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Old 08-12-2004, 05:09 PM   #1
Montana_503
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Laptop GPS Setup

I notice from a search on the forum that many owners use Earthmate or another laptop GPS system. I've thought about it too, but wonder if the laptop will take up too much room. (My wife wonders about this even more than I do, as she is the one in the passenger seat). I would welcome any ideas and methods that you all use to store, mount, move, or otherwise make a laptop useful on the road for GPS.

Thanks,

JSeder
 
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Old 08-18-2004, 02:36 AM   #2
rames14
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JSeder -

You have a number of option ranging from relatively inexpensive to expensive. You are right, the laptop takes a lot of room, but you can probably get the best detail. I happen to like Garmin products but there are many other options out there. Garmin has a Palm device, I think its the Ique, that has mapping software and GPS in a handheld computer that fits in a shirt pocket. Then there are the mapping GPS units. I purchased a Garmin 60C that has a built in basemap and then you can upload more detailed maps of areas of interest. If you know where you are headed, you can take almost any of the GPS units and upload a track that will show you distance to each waypoint. This is the method I have used for years. So if you want to go smaller, you can get by with a handheld GPS or a Palm type device. If you want to go state of the art, money is no object, you can purchase dedicated auto GPS units. These come in dash mounted or in-dash. Garmin's Street Pilot runs over $1000, but moves from vehicle to vehicle. The in-dash units integrate things like DVD, CD and GPS. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-18-2004, 04:14 PM   #3
sreigle
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How big is the monitor on your laptop? I think mine is 15 inches diagonally. I have a board strapped to the lid of the console (bucket seats). The board has several strips of velcro stapled to it. The laptop has velcro on every available spot on it's bottom side. I was careful not to cover any cooling openings or keeping any compartments from opening. The velcro works great. I can adjust the angle of the laptop at will (have to stop the truck or ask Vicki to move it for me). I usually adjust it so I can easily reach my cupholder on the dash. It juts more to the passenger side than the driver side. Vicki says it's not a problem, not at all in her way. If it were I'd adjust to eliminate that problem.

You can buy special stands if you're willing to spend a couple hundred bucks and don't mind bolting it to the floor.

The detail with the laptop is excellent, as Ron and Terrie mentioned. I like being able to see that the river over there is this name and that town we're coming up to is this town, etc. But the portables do a nice job, too.

I have to confess I've used this gps so much that when we head for an unfamiliar area with it I feel nekkid (and you don't want to see that ). And I used to write down detailed instructions for our route. Now I've come to rely on that voice telling me to turn right at this intersection in 1.3 miles, or whatever. That clues me to take a look at the screen and wakes me up to the fact I need to turn just up ahead.
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Old 08-18-2004, 04:42 PM   #4
CmdrDewey
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From December 2003:

This is kind of long and is a reprint of an answer I have stored in my general rv advice folder. If this is not appropriate for this forum let me know and I won't do it again.

I have been asked what my wife and I use for onboard navigation. My response may not be suitable for all. In fact, it may not be suitable for anyone but it works very well for us.

I have boated on the coast of Maine for 15 years. They say if you can boat here you can boat anywhere. One year my wife and I took a nine day trip and we were only able to see the front of the boat three of those days. That trip was done without radar. My most recent boat has radar and all systems are redundant. I have had radios, radar, Loran and GPS all fail at the most inopportune moments. So far, they haven't all gone at once. Redundancy is very important to me.

I have a several year old Winbook computer that I had used in the office for years. When I replaced it, I sent it to be refurbished which cost $450 and it became my navigational computer. I have a Garmin GPS III Plus which cost about $400. The new models are color and are nearer $900. Magellan makes a good unit but most of my boating buddys and I have opted for Garmin. I have two versions of marine navigational software installed on this computer and I have Street Atlas 2003. I also carry electronic charts for all the waters I cruise. I have a small 50 wt inverter which keeps the laptop charged. The GPS also has a 12 volt plug. In the event the laptop crashes I can use the GPS independently. A screen on the GPS was important to me. On the boat, if the GPS crashes I have loran. If the power fails, both the GPS and the computer will run for about two hours which should be enough to get me someplace safe. I can also navigate by radar alone. I also carry a very old Toshiba which can be pressed into service instead of the Winbook. All the same software is installed on this as well. I have a padded computer carrying case on the boat, which will hold all of the components of my system. All I have to do is disconnect the power cords from the three port, 12 volt plug, take the external antenna from the GPS and close everything in the case. I can take it below to protect it from weather and prying eyes.

The truck is a bit simpler operation. I have the captains chairs and a full console which we never have used. I looked for a computer desk like the police use in their cruisers but I didn't like the fact that a front seat passenger was at some risk of being hit by the electronics propelled by the airbag. I bought a plastic crate used for files and such for $2.97. It is the kind that has really just frame work and no hard sides. I cut off one side of the crate and it fits right over the console. A bungee cord from side to side and around the back of the console holds it in place. I put some two inch foam pipe insulation on the top and the computer sits on that fastened to the crate with a bungee. The GPS sits on velcro on the dash. All of the wiring, the inverter and power brick is all fastened to the INSIDE of the crate with more bungees. I have almost all of the same redundancy that I have on the boat. My CB is fastened to the outside. If I want to take this all out of the truck all I have to do is remove the bottom bungee cord and unplug the power. The crate and everything else comes out in one piece.

Now what about durability? This system has survived two complete summers on the boat and a trip down the Intercoastal Waterway. It has also survived 30,000 miles in the truck and it has been in 100 degree heat and temperatures down to zero. It has never malfunctioned and so my redundancy has not been necessary except once when we powered it down by mistake entering Castine Harbor in a pea soup fog. I have less than $800 in the whole thing and I can replace individual components without having to replace the whole thing. Of course my son's Honda has the system built into the dash and that is a whole lot easier. My system works for us. YMMD

David and Kathy Whittier
Hebron ME
2002 Ford F 250 4x4 Powerstroke
2002 Montana 2955 RL
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Old 10-14-2004, 11:52 AM   #5
CountryGuy
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Al and I are trying to figure this out right now, I have an old Micron notebook computer, smaller than my current HP Pavilion. It runs 98 (a problem), but it is smaller and not being used. Wanted to try to "recyle" it into use.

Took it out to the GMC and could not come up with a method to mount it that was comfortable, useable and safe. (We have not been real pleased with the seating, etc. of the GMC anyway, LOVE the truck, but there are some silly problems inside the cabin.)

The only place to mount would have been over the drink cups and that is not gonna fly for either of us. Placed on the console, the monitor would be VERY hard to read, from the drivers seat or the passenger seat. I am NOT going to hold this thing all day long while we drive. UGH.

Part of the problem is that we keep the seat behind the passenger seat down all the time, that would be the back seat. Bad part is that it forces the front passenger seat forward quite a bit, and it is a good thing I am not tall. SIGH.

We have been looking for a smaller notebook/laptop, preferably used, and cannot find anything that suits us. Al now is looking at Personal PC's and stand alone GPS systems. Course, he just loves that real expensive one, Garmin 2620.

I see the charge card taking a hit very soon!
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Old 10-14-2004, 11:59 AM   #6
Montana_1886
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I'm running a 2004 F-250 and have mounted my laptop for use with Street Atlas 2005. I simplt found a board that would fit under the front seat forward up to the front of the driveshaft hump, and wedged some high-density foam between the board and the bottom of the seat. This method eliminates the need to drill holes in my truck, and makes it very easy to remove later on. I mounted a 1/2" metal flange, then screwed a piece of 1/2" galvanized pipe into it and mounted a 45 degree elbow ontop of that then mounted another metal flange to the computer mount which I fabricated. The length of pipe is up to you as to how high you want the computer. This setup allow the computer to be rotated so either person can use it. I use a cordless mouse. This allows use of the mouse just about anywhere.
I have attached some pictures so you can better see just what I've done.
[img][/img]C:\Fred\2004-10-14\P1010106.JPG
[img][/img]C:\Fred\2004-10-14\P1010107.JPG
[img][/img]C:\Fred\2004-10-14\P1010108.JPG

If these pictures didn't come through, just drop me an Email at DLG1@cox.net

Don
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Old 10-14-2004, 12:13 PM   #7
CountryGuy
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Don, photos cannot be viewed, the data you have for viewing is for your personal computer, I believe. we would need a web site URL.
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Old 10-15-2004, 05:24 PM   #8
snowbunny
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I intend to buy a GPS in the near future and I used MS Streets and Trips for our 3220 mile trip which included the rally. I am sold on Streets and Trips but would like to buy a basic handheld GPS that will work easily alone or with this software. Is this a no brainer? Does every GPS with a usb interface work with any GPS ready software such as Streets and Trips or Delorme's StreetAtlas or they all proprietary and only work with their own GPS head?
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Old 10-16-2004, 02:55 PM   #9
sreigle
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Snowbunny, if the GPS is NMEA compliant then it will work with most any software designed to work with NMEA compliant GPS. That means most of them including S&T. Mot of them, including S&T, actually expect the GPS to be on a com port. So, the usb GPS comes with drivers to make the usb port appear as a com port. I have four GPS units (why on earth???). Two are USB, one is COM, and I think the fourth is COM also but would have to check. I also have S&T 2005 as well as DeLorme's Street Atlas 2004 (I'm about to post my comparison results in a new thread). Both of them see the usb gps as using a com port.

Hope that helps a little.

Carol, if all else fails, there is a floor-mounted pedestal available online that supposedly is used by many police forces for their equipment. I can't remember the name but you could probably find it with a search. It was a bit pricey, $200 plus last time I checked. But Don's method sounds like it accomplishes the same thing without as much expense.
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Old 10-16-2004, 05:57 PM   #10
Dave e Victoria
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I am a former user of the earthmate set up but abandonned it because their support for Apple is spotty at best. Now I use Route 66 software ($39.00 and available for either Apple or the less reliable stuff) which is compatable with the new "Blue tooth" equipped GPS units (Amazon has one for about $239.00 and there are others available for as low as $149.00.)
The advantage of having Blue tooth is there are no wires between the laptop and the GPS reciever. In addition, it can beused with any of the Palm type devices that are blue tooth equipped. This is nice for bike trips and the like.
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Old 10-17-2004, 05:13 PM   #11
rames14
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CountryGuy -

I have a couple of laptops and a couple of GPS units. I just find all of the clutter too much for me, so I have bought a smaller GPS that will do all of what I need driving and also will allow me to use it in the boat and walking. I have had three Garmins now and had great luck with them, although there are many good brands out there. Garmins are all NMEA compliant. Many of today's laptops no longer have Com ports, so look for the USB models. The model that I purchased, the Garmin 60C, was used to get to the rally and will be going to Wyoming on a hunting trip in a few weeks. It has full color mapping in a hand sized unit. In order to get the most out of the unit, I purchased the City Select software as part of the auto navigation kit. It comes with several different styles of mounts. The bean bag mount is the one I use and it sits very nicely on the dash of my Silverado. I can switch it from vehicle to vehicle without any problem. I travel for work, and just throw it in my carry on bag and have it wherever I go. It interfaces nicely with any PC that has USB. I don't know about compatibility with Apple, but most of the software I use is only available for PC anyway. I'msure you will find a model that suits you. Garmin is now releasing the 60CS that has a digital compass and barometric altimeter. Note that the compass screen on a GPS is only accurate when you're moving.
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Old 10-18-2004, 04:22 PM   #12
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Dave and Victoria, I too use an Apple. In fact on the rally trip rather than bring an iBook and a PC laptop I loaded Virtual PC on the iBook and used Microsoft Streets and Trips. It was slower than my PC at work but at least I didn't have all the usual PC hassles. I looked at Route 66 as the only native Mac software but got the impression its maps weren't up to the quality of S&T or Delorme (Delorme actually started on Macs way back). Are you saying Delorme will work on a Mac without Virtual PC?
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Old 10-19-2004, 07:46 AM   #13
Dave e Victoria
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Originally, the Delorme worked with Apple OS9. I never use that anymore.

As to Route66, my main complaint is the strip charts and route instructions refer to highway names instead of Highway numbers. In the states we rarely know the names of freeways unless you are a local or an "From The Sky Traffic Reporter". Probably a British thing. On the other hand, their lists of stores and attractions is very complete.
My second complaint has to do with routing. (But I think this is true with most software of this type) The algorythm they use to optomise the rout (say shortest for instance) does not necessarily look at the whole route. From Minneapolis to Phoenix, it wants to route through Denver which is about 150 miles longer than through kansas City, Witchita, and Albuquerque. It seems to work fine for shorter routes.
Finally, all of this stuff has the same problem as similar technology in aircraft. That is, when you are looking at the map you are looking inside instead of out. We will all be safer when someone comes up with a practical heads up display so we can look at the road and the map at the same time.
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