google before I left for Monday's job interview, and cautiously allowed 80 minutes for a drive I expected to take 45. I've often had trouble rebooting the GPS on the road, because the reset button is set too deep to reach with a ballpoint pen, or the back of my pride pin, and small paperclips or mechanical pencil leads aren't strong enough. It needs one of the BIG paperclips, so I remembered to bring one. After 6 minutes of not responding, I reset it and managed to both get the device stuck in demo mode. The next reset killed it. It won't show anything but gray rectangles, now.

Anyhow, there I was, on my way to the job interview in Westford. I had planned to use my handwritten notes to get past gaps in GPS coverage, but it turned out I needed to rely on them completely. An exit number and a word like "Billerica" is really desperately inadequate, when I don't have the GPS device to get me out of trouble. I called Vicki, hoping she could rescue me...but navigating for cars is really not something she has much practice with, and navigating the roads of northeastern MA is not for beginners. I called the HR person expecting me, but she had no idea where Billerica was, and thus could not direct me. I asked if it would be more convenient for her to reschedule? She would call me back about that. I stopped at a disturbing number of shops and restaurants where people had no idea where Westford was, and thus could not direct me. (This is a consequence of sprawl people often don't think about. If you drive an hour to work, you aren't likely to know much about the area near your workplace.) I finally found a mortgage officer at a bank, who gave me useful directions very graciously.

With all the getting lost and going the wrong way and stopping to ask, I was an hour late. (Not to mention frantic with anxiety.) I apologized profusely, and repeated the offer to reschedule the interview, if it would make things easier for the HR person or the hiring manager. That was when I got lucky. It turned out that the hiring manager had not noticed my failure to arrive for the interview Monday afternoon, because nobody had put it on her schedule. Could I come in Wednesday and not mention the earlier attempt? Sure, that would be fine. Thanks.
adrian_turtle: (Dracomir)
Before I started working, I was worried about the commute. The distance is scary. Being so unfamiliar with the area (geographically, and in terms of not knowing anybody locally to ask for help) is scary. Long hours are scary. Unspecified long hours where I am susceptible to being pressured because I am trying so hard to prove myself in a new job, new career, new industry I desperately want...that's scary too. Having an ice storm just before my first day nearly took the whole thing over the top from anxiety into a sort of parody of horror-movies.

ice, day 1, late to work )

work itself )

ice, day 2, getting a ride )

a little context )

This afternoon, I did not remember the old correspondence in such detail. I simply told my boss that I did have transportation, even when the weather was bad enough that I did not feel safe driving. The commuter rail station is only 2 miles away, and that's an easy walk for me. The only difficulty is getting to work after 8am, but it looks like quite a few people seem to come in at 8:30 or 9. He said rather grudgingly that it might be ok if I came in a few minutes late occasionally, when the weather was very bad. (I decided the hole was deep enough and I ought to stop digging. I thanked him, and said I didn't expect it would be an issue again until after Christmas, anyhow.) The next 2 days are going to be horrible, with a mix of snow and rain. I need to drive through it, though. Because I have places to be in the late afternoon/early evening on this side of town. Not just because I've just discovered my boss considers "driving to work" a kind of job requirement, and it's uncomfortable to negotiate for "driving to work except in severe weather," when I really don't want to do it at all.

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