MapQuest iPhone App Revamped To Include GPS Voice Navigation

The MapQuest iPhone App has been given a facelift, and beginning today it now includes GPS voice navigation.
"MapQuest 4 for iPhone" is a free app that brings turn-by-turn navigation by voice to the iPhone. The Android smartphone has long had such capabilities and the iPhone is now officially in the voice GPS navigation game.
It is "basic voice guidance" only, Mashable notes, so while it tells you when to make turns and lets you know if you're off route, it won't pronounce every street name.
But it's a start, and again it is free to download.
MapQuest released its first iPhone App in June 2009 with extremely basic features to compete with the default Google Maps app on the iPhone.

$150K bond for man tracked by GPS in stolen taxi

Bond was set at $150,000 Monday for a man charged with robbery and hijacking after police found him at a Northwest Side gas station by following a stolen taxi cab's GPS signal.
Travis E. Conner III, 18, of the 2900 block of West Fulton Street is charged with one count of robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking, according to police News Affairs.

Conner was ordered held on $150,000 Monday and a preliminary hearing was set for May 3 in Northwest Felony Court (Br. 50), Cook County State's Attorney's office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.
Conner allegedly forced a cab driver out of his taxi at gunpoint about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, the release said. He dropped his cell phone at the scene before fleeing in the cab, which is equipped with a GPS.
Using the GPS, police found the cab at a gas station in the 6300 block of North Central Avenue, the release said. Conner was identified and a semi-automatic handgun was recovered.


BlackBerry Bold 9650 Coming to Sprint

RIM and Sprint on Monday announced the BlackBerry Bold 9650, a follow-up to the popular BlackBerry Tour, which adds Wi-Fi and ditches the troublesome trackball for an optical trackpad.

The Tour's trackball has been users' number-one complaint about the smartphone, because the little ball tends to get gunky or sticky. The Bold 9650 looks almost exactly like the Tour, except RIM has swapped out the ball for a smooth, gunk-free pad. Like the Tour, it has a 2.44-inch, 480-by-360 screen.
The Bold 9650 also includes Wi-Fi, which was missing from the Tour. Like the Tour, the Bold 9650 is a world phone that supports Sprint's 3G CDMA network as well as foreign GSM and HSPA networks. It has GPS, Bluetooth, and a 3.2-megapixel camera, just like its predecessor.
Sprint says the Bold 9650 will be available on May 23 for $199.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate.
Find out more about the Bold 9650 at Previous similar models have also come to Verizon Wireless, but Verizon did not respond to a request for comment.

One Way to Get People Out of Their Cars...

The Dutch have an idea that's good for debate here at home. A proposal would tax the miles driven on a car instead of the current taxes levied on roads and new car purchases.

Specifically, "the plan proposes an average tax of $.07 per mile, with fees higher during rush hour and for commercial vehicles," says Live Earth.

"It would use GPS systems installed in each car to track mileage and automatically bill drivers. The goal, the Dutch government says, is to cut traffic by 15% and reduce transport emissions by 10%."

The Orange County cop charged with hiding GPS in woman's car

WESTMINSTER, Calif.—A Costa Mesa police officer has been charged with hiding a GPS device in a woman's car without her knowledge so he could follow her.
The Orange County district attorney's office says 30-year-old Aaron Parsons was charged Thursday in Westminster Superior Court with a misdemeanor count of unlawfully using an electronic tracking device.

Prosecutors say Parsons hid a GPS device in a 32-year-old woman's car on March 18 so he should show up wherever she was.

After several "chance encounters," the woman became suspicious, checked her car and found the device which belongs to the police department. She reported it to police.

Parsons faces six months in jail if convicted. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.

California considers easing rules on black bear hunting

The population has roughly quadrupled over the last two decades, and some Fish and Game officials say it would remain robust with expanded hunting regions and caps.

A black bear in the foothills above Monrovia. (Rudy Libra)

As outdoor activities in California go, bear hunting is not particularly popular. Officials estimate that, at most, 1% of the state's population hunts black bears. Many of the other 99% are appalled that anyone does.

"I think most people think of it as an anachronism," said state Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutton, who speculates that the state's voters may soon ban the practice.

Bear hunting has come a long way since the 1920s, when ranchers and farmers wiped out the grizzly, leaving its sole California presence on the state flag. Gone are the days when you could kill a bear anytime, anywhere, any way.

So Sutton and his fellow commissioners — hunters all — weren't surprised when proposals to expand black bear hunting drew protest.

Nearly 70 environmental, community and animal welfare organizations have lined up against the proposals, most notably the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and various chapters of the Sierra Club. In San Luis Obispo County, the board of supervisors passed a resolution last month opposing expansion of hunting into their area.

"We find the totality of the proposal to be unsporting, unfair, inhumane and reckless," said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society's Sacramento lobbyist.

But officials at the state Department of Fish and Game say they proposed the changes because California's black bear population is flourishing and spreading.

On Wednesday the commissioners will vote on whether to allow bear hunting in San Luis Obispo County and to increase the hunting area in Lassen and Modoc counties. They'll also decide whether to eliminate a cap on bear kills per season and allow bear hunters to put collars with GPS tracking devices on their hounds.

Black bears long have thrived from Northern California down to Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, according to Doug Updike, the department's game program manager and a wildlife ecologist. In the last few decades, he said, Fish and Game biologists have seen more bears in San Luis Obispo, Modoc and Lassen Counties. The number of bears statewide, meanwhile, has "increased from under 10,000 in the early '80s to nearly 40,000 now," he said.

"They get hit by cars, we get reports by property owners that they broke into their houses, we get pictures, we know what bear prints look like," he said.

Over the last half-century, California has regulated bear hunting. Trapping has been outlawed and a hunting season set — roughly October to the last Sunday in December, depending on the region. Cubs under 50 pounds and mother bears with their cubs may not be killed. Hunters must obtain identification tags and are allowed one bear per season.

Successful or not, hunters must return their tags to Fish and Game, stating whether or not they bagged a bear. In addition, successful hunters are expected to present their bear skulls to department officials, who extract a tooth from each skull for age monitoring. (Hunters then get the skulls back.) It also is illegal to sell bear parts in California. The state considers possession of as few as two bear gall bladders — lucrative products in Asian markets — evidence of illegal activity.

Still, those who object to the proposed hunting changes say the killing remains too easy.

One proposal they find particularly egregious would allow hunters to equip their dogs with GPS tracking collars that have so-called tip switches, which go off when a dog cocks its head, presumably to look up a tree where it has hounded a bear.

"Given that we are not anti-hunting as much as we are anti-trophy-hunting practices, we zeroed in on these changes," said Fearing of the Humane Society. "Hound hunting is totally unfair and often inhumane — for the bears and the dogs," she said.

Opponents portray hunters as unsportsmanlike folks, watching their GPS devices to see when dogs have treed a bear so they can easily amble over and shoot it. Proponents of the sport, on the other hand, portray hunters with hounds as athletic and focused, sprinting after their dogs, enjoying the chase as much as their canines do. They say that the GPS devices are mostly for tracking lost and injured dogs and that hunters already use radio telemetry to track their dogs.

You don't need a GPS device to tell you when your hounds have found a bear, said Updike, a hunter whose wife has killed a bear. "They can tell by the baying of the hounds how the hounds are doing." He also objected to the idea that California hunters are after trophies, saying that most eat the meat of the bears they kill.

The state relies on a variety of methods to track the bear population. In addition to anecdotal evidence and field work by biologists, hunters' tags tell officials when and where bears were killed.

Critics of changing the hunting rules say monitoring killed bears is not enough to get a sense of their real population. They say the state's methods also don't take into account regional pressures on bear habitats.

The state also monitors the median age of bears killed and the percentage that are female, Updike said, to alert them of when to pull back on hunting. Hunters prefer larger bears, which are usually male. So if a season's total kill is more than 40% female, for instance, "that's a red flag because it means the number of males is getting scarce, which means the hunting pressure is starting to affect the population."

Because of such tracking, he said, state officials are confident that the population is robust enough to withstand well over the 1,700-bear kill figure that now prompts the state to send out an alert closing down the season.

"We looked at a mathematical model for the hunting season which would take 3,100 bears — which we've never ever done," said Updike. "That still is an insignificant number relative to the population. The population would still be robust."

And not having to send out an alert would save thousands of dollars, he said. Some commissioners said they are still not sure how they will vote Wednesday. Commissioner Daniel Richards, who hunts mammals, said he is inclined to widen the hunt. Commissioner Richard Rogers — a duck hunter — said he has no problems with bear hunting but was leaning against the changes.

Sutton, who hunts birds but not mammals, said he too is leaning toward voting no. He's not against bear hunting. But his experience as a former federal game warden has made him sensitive to the dangers of hunting, such as "the potential for increased poaching and illegal commercialization."

"Our wardens are already strapped," he said. "All these things tend to argue against expansion of bear hunting."

GPS backpacks identify leaders among flocking pigeons

A freewheeling flock of birds is one of nature’s most endearing spectacles. The flock’s members move with uncanny coordination, changing direction in unison, splitting and reforming, and even landing as one. The intricacies of these synchronized flights are very difficult to entangle. Who is following whom? Is there even a leader and, if so, does the same bird always take up pole position? Our feeble eyes could never hope to discern the answers just by watching a flying flock. But fortunately, we have technology that can do the job for us.
Pigeon_backpackMáté Nagy from the University of Eötvös, Budapest, has found that flying pigeons obey strict chains of command, even when in flight. He used state-of-the-art GPS devices to track the movements of groups of ten pigeons with exquisite sensitivity. The lightweight monitors, just 16g in weight, captured the subtleties of the pigeons’ twists and turns in mere fractions of a second. Back on the ground, Nagy analysed their recordings to show that pigeons fly according to the pecking orders they establish on the ground. The dominant bird takes the lead and the others follow his directions.
Studying the collective movements of animal groups has been a difficult challenge. Many cameras can be used to film animals moving within the same block of space, but the jostling bodies often block one another from view. Mathematical models can tell us about the basic rules that groups of moving animals adhere to, but they are difficult to test in real life.
But our technology has now become advanced enough to start skirting around these problems. For scientists studying birds, the key breakthrough was the creation of sensors that are light enough to be strapped to a flying bird without compromising its aerial abilities. Now, these sensors include GPS devices that can record a bird’s speed and direction every fifth of a second. Nagy attached such devices to 13 homing pigeons and watched as they flew in flocks of 7 to 11 birds.
Pigeon_networkNagy catalogued every instance when one pigeon changed direction only to be followed by another. By pooling together this data, he created a network of leaders and followers, showing the relationship of each bird to its peers. This colorful diagram shows one such network. Each circle represents an individual pigeon, the arrows point from a leading bird to one that follows it, and the numbers represent the time delay between the leader’s movements and those of its follower’s.
The networks showed that flocking pigeons maintain a dependable hierarchy on the wing. On average, when a leading bird changed direction, its followers would follow suit after around a third of a second. Birds will consistently copy the movements of specific individuals further up the pecking order and, in turn, they are consistently copied by more junior underlings.
What makes a leading pigeon? It seems that skill counts for something. Nagy released each of his birds on a solo flight, some distance from home. When they returned, he found that those who arrived home quickest were also most likely to wield leadership authority, although this link between navigation ability and seniority wasn’t quite statistically significant.
Indeed, the chains of seniority within pigeon flocks are fairly flexible, changing dynamically from flight to flight. Influential birds tend to remain influential but Tamas Vicsek, who led the study, says, “There are days when the pigeon which takes the role most of the time is less active. Perhaps it did not have a good sleep! During these days some of the birds on lower levels of the hierarchy have their chance to lead.”
Nagy’s data also revealed that leaders do indeed take up pole position at the front of the flock. That may seem intuitively obvious to us, but remember that pigeons have a field of vision that extends for almost a full 360 degrees. When you can easily see individuals flying behind you, the leading bird doesn’t necessarily need to be at the front, and yet it does.
More surprisingly, leaders also tend to stay on the left of the flock. Nagy found that the more time that a bird spent behind a leading partner, the more likely it was to be flying on that partner’s right. There’s an obvious reason for this – like us, pigeons have highly asymmetric brains with each half wielding greater influence over certain thought processes. Their right brain, which receives signals from the left eye, controls the ability to recognize other pigeons. So if a pigeon sees one of its peers through its left eye, rather than its right, it responds more quickly or more strongly.
Reference: Nagy, M., Ákos, Z., Biro, D., & Vicsek, T. (2010). Hierarchical group dynamics in pigeon flocks Nature, 464 (7290), 890-893 DOI: 10.1038/nature08891

Images: by Zsuzsa Ákos

iPhone with GPS fingers Double Rock Lexus near laptop-thieves' lair

Technology is always a double-edged sword, full of surprises, particularly for those operating just a few cycles behind the state of the art.
Is it safe to assume that Maifala Tusi, 23 and Jerome J. Satele, 21, both of San Francisco, are familiar with the basic idea of Global Positioning System technology?

Oh, well, perhaps not.

How about the fact that iPhone technology incorporates it?

That’d probably be even less likely.

Or um, oh say, if one were to steal an iPhone and then use it, an exact position of that clever device can be pinpointed by anyone with the right software?

Guess not.

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris announced today that both men are being charged with robbery and felony possession of stolen property. She claims they were arrested only hours after they are alleged to have robbed a man and stolen his iPhone and his Apple laptop computer.

The DA says that on April 2, 2010, at 9:55 a.m. a 41-year old man was standing on Van Ness Avenue, at Oak Street, holding his laptop computer, when a man approached him and grabbed his laptop away from him.

The robber then fled down the street with it and the man pursued him until he tackled the perpetrator. As they fought, the man’s iPhone fell out of his pocket and another man grabbed it, then ran into a light-colored Lexus, followed by the robber with the laptop.

They drove westbound on Oak St. in the Lexus and when police arrived later to take a report, the man told them he was able to track his iPhone using its GPS with a tracking application on his computer. He logged onto his computer and pulled up the GPS information, which police then broadcast to SFPD dispatch, which in turn disseminated it to all officers in the field.

The GPS indicated that the man’s iPhone was in the area of Egbert and Hawes streets, adjacent to the Alice Griffith Housing Project in the “Double Rock” area of the Bayview district. Officers found a Lexus parked in the area that was close enough to the description and began surveillance.

About an hour later, several people got into the Lexus and drove away with police following. They pulled it over at 6th Street and Clara Alley.

Authorities said that as the police officers made contact, one of them noticed a passenger, identified as Satele, pass an iPhone to a passenger in the right rear seat of the Lexus, which the officer then seized.

The DA claims the alleged victim was driven to the scene and made a positive identification of both Tusi and Satele as the men who robbed him. He also identified the iPhone and the laptop computer as his property.

The District Attorney said in a press release that Tusi committed the robbery “while on court release in his open felony case. … That case stems from an incident on March 19, 2010, where the defendant is alleged to have committed felony second-degree burglary, grand theft, possession of burglary tools and attempted possession of stolen property. He had been out of custody a total of nine days before he allegedly committed the April 2nd robbery.”

By Thomas Pendergast
Click here to find 
out more!

Drunk man steals ambulance

Paul John Sos, 52, was arrested for auto theft, after he stole an ambulance and fled from police.

Sos, led the police on a slow chase Saturday morning, after he took a ambulance that was parked outside Sharp Hospital. Sos was in the hospital for intoxication after he was taken their earlier that morning for being drunk in public. When he checked out of the hospital he saw the ambulance with the keys still in it.

The ambulance had a GPS installed and police tracked the vehicle down at Balboa and Genesee Avenue, but Sos would not pull over.  Police followed him for about 12-minutes through Clairemont as he traveled down the city streets at a top speed of 20 mph. Authorities put down spike strips, and after the second attempt they were finally able to stop him.

Sos was booked for suspicion of auto theft, drunk driving and failure to yield to police.

On the way to police headquarters, Sos fell asleep, said San Diego police officer Brad Ruff.

The Magellan RoadMate 1700 isn’t a GPS device for everyone

If you thought the 4.7-inch display on the Magellan RoadMate 1470 was freakishly large, the 1700 one ups the competition with a 7-inch display. That's ridiculous. It's almost like having two iPhones connected to one another for one gorgeous display. Of course, the features are all there, but we're mesmerized with the stunning display at a $239 price tag.

CNET writes, "The Magellan RoadMate's OneTouch menu puts the most commonly accessed destinations and searches at your fingertips at all times. The smartly designed destination confirmation screen gives you a good deal of flexibility as to how they get where they're going. Its large 7-inch touch screen gives you more real estate for maps and menus."

However, "In urban environments, the 1700 takes longer to establish satellite lock and can be inaccurate. Its 7-inch screen size may be too much for smaller dashboards and can make mounting it awkward. Its battery life is extremely short."

In conclusion, "The Magellan RoadMate 1700 isn't a GPS device for everyone, but with its huge screen and road-trip-friendly features, we think truckers and RV drivers will love it."

HTC HD2 commercials surface, show off the multimedia-monster in all its glory


The T-Mobile HTC HD2 has a huge display, and it knows how to use it. What? You haven't heard of the HD2? Well, that's just fine, because HTC has released a pair of HD2 commercials that should get your blood flowing for multimedia monster of a Windows Mobile phone. The ads showcase the HD2's "ridiculously big screen," which, of course, stretches the measuring tape to 4.3-inches in the diagonal. Unfortunately, we aren't really shown anything else about the handset – we figure the powers that be at HTC wanted to simply convey how awesome the display is for watching movies and TV shows.

So, what are these commercials missing? Well, there's no mention of the bundled Blockbuster app that lets you download movies to your HD2 over the air. We didn't see anything about the HD2's 1Ghz Snapdragon processor, 5-megapixel camera, 3G data, WiFi, GPS, mciroSD card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack or the camera's touch-focus feature. If they had mentioned all the things that make the HTC HD2 the single most impressive Windows Mobile smartphone to ever come to market, we'd be looking down the barrel of a multi-minute ad.

Good thing for you we have plenty of HD2 coverage to drool over. Check out our hands-on overview of the HD2.

If you're thinking about picking up an HD2, you might want to order one through T-Mobile (NYSE: DT)'s website right quick. You never know when they're going to sell out again.


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