I have had my car pc for almost a year now in various stages of completion. I have also tried several different software solutions for both navigation and front ends. I have also used a laptop with map point and serial GPS for several years prior to having a car pc. For a year I had a Samsung i730 with an external Blue Tooth GPS receiver running Tom Tom software. I am a senior Information Science and Technology student at Penn State University and have installed every piece of electronics for this computer system in my car personally and with careful planning. PCMOFO.com
It is with these facts in mind that I would like to voice my opinion of Street Deck software. Agree or disagree with my opinion, that’s fine, but I would like to talk about my experience with street deck after a few months of use. I do this in hopes that I may encourage further quality work on this product as well as provide suggestions to enhance it as well. I realize that I have more negative than positive this to say about Street Deck in this post but that’s because Street Deck already does so many things right I am basically nit picking at its flaws to make it near perfect.
Street Deck is an easy to install and configure complete all in one solution for your car computing needs supporting a wide variety of hardware and features. I can customize the look and feel of Street Deck by making new skins etc or adding features on my own. This is almost unheard of in any other product. Also, the Street Deck developers actually listen to the end users input to develop a better product.
1) Navigation. There I said it. Sure it works and it has some great features, but I have used several navigation systems and I just really wish that it functioned like Tom Tom. All of my hardware was purchased from MP3Car.com and therefore all of it should work together well. Yet when I used the BU-353 GPS receiver with Street Deck its hit or miss. Sometimes it tells me I have a weak signal, sometimes I have no signal, and sometimes it shows me I am driving next to the road I am actually on.
2) I have used the EXACT same hardware with MS Streets and Trips with no problem what so ever. Yet street deck feels sluggish and inaccurate. I will make a turn and 5 seconds later it will rotate the map and show that I am turning. I’m not sure why this is happening but I know its not my hardware’s fault as it works fine with other software.
3) Street Deck has a HOME button, which is great, and they have the most recent destinations entered in but no favorites etc. With my Tom Tom software I could click “add to Favorites” and wherever I was, that exact spot was saved as whatever name I chose. If I follow my friend out to some guys house for a party or something and its in a rural area I want to save that location as “joe’s house” or something incase I need to find it again later. Renaming addresses that I entered in is also extremely useful in general. I don’t want to remember my friends street names, I want to be able to be anywhere and click their name and get directions to their house. I could do this with tom tom.
4) While we are on the whole Navigation issue… why does Street deck cripple some of its features like Search or video playback while I am driving. Yes, its true you have to be an idiot if you try to drive and watch video at the same time but is that really what happens? NO. When I drive I mainly use navigation and mp3 playback. But what if I am driving with someone else in the passenger seat? Maybe they want to watch a video or a video podcast? Maybe they want to Search through my music collection to see if I have a song they like. What if they are the navigator and they are searching for streets, restaurants etc while I am driving? I realize these safety features were put in place to protect people but their should be a way to disable them or turn safety off so that the passenger can fully utilize the system. Also, when driving I cant close street deck because I cant access the power menu while moving. If street deck hangs or crashes I can restart.
5) Some other ideas I have had for the navigation system might help make it a little more user friendly. For example, build a web site script or external software to generate maps for Street Deck. I know when I go on a long trip I plan it out on Google Maps etc, this is difficult to do on Street Deck. Why not somehow be able to plan a route on your home PC then import that “route” into street deck? When receiving turn by turn directions maybe flash a huge “Right arrow” etc overlaid on the entire screen, this would allow you to disable the horrid voice that speaks the directions to you.
6) On to the music section. Every time I turn my car on it’s a crap shoot as to whether or not the song I was just listening to will resume from where it was last or not. This typically happens if I have selected a specific artist or album etc. Also when I turn on my car and all music is showing sometimes it wont auto play and pressing play will do nothing, I have to select a specific song before it will do anything. This is especially annoying for podcasts. I drive 2 hours a day 6-7 days a week, listening to podcasts are the only thing that keep me sane. If I stop to get gas then turn my car back on it will forget what track I was listening to and where I was. Something like, “all songs with the genre of ‘Podcast’ should save information about where to resume if the track has been paused”.
7) Playlists should also be able to be made on the fly like on an ipod. Select New Playlist, enter a name, then go around selecting songs to add to it, or press and hold over a song to add it to the current play list. Anything that can make the media player function more like iTunes the better. What does the Queue music button Do? I would assume it would allow me to play one song then select a second and third song to play after the first, creating a Queue. Kind of like the music system at Hollister on the touch screen in the walls. This would be a great feature as typical usage of the car pc by my passengers includes playing a song then browsing my collection finding other songs to listen to. Then they have to wait for the first song to finish before they can start the second song and begin searching for a third song, a huge waist of time.
8) Street Deck crashes nearly every other time it is loaded in my car. I have set my pc to auto hibernate when I shut the car off and its just so annoying that it crashes on boot or it crashes if I try to filter my music too many times. If I select a genre then after a few songs select an artist it might just crash, or if I go back to select an album from all music it will crash. I have never had software crash so often. What good is error reporting if I don’t have a net connection when it crashes? Sometimes when Map point loads internally (when I switch to navigation) it will crash. Why not load map point on boot? I would rather wait 5 more sec when it boots to wait another 10 after I have been using it for a while.
9) I realize that MANY of my issues can be solved with a better UI or skin. Little things like adding a clock to every page would be simple fixes that would improve the software. ( I have to go to the home screen anytime I want to see the time) additions to navigation like seeing current time, time to destination, or trip logging features etc could greatly enhance the user experience. You have to remember the reason I have a car pc in the first place is I drive every day 2+ hours and I want to listen to music, podcasts, navigate, and take phone calls all with one device (yeah I wont get into the bt phone issue now) I realize that Street Deck relies on windows to generate its graphics but I would almost be happier if Street Deck were a custom flavor of Linux that took less time to boot and was custom tailored to work better as a complete OS/Font end.
That’s really all I can say for now. Great job on Street Deck so far guys, I love the software but it does have some minor issues that could make it perfect and far worth the price. If you can take anything from my babbling let it be that you should make Street Deck more like Tom Tom or iTunes, simple to use and effective, it should “just work”.