Vindigo: Misinformation Wherever You Go
Written: Jun 25, 2001 (Updated Jun 25, 2001)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:free, city coverage growing, movies and restaurants in one application
Cons:misinformation, bad directions, difficult to uninstall
The Bottom Line: I'm not sure why Vindigo is so popular because I found little to like other than the price. Free only helps if the product is useful.
Vindigo is one of the most popular Palm applications out there. It really makes me wonder how people are using it, because both guides I tried were filled with inaccurate and misleading information.
What is Vindigo?
Vindigo is a set of free city guides containing information on restaurants, movies, retail stores, and events in a series of mostly North American cities. The information is updated every time you sync by default, or less frequently should you chose to change the settings.
Vindigo is adware - that is it is free but you have to watch ads on your Palm while Vindigo is in use. This is a bit disconcerting given the limited amount of real estate on the Palm, but I suppose it is better than charging for the service.
My First Experience with Vindigo
Vindigo was initially released for a very small group of cities. My home town of Boston was one of them, so I downloaded Vindigo and tried it out within days of its release.
Vindigo worked quite differently then - I was given the option to download the base information about Boston as a separate database and only required to use the conduit if I wanted updated movie information. Since I already used Showtimes to track movie times (see my review at http://quasar.epinions.com/content_11826138756) I only downloaded the base restaurant data for Boston. I never used the conduit.
Unfortunately the restaurant information was inaccurate. The database contained restaurants not just for Boston but for several suburbs as well. Unfortunately the listings never specified which city a particular restaurant was in. In many cases, road names are reused in the various towns so unless I already knew where a restaurant was located, it was difficult to determine the location using Vindigo.
Vindigo also supplied directions from a specified address to each restaurant. These directions could at times be used to pinpoint the location of a restaurant so in that sense they were somewhat useful. However, as walking directions they were not very good. Vindigo has knowledge of one way and frequently would try to send you the correct way on a one way street - sending you several blocks out of the way if you are walking (and yet it specifies that these are walking directions). It also frequently got streets confused. It would tell you to turn on First Street when you really needed to turn on First Avenue. Lastly, it would just throw out directions like "walk 4 miles then turn" which are unreasonable even for the most fit people (and alas, I do not fit in that category).
Needless to say, Vindigo did not stay on my Palm for very long.
Giving Vindigo a Second Chance
I met a group of net friends in Philadelphia over Memorial Day weekend. I used to live in Philly so I know it fairly well, but no one else in the group had even been to Philadelphia before. I wanted to have some information I could beam them (we all know each other through a Palm IRC channel, so we all have Palms) and decided to give Vindigo's Philadelphia version a try.
I had heard nothing but good things about Vindigo in the ensuing months (years?) since I had initially tried it, so I went ahead and tried to download the Philadelphia version. I immediately noticed that this time I had to use the conduit, even for basic information. The installation process made me go to the website, create an account, and select items I want syncronized. I chose all information about Philadelphia and prepared to sync.
I noticed the sync seemed fast for the amount of information I asked for - almost 700KB. As soon as it was done, I attempted to view the information and was given a message that no databases were loaded. I went back and reselected the information I wanted, synced again, and this time got the Philadelphia information.
There were some improvements in the interface and directions - the main listing for a restaurant now includes an indication of how far it is from the set location. You still get statements like "walk 3.5 miles south then turn left" but at least you know beforehand they are coming. The Philadelphia version did give me directions that took me the wrong way on a one way street, but the directions were convoluted in some cases. When presented with two semi-reasonable ways to go, Vindigo seemed to always chose the one that required the most turns, or that required turning on circular streets that cut through several blocks. In a city laid out with mostly straight streets and grid intersections, these few streets that don't fit the mold get very confusing, especially when there is no mention of not being on a straight street.
The movie listings themselves are fairly nice, including information on each movie, its cast, and where it is playing. It would be nice to have the theaters a bit more organized. I found it difficult to figure out where some of the theaters are, and had I not remembered where a few of the theaters were located I am not sure I would have realized that some of them not on major streets were accessible from where I stayed. I found many theaters did not include directions, and those that did had bad directions in several cases.
I found that the shops were also very hit and miss in terms of the directions, and very few had a lot of descriptive information in the database. There was no indication that Strawbridge's is the most famous store in Philadelphia and worth visiting just for a glimpse at the old time food court in the basement. No indication that Boyds in the ritziest men's clothing store. The stores are categorized into basic categories and listed therein with just an address provided. To me this wasn't a lot of value added. If I were to rely on Vindigo for shopping suggestions they would be based solely on proximity. Not necessarily what I want unless I need a drugstore for an emergency.
Given that Vindigo is constantly updated, I also found a surprising amount of information was out of date. Several included stored had closed. One of the movie theaters had moved some time ago but the address was never updated. Most of the restaurant information was correct as far as it was tested.
I found myself hardly using Vindigo during the trip. None of the things we were interested were included - no museums, no historical attractions. To be fair, Vindigo doesn't claim to cover these types of places, but if it wants to earn my stamp of approval it needs to start. This absence was particularly glaring in a city like Philadelphia known for its historical attractions and world class museums.
Although there has definitely been some improvement, I still found myself with no desire at all to load the Boston version of Vindigo when I got home.
Having decided Vindigo was not for me, I decided to uninstall it. I started by removing the Palm application. Unfortunately deleting Vindigo (and supposedly all of its associated databases) did not remove the file residing on my Palm controlling the Vindigo sync. The next time I hotsynced, Vindigo was back with new updated Philadelphia information.
I had set up Vindigo to sync on my Windows machine at work, so I then proceeded to uninstall Vindigo using the Add/Remove control panel. It told me all had been deleted. I opened up hotsync and looked at the custom conduits only to see Vindigo was still there and still set to sync. I decided to just delete all files associated with Vindigo manually from my Palm using pz (Z'Catalog or filez would work as well). Of course that worked, but I still have a Vindigo conduit on my machine, just nothing on my Palm for it to communicate with.
I will be the first person to admit that Vindigo has improved greatly since its initial release. However, I still find it severely lacking in many areas, most notably in its directions and its lack of information about many of the stores, events, and theaters in its database. I also feel it should include other attractions within a city and become a more complete city guide. Vindigo has moved from an application that I found worse than useless to one that I see some small amount of use for (if only I trusted its information). However, it does not come close to justifying its very large space requirements and it will most likely not find its way back onto my Palm anytime soon.
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