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Thread: GPS?

  1. #1


    After going through some of these threads I noticed that some people recommended purchasing a GPS navigator thingy. I was just wondering if it was actually worth spending 200-300 dollars on one of these things? Also, is there any type of monthly payment or anything? Are they easy to use? Will they tell me where i need to go? Will i get reception anywhere in the country?


    And any other information you have about these little gadgets will be most appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A great link for product reviews


    We have used GPS equipment since they first became available to non-military personnel. I can state with conviction, that such tools can save your life and also enrich any roadtrip. We provide a number of links to <a href = "">product reviews</a> on the GPS page.

    Yes, they work anywhere (as long as you have access to the sky) they must be able to "see" the satellites.

    There is no monthly service fee for access -- service is provided free to consumers as a public service of the US govenment.

    Basic functions can be learned on most models in about 10 minutes -- more advanced skills require a good bit of practice. Do a web search for "geo-caching" for plenty of tips.

    Knowing where to go is more a function of good fortune than electronic equipment.

  3. #3
    imported_Mark Helmlinger Guest

    Default GPS thingys

    Ted asks if it's worth spending 200-300 bucks on GPS navigation aids. In my experience, I'd say it depends on the user.

    A bare-bones GPS unit provides primarily Latitude and Longitude (or equivalent) coordinates. It is very easy to get the unit to display those coordinates and a few other handy things like distances to/from waypoints and velocity/direction of travel. It works nearly everywhere its antenna can see enough of the sky, the exception being in heavy weather or deep forest sometimes. There is no monthly payment for the signals used to do that. The catch, for the simple units, is that they will not tell you where to go. They tell you where you are - and only if you know how to read maps with Lat/Lon coordinates (topo maps). Some folks find that fun, others impossible. In any case, compared to what you can buy these days, that's the caveman way of doing things (but also the most portable and cheapest).

    The navigation systems marry a GPS unit with a map database computer and a display to show a moving dot on a map. Somehow I doubt they cost as little as $300, but I've never priced them. There is the question of updating the database for the region you are in. Not all units have enough memory to cover your entire trip in the way you expect. Another concern is the resolution of the data - does it have all of the little streets in all of the cities you will visit or just the major highways? Be on the lookout for the necessity to purchase additional map information or memory cards. There may be some kind of monthly charge for the latest and greatest updates to the database through the Internet and your PC, which would certianly be a convenient option. The radio waves from satellites that the units use to determine position are free, thanks to the US Gov't. The map & directions info - the thinking part - is not.

    Many of the high-end nav systems will actually talk to you, and tell you how to get where you want to go - in real time. I would suggest renting a car so equipped - the option is common these days. I have not actuallly been the driver in a vehicle so equipped, but have seen it demonstrated. Quite handy in unfamiliar urban situations, but be forwarned that the routes chosen for you by the database program are not always optimal. For example, go to mapquest or yahoo maps and ask for step-by-step directions to your house from a friend's house and compare them with your own experience. The program that generates such directions is similar in both systems.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default A fun tool

    A GPS can be a fun tool to use while traveling. However, I don't think they negate the need to use maps and follow road signs. As stated, the directions they give you aren't always the best route and can take you there via some round about ways.

    Even the cheap ones without mapping can be valuable for a roadtrip although the ones with maps are better for this. You can always input the coordinates for an area you want to go to with a cheap GPS...I use the inexpensive Garmin eTrex...and then the GPS will point you in the direction you want to go. You can follow the arrow towards your destination but, without maps, you're on your own to find the route. But, at least you know for sure you're going in the right direction.

    An example, I was just in Seattle for a funeral and got turned around trying to get back to I-5 to return home. My dad was with me and insisted that I was going the wrong way. I said that I was pretty sure I was heading south (the general direction we wanted to go) and that even if it took us awhile to find an exit for I-5 that we were, at least, going in the right direction. He was pretty sure we were going north. To prove my point, I turned on my eTrex so show that we were, indeed, heading in a general southerly direction.

    I've not done this myself but a friend uses his non-mapping GPS in conjunection with MS Streets & Trips. He downloads the waypoints (longitude/latitude) to his GPS of places he's visiting and uses them to help him find his way in addition to, not as a substitution for, maps and general roadsigns.

    And do check-out the website for more info. It's a fun game to play. I only have about 20 finds so far but I've sure enjoyed it. It has taken me to new places in my local area that I didn't even know about.


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