Laptop GPS hardware & software questions from a newbie
My ultimate goal is to buy a GPS receiver that will connect to my laptop via BlueTooth. I'd like to be able to use the combination to help me find my way while driving or while walking around foreign cities.

From perusing this forum I've learned a couple things, of which I have follow-on questions:

  1. Newer receivers are more sensitive and don't absolutely have to have line of sight to the sky. They could, for example, be positioned in the top of my backback. ?: How do I know which receivers are powerful enough for this? Is there some sort of specification that newer receivers list on their website that indicate they are strong enough for this?
  2. Some receivers will work with some software, and others will work with others. ?: How do I know which receivers will work with which software? This page: http://www.qstarz.com/Products/GPS%20Products/BT-Q890-S.htm, for example, says nothing about software compatibility.
  3. You have to already have maps on your laptop (with the software) to be able to show your location. ?: Which is the best software for travel around Asia? I live in Japan and I'm in the U.S. Navy, so I visit places like Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, etc. My number 1 priority would be finding my way around Japan.
  4. Are the software programs kind of like Google Maps, where I can enter in an ultimate destination and the GPS receiver will work with the software to give me live directions?

Thank you very much.
Ken in Regina
Before I get into the response to your specific questions I have a question. Are you really serious about trudging about with your laptop open in your hands to help you navigate on foot?

1. Look for receivers that have SirfStar III or MTK chipsets. You can usually find that information on the manufacturer's web site. If there are additional modern chipsets perhaps someone can add to that list.

2. You are somewhat on your own here. If you want the broadest possible usability, look for conformance to NMEA 0183 for the data output. Look for the ability to control how the output appears to the nav software on the PC (eg. USB direct versus virtual COM port, control over which COM port and the port speeds).

Of just make it easy on yourself. Forget about the GPS receiver until after you settle on the software and maps. Then just buy a receiver that will work with your chosen software.

And be happy with the awareness that GPSGate can interface darn near any GPS receiver with any nav software. And it's really cheap.

3. You need to look for the availability of maps before you even begin to think about which nav software. Check out Malsingmaps.com to see what maps and software are recommended for that part of the world. It is a very well-used site and contains a wealth of information about that part of the world.

There are two general approaches to navigation in that part of the world. Either get a Garmin product so you can add Garmin compatible maps for all those places that Garmin doesn't have coverage you can buy from them. Or get something like OziExplorer which gives you the possibility to roll your own map coverage but has a pretty steep and tall learning curve (the process of getting maps into it and working together for the desired coverage).

Look around on Malsingmaps and if you still have questions that you can't get answered there, toss them in here and we'll see if we can help. If you do, please make sure the subject of your post includes that you are looking for help in navigating around that part of the world so you will attract the right segment of our members to look at it.

4. Yes.

Thanks for the info! I will spend some time on Malsingmaps...
To answer your very first question: I plan on getting a netbook, and while walking around, I'll only pull it out when lost or when grabbing a cup of coffee. But while driving, I think it'll definitely be helpful for my navigator (wife) to keep it open in her lap.
Marvin Hlavac
1. Look for receivers that have SirfStar III or MTK chipsets.
...and if going for an MTK-based product, make sure it is the second generation of the chip. It should be marked "MTK 2".
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