Google Maps Navigation Review

Google recently released free turn-by-turn navigation for Android 1.6 and higher. I figured the trip up to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving was a good time to give it a good test run.

Visually, the application is among the highest in quality (Not surprising). Upon first look, it’s nearly indistinguishable from standalone GPS devices.

Screenshot by Google

Overall use was easy. Just enter your destination, hit navigate and you’re ready to go. There are also layers you can add for satellite imagery and points of interest among others. GPS tracking was speedy with very little delay between the marker and my actual position.

I chose to test this on a route I know very well. Springfield to KC is a trip I have made far too many times that I know it almost perfectly. At a few points, it wanted me to take roads that I would not normally take, nor understood why it would be advantageous to take them. Looking at desktop Google Maps afterwards makes me think that the mobile version will choose a route that has the least distance, not necessarily the fastest route. However, this was better than the experience I had with Telenav, which had me take gravel roads instead of more accessible and faster state routes/highways.

A couple times, the application freaked out, for lack of better term, once for Google’s map not being quite up to date. The other time was more cryptic as to why it happened. It just started “rerouting” for no apparent reason and continued that for a couple miles.

Power consumption was also a welcome relief from Telenav. Using Telenav, I had to shut off the application because it would drain my battery while plugged into the car charger. I was pleasantly surprised that Google Nav continued to charge my phone and stayed at full charge the rest of the way.

One thing that needs to be added is a nighttime display function. Using the app at night was slightly distracting with my eyes having to adjust to the brightness looking from road to my phone.

Google Navigation is a welcome update to the Maps application. It is obviously not perfect yet, but even with hiccups I had, it is by far the best GPS navigation I have used for Android. The real trick is driving smart and not following the route blindly, no matter what GPS device you have.

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Star Trek Review

I saw Star Trek for the second time over the past weekend and I wanted to write up a review of it. I wrote in a earlier post about my preference of Star Wars over Star Trek. Nevertheless, I am still very much interested in Star Trek and was very excited about seeing this movie. And for me, as a whole, it did not disappoint.

The Story
I came in knowing that this was going to be a “reboot” of the original story, but I didn’t know to what extent. I don’t want to give away too much just in case there may be some reading who have not seen the movie yet, but I will say that the writers decided to used the proven sci-fi storyline that includes time travel and an alternate reality from said time travel. I think that most people will agree that the best and/or most memorable episodes of the various Star Trek series are those that include such storylines. Because of this, the story is significantly different from the original and I am thankful. If this film was a direct retelling of the original, it would forever have the stigma of being compared to the past which would detract from it’s own merit. While the story may not be the same, all the major players are there. Even the most diehard of Star Trek fans should be content with the differences in the characters’ backstories because they are not the same people on account of the alternate reality.

Cinematography
Visually, the film was stunning. The CG was impressive. The redesign of the Enterprise was both an homage to the original while also getting a modern overhaul. The interior of the Enterprise was much brighter than previous instances of the ship, while Nero’s (the bad guy) ship was dark as you might expect, bringing the classic good vs. evil imagery into play.

My only real complaint was with the, what I would consider unnecessary, overuse of lens flare. It felt like almost every scene contained some flare and at some points washed out most of the frame. I’m okay with some lens flare, but it felt like there were times when it didn’t seem to make sense why there should be flare at all.

Music / Sound
I almost always prefer an original score for a movie as opposed to sampling popular music. Michael Giacchino did great work creating some very strong themes. My favourite would have to be Enterprise’s theme called “Enterprising Young Men.”

They included many of the same or similar sound effects for the ship, which was enjoyable. One significant difference is the sound when heading into warp which blows you away, wishing they warped in every scene.

I appreciated the couple scenes that actually gave the contrast of entering a space vacuum. Not many films portray the silence of space and I thought it was a nice touch.

Casting
I thought the actors did a great job with their characters. I don’t think many actors today would be able to play Spock as well as Zachary Quinto. Chris Pine brings a style of toughness and arrogance that suits Kirk’s backstory well. I haven’t seen a lot of the Original Series episodes, but John Cho was a very cool Sulu compared to the Sulu I recall.

Karl Urban’s portrayal of Bones McCoy brought a little too much of DeForest Kelley’s and was slightly distracting a few times. Not a deal breaker, but it reminded me of the Producers remake where it felt like Matthew Broderick was trying to be Gene Wilder’s character and not his own.

Other
I’ve already given my most important thoughts, but I also wanted to add this tidbit. I thought the transport shuttles looked quite similar to the ATR-6 assault transport from the Star Wars Universe. Have a look:

Star Trek Transport

Star Trek Transport

Star Wars Assault Transport

Star Wars Assault Transport


It just made me smile.

Verdict
Just to let you know, I don’t believe in the “stars” rating system. That comes from the fact that my mom thinks every movie with a three or four star rating is guaranteed to be good. I will say that I think this is a great action film that has a well thought out story. I think that Star Trek fan and newcomer will both be able find this movie enjoyable.