Saturday, April 1, 2000

New software products for the Auto PC

SOFTWARE REVIEW

By Mark Moeller

The Auto PC software industry has been quietly and slowly growing, and recently some exciting new software products have emerged. Over the past few months, I've been checking out some of the new software products for the Auto PC. I want to use this month's article to introduce you to some of these new products.

Note that none of these products are Auto PC certified. This is a process that few software vendors have chosen to comply with, primarily due to the fact that most Auto PC software is free and certification costs are not. Auto PC certified software goes through a testing and validation process by an organization to verify that the software complies with recommended Auto PC program guidelines. This will become more important in the future as the equipment manufacturer can optionally configure Auto PC 2.0 in order to prevent the installation of non-certified programs. Indications from Clarion's George Giles on the Club AutoPC bulletin board (see http://www.clubautopc.com), is that Clarion will be permitting non-certified programs to run on their 2.0 Auto PC.

Omega One's Active Volume

The folks at Omega One have been one of the leaders in the aftermarket Auto PC software. Active Volume is a must-have for every Auto PC owner. It dynamically adjusts the volume on your Auto PC based on how fast your vehicle is going. I have a Honda Civic, a vehicle not known for its quiet interior. Before Active Volume, when on trips down the freeway, I had to crank my Auto PC volume up to 17 or 18 to be able to hear the music over the road noise. However, the vehicle is pretty quiet at low speed and when I pulled off the freeway onto surface streets I'd get blasted out, so I'd have to adjust volume to 9. Active Volume does this for me now. It always maintains a nice listening level based on my vehicle's speed. One catch is that a GPS is required so Active Volume will know how fast I'm going. The volume level increases are totally configurable through a control panel applet and there are several presets for the most common vehicle classifications. The current version of the product is version 1.2. You can purchase it from Omega One at http://www.omegaone.com.

Omega One also has two free products, a Compass screen saver and a control panel applet that sets your Auto PC's clock from the GPS. They also sell two games, MindMelt (a memory game) and Dominoes. Additionally, they sell a product called Omega One Foundation Classes, a set of libraries to assist in speeding the development of Auto PC software.

SoDeog's SyncTalk: PalmPilot talks to Auto PC

For those folks who use a Palm device as their PDA of choice there is a glimmer of hope from a company called SoDeog. They have released for beta test a product called SyncTalk. It allows Palm devices to talk to Windows CE devices, including the Auto PC. I have their product installed on my machine, and it works just great for beaming contacts back and forth. Currently, it only beams one contact at a time but the software is still in beta and SoDeog is going to add support for beaming multiple contacts. Since beaming from a PDA is the only practical way to get contacts into the Auto PC, multiple contact beaming from the Palm device to the Auto PC is really a minimum requirement for interoperability. You can download this software from http://www.sodeog.com.