Tech Update – Part 2: Software and services
our first installment
we discussed hardware – then and now, going waaaayyyy back to the
beginnings of Sound RIDER! – some 14 years ago. Now we'll take a
look at software and services available to the rider.
14 years ago it was pretty much all software
we used to get around on our computers, with the exception of one service
which was search engines. Today with the availability of apps, that’s
In 1999 we did 100% of our authoring using
Microsoft Word. We still do today. In fact, we could author on the
original Word 97 platform from back then if it was still supported
across newer operating systems, but it’s not. Shame. Simple is fast and
sometimes it’s the older software that was simpler and quicker to use.
Above: Using Lightspeeds online
FicheFinder makes it simple to shop for parts with local dealers before
actually going to the store.
But I must say, the most recent Word 2013,
available as part of our MS Surface Tablet purchase, is pretty simple
too. You can get into the minutia if you want, but that’s all hidden
from the screen until you call it up. For basic authoring and editing, we
don’t need the minutia for the magazine.
Now – when it comes to publishing books, which
we do annually, the bells and whistles are necessary. Creating indexes,
formatting several layers of headings and so forth. That had to get
better from those older versions and it did.
But you’re probably not in the publishing
business, so not much of this matters for most. You’re a rider, so what
software and services have changed the way we ride?
In the late 90s, there were some low level
software applications on the market for mapping. You still couldn’t map
on the web. Rand McNally had a dreadful piece of software that went away
almost as fast as it arrived. Microsoft birthed their Streets & Trips,
which was okay aside from the fact their original maps came from a dusty
amalgamation of out-of-date US road information. They finally moved to
the NavTech platform which was better, but still evolving.
By the mid 2000s we were seeing web services
like Microsoft Virtual Earth, Google Earth and Google Maps. Mapping a
route using the web was becoming a reality, and for the most part the
data was better. Kind of…
Meanwhile, Garmin was hard at work perfecting
their maps and products. The software continued to evolve into what
we know today as City Navigator, a far more robust mapping and routing
tool than any web based service at present. But because of firmware
variances in the hardware, where you place a viapoint or waypoint to
create a route, your results may vary.
The biggest issue plaguing motorcyclists is
the software and service provider's ability to tell us if a road is paved
or not. Whether you tour on a cruiser, or ride off-road on an adventure
bike, this is a key issue. To date we continue to use the only atlas
series we know that does this well, Benchmark Maps, to get the best
reference. Now and then we open Google Earth and take a closer look.
Satellite photos do a fair job revealing what is paved and what is not,
but it takes a long time to cross reference a route this way, so the
paper atlases still rule. And Benchmark is entering the app market.
We know of iPhone users who have attempted to
use their phone for navigation, but there’s still not a way to load a
GPX file into a phone app. Not yet at least. We think it will happen
sooner than later.
Sourcing parts for your motorcycle is another key
issue for motorcyclists.
Looking back. In the 20th century
we went to the motorcycle shop, they looked up the part on microfiche
and if they could get it, they ordered it up. If not, you went to a
salvage house like Bent Bike. Maybe they had a used one, maybe they
didn’t. You would not know until you went and you better wear scrubs,
because after several hours of digging through tote bins of parts you
got pretty greasy and smelly. Think rotting 2-stroke oil.
eBay comes along and sticks a fork in that
pretty quickly. Looking for hard-to-find parts was never simpler. Some
salvage yards, while it appeared they vanished, simply went underground
and did all their selling on eBay.
Looking for current OEM parts was never easier
than it is now. When PSN partnered with Lightspeed to put fiche onto
the web, you could buy your parts online and never needed to go to the
shop. Then the price wars started and parts pricing came down. Prior to
that, markups were high in many stores and this was the unspoken cash
cow at many dealers, some setting their pricing at 100% markup and more.
The used motorcycle market changed
significantly as well. In the late 90s, dealers would place ads in local
newspapers. The paper version of Cycle Trader was king and companies
like The Seattle Times made good money off used vehicle ads. Not
ebay, dealer websites and freebies like
craigslist snatched up all those dollars as peoples eyes spent more time
on the web and less time reading paper. And while the web is the way to
go in most cases for selling a bike, the trouble is it’s very
fragmented. Where you had two paper sources to look at used bikes, you
now have dozens of places to hunt online, so the task takes awhile.
When the internet was created, there was
something else we needed to go with it, but didn’t get. Today
there are still only 24 hours in a day. Who couldn’t use a little more
time to read the slough of web pages out there that we want to.
Which brings us to the biggest mind suck of
all – social networking.
In 1999, you could access a newsgroup and talk
with other like-minded riders. A news group like alt.seattle.motorcycle
was the equivalent to getting on a CB radio in the 1970s and putting
any information out there you wanted to, good or bad, right or wrong.
Today we have forums, Facebook, twitter and a
plethora of other social networking sites. And if you want advice, you
just post and you'll get it. If you want some bad advice you’ll get that
too. If you want someone else’s opinion, you’ll get plenty of it, good
and bad - on the planet Social Networking. We like to think of it
more as Social Notworking.
The days of physical motorcycle clubs are
numbered. Older clubs are dying off and the new ones are primarily
cyber-clubs with no bylaws, no member dues and wide open membership.
Rides and events are impromptu at best and an actual organization with a
future is unlikely. When we update our clubs and organizations directory
each fall we strip away dozens of cyber-club startups because most come
and go in 24 months or less.
From navigation, to parts sourcing, to being a
part of the community, software and online apps have certainly had an
effect on how we pick and choose what to ride and who to ride with. Just
remember the golden rule – there are still only 24 hours in a day. As
often as possible, spend more of those hours riding than looking at a