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Netbook + GPS... Trying to find a solution.
targa88
1. Currently have an Acer Aspire One netbook (running Windows XP + 160GB hard drive) + Garmin Nuvi 350.
2. Topographical maps of Utah, Montana, Colorado - downloaded into Mapsource.
The TOPO maps can be downloaded to the NUVI - however it can not track.

What I would like to be able to do is:
a) use the Garmin as an antenna for my netbook, when I am offroading in the US (hence the Topo).
However from what I led to understand the Nuvi cannot be used as a receiver - so I would need an alternative: USB or BT receiver?
b) do I need alternate software since if the NUVI cannot be used?

So that my location shows up on the map in my Netbook - advantage of the large screen (9in dia) - able to input a trail or trace back a trail of where I have been.

Is this possible - I think it is - just not sure how to go about the hardware and software application (sequence/process).

Alternate solutions that have been suggested:
1. National Geographic TOPO or
2. Google Earth with Earthbridge (less keen on this option since I would be reliant on wireless connection in remote locations, etc...)

Ultimately this application is geared for off road application - which represents 25% of the travel time.

Help from the experts
Ken in Regina
I have no idea what you mean when you say the topo maps downloaded to the Nuvi cannot "track". Can you be a little more descriptive of what you expect them to do that they are not doing? Or did you mean that your Nuvi cannot record and display tracks?

Just so you know, most topo maps do not have any routing information in them. They do not have any address information in them. And they do not have any points of interest in them. In general, they are just a picture on the screen and all your navigation program or device can do is display your position on the map.

The answer for your laptop is easy and fairly cheap. You can download a program called "nroute" from Garmin's website. Since you already have Mapsource installed and maps installed in it, all you need to do is run nroute. It will see any maps installed in Mapsource and use them for navigation. It has the same non-navigation functions as Mapsource and the interface for those features is the same so there's nothing new to learn about them. The navigation features are pretty obvious and fully featured.

The other thing you will need is a GPS receiver. You have lots of options there. The first thing to know is that nroute only understands the Garmin proprietary data protocol (all non-Garmin receivers use an open standard protocol called NMEA to transfer data from the receiver to the navigation program), so the simplest answer is to use a Garmin GPS. Garmin has USB receivers, Bluetooth receiver and some of their handhelds can be connected to a laptop and used as receivers.

There are lots of non-Garmin USB and Bluetooth receivers on the market. They are usually as good as, and cheaper than, Garmin products.

I have a Garmin GPS10x Bluetooth receiver. It works great with my laptop (Garmin's nroute and Mobile PC programs, MS Streets&Trips2008 and Mappoint2009, DeLorme's Street Atlas2008, iNav iGuidance2009 and Google Earth Plus). But it's pretty pricey compared to other Bluetooth receivers from other manufacturers. For instance, I have an i.Trek M7 Bluetooth receiver that works every bit as well as the GPS10x and it's a bunch cheaper.

But to use a non-Garmin receiver with the nroute program on the laptop you need a piece of shareware software called GPSGate. So you need to add that extra cost to the cost of the non-Garmin receiver and consider whether that, plus the extra complexity of another bit of software, is worth the saving. (I'm truly just laying out both sides of the issue so you can make a decision. I'm not trying to influence you either way. I'm able to do it both ways and both work very well.)

I also have a Garmin eTrex Legend HCx. This is a handheld navigation device that is great as a standalone. It takes micro-SD cards so I can load any maps on it that you can load on a Nuvi and it has all the nav features as the Nuvi (route calculation, onscreen guidance, search for addresses, POIs, waypoints). The difference is that it is designed for offroad use. So it can save tracks and has a trackback feature and it has a compass screen that simultaneously shows you the straight-line direction to your destination (bearing) and the direction you are actually headed (heading).

It has a USB connection and can be used as input to the nroute navigation program on the laptop PC. It's the latest GPS technology and is very sensitive. It grabs a location lock a bit quicker and holds it under much worse conditions than either of my Bluetooth receivers. It could be used both as a GPS receiver for your laptop and also by itself when you are outside the vehicle and don't want to haul the laptop around. It's very robust and waterproof ... I bought it to use on my mountain bike and a buddy bought one to use on his BMW 650GS dual purpose motorcycle.

Those are just to illustrate a few examples of your options. Let us know if any interest you enough to explore further.

...ken...
targa88
Ken,
Thx for all the details.
I will try to be clearer - trying not to get lost when offroading in the desert is the ultimate goal.

The NUVI allows you to find directions in an urban environment. It can display a topographical mapset. However, it is unable to record/track back or breadcrumb trail if you will or establish a pre-determined route to follow (for example the Kokopelli trail or the Mojave Trail Road ) - when offroading.

Do you have to "build" the trail before - downloading individual coordinates and then following them once you are off-road?

The handheld versions (e-trex, 60CSX, etc) are just too small to view the screen will driving off road and seem expensive just to use as a receiver.

So starting from scratch: a) netbook+ b) receiver+ c) software.

From what I understand: netbook is fine, receiver to be obtained (but potentially predicated on the type of software)

It looks like the choices are the killer!
Ken in Regina
Ken,
Thx for all the details.
I will try to be clearer - trying not to get lost when offroading in the desert is the ultimate goal.
I can work with that. That's the great thing about my GPSs ... even when I'm totally lost I always know exactly where I am.

Do you have to "build" the trail before - downloading individual coordinates and then following them once you are off-road?
Well, that depends... Does the trail show up on a topo map that you can load onto, say, the Nuvi? If so, then it would seem to me that the point is to simply follow the trail using your eyes, on the trail and on the GPS screen. That's the simple method.

Obviously you need to add track recording to that so you can visually follow the track backwards when it's time to go back.

Or are you looking for guidance instructions from the navigation program, similar to what you would get with on-road routes? That's a whole different kettle of fish. With Mapsource/nroute you could do that but you still need to be able to see the trail on the topo map in Mapsource. You could use the Route tool and click on key points on the trail to get a "route" that could be used by nroute to provide directions. I've used this method in Mapsource to measure the distance (eg. length) of a trail I plan to ride. But I'm not sure what value this would be. .... Well, if you activate the route it will lay a heavier, possibly much more visible, line over the trail lines on the topo map. That might be helpful.

In any case, you can play with this in Mapsource. Just select the desired topo in dropdown map list, click on the Route tool on the toolbar (or TOOLS > ROUTE) and start clicking along a trail. For guesstimating distance I click at every change of direction so I get a series of straight lines that are somewhat close to the line of the trail. When you are done with the "route", just right-click on an open area of the map screen and click on "cancel". Now you will see the "route" displayed in bright yellow (I think that's the default, or maybe it's bright purple). If it's not displaying onscreen you might need to click on the Routes tab, right-click the route you just created and click "Show selected route on map".

If that's not what you are looking for, a little more description would help zero in.

If the trail(s) you want to follow aren't on the maps at all, then I have no idea how you would do anything in advance. All I can see is that you need to be able to record a track as you drive the trail so that when you turn around to go back you can display it onscreen and follow it back.

If I'm making this way more complicated than it needs to be, just holler. Perhaps it's as simple as setting a waypoint (Favorite, whatever) at the point where you jump off the road and being able to tell the navigation device/program to take you back there using the "offroad" route preference setting. That would put a straight line "route" from where you are back to the jumping-off spot. Each time you come to a fork in the trail you can make sure you turn so you keep headed in the right direction. That should even work with the Nuvi.

Sometimes simple is good enough, and Good Enough is almost always cheaper.

So starting from scratch: a) netbook+ b) receiver+ c) software.

From what I understand: netbook is fine, receiver to be obtained (but potentially predicated on the type of software)

It looks like the choices are the killer!
Ah, but it's great to have choices!!

Play with Mapsource and imagine that you can simply add navigation features to it that will use whatever you can create (or download nroute .. it doesn't need a receiver to see the added navigation features and play with the tools to see if you can get something useful onscreen) and see if that's getting us closer to what you need. Then we can move forward from there, or follow some other option altogether, depending on what you find.

If you decide to play with nroute, check out the Tracks tab to see the options. Look over to the right side to see the Track options and more under the Active Track Filter. If you want to see what an existing track looks like in nroute or Mapsource, just let me know and I'll attach a couple to a message for you to play with.

.... Ooops, I completely forgot that sometimes you can find track files on the internet for a place you want to go. That's how I found some interesting trails out in the Rockies for my mountain bike last month. Other people had already ridden there, recorded their track files and uploaded them to share for others planning to ride or hike the same trails.

I'm not trying to sell you on Mapsource/nroute, or even a Garmin solution. I just happen to know them pretty well and you already have Mapsource and there are lots of Garmin-compatible topo maps available, commercially and in the wild. This will help us move towards something that might work for you, even if it's just pointing out details of why it's not working.

...ken...
tcassidy
Some of the Nuvis cannot record a track at all. I have a 200c which definitely doesn't have this feature. The feature on other models was disabled at certain firmware versions. The 350 may be one of these.

I have read that if you have an appropriate firmware version, holding your finger on the battery indicator (top right of main screen) for 5+ seconds, you will get a test menu. One of the pages allows you to restore the track feature. That page is not on my 200c. Whether or not a track-back feature is available, I could not say but it is unlikely.

As far as I know, none of the Nuvis can provide a GPS signal to another device.

The netbook sounds like a perfect size for GPS in-vehicle use (if the screen isn't too dim). Since you already have the maps in MapSource, I think Ken's nRoute suggestion is great. I am also a big fan of Bluetooth and the Garmin GPS10x. If you do go that route, why not go all out and buy it bundled with Mobile PC. Then you can see what a small screen can really do.

Terry
targa88
Ken - Thanks for the detailed input
Well - looks like the solution has been achieved.
Netbook: Acer Aspire One
Receiver: BU 353 (tested one today with Topo Canada & Mapsource).

Not clear that there is an advantage to the USB vs BT receiver debate.

I am sure that BT can be reliable - I am just concerned that with:
Cellphone - CB & Ham antennas along with electric interference that there could be challenges when you least expect (ie. somewhere really remote!)
Marvin Hlavac
targa88, if you don't mind the cable between your laptop and the GPS receiver, then by all means use a USB GPS receiver. The BU-353 is a very good choice. People who wish to minimize the number of cables around their laptop tend to prefer Bluetooth.

Both GPS receivers, Bluetooth and USB, are reliable. I see your concern about RF interference. Stay with USB if you don't mind the wiring.

Also, check our list of Netbook GPS Software for other netbook navigation programs you could use with your Acer Aspire One.

It's nice to have a ham radio operator here.

73
targa88
targa88, if you don't mind the cable between your laptop and the GPS receiver, then by all means use a USB GPS receiver. The BU-353 is a very good choice. People who wish to minimize the number of cables around their laptop tend to prefer Bluetooth.

Both GPS receivers, Bluetooth and USB, are reliable. I see your concern about RF interference. Stay with USB if you don't mind the wiring.

It's nice to have a ham radio operator here.

73
Marvin,
Thx for the help (since you got me started on another GPS forum).
In terms of equipment - just looking to be prepared when I head out on expeditions - generally, relatively remote areas - so reliability is key.
tcassidy
You must be running a pretty old version of MapSource if it supports GPS. The newer versions don't, hence nRoute. However the older versions did support NMEA GPS receivers which nRoute doesn't.

Terry
targa88
You must be running a pretty old version of MapSource if it supports GPS. The newer versions don't, hence nRoute. However the older versions did support NMEA GPS receivers which nRoute doesn't.

Terry
Terry,
Not sure I understand your commentary.
I have the most recent version of Mapsource - and had no problems with the receiver (BU353) following tracks on the TOPO maps.
Urban environments might be a different issue ( however I rely on my NUVI 350 for that)
However, I did use the same receiver to test on Streets & Trips ( older version - 2006) - and it worked.
I have not tried the nroute yet.
Colin
Ken in Regina
I apologize in advance ... this is going to sound rather smartass and I really don't mean it to be.

Let's be practical about the RF situation. Both the USB and Bluetooth GPS receivers are trying to receive and make sense of really really weak spread spectrum GPS signals from satellites way up high in the sky.

Bluetooth devices are communicating, when inside a vehicle or at a listening station, over a distance of a very few feet.

Which signals are going to get clobbered by spurious harmonics from the CB and Ham transmitters first, do you think? The really really weak GPS signals that both types of GPS receivers are trying to receive? Or the (relatively) much stronger Bluetooth signal.

In both cases - Bluetooth radio or GPS - it requires a pretty poorly shielded transmitter if it's spewing enough uncontrolled harmonics to completely wack either signal.

And the solution to such a problem, should you encounter it with either the GPS or Bluetooth signal, whether in town or in the wild, is pretty simple: Stop sending long enough to get your bearings.

If it were me, I would set up a controlled test at home in a room in my house to see if any of my transmitters generate enough interference in the relevant bands (Bluetooth or GPS) to cause any trouble, rather than wait to be unpleasantly surprised out in the boonies somewhere.
Cheers.

...ken...
targa88
Ken,
Valid points.
As I stated at the outset - just trying to find a solution. BT works fine (with my earpiece & cell phone - so it certainly has its merits - other than another item to charge on the road)
Looked at a couple of models:
i Trek M7
Holux GPSlim
GPS 10(x)

Just seems like the Bu353 is the simplest solution.....
tcassidy
The latest versions of MapSource (6.13.7, 6.14.1) have no GPS tracking facilities. The last one I know that did was 6.5 which is actually quite a bit older.

Terry
Ken in Regina
Hi Targa88,

My point wasn't to try to talk you into a Bluetooth GPS receiver. If what you have is working well, go with it. That's an optimum solution for you in every way: no additional cost, no unknown variables to have to deal with, and no additional device to have to keep charged when in the wild.

I just wanted to respond to the issue of spurious RF from the Ham and CB transmitters. I don't think it should be an issue (not a wild guess; I have a background that allows me to comment) but it's trivial to test for and equally simple to work around if someone encounters a problem.

if I came on a bit strong.

...ken...
Ken in Regina
If you are looking for a really good topographic map for Canada, you can download the Ibycus topos. They are free. They are assembled by a university student in Calgary and they are really very good. They are much more up to date than Topo Canada. On most navigation displays they look just like the paper topographic maps you get from the federal or provincial government.

They don't have road names in some provinces because they are only available at no charge in a few provinces so far. And they don't have any routing data, whereas Topo Canada has some.

There is a good description and download links at Dale's site. They are large and take a few hours to download, but if you don't like them, all it cost was the download time. I started my download and went to bed. They were done when I came down with my morning tea to check.

If you have BitTorrent, the download might go a little faster than directly from the server.

...ken...
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