Friday, January 21, 2005

Pharos GPS

So a few years ago I bought this Ipaq PDA and it never really worked for anything. It was heavy, it didn't handle handwriting well, and the battery life was hopelessly short. And when it lost power, it deleted all the added software, so I never wanted to use it.

I saw people taking notes with an external keyboard at shows and expos, but I was always leery of losing everything. Nor would I trust phone numbers and addresses on it. It sat in a drawer for a couple of years.

Then I had it upgraded for a bunch more money....more memory, bigger battery, faster chip. I still didn't like it. I still didn't use it for anything. It sat on the charger for a few months.

Then last November I was in Fry's in Las Vegas...serendipitously located on the way to my rented condo. I saw the Pharos GPS Compact Flash unit and went, "Oh, yeah!"And it worked.
Beautifully. No more Thomas Guide or sloppy maps.

Just specify the origin and the destination, say "Go", stick the thing in the Prius' coffee cup holder and --voila! the route appears. Not only is there a map and text directions, a woman's voice speaks up to give you verbal directions if you enable it."In 200 yards, turn left," she will say.

Everything goes swimmingly -- until you make a mistake. Then the voice takes on the properties of a really mean stepmom who is planning to inject something nasty into your food because she hates you as much as you hate her. "You are off-route, you are off-route, you are off-route," she keeps repeating. "Root," she says. There is no training software to let me teach her to say "rout." No way to take that particular phrase out of her vocabulary, or to tell her to say it once and then shut up.

Oh well, it's small price to pay for finally finding a use for that previously worthless (and expensive) Ipaq.

I went to New York for New Year's Eve. (Yes, it was fun.) I left the Ipaq charging. When I got back, the GPS unit didn't work. The software was good, the unit's spectral blue light was on, but it wouldn't lock onto a satellite. I did the the s/w, changed the comm joy.

So a couple of days ago I got around to calling up Pharos GPS tech support. The help desk guy took me through the troubleshooting paces -- to no avail. Nevertheless, I had the feeling he really thought I had made some kind of dopey newbie blunder, like not seating the unit in the CF slot properly or not making sure the unit was securely in the CF jacket.He gave me a choice of taking it back to Fry's and exchanging it or bringing it to the Pharos labs.The company is located about the same distance to me Fry's and I was curious about Pharos.

So today, I took it to the labs. It's a nearly anonymous building in a nearly anonymous business park that isn't even in my six-year old Thomas Guide. I found it anyway.The tech support guy, Josh, met me right on time. He sneaker-netted the CF unit over to the lab and zoomed right back within ten minutes."Yep, it's dead," he announced. "We've swapped it out for a new one."

'Told you so,' I thought.

As it turns out, Pharos did very well by me. The new unit locks onto the satellite much faster than the old one ever did. And the real-time destination update is working better too. For example, the unit thinks I should turn from Wilshire to San Vicente onto Barrington to get to my apartment. But I have a shortcut that lets me avoid the c-f (not compact flash) at the light at San Vicente and Barrington. Instead, I go straight on Federal and curve on Montana, then take a right onto Barrington. Stepmom starts nagging right away. As soon as I make the right, though, the satellite reports it to the unit and it shuts her down.

I have two large, comfortable armchairs in my living room. They have a certain character, a solid presence, so I have named them: The orange one is the "Chair of Self Congratulation," and the yellow one is the "Chair of Excellence."

Ahhhhh! It is a wonderful feeling when things work, especially when they are technologically complex, gadgetologically cool, and not entirely necessary. I've decided to sit for awhile in the "Chair of Excellence" in honor of Pharos' (and Josh's and the lab's) efficient and admirable customer service.

A good day.




Post a Comment

<< Home