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Car PC Hacks by Damien Stolarz

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Hack #58. Car-Enable Clunky Applications

You can use a scripting program to provide single-press access to application features that normally require complex menu navigation.

Many programs are difficult to use without a mouse and keyboard. For instance, most of the navigation packages for Windows are almost impossible to control without stopping the car and clicking on tiny buttons for a while. These applications are actually designed for use by a passenger with a laptop, not the driver.

A few summers ago I went on a month-long, cross-country trip with my wife and daughter ("to find America," as my friend put it). During the trip, we stopped from time to time and uploaded maps of our route so our relatives could keep track of us. We also took pictures of our daughter in front of all the "Welcome to [state]" signs we passed along the way.

Our "itinerary" was no more specific than dots on a poster-sized map of the U.S., and a printout of the addresses of our friends and family. As we had no portable Internet solution worked out for that trip except for any WiFi connection we might stumble upon, we relied on our GPS unit, our prototype CarBot, and the DeLorme Street Atlas USA program.

The DeLorme program has a sort of clunky, Visual-Basic-buttony feel, but it was pretty fast on my 600-MHz fanless VIA EPIA motherboard. I was fortunate to have a copilot who could work the clunky NAV application on that trip, though, as we quickly learned that the program is essentially unusable by the driver. ...

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