Is my TomTom spying on me?
February 18, 2011 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Why does my portable GPS power on of its own accord? (conspiracy theories welcome)

If I turn it off and bring it inside, occasionally I see it with the power on while sitting on the bookshelf. I have experienced this while keeping it in the car as well. I don't use the GPS regularly, so it is off most of the time. What's a valid reason for it automatically powering itself up?
posted by jack.tinker to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't tell you why, but I can tell you that you're not the only one. My former roommate's TomTom would turn on randomly, and we'd hear it from the other room as it recalculated directions. There are other people who experience this as well.
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2011

What's the brand on it? I'd check the forums for that brand (TomTom, Garmin, etc.) Could be a firmware problem, or some other software-related issue, especially if you recently did an update.
posted by Debaser626 at 9:40 AM on February 18, 2011

Yeah, my TomTom used to do that a couple of years ago. It was replaced under warranty for a different but potentially related problem. New one doesn't seem to do it.
posted by jon1270 at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2011

I've had this happen to my TomTom. My guess is that it wasn't actually off but only in hibernate mode to save power.
posted by Carbolic at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2011

My Tom-Tom turns itself on in the car sometimes. Creepy! No idea what causes it. And I don't think it was a hibernation thing, as I always hit the power button when I'm done with it.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2011

Mine does it, too. Every now and then I hear Eddie Izzard shouting from the living room that I should turn left.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:18 AM on February 18, 2011

Theory (which I can't think of a way to test): it could be turning itself on periodically to refresh its ephemeris / clock data. A GPS that has a fairly recent notion of what the constellation looks like can turn on and get a position fix much faster than one that doesn't. A "cold start" requires a more laborious bootstrapping procedure, which can take a few minutes, and would be annoying to someone who just hopped in their car and wants to go somewhere now.

Of course this wouldn't require the whole UI to turn on and start calculating directions, it could just turn on the receiver for a minute or two a few times a day. So even if this is what the TomTom is doing, it's not doing it all that well.
posted by hattifattener at 11:43 AM on February 18, 2011

Hattifattener is probably on the right track, unless your unit is just buggy. But you shouldn't be paranoid that someone is tracking you or something; GPS units don't transmit any signal--they just receive.
posted by Camofrog at 2:32 PM on February 18, 2011

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