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Old 01-10-2005, 03:53 AM   #1
padredw
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GPS for Beginner

Just the basics, please. I am fairly computer literate (I'm online now with a computer I built myself -- Shuttle, small form, multimedia focus), but I have never used navigational software/GPS. Would prefer to use existing laptop (Windows 98, USB and Serial ports, wifi pmcia card). What do I need to buy? Please stick to basics, remember I am a beginner. If you were starting all over what would you buy?
 
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Old 01-10-2005, 04:52 AM   #2
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As you suggested in one of your other posts, this is another one of those "no one right answer" situations, so I will pass on what I did in your position, and you can weigh its merits with those of others.

Microsoft Streets and Trips, came free with both my desk and laptop computers. If you don't mind the lack of voice prompts, this is excellent mapping software that can interface with a GPS. Even if you have to buy S&T retail, it not expensive, (well under $100). In this situation, you don't need any fancy capability in the GPS itself, so I just bought the most basic model I could find, which at the time was a Magellan 310. I puchased a dual purpose cable that provides 12v power from the vehicle to the GPS as well as a serial port connection to the laptop. (This was only a few years ago, but nowadays I belive all this is done through the USB port). The GPS unit just sits on the dash and my co-pilot watches the screen (when necessary). The GPS will add a little "car icon" to the map screen that moves along as you drive. You can zoom in and out for the level of detail you desire. It is really quite neat. You can never "get lost", althogh you may drive off the planned route. This whole set up only cost me about CDN$200, which is very much less than most other systems were going for at that time. There are lots of other options out there, and I am sure you will get a wide variety of responses that will reflect other approaches. Good luck and enjoy the discussion.
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Old 01-10-2005, 05:14 AM   #3
315RLS
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by padredw

Just the basics, please. I am fairly computer literate (I'm online now with a computer I built myself -- Shuttle, small form, multimedia focus), but I have never used navigational software/GPS. Would prefer to use existing laptop (Windows 98, USB and Serial ports, wifi pmcia card). What do I need to buy? Please stick to basics, remember I am a beginner. If you were starting all over what would you buy?
I had purchased a Garmin GPS18 which is a USB receiver to a laptop and
used their City Select SW for routing and planning. In order to use this while traveling means you need have the laptop on and out in the cab while traveling. This can take up a bit of space and you also may need to have power on for the laptop battery charge. Since I've found the GPS usefull for a number of other things (hiking, boating, creating track maps from when hiking and calculating land boundaries, elevations and size) in addition to traffic routing and navigation; I've upgraded to a handheld GPSMAPģ 60CS that allows me to plot, map, etc on my computer and transfer these betweeen systems plus much more.
http://www.garmin.com/products/gpsmap60cs/
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Old 01-10-2005, 05:29 AM   #4
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Thanks to both OntMont and 315RLS for these first responses. These are the kind of things I need to hear. And I am still listening; for, as OntMont and I know so well, different strokes for different folks means that we learn most when we listen to many different experiences. I'll start to digest all of this before making my first steps into onboard navigation.
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Old 01-10-2005, 10:00 AM   #5
BigBlue
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I also have a Garmin 60CS. A nice feature about it is that when you deviate from the route as you travel it recalculates a new route. This can be useful if a detour occurs or you run into traffic. I use Streets and trips on the laptop and it connects to the Garmin very easily.
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Old 01-10-2005, 05:56 PM   #6
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I use Delorme's Earthmate with Street Atlas 2005. I prefer the Streets and Trips for route planning but still use Street Atlas because I prefer it when I'm driving down the road. It tells me when I have a turn coming up, it shows me how far to the next two turns, which way to turn, and it updates this info once per second or so. And it shows me how far to my next stop and until end of day. But Streets and Trips is a good choice, too. I don't use it because I have to have someone watching it for the next turn and my copilot prefers to view the scenery. The Earthmate is usb and I use a 75-watt inverter plugged into the powerpoint/cigar lighter in the truck and just use the laptops' 110v power cord plugged into the inverter. Works well.

Both DeLorme's and Microsoft's solutions are good. Just wanted to point out some differences. You'll find proponents of each and they're both right. Depends on your preferences.

Good luck and don't hesitate to ask more questions if you have some.
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Old 01-10-2005, 06:39 PM   #7
Dave e Victoria
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What ever you do, be careful out there. The laptop and software near the driver is a terrible and compelling temptation to lose your concentration on the road. This sounds incredibly basic but it is not. We have all been put off by drivers more intent on their cell phone than the road. Believe me, the on board map can be ten times worse.

This problem is serious enough that Garmin requires you to select a special option if you want to do any selections (button pushng) while moving.

The best thing you can do using any of these systems on the road is pull off and stop if you have any doubt about what you are doing or what the system is telling you. Better yet, use the simulation mode and go through the trip difficulties with the aid of a paper map the night before the trip. Then, if this thing is not helping, chuck it in the back and use what you know. Practice later.
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Old 01-11-2005, 03:17 AM   #8
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Thanks to all, and I am still listening. One question comes to mind: how do the different programs handle route selection? By this I am primarily concerned that I can "force" certain routes, stopovers, etc. which are then accepted as "the route". In my use of 'trip planning programs' I almost always "force" my own route. I want to be the one to decide whether I will take the freeway or go along the state roads. A program that automatically selects "the route" would not be my choice.
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Old 01-11-2005, 03:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by padredw

Thanks to all, and I am still listening. One question comes to mind: how do the different programs handle route selection? By this I am primarily concerned that I can "force" certain routes, stopovers, etc. which are then accepted as "the route". In my use of 'trip planning programs' I almost always "force" my own route. I want to be the one to decide whether I will take the freeway or go along the state roads. A program that automatically selects "the route" would not be my choice.
With Garmin's mapsourse City Select program you may enter a profile. Like for our RV I set it as a truck which alters the roads used. I set waypoints and establish the route I want to take by using these hardened waypoints at specific junctures within the trip. I, like you like to set the specifics of the route I'm taking. I'm sure other have alot more to offer here.
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Old 01-11-2005, 05:32 AM   #10
OntMont
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S&T will set a route through whatever points you tell it and according to preference criteria that you have entered in the set-up. Once the route is mapped, you can click and drag sections of the route to other roads as you like. (being a computer program, it sometimes gets a bit stupid - but that is easy to detect and fix).

I once followed some friends to a restaurant. They used their GPS system, and it took us there alright, but I think if took us through every side street and stop sign possible, sometimes the shortest route is not the best! I later checked the same route on S&T, and it showed a much simpler highway route that would have been a lot easier to drive.

One thoughtful feature that S&T has (maybe others do too), is the ability to provide feedback on mapping errors to Microsoft, so that they can (one hopes) fix them in later versions.
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Old 01-11-2005, 05:42 AM   #11
315RLS
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quote:One thoughtful feature that S&T has (maybe others do too), is the ability to provide feedback on mapping errors to Microsoft, so that they can (one hopes) fix them in later versions.
I always thought this was equvilent to the bit bucket or black hole. Although you can always send errors has anyone in the known world ever heard back from MS as a result?
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Old 01-11-2005, 05:00 PM   #12
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Street Atlas also lets you force your route. In fact, I often do this. There are a couple of things you can do. One, you can select for it to calculate either the shortest route or the quickest route (based on your specified driving speeds by road type). Two, in the road preferences it lists a number of road types, including toll roads, limited access roads, national highways, Primary state/prov routes, state/prov routes, major connectors, forest roads, ferries, local roads, and unimproved local roads. For each of those you tell it 'preferred', 'standard', or 'avoid'. It will calculate your route based on those settings, both for the roads and the quickest/shortest. Note that if no other option is available, it will still route on the 'avoid' road type, as will S&T. Third, you can set a 'via' on a road you want to use. I like S&T's drag and drop feature for doing this better than the via method but SA's works fine, it's just not as quick and elegant.

To answer John's kinda question, DeLorme has a link on their website to provide info about map errors. A word about that. The maps on all these systems are, as far as I know, government maps and thus contain the same errors you find in paper maps. For example, our last stick home, our neighborhood was totally screwed up on S&T, SA, and the official city map. And they were all identically screwed up! I had to use SA's road drawing feature to even get us out of our neighborhood without going 'the long way'.

I think both S&T and SA are good products but you asked for some additional info and I'm more familiar with SA although I've used S&T to a lesser degree. Sorry I know nothing about the other products being mentioned. They are probably good as well.
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Old 01-13-2005, 05:05 PM   #13
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Padredw -

You may want to look at my previous post. Advantage of Microsoft Streets and Trips with your current device - you can buy S&T 2005 at Sam's for $23.88. Find any GPS that has serial interface and you're in business. (Some, but not all, USB GPS units will work. My GPS60C does not.) You can then put in the low clearance points, do full routing and don't need to worry about buying expensive proprietary software such as Mapsource City Select from Garmin. In the event you may upgrade at some point in the future, perhaps a better source, as recommened by Microsoft, is Delorme Street Atlas U.S.A. 2005. The cost on Amazon.com is $39.95. It will work with serial or USB, according to Microsoft. It also, as mentioned earlier, will do voice prompts. All of these options will give you a route based upon your selection (fastest, shortest, scenic) or road preference. If you miss a turn, all will reroute you, including a mapping GPS such as the GPS60. I have had three different GPS units and currently have City Select 6 from Garmin, Microsoft Streets and Trips 2005 and have Delorme Street Atlas 2005 on order from Amazon. I use my GPS units for travel, hunting, fishing and hiking, so I have handheld units which means small screens. If you don't mind having the space a laptop takes up in the cab, this is a nice, inexpensive alternative, given you already have the laptop. For under a $100, you're mapping in style. Another advantage of the Microsoft and Delorme software is you can get your zip codes for setting up your satellite dish. Hope this helps.
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Old 01-14-2005, 02:48 AM   #14
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Indeed, it does help! And once again, thanks to all who have responded to my query. I will weigh all the factors before setting up my system. What a great forum!
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