Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Report on Jessica Watson's yacht collision

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released a preliminary report on the collision between Jessica Watson's yacht Ella’s Pink Lady and the bulk carrier Silver Yang off Point Lookout, Queensland on 9 September 2009. While media reports have questioned the wisdom of a teenager solo sailing, what comes through in the dry technical language of the report is of a skipper acting calmly under pressure.

After the collision the report says the skipper, seeing the mast was about to collapse retreated to the cabin, assessed the yacht was still seaworthy, radioed the Silver Yang that assistance was not required, reported the incident and returned to port.

Ella’s Pink Lady was equipped with an Automatic Identification System to detect other ships electronically, a radar, a radar enhancer (to make the yacht show up better on radar). Navigation equipment included fixed and hand-held magnetic compasses, four GPS units, an integrated electronic chart-plotter/radar display and a laptop computer with a back-up electronic charting system. Also there were two VHF radios, a high frequency (HF) radio, an Inmarsat-M satellite email/telephone and an Iridium satellite telephone.

At 0151½ on 9 September 2009, in a position about 15 miles east of Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, the Australian registered, single-handed yacht Ella's Pink Lady collided with the Hong Kong registered bulk carrier Silver Yang.

At the time of the collision, Silver Yang was en-route to China and travelling at a speed of about 9 knots on a northerly heading. Ella's Pink Lady was under sail on a voyage from Mooloolaba, Queensland, to Sydney, New South Wales. The yacht was making good a course of 144°(T) and a speed of about 7 knots.

Ella's Pink Lady was dismasted as a result of the collision, but the skipper was able to cut the headsail free, retrieve the damaged rigging on board and motor the damaged yacht to Southport, Queensland.

The ATSB investigation is continuing.

From: Abstract, Collision between Silver Yang and Ella’s Pink Lady off Point Lookout, Queensland, 9 September 2009, ATSB, 268-MO-2009-008, 20 October 2009

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

End to End Secure Quadruple Play Communications Solution

The NZ Ministry of Economic Development has given notice it is intending to issue a Request for Proposal for the "Provision of End to End Secure Quadruple Play Communications Solution (Voice, Video, Data Mobile with security)". The wording of the announcement is worryingly loose and sounds like it was cobbled together from some vendor brochures. As an example a single service is "likely to encompass ... probably security perimeter ... possibility of datacentre consolidation... Probably VoIP telephony ...". The ministry is also asking for: single number for staff, a one user – one device voice model, mobile device deployment and management for secure mobile communications, GPS integrated mobile devices with mobile mapping and locating, Data Centre acceleration (whatever that is):
"The Ministry of Economic Development is giving advance notice to suppliers of its intention to release a Request for Proposal for the Provision of End to End Secure Quadruple Play Communications Solution (Voice, Video, Data Mobile with security).

The scope of this procurement is to select a single contracted service provider to work in partnership with the Ministry for the provision of Network Services. The Ministry expects to have a prime vendor arrangement with the Vendor taking responsibility for all aspects of the requested service.

Such a single service is likely to encompass the following areas:

· End to End fixed and mobile communications inclusive of data, video, fixed voice, mobile voice, internet and probably security perimeter

· The possibility of datacentre consolidation

· End-to-end monitoring via defined back to back commercial interfaces with the Ministry’s infrastructure suppliers

· Probably VoIP telephony both internally, call centre and externally prepared for the next level of innovation

· Specific fibre solutions for disk mirroring and/or replication to support DR

· Innovation consisting of, but not limited to :

o Single number for staff
o A one user – one device voice model
o Mobile device deployment and management for secure mobile communications
o GPS integrated mobile devices – mobile mapping and locating
o Data Centre acceleration
o WAN acceleration
o CTI for the call centres
o Authentication
o Security

Call and Data routing utilises the most appropriate least cost path (eg on-net, off-net, internet – via wifi, cellular etc) and this is transparent in service delivery and commercial arrangements..."

From: Provision of End to End Secure Quadruple Play Communications Solution (Voice, Video, Data Mobile with security), NZ Ministry of Economic Development, GETS Reference: 27573, 9 October 2009

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Building location aware websites

Paul Hagon from the National Library of Australia will talk on "Where am I? Building location aware websites" at the July Canberra WSG meeting, 24 July 2009 at the NLA in Canberra.

Mobile devices with inbuilt GPS, such as the iPhone, are leading to the development of location aware applications. This trend isn't just limited to the mobile arena. Advances are being made to bring this technology to desktop and laptop browsers. Services exist to allow you to share your location to a variety of applications. How can we incorporate this technology into our websites and what are the technical and social implications of doing so? ...

From July Canberra WSG meeting, Web Standards Group, 2009

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Open source consortium building car entertainment platform

The GENIVI Alliance is a non-profit consortium launched in March 2009. It aims to produce open source car entertainment systems based on Linux. Members include GM, BMW, Intel and Peugeot Citroen. Given cutbacks in the automotive industry it might be a good time for a cost-saving open source approach, as an alternative to initiatives like the Microsoft Ford Sync.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Perth transport spatial data available for download

Public Transport Authority, Transperth, is now offering spatial data for download. The data is available in Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) and ESRI Shapefile formats. Perhaps someone can use this to build a usable transit map for Perth CAT busses. Last time I visited, the supposedly real time reporting system did not match where the buses were.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Location privacy issues

The University of NSW, UNSW School of Surveying and Spatial Information System and Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, hosted the seminar "You are where you've been", 23rd July 2008 in Sydney. This had researchers, industry and government people discussing the privacy issues with GPS, mobile phones and tracking via IP addresses. This was an excellent introduction to tracking technologies, the privacy issues with them and the legal and other responses to the issues. Such an event would normally cost thousands of dollars and even the lunch was free! ;-)

Ironically I was late for the seminar as I couldn't find it in the new UNSW Law building, which looks like the fractalated set for the The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The building has slanted columns, which are a tripping hazard, and no right angles, making finding your way around difficult (but the main lecture theatre has a wonderful window view and a power point to run your laptop at each seat).

Roger Clarke was giving an introduction to the issues of privacy and location tracking as I arrived. He talked about roles and identities. I wasn't too sure that his distinction between the real and abstract was real. He defined privacy as freedom from interference and can't just be legislated for. He criticized the data protection laws and the federal privacy commissioner (the privacy commissioner of Victoria was present).

Some technologies:

* Handheld: PDAs and mobile phones. He pointed out the iPhone as a key current device. He argued that 3G phone networks allowed better tracking than computer type networks. A computer network can track a person to within a few suburbs, whereas a mobile phone can do it to a few tens of metres. Most phones are used by individuals and so allow tracking the person. He discussed how a phone can be located but left out enhanced GPS which allows tracking of a phone quickly down to mm.

* Vehicles: Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) can be used to record car number plates and so track the car (M7 Sydney Electronic Toll Road). RIFD tags can also be used to monitor cars, such as those used on motorways (Roger described it as "Passive"). He points out that this is useful for user pays parking, roads and the like. He pointed out that all vehicle details are captured and kept indefinitely not just ones failing to pay for the time they don't pay for. Police are also implementing ANPR for traffic administration and enforcement.

* People: Roger condemned the health department's policy to electronically tag dementia patients.

Helen Versey, Victorian Privacy Commissioner on "Location Privacy : Privacy regulator's perspective": She pointed out the value as well as the problems of location technology. But then argued how privacy is one of the fundamental human rights. CrimTrac might undermine state privacy legislation with federal law. The commissioner claimed that Victoria has few cameras and ANPR is at an early stage. However, the traffic authority has an extensive network of cameras to monitor traffic. This network could be easily interfaced to an ANPR system to record all number plates detected on all cameras all the time.

One question I had was the effect that open access to government information would have for privacy. There is a Victorian Parliament inquiry into open access. On the face of it, government providing information about what it is doing is a good thing. But how do you check for private information?

Rob Nicholls "Hic et nunc: Provision of location based services to law enforcement agencies": Looked at federal legislation. He argued that the Telecommunications, Privacy and Spam Acts worked well together. Telcos fall within the privacy principles and so location services are likely to fall within this. A 2007 telco act amendment explicitly identifies location information from mobiles as private.

Rob invited questions so I asked how much of an obligation there was on the telco to ensure their system protects privacy. He said that there was a strong obligation, as directors were likely to go to jail. The example I and in mind was when Vodafone Greece's system was hacked allowing phones to be bugged.

Rob argued that "active" location services imply the customer gives consent to have their location known. The example given was to request the location of the nearest ATM. He argued that this requires the customer to provide their location. This is not strictly true. A system could provide the location to a third party who found the nearest ATM. Also only an approximate location could be given. The phone could then be sent a list of near ATMs and the system could pick the nearest. This might actually be a more useful service for the user, as they could select from the range of nearby ATMs.

Ron then moved on to location based information and law enforcement. He argued that Australia has moved away from international norms for privacy. It took me a while to work out that this was a criticism. Australian law allows law enforcement access to vaguely defined "telecommunications data", which essentially includes everything except the actual call, email or file content. The request can come from a public servant, a judge is not needed. This includes ISPs as well as telcos. Carriers are required to be able to intercept the data if a warrant is issued.

I asked if the requests which senior public servants make for metadta have to be in a particular form. Rob said this could be something like a fax with a scanned signature. So I could imagine a system where the requests are sent semi-automatically, allowing one person to issue thousands of requests a day.

Lyn Moore: Location Privacy: Telstra's Perspective: Customers must opt in to location services and can change the services they subscribe to. A WAP gateway is used to interface to service providers suing the location information. The service providers have to agree to privacy conditions for use of the location information. OMA Mobile Location Service standards are used for implementation. OMA MLP and OMA Location Privacy Checking Protocol. The telephone number is mapped to a userid. A location id is used to identify the location. Details are only stored for 20 minutes. In this way it is claimed that the service provider therefore does not know where you are. This was a refreshingly straightforward presentation (unlike usual Telstra ones).

I asked if the service provider could use a cookie to identify the subscriber and then match that with their position. The reply was that this is prohibited under the the service provider conditions.

David Vaile, Google Street View: Need to look at street view in relation to other Google services. Google have been reluctant to engage on privacy issues, apart from asserting they were trying to not be evil. Google being US based as a different view of privacy to most of the world. Local Google staff have more understanding of Australian/European issues.

Matt Duckham: Obfuscation: Location privacy protection through spatial information hiding: Discussed how the technology works and how locations can be made approximate to protect privacy while providing services.

Dan Svantesson: Geoidentification - " A serious threat to your location privacy on the Internet?": A very approximate geo-location, to country, based on IP address is used by major web providers. This is used to limit access to content for licensing reasons, target advertising or content. Even at this level there are implications for privacy. The Antipiratbyran case (Sweden 2006) suggests that court will consider IP addresses are personal information. Go-location tests suggest country level accuracy at 99.9% and at state level of 95%. But these are US figures and it might be a lot harder for other countries. A French Yahoo auction case suggested an accuracy of 70%. Anonomisers can be used to hide the IP address of users. GeoBytes are an Australian based geo-location provider.

M.G. Michael: A research note on ethics in the emerging age of Überveillance: MG was suffering from jet lag and so this was not the best presentation of the day. He showed some advertisement and news report videos about surveillance, which would have suited an industry conference more than a scholarly seminar. He emphasized the term "Uberveillance", but without explaining it . Later I found he had authored several works on Uberveillance. With this and other material in the presentation MG seems to have assumed the audience would be familiar with the work. This was a problem for me, and I suspect others in the audience from diverse backgrounds. As a result there is a risk of such a presentation appearing to be shallow MG needed spend some time on the background of his previous work, to provide context.

Otherwise there is a danger of such presentations looking like one by an impersonator I once attended at the IFIP conference dinner. The comedian had been supplied with a set of ICT buzz words and names of industry people to mention. For several minutes they were able to fool a room full of ICT experts that they were an industry expert. Since then I have been wary of any presentation with too many glib terms:
The Congress dinner, held in Parliament House in Canberra, was one of the week's highlights. The speaker, introduced as Dr. Lawrence Tibbs, Associate Director for Technology and advisor to the President and Vice-President of the U.S., gave a lively and very humorous talk. He addressed the audience as, "Ladies, gentlemen, and Australians." He stated, "You can tell an American IT expert ... but you can't tell him much." Although most of the attendees were amused, some were upset or surprised at his lack of diplomacy. After his talk, which had some thoughtful moments, he removed his hairpiece and revealed himself as Mr. Campbell McComas, a professional comedian, who fooled virtually everyone in the audience.

From: IFIP NEWSLETTER, IFIP December 1996
Usman Iqbal: Privacy-aware telematics technologies - GPS enabled insurance and social issues: Usman presented an interesting and well researched presentation about the privacy issues of insurance. The idea is that the car insurance company would charge based on how far you drove and where you drove (tried by Norwich Union with a system called PAYD). The more km traveled and the more dangerous the road, the more the insurance costs. The catch is that this requires the insurance company to be provided with location information for the car. Usman carried out research using a GPS device in a student's car and then seeing what inferences could be drawn. He then looked at if it would be possible to design a system which do not reveal location to the insurance company. The solution proposed was to have the insurance calculation carried out by a computer in the car.

The example given considered the number of km driven on different roads. Would a simpler system which just reports what suburb the car is usually parked in do just as well? Car insurance companies use the suburb already for measuring location.

This suggests an interesting possibility to take into account insurance cost when planning a trip. This could be by a trip planner (such as Google Maps) or an on-board navigation system plots a route. It might also be amusing to consider having the safety of other drivers on the road taken into account and having the car tell you to avoid dangerous drivers. Also a simpler example would be to apply this to household insurance. It would be very simple to detect when someone is home and use that to determine their home and contents insurance.

It would also be interesting to apply such a system to an individual. Their smart phone could track them and have their personal insurance adjusted accordingly.

Usman also surveyed drivers and found that sports car drivers were prepared to pay more for insurance in return for anonymity. Females were more interested in privacy.

Panel: There was an interesting discussion of EU versus USA developed privacy standards. I asked the panel if they were worried by the rise of China resulting in a downplaying of personal privacy in technical standards. The panel was skeptical of technological determinism.

One question I wanted to ask all the presenters was if privacy only applied to individual natural people. One presenter commented that an IP address might only identify what family was using a computer, not an individual and therefore is not a privacy issue. But do not families and other groups have a right to privacy? Why shouldn't non-natural people, such as a community group, have a right to privacy?

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Location privacy issues seminar

University of NSW, Law and Policy Centre, are hosting a free seminar on location privacy issues, 23rd July 2008 in Sydney. It will have r researchers and commentators from industry , academia, government and policy think tanks discussing: Legal / Policy Issues, Technology Issues and Social Issues of technologies such as GPS.




0830 -0900



Ed Garvin




Chris Rizos

Location Based Services and issues such as Privacy


Roger Clarke

You Are Where You've Been. Location Technologies' Deep Privacy Impact


Morning Tea

Session II: Legal/Policy Issues


Helen Versey

Location Privacy : Privacy regulator's perspective

1125- 1150

Rob Nicholls & Michelle Rowland

Hic et nunc: Provision of location based services to law enforcement agencies


Mia Garlick

Australian Telecom Law, its current interpretation of location information, and the future


Group photo of speakers:




Session III: Technology Issue


Lyn Moore

Location Privacy: Telstra's Perspective


Les Fenech

Practicalities of delivering LBS and policy/privacy issues


David Vaile

Google Street View


Matt Duckham

Obfuscation: Location privacy protection through spatial information hiding


Afternoon Tea

Session IV: Social Issues: 0330-0430


Dan Svantesson

Geoidentification - " A serious threat to your location privacy on the Internet?


M.G. Michael

A research note on ethics in the emerging age of Ãœberveillance


Usman Iqbal

Privacy-aware telematics technologies - GPS enabled insurance and social issues


Panel Session


Seminar Concludes

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wireless Local Positioning Systems

NICTA are hosting a seminar on Wireless Local Positioning Systems by Reza Zekavat, from Michigan Technological University, 26 June 2008 in Canberra:

Wireless Local Positioning Systems
Reza Zekavat (Michigan Technological University)

DATE: 2008-06-26
TIME: 13:00:00 - 14:00:00
LOCATION: NICTA - 7 London Circuit

Wireless systems capable of positioning mobiles remotely in complex mobile environments have emerging applications in homeland security, law enforcement, defense command and control, multi-robot coordination, and traffic alert such as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian collision avoidance. These systems promise to dramatically reduce the society's vulnerabilities to catastrophic events and improve the quality of life. The talk presents a novel wireless local positioning system (WLPS) recently patented by Michigan Tech University (MTU).

The proposed WLPS has two main components: 1) a base station deployed in a mobile (e.g., vehicles, robots or handhelds) that serves as a Dynamic Base Station (DBS); and 2) a transponder (TRX) installed in wireless mobile handhelds, robots and vehicles that act as Active Targets. Unique identification (ID) codes are assigned to each TRX. DBS transmits periodic ID request (IDR) signals in its coverage area. Transponders reply to IDR signals as soon as they detect them. Depending on applications, each mobile in the coverage field may be equipped with only DBS, only TRX, or both. Such a framework offers attractive features: (i) high probability-of-detection performance via active as opposed to passive targets, (ii) low-cost TRX made of simple transceivers, and, (iii) infrastructure-less operation via dynamic as opposed to static base stations.

Dr. Seyed A. (Reza) Zekavat received his B.S. degree from Shiraz University, Iran, in 1989, M.S. degree from Sharif University of Technology, Iran, in 1993, and Ph.D. from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado in 2002. He has over 10 years of teaching and research experience both in the United States and abroad. He has published more than 75 journal and conference papers, and has co-authored two books and invited chapters published by Kluwer Academic Publishers and Springer. His research interests are in wireless communications at the physical layer, dynamic spectrum allocation methods, radar theory, blind separation and beam forming techniques, feature extraction, and Curriculum Development. His current research is supported by the National Science Foundation and many Other Agencies through several active grants totaling over $1,500,000. He is also an active technical program committee member for several IEEE international conferences. At Michigan Tech, he has founded two research laboratories on wireless systems, and is currently principal advisor for several PhD students.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Garmin nüvifone

Technus houseboatGarmin have announced the "nüvifone", which is a sort of iPhone for sailors, with a 3.5-inch touchscreen GPS navigation and 3G mobile phone in a handheld gadget. It has a camera which will tag images with the latitude and longitude of where the photo was taken (but not what direction the camera was pointing). This can then be interfaced to Google’s Panoramio photo search. There are not a lot of specifications released about the unit, but I expect it will be much thicker than the iPod Touch (which is so slim I found it hard to hold). Also I expect we will see a lot more gadgets of this sort of device.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

HP iPaq rx5900 Travel Companion

HP iPaq rx5900 Travel CompanionThe HP iPaq rx5900 Travel Companion is a PDA with GPS. It has the software from the TomTom GPS and a windscreen mount for a car. This a somewhat uncomfortable compromise being expensive for a small screen (3.5 inch) GPS unit and low resolution (QVGA 320 x 240) compared to newer PDAs.

There is a merging of functions happening with PDAs, GPS units, handled games and phones. Exactly what functions get incorporated depends more on what makes sense to the buyer, than what is possible with the technololgy.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Interactive car navigation with advertising

Dash is a US company offering a GPS car navigation computer with a wireless link for interactive access. The idea is that it can be updated in real time with information about traffic delays collected from other users of the unit:
The Dash navigator uses either Wi-Fi or cell network connectivity to provide users with real-time information that, if it works as advertises, could cut down on driving blindly into traffic jams.

The secret sauce seems to be the utilization of real-time route information sent automatically back to Dash's central servers by each Dash user's equipment. Then the central system sends specific route and traffic information back to individual users so that they can benefit from the experience of fellow Dash users ahead of them.
Their hardware looks much the same as other GPS units. However, it is not clear how much intelligence there is in the unit. In theory it could just be a dumb terminal relaying the GPS coordinates to the remote service of the Internet and sending back maps and instructions. But I suspect the Internet service just augments the usual built in mapping in the unit. There are considerable claims made:
Dash Express is the smartest, most Internet-connected navigation system on the road. In fact, it's the first and only automotive navigation system with two-way connectivity. Which means it gets you where you want to go—in the fastest time possible—and delivers the most relevant information—right to your dashboard. Plus, Dash Express is the only device on the market that automatically and wirelessly updates its maps and software, so all you have to do is drive.
Also it allows for very specific information about products and services available in the local area:
With Yahoo! Local and Dash Express, local search in the car is becoming a simple and easy-to-use reality. When a user enters their search term into their Dash Express, the device wirelessly begins a Yahoo! Local search on the web. Within seconds, the results are formatted into address cards and presented to the user as a simple listing of nearby businesses. With the press of a button on the device, the Dash user is routed to their desired destination.
Anu alternative would be a smartphone with GPS.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Microsoft Ford Sync the future of Car Computers?

Ford and Microsoft have announced a system for car communications and entertainment:
Dubbed Ford Sync, the system uses Microsoft's Auto software and allows drivers to dial their cell phone and have their text messages read to them through voice commands. Drivers will also be able to use voice commands or steering wheel buttons to play music stored on a portable device including Apple Computer's iPod and Microsoft's Zune as well as other MP3 players and even USB flash drives. ...
From: "Ford, Microsoft get in Sync on in-car tech", By Ina Fried, CNET, Published on ZDNet News: January 7, 2007, 10:00 AM PT
Mass production should lower the cost of such systems in cars. But you could get the same results with an after market car computer and GPS systems.

But is how much of this equipment does it make sense to build into a car? The GSM phone system was designed to use a removable smart card with the subscribers information on it. Originally the cards were the size of credit cards. The idea was that you could easily transfer your mobile phone number from one car phone to another by inserting the card in a slot in the dashboard. It was assumed phones had to be built in because they were large bulky items.

GSM phones still use smart cards (a SIM or Subscriber Identity Module), but in a much smaller format, as most phone are smaller than a credit card. Instead of having the phone built into the car, there is more likely to just be a microphone and speaker (and possibly power connection). Some cars have a Bluetooth wireless phone interface built in. You transfer your phone number from car to car by taking your phone with you. What is left in the car is a relatively dumb interface.

Similarly MP3 players can be plugged into a car radio and a GPS unit into the cigarette lighter. From reading Ford's announcement it appears that most of the intelligence for Sync is not intended to be built into the car, but in portable phones and music players the occupants have with them.

Perhaps we will see cars equipped with a large screen in the dashboard with some basic functions. But for the personalized services (your phone calls, your music) the car will communicate by Bluetooth with your smartphone. Already some car GPS units have Bluetooth so they can be used as a handsfree phone.

A car could have a screen for each occupant, communicating with the phones in the car and with each other. Each occupant could see information from their own phone on their screen, or share music, video or a phone call with the other occupants. These would be easy to install as they would only need power from the car, no complex data cabling. They would make a good after market installation or could be removable tablet computer.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Third party dashboard computer for Holden Captiva?

Chevrolet Captiva Dash
According to the review in the Australian newspaper, the Holden Captiva SUV dashboard has a "... tell-tale blank space that must house a video screen in overseas versions ...".

There would seem to be room for a double DIN ISO 7736 slot for a custom Car Computer with a 7 inch screen.

The Holden Captiva is known as the Chevrolet Captiva in the USA and the Daewoo Winstorm in Korea. Some photos show the vehicle with a single height DIN screen (described as the "Driver Information Centre" with a coin tray filling the unused DIN slot below

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Friday, November 17, 2006

In-dash Car Navigation Systems

Pioneer AVIC-D2 In-dash GPS
A few weeks ago I wrote in "Navigating Car Navigation Systems" about GPS units designed to stick to the windscreen. An alternative is an in-dash GPS navigation system.

The in-dash units come in two sizes: "single DIN" and "double DIN" unit. The standard size hole in the dashboard a car radio fit into is called "DIN". This allows for a wide screen display of about 4 inches. A "double DIN", "double height" or "double sized" unit is the size of two car radios stacked on top of each other. This allows for a wide screen of about 6.5 inches with some controls on either side.

Many modern cars have provision for a double DIN unit. On the base model car there will be a radio in one DIN slot and usually an ashtray or cup holder taking up the unused DIN slot. You can remove the radio and ashtray and replace it with a double DIN unit which will look like it was always meant to be there.

Delphi TNR800As the GPS unit will be usually replacing the car radio, most DIN units come with an AM/FM radio. The larger double DIN units come with a CD and/or DVD player. Some units can also be attached to a reversing camera. These units need to be installed by an expert as they need an external GPS antenna connected as well as all the power and speaker cables.

For someone really wanting to go hitech, there as in-dash computers designed to fit in the DIN slot, along with screens.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Navigating Car Navigation Systems

TomTom One
I was asked recently for some advice about GPS gadgets. I don't know a lot about them although I was once involved with checking for a bug in all the units at the Australian Defence Department.

It is a lot easier to buy a new car with the GPS built in. You might consider the deluxe model of the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid and save the planet at the same time.

The simplest add-on GPS units are designed to plug into the cigarette lighter, they stick to the windscreen with a suction cap and are under $1,000. There are hundreds of different models of Vehicle GPS available. Some of the leading brands are Garmin, Magellan, Navman, and TomTom.

The TomTom units seem to rate well for low end users. Their bottom of the range TomTom One is sold in Australia at stores like Dick Smith, starting at $649. There is a review of the TomTom One.

More expensive units have bigger screens and a Bluetooth mobile phone interface built in, but provide the same navigation features. A bigger screen is not a lot of use as you should not look at it while driving, but listen to the spoken instructions.

You can buy these units via the Internet, but make sure the unit has the maps for your country. Most sold on the Internet will have maps for the USA. While new maps can be loaded, it is easier to start with the right ones.

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