How does my iPod know where I am?

For years my wife has wanted to be able to check email from the kitchen downstairs. Seven years ago she convinced me to buy a laptop for this purpose, but it didn’t get used much, partly because of some trouble with the mail client she was using at the time… checking for mail from two different locations is a pain from a non-web client. Since then she converted over to Gmail, which solved that problem. So she wanted to try again with the old computer. We even went to the trouble of refurbishing the old crappy seven year old laptop (she insisted), and oy! what a dog it was! It worked, but everything took so long.

The solution to the problem turned out to be an iPod touch. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s amazing how much better a computer it is than that old laptop. It’s small and handy and also doubles as the source of music in the kitchen.

The iPod touch is essentially a really thin iPhone without the talky part (or the camera, sadly). It can’t make calls, but it can talk to a WiFi network. I knew it had the basic features I wanted, but I was nervous about the virtual keyboard being too much of a nuisance. I am happy to report that it makes an excellent kitchen computer, especially in a kitchen as small as ours. The instant-on startup time is a wonderful thing, compared to even a modern laptop, and the wireless connectivity is terrific. My son Jay is autistic, so I spend a lot of time walking around near him to make sure he’s not getting into trouble. The touch has just the right form factor for carrying unobtrusively while I check email and Twitter, and then slipping into my pocket when Jay needs my attention.

It took me a long time to get with the mobile revolution, but I’m happy with this as an entrée.

One thing I’m still puzzled about. The mapping application, Google Maps, works really well, and if you push the little “tell me where I am” button, it accurately positions you on the map. I knew this feature existed, but I thought it worked because of cell phone tower location technology. But this iPod is not a cell phone. I would have guessed that all it knows is my IP address, and I didn’t think IP addresses could be pinned down to within a hundred yard radius. So… how does my iPod know where I am?

10 thoughts on “How does my iPod know where I am?”

  1. I thought all of them new-fangled phony things came with one of them GPS doo-hickeys built in.

  2. “To deliver highly accurate results, WPS requires knowledge of the geographic location of each access point. This information is obtained by deploying hundreds of data specialists who scan and locate access points using proprietary scanning vehicles designed to build and maintain the reference database. The system also takes into account that access points are sometimes moved and helps to automatically heal the network by updating and improving the reference data in real-time.”

    Oh, so that’s what that van was doing slowly cruising around my neighborhood. I thought it was the BBC TV police.

  3. “Data specialists.” Nice term. I’m guessing they’re highly trained pizza delivery data specialists.

    I know privacy is a dying concept, but this is hitting close to home (in the most literal sense). Now the websites that say “Meet girls in [YOUR STATE]” will instead say “Meet girls near that funny birdfeeder in your neighbor Kevin’s yard. You know, the one that’s kind of crooked and hangs over the sidewalk and you nearly banged your head on it last week? Meet girls near that.”

  4. I’ve seen the kind of girls that hang out by Kevin’s birdfeeder on StreetView, and I’d have to say, “no, thank you.”

  5. Actually Ned, a guy from the Apple store followed you home after you bought it….He’s been following you everywhere since then, punching coordinates into a Garmin device to let Them know where you are.

  6. yeah, Frank’s got it right – it is Apple the Evil Overlord behind all this. “Oh, we’re not evil, here touch our shiny music device, stroke its glossy screen, listen to its sweet song. NOW TELL US WHERE YOU LIVE!”

  7. Yes, you have a picture, and furthermore, now all I have to do is press this button on my iPod and … here it is… I can see that you, Matthew Simoneau, live at 37 Currituck Lane in Wolverhampton, Nova Scotia but you are in fact currently on aisle three of the QuikPik Market contemplating buying a Value Pack of snickerdoodles. The iPod knows all.

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