Solus Pro Technical Review

By: Dale DePriest

Solus Pro 2.0 is a new release for a palm navigation and mapping product from Delorme. It adds many new features to the previous releases and for the first time it is a standalone product without requiring the purchase of other mapping products to use with it. They also have a 3.0 version available that differs primarily in than it supports wireless palm connections, thereby eliminating the need for a pc to get the maps. However, both products still supports other Delorme mapping products if you own them. The biggest news on Solus 2.0 is the support of vector maps. This is in addition to the continuing support of raster maps as was done on the previous releases. This is the first product I have ever seen that supports both kinds of maps in one product. If you need to brush up on the differences try this link. Delorme also make a Solus Basic 2.0 which can be downloaded from their web site. It is a stripped down version that can be used as a demo for this version but does not support multiple maps or gps receivers.

I am also an owner to Solus Pro 1.5 which only supports raster maps. This version is still available and is supplied for free with the TopoUSA mapping program. For a comparison of the features on these two products check here. Maps made with the topo program will work with either 1.5 or version 2.0 of Solus Pro. (more on this later) All of the programs that can be used with Solus Pro 1.5 can also be used with Solus Pro 2.0 in raster mode. Some of the newest programs from Delorme can also support vector mode maps. Delorme has a table of supported products at their web site along with the features that these map products support on Solus Pro. However, you don't need any other program outside of your web browser to build maps for Solus Pro. The supplied product includes access to a special mapping page at the Delorme site which you can use to build vector maps or raster maps for download or you can use to it provide automatic point to point routing with supplementary raster maps. Solus Pro can display the route overlayed on the maps or as turn by turn text. All of the raster maps created on this site are about 400x400 pixels and will be scrolled as needed in the palm 160x160 display (about 2 1/2 screens).

Solus Pro is feature rich. It supports a full complement of mapping capabilities, a full set of directions (with autorouting from their web site or local mapping program) that includes both text directions and route directions and overlays that show on the map, and it supports your own map objects and searches. GPS support includes real time positioning and a log file that can be synced back to your pc using the supplied conduit. You can also add map objects to define locations. There is even a separate gps page that can be used to view gps data. Once back on the pc the route or your map objects can be overlayed on your pc based Delorme maps.

Maps are controlled by the zoom function which is programmed to the up/down keys on the palm. The other four keys can be programmed to user customizable functions. The zoom function does different things depending on the loaded maps. Basically it has fix size zooms and each level is separately controlled based on the maps you have present. For example I have a large overview map of northern california that is a raster map on level 5. I also have a raster topo map of my home area on Level 14 and some vector maps that run from level 8 to level 13. These vector maps underlay my topo raster map and cover a wider area as well. As I zoom in and out the unit automatically decides which map to display. The interesting thing about this arrangement is that I can search a street name which searches the vector map database and then display it on a raster map which, since it is only a picture, cannot be searched in this way. Searches will search the vector maps, your address book, and any built-in markers you have defined in the database.

Solus Pro can be a processor hog. It needs lots of resources to decompress a vector map for use so you just have to be patient. On my palm III it is slow on any page update when it has to pan. On my Visor Platinum (33 MHz) system it is quite a bit better and makes a resonable real time display. I used to have a problem with my Magellan gps companion in a handspring slot where Solus Pro would occasionally the just stop accepting data from the gps. This has been fixed as of 6/26/01 with an upgrade to the gpslib file available from the Delorme web site. Best performance on Solus Pro can be achieved if you don't include directions on the map screen, don't set track up, and do use raster maps. The track-up option is not worth the effort on any palm os device I tried due to performance issues.

Installation

Solus Pro can be installed anywhere you want so long as it is Drive C: and in a directory called "Delorme Mobile Maps". Inside the directory you will find the SolusMapmaker program and a couple of directories. One for the palm which contains maps and other file and one for Solus Pro 2.0 itself which contains help file and the exectuables. (I also have a Solus 1.5 directory as well for my older tool.) The booklet that came with my cdrom version was a good guide for the installation and setup. It claimed, however, that you needed 160 Megs of disk space for the product, but, even after creating several maps, I find that 5 Meg is plenty.

Solus also installs a conduit for your palm which permits it to download a tracklog of your travels while using the product with your gps. I like to view the tracklog on my Topo 2.0 maps so I always copy it over to the area where this product is loaded. I use this batch file where I specify the name of the resultant file (%1) when I start the batch file.

copy "C:\Delorme Mobile Maps\Palm Computing\palm.gpl" "I:\Program Files\Topo USA 2.0\DeLorme Docs\DeLorme Docs\GPSLogs\%1  

Getting some maps and directions

The supplied program (SolusMapMaker) lets you download maps and directions directly from the Delorme web site. The maps can be either vector based or raster based. The directions include a special raster based map that includes a high level map for the full trip and smaller detailed maps for each end of the route. The directions are text based and can be used independently or in conjunction with the map. Tip: if you want to go ways on the route you will need to download directions for both ways as the directions cannot be reversed. In addition to the online resource many Delorme mapping products can be used to make maps for your palm. Some of the older products can only make raster maps while many of the newer ones give you the choice. Note tha raster maps made from Topo products include any graphics thay you have added. In addition some products, such as topo 2.0 and 3D topo quads can be upgraded with the TopoTools Advanced Print kit which adds, among many other things, the ability to make vector topo maps for the palm. These vector topo maps are awesome to work with but they are big. If you want to maintain the capaiblity to also create raster maps I would recommend not erasing the older product. Use it when you wnat raster maps and the TopoTools product when you want vector maps.

Getting everything to run

After you have collected the maps you can hotsync everything to the palm and fire up soluspro. You can select from the available maps or directions. Once loaded there is always one set of directions in use. You can turn off the display of these directions on the map screen but you can't really get rid of the map display of the route itself. Select a route that is somewhere else (such as the sample one) to keep the route from displaying on your map. Once you pick the map you want to start with and display it you are ready to start the gps. Use the gps menu to connect to the gps and note that you are seeing messages on the screen that are changing and then change back to the map screen. If you don't see the gps location on the map you will see an arrow in the bottom left corner that points you in the direction of where you are on the map. One way to get there is to pan the map, a second is to zoom out unit it shows up, but the best way is to click on the arrow itself (may need to do this twice) which will cause Solus pro to move the map to the gps location. This feature is not well documented so you can easily miss it.

Lot more data to come - stay tuned.

revision
00/12/25 Original release
01/03 changes almost every day
01/06/26 upgraded for Delorme fix.