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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sign me up!

Allright! It has taken quite some time (I mentioned that some things were running in the background), but this new website is finally up and running!

I am hereby introducing you to:


The logo in my earlier post is indeed an Orange. Why (an) Orange? Good question... why (an) Apple? Consider it a re-FRESH-ment, something different and FRESH from all the things out there. It also represents the color orange, a color which has left a trace of the history in my own life: it is the color of the dutch Royal House, most dutch sporters play in orange, the Orange is orange, and Orange Gadgets is located in Orange County...

With respect to the logo for the GPS module, I'll let the module speak for itself: "i (I) GPS 360 degrees or all-(a)round". The 360 degrees signifies that the gadgets we will bring to market can find application all-around.

So much for the logos. I hope you like them!

Regarding the website, I have incorporated a sign-up form on the site where you can sign up for the GPS module. Please only sign up if you are serious about buying one or more GPS modules. All data is logged into a database and will be used to determine future production quantities and to contact you once the modules are available for sale.

Since I have only done limited testing on the site so far with only a few different browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer and iPhone Safari), please provide me with feedback on any broken links or other things that might not be functional.


Saturday, July 26, 2008


Time to tease a little... What could this be?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Micro USB cable samples have arrived!

I have received three samples of the USB-A to micro USB-B cable. The cables are 6ft long which should be plenty to hook up to your module from wherever you want. I have already tested all three cables with my modules and they are performing fine, including syncing of the iPhone from iTunes.

I will give you a brief progress update so you know where we are at:

  • Housing: A housing manufacturer has been found. I have visited him twice and toured the facility and liked what I saw. They have also been very helpful in getting the housing prototypes done. I will be updating the housing design next and after that get a revised quote. Mold making will take 3-4 weeks ARO and then the first parts will be delivered one week after mold approval.

  • PCB board assembly: I have received about half of the quotes that I requested. The remaining ones are expected by the end of this week. Typical lead time for 1000 units is about 4 weeks (this includes PCB fabrication and assembly).

  • PCB board re-spin:Just today I sent out another PCB prototype board design that will address the somewhat lower performance on the last set of prototypes. This board is expected back mid next week. By the end of next week, I should have build another three prototypes with these new boards and have tested them for performance.

  • USB cables: USB cable samples have been received and tested. An order will be placed tomorrow. Lead time is 6-8 weeks.

  • Other: Some other things are running in the background in parallel... I'll keep you guessing at what that may be for now...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In memory of

the many Falun Gong practitioners who have suffered or been killed at the hands of the Chinese communist party's persecution and the many that have disappeared or have been imprisoned innocently (the above picture was taken during a commemorative candle vigil on July 18 in Washington, D.C. A photo gallery of the event can be found here)

Today, exactly nine years ago, on July 20, 1999, China's former president Jiang Zemin started a brutal persecution campaign against the practice of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) with his policy of extinction: "Ruin their reputation, exhaust their financial resources and destroy them physically."

Today, nine years later, even though the people in power within the communist party have changed, the persecution has not ended and innocent people are still being killed.

Falun Gong teaches truthfulness, compassion and forbearance (in Chinese: zhēn, shàn, rěn). The combination of these words as well as the terms Falun Gong and Falun Dafa are forbidden in China and any website that uses these words is automatically blocked.

As such, I have found out that this blog is also not accessible for people on the mainland of China...

More information on this tragedy of persecution can be found at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Good and the Bad...

The photos show two rough prototype housings made on a fused deposition modeling machine (FDM). As the resolution of these machines is about 5-10mils (127-254um), the surface of the housing is not very smooth, but it is good enough to do form fitting of the board and dock connector. Also, the housings look white as the machine uses this color plastic to do the FDM. The ultimate housing will be black.

The next photo show you how the module will look on both the iPhone and iPod touch.

Now for the good news:

  • All the clearances for board to housing were designed correctly and the boards fit nicely within the housing.

  • I have also received the A-GPS modules in the meantime and built a new module with it and put it to the test. The way it works is as follows: you first download 7 or 14-day valid data to the module (this can be done through software), then use the module as normal. I have put this module to the test and compared it with a module without A-GPS. For the A-GPS module, the time-to-first-fix (TTFF) in open sky after a cold start was reduced from 43sec to 29sec (average over 5 measurements) with times as short as 16sec.

  • A large volume of dock connectors for the modules have arrived!

  • NDAs have been put in place with quite a few PCB contract manufactures and quotes are expected back soon.

Now for the bad news:
  • It turns out, there is no way to get the plastic lens into the LED opening of the housing and have it sit straight and tight. So it's a good thing to have built these prototypes to do form-fitting before getting a housing injection molded for real. We will have to come up with something to solve the lens problem: the housing will be split in two half so that the lens can be inserted from the inside and the wall can be thickened locally for a straight and tight fit.

  • Recent testing has revealed that the latest prototypes lack a little in performance compared to the earlier prototypes. A re-spin of the board can remedy this and will bring you the best performance possible (note that one board design is currently still in the pipeline and is expected back later this week for more performance testing). This will delay things a little, but not too much (about a week).

As you can see, this project is keeping me busy full-time, but all aspects of the project are progressing very well in parallel.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Software compatibility with RoadMap

Link for iPhone and iTouch users here.

Before we discuss the video, let me first mention that we hit 2000 votes yesterday!

This is again great news and I will update you on the manufacturing progress in a separate post (I have been very busy taking care of all the logistics behind the scenes and acquiring quotes for the manufacturing now that NDAs have been signed).

The video above shows a demonstration of the open source software RoadMap. This open source software was ported to the iPhone by Morten Bek. Of course it is a work in progress and not everything is perfect yet and neither are all features ported, but at least it shows the concept and future potential: 3D real time location mapping (with local maps on your iPhone/iTouch; no need to connect to the internet) and hopefully in the (near) future full voice-assisted navigation support.

I was very impressed by what Morten has accomplished so far!

It seems there are two branches of the RoadMap software. The one that Morten is working on and the one that Ehud Shabtai is working on. The second branch is a little further ahead maybe in terms of features, see this video, but unfortunately the language and Wiki for that branch is in Hebrew and it only comes with the map of Israel. Hopefully the two branches will be able to join efforts and converge into one great iPhone/iTouch application.

For Morten's branch, I downloaded all the maps for California from here and I can now locate myself on my iPhone without the need for the or internet connection.

The video shows the main aspects of the RoadMap application:
  • Arrow icon at left top: this switches between a fixed map view or a rotating map view. In the last case, your driving direction is always pointed upward and the map will rotate along with you.

  • Satellite icon: its color varies, green for GPS lock and red for no GPS signal. Pressing the icon will move the center of the map to your current GPS location.

  • Satellite screen: provides a view of the signal to noise ratio (SNR) for each satellite, longitude, latitude, elevation, speed, etc. This screen is accessible through the left button on the menu bar in the bottom (hard to see in the video)

  • 2D/3D icon: pressing this icon will switch between a 2D view of the map and a more navigation like 3D view of the map (see end of video)

  • Zoom in/out icons: pressing these buttons will change the scale of the map accordingly.

  • There are some more buttons in the bottom bar, but not all of them are working. With one of them, you can email your currently logged GPS route to your friends.

Unfortunately, my video recording ended abruptly as the camera ran out of memory, so the 3D view of the map (which I think is really neat) is not that long. But I hope you get an idea of what it looks like.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


That time has come again..... Apple's 2.0 firmware upgrade will be out shortly, so I would like to issue a warning....

To make it clear to everyone, if you intend on using the GPS module on your iPhone or iTouch, make sure NOT TO UPGRADE your iPhone and iTouch firmware for the time being. The same goes for iTunes. Leave it alone till it is confirmed that it is safe to upgrade.

In order to communicate with the GPS module, a jailbroken iPhone or iTouch is required. Upgrading to Apple's official 2.0 firmware will put your iPhone/iTouch back into a sealed environment again until the iPhone Dev Teams comes up with another jailbreak.

So if you would like to keep your options open, play it safe. Leave your current firmware alone and wait till the unlock development teams give you the green light.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Simplified housing design

This week has been a very busy week. What you see above is a simplified housing design for which it will be cheaper to make an injection mold than for the first design. This is important as we are talking about relatively small number of volumes for injection molding (a couple of thousand) and the mold-making cost will need to be kept as low as possible so as not to drive up the price of the module. An alternative to traditional injection molding is rapid injection molding. I will need to look at both options to find out which one gives the cheapest price per unit.

For this latest housing design, the USB connector has been moved to the bottom side of the module. I have updated the PCB layout accordingly. The size of the housing is 26mm x 22.2mm x 9mm.

I have started working pretty much full-time on this project since July 1st. I have drafted up a project schedule for getting the module into production. Quite a few things need to be synchronized in terms of time-line. Here is what currently has been accomplished or is still in the works:

  • NDA's have been put in place with various contract manufacturers (CM) for both the PCB assembly and the housing.
  • The PCB has been designed and is waiting for feedback from the CM in order to determine manufacturability (1-2 weeks; we will be going into the second week). The PCB design might have to be tweaked after we get feedback from the CM. This process is called design for manufacturability (DFM).
  • After the DFM is completed, a few final prototypes need to be built and sent to the CM (2 weeks).
  • A few prototype housings also need to be built/machined and sent to the CM (3-4 weeks).
  • GPS antennas need to be built (1 week setup + 3 week lead-time).
  • GPS chip needs to be manufactured (4 weeks).
  • Bill of materials (BOM) needs to be sourced. Some parts have a lead-time (up to 3 weeks).
  • Housings need to be produced by injection molding at CM (no time-line available yet from the CM for this).
  • After all this is completed, usually an engineering pilot build is done for design verification and after that a production pilot build.
  • Test procedures need to be implemented and test fixtures designed and put in place (4 weeks). This includes both testing of the PCB as well as a final test of the performance of each GPS module.
As you can see, quite a lot of things need to be managed and synchronized. But in order to bring you the best working GPS product out there for your iPhone and iTouch, no corners can be cut.

I will keep you posted as things progress :).