Attention Newbies! Everything (almost) you want to know about GPS (Part 1)
Newbies have been asking for this and so here it is. A basic guide to GPS on your PC. Note that this is not comprehensive and I'm no expert on GPS receivers or software, but perhaps this will get you started.
What do I need to do GPS on my CarPc?
Aside from the PC, you need 1) a GPS receiver; 2) Software. That's it.
How does a typical GPS installation work?
It's very simple. You plug the GPS receiver into your computer. Many GPS's use the serial port, some use the USB port. There may be a driver you have to install. You then configure your Navigation software to let it know where the receiver is and you should be ready to go.
More detail: Some USB GPS receivers simply route the GPS information over to your PC's com port so the GPS APPEARS to be a serial GPS. They do this by installing a small driver known as a USB-serial port bridge. You can then set the com port by right clicking My Computer-->Properties-->Device Manager. Look under the serial port entry and you'll find the serial port bridge (if it installed correctly). Click on driver and then advanced and you can set the com port to the port you would like. You then set that corresponding serial port in your navigation software and the the receiver should work.
What is the BEST GPS software?
Short answer: There is no *best* GPS software but some are more popular than others. Some are better for European use while others are better for U.S. use. Popular software for the PC are:
4. Delorme Street Atlas USA
6. Microsoft Streets and Trips
7. Microsoft MapPoint
1. Route 66
2. Windows GPS applications listed above, using VirtualPC emulator
1. Tom Tom Go for PocketPC and Palm. Does not run on Windows platform
Longer answer. Things to consider for automotive GPS are:
-Interface. Many of the map applications were not designed with mobile car use in mind and thus their interface is intended to work with mouse/trackpad and keyboard inputs. In a car environment, this makes them more difficult to use. Some of the applications come with software development kits and members of this forum have built specialized interfaces for them that are more suitable for the car. Mapmonkey is one that puts a front end on Destinator 3.
-Turn by turn directions. Any good mobile navigation package should give you turn by turn directions. This means that it tracks your position as you drive and alerts you to upcoming turns, exits, etc. Most of them will do so with voice and via some type of display on screen.
-Ability to embed in a frontend. The ability to embed your nav program in your front end software (the software that most of us use to control music, video, navigation, etc.) may or may not be important to you. Programs like Centrafuse and Road Runner give you the option of embedding the navigation application in their software so that when you launch it from the frontend, it appears in the context of that frontend, still allowing you to control music volume, etc.
-Points of Interest (POI's). POI's are what they sound like. Things like gas stations, ATM's, restaurants, etc. The more POI's, the better, especially if you're nowhere near home. POI's often include telephone numbers so you can call and make a hotel reservation, etc.
-Views. All nav software will give you an overhead "map" view of where you are. Most will give you a choice to autorotate that view so that the top of the map is in the same direction as you are traveling. The map rotates as you turn to keep up with your position. You can usually shut this feature off as well. Some programs offer a "3d" view that is closer to what you see out the window. Go to the web site to view screen shots of this feature.
-Mapping. Most all of the nav programs use maps from just one or two service providers (Navteq is one) so accuracy of maps, while they differ, usually isn't that big a deal. However, some programs (Destinator) divide up the maps into regions and you must load a new map set when you cross over into that region. This makes planning of routes across regions impossible. Other programs don't do this and you can easily plan a coast to coast trip.
-Routing. It's a computer and it will do stupid things because of that. One shouldn't substitute the computer route for common sense. You'll need to check to make sure it hasn't put you on some ridiculous routing because you picked "shortest" instead of "quickest". The ability to designate certain roads to avoid or certain roads to prefer is important. If you are taking a meandering tourist-like trip, you may end up fighting with your software to route it. Delorme's Street Atlas is my software and has two choices "quickest" or "shortest". Even designating specific waypoints along the route, it will defer to quickest or fastest. Often, I've put in a route that it stubbornly insists the "best" choice is to backtrack for several miles, even when I know there is a better way to go.
-Rerouting. This is a great feature, particularly when you miss the turn. The software recalculates from where you are and points you in the proper direction by recalculating your route.
Some of the more popular navigation sofware (not all my own words, thanks to various forum members who have posted on this topic):
Pros - Intergrates with Centrafuse well, has mapmonkey, is being developed for pc, 3d view, easy POI (point of intrest) finding, map zooms in and out with speed, voice guided directions, works great with USB GPS on resume from hibernation, TS (touchscreen) friendly, auto rotates map, OSK (on screen keyboard)
Cons requires some "hacking", and buying the software and SDK, so a bit expensive. Some say has bad routing, I feel it's ok, but I've only had one "goofy" route out of say 20. POI is a bit outdated, no street names in 3d mode, maps are broken into regions, so no cross country routing, and it won't make me a turtle mocha!
Member comments about D3:
"D3 requires you to "switch maps" .. which are regions, .. like n the US you have the west coast, east coast, canada, mid-west, southeast, southwest, ect. and you can only have one up at a time so you can only route within your current loaded map.. to my knowledge."
"D3 integrates one step further than any other gps app .. Centrafuse (CF) was made with the intention of putting D3 in it , where as the other apps just embed. It's not a huge deal, but it ends up looking nicer.. rather than it "feeling" like it's a separate app" .. using D3 in CF feels like it's a part of CF and not seperate.. if that makes any sense.. "
" if you want support in europe, d3 is your option .. iguidance is great in the US for long trips... but see what other say too .. I'm just testing as many apps as I can and making my choice then."
Pros - can route across whole country, 3d view WITH street names, TS friendly, Intergrates with CF well, can use NaviVoice to talk to your GPS, routing is good, Voice guided directions, OSK
Cons - POI DB is a bit confusing, and or limited, Has issues with USB GPS and resuming (routis launcher fixed most of it).
There is a Beta iGuidance skinning application on the forums by 0l33l
Member comments on iGuidance:
"iGuidance will do 3d maps WITH street names.. D3 will do a nice 3d mode but no street names .. "
Member PURDoom sent the following links for more info on iGuidance"
and the forum for skinbedder:
Attention Newbies! Everything (almost) you wanted to know about GPS (Part 2)
"Routis 2004 is the same as iGuidance 1.1. Routis used to be made by Deluo but they no longer make Routis. There is not going to be another Routis in the future. iGuidance is the only brand name this popular software is being sold under as a stand alone product."
Delorme Street Atlas USA 2005
Pros - Decent maps, voice guided turn by turn directions, voice control of interface, POI Radar, good POI database. Auto rotating map, special high contrast "mobile" mode that helps with sunny environments.
Cons - Interface is NOT TS friendly with very small tabs and buttons, no OSK, can be difficult to integrate into a front end because of the way it names its windows. No 3d view.
Members had this to say about it:
"The info in the GPS/Navigation pane (bottom of the screen) is large enough that at standard carpc resolutions it should be fairly easy to read.
Text to speech directions are somewhat understandable. but dont bother using anything other than Microsoft's default tts voices. i tried AT&T's natural voices and it ended up messing up some parts such as reading "st." simply as that rather than "Street"
Did pretty good as to reading off directions early based on your speed and distance from the next direction"
Pros - Good maps, OSK, 3d view, zooms in on turns when approaching. Driver safety view that places next run/distance in large text when over 10mph
Cons - Does not embed in front end software (although there is a menu setting to allow you to keep the taskbar visible to enable switching to another application). Auto-complete for street names not as good as others. Expensive. Odd movement of cursor and map.
Comments by members about Copilot:
"I think CoPilot really is a "copilot" whereas others (I use Destinator as an example a lot because I used that prior) are GPS-Mapping softwares. CoPilot says, "Give a destination. I'll give you directions to your destination. The map is optional." whereas Destinator might be described as, "My primary job is to show you a map. If you give me a destination, I'll draw your path on said map."
Microsoft Streets and Trips
Pros - Great PIO Database, has the ability to update construction zones via internet, great maps, auto rotates map, great trip planning, calculates gas stops based on MPG of your car, etc. One of the best at showing the "breadcrumb" trail where your car has been.
Cons - NOT TS friendly, small text, no turn by turn voice guided directions, no 3d view, trouble intergrating it into CF, no OSK. Requires you to manually start the GPS tracking each time the program is launched. No way to change bright map colors, making it wash out in sun.
Member comments about MS Streets and Trips:
"Streets and Trips really isn't a GPS navigation program. It's a mapping program that lets you plan your route and print it out. Features have been added to permit you to track your position using GPS but there is no direction given to turn by turn routing or rerouting if you are off track."
"I found the D3 PIO DB to be more descriptive.. and easer to find things.. but nothing compares to the PIO DB of MS Streets and Trips .. too bad it sucks for incar use.. "
Pros - Fully programmable, can be used to build custom mapping applications, accepts plug-ins.
Cons - Not as many features as Streets & Trips
For all intents and purposes, MapPoint is identical to Streets & Trips. However, MapPoint is aimed at businesses and professional application that require customized mapping solutions. It can be programmed to do any number of things including driving fully customized navigation applications. However, as a standalone navigation program, it is not really intended to compete with some of the other products.
Members had this to say about MapPoint:
"MapPoint is a commercial/business-oriented version of Streets & Trips. It has tools to do area plotting and such. I tinkered with it a bit at a company I worked for in California. To be quite honest, I didnt' use any more functionality than Streets & Trips had."
"There is no MP 05, only MP 04, and since S&T 05 added several GPS related features, S&T is now more attractive for most GPS related uses than MP. Still though, MP is programmatically controllable and accepts plug-ins (AGPS comes to mind http://www.techgt.com/AGPS/ ). S&T is not programmatically controllable."
OEM (Original Equipment Manufature) GPS'
Many cars come with GPS antennas already installed in the car. It is possible to tap into an OEM antenna and use it for your car PC. These involve a separate GPS module (serial or USB) that have an external antenna. (A thread on how to do connect to an OEM GPS is here. )
These have the advantage of having a external waterproof antenna, eg the stock Audi or BMW Sharkfin, and the modules are quite often better at obtaining locks - e.g. cold start in as low as 30 seconds which is only just coming out in GPS mouse style solutions.
A few members who used the Garmin 15L (low voltage) OEM module on this site have shared some of their information to make an RF solutions one. Other modules are available and there is also the possibility of new dead reckoning systems from companies such as Tyco Electronics.
A little bit of electronics work is needed to convert the TTL output to serial level and to provide a battery backup and power to the reciever but this is quite simple.
Compact Flash (CF) Receivers
There are also CF type receivers that can plug into your PDA's Compact Flash slot, or your PC's PCMCIA slot with an adapter. CF is same as PCMCIA only smaller. They can come with an external waterproof antenna. Some have observed that a PDA seems to gets a lock much much faster than the PC with a CF GPS in it.
What is the best GPS receiver?
Do you mean best, or most popular? Nearly all of the GPS receivers work reasonably well. Main differences come from speed to initial lock, ability to log where you've been, sensitivity to GPS signals, etc. Many users use the Rikaline and BU-303 models with great success.
Here is a thread that compares recievers side by side: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/show...t=gps+receiver
Gaaaah! When I plug in my GPS to my serial port, my mouse starts running all over the screen, randomly clicking things!
Your operating system has mistaken the GPS for a serial mouse. Disable the serial mouse.
I love my GPS! It rocks! But now I want to use it to feed more than one application simultaneously. Is that possible?
Yes. GPS is addicting and once you start being able to pinpoint your location, you start to collect applications that do various things with GPS and require simultaneous access to your unit. Unfortunately, if your GPS is serial, you can't share the com port between two applications like iGuidance and Netstumbler. Fortunately, there are a few solutions for this.
First, if you haven't purchased your receiver yet, some Bluetooth receivers permit more than one connection at a time. If you plan on using bluetooth, this may be of help for you.
Second, there are two applications that may help. GPSgate is a commercial application that allows you to share your ports with more than one application. It has a 14 day trial download. Xport by our very own member Curiosity, also allows you to share access to your GPS. Here is a thread that discusses sharing a single GPS unit with more than one application.
That's all I can muster for the moment. If you add stuff to this thread correcting errors or adding info, I'll incorporate it.