Friday, April 29, 2011

Free Blackberry GPS apps review

I have a Boost Mobile Blackberry. I do not care much for overpaying for contract telephone service. The down side to this, is that the phone does not come with any decent navigation software. Sure it is loaded with Blackberry maps, but that program is seriously lacking.

I have been using Google Maps on my Blackberry for quite some time, but there are major problems with using that as a navigation aid. First off, if you scroll off of the mapped route, you can not just click a button to get you back to the list of where to turn. You have to scroll back on the map to one of the turn points to get back to the directions. I do not know why they took away this functionality, originally you were able to skip to the next step if you scrolled off of the mapped out path, but with the last several updates (I would consider them downgrades, as they actually reduce functionality) this feature has been missing. Other issues with Google Maps is that it does not update your route automatically if you stray from the mapped out course.

So I searched high and low on the Blackberry Apps store for a free GPS program for my BB. What I found was Life In Pocket, and TeleNav GPS Navigator.

I will start with Life In Pocket. This app not only provides a GPS navigation program, but also has a lot of useful web links, and other features, such as a cheap gas finder, links to different news feeds, and much more. The navigation program does not provide any mapping, but works with Google Maps, and BB Maps. Honestly I could not see much of a benefit in the integration with either map program. The screen shows only your speed, distance to turns, and an arrow on a blue background. I used this program to return to the office from a customers location of which I was unfamiliar with. I ended up in a turn only lane which took me off of the original path. Once the device needed to recalculate my route I could not determine where I was, or where I was going, so I reverted back to the app that I used to get me to the customers location. TeleNav GPS Navigator.

Unlike BB Maps, Google Maps, and Life In Pocket, TeleNav GPS Navigator provided 3D maps of your route. It also includes audible turn by turn directions. It brought me to the customers location, in an area that I was unfamiliar with, with no problems at all. I also used this program as a fall back when after testing Life In Pocket and getting off course. This program picked up the slack, and I even traveled off course to see how it would react to a change in route on the fly. Almost immediately it recognizes that you did not take the turn that it told you to make, and recalculates the next best option. This program finds your location faster than any other GPS program tested (including Google Maps) and a little GPS/satellite icon appears on the status bar of the phone, next to the antenna signal, so I assume it is tapping directly into the GPS chip of the phone, which makes me wonder why none of the other programs show this icon, perhaps they are not accessing the GPS directly? This app kept me from getting lost, and will be my go to GPS app when ever I am in a vehicle that does not have a GPS built in. In-fact, the navigation on this free program is so good, that I would say it rivals that of the GPS built into my bosses Toyota Sienna.

So if you are looking for an excellent GPS navigation program for your Blackberry, and do not like paying for apps like me (although this app is well worth paying for) then I would totally recommend that you look up TeleNav GPS Navigation on the BB App store.

Google Maps is still good for plenty of things, just not navigation. I still use Google Maps when I need walking or public transportation directions, or when looking for a specific store, address or bank nearby. In fact, out of all of these programs, I use Google Maps the most. Perhaps it is because it is all I have used for about 2 years, but more likely it has to do with the fact that for simple mapping purposes it works great.

Life In Pocket is not a total waste. I would probably still use the program for some of the other features, and links that it brings to the table, but it is very doubtful that I will ever power up the GPS navigation on the program ever again.

Happy navigating.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Train Phones photo blog.

I just was working on redoing the look and feel of the Train Phones photo blog that I have been working on. Unfortunately I have not added any new content, but if you have not seen the blog, I recommend that you take a look at it by clicking the banner to the right, or just entering http://trainphones.blogspot.com/ into your web browser.

Hopefully I will have some new content to add to that site shortly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

4 HD sources 3 TVs

I just completed a complicated HDTV installation for a restaurant in NYC. While I do wiring jobs on a much larger scale than this, this was my first HDTV job on such a scale. Previous HDTV jobs that I have done have involved a single television with the components located within range of a standard store bought HDMI cable to reach from the component(s) to the television.

The project was to replace 3 wall mount televisions with the new televisions that the customer had already purchased. This in itself sounds fairly simple and straight forward, however things are not as easy as that.

Two of the existing wall mounts fit perfectly with the new televisions, but the 3rd television required replacing the mounting bracket.

All of the current TVs were fed with a composite video feed (analog Standard Definition), and all of the components were located in a rack in a back room. This required me to pull cable from the rack in the back room to each HDTV. I decided to purchase HDMI over CAT5 extenders to accomplish this. I ordered Sabrent HDMI-EXTC extenders, which require 2 - CAT5 runs per television.Unfortunately there was no drop ceilings, but there was several access hatches in the ceiling. I was able to utilize the existing access hatches to pull all of my cabling only requiring to cut out a single hole in the ceiling to pull all of the cabling, plus the small holes required to snake the wire down the walls behind the televisions.

Once all of the cabling was in place, and the TVs were mounted on the walls I had to connect all of the sources. There is 2 cable boxes, 1 DVD player and 1 Bluray player. To do the switching between the multiple sources and multiple monitors I purchased an Aten 4x4 HDMI matrix switch. This was the most expensive part of the project (aside from the televisions that the customer had already purchased). This allows switching of the 4 sources individually between the 3 HDTVs, so the monitors can all be watching whatever source that they want, either shared amongst multiple monitors, or each television viewing a different source at the same time.

Once all of the wiring, and hardware was installed I was having issues with the HDMI signal not working with any of the televisions. The HDMI over CAT5 converters that I purchased stated that they worked up to 200 feet for 1080i, but only around 60ft or so for 1080p. The longest run was 120ft (according to cable markings), the shortest run was less than 90ft. So I know that everything was within spec. for the job. Several attempts were made to contact the manufacturer unsuccessfully, and countless hours were spend researching what the troubles could be. Eventually I was provided with a simple solution over on AVSforum that I was skeptical about, but the deadline was fast approaching and my window to order replacement parts and have them overnighted was closed, so I crossed my fingers and took the hour and a half subway ride to the location to test out the advice that I was given on AVSforum. To my surprise it worked. The DVD and Bluray players factory default video output setting was AUTO - which was sending out 1080p over the line, but the HDMI extenders can not handle that spec at such distances, so all I needed to do was bring the DVD and Bluray player from the back room and connect them locally to a TV and change the output settings to 1080i. Much to my delight this resolved the only major set back of the entire job.

Two days after my first attempt to contact Sabrent, the manufacturer of the HDMI over CAT5 extenders, I am still waiting on a return phone call or email.

They already had an audio system in place, so I merely just had to connect the audio outputs of the source devices to the multi channel audio amplifiers that were in the closet.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Connecting a UTI-1 to a PAP2

This post is mostly just for my own personal future reference.

This shows the settings and connections needed to connect a UTI-1 telephone interface to a PAP2 (or an analog telephone line)

Output of PAP2 connects to "station port" jack on UTI-1 and switch is set to "station"

when the PAP2 extension is dialed the UTI-1 answers produces a tone, and allows the caller to page over the connected amplifier.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Small network + door phone installation

Recently I completed a small network installation. This installation consisted of 7 new data pulls, a door phone (for VoIP) and a fax jack. While I did not document the jacks with photographs, I did document the new patch panel, and the network hardware mounting.

Cables pulled, hardware mounted.

Side view showing cables entering patch panel from behind.

Showing hole in ceiling where wires were pulled from.

Door Phone.

Router and switch mounted. 

Patch cords installed. 

Close-up of completed job (minus modems)

Hardware used:
Router and switch were provided by the customer, and were moved from the old office in the same building. I did not document the model number for these devices.
  • Linksys PAP2 - VoIP ATA used for door phone to hot dial VoIP phones.
  • Viking RC2-A Relay - used to control door release
  • Viking E20-B door phone (connected to PAP2)
  • 12 port CAT6 patch panel (wiring is CAT5, boss just placed order incorrectly)
Also not shown - New door release + power supply. 

The customer did not want to place their network equipment into a closet, so it is visible inside the office, so special attention was given to ensure that the network was installed neatly, and remains neat. All patch cords have been labeled with the number corresponding to their position on the patch panel since tracing patch cords will be difficult with them mounted this way with out cutting all of the zip-ties and making it a mess. 

Unfortunately due to time constraints (this small network took 2 1/2 days to build), the completion of the construction (plasterers, painters, movers), and other minor factors the power cord end of things is not as neat and pretty (and thus was not photographed, but that is something that the customer can clean up on their own once they move into the office - either by having an electrician installing an outlet higher up on the wall near the network equipment, or with an extension cord.