I have had a few different GPS units over the years. My first was a Garmin GPS 12 which didn’t have any road maps or anything else; it was much more appropriate to use in the forest, but I used it everywhere and even hooked it to a laptop so I could get maps. It was a awesome device, but hobbled by older technology and Selective Availability when I used it.
My next unit was also a Garmin, the Garmin eMap to be precise. Now that SA was off, it was much more accurate, but it did not have WAAS or any other technology that could give me good fast fixes. The eMap was a great device, but the maps were not very detailed unless you spent a ton of money on memory and a Garmin CD. I loved it anyway.
Wayne sent me his Dash Express since he hated it. I was initially a little skeptical about the device, however after playing with it for the better part of a week I think I have found an almost ideal GPS device for me. With the Dash, you can do so much more than just navigation. It’s devices such as the Dash (and Apple’s own iPhone) that can bring location specific information to you whenever you need it and wherever you are.
The Dash uses what they call Dash apps, which are extensions of the base search technology already built into the Dash. You can use GeoRSS and XML to create saved searches of locations that can be put on your device; you can also create searches on Yahoo to access on your Dash and send addresses to your Dash from the internet. The great thing is there are applications that will not only let you find things more easily, but also allow you to get the weather, find speed traps via trapster.com, and also post on twitter. The Dash Express can update your location on twitter automatically as well making it easy for people to find where you are. While for some that sounds creepy, I have to remind you that this can only be initiated by you. You can also type in flags while twittering, to extract the address and city of not only your current location, but of any destination you may be going to. Twittering about where you may going or where you are is very easy to do with the Dash Express.
Another app I use extensively on the Dash Express is the weather alert feature. From your Dash Express, you can tell my.dash.net to send alerts to your Dash when the weather is about to affect your location. The alerts come in the form of addresses sent to your device or car as Dash calls it; this is very useful in case you’re in Tornado Alley.
They only thing that bugs me a bit about the Dash is the service itself. I wish there was a reduced cost plan that would let you use the search features only on Wifi and to never connect to GPRS; I could live with this type of plan.
Also, the Dash Express is supposedly based on the OpenMoko reference platform, but if that is the case, then where is the source code? OpenMoko is GPL’d as far as I know. So why isn’t there a place to download the source code?? I know it will eventually come to light and when it does, I see a ton of hacks coming out for this device that will really open up this interesting combination of hardware. We should eventually see some hacked firmware that will let you do things like use Google Maps as your map source, or maybe get rid of Yahoo for the search engine. Once this stuff happens, the Dash Express could very well be the best GPS device ever.
Dash also needs to figure out how to let you write true applications to run on their unit. Every app currently available for the Dash is just a extension of the search technology already on the Dash and not a true application. I want to be able to install an app that gives me a dashboard-like display instead of the map, which would be useful for going around town. I would also like to see POI icons showing on the moving map display; this would make it easier to find food and other places with out having to set a route.
I am currently on the tail end of my first trip with the Dash, and I also have one other GPS unit wich I will be reviewing along with me. So far, of the two I have, I like the Dash the best. I will post a full review plus a comparison of both devices as soon as I can get through the fog of vacation – where my only internet connection has been EVDO!