High-tech hitchhiking

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There are a lot of technical "toys", that can help you to make hitchhiking easier, safer or just collect informations and statistics about your trips. A mobile version of hitchwiki is available at m.hitchwiki.org. You can also use your mobile device to browse hitchwiki.org offline: Hitchwiki:While offline.

iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Regardless of the iDevice having a GPS fuctionality or not, you can find torrents online of GPS software which you can put on and use simply as maps. This is great because it means you basically know where most gas stations are on your route and don`t make mistakes of getting out too late in the middle of nowhere. Maps of Europe and Middle east are very good from the company IGO. You can also put dictionaries on there and maybe the hitchphrases pdf. You will need a jailbroken iDevice for this. You can also put ebooks for reading whilst waiting long times for a ride. Things such as survival books are useful things to have on there and ebook format means they don't weigh you down.

Mobile Phones

Google-maps mobile on a Nokia N91

Most modern mobile phones can surf the internet. This might help you to get information about hitching spots, bus or train connections or even maps. For modern smartphones there are loads of apps available that can display openstreetmap offline data, which is very useful abroad when mobile data costs are high.

Android

Check out free offline maps apps with POI:

  • OsmAnd (you can download maps of only 10 countries/states for free)
  • Navfree (offline map but you need internet for address and POI search)
  • MapFactor Navigator (Able to download maps to device, audio navigation instructions continue when device is locked (good for motorbikes))
  • Maps.me (GPS location & direction, able to download maps of countries/states for free, search for POI, shows distances, simple interface works very good offline) (download)

Windows Phone

Check out free offline hitchhiking apps:

  • My Hitchhiking Spots (Android, Windows Phone) create records for your hitchhiking spots, save notes, waiting times and so on - all available offline.

Java Applets

Almost all phones produced within the last five years will support java. There are a lot of free Java-Applications that can be useful for hitchhiking.

  • Google maps can show you detailed maps and satellite pictures.
    • See here how to install it on your phone.
    • In some countries, it can also tell you which bus to take to a certain place. This can be extremely helpful to get to a hitching spot in a completely strange city.
  • MGMaps supports a lot of different maps. If you have GPS, it can even send your position to a website, so friends or family can see where you are now. This might be a nice security feature, just in case.

Nokia N900 offline Hitchwiki navigator

As the Nokia N900 smartphone reaches feature phone price levels, it can also make for an offline Hitchwiki spot browser within Openstreetmap. The only limitation is that Hitchwiki's spot ratings and descriptions are missing for now. Here are the steps:

OYBnkRT.png

Installation instructions

1. a. Open App Manager and install Marble - Virtual Globe. (install help here http://userbase.kde.org/Marble/Maemo/Installation)
b. Install Monav, you need this app to enable offline routing.
c. While you're in App Manager, consider installing Conky. This utility comes in handy to check network activity and it's a useful monitor in general.

2. Load the maps
Quit App manager and open Marble, Top menu > Map View > Select Mercator and OpenStreetMap. This map is identical to the desktop version, including hitchhikers' launchpads, better known as petrol stations and highway rest areas.

Install a country for offline use - manually
Open Marble > Top Menu > uncheck Work Offline to allow internet access
Swipe and move around the areas you will travel through. Zoom in and out for more details. Marble downloads and saves the area permanently on the phone. Alternatively, do a search: Menu > Go to... > press Return on the hardware keyboard.
To cancel a route, Top Menu > Routing > Clear
Marble saves data in several folders:

/.local/share/marble/maps/earth

There you can drop kml tracks in the folders tracking and routing.
OSM tiles are saved in the hidden folder:

/.maps/OpenStreetMap I

Install a country for offline use - automatically
Marble > Top menu > Routing > wrench icon on the lower right > select Monav > Configure > Install New > select country and Install. The download and installation will start. The map is saved in

/.local/share/marble/maps/earth/monav

NOTE: Auto-install seems to be botched here. For some reason the tiles do not show up and I end up saving tiles the manual way by scrolling and zooming.
To download a car, bicycle or pedestrian map of a route, follow the directions at the paragraph 'Downloading Map Data' at http://userbase.kde.org/Marble/Maemo/OfflineRouting

3. On a PC, download Hitchwiki markers from maps. Select Download at the bottom of the window and select a country. The file is named country-XX.kml. Download should start by itself, though sometimes it doesn't (e.g. in OSX). Try a different browser or OS in that case.
Copy the file(s) country-XX.kml file to the N900 to the MyDocs folder.

In Marble > Top menu > Tracking > uncheck Show Track > select the small file icon (upper right between Clear track and the save icon) > MyDocs opens by default > select country-XX.kml file. Disable Kinetic scrolling for better performance.
Marble adds kml files incremently, so more than one country could be loaded. To disable the kml layer, restart marble.

If Marble gives a parsing error when opening the kml file, Google Earth can still open it. Open and select the file in the Places pane > right-click and Save as a kml file with a relevant file name. Copy the file to the N900 main folder (MyDocs) or a folder of your choosing, and try to open from Marble again. This workaround worked for me, only the accents in names are garbled
The dots on Hitchwiki are replaced by the letter 'a' in 'a Hitchhiking spot in [place, country]' and are placed on the same spot as the dots.

4. Good hh spots such as petrol stations and rest areas only appear at lower zoom levels. You might want to bookmark these spots in the area you are heading beforehand. This will make lookups quicker.
To do so, place the crosshair on the spot > press screen > Add bookmark > give a name. The bookmark now shows at all zoom levels. The bookmark is saved to bookmarks.kml in:

/.local/share/marble/bookmarks 

and can be edited in a kml editor, for example Google Earth. (Unfortunately the desktop version of Marble crashes when exporting the bookmarks.kml file.). Make a backup before you edit just in case.

5. ON THE ROAD
- When travelling make sure Marble is set to Work Offline in the main menu! This stops Marble from automatically downloading missing tiles from an area that is opened.
- With all apps, wifi, gps and bluetooth off and GSM mode instead of Dual/3G the N900 lasts for 4-5 days. Some users say the phone is more energy-efficient when switched on permanently compared to turning it off when not in use, as the booting process drains the battery. A list on how to make a battery charge last longer here. With Marble switched on the battery lasts about a day. Bring a spare and/or a mini usb-cigarette lighter charger in case there is an opportunity to charge during a ride. A standalone charger (Nokia DT-33 Battery Charging Stand) helps to charge 2 batteries at once if time is limited.
- To toggle the gps, press screen > Info Boxes > Routing > globe icon. Note: this will also toggle the default internet connection. Set to wifi to prevent the phone connecting to expensive such as roaming 3G internet while on the road. Go to Settings > Internet Connections > Connect automatically > select WLAN. Search interval > select Never
- The kml file clutters the map at higher zoom levels. Load the kml file when preparing a route and use it to bookmark hh spots.
- To toggle fullscreen, press screen > Full screen

IN SHORT
Advantages:
+ Lightweight hitchhike atlas
+ Offline Hitchwiki spots and offline access to Openstreetmap including petrol stations, parkings, street names and many objects.
+ Current spot information from Hitchwiki
+ Easy to add maps for offline use
+ Forked from Debian, Maemo is the most open source OS on a mobile phone, and still actively supported by the Maemo community

Disadvantages:
- Max. 1500 Mah battery available (Polarcell). Spare batteries are recommended for longer trips
- Slower lookup compared to paper due to its 3,5" screen

- Ratings and specifics of Hitchwiki spots are not included. This can be solved by converting the daily xml dump files to .aar, as explained here and open them in Aard dictionary. I'm still looking at this.

Internet tablets

Nokia's 770s, N800s and N810 are pretty useful tools with an operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux. Maemo Mapper is pretty good free software. The N810 has a built in GPS device and comes with map software that can download maps for most of Europe, North America and several other countries around the world.

They are available from about 100 EUR on ebay.

Computers

A subnotebook, netbook or ultraportable is a class of laptop computers that are smaller and lighter than typical notebooks. Usually approximately 1 kg / 2 lb - so they are easy to carry along.

Some downloadable mapping programs

Online mapping with computers

GPS

With a gps-receiver you can always determine your exact location. This might be useful if you get lost. Some modern phones have a gps built-in. If your phone has bluetooth, you can buy an external dongle, which is almost as good as an internal one. Remember to install maps for your navigator-device if needed.

Also you can have some fun on the road with Geocaching.

E-book readers

Especially for long-term hitchhiking can be e-book reader useful for killing boredom on spots without traffic. The ones with e-ink display are really comfortable to read and battery lasts several weeks. You can upload hundreds of books, guides, dictionaries etc. The more expensive readers have also mp3 and wifi (battery consumption is quite high when switched on). Depending on the model can be possible to "hack" the device and use various applications (including map software) with restrictions of slow display.

Utility pole coordinates

The Taiwan Power Company grid is an example of a poorman's GPS.

Costs

Mobile internet can be expensive, depending on your country and price plan. Mapping or navigating usually just needs a few Kilobytes of traffic. However, in most countries, you can book cheap data packages. Often this even pays off if you just stay for a few days.

  • Note that using internet abroad will be much more expensive than in your home country. It might make sense to get a cheap sim card, if you stay in a country for a while.

Some Examples

  • Checking a map with Google Maps or MGMaps will need less than 100 KB.
  • Sending your position to the internet every 5 minutes will need less that 50 KB per hour.