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National Geographic TOPO Second Report.htm

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  • Chris Tirpak
    National Geographic TOPO! Second Report Chris Tirpak 11/2/2001 I ve copied the contents of the first report into this report as well because I felt that
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2001
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      National Geographic TOPO

      National Geographic TOPO!

      Second Report

      Chris Tirpak



      I’ve copied the contents of the first report into this report as well because I felt that combining the information presented a more complete second report.  Please forgive the duplication.  See the section labeled “Second Usage” for the additions that make up report 2.




      Date received: 10/31/2001

      Condition:  Received in an approximately 10”x10” cardboard box with no apparent damage.  Inside was a standard software box like you would find in a retail store. 



      • Software CD Set – 7 CD’s in CD binder/carrying case
      • Registration card
      • NG Digital Map Catalog


      Stated system requirements:

      • Windows 95/98/2000/NT/ME
      • 16 MB RAM
      • 2x CD ROM
      • 256 color monitor
      • 486 DX/66 or higher


      For this first report I am just going to install the software and do a basic test to make sure it works on my machine.


      My computer:

      • Dell Latitude C600 Laptop
      • 1000Mhz processor
      • 20GB hard drive
      • CD/DVD Player
      • 256MB Ram
      • 14” LCD screen
      • I have a 21” monitor when docked but I am at the kitchen table right now.  I’ll view the maps on the monitor later.




      Being male, I of course did not look for any installation instructions I just popped the first CD into my drive and nothing happened.  No auto run feature which I suspect is because I will need to put CD’s in and out of the drive while viewing different parts of the state and who wants the silly install program popping up all the time.   So….. inside the CD binder is an 8 page install/reference/quick start guide.  Install instruction are standard.  Run setup fro the CD  directly.  OK. 


      After choosing the directory to install to (I chose a different drive than the default) I was presented with a prompt for “minimal” (3MB) or “suggested” (17MB) setup.  I’ll take suggested since I have plenty of hard drive space.


      After selecting next the software installer did its thing for a minute and that was it.


      First Usage:


      I now had a TOPO! section on my start menu.  So, again being male I just ignored the quick start guide and jumped right in.


      Presented with a prompt for whether or not I have a GPS receiver I say “no” – I haven’t hooked it up yet and also want to see if I’ll need to re-install TOPO! when I do.


      I am presented with a map of the state of Colorado and the cursor looks like a magnifying glass.  So, I start clicking on my area of the state and the software starts zooming in.  After a few levels of zoom I am prompted to switch CD’s and after doing so the zoom continues.


      Without much trouble I am quickly looking at my road.  After switching the cursor to traveling mode (on the toolbar) I quickly scroll over to my favorite mountain biking area and local rock climbing areas about 3 miles from the house. 


      Second Usage


      This version of TOPO! seems to be essentially unchanged from earlier versions of the product.  This particular incarnation comes with GPS capabilities which was an add on for previous versions and it also covers a much larger area of Colorado.  The other notable change is that the maps now have shaded relief which makes them a bit easier to understand than un-shaded versions.


      One feature that is frustrating is that the software requires me to place the first CD in the drive as I zoom in on a location and it then requires swapping to the correct CD for the location.  I was pleased to find that the software offered to cache the maps (although only for the current session) as I zoomed in and out of areas that were on different CD’s.  This however did not appear to apply to the less detailed maps at the fourth level of zoom.  I poked around the first CD and the directories installed and found that there was a directory CO1_MAP4 that appears to contain these maps.  The manual indicates (in the appendix) that maps can be copied to the hard drive and the software will use them before looking to the CD.  I copied the entire directory contents to a corresponding directory on my hard drive.  This helped alleviate some of the CD swapping.  I also copied my local area to the hard drive as well.  I was able to figure out the naming schema – it uses a coordinate system.  So directory D39104 is for the area 39N 104W.  I didn’t bother to go any more granular than that.  Restarting the software allowed it to use the copied maps.


      The map quality is the same as that of any USGS Map – which is not surprising since the USGS maps are what is being displayed.  Right clicking on a map and selecting “About this MAP” will give the USGS Map Name, version, current as of date, contour interval, and elevation data.


      One disappointing feature that is lacking is an auto routing function.  Other reviewers have noted this capability in the DeLorme software and it is something that TOPO! should add.  It is not advertised as having it, so no huge deal, but drawing routes by hand is hard to do.


      All other features of the software are straightforward enough to use.



      Test Plans:


      My tests will include:


      • Trace some routes on the maps. [completed – 2nd report]
      • See if I can eliminate some CD swapping by copying files to my hard drive.  It should be possible but how hard is it to figure out? [completed – 2nd report]
      • Hooking up my GPS
      • Longer term I will use this with my GPS to track my misadventures
      • I’ll track my hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking over the next couple of months


      Recommended enhancements so far:


      1. Add a copy/cache to hard drive permanently feature.  A “rubber band” style feature where I could grab a whole area and have all applicable maps copied to my hard drive would be great.  That way I could easily get maps I reference frequently on my drive without playing guessing games.
      2. Add an auto routing function.


      Impressions – report 1:


      The maps are quite impressive with 3D and shading, even on my laptop monitor.  The interface is quite easy to use on first try (although I am familiar with earlier versions of this software).

      Impressions – report 2:


      Neutral: this software’s core functionality is little changed from previous versions.




      Chris AT Tirpak DOT com



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