Coderace, and trying an Android phone for navigation

Final game map

Today I participated in an event called Coderace with a team from the Edinburgh Hacklab.

The game used an Android app which showed points on a map. Each point had a clue which could be answered using information available at the indicated location, for example text on a sculpture or building. Cycling was recommend, and all but one of us did. A car was used to reach the furthest points.

There were only two teams. The hacklab won 18 to 4, which was amusing because we were not regular cyclists and the other team had people dressed up as road racers.

It was sunny and ideal conditions for cycling. There were problems with the application crashing, position tracking failing, and with phones but it mostly worked. It was a good way to get some exercise and an idea of what can be done with these devices. Thanks to Napier University for running it.

Bikes and phones

I borrowed a phone for the game. My normal phone is a Sony Ericsson W800i and I had never really used a smartphone before. I had been thinking about a general purpose computing interface for my touring bike so it was interesting to try an Android phone as this was one of the main ideas. I borrowed a Samsung Galaxy S II (GT-I9100).

There were several problems, which without changing things make this system rather poor. I could hardly see the screen in sunlight. My O2 connection only allowed 50MB per day, and offered no option to pay for more. This was used in 1.5 hours of occasional map usage. I would think navigation with moving map is a standard use case for these devices so clearly the limit is not enough for normal use. The battery was also nearly flat after 1.5 hours, from a near full charge. The battery in this phone is tiny compared to the screen size. It seems that a solar or dynamo charging system is not just needed for extend off grid operation but even when used in a city.

Mobile networks still don’t get it when it comes to data. It used to be that they charged about £3/MB, which is as good as infinite. I suspect what happened is they had the idea people would want to use WAP and they made up a price such that the per page cost was what they wanted. This of course made the tariff useless for actual web browsing. I thought that with the introduction of smart phones they would have sorted this out but although it’s an order of magnitude less bad it needs another two. The most they offer if pre arranged is 1GB / month for £10.

And if you want to use it to navigate when cycling through more than one country you can forget it - back to £3/MB, or something on the order of £1000 / day. It would be possible if the maps are preloaded but still you can see the situation is ridiculous.