U-blox7 USB GPS
I have purchased a U-blox7 USB GPS/GLONASS device for AUD 27 (1 AUD = USD 0.76).

The packaging states that it has the following features. Don't blame me for the English. I have entered it as written.

* Windows 8/7 (sensor/VCP) - It is available in the Navmii Windows Store App in Windows 10 so presumably this means that it is working as a sensor. What is VCP please?

* Adopts KDS 0.5PPM precision TXCO - I have no idea what this means.

* Built-RTC crystal and picofarad capacitance faster hot start - Presumably this means that it has a Real Time Clock with a capacitor to store charge to keep the clock running when the device isn't plugged in or the PC is switched off.

* 1 - 10 Hz update rate positioning - The English is dodgy but I suspect this means the GPS data can be supplied at 1 to / or 10 cycles per second. As I recall AR / S&T only accept GPS at 1 Hz so how would you control the output rate?

* Support AssistNow Online and AssistNow Offline A-GPS services - I have no idea what this means.


GPS is the American Global Positioning System.

Galileo is the European system.

There is no mention of GLONASS, the Russian system, except in the headline of the packaging.

SBAS is Satellite-Based Augmentation System. Several countries have developed their own SBAS.

WAAS - Wide Area Augmentation System (USA)

EGNOS - European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (Europe)

MSAS - Multi-functional Satellite Augmentation System (Japan)

GAGAN - GPS and GEO Augmented Navigation (India)


* Support NMEA 0183 and ublox binary protocol

NMEA - NMEA 0183 is a combined electrical and data specification for communication between marine electronics such as echo sounder, sonars, anemometer, gyrocompass, autopilot, GPS receivers and many other types of instruments. It has been defined by, and is controlled by, the National Marine Electronics Association.


Ublox binary protocol - no idea

I have looked at the Ublox website but it appears to only refer to commercial / professional GPS systems.

Comments on any of these items would be welcomed with particular reference to how they relate to using them in a home user navigation software environment.

I understand that there are USA, European, Russian, Japanese, Indian and Chinese satellite navigation systems but only the first three are fully developed and available for use by the general public but it would appear that this device can also access the next two systems in some way. Correct me if I am wrong.

I thought that if I had a GPS receiver that could also utilise the European and Russian systems giving access to more satellites it would acquire satellite lock faster and have better reception in urban areas with tall buildings and in mountainous areas.

Is there a utility program that can tell me which satellite navigation systems are being used?
VCP = Virtual COM port which means that it can be accessed by standard Windows programs such as Garmin nRoute or Microsoft Autoroute / Streets and Trips.
KDS 0.5PPM precision TXCO

KDS = KDS Daishinku Corporation, ie the brand name

TCXO = Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator

AssistNow = Ublox A-GPS system available since 2007

Due to the relatively slow broadcast data rate from satellites, there can be a significant delay in providing the first position fix from a GNSS receiver after initial switch on. Assisted GNSS (A-GNSS) uses a reference network to collect data, such as ephemeris, almanac, accurate time and satellite status. It passes the data on to the target receiver via any suitable communications link. Such assistance data enables the receiver to compute a position within a few seconds, even under adverse signal conditions when data demodulation is error prone or when satellites are not in view of the receiver.

[This is why when you arrive in a new location a long way from your home base it takes a long time before your GPS can get a satellite lock and you can drive away. Use the time to familiarise yourself with the car or better still switch on the GPS as soon as you get off the plane or overnight in your hotel.]

With AssistNow Online, an internet‑connected GNSS device downloads assistance data from the u‑blox AssistNow Online Service at system start‑up. The service works on all standard mobile communication networks that support Internet access, including GPRS, UMTS and Wireless LAN. No special arrangements with mobile network operators are needed to enable AssistNow Online, making this solution network operator independent and globally available. u‑blox only sends ephemeris data for those satellites currently visible to the mobile device requesting the data, thus minimizing the amount of data transferred.

With AssistNow Offline, users download u‑blox’s Differential Almanac Correction Data from the Internet at their convenience. The correction data is then transferred to the mobile terminal via TCP/IP, serial port, memory card, etc, and can either be stored in the GNSS receiver’s memory or in the memory of the application processor. Therefore, the service requires no connectivity at system start‑up and enables a position fix within seconds, even when no network is available.

AssistNow data is collected by u‑blox’ global array of satellite receivers, and maintained in real‑time on u‑blox AssistNow servers accessible via the Internet. For best effort applications, u‑blox provides AssistNow free‑of‑charge to its customers.


I wonder whether my device is already utilising this feature or if it can if appropriate software is installed.

After skim reading the u-center software manual it appears that my device may be able to use it. However, I don't think I need the fast startup time and precision offered by it to drive from Paris to Budapest. You may wish to investigate further if you require either of these attributes.

However, I don't think I need the fast startup time and precision offered by it to drive from Paris to Budapest.

When I wrote the above I was trying to remember a humorous alternative set of origin and destination cities in Europe.

Then I remembered - Jeremy Clarkson!

The VW Sirocco can get from Berlin to Warsaw on one tank.

No matter what destination you enter into the GPS in the BMW Mini it only wants to go to Poland.

As I recall AR / S&T only accept GPS at 1 Hz so how would you control the output rate?

Franson GPSGate as per usual which I need anyway to be able to split the signal so I can run nRoute for Garmin or OSM maps or Oziexplorer for my scanned, geo-referenced Michelin maps at the same time.
My Michelin maps are from map books that I own that I have scanned and geo-referenced myself so they aren't available to download.

After I did France I found that the 1:200,000 Michelin sheets were available somewhere online but it was probably from a suspect site.

If you want legal geo-referenced raster topographic road maps of Spain at 1:25,000, 1:50,000 and 1:200,000 you can download them from the government site below. You will need Oziexplorer to use them.

GPS Gate will not reduce the scan rate of a connected GPS. I have tried that approach. However, the uBlox can probably be adjusted using (I assume) included software or something downloadable. That is why it lists uBlox binary as one of the protocols.

As this uBlox says it works as a sensor in Win 7/8 it probably does in Win 10 as well. That sounds like a perfect opportunity to try the Win 10 built in HERE maps navigation program. It supports downloadable maps and is probably far superior to nRoute even if it doesn't have the routing capabilities of AutoRoute.

Ken in Regina
Good information, Andrew. It's all interesting, and useful if you want to maximize the use of your GPS. The bottom line is that you really don't need to know about a lot of it just to use the GPS. And it only tells one half of the story: the half pertaining to the GPS receiver.

The other half pertains to the software you plan to use. For instance, assisted GPS (A-GPS) requires software that knows where to get it from and how to use it together with the incoming signals from the attached GPS. Most navigation software has no clue about A-GPS.

I have seen none, so far, for Windows devices. There are a number of GPS utilities for my Android devices (phone, tablet) that know about A-GPS: how to download the data and how to use it to get a quicker fix. This can sometimes help. For instance, if I haven't used the GPS in my phone or tablet for some time I can run one of the utilities, tell it to update the A-GPS data, and let it get a fix. Then I can fire up ALK CoPilot and it will get its first fix much quicker than if I just launched CoPilot in the first place and waited while it tried to get first fix.

As you surmise, GPSGate will arbitrate the data (baud) rate and the NMEA update frequency between the GPS receiver and the navigation software, if necessary. If you want to be able to manually set those values in the GPS receiver you will need a separate utility program for that. I can't recall, offhand, the one that I have used in the past. If it matters I can do some digging.

If you have any issues using the GPS receiver it will likely be due to limitations in the available software. It's all getting rather long in the tooth. Given your experience with GPSGate, nRoute, OziExplorer, etc. you will have no difficulty with the current setup. It will work pretty much as it always has in other variations you have used.

Ken in Regina
Ooops, I stand corrected. Terry is right about GPSGate not arbitrating the scan frequency of the GPS receiver. If you run into an issue with this, let me know and I'll scout around for the one that I have used.

Terry is also right about the opportunity to use the Windows 10 built in Maps app. It's actually pretty nice and improving all the time. It does not yet do multipoint routing but it's otherwise quite useful. It's a way to be able to use the latest version of the HERE (used to be Navteq) maps.

I also note from a picture of the uBlox 7 (aka VK172) that it plugs directly into a USB port. RF emissions from the tablet/ laptop tend to overpower the weak satellite signals the GPS must receive. It is advisable to use a USB extension cable between the GPS and USB port to give it a better chance of seeing the satellites.

Ken in Regina
Andrew, try this with your u-blox:


I have had a VK-172 for a while now. It was cheap as long as you don't mind waiting while it ships from China! I got it to try as a sensor for Win 10.

Windows will download a standard driver for it on a COM port but I have not been able to make it work as a sensor for Win 8 or Win 10. Must be some trick I am missing.

Should work fine with S&T though!

Ken in Regina
Originally Posted by tcassidy
I have had a VK-172 for a while now. It was cheap as long as you don't mind waiting while it ships from China! I got it to try as a sensor for Win 10.

Windows will download a standard driver for it on a COM port but I have not been able to make it work as a sensor for Win 8 or Win 10. Must be some trick I am missing.

Should work fine with S&T though!

Terry (and Andrew), go here for the Sensor driver for the uBlox receivers that are capable (includes uBlox 7)


Just scroll down to find it on the right hand side. There's also a manual (PDF) that describes Sensor/VCP stuff rather nicely.


After taking Andrew's advice that the appropriate drivers are loaded automatically (at least in Win 10), I tried this device again. On the first laptop, an Intel i5 HP running Win 10 Pro 64, both the COM and GNSS sensors were loaded automatically and GPS Gate through its Location API add-in locked and went green moments after connection.

On another laptop, an Atom x5-Z8350 HP running Win 10 Home 64, the GNSS sensor was loaded but not the COM port (!!) and although GPS Gate saw it right away, it took a considerable length of time before the indicator turned green.

Still, I would have to say that the GNSS Location API part appears to work perfectly with no user requirement other than plugging the device into a USB port.


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