24th December 2015
My wife Deanne and I are keen bushwalkers (slow ones) and early in 2015 we got into kayaking. It's a healthy diversion away from the keyboard. Of course, I like to bring along some technology and my favourite is OruxMaps. It's an Android app which has off-line maps and also logs your movements as a GPS track.
It's all fine and good except that bright sunshine and phone screens don't work very well together. At least with bushwalking you can find some shade under a tree to look at the map. That's not an option when you are in the middle of a lake in a kayak and need to see which branch in the water to take.
I spent some time trying to find an Android device with a reasonably large e-ink screen and found the Onyx Boox T68. It's an e-book reader with Android 4.1 underneath. The T68 doesn't have a GPS but it does have Bluetooth; that allows it to pair with another device that has a GPS.
It took a while to configure my T68 to the way that I want it. This included setting ADW Launcher up as the main desktop instead of the e-book software, changing the front button to be a Home button, adding a screen lock PIN and customising the lock screen to have a picture of me and my contact details.
Although using the T68 for map display is the main reason that I got it, I do use the T68 for reading e-books. Right now my preferred applications are AlReader for epub files and EBookDroid for PDFs. I do have some ordinary apps like a web browser etc., but the screen refesh is slow enough to be annoying to use the device as a tablet.
OruxMaps works really well on the T68. I am using OpenAndroMaps as my off-line maps; they are vector maps and so are smaller than bitmaps. I'm using a modified version of the SimplyHike display style as the T68 can only display 16 grey levels. I've got two waterproof pouches: one for the T68 (to see the map) and one for my phone (the paired GPS device).
Things were working perfectly until I sat on the T68 while kayaking and broke the e-ink screen. Damn! I ordered a replacement screen and removed and replaced the screen to fix it. While waiting for the screen to arrive, a new version of the T68 was released. The T68+ (also known as the T68ML) has more RAM and flash storage, so I ordered one of those as well. Now the T68 is Deanne's e-book reader and I use the T68+ for mapping our bushwalks and kayak trips.