I originally got this to use as "digital breadcrumbs" to backtrack a trail, if needed when hiking or driving in the middle of nowhere. But I found the digital trails it sets up are a really cool way to document my travels.
This Garmin handheld is also WAAS-enabled, which allows it to access some of the correction signals for GPS. You can sometimes (not always) get an amazing precision of around 15' for a location.
But for repeatability -- leaving a spot, traveling some distance (say 100 miles) and returning -- I've found the GPS handheld unit to give me precision within the error bounds it states. Of course, you can get into situations where you can get different precision levels -- that's dependent upon the number of satellites you see and the WAAS signal. And in one situation I was able to observe multi-pathing which added some error to the signal. (I was in a deep steep sided granite canyon. Since the GPS satellite signals are about microwave frequency, they would reflect off the sheer, flat rock walls of the canyon. As the satellites moved in the sky, you got different reflection paths from their changing geometry, which changed the solution calculated by the GPS. You could actually sit and watch your location change within the error, almost second by second. Pretty bizzare -- and I've only ever seen it once.)
PS -- I added in a close of the recent route through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. You can see how the tracked route (GPS unit sitting on my dash, essentially) follows the road in, around the NM Headquarters, then out and back on the Ajo Peak Loop Road. Precision is pretty good followin the topo map landmarks. Scale of this is 1 mile from the legend at the bottom fo the pic.
Last edited by W. Larrison; 04-09-2007 at 08:46 PM. Reason: Added attachment
I used to love doing orienteering -- I was a back-country ranger (USFS) for a while and developed a good sense of direction (something I have more-or-less lost in the subsequent years).I find it works pretty well, and I started as a map & compass orienteering guy.
I will try it again and offer my own field tests here. 'Course, it sorta requires I get out of the office someday soon... And I don't know when that can be. I am only two hours from Death Valley and it has been months since I was there....Yeah, that is pretty clever.(I've found I can also pull a waypoint out of Google Earth as well, using the push pin and just copying the data into the topo waypoint.).We had one of the first-generation GPS units available to the general public back in the early 1990's -- it was huge and the working allowance for errors was about 1/4 mile (and I found it amazing when it could ever find my location in the backcountry).You could actually sit and watch your location change within the error, almost second by second. Pretty bizzare -- and I've only ever seen it once.)What is the mechanism for getting this print-out (.jpg)?PS -- I added in a close of the recent route through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. You can see how the tracked route (GPS unit sitting on my dash, essentially) follows the road in, around the NM Headquarters, then out and back on the Ajo Peak Loop Road. Precision is pretty good followin the topo map landmarks. Scale of this is 1 mile from the legend at the bottom fo the pic.
The print out is taken from Topo! I went down to the 7.5' map scale display (which isn't quite accurate, since I only have the 7.5' maps for California, and this if in Arizona), and then did the "Export map to disk" command, which gives me the option of scale, moving the printed area around the map, and exported data format (bitmap, GIF, JPG, etc.) That's all I did, other than resizing the image down for the limiations of the forum (300 pixels any side) -- the original is quite a bit clearer.
I use this, for example, for Boy Scout backpacking trips where I'll print out copies of a specific route we'll take and publish via email specific way points for any of the other adults who have GPS units. I can tailor the topo map coverage as is needed (I used to hate the paper maps, as every trail would cross 2 or 3 sections of the paper topos).
A couple of things to note -- for example, the GPS takes a waypoint and stores the location every minute or two. If you look closely at the map you can sort of see these are the blue waypoints. Then the GPS draws the route between these points -- the red line. Since the waypoints are equally spaced by time when the GPS is on, you can get a pretty good estimation of speed as well from the route map -- closely spaced waypoints are slower, wider spaced are faster. On this map you can note from the clustering of the waypoints where I stopped to take pictures and the cluster on the west side of the monument headquarters where I stopped for lunch in their picnic area.
The GPS signals don't penetrate buildings or cars very well. Moreover, it works by taking the signal from 4 satellites and comparing them -- so if you want a good signal, the GPS really needs to see a good chunk of the sky. Putting the GPS unit on the passenger car seat doesn't work really well. Rather than buying an expensive permanent mounting on the top of the dash, I found that an inexpensive "cell phone holder" which clips onto one of the front dash air conditioning vents works well (about $15 at Radio Shack). It holds the GPS facing me, with the antenna pointed at the sky, looking out the front window with about a half hemisphere view of the sky. And it's very conveniently located to plug into the cigarette lighter for power.
It's been a pretty cool tool. On my recent trip, I had located the location of a place I wanted to stop from Google Earth (a store near Tucson), and we navigated to it using the GPS, since I had forgotten to write down the street address or directions. My traveling companion swore we were on the wrong road, that we needed to stop and turn around, but the GPS unit kept pointing straight ahead and counting down the distance. Yep -- we were on the right road.. and we found the store with the GPS showing an offset of 50' between the waypoint I had put it from the street address in Google Earth, and what was on the GPS unit when I parked in front of the place.
The biggest gripe I have about mine, is it uses an old slow serial cable interface with the computer. The new ones use a USB connection, which should work much faster. But for example, on my last trip the GPS waypoint log was over 5000 waypoints. This took about 20-30 minutes to download using the old, slow serial port transfer. FYI -- the unit showed it was about 50% filled up for waypoints wih the 5000 points (3 days of traveling), but I could have saved that set of waypoints to memory and started another set if I had needed to (I did this traveling to the north end of Vancouver Island and back from SoCal).
Think I'll stick it back on eBay, along with my old copy of Streets and Trips, and pick up the new version, along with the MS GPS, when I touch ground over there.
Can anyone suggest a good place that would have what I want on the shelf? Walmart? Office Depot?
Okay, I promised Mark that I'd post my thoughts on Microsoft Strees and Trips, so here goes:
I have been using Microsoft Streets and Trips 2006, along with Google Earth, for planning my US roadtrips for around 18 months. I found it easy to use and loved how simple it was to create a driving route, optimise it, add to it, delete stops, schedule rest breaks, etc.
When I bought myself a decent laptop recently I decided that I should investigate the GPS/Satnav facility that it promised. Having finally worked out what type of GPS receiver I needed to operate it, or so I thought, I ordered one online. It wasn't cheap but it was (slightly) cheaper than buying the new package which comes direct from Microsoft bundled with a receiver and, well, I only had a few days til I was flying to I didn't have time to watch for a bargain on eBay.
The receiver arrived in time for my trip and I hurridly plugged it in to my USB port to check that it worked. It didn't. I shouted. And then gave up. I would go in search of the fully bundled package when I arrived in the UK and try and sell the useless receiver (it used a different version of NMEA, whatever that was) on eBay when I got home.
I picked up my rental car, a convertible, and headed off out of the airport with the hood down. Before I'd entered the first stretch of interstate the map that the rental agent had carefully prepared for me had blown out of the open roof! Without paper or electronic map I was on my own. But I made it to my hotel and went off to explore the area.
On my way back to the hotel I spotted an Office Depot and headed over to see if they had the latest version on the shelf. I walked out, a hundred bucks worse off, but with the very latest version of the software. I hurried back to my room and left the software to install whilst I had a shower. By the time I was all fresh and clean the software was installed and up and running.
The next morning I headed out to test it out. I should point out here that I have never been a fan of Satnav systems and positively hate using them unless I have to. But, driving in a country with which I was not overly familiar, whilst on my own, I really did need it. As soon as I left the parking lot it was starting to annoy me: "turn left ahead" was followed by "turn left ahead", "turn left ahead" and... you've guessed it... "turn left ahead", right back into the very parking lot that I had come from.
Not a good start, but I vowed to give it a chance. I looked across to my passenger seat which was occupied, not by an attractive young lady with a map but by my laptop, and decided that the only thing I could do was to head roughly in the direction that I wanted to end up and let it work out a new route from there. This idea worked - several times on this trip the computer would apparently 'get confused' and couldn't actually get itself and, more importantly - me, out of an area.
The only real issue I had with this tactic was that, rather than automatically recalculate a route, as pretty much all satnav systems do, I had to lean across and press F3 to refresh. Not great when you were supposed to be concentrating on driving.
For the rest of the trip I had no real problems, it took me right to ballpark that I had told it to, on the other side of town. My only problem was when I failed to take a turn that it had insisted I take and a few presses of the F3 button later, I was back on track. I did feel a little conspicuous with a laptop sat on my passenger seat, and the hood down, as it led me through some of the streets on 'the wrong side of town' though, and I vowed to only use it when I had the hood up. In a car with a roof this would not have been a problem, of course.
Over the next few days I would use the software extensively and, whilst the F3 routine would become tedious, it was not as tedious as the propensity the software had for crashing as we approached an important point of the journey. Stopping on the side of the interstate was not an option so I had no real choice but to lean over, whilst trying to steer a straight line, reload the software, load the route plan, click the button that tells me not to use it whilst driving (!) and finally realise that I'd just passed the turning. "Off route" it would cry and across I would lean again. F3.
Things got better. And then it got into one of it's 'strops' again and, after twenty five minutes of going round in circles looking for a campground which I was booked into for the night, I finally found it. Well, I found the back (locked) gate. To be fair this was the low point and I was soon redirected to an astonished local who claimed not to have seen anyone but his neighbours use that road for years!
I did find other problems with it, such as in the middle of cities it would lose it's signal or it believing you to be on a service road when on an interstate and directing you accordingly. However, most of these faults, I believe could be put down to a poor GPS receiver. I would be very interested to see how this software works when hooked up to a 'proper' receiver, not the one supplied my Microsoft, but I will never know. I was suitably convinced of the need for a satnav system whilst away from home, so I have bought a TomTom 910 system.
My verdict on Microsoft Streets and Trips 2007 with GPS? Nice try, but it's not there yet. Lots of potential but come back and look at this again later. Maybe by the time they release Microsoft Streets and Trips 2009 with GPS the problems will be resolved.
I'm really not a fan of depending on GPS. Everybody I know who does, express similar problems. Like going to an unused entrance, or getting there by via a strange and complex route no local would every use. I think they have their place but I think, for the most part, I will stay with using S&T for pre-planning purposes and maps for on the road makes more sense. I prefer to have typed up directions from S&T that say simple things like "take exit 82 and go south on I-5" vs. listening to "turn left, turn right, blah, blah" works for me. But I would love to hear how your experience with TomTom sometime.
Last edited by UKCraig; 06-20-2007 at 10:00 AM.