Hacking the Magellan 1340 GPS
Posted 23 August 2010 - 01:21 PM
As I've mentioned elsewhere Walmart.com is currently selling [like-new!] refurbs for $40 + $2.95 s/h I'd never seen a GPS unit priced this low. The GPS receiver module alone usually costs more than this, in single-unit quantities! Besides, I reasoned, I could return it at any Walmart, if it didn't suit my needs -- or perhaps upgrade to the $65 refurb 1440 with a 50% bigger screen (among other features).
I don't actually have a Walmart nearby, but I typically pass one sometime during the course of a week, and an in-store return simply seems more convenient that the drawn-out uncertainty of many returns by mail.
FRIDAY: It was waiting for me when I got home. The battery was all but dead. I recharged it overnight
SATURDAY: I went through an online upgrade process (which I will detail later) and then rushed out on a day's errands in northern MA and Southern NH, racking up over 100 miles on many unfamiliar roads. Overall, I liked it. It would take some getting used to -- but unlike the annoying rental car GPS units I've used on business trips in years past, I'll actually have time to really get used to it. Yes, I had some quibbles, too, but for $40, I was happy.
I may have disliked GPS in the past, but I really need it. I was rarely on the streets of Boston during The Big Dig era that completely changed the streets, traffic and commercialization all the way to I-95 Today, I feel like Rip Van Winkel on streets I've known since I was a kid. Everything's just familiar enough to trap me in enormous one-way detours. I thought I'd relearn it all in a few years, but almost ten years later I've only gotten familiar enough with most areas to get myself in trouble -- worse, my "weekend errand habitat" is 40 miles wide and 100 miles long --4000 sq miles of suburbia in 3 states-- with every errand trip a different combinations of waypoints and destinations
But in spite of really needing its primary function, I couldn't use it or even hold it in my hand without wishing it had other functions. It's a nifty self-contained computer with a touchscreen LCD, flash drive, a processor in the 400-600 MHz range -- and, yes, a GPS receiver. It should be able to play videos, music, games, run programs, etc. Indeed, some Chinese companies that make these hardware devices (but can't mount a mapping operation of the US to compete in the GPS arena) sell them as fully featured no-name PDAs. Unfortunately, since they are literally no-names, you can't be sure which unit you're getting, how well it's configured, or if there's any tech support. By hacking my own, I can design it to do what I need, and choose any tradeoffs I want to make.
If experience is any guide, this unit will only be a stepping stone to learn the current state of the technology. I'll probably revert it or give it away, and convert a fancier unit or build my own from scratch. This thread is my log.
SUNDAY: Armed with some real world experience to tell me what features I was interested in, I tackled the manuals -- but alas, I'd pretty much picked up everything important in actual use the day before. Though the new software (v2.22) was by all accounts much better than the original that shipped with it (which I hadn't tested), they didn't add any treasures. they just optimized it for its basic functions. I'm not really surprised: the 1340 was getting long in the tooth, and they need to reserve selling features for their newer, more expensive lines
Because of the way my bedroom desktop is configured, the Magellan showed up as a removable drive. Out of curiosity, I poked around inside it, and realized that the unit was probably running Windows CE (a stripped-down windows used in embedded devices)-- meaning it pretty much already *is* a PDA. I only need to get it to boot to the WinCE desktop (or a selector program) instead of going directly to the Magellan software.
Though poking through the hardware internals is often a good way to unlock a device, this GPS has a slot for a microSD card, and it is very likely possible to get the 1340 to boot to the microSD card first, to override the boot tothe internal drive (the way you pre-empt a boot to HDD with a bootable floppy or CD/DVD at startup) This would give me a quick and easily reversible way to hack the 1340 into the kind of unit I knew it could be.
I decide that tomorrow (Monday) will be Day One of my hacking project
Posted 24 August 2010 - 11:31 PM
It runs WinCE 5.0 on a Samsung 2450, a highly integrated chip with lots of I/O (it has 400 pins!) and drivers directly interfaced to an 400Mhz ARM926EJ-S processor, which is used many smartphones, handheld PDAs, servers and is the core of the ATi Hollywood graphics chip used in the Wii. It should have plenty of horsepower for some juicy apps. I wish we could access some of the specialty I/O, because they offer even juicier potential, but tapping individual pins on a 1/2" (13mm) square package containing 400 pins on a .5mm grid is a bit beyond the casual scope I was planning. Still, for reference, some of its built-in functions include:
Alas, the 1340 only has 64MB of RAM (but I've seen PDAs with less), and its 2GB Flash is mostly filled by its own atlas and software (the latest v39 Magellan map download alone was over 1.1 GB -- for the compressed file!), so I guess we probably won't be running any high-powered apps like office suites and math packages on it -- not that we'd want to run anything like that from a QVGA (320x240pixel) touch screen!
Still, a good SDHC card can be at least as fast as an HDD as a swap file (to extend the RAM in the unit). A Class 6 SDHC only transfers data at 48 Mbps, but doesn't have the woefully slow multi- millisecond seek time of a physical hard drive. 4Gb of SDHC should hold all the apps and OS extensions we could possibly want, for under $10
[I've also been drooling over the new SDHC cards with WiFi built in, which could give us a whole new networking capability on the road (if we're near a hotspot or via our cell or laptop) -- but I'm wary about the requirement for a computer that runs their client software *and* has an active broadband internet connection. Some reviews say that some ISP proxies can prevent these cards from being read by a PC. That's like saying that your copier won't work if your office phone requires you to dial 9 for outgoing calls -- it makes me suspect that the 'copier' is programmed to only work when it can "phone home" with info about what I'm copying! Sure, I won't be messing with Digital Rights Management protected content (I'm a good little boy), but that kind of spying still sits wrong with me. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about that just yet: the 1340 has a microSD slot, and I haven't seen any wireless SDHC cards in micro-SD ... yet.]
Oh well, I guess I still have the option of a USB wireless device. It's less snoopy.
DAY 2, AUG 24: While further researching the hardware [Samsung declined my request for chip documentation, citing their "security policy"], I've discovered that some enthusiasts have already done most of the work for me! A free software program called Miopocket has apparently been successfully exposing the WinCE interface for some years. The PND (personal Navigation Device) crowd call this "unlocking" but it's nothing like unlocking a cell phone for use with other carriers). Unlocking a PND simply means allowing it to run other software in addition to the software it came with.
The linked page describes v3.0, which includes software for e-readers, games, audio/video playback, office apps and other stuff I thought I'd have to kludge myself -- and is completely reversible (just pull out your SDHC card, and your PND returns to a stock device) but I've read that v4.0 just came out a few days ago. I'm wary of trying any new version so early, but it does tell me that the project is still being actively supported, which is always valuable
Oh yeah, it looks like I'm going to have to place that order for another SDHC card... and kiss my warranty goodbye, because I'm definitely going to be drilling a hole in the case for an audio jack.
Posted 29 August 2010 - 01:49 AM
The IMC works just fine, but it seemed a little slow and is 29mm wide -- just 1-2mm than the recessed opening on some desktops with vertically stacked USB ports, and almost guaranteed to block the neighboring port on any machine with side-by-side USB ports. That's not really the reader's fault. I just happened to want a physically large, bright-colored card reader for my father, so he could use one of my old full-sized SD cards as a Flash drive (he keeps losing smaller flash drives, whatever the color) Since a full-SD card is 24mm wide, and we're using a micro-SD card, I suggest buying a narrower adapter that is designed for micro-SD (and is rated for the full speed of your card's SD class, even though the "class speed" of actual cards on the market is not monitored by any body. Why take a chance?) A Micro-SD card is narrower than a USB "A" plug, so a Micro-SD should be able to fit on ANY USB port without.
You probably already have a card reader, anyway, if you have a recent model laptop or digital camera.
I knew I would only have about an hour to play with the MioPocket install, so I recklessly downloaded a copy of v4 (release 62), even though it has been out less than a week.
It installed flawlessly, in about 20 min (including download and copying time) with the standard instructions for installing to a Flash card. Since my time was limited, I didn't bother with the various filename options listed under "Magellan" in Step 4D. I just went straight to renaming those file "iBoot", which was listed as the last-resort name. I don't know of any disadvantage to this.
I can't recommend v4 Release 62 for the Magellan 1340, however, unless you don't mind a little fiddling because Release 62 doesn't come with a display profile for that device (I'll create/post one by the end of the week). V4 assumes a screen that is a little longer and moderately wider than the 1340's QVGA screen, so you end up dragging a lot of windows to the left to access (e.g.) the "okay" and "close window" icons -- if you remember to go looking for them. It's hardly insurmountable, but it's a pain, so you might want to start with v3 Release 47 until I get a chance to create a hardware profile.
Anyone who is familiar with Win2K or WinXP should find the WinCE 5.0's Settings and Control Panel fairly familiar. You already paid for it when you bought the GPS, MioPocket just exposes the interface for your own use.
I've heard that the Transcriber (a handwriting recognition program that allows you to write on the screen with your finger, instead of using MioPocket's pop-up touch keyboard program) can cause problems with the 1340's touchscreen in v3, but it work fine for me in v4, and I could easily see that outranking any slowdown.
I was able to play videos and music, but I did have to change the video driver to something (anything) other than DirectX (in the player's options) to get video to display. This is another thing a proper 1340 profile would fix
I was able to use the many built-in reference works, and the e-text reader. I must confess I got a little giddy when I learned that there's a complete version of Wikipedia available free for MioPocket (I wonder how many GB that occupies?) I'd already considered exporting the mineral and geology sections of wikipedia or some other reference for some geology field trips I'll be making this fall. On a related note, you can export Google maps, and with a little work, convert them to geodesic maps for your GPS (the road atlas won't help you when you're in the field!
There's far too many other applications built into MioPocket by default for me to list right now -- and more are available on the web. I particularly liked the scientific calculator -- that's one item off my nature field trip list. Indeed, despite its limited screen, this *might* eliminate the need for a laptop at all. I always worry that I'll break a laptop in the field. I wouldn't mind losing a $40 handheld nearly as much.
I'll do some comparison testing to see how v3 and v4 stack up for speed and features. Since changing versions simply involves removing the SDHC card, copying another version in place of the one you have (and you can save entire system set-ups to your HDD the same way), playing with different versions and set-ups is painless. I test reversion, and yes, if you remove the micro-SD card and do a hard reset (press the on/off switch for 10 sec), the unit restarts to its normal unmodified state, so there is very little risk (I'd say "no risk", but nothing is risk free)
This is a Triumph! I'm already at the point I *hoped* I *might* reach in a few months!
Posted 31 August 2010 - 12:27 AM
- 4GB microSD card (8GB works too)
- a way to plug your SD card into your computer
- the MioPocket ZIP file linked above.
- a Roadmate 1340, fully charged
2) Copy the /MioAutoRun and /Media folders and the files MioAutoRun.exe, MioAutoRun.mscr, MortScript.exe and Extras\Device-Specific Install\Magellan_AutoRun.inf to the ROOT of your SD card (e.g. J:/ of your flash shows up as J:)
3) on your microSD rename:
- Magellan_AutoRun.inf -> GC333AutoRun.inf
- MioAutoRun.exe -> iBoot.exe
- MioAutoRun.mscr -> iBoot.mscr
5) With your GPS disconnected from USB, insert your microSD card in the slot on the bottom of you your GPS until it clicks -- if you feel resistance or hear any crunching, stop remove the card and reconsider your position. CAUTION: the card goes in label-side down (facing away from the screen, with the metal contacts facing up) -- the opposite of what you'd expect
6) Turn the GPS fully off (if it isn't already) but sliding and holding the power switch for 5 sec. Turn it back on
7) After a few seconds (and maybe 1-2 Magellan logo screens) a menu should display. If it doesn't, turn it all the way off and then on again. If your device simply freezes, press the microSD card to pop it out, put it back in your computer and reformat it as FAT32 (using Extras\Win32\SD Formatter from the MioPocket zip, if possible) or FAT or try a different card.
8) In the menu, choose "Run MioPocket".
9) After ~30 sec, your GPS will reboot to complete the installation. Ignore any brief Magellan logo screens.
That's it. To revert your GPS to normal, just pop out the SD card. Enjoy!
And what walkthrough would be complete without screenshots? [MioPocket 3] [MioPocket 4]
Some initial thoughts
- After a few sessions, I've gotten myself into (and out of) trouble a few times in MioPocket 4 by switching between landscape and portrait (the applications sometimes have separate settings, which may follow the overall setting inconsistently) Maybe some inconvenience is inevitable until you figure out how to set it just how you want it
- The bar at the top and the two icons on the bottom right (the keyboard and "minibar" app controls) are your friends. Learn them first -- especially how to turn them off, because they can get in your way during some apps. They'll turn back on if you tap a non-control portion of the screen a few times
- MioPocket comes with too many apps (including multiple programs for the same functions) Try them out and uninstall the ones you don't want. Otherwise you have too many icons on each QVGA "page"
- Use the top bar to jump between pages of icons (which are configurable, BTW) esp when starting out. It can take you a while to get the hang of scrolling
- Overall, though I've had good and bad session, the screen seems much more accurate than I expected. Still, I think I'd consider the refurb 1440 (480 x 272px instead of 320x240) if I was going to seriously use this as a primary handheld, because the controls for some apps get a little cramped or require scrolling -- especially "okay buttons on the left of a window, which can be easy to over look when they are scrolled offscreen: you may *think* you are changing a setting but unless you scroll to the "okay" and click it, your changes won't be implemented.
- I wouldn't buy anything but the the refurb Magellans at this time for a conversion, unless I actually wanted a specific GPS on its own merits. MioPocket will work on any WinCE GPS (all the major brands but Garmin, and another one which eludes me), but GPS units are pricey because of the cost of the atlases/software they contain. If you just want a cheap PDA or handheld, and don't care about a road atlas (or want to install your own freeware, for e.g. hiking), you can get a bigger screen with a $100 DealExtreme unit than you'd get from a $100-200 GPS -- and it will even have a GPS reciever inside. Just be sure to research the unit and make sure that it resets to a full standard WinCE (some Chinese units don't)
- if you have the spare HDD space (and who doesn't, these days?) you can save several alternate configurations on your desk/laptop: just set it up how you want it, then copy your MicroSD card to a folder in your HDD. If you want to load a saved configuration, just erase the files on your card, and copy your saved configuration to it
Posted 02 September 2010 - 01:58 AM
Though I've only tested a few classes of the pre-installed apps in MioPocket4, I've enjoyed a LOT of them quite a bit. But a 4GB install? Having used a lot of computers back when 4GB wasn't even available on mainframes and supercomputers, mama mia, that's a lot of unnecessary bloat!
Some nice apps are the scientific calculator (which allow you to customize keys, program new function, and save data/resuls to disk), audio and video players, PDF and other etext readers (though a higher resolution would better suit structured text and people who consume larger chunks of text at a glance, it's quite usable). In some of the notepad programs, the transcriber (which translates handwritten text into typed text) worked much better than I expected it to, even though I didn't bother setting it up past lowercase a-e, and frankly, primarily wrote "e" (the most common letter in English) in the one way they explicitly disallowed -- I bet that with a little fine tuning in the transcriber set-up, or just a little review of he set-up screen to understand what it is looking for) I don't find myself missing the one thing I thought I *might* be miss: voice -- by which I mean both voice dictation and voice commands.
Okay, voice command/dictation would be miraculous --what's easier than talking?-- but realistically I had no expectation that either would ever be available in real-time on this level of CPU (350-400 MHz RISC), even though the 4GB flash is larger and orders of magnitude faster than mid-90s hard drives that ran on 400 MHz (CISC) CPUs. I think it *may* be doable, given GBs of precomputed results, but I doubt it'll ever be designed to run on those: the overwhelming market leaders were acquired by IBM in the 1990s, and most users (not me) found the performance underwhelming in use. Since 400MHz RISC is *already* a full generation behind for GPS, I just don't see anyone optimizing/porting that code to run well on the 1340's ARM9 CPU, and you'd really want a near-mouth noise canceling mike to dictate against the background sound of a car cabin (command/dictation in similarly noisy aviation cockpits and cabins was the root of most automatic noise canceling mic technology)
My point is that I don't *miss* voice command/dictation. Maybe I always believed it wasn't in the cards, and didn't use the device that way.
I found a free download called MioPocket Light [apparently from another author] which unlocked the WinCE OS and only adds a few essential apps (do I really need a full office suite on my GPS?) It's under 200 MB, which leaves you a lot of room to add your own apps, books, music, video, etc. V8.3 installed if you simple extracting the zipfile to HDD, copying the files to a cleared microSD, and renamed two files to iBoot; MioPocket 9.2 (beta)... well, it *almost* finished installing. I'll continue my investigations (just copying the .INF file from my full MioPocket installation may do it), but v 8.3 really left nothing that made me crave a later version.
The V8.3 install does make you choose between *either* an microSD install OR an SD wireless card. I don't have a combo Flash/wireless card to test with, but that would probably be the way to go, if it's supported. Wireless access would be the one big thing that would make this a killer (esp as free hotspots continue to multiply) I have a good long-range external USB wireless transceiver that I wanted to test on the 1340's USB port, but I'd need a Male Mini-USB B-type (5pin) to Male USB B-type cable to connect it -- ideally a 3-way, so it could draw power from a car's power port (though a high power transceiver increases the chance of a connection, it would drain the GPS battery.
Though MioPocket Light offers a separate optimized 320/240 version, I still can't imagine that QVGA can be good more than light web-browsing (having tested some QVGA cell phones a few years back), so I'm saving web-browsing experiments for better hardware. Unless Magellan has a huge commercial success with its $40-65 refurbs, I don't expect fancier GPS refurbs for under $100 in 2011/12, so my web experiments will probably be on a no-name $100 DealExtreme PDA handheld with GPS, rather than a converted GPS refurb -- at least for the next year or two.
Edited by Orpheus, 02 September 2010 - 09:55 AM.
Posted 18 November 2011 - 08:24 PM
I was looking at the Garmin Nuvi 1490T 5inch screen model. Garmin Nuvi 1490T
If there are better choices, please let me know! Remember, he's 84, and the harder it is to operate, or understand, the less likely he'll be to use it, and get the good out of it.
Discussion is an exchange of knowledge: argument is an exchange of ignorance.
Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.
APOGEE MESSAGE BOARD
Posted 19 November 2011 - 06:32 PM
BTW, it's worth checking what kind of "traffic service" is offered: is it centrally compiled traffic advice that is periodically updated? By download? By radio? Or is it wireless sharing of speed/location among local GPS units of the same make [which can potentially reveal the traffic situation at the instant, but over a limited range]? You can usually buy the Traffic option later as an activation code, but you can't deactivate/get a refund if it sucks.
You might expect a brand new GPS to be up-to-date, but it's not uncommon for a GPS (esp. established well-reviewed models vs. the newest ones) to ship with whatever version the model was originally tested with, which may have been originally compiled 2-3 years earlier, making it likely to let you down exactly where the driving is trickiest and you need the newest info the most. Updates can cost up to $50-60 and upGRADEs can run twice that, so getting the latest software version (in the box, or by download) or at least one free map update can be a substantial difference between two otherwise identical units selling for the same price.
Since you mentioned 5" and the 1470T, Amazon currently has the Garmin nuvi 1450LMT with Traffic and Lifetime Map Upgrades for $150. Target has several GPS units on sale this weekend, including that unit for $129 with lifetime map/traffic (YMMV by locality). I really can't compare Garmin to he other manufacturers, because I tend to immediately hack reasonably inexpensive devices to do what *I* want. For me, unless an Item is very expensive and can be returned for direct exchange, I'm better off making them work myself than wrestling with the crappy "limited lease programs" that pass for warranties.
[ETA: looking at the choices, I think a T suffix on a Garmin model number means "Traffic" and LMT means "Lifetime Maps and Traffic" -- but that's just a guess]
Posted 20 November 2011 - 10:56 PM
Discussion is an exchange of knowledge: argument is an exchange of ignorance.
Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.
APOGEE MESSAGE BOARD
Posted 21 November 2011 - 08:32 AM
If you're going to use them for their intended purpose of routine driving, there really isn't that much difference between the high end and the low end. There are a few features that you may wish you had, and a few ways of accessing the data, but overall, I'd pay more attention to the user reviews for a given model for potential annoyances. But keep in mind that there is inevitably some manufacturing variance ["bad" units"] and people vary in their use/expectation (and ALWAYS blame the device, not themselves).
In electronics, it is cheaper to make one PC board, and populate it differently in different models. In GPS, the main difference is usually software/firmware -- the code for the added features is often there, but won't run in the lower models. Once you've bought your unit, you'll find that the company guards its downloads like gold. They'd rather shrug if 3 legitimate buyers can't get legitimate updates than let 1 get away with a free bump-up.
The economy in the past year or so (and competition from cellphones) has forced them to be much friendlier to low end buyers, but though I've personally never had any problems, I've read of plenty of failed upgrades in older reviews. Honestly, I think some of the problems are user-side, because upgrading isn't as easy/safe/fast as updating a computer OS. Consumer GPS makers guard more rigorously against hacking/unlocking than Microsoft ever did.
What kind of features are we talking about? It varies with make/model, but many are superficial GUI issues like volume, custom sound effects, search modes, etc. One user may find them meaningless, another, critical.
I may rove from CT to NH in a month, so I use the "find nearest store (of a given type)" more than basic navigation outside of urban centers. It's made a big difference on some outings, but sometimes I find myself wishing I could make a more specific query, and I'm pretty sure I could in a fancier model. Another issue: I installed the free AAA business database alongside Magellan's, but it makes me choose one for each search -- why not search both?
Based purely on customer reviews, it seems some models may have a better audio chip (for either voice input or output -- Cars aren't great environments for small GPS speakers, esp. rear-mounted ones) or lack a volume knob (classic nickle-and-diming). It's hard to test a GPS's usability in a store, and upgrades are rarely offered on a level basis (if you want to upgrade to a slightly better version, you may be offered a $50-75 credit for your newly purchased $150 GPS). A lot of people return their sale model (so check return policies) and buy the next model up (which isn't on sale); a similar number refuse to be upsold, but the slightly crippled GPS sits unused/unusable in their particular car. Don't get me wrong: most buyers are happy with their unit, despite any minor nuisances.
As I noted in my OP, I only paid $40 for mine, which greatly eased my acceptance of any weaknesses -- so much, in fact, that I actually mostly use it unhacked. In Aug 2010, I intended to hack it for a while then transplant its GPS guts into an experiment or homebuilt device, but 15 mos later, I plan to keep using it as designed another year or two until the 2010 map grows outdated or I get a similar deal on a newer model refurb (well after Christmas returns)
If you're not so inclined to electronics, you may consider installing the free MioPocket 4 [video] to convert your GPS to a Windows CE PDA. If you install it to a micro-SD card, you can easily switch back and forth between the two modes with no risk: when the card is in, it's a PDA (with GPS functionality); when it's out, it's a plain unhacked GPS. It's stable enough that I let the baby play with it with no concern that she'll break it for my uses. [but I do watch her, to make sure she doesn't somehow open the SD cover and swallow the micro-SD card]
I'll tell you what I WON'T do: pay $80 for a updated 2012 map (if they even decide to offer one for my model) Newer models will have bigger screens, more powerful CPUs and --I hope-- better voice input. But honestly I can't see too many ways they won't otherwise be much the same, which tells you something about the models on the GPS market today
Edited by Orpheus, 21 November 2011 - 08:34 AM.
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