• Review: Amod AGL3080 GPS

    This week, MacTalk forum mod, avid photographer and overall nice guy 'Goodbye' reviews the Amod AGL3080 GPS Tagging device.

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    With the release of Apple's latest iLife suite ('09) came two cool new features in iPhoto - Faces and Places. Whilst the first is pretty straightforward, the latter is where it gets a bit trickier. Very few consumer cameras come with a GPS tracking capability, so for those that would like this functionality for their current camera(s), the next thing to try is a photo tracker.

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    What is a photo tracker I hear you ask? It's a small brick that contains a GPS unit which stores your current position to a log file. Other GPS units may store their data in a proprietary format that requires its own software to work, but AMOD's AGL3080 appears as a USB flash drive on your computer, and as such has no compatibility problems with either Mac, Linux or Windows operating systems.

    The AMOD unit ships with a CD with software and manuals (no printed manual), a short USB cable, and a clip to hang the unit off your bag or belt. On one side of the unit is a power button, and the other features a "mark waypoint" button, which is handy if you want to remember a certain location. On the front are three LED icons - memory full, satellite, and battery. All of these are self-explanatory. On the top is a mini-USB port, as well as a carabiner handle.

    I'm a fan of gadgets that require only standard batteries, and the AMOD is one of them - using 3 AAA cells. This is super handy if you're going to be out in the sticks or somewhere that power isn't easy to come by. Just carry along a few spare AAAs and you'll be set for a couple of days. AMOD states that the 3080 can run for around 15 hours on three fresh batteries, which is fine if, for example, you're overseas and out for the whole day, come back at night and recharge the batteries (as long as you're using rechargables of course!), and in the morning they'll be ready for your next outing.

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    I'm not too brilliant on the technical aspects, however the 3080 has a SiRF Star III chipset, which I'm told is the most accurate and reliable chip around at the moment.

    The unit logs, in its default state, every second, which gives great resolution when viewed on a map. The 128mb internal memory can store over 70 hours of constant data at this resolution, but it is possible to go into a sort of "diagnostic" mode, and change this to every 5 seconds, if you so desire.

    MAC COMPATIBILITY
    With the unit itself out of the way, let's get down to how the unit actually interfaces with the Mac. As the 3080 appears as a USB drive, you shouldn't have any issues whatsoever. As soon as you've connected the unit, it's available in the Finder, and you'll be greeted with a "GPSFILES" folder, and the log file itself. A new log file is created every time the unit is power cycled.

    The CD contains "JetPhoto Studio", which is a product of "Atomix Technologies". Whilst the software runs perfectly fine on a Mac, it's obvious that is was cobbled together by people not too familiar with the Mac experience. The interface is confusing and complicated.

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    Once you've selected your first option - creating a new album, importing photos, or opening an existing album, you're greeted with the main window, which contains your photos and a sidebar with further options. For software that is included with a GPS tracker, it's not immediately obvious how you actually geotag your pictures. Click on the oddly placed "Geotag" vertical tab on the sidebar (which opens a small map, and curiously, a Wikipedia entry for the area you're tagging) and on the bottom there's a "GPS logs..." button. Inside the new window that opens with options for importing the logs from the 3080.

    I'm not going to go into too much detail about JetPhoto Studio, as, to be honest, I really hate it. It's clunky, it's not intuitive, and it doesn't feel very "Mac-like" in its operation. All I wanted was something that would merge the GPS data and the photo EXIF data and import them into iPhoto. JetPhoto Studio doesn't have anything to do with iPhoto, which isn't much good for me (or most of us Mactalkers who are looking to purchase the 3080!) I quickly went onto MacUpdate and searched for "Geotagging". One of the first applications on the list is "Geotagalog" which promised to do everything I was hoping for.

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    The interface is slick, simple and easy to understand, and it worked flawlessly the first couple of times I tried it. You select the log you wish to append to the photos, select where to get the photos from (If you have a camera connected it will show up in the "Choose photo source..." menu), adjust the time if need be (if your camera and GPS unit aren't in perfect sync, then the software will place your photos in the incorrect location.) Once that's all done, click "Import" and in a few seconds you'll have your photos all nicely geotagged and open in iPhoto!

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    Geotagalog is a great piece of software and really makes the whole geotagging process really easy and pretty fun too! I can't wait to go somewhere more interesting and use the 3080 to its full potential.

    I purchased the AMOD AGL3080 from Bedox Inc. in the USA for $63USD plus postage. This price included a small windscreen mount for your car. Geotagalog is $19.95USD
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