A Digital Road Trip

Over the past few days I have been travelling around the country by car, something I have not done for a while, preferring the train. It was a good chance to try out a couple of gadgets.  One I have had a for a while, my HTC Touch Cruise phone, but the other was new a Pure Highway DAB car radio.

So what did I learn?

The phone

I have recently set my phone to use push email (so constantly sync'ing with Exchange during office hours). This seems to have had a serious adverse effect on battery life. I had not noticed this before as I usually connect my phone to my PC via USB when in the office thus keeping it charged and up to date. Whilst away, without really thinking about it,  I had expect my usual (pre push email) 3 day battery life, but the constant sync and using the phone as a camera knocked this down to about 8 hours! The simple solution seems to be to set the sync to every hour, thus reducing the data calls.

More seriously the MicroSD card in the phone failed. If it were a 'real' hard disk I would guess at MBR corruption (don't know enough about SD technology to say if it is the case here). When I popped it into my PC I saw it was 75% full but could read no data (just like on the phone), I formatted it and it all worked fine again. My guess is that power loss on the phone occurred during a disk write and hence caused the corruption – not what I would expect, I expect kit to fail safe. This failure was a shame as I lost photos of the Triathlon National Relays and also my TomTom maps.

The loss of TomTom raised an interesting point, I had got too use to it's ease of navigation so I had not bothered to write down anything other than the postcodes of my hotels. Luckily I still had a road atlas in the car and had my confirmation emails in the phone (not stored on the SD card) so could dig out phone numbers so I could call for directions.

The radio

The BBC has not stopped going on about 'digital radio now available in cars' for a while. I love radio and so decided to get one. The Pure model picks up the DAB signal and re-broadcasts it as FM to the standard built in car radio. The key bit here is the special windscreen mount aerial (I had tried by handheld DAB radio in the car in the past too no effect).

Around Leeds it has been working OK, once you find a free FM frequency for rebroadcast. The real test was how well it picked up DAB around the country, the coverage map showed it was good, but can you trust it?

The answer for me is to paraphase the poem 'when it was good it was very very good, but when it was bad it was horrid'. It was great to actually hear the TMS cricket on a DAB station like Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, and equally good to clearly hear an AM talk station without the usual hiss. The problem was they just dropped out with no warning, sometime due to obvious local geography such as a deep cuttings, but usually for no obvious reason whist driving down a straight flat motorway. This seemed particular bad in South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, especially when leaving the motorway network but still on major A roads such as the A38.

So what did I learn?

A simple summary – as with all IT take a backup – whether it be an FM radio or a road atlas. Technology is good until it fails.