New to GPS: The Basics
G'day all,

As the title says I'm new to GPS and wanted to know the basics. Where to start? I've got a netbook (Asus EEE PC 901, has bluetooth), and a car. I guess I'm half way there.

I'm going to drive around Europe, Western + Easters (inc. Turkey) and wanted to know basically two things: What hardware and what software to get. Did I mention I'm new to GPS? (:

I have a couple of queries relating to this...

Will any GPS device be compatible with any software? Can I get a BU-353, for example, and use it with Garmin City Navigator Euope?

And vice versa; can I get a Garmin 10x and use that with Microsoft MapPoint, for example?

If it's not as easy as this, how can I tell what will ensure that both hw and sw will be compatible?

Oh yeah, any suggestions on the hw and sw for Europe would be greatly appreciated

Ken in Regina
Originally Posted by Fegiht
G'day all,
Hey Rob,

... I've got a netbook (Asus EEE PC 901, has bluetooth), and a car. I guess I'm half way there.
ummm.... Sure. :rofl"

As long as you don't count the learning curve.....

Will any GPS device be compatible with any software?

Well, sorta....

Can I get a BU-353, for example, and use it with Garmin City Navigator Euope?
Well, sorta....

If you buy the software-only version of Garmin Mobile PC - Europe, which comes with City Navigator Europe preinstalled.

And vice versa; can I get a Garmin 10x and use that with Microsoft MapPoint, for example?
Yup, the GPS10x works beautifully with Mappoint.

If it's not as easy as this, how can I tell what will ensure that both hw and sw will be compatible?
Just keep tossing out examples of what you think you want to run with and we'll keep answering or or .

Oh yeah, any suggestions on the hw and sw for Europe would be greatly appreciated
I don't know which of the other laptop navigation programs have European maps available.

Oh yeah, there is one absolute/"fer sure" that you can take away at this point. No geographic issues with the GPS. Any of them will work anywhere they can see a GPS satellite. They are quite agnostic about politics, religion and borders.

Your laptop will only be an issue if you forget to bring along the appropriate electric power adapter(s).

Software is only an issue to the extent that you can or cannot get maps for the parts of the world you want to use it. For instance, as you've probably already figured out, the only way you can get European maps from Microsoft is to buy Mappoint - Europe.

Garmin has maps for nearly everywhere. If there's an area of the planet that they can't sell you maps for, it's a pretty good bet that if you search the internet you'll be able to find someone who has built some Garmin-compatible maps that they'll sell you or that you can download for free.

Nobody's maps work with anyone else's software. To use Garmin maps you need either a Garmin personal navigation device or their laptop software. At least with Garmin, you can buy the maps independently. If you want to do trip planning but don't care about navigation, you can buy just the maps. They all come with a software program on the CD/DVD called Mapsource that is an excellent trip planning program and map viewer.

The only way you can get Microsoft maps is if you buy one of their navigation programs. Just like most of the other laptop navigation programs, the maps come bundled with the software and no other way.

I hope that helps more than it confuses.

Marvin Hlavac
Hi Rob, and welcome to the forums. Ken has already said it all, so I will only add that you could save money by buying Microsoft AutoRoute 2007 - a product that has been discontinued, but may still be available in some online stores. It is a very good trip planner. If money is no concern, then by all means buy the more expensive, and more up-to-date, Microsoft MapPoint 2009 Europe.

If I were to travel to Europe I would take with me MapPoint for trip planning, and Garmin Mobile PC for the actual GPS navigation while driving. But it is all doable just with one software alone. And there are other software programs, too.
Thanks guys! Yes, Ken I've got the power adapters/chargers sorted. Have an in-car charger and universal long as my co-pilot doesn't hog it for her hairdryer :P

Ok, so
MapSource, nRoute, and Mobile PC. I don't understand the difference in these products. I guess if I had the software infront of me I could understand it better.

I read things like:
To use the maps in Mobile PC you need to first load them into Mapsource and unlock them, then select the areas you want to use in Mobile PC, then Mapsource will compile them and transfer them into Mobile PC.
and it makes no sense. Is there somwhere on the forum that explains the products and thier application? I've read the FAQ page of Garmin but couldnt see what I'm after there.

Rather then me speculate and ask which is which and which can someone simplify it for me if it's not too difficult? I guess I want to know which I need to work with a GPS reciever, both Garmin and non-Garmin, with maps from Europe

To illustrate my confusion:

In my firt post I asked if any GPS will work with any software...
Then I see this confuses things even more:

Question: Will a 3rd party (non-Garmin) GPS work with nRoute?

No, nRoute is designed to see only a Garmin GPS. There is proprietary information nRoute needs from the Garmin GPS to unlock maps and function. Also, the maps that are used in nRoute are locked directly to the one Garmin GPS that came in the package.
If I were to travel to Europe I would take with me MapPoint for trip planning, and Garmin Mobile PC for the actual GPS navigation while driving.
Can you explain how one would use two applications? Is there some means of intergrating them, or you just have them both open, using the GPS reciever at the same time and switch between the apps while driving?

The more I read the more confsed I get!

Also is 'torrent' a dirty word on these forums?
Ken in Regina
First things first: "torrent" is no worse than "gun" or "axe" or "car". You can use and abuse any of them. So, it's not about using a torrent but, rather, what you would use it for that matters.

Even more specifically, torrents are used for sharing files. So it comes down to what sorts of files you might be thinking about sharing. There are definitely some kinds of files that would be objectionable to offer, or ask, to share on here, regardless of whether the sharing was via torrents or ftp or email or smoke signals.

(Ooops, I hope the smoke signals comment doesn't hit too close to home with all the fire problems you folks are having.)

I understand and sympathize with your continued confusion. I don't think we've taken the trouble to explicitly seperate the functions of, say, Mapsource, nroute and Mobile PC. So, here goes. I don't promise you won't be even more confused when I'm done but I'll do my best....


Garmin will sell you maps on CD or DVD. Without some sort of navigation device or software, these maps would be useless by themselves. So Garmin provides, on the CD or DVD, both the maps and a software program called Mapsource. The installation program installs Mapsource and the maps on your PC.

When the installer installs the maps, it installs them in a particular way that allows Mapsource to find them automatically. In a sense, the maps are installed "into" Mapsource and that's generally the way we talk about it when we refer to Garmin maps. You can have many Garmin maps installed "into" Mapsource on your PC. At the moment I have an even dozen "maps" installed in Mapsource. There are such things as City Navigator North America 2009, Metroguide Canada v5, Topo Canada v2. These are all maps purchased from Garmin.

I also have Ibycus Topo 2.1. This is another Canadian topo mapset that a university student in Calgary assembled from free government map data and converted into Garmin map format. It's more up to date than the Garmin Topo Canada product. .... Okay, time for a brief sidetrack into the maps themselves:

Map Files: Map files are not maps as we think of them .. you know, those things that are generally pretty pictures on paper that we have all seen. The maps you use with navigation software have no pictures in them at all. They are databases. They contain data about the geography (lakes, rivers, etc) and terrain (elevation, etc) and manmade objects like roads and bridges. The software programs that are able to use this map data for either trip planning or navigation are able to read this data and convert it into (render) a picture on the screen that looks just like a paper map.

But these "map" databases contain a whole bunch more than just the data needed to render a pretty picture on the screen. They contain the designations we use to identify roads, eg. Highway #3, Interstate I47, Main Street, Johnson Crescent, Range Road 734. This allows you to search for, and compute routes to, intersections and contributes to the ability to search for and compute routes to individual addresses.

The other piece needed for finding and routing to addresses is the "civic" address. That's the house or building number, as in "123 Main Street".

Other information in the map database includes City/Town/Village names, points of interest (POIs) and names on the various geographical features, like Sylvan Lake and Athabasca River and Jasper National Park and Mount Revelstoke, etc.

Back to Mapsource:

Mapsource does a whole lot of good things for you. First, of course, it lets you view the maps. It also has very complete search capabilities to allow you to find addresses, cities, intersections, geographical features and points of interest. It has routing capabilities, so you can ask it to compute a route from Somewhere to SomewhereElse ... basically from any point that is included in the particular mapset you are viewing to any other point on that map.

If one or both of the locations are not "searchable", eg. the name or address of the place or feature is not found in the map database, you can still enter geographic coordinates (eg. latitude/longitude) and Mapsource will cheerfully find a route between the two. Or you can just point at two different points on the map and ask Mapsource to compute a route for you. This can be very simple (between two points) or arbitrarily complicated, eg. click on the starting point, then clicking on any number of points along the way where you want to stop and finally clicking on the ending location.

These routes can be saved with meaningful names, eg. Brisbane-to-Perth-via-Sydney-and-Victoria.

You can create and manage Waypoints in Mapsource. Waypoints are just single points that help you keep track of places. For instance, you can click on my house and create a Waypoint called "Kens Place". Mapsource will store it in the Waypoints list. You can also add a specific icon so that when you see "Kens Place" on the map it might show a little house icon.

In some similar programs these are called Contacts or Favorites. It's all the same thing. They contain some arbitrary name that you give them, the geographic coordinates and, optionally, an icon of your choice. In some cases, the Favorites can also contain the actual mailing address, phone number and the usual sorts of contact information. They can even have categories assigned to them to make it easier to manage them.

....mmmm.. Let's see, we've covered searching and routes and waypoints ... what else? Tracks. When you travel, as you travel, most nav programs can be told to create a "track" file of where you have travelled. This is sometimes refered to as "bread crumbs" (not by the programs but by the people talking about it). It's nothing more than a file containing some of the key points along the way along with the date/time stamp and some other bits of info. If you load a track file into Mapsource it will display the track superimposed on the map and it has a set of tools that allow you to edit the tracks.

Hikers and bikers find this useful for sharing places they like to hike and bike .. set their handheld navigation device to record a track, go for a hike or ride, load the resulting track file into Mapsource, use the track tools to clean up the track, save it into a shareable file and send it to friends or post it on their website or blog.

If you load a route or track file into Mapsource it has a menu selection that will let you display it in Google Earth (if you have it loaded on your PC). This will allow you to see the route or track displayed superimposed on the satellite view of that part of the planet. It's handy because instead of you having to export the route or track file from Mapsource and then import it into Google Earth ... Mapsource takes care of it directly by launching Google Earth for you and handing the file directly to Google Earth in the format it wants to see.

Mapsource is great for viewing the maps, finding things (with a good POI list in the map database it's almost like a portable Yellow Pages) planning trips and sharing information with others.

But Mapsource is not a navigation program. You cannot hook a GPS receiver to your PC and send GPS data to Mapsource. It has no ability to see it and use it.

Thus we come to nroute and Mobile PC. First...


nroute has the same interface as Mapsource and uses all the maps installed into Mapsource. The difference is that it knows how to read the data from a GPS receiver and use it to provide navigation. That is, it knows how to place an icon that represents you or your vehicle onto the map on the geographic location that the GPS receiver is sending it. And it knows how to move the map underneath that icon so that it looks like you are moving on the map as you travel.

It can use routes that you have created in Mapsource and gives you both visual and audio guidance to help you follow the route.

With a set of Garmin maps for the part of the planet you want to travel in, the Mapsource program for planning your travel, and the nroute program to help you navigate, all you need is a Garmin GPS receiver and you're good to go.

Why a Garmin GPS receiver?

Garmin is justifiably paranoid. They expend huge sums of money to acquire the data used in their map files and to put them into a condition that allows them to be easily usable by common mortals. They want to get some of that money back ... all of that money back ... well, truth be told they want to get a lot more than their money back. Without a profit they'd be out of business in a week.

So Garmin requires that their maps be "unlocked" before they can be used. The way they do this is by associating the mapset you have purchased with the device ID of a Garmin GPS device. They create an unlock code for you that is based on the device ID of your Garmin GPS device.

You use the Unlock Wizard in Mapsource to unlock the maps. Once they are unlocked, you can use the maps and the associated Garmin GPS device with nroute to navigate.

If you have a Garmin personal navigation device, like an eTrex or Nuvi or StreetPilot or Zumo or Colorado or .... you can use Mapsource to unlock the maps to that device and then you can download those maps into the device, as well as transfering routes and waypoints and tracks and custom points of interest between Mapsource and the device.

Which brings us to....

Mobile PC:

The easiest way to think about Mobile PC is to imagine that you have installed a Garmin Nuvi personal navigation device into you PC. Mobile PC looks and acts just like a Garmin Nuvi. It has the same user interface, complete with the ability to use a touchscreen if you have one on your PC. It also has all the same features and functions. It even comes bundled with its own set of maps.

So, just like buying a Nuvi, if you buy Mobile PC with the appropriate set of maps, you are good to go. Just install it, connect a GPS receiver and you're in business. Nothing else required.

Mobile PC only comes with either City Navigator North America or City Navigator Europe. If those are the maps you need, that's great.

But if you need both, or if you need maps for somewhere else, there is only one way to get them into Mobile PC. That's using Mapsource. So, if you wanted to also use City Navigator Australia in Mobile PC, you would buy City Navigator Australia, which will come with Mapsource included, install Mapsource and City Navigator Australia on you PC, unlock the Australia maps and load them into Mobile PC.

So, if you only want to use Europe maps and nothing else, you can buy one of the Mobile PC bundles - buy the software-only version if you have a GPS receiver that works with your PC, or buy one of the hardware bundles if you need a GPS receiver, too. This will give you everything you would have with a Nuvi or StreetPilot or Zumo, which is pretty much everything you need for navigation and even some basic trip planning.

However, if you want some strong trip planning features you will find Mobile PC limiting. Not because it won't do most of the things you need to do for trip planning, but because the interface, which is so good for navigation purposes, is a real pain for some of the more sophisticated planning activities.

That's why Marvin suggests using Mappoint Europe for trip planning and Mobile PC Europe for navigation. Well, that's half the reason.

Marvin is saying the same thing I am, that trip planning is not Mobile PC's strong point but it's way better for realtime navigation than Mappoint (or Streets & Trips). It truly is just like having a really good dedicated navigation device in your PC.

He prefers Streets & Trips (and therefore, Mappoint in your case) to Mapsource for trip planning. It has all of the sophisticated trip planning features that Mapsource has and more. Some of the other features are very useful. I'll let someone else explain, if you care.

I hope that helps begin to clear the cobwebs. If nothing else, at least it should be good to help you get to sleep.

Ken in Regina
I'm not done yet. There is an "other side" to the story.

I only described the way Garmin does things. Others do it a little differently.

First, what's the same? The maps. Well, they're actually different. What's the same is the fact that everyone does the maps their own way. So you can't use Garmin maps with anything but Garmin hardware and software. And you can't use Microsoft maps with anything else. And you can't use iNav's maps with anything but iGuidance. And .... so it goes. You get the picture?

Another "sameness" is that with all the other products except Garmin you can use pretty much any GPS receiver you want, as long as it does standard NMEA data protocol. Even most of Garmin's GPS receivers will do standard NMEA so you can use them with other brands of PC navigation software.

But, with only one exception, you cannot use non-Garmin GPS receivers with Garmin's nroute or Mobile PC. The one exception is the software-only version of Mobile PC. It will work with non-Garmin receivers very nicely. That's great if you can live with only Europe or North America maps. You're out of luck if you want to use maps for other parts of the planet.

A big difference between Garmin and Microsoft is that Garmin makes maps for most of the planet. And if you can't get a map from Garmin for the part of the planet you're interested in, there's a very good chance you can find someone else out there who has created one either for sale or for free.

Microsoft has maps for North America and Europe. I am not aware of anyone making maps for Streets & Trips or Mappoint for anywhere else. To get maps for North America you must buy either Streets & Trips or Mappoint. If you want European maps you have only the choice of Mappoint.

But with either Streets&Trips or Mappoint you get the whole package. You get really good trip planning plus you get navigation functions. You can even buy a version of Streets&Trips that includes a good USB GPS receiver (if you want the North America product). Or you can use pretty much any GPS receiver you want with the Microsoft products.

The drawback to the Microsoft products is that navigation has been sort of barnacled onto the trip planning and is not very well integrated or implemented. At least not from the point of view of someone who has had the opportunity to use really good navigation devices.

DeLorme Street Atlas is a lot like Microsoft's products. Really good trip planning but the navigation isn't so great (in my view). I have not investigated what map products they have besides their "North America" product, which is mostly a "continental United States" product.

Other options - iNav iGuidance, Mapfactor Navigator, etc. have their own strengths and weaknesses. You can see a discussion of all of them and reviews in the various sections of Laptop GPS World.

I've focussed on Garmin and Microsoft for two reasons. First, they are illustrative of two somewhat different approaches to PC trip planning and navigation software. Second, they are the two I'm most familiar with.

And just for completeness of disclosure, I'm a Garmin fanboy. Garmin's solutions suit me rather well, not least because I don't live in the United States of America. There are many things Garmin does that annoy me but they'll have to get a lot stupider to turn me off because their range of solutions suit be so well.

Marvin Hlavac
Originally Posted by Fegiht
Can you explain how one would use two applications? Is there some means of integrating them, or you just have them both open, using the GPS reciever at the same time and switch between the apps while driving?
An advantage of a laptop computer is that you can have as many programs installed as you wish. Most people would happily achieve their goal with just one software, but I mentioned both, Microsoft MapPoint and Garmin Mobile PC, just as an example of two mapping programs that may complement each other nicely. One's strength is navigation, the other excels at trip planning, looking up places of interest, etc. The two programs cannot really be integrated with each other. I would use GMPC while driving, and I would use MapPoint (at my hotel, the night before my trip) for looking up places to visit (only because I'm comfortable doing that. But again, each of the two programs can really do it all.)

Out of a very simple thing, we've made all this sound so very complicated. Sorry about that.
While it is possible to do route planning in Garmin Mobile PC, the process is cumbersome and counterintuitive. However, the display while navigating is excellent. You could use MapSource to plan a route and transfer it to Mobile PC but Garmin appears to be abandoning that approach.

MapPoint and S&T (Autoroute) have a well developed route planning interface but the navigation functions, while certainly improved, are only good.

For years, I would plan my trips of a week or so with S&T and then manually transfer the information to my Garmin PND for daily navigation. With Mobile PC, the process is similar. There are ways to get the information from one program to the other, but with minor trips the manual process is the least painful.

Hi Rob,

My family toured Europe this past August and we bought and used the Microsoft AutoRoute Europe. It was a life saver. Many streets over there are not 'signed' and they change names often.

We'd still be over there trying to find our way around had it not been for that.

Hey, as I write, it occurred to me, I won't be using that program anytime soon. Perhaps we can make a deal?

It's sitting here looking rather lonely!!

I'm new to this site. I'm trying to determine if I should buy a mount or make one. Also, whether to buy a GPS unit or use the MS Streets & Maps for the USA that I have (it's a couple of years old).

If anyone has any tips on any of this, I'm open.

Take care,


P.S. I see something called 'Trackbacks' below this window, but I have no idea what they are and I don't want to lose my post, so I'll just have to wonder for now. Too bad the programmer didn't put a link there so someone like me could click it and open a new window to read about it BEFORE clicking 'Submit Reply'. I think I'll enter one of my websites there and see what happens.
What can say? Wow. Awesome. Excellent!

I've read through all this a couple of times, I might read it a few more to fully digest but I think that covers things nicely

I checked prices for the Garmin GPS 10 and the associated software. It looks like the unit itself is AUD$279. Not cheap. Curiously, I phoned Garmin themselves and they told me for $279 the GPS 10 comes with software+maps. I could also d/l nRoute from their website and all would work nicely. Too easy!

Or so I thought...

They put me in touch with a crowd that could sell it all and then they turned around and told me that there isn't any software included with the device for $279. The software/maps cost an extra $189 (totaling $468!) Ouch. That's more then my notebook cost.

So I'm turned off the GPS 10. This leads me back to a GlobalSat BU-353 (or similar unit).

So to clear this up:

Can I get a BU-353, for example, and use it with Garmin City Navigator Europe? Well, sorta...

If you buy the software-only version of Garmin's Mobile PC - Europe, which comes with City Navigator Europe preinstalled.
So my big question is: By purchsing Mobile PC I would be able to use (all?) Garmin software freely as if I was using it with the GPS 10, but with a device like the BU-353? (which retails for about $100)

It doesn't look like Mobile PC is available in Aus. I am going to Ireland first, and have an address to post to there so I may order this off the Garmin website.

I also presume that the Microsoft products, MapPoint and AutoRoute, will work the same with the BU-353 as they would with the Garmin GPS 10?

Thanks once more for all your help guys. Non of which is confusing. It's all actualy very clear (:

And yep the fires are very devestating. They aren't affecting anwhere I live, though my brother's been flown in with about 100 others help fight them.
The GPS 10 is discontinued older technology. It is waterproof and has a magnetic base for outside mounting. I'd recommend the GPS 10x is you want a Garmin BT unit, a SirfStar III unit that can sit on the dash. It is also quite a bit less expensive. If you are considering Mobile PC, it can be purchased with the 10x as a package. If a USB unit is ok, Garmin has the 20x also available with Mobile PC.

To use the BU-353 with Garmin nRoute, you would require another software package to convert the GPS signal to Garmin format. GPS Gate can do this and a variety of other functions. The BU-353 would work directly with the software-only version of Mobile PC but you would be unable to unlock additional maps to that version. Of course, if you don't have some sort of Garmin GPS, you can't unlock any other Garmin maps even to use with nRoute.

MapPoint, Autoroute, and virtually every other navigation program would work directly with the BU-353, GPS 10 and GPS 10x but not the GPS 20x.

Thanks Terry. I didn't see that there were different devices.

I found a "10x" for $165...$100 cheaper then the "10", which makes is a bit more reasonable, but equally, a bit more confusing. heh
Ken in Regina
As Terry said, the BU-353 will work with the software-only version of Mobile PC Europe. But you won't get any other Garmin maps to work with that combination.

You can, however, treat the software-only version of Mobile PC Europe as a tossaway because the price (49.99) is hardly any more than the price of Garmin's City Navigator Europe product (78.29) that is preloaded in it. ...

......... WaitaMinute!!!! Mobile PC Europe with the maps bundled is LESS money than the maps alone!!

Have you thought much about how you want/prefer to operate? Some folks just want a really good navigation program. They use the internet for their planning activities .. Google or their favorite search engine to find tourism sites for points of interest, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, tour routes, etc. and Google Maps or Mapquest or Microsoft Live maps for route planning.

Other folks like to have a really good trip planning program with included maps and points of interest that they can use without having to have an internet connection. These folks like to have programs like Streets&Trips (or Mappoint in your case). For them, the navigation part of the program is more a bonus than a must-have.

So, if really good navigation in the same quality as a standalone navigation device is the big one for you, a program like Mobile PC would be good and you get adequate trip planning into the bargain.

If really good trip planning scores bigger for you, Mappoint would probably be the better choice and it will also provide you with navigation that lots of people have been using happily for years.

Yea, good points Ken!

Internet access will be limited, so googling for things to see and places to be isn't high on the list. For points of Interest I'll probably be using Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring. (Yea, that's a paperback). However, knowing in advance where the next campsite/hostel is in advance and all the cool stuff along the way would be a real bonus. Now the fact that I know that all this stuff is loaded into the GPS software is going to awesome to have. Such an asset.

I think if MapPoint and/or AutoRoute will get me from point A to Z, as efficiently as possible and the software is going to tell me about B-Y along the way, I think all the better for me.

I guess I don't want to back myself into a corner by saving a buck on a no-name brand GPS receiver, and find out that I can't access the info I need to. Similarly I don't want to spend a fortune on say the Garmin suite (receiver + software) only to find out that I'm better off using the free-for-all software or MS products anyway!
It is difficult trying to decide which navigation software will do what you want if you have never used it. It is extremely difficult when where you want to use it is not where you are.


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