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MS Streets and TripsMicrosoft Streets and Trips Offers Guiding Hand

By Jim Bray

Navigation systems are popular options on cars these days, and they really can help the navigationally-challenged driver find his or her way from point “A” to point “B”.

But what if you can’t find your way out of your garage and your car doesn’t have one of these DVD-based systems? Well, there are many hand held devices available, though I haven’t tried them and can’t comment on how they work. But I have tried a computer-based system that I don’t think is quite as good as the built-in ones, but which on the other hand you can take with you regardless of whether your vehicle has a nav system built in. You can even take it with you under your arm.

It’s from Microsoft, and it’s a hardware/software package called Streets and Trips 2006. The version I tried also comes with a little GPS locator that looks like a microprocessor that you can stick onto your vehicle with a suction cup. It plugs into your notebook PC and turns your portable or pocket PC into a navigation system. And it works pretty well if you set it up properly.

I didn’t set it up properly the first time, sticking it on a side window of the vehicle I was reviewing at the time, and my co-navigators were cackling with delight as the notebook computer showed us barreling across farmers’ fields when we were clearly tooling along a multi-lane divided highway at breakneck speed. So at the first stop I moved it to the front windshield and it worked fine from that point on. I speculate that it was confused by the side location the first time, but I really don’t know.

The system will give spoken directions telling you where to go – kind of like having an electronic spouse on board – though its voice isn’t as good as some of the in-vehicle systems’. And if you decide to second guess its chosen route it can recalculate from your current location. There’s also a “Locate Me” feature that uses Wi-Fi hot spots to help you figure out where you are assuming, I suppose, that you have your eyes closed, I suppose, and can’t see around you.


...continuedMS Streets and Trips

This is a pretty neat way of learning to find your way around a new city if you’re on a business trip, or getting to a bunch of meetings when you’re unsure of the location. And besides the live coverage, you can pre-plan and print out your route the way you can with Google, and it’ll supposedly give you current information about construction along the way.

Unfortunately, it also features one of those stupid lawyer screens you have to click through, which we’re probably stuck with until the day someone orders all the lawyers outlawed. Okay, maybe we can keep one around, just in case….

The GPS version of Microsoft Streets and Trips sells for about $129 US ($150 Cdn.), which is cheaper than the built in option you can get in cars, though of course you need to have your notebook or Pocket PC along with you if you want the live navigation aspect to work. But chances are you will anyway if you’re using it for business.

A non-GPS version of the software is also available for about forty American dollars.

Who’d have thought you could have a back seat driver who was actually helpful?

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.

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December 19, 2005