Tuesday, August 14, 2012

FlytoMaps All in One HD Reloaded

Application: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch
Function: Marine, Lakes, Parks charting and navigation
Cost: $9.99 for iPhone $19.99 for iPad HD
Rating: ****

FlytoMaps has added a ton of new changes since I reviewed the app back in January 2011. I thought it was worth a second look to point out some of the new features.

The most noticable update is that they now offer a new HD version for the iPad or iPhone.  The HD version will cost you $19.99.  The iPhone only version is still a great value at $9.99. Once you buy the app most of the charts are free to download from within the app. Specific apps are available for purchase where copy rights apply.

  • All USA Nautical charts
  • All Europe and Australia, New Zealand Nautical charts
  • More than 100 US Parks and Forests 
  • 100 major EU parks 
  • 20 most famous Australian National Parks, all New Zealand National Parks
  • Most famous world holiday areas and islands (Caribbean, Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives, Canary Islands, Azores, Oslo Fjord
  • Lake Maps for Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts and Wisconsin
  • The marine charts of UK Ireland and Netherlands areas cannot be downloaded because subject to UKHO copyright. If you are interested in those areas please purchase the specific App
  • New iPhone3GS Magnetic Compass integration.
  • FlyToMap - ALL IN ONE is for boating, sailing, fishing, walking, running, hiking, skiing, kayaking, rafting, geocaching.
  • Zoom and Pan fast just by a finger touch
  • Use Latitudes and Longitudes to go to your favorite places
  • Record your GPS Track
  • Detailed tour guide at your finger tips
  • Real time GPS position on the map
  • Geo-Tagged photo management
  • Insert the destination ‘Waypoint’
  • Real time speed, distance and direction to destination
  • Insert Unlimited Markers of your favorite places on the chart or map
  • Search your Favorite points or any location by name
  • Set On/Off Elevation Contours if you feel data is cluttering
  • Latest version 3.5.5 added distance calculation and heading vector and improved drawing of overlays.
There is an extensive list of charts and maps. The provide Hunting Map, Water Maps, Travel Maps, Park Maps and Lake Maps.  The water charts cover most of the US and some additional locations around the world.

Travel Maps cover the Caribbean, Central America, the Mediterranean and a few spots in Southeast Asia.  Park Maps are the most extensive covering most of the USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Lake charts are limited to just a few states in within the USA.

The marine charts are very  nicely detailed with all the buoys, lights and markers. Depths are shown in gradients of different colors. You have the option to show charts and maps in Offline, FlytoMaps, Google or Cycling modes.

The charts and maps can be downloaded for viewing offline.  This allows you to see the charts while not connected to the Internet. This is a key feature if you are doing any offshore sailing.

The chart to the left shows the Google selection. Marine charts are kept for the ocean areas and the Google map is overlayed to show the land detail.

Soft keys across the bottom of the screen include GPS, Search, Map, Track, Measure, Marker, Camera and Settings. 

The GPS feature enables real time tracking of your position. Simply tap the icon and it will take you to your present position. Tap it again stop the real time tracking.

The satellite icon in the lower left of the screen gives you the status of your GPS connection. You can tap this and detailed GPS data is provided showing your position, altitude, course, speed, heading and GSP signal strength.

The Search feature allows you to search by name any location on the charts. Simply type in a location that you want to find and the app take you there and displays the location on the charts.

This is a great feature that will quickly take you to a point anywhere in the world without having to pan and zoom around the chart.

Additional display items that can be accessed from the main screen are the speedometer, a compass and distance and heading displays.

The speedometer is in the upper left corner of the screen, the distance and heading are in the upper right and the compass in in the lower left.

Tap on these icons to enlarge the display, tap them again to minimize.

The app is a little weak in this area, I wish they would put all of these items in a instrument bar instead of having them spread all over the screen.  There is no NMEA data integration available at this time either.  This would allow user to view their ships instrument data within the app.

The track features allow you to record and save tracks of your trips. There is also a pause button to temporarily suspend the track recording.  I did not see the ability to display the track on the charts.  This might be another nice feature to add.

There is an option to send the track by email. Selecting this will allow you to send an email with a file attached in .kmz format.  This will allow you to view the track on Google Earth or any viewer that can read .kmz format files.

I do not know how many tracks can be saved or if there is a limit on the size of the track files or miles recorded. If anyone knows this information please let me know.

The next soft key is the Measure function. Select this if you want to measure distance from one point to another on the chart.

When you tap the icon two silver markers appear on the screen. Take you finger and move these to the points that you want to measure between.

The distance and heading from the first point to the second point will be displayed on the top of the screen.  This is a great feature to quickly do some measurements between your present point and any point on the chart.

The Marker features allows you to place a marker on the chart. I personally think this feature should be called Waypoints instead of Markers similar to most other GPS charting apps. When you tap the Marker softkey a favorites screen come up. Here you can view your favorites or add a marker by tapping the plus sign. You can give the marker a name and description and it will allow you to add a photo and change the coordinates if needed.  One thing lacking is the ability to make a route from these markers or waypoints.

One unique feature that they have added is the FlytoMaps online marine map viewer.  This is a web based viewer of their marine charts. This is a great planning tool and it allows you access to all the marine charts for free online.

In the upper right corner you can select the Edit mode.  This  allows you to edit the online charts to show points of interest, measure distances, draw lines and delete objects.

This appears to be their answer to an Active Captain like crowd source mapping system. All of the white boxes are points of interest, wrecks or obstructions.

Well, I like what I am seeing from the FlytoMaps gang. They are adding many new features and continuing to improve their product. That is a good thing!

This app is called FlytoMap All in One and that's what you get. They provide maps and charts for camping, hiking, boating and more.  It is a tall order to put all this into one app but they have done and it and it is well worth the price.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Android 4.0 MK802 Mini Computer

Application: Micro Computing
Function: Apps, media player, Smart TV, Linux, Android
Price: $75.00

If your a regular fan of my blog you know that I don't write much about  hardware.  The site is primarily dedicated to Marine Apps.  In this case I could not help myself. This little device has captured my attention and imagination.  The Android 4.0 MK802 is a tiny computer that fits in the palm of your hand.  It is a little larger than a USB memory stick but it also has a processor, RAM, storage and I/O ports which makes it a mini computer.

The device is designed to run Android 4.0 on a AllWinner A10 1.0 GHz processor. It also has 512Mb or 1 GB RAM and an optional 4 or 8 GB of solid state memory. The AllWinner A10 processor is used in many lower priced tablet that are presently on the market so it does a fair job running the operating system. It is not a speed demon but it can be used to check email, surf the web, play some games and play music and video files in 1080P.

To use the device you will need to connect it to some kind of monitor or TV, keyboard and mouse.  The unit comes with several options to make these connections.  This model has a micro HDMI for connecting it to your monitor. A micro USB is provided to provide power to the unit.  A full size USB is provided for connecting additional storage, keyboard and mouse. A microSD card slot will also let you provide additional storage up to 32GB.

The device has WiFi capability which will allow you to connect to the Internet or wirelessly to your onboard network NEMA server.

  •  OS - Android 4.0
  •  Main Chip - Allwinner A10/ 1GHz Cortex-A8
  •  Memory - 1GB
  •  Storage - 4GB
  •  Graphical processor - 2D/ 3D/ OpenGL ES2.0(AMD Z430)/OpenVG1.1(AMD Z160) 27M   Tri/sec
  •  Network - Wireless 802.11b/g/n, WAPI(Ralink8188)
  •  Expand Memory - Micro TF 2-32GB
  •  IO/Ports - Micro 5pin USB/ USB2.0 data transfer/ OTG and host expand
  •  Keyboard - Support virtual keyboard,support 2.4G wireless keyboard, fly mouse
  •  Audio - AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, QCP, MP3, WMA, WAV, MIDI, M4A
  •  Video - WMV/ASF/MP4/3GP/3G2M4V/AVI/MJPEG/RV10/DivX/VC-1/MPEG-2/MPEG- 4/H.263/H.264/1280*720P HD 30 fps, 1080P/720*480 D1 30fps
  • Android APP - Youku, Tudou, QQ, Youtube, Twitter, AngryBird, Office, Gmail, Browse, Skype.
  • HDMI - 1080P&2160P
  • Power Input - 5V2A
  • Size - 8.8*3.5*1.2cm
  • Weight - 0.2kg
  • Support the latest HTML5, Flash10.3, etc.
  • Netflix, Angry Bird, Gmail, YouTube and more
  • HDMI output port, support Full HD 1080P/2160P.
  • USB2.0 Host high speed data interface and T-Flash card slot.
  • Support install applications & games, will bring you best entertainment.
  • Can connect wireless mouse, keyboard, etc.
The device primarily runs the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich version. Hackers and modders are already providing customized Android version to give the device better performance.

The processor is capable of running the Linux operating system also. There are alot of resources out there of people already running Linux on these devices. The Linux image simply has to be copied to the removable microSD card and then inserted into the device prior to powering it up.

To revert back to Android, simply unplug the device, remove the SD card and power it back up with the Android operating system.

My little mind started working overtime to come up with uses for this device onboard our boats.  We are all looking for low power consumption computers for use onboard. The less battery power we use means less charging needed from generators and alternators. This little computer operates on 5 volts and draws only 2 amps. The largest power draw will be from your monitor or big screen TV.

There are several great charting apps that will run on Android. Getting GPS to the device could come from a USB GPS or through a TCP/IP NMEA link over WiFi.

The addition of this device to any TV instantly gives you a smart TV capable of connecting to the Internet, downloading or streaming music and movies, books and much more.

I am familiar with many Android apps that are being use on mobile phones and Android tablets. All these apps can now be used on this device over a big screen TV or monitor.  The versatility to boot up with Linux gives you another full blow operating system with OpenOffice for word processing and spreadsheet applications and many other Linux programs.

Most of these devices are made in China. Once one company puts out a device others seem to copy it and put it out under their own name. Zero Device is another company that has their own version called Z802 and their newer Z902 models.  FXI Technologies has the Cotton Candy USB Stick. You can see and purchase them all at Allied Express.  Amazon.com has many of these devices for sale also.

Well, if you want to experiment or like to tinker a little like me, pick one up and let me know how you plan to use it.  I see this as a whole new developing area of computing. I am sure future versions will have bigger and faster processors and more features.  Did I mention that it was only $75.00, I might buy two!

If that is too expensive you can buy a Rasberry Pi for $25-$35 bucks.

Sail On

Friday, August 3, 2012

Intellicast Boating HD

Application: iPad, iPhone iOS 4.0 or later
Function:  Marine weather and charts
Rating: ****
Cost: $6.99

What are the two things all boaters need when heading out for a day cruise or a weekend on the water. Charts and weather of course. We all know weather is a key factor in keeping the fun in our on the water activities. Keeping an eye on approaching storms can keep you and your crew safe.

Intellicast, a Weather Channel company is known as one of the nations top weather services. They have developed a great app for on the water enthusiasts.  The extensive customizable weather data displays and the added bonus of NOAA RNC charts makes this app one you will want to consider while on the water.

The app provides a wealth of weather data and overlays so you can select the type of real time weather or forecast data you want. Tides can be checked by selecting from the listed tidal stations on the chart. Hurricane tracking and severe weather alerts are provided too.  The high resolution satellite and radar will keep you out of harms way from severe weather. See the additional features below.

  • NOAA Raster charts
  • Marine forecasts
  • Buoy and C-Man reports
  • Marine and severe weather watch/warnings
  • Severe storm and tropical cyclone tracking
  • Tides stations
  • CONUS, Alaska, Hawaii, Canadian, Caribbean, and Mexican radar data
  • Forecast radar for the CONUS
  • High resolution satellite imagery to highlight clouds and fog
  • Wave heights
  • Sea and land temperatures
  • Wind speeds
The first thing you need to do is set up your weather viewing locations.  On the top left of the screen you will see an icon next to a cities name. Select this and a drop down window will allow you to add a home location and other cities that you want to view.

Simply tap the drop down and select the city where you want to view weather data.

Up to date Marine reports are listed on the bottom of the screen with the latest data.
The app has a lot a versatility in allowing you to set up only what you want to see. The different viewable layers are selected with the Map Layer selection on the bottom right of the screen.

You can select up to 6 layers or overlays to view at one time.  There are 17 separate layers to choose from. There are five overlays including Marine observations, NWS Coastal forecasts, Tides, Storm Tracks, Tropical tracks.  The layers and overlays that you select will show up as icons on the bottom center of the screen. You can then turn these off and on for viewing by tapping them. This gives you the versatility to change what your want to view on the fly.

Marine forecasts can be viewed for the area you located in.  The app knows where you are located using the internal GPS.

Marine forecast data includes temperature, dew point, humidity, water temperature, wind, gusts, wave heights, pressure and latitude/longitude.

Hurricane warnings are very important to those of you in the gulf and up the eastern seaboard.  The screen shot to the right shows the latest tropical storm Ernesto and it's forecast track through the Caribbean.

The Blog feature in the upper right hand corner of the screen gives you an up to date narrative description of the tropical activity in the gulf.

The app is a great resource for weather data, providing the user with the flexibility to view a variety of data in real time or forecast modes.  The NOAA charts do not provide any navigation features except for reference to the weather data. 

The main problem with the app is that all the data requires that you have an Internet or cellular connection. Coastal cruisers will find this app very useful but long distance cruisers will need a weather app that can download and use GRIB files.  Weather 4D Pro would be a great choice for offshore use.

The app is great at weather but is very weak on marine navigation.  So, you are still going to need to purchase a separate navigation app.  I am not sure it is worth the $6.99 for just a few added NOAA charts.  I think I will save my $7 and just use the free Intellicast HD weather app. 

Sail On