PC GPS Setup for Storm Chasing
storm chaser
Hey all, just joined up, figured what better place to ask questions than a dedicated forum for GPS.

Anyway, I'm a highschool student that chases (very limited budget) and need a GPS setup for my chase truck. I've got a somewhat aging Compaq laptop that has mobile broadband but it's lacking GPS capability.

What I need (at least i think):

USB PC Receiver (i've seen a ton on ebay, i assume they are not the same, not sure where to start).

Software (does freeware software exist? or will i need to pay?)

Anyway, hopefully that'll get me started, thanks in advance for the help guys.

- Kyle
Ken in Regina
Yes, all you need is a GPS receiver and some navigation software with maps.

You have two really inexpensive (but not free) options available. Microsoft Streets&Trips 2009 bundled with GPS receiver or DeLorme Street Atlas 2009 bundled with GPS receiver.

You can usually catch one or the other on pretty good sales if you look around on the internet.

The GPS receivers that come with both bundles are very good devices. They aren't the very best but you can often get the software+receiver bundle for not much more than the price of a top of the line receiver alone. And the best receivers aren't that much better.

It gets better. You can get some free software to play with. Well, it's free for 60 days. Then if you like it you gotta buy it. Microsoft Street&Trips 60-day trial can be downloaded for free. There are no limitations or other trickery. It's the real deal. It just stops working after 60 days if you don't buy it before then. Of course you can't try out the realtime navigation without a receiver but you can get a feel for whether it has the other features you want and whether you like the way you work with it.

storm chaser
Sweet, thanks a lot Ken. I'll look into both and see what I can get for a reasonable price. Really appreciate it.
Ken in Regina
I'm guessing that for the sort of thing you're doing the maps are likely to be the most important element, in the end.

I'm also guessing that in the storm chasing game you'll be running a lot of secondary roads.

You should probably download the free trial of Streets&Trips before you make any purchase decisions. The very first thing to check out will be the maps. Use a couple of areas you are already familiar with from previous chases and see if the Streets&Trips maps give you enough detail. If they don't, it's not worth the price even if it's free.

Streets&Trips is quite representative of the road maps that come with most PC navigation programs. If the maps don't get it done for you, you'll need to bring that back here with some specific examples to get some help with products that will be genuinely helpful.

Marvin Hlavac
Welcome to the forum, storm chaser. Just like Ken suggests, I would start with Microsoft Streets and Trips mapping software. The hardware part is easy, as most laptop GPS receivers nowadays have excellent performance.
What would be REALLY cool is to be able to overlay the live radar images (from your broadband connection) transparently over the S&T map!
Ken in Regina
Google Earth might be an interesting solution if you have a broadband connection to the laptop. With the addition of GooPS for realtime tracking with your GPS receiver, you have access to Google's hybrid satellite/roadmap display. With Google Earth it might even be possible to do something with weather radar images. I've never checked that out but it's something worth looking into.

Google Earth v5 and up supports realtime GPS tracking. It will do it without extra help if you are sufficiently technical ... and sufficiently patient. But it's just way easier to use GooPS. Both are free.

Add a $35 GPS receiver and you're in business.

Kyle, you didn't say where you're from, but if you should be able to get GIS data from the US gov or Canadian gov for free or a small fee. Overlay that data on GRLevel3 and you'll get a pretty good sense of roads and such without direct street overlay (unfortunately).

Attached is a screencap of what it looks like in Toronto, Canada right now. The red lines are the highways, the amber lines are main roads. So from that data, you can see the precipitation is running right across Hwy 407 (west-east red line) and going between Hwy 400 and 404 (north/south red lines)
Attached Images
[This is an old thread]

It appears that Streets & Trips is the software of choice for many Storm Chasers.

Full Video on YT: YouTube - ‪May 24, 2011 Oklahoma tornado outbreak!‬‏
Are these guys on the forum?
If you have access to Mac, iPad or iPhone, have a look at Base Velocity's Radarscope app - it's really impressive. They offer NEXRAD radar with lots of options, I think it's popular with storm chasers.

A couple days ago I saw lightning in the distance while sitting on my front porch. Fired up the app on my iPhone and I was able to watch it approach very accurately. The rain started exactly when the image on the radar showed it.

See: Base Velocity About