There are days I hate technology, and then there are days I love it. Today is one of the latter.
For four years I have carried a Palm Treo phone in my pocket. I was one of the “early adopters”, and as a Palm programmer, I loved the fact that the C++ toolkit for Palm OS was free. This meant that hundreds of thousands of programmers were out there writing software for Palm OS (including me), so in those rare cases where I couldn’t find a Palm program for free or for $19 to do almost anything (English-German translation, for example), I could roll my sleeves up and write the damn thing myself.
Unfortunately, Palm lost the war. The unbelievably incompetent management at Palm snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and the elegant, superb Palm OS is headed for the scrap heap.
After evaluating the alternatives, I eschewed the iPhone because (a) Apple stuff is more style than substance, (b) I didn’t want to keep iTunes, which is WORSE than a virus, running on my PC in order to synch the iPhone, and (c) The iPhone is locked, so I can’t use it with my European SIMs (such as A1 in Austria). Yes, it is possible to jailbreak and unlock an iPhone, but fuck Steve Jobs for fighting programmers.
So went over to The Dark Side and I bought an HTC Tilt a few days ago, which runs Windows Mobile 6. One of the reasons I chose the Tilt is because it has an internal GPS, and I had a vague idea that perhaps that would come in handy sometime.
Today was that day. This thing has already paid for itself, at least in my mind.
I am on holiday in the San Juan Islands. After a brutal week working dawn to dusk in Calgary, I brought my Ritchey Breakaway bike out here with the idea of riding my ass off for a few days. There is some GREAT riding here, however, the roads are very confusing because the islands zig-zag NW and NE whereas the roads all run E-W and N-S.
Riding with paper maps is difficult, because the maps get all soggy and fall apart in your jersey pocket. If the map is big enough to be effective, then folding it up and putting it away a few times destroys it.
What I discovered is that the Tilt is the ultimate bike touring accessory. Running Google Maps / WM and receiving data from the GPS, I just ride in whatever direction looks interesting, and when I need to figure out where I am, I just whip out the Tilt and the GPS tells me precisely. In addition, if I need to find – for example – water or a bike shop, I can just type that into Google Maps, and up pops all the choices nearby.
I had one of the most fun rides of my life today, weaving in and out of all the byzantine coves and coastal towns in and between Oak Harbor, Coupeville, and Langley WA without the slightest worry as to how the hell I was going to find my way home. I just cruised, taking every dinky little back road I could find, and when I started to get tired, I turned around and headed home on the route dictated by Google Maps and my Tilt’s GPS.