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MacFixer, the iPhone, iPod, and iPad specialists

Des Newman's OziExplorerCE for the Pocket PC

20th August 2002

Reviewed by Mike Barrett

 

OziExplorer is somewhat different to the other GPS Mapping software packages reviewed here: Firstly it is shareware and not maintained by any commercial concern. Secondly it does not come with any maps. Thirdly it uses a different mapping technology compared to other products.

OziExplorer CE

 

OziExplorer is targeted at a different type of user: the professional and recreational off-road user. This software is useful for and used world-wide by emergency services, law enforcement, forestry, geological and mining, palaeontologists, archaeologists, local council/boroughs, hikers, bikers, off-roaders, sailors, and pilots, plus many more. This is not software you can buy off the shelf and start using (OziCE maps need to be converted using OziExplorer). You have to acquire  pre-calibrated maps or create and calibrate your own maps, this is not as daunting as it first appears, all you need is a scanner and some paper maps. The software is so flexible that you could even use satellite images or aerial photographs as provided on many mapping websites (Please check copyright clauses before downloading images)

 

The software comes in two downloadable packages: OziExplorerCE for your Pocket PC computer at $25, and OziExplorer for your PC or Laptop priced at $75 (optional). There are demo versions of each package available to download from the OziExplorer web site at www.oziexplorer.com. There is also a trial version of the PC software with more features enabled.

 

There are a wealth of features packed into the software the main areas being:

  • Display of commercial and user created maps.

  • Live display of current position using GPS interface

  • Display and logging of track

  • Creation and display of waypoints (positions on your map)

  • Display of route

  • Navigation instructions based on route

For the purposes of this review an iPaq 3870 was used with a NavMan 3000 GPS sleeve.  This review focuses on the OziExplorerCE software, another review covers the OziExplorer (PC) software.

 

Software Installation
Installation is a simple matter of downloading the software package in the format and configuration to suit you. then running the setup application. OziExplorerCE is available for Handheld PC, Palm PC and Pocket PC, in either self extracting zip, or normal zip formats. The same process applies for the PC version of OziExplorer. To create maps for OziExplorerCE you will also need to download the Img2ozf utility.

The software can be registered using links on the OziExplorer web site. This sends you to the ShareIt shareware registration site where you can provide your credit card details and pay for the registration key. The turnaround time between placing the order and receiving the registration key was extremely fast.

To use OziExplorerCE and prepare maps for it you only need to register OziExplorerCE and use the OziExplorer Trial Version to create your maps. There are a few restrictions imposed but they do not affect the operation of the CE software. If you find the PC Trial Version useful then you can register that as well.

 

Creating a map
Creating a map is as simple as getting a digital map image (once you have permission), calibrating it, converting it and loading into your Pocket PC. Unlike the other mapping software reviewed here OziExplorer uses raster graphics (pictures as opposed to line drawings) for it's data, thus allowing flexibility at the expense of size. A map is the combination of a graphical map image and a calibration file.

It sounds quite complicated but with a little practice you can generate any maps you want quickly and accurately. I generated the maps used for the review in less than 15 minutes.  This is done by scanning them into the computer, trimming them using a graphics package, then using OziExplorer (PC) to create a .map file.

The OziExplorer (PC) software has a wealth of options for calibration. This allows me to position the calibration marks in the corners of the scanned map on grid line intersections and get a very accurate calibration using standard grid references. Once this has been done for three or four points clicking save calibrates the map and saves a map file. You can then check the accuracy of the calibration by moving the cursor around the map.

As a graphics image of a map can be very large OziExplorer has a utility program to provide a compressed file at different resolutions for the Pocket PC. This takes the map image and then shrinks the file. As an example one map image can be 30Mb covering an area of 25 square kilometres. This can be reduced to 7Mb with zooms of 75%, 50%, 25% and 10%.

The map calibration file and the converted graphical map are than transferred to the Pocket PC OziExplorer/maps directory and you are ready to go.

 

 

Using the software
When you first start OziExplorerCE you will see an 'index' map of the world. This is the default shown when there is not a more detailed map to be displayed at the cursor position.

When you switch the GPS tracking on by clicking the lightening symbol on the button bar you will be shown the most detailed map available at that position. If you do not have a map loaded then the World map will show your position.

The layout of the display provides a button bar at the top of the screen, followed by the information bar. In the centre of the display is the map image, and at the bottom is the menu bar.

The information bar contains the position of the cursor, in this case it is showing the OS grid reference, an the GPS status, currently off.

The menu bar provides the main configuration and control of the software.

 

Click for large view.

 Reproduced from Ordnance Survey 1: 50,000 mapping Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

Configuration
The file menu is where all the configuration of the software is done. As can be seen there are a large number of options that can be set. For displaying the OS grid reference select General Settings then BNG for the position format.

You can determine the size, colour and style of your cursor. I selected both an arrow and a circle, when the arrow is selected it displays the direction of travel.

The track logging options allow you to specify how the track points are collected and displayed. There is intelligence built in to the software to detect major variations in your course and log a track point.

The units options allow you to specify speed, distance and altitude display as either metric or imperial.

There is also a speed monitor which will alert you if exceed preset upper and lower limits.

 

In Use
The system is simple to use once set up. All you have to do is to ensure that the map(s) covering the area(s) you are traveling to are loaded into the PocketPC and off you go. As soon as you get a satellite fix OziExplorerCE will display the most detailed map at your current position.

The two screen images show the maps displayed at different zoom levels. The shot on the left is a walking track of the passenger ferry at Symonds Yat in the UK the second is a driving track from the campsite at Bracelands to Coleford, with a stop off at a petrol station.

The accuracy of the GPS location was within a few meters. At worst the car was shown to be on the wrong side of the road.

Click on the pictures for full size images

Click on picture for full image

Click on picture for full image

 Reproduced from Ordnance Survey 1: 50,000 mapping Crown copyright. All rights reserved.


One of the more useful features of the software is the searching for maps. When you move off the edge of your current map the software will automatically detect this and then find and display another map covering your current location. If none are found then the world view is displayed.

 

Waypoints
At significant points on your journey you can set a waypoint simply by tapping at the cursor. This will create a waypoint with the name wp0 or similar. Unfortunately there is no way to rename these in the software ( you can edit the waypoint file in notepad). In the above picture of Symonds Yat I have set waypoints at either end of the ferry crossing. These waypoints conform to international standards and can be loaded into any software or hand held GPS devices to locate features.

There are options to load and save the waypoints, enabling you to create waypoints for specific purposes ie Mountain Summits, positions of fishing lakes, etc.

 

Tracks
Tracks are essentially a sequence of waypoints that are automatically recorded to a file, and displayed on the screen in the screen shots above the tracks are shown in dark blue.

Tracks can be saved and used either in OziExplorerCE or displayed in OziExplorer (PC) as shown to the right. The track replay reads the track file and simulates a GPS output thus retracing your steps. The example on the far right shows a track from a Waterfall Walk in the Brecon Becons in Wales loaded into OziExplorer (PC).

You may notice that occasionally the red track seems to be very erratic, this is due to the information being provided by the NavMan sleeve. This is particularly apparent in the Wales track, the cause for this is most probably signal reception in a ravine with leafy coverage overhead.

Click on images for larger picture

Click on picture for full image

Click on picture for full image

 Reproduced from Ordnance Survey 1: 50,000 mapping Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

 

Click image for full size picture

Click on picture for full image

Reproduced from Ordnance Survey 1: 50,000 mapping Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

Routes and Navigation
Routes are a series of waypoints linked together. There can be a number of routes in a single route file. Route files created in OziExplorer (PC) are compatible with OziExplorerCE.

At the waypoints in the route you can create a 'proximity zone' this can be used for a number of things though primarily for navigation instructions. This could be used to warn of sharp drops ie exclusion areas, or shallows around coastal regions.

The picture on the left shows a route down through the riverside path, note that the navigation is set to the end of the route, due to lack of route waypoints the route is displayed as a direct line to the next waypoint (straight over the river and an impassable cliff.

The image on the right shows the navigation to the waypoint named Angel. The instructions show a sharp left turn and we are within 120 yards of the target.

Click image for full size picture
Click on picture for full image
Reproduced from Ordnance Survey 1: 50,000 mapping Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

 

Strengths and Weaknesses
When taking into account the intended use of OziExplorer it is a perfect package for hiking, mountaineering, sailing, Mountain biking and other outdoor pursuits, given proper protection it could even be used for canoeing and white water rafting. It should be stressed that this is not a substitute for mundane navigation methods and outdoor skills, but should be used to augment them.

I once successfully navigated across a field of 4 foot high grass following my OziExplorer readout and arrived within 10 feet of the style marked on the map.

This software is extremely flexible allowing a large number of configuration options and features. On the face of it, it could look daunting and have a high learning curve, but experience has found that once the problem of correctly calibrating maps has been resolved then it is easy and rewarding to use.

There are no end of applications to the data produced from both OziExplorerCE and OziExplorer, which can be shared throughout the GPS community.

As seen above there are occasions when GPS will not function either correctly or at all. A good example is under the overhang of a waterfall or in a ravine. In these cases no signal is preferable to an incorrect reading. The signal can be affected by a number of factors including cloud cover, trees, buildings, cliffs, ravines, etc

An issue with OziExplorer is obtaining or creating maps. In the USA the government makes digital mapping data freely available. In the UK and other countries this information is sold at commercial rates, there is no recreational source of digital raster maps in the UK for OziExplorer that we are aware or have tested.

The most major problem with this package is not the software or the GPS sleeve, but the actual battery life. Using the iPaq with most systems disabled and lowest screen backlight the battery lasts for about 2 hours.

For $25 or approximately £16 you get a lot of software for your money. I have been using it for over 4 months and look forward to exploring new regions whenever possible. This is not a system for driving and automatic routing, but is defiantly a viable and exciting enhancement to outdoor pursuits.

Digital Scanning of Maps and Downloading of Digital Maps Disclaimer
All maps do hold a copyright notice to prohibit the copying of the maps.  Please check the terms and conditions of the copyright and your rights before digitally scanning any paper maps or downloading of any digital maps from websites.  Most mapping companies will grant you a license to make at least one copy of the map for personal use only, however please check first and if requested to do so, request permission from the copyright holder first before scanning or downloading the digital maps.

 

Ordnance Survey Copyright Restrictions
Permission to scan an Ordnance Survey paper map (which is less than 50 years old) for retention on a retrieval system must be requested in writing stating the purpose of scanning Ordnance Survey maps, scale of mapping to be used and total area to be scanned in cm squared at original scale. Permission will not be given if the customer can be supplied with an equivalent digital mapping product from Ordnance Survey.  A one off data royalty charge will also be applied, calculated using the number of mapping units scanned, and the customer must hold a Digital Licence with Ordnance Survey.

Conclusion

Manufacturers Website

http://www.oziexplorer.com 

Pocket GPS Reviewer

Mike Barrett

Pocket GPS Reviewer Website

http://www.bwww.co.uk

Rating

 

Map Detail

Usability

Points of Interest

Not Available

Map Availability

Map availability refers to maps available off the shelf in the format for instant use with OziCE see the review of OziExplorer PC for general map availability.

 

Overall Rating 56%

How did we achieve these ratings ?

Review Ratings

 

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