More on being a geek
I have been sick for the last couple of days and my productivity at work has peeked at 10% of what it usually is. It was nothing too bad, but serious enough for me to use one of my joker cards: a course of large spectrum antibiotic that nukes any bad bacteria in your system in three days.
Meanwhile, being naturally a little obsessive with things, I have pursued my quest for the ultimate navigation system in Kabul (the holy grail as far as I am concerned). The problem is that there are no good ready made gps maps for this city. There is on the other hand a very good map of Kabul (in Adobe Acrobat format). The challenge is to use it with a gps navigation device.
Below is a log of my activities (skip if you are not a geek). Email any suggestion you might have.
- Considered writing my own software. Toyed with the idea of connecting the gps to a Pocket PC (via a Bluetooth adaptor). Started studying VS.NET and VB.NET and examined various API to manipulate gps data on window CE.
- Found ready made software to create custom map on Pocket PC. Tested it with success on a Pocket PC emulator.
- After posting a question to the Magellan Meridian egroup, found software to design custom map for my GPS directly!
- Extracted map from the pdf with Photoshop. Downloaded freeware to convert raster to vector graphic. Started optimizing map for vectorization. Poor results.
- Looked for a PDF ripper that extract vector graphic from an Adobe Acrobat document. The document did not import into the map creation software, presumably because it was too large.
- Encountered success by importing the file as raster graphic, after reducing size and limiting the number of colors to 8.
- Did not look at the expense and bought the entire collection of Adobe products ($3). Attempted to extract the vector graphic from the PDF with Adobe Acrobat writer. Failure.
- Prep. the file in Photoshop by increasing contrast and converting to black and white, then converted it to vector graphic in Adobe Streamline, saved it as Illustrator file, then opened it in Illustrator and saved it as autocad document. It did import successfully into the map creation software but the quality was disappointing. The raster map is better.
- After different prepping of the file in Photoshop and fiddling with Streamline settings, I got OK results. May get better results by dealing with each color separately.
Now that I found out how to create a custom map for my gps, I can’t help but think What about creating a routable map of Kabul (i.e. maps giving turn by turn directions). Unfortunately, I do not believe this is possible with Magellan GPSes. It is possible on some Garmin units but I think it requires a software that is extremely expensive.
On the way to the software shop I had my first flat tire (a very common occurrence in Kabul). People are very generous here, when it comes to providing assistance and in no time a crowd had gathered first to coach, then to assist the inept foreigner. As a thank you, I ended up buying two overpriced socks from the street seller who assisted me the most.
Infrastructure is developing in Afghanistan, roads are getting better and in Kabul, there has been a recent proliferation of traffic signs (still there really aren’t many) that just did not exist a couple of months ago.
At work, I presented my idea to use a PDA to simplify the data entry process in the field and it was well received. Depending on the cost, there is a chance that I might get the green light. I have been templted to get a Pocket PC myself, as I really would like to learn how to program for these devices but I don't know if I can really afford it right now.