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GPS software for road navigation

October 15 2005 at 5:06 PM
Mohamed Ellozy  (Login MohamedEllozy)

I am sure that some of you use GPS software for road navigation in unfamiliar territory. Would very much appreciate knowing what you use and what you think of it.

I have a Garmin GPSMap 76cs, and am thinking of buying their City Select v7. My main interest would be in back roads, not in getting from the airport to a hotel Anyone have any experience with it?


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Alan Ritter
(Login jaritter)

iQue 3600/City Select

October 16 2005, 9:53 AM 

I have a Garmin iQue 3600, the combination Palm PDA and GPS. It came with City Select V5, and I need to upgrade one of these days.

To the level of paved county roads, navigation is excellent. Once you get to things like Forest Service roads, it starts getting iffy. However, at that point, I can start depending on my topo maps instead of the iQue navigation.

For instance, finding the Henrys Fork trailhead for Kings Peak in Utah, it knew about the road that Henry's Fork Campground is on, but not a couple of the intervening roads down from the Wyoming line. Still, it got me close enough to be useful, and was immensely helpful navigating through the maze of freeway interchanges getting out of the Salt Lake City airport and onto the Interstate running up into the northern corner of Utah and on into Idaho.

I think you'll find it very useful, within its limitations. (It is terribly funny when a road is re-routed and the CS database has the old gets all upset when it thinks you're driving off through the woods...there are several state roads here in MO that have been straightened since I got the iQue, and driving along them with the iQue navigating produces some very interesting directions!)

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(Login dipper)

The $$ $ $ Solution

October 19 2005, 8:50 PM 

I am curious about this also. GPS Navigation is the killer app that is saving the pda and will be the future of state of the art cell phones even as it becomes standard in cars.

To begin with I'm not 100% if this can be done on the cheap.

This summer I tried the cheap solution by trying the $99 Delorme Street Atlas/Earthmate solution.

It worked pretty well on the notebook computer in which you can copy the entire data disk onto the harddrive. The only problem was that it had a significant lag. And after I got off course in Boston/Cambridge I kept missing turns that just passed and then trying to readjust to the city's crooked and one way streets was a nightmare even as I was just a few blocks from my destination.

The other big disadvantage was that its street addresses were off by as much as 50 yards. Thank heavens my neighbors weren't that upset after I kept turning down their drives thinking I was home

None the less this was enough to get me hooked on the gadget.

I bought a $200 axim X30 64 meg pda with bluetooth and wi fi on ebay (with the added advantage that it will play mp3's and videos and do the office/outlook schtick. It has basically "limitless" storage via the sd card.

Delorme's Street Atlas was not directly compatible with the pda. Rather you need the Delorme Street Atlas handheld version. And for good measure I wanted the topos and so went for the Delorme Topo USA (Delorme Topo also will not work with a pda unless Street Atlas handheld is installed). They have a package for $249 including Delorme's blue logger gps receiver.

This worked pretty well although the blue logger is rated by most sites as the worst of the gps receivers (very slow at picking up satellites). It's also not water proof. I put that to further test as the gps unit and pda are separate, and I accidentally sent the blue logger through the washing machine. It's very clean now but definitely doesn't work

So I went back and got a different bluetooth gps unit Globalsat BT-338 SiRF star III Bluetooth GPS Receiver (WAAS Enabled). It is supposed to be the best on the market thanks to the WAAS capability (satellites are supplemented with signals from ground towers). I still have not detected a noticeable imporvement in finding the satellites over the blue logger.

The big advantage of course are that now I have topo maps for the whole country. The cons are that you need to plan out your trip before hand as you need to download the maps you need. And Delorme annoying does not let you make address to address directions via the pda (although you can on the laptop). You have to point to your destinations which is sort of a catch 22. Also Delorme's spoken directions seem to have the lag. The speaker on the pda is not very loud so you may have to pay for a gadget to pipe it through your car radio (thus in effect eliminating the usefulness of the radio for listening to the radio).

Now after my little doing the computerized directions has ballooned from $100 to more than $500, here's some observations:

1. You are probably best off buying a self contained pda/gps such as the garmin ique 3600.
2. A totally dedicated gps is probably the easiest solution for in car stuff although the cost could be $1000. The topos are really nice though on a pda -- especially if you are into geocaching (many gps units now are specifically designed for the hobby!)
3. The new crop of cell phones (including the blackberry) have gps built in.
4. When looking at options you should look for something with removal storage -- notably sd drives.
5. If you want to go the delorme route, go for the $249 blue logger/street atlas handheld/topo package. You can use the street atlas feature on the notebook and even if your notebook doesn't have bluetooth installed you can buy a usb bluetooth adapter for about $20.

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Will M.
(Login Will_Mokszycki)

Where's a map...

October 20 2005, 1:36 AM 

Your experience and expense makes me wonder what ever happened to the old stand by, the road atlas. Signs and a good map usually suffice, especially with a little preparation ahead of time. Now deep in the woods in white out conditions, I'll take the GPS!

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Alan Ritter
(Login jaritter)

Prices, Tradeoffs...

October 19 2005, 11:15 PM 

Roger, I have one question about your experience with the GPS/PDA combination: What sort of vehicle were you driving when you tried to use it?

My iQue3600 works just fine in my Ford Probe, my GMC Jimmy and my wife's Impala. On a Scout trip this spring, I was riding with one of the other leaders and brought the iQue along. Could not get it to work in his Pontiac Transport/Montana. Then, I remembered that GM had bragged about the special coating on the windshields of that series of minivans. Supposedly, it kept out the IR from sunlight and kept the interior cooler. Well, whatever coating it is also effectively blocks the GPS signal. I had to hold the iQue next to the side window of the van in order to get it to pick up enough satellites to navigate. Weird...and I wonder how many other vehicles have that sort of windshield coating?

When I bought the iQue (from GPS Discount), the PDA (with City Select) and the "car kit" that included a weighted base and lighter plug cable for power ran about $600. I think you can probably get one for about $500 these days, but haven't checked lately.

Personally, I strongly prefer the iQue over an in-vehicle navigation system. I can move the iQue to whatever vehicle I'm driving (or riding in), including taking it on trips and using it in a rental car. That may be the best part...having the ability to load up the detailed maps into the SD card for the city/area where I'll be, and have all of the search capabilities (addresses, points of interest, restaurants, hotels, etc.) so I can very easily find the location I need and have the iQue navigate me there. I haven't found the sort of problems you were having with the PDA/GPS combo telling you too late that you need to turn. The iQue seems to give me plenty of warning, with the only exception being when tall buildings or overhanging trees interfere with GPS reception. (That's a problem with any GPS, including my old handheld GPS II+ losing satellites in heavy cover or urban "canyons.")

Count me in the "Garmin fan club." Both my old handheld and the iQue3600 work very well for their intended purposes. The iQue's battery is too small for field use, but works fine in the car and on roads. The GPS II+ is so old it has zero mapping capability, but will run all day on alkaline AAs and for a couple of days on lithium AAs, so it's my field/hiking unit. (Heck, it was the only GPS I had for most of my highpointing trips, and it was quite useful even then if you watched its heading indicator for upcoming turns as you got within a couple of miles of the destination.)

I suppose a GPS receiver with a USB interface plus a laptop might be pretty nifty, but it's way too big to be useful driving around unless you're alone in the car. Garmin did the right thing integrating their GPS with a Palm/OS PDA.

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(Login dipper)

Antennas and Other Software

October 20 2005, 4:54 PM 

Most GPS receivers now offer options for special antennas particularly for cars!

My, how the worm weaves once you start down the path!

For what it's worth I found a very useful website at:

Watching various forums I see high marks for software for:

Iguidance and
Tom Tom Navigator

My clunky old Plymouth Voyager didn't seem to interfere with the reception.

As mentioned, in playing with the pda and laptop versions, I had the best luck with the laptop. It had a sound card loud enough that you could hear the directions without going through your radio and there was never any confusion on the maps. But of course simultaneously using a laptop and driving is generally not a good idea The pda of course is much more practical for hiking and much easier fits on your dash (although can be annoyingly difficult to see in bright sunlight).

I swore during the New Hampshire convention I was going to do the whole trip electronically including a tour through Boston. Of course street directions are always an adventure -- Interstate Highways and U.S. Routes always seem to have multiple names for short stretches on pc's. It was much more difficult to get the overview when you were having to navigate the maps by zooming in and out. I wound up resorting to a paper map and just writing down the key turns just as I had always done before.

The same had applied to geocaches. I had always just looked at the topozone map to find them. But it is kind of cool to see the dots line up on your pda (although with some gps units the dot jumps all over the place once you get down to trying to be precise).

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