Archive for the ‘Motoring’ Category

TapRat Runs

9 Mar 2006 08:25 by Rick

There was an article on the local news recently about the residents of Barrow Gurney complaining that sat. nav. users were using their village as a short cut to Bristol Airport to avoid the traffic on the A38. Well they are right, but it is not the GPSr users; the Airport Taxis have been using the route for years and have taught the rest of us. The devices are just not clever enough to have picked that way over an obviously more direct route even if it is always busy (with the possible exception of those with congestion avoidance systems and I don’t think there are enough to make that much difference.)

The navigators do need to get better though. I have commented before about some of the silly roads that they sometimes choose based on a line on the map regardless of true conditions to be found there.

TapAdvent GPS 400

1 Feb 2006 15:42 by Rick

There is virtually no information about this device anywhere. I’m sure that there was a promise of a support web site when I bought it, but there is no sign of anything. The Dixons group (Dixons, PC World and Currys) are the only retailers in the UK and they know nothing about them nor do their parts/accessories agency, Partmaster. There is not much about this device on the various GPS forums yet either.

The Advent GPS 400 is made by Medion as the, now discontinued, PNA 400 re-badged. Their web shop has some accessories including the external antenna and a Traffic Message receiver which I presume work OK with this model.

The box says it uses Navteq software but in fact the software is Navigon 5 (I think v5.1) but with a few modifications, mostly cosmetic; the maps are by Navteq. The only features that I can see are missing are the on-screen qwerty keyboard, signpost information, the info bar and speed limit display and some that would only apply to a PDA device. There is an upgrade to v5.2 on the Navigon download site but I don’t know if it would work with this device. Similarly they have maps available (at a price), including North America, and I imagine these would work with the device. Navteq only sell maps direct for manufacturer’s in-car systems.


This is not a comparison with other devices, only having used a hand held GPSr before. Some of the faults may be unique but others may be common to all such systems.

  • The physical device seems to have been designed for a left-hander. The battery bulge/hand grip is on the right and the stylus withdraws from the back left. If you use it the natural way around your index finger tends to switch the screen off or eject the memory card.
  • There is very little in the documentation about the external buttons. Some of the functions are obvious but others are not. The sockets for headphones and external power are close together and very similar, fortunately the plugs don’t engage in the wrong socket. A full set of connecting cables, a windscreen mount and a carry case are provided.
  • Getting started proved very easy following the large format idiot’s guide enclosed.
  • Entering destinations is pretty straight forward so long as you know the full address. It only accepts partial post codes and if this covers more than one village or district then you need to select one before going on to enter the street. In some cases the best bet is to get close and then use the map.
  • When navigating, the directions given are clear and there is plenty of volume from a voice we have dubbed “Sat. Nav. Lady.” Perhaps she says “Please” a little too often but otherwise there are few problems. There is no choice of voice but the volume is adjustable. The use of the phrase “Bear left/right” is sometimes ambiguous meaning either to turn off or just a bend in the road. I think that this is because the system has no concept of priority at road junctions. The A4137 junction with the A48 on route from Hereford to Monmouth was not announced at all.
  • It is very good and quick at recalculating routes if you make a mistake, or deliberately overrule the instructions, and she doesn’t complain either <g>
  • There is a tendency on twisty roads for the apparent position to wander off the road. This can lead to delayed or completely incorrect instructions; in the worst case to “Make a U turn when possible.” I am hoping that this is down to the poor reception behind our metallised windscreen and an external aerial will solve it.
  • The currency of the (UK) map varies. Some very new features are there but some older ones are not. A few junctions are missing altogether (e.g. Sussex Place junction in St. Paul’s, Bristol) and it doesn’t acknowledge mini roundabouts at all. The weakest aspect of the maps is the POI (Points of Interest) data. Many of the petrol stations and garages are incorrect; either missing (from the map), wrong or closed.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any recognition of the quality of roads beyond their classification and sometimes speed limit. Examples are: the A5 between Llangollen and Bangor is very twisty, narrow and slow despite its trunk designation. It is preferred over the A55 Expressway on a journey from Shrewsbury to Holyhead. It also likes the A466 Wye valley road. All routes from our house in Redland to the M32 seem to use Brookfield Lane, a very minor residential road which I wouldn’t dream of taking a car down unless I had to, and then turn right onto the busy A38!
  • Possibly for the same reason, the ETAs given are rather optimistic. It expects you to be able to achieve the designated speed limit at all times and no allowance is made for negotiating junctions. Some adjustment seems to be made for built up areas and the target speed reduced to 20 or 25mph but even that is not enough with modern traffic. I would allow at least 10% extra time for any journey and more if the traffic was likely to be busy.
  • It thinks that the quickest route from Bristol to Bromley is via Central London, ignoring both the M25 and the South Circular. As this was our first use of the device ,we chickened out and don’t know exactly which route it was planning to use. I thought that we had said avoid tolls and expected it to not go into the Congestion Zone but we may have got it wrong. Similarly it has no qualms about taking us over the Severn Bridges in either direction.
  • It comes with the UK maps preloaded and street level maps for the rest of Europe on CD. Together with the large 512MB removable memory card this gives it more potential than many devices on the market. It also runs one of the PDA versions of Windows and a copy of ActiveSync is provided giving the potential to run other software. It comes with an MP3 player which we are not particularly interested in but it may have an afterlife as a picture viewer when the navigation features cease to be useful.


Despite some of the rather negative comments we rather like the device. It is easy to use and very good for travelling to places which you don’t know, just that you can usually do better if you do know the roads, however the difference is rarely more than a few minutes.

TapHandy tips for Laguna owners (3)

27 Jan 2006 14:09 by Rick

Don’t lose your key cards!

  • 8. If you lose a card, in order to replace it you will need your registration document and driving licence or other form of identification. There will be at least a 10 day wait while the key blade arrives from France. You will also need around ½hr. workshop time to code the electronics to match the car (this can be done while waiting for the blade).
  • 9. If you lose both cards you will also need a tow truck or a very good car thief. You can’t get in the doors, disengage the immobiliser or the steering lock. On newer models you may have trouble with the alarm and anti-jack system as well.

The main agents have an absolute monopoly on this work as only they get the tools and training to recode the keys.

TapHandy tips for Laguna owners (2)

7 Jan 2006 20:39 by Rick

Battery woes. In the country you are supposed to leave the parking lights on in the dark, but if the battery is old then it will be flat by the morning.

  • 5. If you can’t get in via the key card electric door locks either because the battery in the key card is flat or the main car battery, then there is the emergency key which the salesman told you about. He also told you that the key hole is in the passenger side door handle. It is not that easy however. There is a hole the right size but the key doesn’t go right in nor does it do anything. It is, in fact, only a slot to enable you to prise the whole of the bezel off—the service department says that they often break when you do this, requiring a new one, but it can be done with care pulling the plastic part towards you with the key firmly in the slot. When removed, a full size standard door lock is underneath. If the main car battery is flat, as in my case, you still can’t open the other doors or the boot (where the jump leads are) but you can release the bonnet catch by leaning across. If you have to get in the boot then you will need to climb over the front seats and try to release the fold down rear seat and get in that way.
  • 6. When the main battery dies or is removed, the radio code is lost. For maintenance, I am told there is a way to preserve it (does anyone know how?) but if it is unplanned then you need to reenter it. You did write it down somewhere didn’t you! Switch on the radio and then select preset 1. Press preset 1 a further “n” times to increment the first digit to the right value. Repeat with presets 2, 3 and 4. The display now shows the correct code number. Press the button on the underside of the steering column control (the one that selects preset/list/manual). This sets the code in the system. There may be a control on the radio to do this as well.
  • 7. When removing the battery it is best not to leave the key card inserted. It can sometimes lock all the doors either as it (the battery) is removed or when it is replaced.

    TapHandy tips for Laguna owners

    28 Dec 2005 16:34 by Rick

    The 2000+ Renault Laguna (the one with no keyholes) has a few quirks which are not in the owners manual (if we still had it). These are based on experience and may be mistaken but also may also apply to other cars, especially other Renault models.

    1. When the card key battery runs low it fails to operate the door mechanism. Changing the battery appears not to make any difference but the problem is that it has lost the code. Get into the car using the other key then use the faulty key (with a new battery) to start the car. This re-instates the code.
    2. If the dashboard goes haywire e.g. all lights stuck on, then it can be reset/tested by removing the card key; hold down the trip computer button on the end of the stick and while it is pressed, put the key back in. This will then reset the computer and go through a test sequence. Remove the key to stop it.
    3. The tyre pressure warning system is sensitive to the cold, especially sub zero temperatures. The symptoms are that all four tyres show flat and the warning light flashes. This will clear itself after about a half mile when the tyres warm up. I had it fixed once under warantee (no idea what they did) but it still does it most winters.
    4. A poor contact in the electric sunroof switch can cause it to open at unexpected times. The switch is expensive (c£100) so disconnect it by pulling out the plug (the switch panel just pops off). Fortunately the default position for the roof is closed.

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