The GPS Project


by Dalibor Lanik


    As announced, here are details of my latest project. I seem to have a fix on certain things, once I start with something I can't let go until I learn everything there is about certain matter and achieve perfection :-) You can see my previous obsession project, which I tweaked for several years.

    As you already guessed, I got me a GPS. You can see photos from my first GPS trip to Austria. I just didn't dare go abroad without one. Especialy since my Deutch knowledge ends with "eine kleine schweine" (and a couple of other sentences I learned in my youth from certain videos - which I wouldn't dare print on this, family, web).

    Anyways, I had a hunch about Mio, and the price was right. Originaly I wanted a TomTom, couple of people told me it is the best there is, and pictures in the catalogue looked nice. Also they had several "exciting new technologies" which in the end prooved useless and not so exciting (as I found out later). And Mio prooved a real gem.

    Now, I will repeat what I read elsewhere, on another guy's blog. If you want a navigation for you mother or granny - get her a TomTom or Garmin. If you want to get one cheap and have fun unlocking, tweaking or just use ALL OTHER navigation programs - get a Mio. I am a bit more hardcore on the matter - I'd say, to anyone looking for a GPS - don't buy TomTom or Garmin, they're piece of crap and the worst nav software I've seen. Anyone who designed them knows shit about user interfaces.

    Now this project has kept me busy for several months, and it is still not finished. I work slowly and don't have much free time, but I am getting there. It took 3 steps, which I couldn't foresee. I just thought one day "hey, maybee there is something that I can hack on my Mio". So I put the words "hack" and "moov" in google... and the 2 month trip began. I had GPS for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I took GPS on the balcony whenever I went out for a cigarette (no way you can get a fix [that's what it's called when it sees the sattelites] inside a building).

    What I found out first is that you need to somehow "unlock" your GPS. You see, it has windows CE5, which is a variant of windows mobile, only for embedded type of applications, just perfect for GPS systems. So it means it doesn't have a "today" screen, desktop, start menu, taskbar, that sort of thing. If you manage to unlock it and emulate these things, you could, in theory, run any windows mobile application on it.

    All "unlockers" work on the same principle. They don't unlock anything, really. They just use a "hole" to run something instead of your original navigational software. You see, they designed these things (at least Moovs) to execute whatever there is on the SD card, if it is named in a certain way and put inside a certain folder.

    Ofcourse, you could just connect your GPS to the PC via USB cable and change programs directly on "Flash Disk' (as they call internal storage of the GPS). But that is rather risky as you could screw something up and end up with an expensive brick. That's why it is more convenient to use SD card in the beginning, until you learn something. It leaves no traces on the device, and once you hard-reset the device, it is returned to the original state. Ofcourse, it is not so stable as when you put everything on the Flash Disk, and you must boot often when you power-off the device or go to standby mode.

    Now, word of advice. If you own a Mio Moov and want to try this - arm yourself with patience, search ppc and gps wares forums and you'll find everything and learn something in the process. I'm not gonna give any exact guides on how to do someting, more of a general path that I took and describe what I managed.

    So, you got yourself a unlock, and it booted in a different environment. Cool. But pretty soon you are gonna find out that all these unlocks are far from perfect. There are basicaly two types of unlocks. First are really complex unlocks with scripts and tons of options. Second are extremely simple unlocks with only a few "scripts" that basically just run programs. The second variety was made by people who don't really know programming and are only relying on eye-candy. So we will disregard these "unlocks", since there are tons of those - seems like anyone who knows how to use graphics program has made one ;-)

Let us concentrate on real unlocks. The most famous one, "MioPocket" is really a work of art. It took me days to figure out and reverse engineer to use parts to my needs. But, it is really just a (as my best man Zeljko would say) "hey, mama, look what I can do" kinda thing. Really. Try using that in a car, while driving!

    Go to gpspassion forums to find out more. Here are couple of screenshots to illustrate what I'm talking about:



    Now... It has EVERYTHING such system could have. And half of it is not working on a particular device. It was designed to work on a wide variety of devices, for wide variety of uses, and ofcourse it can't do it all on all devices. I mean, remote desktop on a GPS, c'mon! You have to be eather really cheap or your sense of reality has gone bananas to try to use some of it's features. Nothing against it, no, it is, as I said - a work of art and I can't imagine the time and effort it took to design such a huge project. But use it in a car... no, no way.

    Second one is a bit simpler, but is the only other one I consider a unlock. MioPocket Lite. Somewhat lighter, as it's name indicates, it is still a fairly complex unlock.

    What I start noticing more and more as time passes by, is that individuals and companies don't have a clue when it comes to creating a clean, logical, user-friendly interface. Graphics are stunning, animatons are breathtaking and oh soo cool. Technology is cutting edge and you can get from anywhere to anywhere anytime. But user interfaces suck!
I mean - icons? How long will people try to mimic PC desktop on handheld and touchscreen devices? PC interface is not good for touch screen devices. That is why windows mobile sucks and iphone has success.

    Any why nobody notices this? Well, simply because 99% of users have no clue as to what a good user interface is. They just want something that's cool. And over time they get used to it. Just take a look at it. You need a fucking stylus to press those small icons! I know, I know. You can't have all that functionality otherwise. But IMHO, a GPS is primarily a GPS -  don't tell me that you'll use it as an all purpose pocket PC. Who would want a PPC that has a battery life of 30 minutes? This is primaraly a GPS, designed to be used inside a vehicle. And it is nice to add a little extra to it. But it must serve it's primary purpose. To be user friendly, easy to use, while driving the car.


    OK, ok. I'll cool down. Now, at first I didn't think about all this shit. I just wanted to see what I can do with it. And it is cool. After the unlock (you might want to try a couple, i.e. MioPocket, MioPocket Light, Simple unlock by xtyler are just a couple of best known) and decide which one is best for you. I needed to create my own ;-)

    But, I'm skipping ahead. I didn't have that in mind at the time. After my 1st unlock, I just wanted to see if I can run another nav software. So I searched and made a list of what's available. Once you get to the right places (forums) you will find it all. Just need to see what works on your device.

    So I decided to install everything. That works, that is. So after an investigation in moov hardware, I bought an 16Gb SDHC card. You wouldn't expect it to be that hard to find info on whether fucking moov supports SDHC or just regular SD cards. In the end it turned out it did. So, I had a lot of storage room, unlocked device, will... and another 1gb smaller card for testing.

    I started downloading 1 by 1 everything I could. At first only software without maps (or with czech republic only). Just to try it out whether it works. Some things work right out of the box. Some require more effort. Downloading is a real pain. Everything is in rapidshare, megaupload or similar places, devided into several 200mb archives. In order to download anything, you must download several things at once. There are limits as to how much you can download as a free user. So you download 1 part of 200mb and then you have to wait 15 minutes. Just go ahead, enjoy. Over time, you'll find about special software designed specifically to download from such places, where you just cue all downloads and leave it. It waits 15 minutes between downloads and resumes by itself. Super cool, when you first downoad a couple of 2gb packages manually.

    Now, if you thought that is all, boy are you in for a surprise. All (or most) of the archives are really password protected. so once you download, you have to unrar them using the correct password. Now, if you were downloading 4 different software, in 3 or 4 different archives (1 for s/w itself, 2nd for maps, 3rd for buildings, etc) after 2 days of downloading, you have to remember which password was for each archive. Oh, did I mention that some archives have to be unrared/unzipped with WinRAR and some with 7zip, otherwise they won't work?

    But the most fun is making it work. I managed to run following software on my Moov 360 and friend's Moov 330:

MioMap (ofcourse, it is on the flash disk - but running it correctly can be a challenge)
Mio Spirit
IGo 8 (and
iGo Becker Edition, iGo Alipne Edition)
IGo Amigo
iGo Primo
Sygic McGuider
Mireo Black Edition
Garmin (this was the hardest one)
Destinator (MotoNav)
MapFactor Pocket Navigator
Route 66

    together with a couple of small GPS utils like GPS Tacho, NoniGPSplot, etc.

    In all of the apps, I have maps of whole Europe, except in TomTom and Garmin (which use different licencing and map scheme, but more on that later).

    The ones I couldn't get to work include Medion Gopal and Ozi Explorer.

    Now, with Ozi Explorer and Medion Gopal I had problems running them at all. They just fail to lounch with "not a valid CE application" or something. Luckily, latest Route 66 (v9) works on Moov.

    With Navigon - I managed to get running in the end, but had huge problems. It would display map, it recognize GPS and get a fix, and display my location on the map. But once I tried to make a route it would display an error and report it can't make it. So it wass pretty useless. Some people replied that it is because of RAM. I tried freeing as much RAM as possible, but nothing helped. I don't have 128Mb RAM device to try it out (my Moov has 64Mb RAM which is pretty standard nowdays). In the end, it turned out I just need a particular version with correct, compatible maps.

    But back to the stuff that works. Let me just mention that all the software, once you get all components, manage to extract them and put them in correct folders :-) is really pretty easy to install.  You have to have correct maps, though. Some maps work on some versions of software (weird, ha?) and some are for PDA devices and some for PNA, so be sure to get the correct one. I always aimed for the latest available software and then got the correct maps for it.

     Now, the easiest installations are the ones that come together with maps. By that I don't mean you have everything in one archive - but rather 1 archive for software and one for maps. That's pretty streightforward, just copy the app to the SD card in it's folder, and add maps to a specified folder (usualy map or maps). That's the case (if I remember correctly after all this software) of Mireo, PolNav, NDrive and Sygic McGuider.

    Automapa, for instance, has installation program which is the best of the lot. It asks you where to install, and it can perform installation to the SDcard through SD reader, or  Activesync (uuuughh). The downside is when you just want to update maps. With iGo - you just copy the newer maps to maps folder. With automapa, you have to delete the installed dir and re install all over again via installer.

    iGo, Amigo and Primo are just a bit more complex. You'll find out that you must get application separately, and then get language files, voices, maps, and sometimes buildings and POI (Point Of Interest - i.e. gas stations, hotels, ATM machines, restaurants, etc) all separately.
Sometimes maps come with buildings and POI, sometimes not. Then you have to put them in proper folders. The fun part starts with customizations - iGo supports skins, so that is the reason a lot of manufacturers use it and there are a lot of iGo based navigations. Also, iGo has 2 files which are crucial for the proper operation of software - and The former has to support the resolution of your device in order to work. Just open it, it is a regular zip file, and in the ui_igo8 folder, you will see a list of all supported resulutions. If your device's resolution is not there, it won't work for you.

    Supposing you have Moov, MioMap will already be on your internal storage (Flash Disk). The trick here is how to run it, and even more - how to exit from it. All other nav programs have options to exit, but MioMap 2008 is builtin on your device and they didn't count that you'll be running anything other than it, so there is no "exit" button. This is luckily solved by creating a small X button in the upperhand left or right corner which you press and they "kill" MioMap 2008. Also, as I later found out, there is an option in miomap.ini file to display the exit button.

    TomTom is hard in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it it's no problem. This is one of the 2 nav programs that has to be "cracked" or "unlocked" in order to work. Now, it is important to understand what you're actualy doing here. The lock can be in several different "places. First of all, the maps can be locked by licence file. most of the other nav's use this (Mio for instance), but all wares have been cracked so you don't need to do anything by yourselt. Either the program has been patched, or the maps have been unlocked. With TomTom, you have to do it by yourself. TomToms are locked on to the SD card. That means that you can move the SD card from device to device; once unlocked, it will work as long it is on the same SD card. For this unlock to work, you need unlocking program. I found 2 such programs, but would strongly suggest Albert's Easy Activator, because it is much easier (as name suggest) than the other one. It has GUI, no command line commands are necessary. Next, you need .bif file. Once you install TomTom, run it for the first time. It will tell you that there are no maps, it doesn't matter. What we need it to do is create the .bif file. Then, you need to specify this .bif file in unlocker (you can copy if from TomTom folder to your PC it will work, it contains info on your device and SD card). Next, it will need to know your map folder - so you either need SD card in PC reader or connect to the PC via USB cable - or do this while maps are still on your PC and then copy them to the device. Next, it will need meta.txt. This program comes with a small database of meta.txt's and can download latest version from the internet, but I wouldn't count on it - i.e. I downloaded Central Europe map and it wasn't on the servers. So make sure the map you download has meta.txt. After you specify meta.txt, the program is ready to create the unlock file - .dct file. It will put it next to your maps, in the map folder. And that should be it. Now TomTom should see the map and be able to use it. One thing to understand is that all other software mentioned so far has maps in individual files. i.e. it has 1 file per country or similar. Some have 2-3 countries in 1 file, i.e. benelux, etc, and there are "whole europe" maps which have whole europe in 1 file, but you always have a choice. Then you can easily take only the maps you need and make your specific mix of maps. TomTom doesn't have this. You have to download pre-defined maps by regions. That is, Western Europe, or Eastern Europe, or Western and Central Europe, or Baltics and Central Europe, etc. That way you can never have ALL maps nor make the perfect combination you need. And this is one of the more serious drawbacks of TomTom. And you can't use 2 maps at the same time. You can SWITCH them, though (ha). More, TomTom is the only navigation that requires maps at the ROOT of the SD card, not in it's folder. Now, why can't I believe that the people that didn't have organizational skills to make a "map" folder inside TomTom's folder have the ability to create good navigational software? ;-)

    Now comes the tough one. Garmin. Garmin's phylosphy on maps is the same as TomTom's. You only have map "packages" which consist of what THEY chose for you. Good news (wow, how kind of them) is that you can use 3 different maps at one time (excluding basemap, which comes with the software) - if you know how to name them correctly. Now, unlike TomTom protection, Garmin's in not SD card based, but rather device based. That means the maps will work only on your device, no matter what SD card you use. So, the cracking here consists of running Garmin for the first time, going into about the program and writing down your unit ID on a piece of paper, then running unlock program and entering that number in order to get unlock code. Then you paste that unlock code into the text file called SW.UNL (just use notepad) and put it in Garmin folder. That's it. I mean - if you downloaded "unlocked" maps. If you didn't you have to unlock maps as well (I didn't - I just managed to find already unlocked ones).

    Now, let's have a look at the unlock I made, and then we will examine each nav program I managed to run on Moov.