Call them message boards, discussion groups, online forums, or some other combination of those terms -- Connecting with other folks on the web, who are using your particular brand of GPS can be one of the quickest ways to get an answer on anything from basic noobie queries to perplexing technical questions. Especially helpful are groups that focus on particular brands and models of GPS.
A few caveats before the list of message boards…I've tried to screen out those groups dominated by spam. Also, some of these groups overlap, and they vary greatly in posting volume. Speaking of which, I have one tip for the many Yahoo groups below -- you may want to choose to view messages on the web only, rather than by email, lest your inbox quickly become clogged. Finally, be sure to drill up and down through these websites. There were just too many forums to list them all, and there are other great message boards out there.
Reader Martin L. emailed me the other day, asking about GPS traffic services, among other things. I couldn't really tell him which service, XM NavTraffic or TMC - the Traffic Message Channel (FM) was better, so I suggested he check out the GpsPasSion traffic forum. Martin came across this thread, comparing XM vs. FM traffic services for GPS receivers. Though the sample is small, it seems pretty clear that XM NavTraffic is the hands-down winner.
But this led to another issue. Martin lives in NYC - urban canyon land, so he wants a GPS with the SiRFstar III chipset. Well, here's the weird part. Garmin hasn't paired these technologies yet. SiRFstar III receivers use FM/TMC, while XM receivers use the older chipsets. But that is about to change.
I'm happy to say that my wife and I are both getting a new mountain bikes. Decommissioning of the old ones is nearly a decade overdue! The problem is, these days, most nice bikes come with 31.8 mm diameter handlebars, and I'm having a hard time finding a mount for my Garmin 60CSx that will fit.
In the past, I've used RAM mounts, and have been very happy with them, but that's not a good option unless I switch out handlebars. So I emailed RAM, and they suggested this monster mount. Um, thanks guys, but I don't really like the plumbing clamps.
It turns out that Garmin has a large diameter rail mount adapter (seen at left) for their mount. Unfortunately, Garmin mounts (for the 60 series) have a reputation for disengaging in rough terrain, sending that very expensive GPS flying. I don't like that idea either.
The best solution I've seen was posted in this thread about Garmin 60CS bike mounts on Groundspeak:
"What I finally did, which doesn't obscure the screen, is to take a wire tie, like the ones used for vegetables and string it through the lanyard strap hole on the 60CS and then to the space on the 60CS holder where the holder clips onto the mount on the bicycle handlebar. Tighten up the wire and twist it around itself to hold it in place. Tuck the ends under the 60CS and then click on the 60CS to the bike."
I'm not sure that would hold it in place if the mount broke, but that may be the solution I go with. I'll try and remember to update this post once I've made a final decision and tested it out.
Technorati tags: GPS
Way back in February, a member of Geocaching.com's discussion board posted a simple question, asking "What GPS units do you have now, and what ones did you used to own?" He recently took the time to tally the responses, and here are the winners (along with the number of owners in parentheses):
Totals by manufacturer were as follows:
This is more bad news for Magellan. The two Magellan units that made the top ten have both been discontinued, evidence that the geocaching crowd is moving en masse to Garmin.
Two websites integrating topo maps with Google Maps recently came to my attention. The first is Topographs.com, which I discovered via Groundspeak. The other is BackcountryMaps.com, found via Google Maps Mania. I haven't had a lot of time to explore these, but these are my initial impressions:
Topographs allows you to add GPS tracks, though not directly. But it is SLOW. At least it is on my computer. BackcountryMaps is faster, but there appears to be no GPS interface.
Last updated February 19, 2008
This thread originally dealt solely with custom points of interest
(POIs), but I've updated and reorganized it to include online sources
of POIs, conversion tools and more.
Custom points of interest (POI) resources
"As Sputnik indicated, the approaches taken by Magellan and Garmin are different. Garmin uses Digital Raster Graphics (DRG) to basically create an image of the USGS 1:100,000 series maps. Therefore their maps have all the detail and accuracy provided by those maps, and nothing else - which means they lack most road names and anything built since the maps were last updated (20 years or so ago in many areas). But they do show the features included by the USGS: springs, fire roads, quite a few trails, etc. Also note that the 1:100,000 maps are metric so the contour spacings are based on rounded numbers of meters. When your GPS is set to feet the spacings look a bit strange (e.g. contours at 164', 328', 492', etc.)
Magellan's topo maps are instead based on the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) technology where elevations are sampled in a grid pattern and the contour lines are then recreated by interpolation between grid points. That provides the contour line detail but by itself wouldn't give you anything else. So Magellan combines this topology data with the same road data they use for their street maps (based on TIGER for the original Streets and Topo programs, based on NavTeq for DirectRoute and 3DTopo).
If you want to get by on just a single set of maps then Magellan's approach is clearly superior. But anyone who wants auto-routing and elevation data (both good things to have) will need to get both sets of maps anyway. In that case each approach has its good and bad sides. Magellan lets you see all the data at one time on your screen since their street data is identical on both and therefore doesn't cause a problem, but they lack many of the older dirt roads and trails that are included on the old USGS maps used by Garmin. And, as Sputnik said, you can load both sets of maps in your Garmin and toggle between them. I frequently use CitySelect to get to a trailhead and then switch to Topo to see the terrain and trails for a hike."
Stonemaps offers GPS maps for theme parks including Disney World and Disneyland. They also have some maps for Utah ski resorts, and for other theme parks in California and Florida. Sorry, no Magellan maps yet. Found via Groundspeak.
Mobile Crossing did a piece the other day on waypoint averaging (see their February 7, 2006 entry), and it struck me that many readers might not know about this. The idea is that your GPS may only be delivering an accuracy of a certain number of feet, but if your GPS can take multiple readings and average them, you can get more accurate waypoint placement.
Many receivers, including my Garmin 60CS, have this function built into them. You can set your GPS down at a trail junction and let it take a number of readings. The UseNet group sci.geo.satellite-nav elaborated on this in a recent thread, discussing doing waypoint averaging across multiple outings and the use of GarTrip software to properly "weight" readings from multiple trips.