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Archive for the 'waypoints' Category Page 2 of 2

Ulysse Gizmo: Android MultiSensor App

Application Name: Ulysse Gizmo

Description: Multiple sensor data output, including GPS and compass.

Publisher’s website: Binary Toys

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.6  /  12-7-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)

One thing you’ll immediately notice about Ulysse Gizmo is the “fit and finish”; in terms of visual presentation, it’s one of the more outstanding Android apps of its kind I’ve seen, at least in its default “visual style”. It displays GPS, magnetic and orientation data in four different displays; each one has excellent context-sensitive help.


Figure 1: The magnetic field sensor shows field strength, and the theoretical/actual magnetic strength/direction, along with the local magnetic declination (deviation of magnetic north from true north). More of a science toy than anything else, though I suppose you could use it to detect abnormal magnetic fields.

The icons at the edges represent the other sensor displays, and show actual active data readings. If I tap on the one at lower-left


Figure 2: … a nice bubble level shows up, with pitch/roll/slope orientation data displayed; I wish it also had a readout of the total slope angle along the orientation, but that’s a minor quibble. A quick tap zeroes out the level, while a longer one resets the zero level completely. The bubble level is the default view; if you tip the unit on one of its edges, say a long edge, and do a long press on the level …


Figure 3: It turns into an inclinometer, displaying total angle of rotation, and % slope.


Figure 4: GPS mode displays a sky map of satellite positions, with coordinate data in the box at upper right. Latitude/longitude in DMS is the default option, but you can switch to decimal degrees, UTM or MGRS in the setting section. If you tap on the coordinate box, it will cycle through the coordinate view, a geocoded address readout where available, and …


Figure 5: … a GPS satellite/signal info box. It’s on the small side but packs a lot of readable data into that small space. Here, I’ve changed the visual style from the default to the alternative “Mil-tech” as a comparison to the default style seen above. I personally much prefer the default style, but this alternate might be more readable for some people. There are also day/night color options for both visual styles available from the Menu.


Figure 6: Finally, compass mode. This has been vastly improved from earlier versions, which didn’t include a permanent “Heading” readout. Red needle always points towards true north, blue towards magnetic north; the numbers at top represent the counter-clockwise deviation from north, not the actual heading, which is a bit confusing. But the true heading (and orientation) are always visible in the center. Tapping once on the compass sets the current heading as a direction bearing, aiding in navigating in a constant direction; a long press resets that bearing.

The original version of this review before publication noted that there was a setting for waypoints, but it hadn’t been implemented. Just a few hours before scheduled publication, that changed …

Figure 7: From the menu on the compass page, choose the “Waypoint” option, and you’ll get a local map. A long press on the map at any location will place a waypoint there, and you’ll see info about the waypoint (bearing, distance, coordinates) at the top

Figure 8: Tap and drag on a waypoint lets you relocate it, and brings up a magnified view of the area under the waypoint – a nice touch, since your finger will block that part of the map as you’re moving the waypoint.

Figure 9: Returning to the compass page, the info box now includes data on the waypoint. There’s also now a small white circle on the edge of the compass ring, which shows the bearing direction towards that waypoint. You can remove the waypoint from an option in the waypoint menu, and also “link the bearing” to the waypoint; that will make the bearing display inside the compass correspond to the bearing to the waypoint.

Other Issues:

None – worked fine.

Final thoughts:

Ulysse Gizmo is a  visually-appealing app that shows off the Android sensors nicely. I prefer other apps for GPS status and coordinate data, and I don’t really see any need on my part for a magnetic field sensor. But the orientation app, especially the inclinometer option, is really nice, and the compass’s ability to let you set a bearing is useful. The author was very responsive to suggestions and bugs, and is working on adding additional features. Recommended.

Easy Android Waypoint Creation And Management With SavePoint

Application Name: SavePoint

Description: GPS waypoint acquisition and management.

Publisher’s website: 3trust

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1  /  11-7-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

Android Market link (mobile app only)
Android Market link (browser)

Lots of Android map apps include the ability to save a location as a waypoint, but you often have to wade through multiple app levels to get to it, and keeping them organized by category can be difficult. SavePoint does only one thing, save waypoint positions in user-specified collection tags, but it does it pretty well.


Figure 1: The installed program comes with a single “Example” collection for storing points; you can add additional collections by tapping on the “Collections” button, then choosing “Add New” from the menu. I’ll add a new collection called “Near My House”


Figure 2: Tapping on the Get Position control at bottom brings up the form for saving a position. Tapping the other “Get Position” button at lower left in the form starts up the GPS for constant position coordinate acquisition, and in this mode the app will take the GPS position. With GPS acquisition stopped, you can also enter coordinates manually.

Tapping on the dropdown near “Collection” lets you choose the collection in which the point will be stored. Tap “Save”, and the point will be saved after you enter a name for it. In this example, I’ve collected three data points and put them in the “Near my house” collection. Going back to the Collections section, and tapping on the “Near my house” collection listing …


Figure 3: … I’m given the option to “Edit” the name of the collection, view/edit/map individual points in the collection, or map all the points in the collection …


Figure 4: … in a Google Maps view. Tapping on a waypoint flag brings up a popup with coordinate/altitude/date/time info for that point


Figure 5: Tap on the checkbox to the left of the collection name, and you’re given the option to delete it, empty it, or export it into the “savepoint” directory on the memory card. Currently, the only two export options are CSV (comma-separated variable) and SQL; I would prefer a GPX or KML export option. Version 1.1 now has KML and GPX export, in addition to CSV and SQL. Also, the default delimiter for CSV is not a comma, but a semi-colon; you’ll probably want to change that to a comma in the app’s Settings section. Finally, you don’t have a choice in the export filename; it’s always “savepoint” with the date and time appended (plus .csv), stored in the “savepoint” directory.

Other Issues:

None – program never had a glitch or force close.

Final thoughts:

Now that SavePoint offers a GPX/KML export option in addition to CSV/SQL, its strong waypoint organization features make it very handy to have on hand. Recommended.

TrekBuddy: Offline Map Viewer And GPS Tracker For Android II

Continuing yesterday’s review of TrekBuddy

By tapping in the lower-right-hand corner of TrekBuddy’s map screen, you can flip through the compass screen, the computer mode screen (CMS), and back to the map screen. The compass screen is pretty rudimentary; just a needle display (no digital bearing), and it’s magnetic directions only (Figure 1):


If you’ve just installed the program, and now flip on to the CMS page, you’ll find it blank. Turns out that you have to download and install CMS themes by copying them into the TrekBuddy/ui-profiles directory, either from the CMS wiki page or the TrekBuddy forum. CMS themes are written in XML, and on the plus side it looks like you can create some very interesting themes, including scripting. On the downside, CMS theme creation isn’t for the newbie, even using GUI editors like CMS Creator and CMS Designer. What’s more, CMS themes appear to have rigid size specifications i.e. they’re written for particular screen pixel dimensions; so, you have to find or design a theme that’s close to your screen’s pixel size. Otherwise, instead of a CMS display that fills your screen (Figure 2):


You’ll get one that only partially fills it, with text so small that it can be unreadable (Figure 3):


Tracks And Waypoints:

The navigation screen (tap in the upper left corner of the map) lets you manage waypoints and tracks. Four submenus:

  • Waypoints – Waypoints need to be in the standard GPX format, copied into the TrekBuddy/wpts directory. But you can have multiple waypoints in a single GPX file, and select one of them to use for display or navigation. Once selected, you can “GoTo” it (jump to the map area where it’s located), “NavigateTo” it (though TrekBuddy’s navigation capabilities are limited), or use it in creating a route. You can a Field Note to it, useful for geocaching. On high-resolution Android screens, the waypoint text and icon can be so small as to be unfindable/unreadable; what’s more, only a waypoint that you’re navigating to will show up on-screen (Figure 4):


  • Tracks – Similar handling to waypoints; they’ll need to be in GPX format in the tracks-gpx directory, and you can only display one track at a time. You can navigate or route along a track.  Annoyingly, all the individual track points are displayed (Figure 5):


  • Record Current – Lets you record your current waypoint position, with your desired name and comment; time and altitude tags are added automatically. You can add a waypoint to an existing GPX file, or put it into a new GPX file on its own. Simple and easy to use – one of TrekBuddy’s best features.
  • Add Custom – For creating a waypoint by entering coordinates; otherwise, works the same as “Record Current”.

The process of recording tracks is clumsy and inflexible. In the “Location” menu (under Settings), you only have the options of never recording tracks, asking when you start up the GPS and then tracking all the time, or always tracking as soon as the GPS is on. You can’t stop a track, then start up a new one in the running program; the only way to stop a track and start a new one is to exit the program. You have the option of saving tracks in either GPX or NMEA format; tracks are auto-named with the date/time, and stored in either the tracks-gpx or tracks-nmea directory.

Other Issues:

  • Occasional Java exception error pops up – this doesn’t seem to affect program operation, and goes away after you tap on the “OK” button.
  • One program crash under odd circumstances; program died, but GPS tracking kept on going.
  • Several times, the touch screen locked up completely; any attempts to do anything on-screen brings up a “Keyboard locked” message. Once, random button pushing got rid of the problem; the second time, I had to power-down my Android unit and turn it back on again to get rid of the problem.

Final Thoughts:

There are a number of features I really like about TrekBuddy. The waypoint recording functions are pretty good, and the Bluetooth GPS option is a killer feature, one I hope more Android apps will adopt. And it does a decent job of map display and GPS tracking. I just wish there weren’t so many oddball quirks and inaccessible features that make using it a bit of a pain, at least in Android. It is a port of an app intended for use with OSes other Android, and I guess you can’t expect everything to port over smoothly. Worth checking out, especially for Bluetooth GPS, but I’m hoping to find a better map app, and/or that the Android bugs/quirks will get fixed.