I got a new toy for my birthday. The best I could come up with for presents was new socks, but Susan surprised me with a wrist GPS (and socks too!).
It’s meant to be worn on your wrist, looks like a very big watch. I have somewhat of a phobia about wrist-watch-like things with lots of information. My very first FDGB after reaching puberty was in college. My parents had given me a stopwatch, so of course, I had to fiddle with it while riding my bike to class and ran into a pedestrian. Said ped fared a lot better than I did, who once again became one with the pavement.
I immediately realized that it had six or so buttons each of which produced a bewildering assortment of menus to do obscure things. I should point out that I am a great subject for usability testing, since given any device or program that has a number of options, I will invariably make every wrong choice before finally stumbling on the right one. And if there’s a way to cause irrevocable damage, I will find it.
Nonetheless, I immediately started punching buttons to put it through its paces. After about a half hour of futility, I must confess to doing that which real men never do, I read the manual. Actually there were two manuals, the get started quick version and the bedtime reading version. After going through both of them, I wasn’t very much further along then when I started. I’m not really sure if I wanted a route or a track, or how to start one and stop another, etc.
So I went back to punching buttons, and eventually managed to get it to do a subset of useful things. I actually managed to put in some waypoints for the Apple Pi ride and download this to the GPS.
Then I set out to try to follow the route. Those that know me realize that although I’ve been leading this ride for about a decade, I don’t actually know where it goes, and I find my way like everyone else by following arrows. Since my mission was to put down new arrows, and the old ones might in fact be gone due to attrition or new road surfacing, I needed an auxiliary guide, hence the GPS. Just in case, I took a cue sheet as a backup.
One thing to worry about it that it won’t do much until it figures out where it is. This involves latching onto several satellites, and when it has a quorum, magic starts happening. Problem is, it doesn’t take much to block out the satellites, like trees, so if you’re traveling on our favorite tree lined routes, the GPS is lost. I was riding along with it happily communing with three satellites, went past a tree and one went away. Sort of like satellite roulette.
I was happy to find that it did pretty well in general pointing me in the right direction. There was just one instance where two roads diverged at a very shallow angle that I had to consult the cue sheet. It draws straight lines between way points, so you can’t tell exactly where you’re meant to go. For right angle turns, it works fine. If it’s a twisty road, the little man on the screen may appear to wander off course. Once I figured this out, all was well.
So I was merrily riding along when a dialog popped up on the watch. I couldn’t of course read what it said, so I had to peer over my sunglasses Bob Newhart style. Now I am conditioned to little popup dialogs being something bad, so I figured it would say something like “dead battery” or “unknown fatal error, sayonara” but it actually said that a turn was coming up. My first reaction was wondering how did it know, and then I realized since I had programmed all the waypoints, it could perhaps figure it out. Once or twice it informed me of a turn after I’d made it, but it’s the thought that counts.
My next adventure was with an old ride Pamela and John had invented. Hadn’t been led in years, so arrows were nonexistent. A true test. Being a coward, I brought along a cue sheet, and managed pretty well without it except for a couple of dirt sections where more precision was required.
The real selling point is that it has a tracking mode that shows you where you’ve been, the electronic equivalent of breadcrumbs, so no matter where I roam, I should always be able to find home.