Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 8:02 pm Post subject: POI Observer on Sony Nav-U50/70: full instructions
First, I'm sorry for the this HUGE post. It's necessary to explain fully what you have to do. It took me three days on and off to get it clear in my head and make it happen, but I'm a GPS/speed camera database novice, and have never worked with Windows CE or POI Observer before.
Here's the instructions that got my Sony Nav-U70T to show speed cameras using the free software called POI Observer. It's not for the complete novice, but it's not difficult if you do it step by step, as long as you understand Windows a bit!
i) I have no idea whether this process exactly the same for a U50. I'd be very surprised if it's any different though.
ii) If you do not take care, or you make a mistake, you may stop your unit working entirely. I take no responsibility for that. Having said that, I did exactly that a couple of times and was always able to revive it by connecting it to the PC with Activesync and reinstalling the application from the supplied CD.
iii) This will all stay in place if you turn the unit off and on. But if you soft or hard reset it (ie poke a pin in the hole underneath or worse, turn it off underneath) then you will lose your desktop shortcuts and the dll you copied into the \windows directory (see below for full instructions on doing those operations). In that event, redo those two things and all should work again.
Ok, here we go. There's a lot of steps and fiddling but I've tried to be complete. You probably need to understand "Windows speak" a bit.
If you find errors or omissions or points that need clarifying then post here for the good of all!
1) The Sony is a Windows CE device. You need access to the CE interface.
2) You need a copy of POI Observer.
3) You need to configure POI Observer.
4) You need to install POI Observer, make it run, and get it to be accessible each time you start the device.
1) Access to the CE interface
The Sony unit automatically runs the Sony navigation software on startup. We first need to prevent that happening.
You need to get a copy of a program called showtaskbar.exe for Windows CE to do that. I got my copy from a site called GPS Passion. If you want to do the same then
Extract the file called showtaskbar.exe to your PC
Plug the Sony unit into your PC. You are going to use Activesync to copy the file across.
In Activesync, once connected, click "Explore".
Browse to Mounted Volume\Sony\Nav-U
Rename the existing Sony software from Nav-U.exe to Nav-u2.exe
Copy showtaskbar.exe to the Sony in the folder Mounted Volume\Sony\Nav-U
Rename showtaskbar.exe on the Sony as Nav-U.exe
Step 1 is complete. If you reboot your Sony now (after unplugging it from the PC of course) it will no longer boot the Sony software, but should give you a Windows interface, complete with start menu and control panel. You might find the task bar is minimized into a very thin grey bar right at the bottom of the screen, so be prepared to use a stylus, fingernail or cocktail stick or something to get the darned thing to pop up!
Now go to start\settings\task bar and start menu settings
Make sure "Always on top" is ticked - you'll see why later. Suggest you have autohide on as well.
2) POI Observer
Leave the Sony for a while. We'll now install the nightmare that is POI Observer. 99% of the support for this seems to be in German. The manual has some English in it though, so you can make head or tail of it if you are persistent, or can speak German! I can't. Hopefully these notes will make it easier if you've never seen it before.
The concept is as follows.
a) On the Sony, you need to install virtcom, which will read the GPS signals and copy them to a place where both POI Observer and the Sony software can get at them
b)The POI Observer program itself also needs to know where the speed cameras are - which you need to get from the database on this site of course
c) You need to use POI Configurator to convert the database to a form POI Observer can deal with
To get POI Observer, POI Batcher and Virtcom (and the manual ideally), go to
You will need to create a (free) account there as well.
Unzip the files to your local drive.
We're going to get a test system running on the Sony now, but not the speed camera database yet (more fiddling later!)
First thing, on your PC, is to alter obsglobals.ini in notepad or other text editor as you see fit. It's all documented in the manual. The only changes I made were these two:
AutoSwitch=2 to make POI Observer minimize on launch
SpeedLimitDimension=mph otherwise it's all in kph
You can fiddle with any other parameters if you want to
Now reconnect your Sony to your PC and get back into Activesync.
Create a folder on the Sony called \Mounted Volume\My Flash Disk\POI Observer
Copy virtcommgr.exe, poiobserver.exe, poiobserver.ini and obsglobals.ini from your PC to that folder
Copy virtcomng.dll to the \windows directory on the Sony
The Sony software will now have to be told to expect GPS data on com port 0. Copy the file called prefs.ini from \Mounted Volume\Sony\NAV-U to your local hard disk. Edit it with notepad. Find the line that says comport = 5 in the [gps] section, and change it to read comport=0
Save it, and put it back on the Sony overwriting the existing prefs.ini (save a copy somewhere if you want)
Test time again. Unplug the Sony and reboot it
Go to start\programs\windows explorer
Navigate to \Mounted Volume\My Flash Disk\POI Observer
Double click Virtcommgr
Set the source port to com 5 (you'll see it's the GPS port)
Set the baud rate to 9600
Set the virtual port to com 0
Press Test Raw. You should see some numbers. If so, end the test
If you are in view of some satellites, press test GPS. You should see some GPS strings. If so, end the test
Assuming all is well, press the "res" button to make it resident, and the Activate button. (Ignore the "NF" button). If you get an error then you haven't put virtcomng.dll into the \windows directory, or you've reset the box, which erases it every time.
Ok, now the software is reading the Sony GPS signals and forwarding them to com port 0 from 5.
Launch POI Observer. It will complain that it can't find wav/bmp files nor a poi database - ignore all that and proceed anyway
Make sure the button in the second row says "Virtcom", not "Standalone". Press Activate. Press Minimize.
You should now see a coloured bell in the task bar at the bottom. Once you are in view of some satellites it will go green and chime at you.
Until then it will be yellow. If it's red then the whole shebang isn't working right, so go back and check you've done all the above steps!
3) Now to configure POI Observer
You'll be working on the PC for a bit again now.
You need a copy of some POIs - I'm assuming you've have a login and paid at this site and grabbed a copy of the speed camera database. You need the ASC format ones, as well as suitable .bmp file and .wav files
On the PC, run POI Configurator. Fill in the fields as appropriate. You need:
A name in the Cat name field, eg Gatso
A Cat no, eg 1
A number in the ZoTx field, eg 6
The path to your ASC file in the ASC field, eg C:\POI\Cameras.asc
A number in the ZoBM field, eg 6
The name of a bmp file with a dot in front of it in the BMP field, eg .gatso.bmp
A comma in the S column, eg ,
A number in the FoSi field, eg 8
A colour in the FoCol field, eg Black
A colour in the OuCol field, eg White
The name of a wav file with a dot in front of it in the IV WAV field, eg .gatso.wav
A number in metres in the IV Dist field, eg 500
If you press F1 you can see what these fields are, and play to suit yourself. NOTE THAT THE .BMP FILENAME MUST MATCH THE .WAV FILENAME
Fill in as many lines as you have .asc files for. I put in all the individual camera types (Redlight, mobile, 30 speed limits etc) as individual entries, so I can have a different sound and bmp for each.
Press Convert. If all is well it will create a file called Observer.obs in your local drive. If it fails, then EITHER your fields aren't correct or your .asc file isn't correct - two coordinates with no quotes around them and then the name of the poi in quotes, all separated by commas is what is required.
Now you need to alter the POI Observer.ini file on your PC so that it shows the right windows in the right places on the Sony screen at the right sizes when it kicks in
You can ditch all the sections for Observer windows we don't want. Mine just uses two windows, and looks like this:
On the Sony, navigate to \Mounted Volume\My Flash Disk\POI Observer and make sure you have (or create if you have not) two folders there, one called Bitmaps and one called Sounds. If you are using my example names, then copy gatso.wav and gatso.bmp to these folders as appropriate.
Copy the observer.obs and the POIObserver.ini files into \Mounted Volume\My Flash Disk\POI Observer
Make a shortcut in the folder \windows\desktop on the Sony for each of the following: Virtcommgr.exe, POI Observer.exe, NAV-U2.exe
Disconnect the Sony from the PC
You're done! This is the final stage. Make some tea and then...
Restart the unit. You should get a Windows desktop with the shortcuts on.
Launch the virtcommgr from the shortcut. Set it to com5, 9600 as the source, and com0 as the virtual port. Click Activate.
Launch POI Observer. Make sure you get a yellow or green bell.
All done. You can now go test it on the road!
The final piece of the jigsaw:
If you turn the unit off then POI Observer needs restarting next time. But when you turn on the unit, the Sony software is still running,so you can't get at the desktop to launch POI Observer again, can you?
Yes you can, and this is how.
Just click on the taskbar (cos you made it always on top, remember? A stylus is REALLY useful for this as when the taskbar is in autohide mode it's really hard to get at with a finger. On the right, click on the input panel icon to get the virtual keyboard. Click CTRL and Q on that and the Sony software stops, and returns to the Windows CE desktop
So to use the unit you simply now:
Turn it on
Click the POI Observer shortcut and check all is well
Click the NAV-U2 shortcut
When done, use CRTL Q on the virtual keyboard to quit the Sony software
Turn it off
Hopefully that's all you need to get you NAV-U unit doing lovely speed camera warnings. Best of luck!
Hi Dippy m8.
I hit a big problem, In the \mounted volume\Sony\Nav-u the file prefs.ini would not copy or in anyway able to change, so although virtcommgr and poiobserver could read the com port the Sony nav couldn't. If I right click on the file everything is greyed out. I installed everything following your idoit proof instructions and I really thought it was going to work. I wonder if anyone could print or send me the file. Again thanks for your time.
Thanks Dippy m8. It was because I should have tried to copy the file while the Nav system was deactive ie in windows CE screen, as it gave sharing violation error. Again thanks. I do hope others can share in your work to get it on the Sony.
You can put shortcuts into the startup folder, but it will do you no good unfortunately. If the Sony is powered off normally, then Windows just hibernates, so on return it doesn't go through startup. If the Sony is fully powered down (reset) then on restart the contents of the Windows folders are rewritten.
I've got stuck at the very start of this walkthrough. I have copied over the shotaskbar.exe file and renamed it but when i reboot it won't let me bring up the taskbar. It shows the normal screen but there is the grey taskbar, i just can't get to the start menu etc. I'm using a 50t with the latest update!!!
First can I say thanks to Dippy for the helpful instructions (and of course the guys that wrote the programs, etc). I have it running on an NV-U50.
Raldred, I've noticed that the log file provides better information. You should see an error in there somewhere. For instance it may say that it could not find a wav or bmp file indicating that the path is wrong.
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