Thursday, December 30, 2004

Fun with GPS

I got the Garmin auto kit for my 60CS unit, and it’s a dramatic improvement to the GPS. It adds a dash mount for the unit, a cigarette lighter power supply, and the City Select North America v6 street maps for all of the US and parts of Canada. (Interestingly, the list price for the maps alone is $140, but the auto kit through Amazon is just $160.)

Once loaded, you get millions of “points of interest” — allowing you to find nearby businesses… particularly useful when you need a nearby gas station, restaurant, bank, etc. It’ll also do turn-by-turn directions for you, making navigation particularly easy.

I like that as you’re driving, it automatically redraws the screen to track where you’re at. You can zoom in or out to get the desired level of detail, and as you approach things (like a lake, or a park), you can move the cursor, point at what you’re interested in, and it’ll pop-up telling you what it is.

I downloaded several hundred of the nearest Geocaches from, so whenever I’m out in the car I get a sense of where the local caches are. It’s pretty amazing just how many there are, and how varied the locations are.

One note, I found the Garmin MapSource software (included for managing the Garmin maps and transferring of maps to the GPS) a bit klunky to use. Foolishly, I assumed that once the maps were installed to my PC and I hooked up the GPS and clicked “Transfer to GPS” that the maps would, well, transfer. Not so. You have to individually select the individual maps (roughly speaking, maps appear to cover a few counties at a time) — which makes sense, given that each map is nearly 1 megabyte in size, some units have limited memory and would only be able to store a few at a time. On our first foray out with the unit, I was a bit surprised when we drove off the grid! Turns out we’d gone beyond the one map that had transferred; after some tinkering back at home, I realized the error and transferred the maps from most of Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

1 comment:

  1. Rick,

    Nice blog and great work. I enjoyed it.

    Could you list a few of your favorite sites you've visited that are fun and kid-friendly? I have a 5-year old and we got a Garmin Etrex for Christmas. We found two caches last Sunday and it was really fun. The two caches we found are called Flood Plain II (River Forest) and Kid's Hangout Cache (Westchester, maybe?)on We live in Oak Park.

    I wish has a category of caches that are just for kids. I know most of caches are family-friendly, but it's good to know if a caches is more for small kids.