Friday, January 28, 2011

GPS Makes Life Easy



Ever since my eyes developed astigmatism several years ago, changing corrective lenses and eye exercises as well as taking nutritional eye supplements failed to restore 20/20 vision and accurate focus of distant objects, especially road signs. Added to my inherent poor sense of orientation in unfamiliar places, getting lost has become more probable. Of greater concern is the higher risk of accidents in moments of distractions and looking for solutions. So I have been avoiding going strange places or using new routes in recent years. The fact that I am basically unadventurous also means I am a safe traveler.

Yet the need to be in more control always bug me. I have at times turn down invitations to dinners in unfamiliar places or in busy locations because of my fear of getting lost getting there and returning home. However I realized the quality of my social life can be improved if I embrace the technology of GPS navigators which become my extended guide. These devices have been in use for many years but it was only in the last year or two that prices have come down and ease of use improved tremendously. I decided to buy one and selected the Garmin Nuvi 1460 that I bought at a popular online portal for RM685 with a set of local and oversea maps. The same unit cost as much as RM850 in consumer electronic stores. The day the courier man rang my doorbell was one I was looking forward to excitedly. I quickly unpacked the box and was introduced to a world of guided navigation.

The GN 1460 has a 5" screen which is large enough for my use. In fact it is slightly larger than nearby models at 4.3" although slightly thicker. It is very easy to use and I was able to test it within 30 minutes of setting it up and was tracked by navigational satellites overhead in just a minute after it powered up. You can learn more how this system works HERE. There are 24 'eyes' in the skies that continuously triangulated my position against the map that displays my whereabout. I am amazed how this works, although at times feeling violated that I am being 'watched'!

Using the GPS takes a little getting use to but once I learn to trust it I'm worried I cannot do without it when I venture beyond my safe zones. Today I use it to take me to a restaurant in Subang for a lunch meeting with ex-schoolmates. I had never been near that locality so without a GPS would mean I have to rely on directional maps. It was a breeze using the Garmin and I found the restaurant easily after pre-setting the destination in my favorite locations folder. However, coming back the GPS took me home via a very different route. I was helpless but knowing that the satellites are tracking me to my home destination I was assured that I would not get lost. I did not fight my Garmin but let it tell me which exit to take until I am on familiar roads to drive home.

Suddenly my driving world is now less myopic and more varied now that me and my Garmin are becoming bosom buddies. If you are like me, consider a GPS. It can be used even when going for a walk outdoor in new surroundings, trekking or camping. Like a compass it helps you stay connected to your home base. Or when you want to self-drive in another country, get its map and load it in your GPS and drive like a local!

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