Entries Tagged as 'Global Positioning System (GPS)'

Garmin GPS

Thinking of buying a new GPS?

I highly recommend you consider Garmin, or a device that can run Garmin’s GPS software.


Garmin does an excellent job of updating it’s GPS software and maps… and after all, current maps are why you probably have a GPS.

If the roads, speed limits, etc never change where you drive — it doesn’t matter.  Why would you even think of a GPS if you’re always in a place you’re familiar with that never changes?

Garmin has a fairly broad range of GPS devices; and they also offer software that will run on your cell phone (Garmin XT), Windows mobile devices (Garmin XT), and your Windows laptop (Garmin PC).

I run Garmin XT on my HTC Smart Phone, I run Garmin PC on my Netbook (using an external Bluetooth or USB GPS), and I’m going to play with hacking my GPS to see if I can get Garmin XT running on it (it’s Windows mobile based, currently runs Destinator software, I’ve played with Tom Tom software on it, but I’d prefer everything run the same GPS software).

Visit Garmin’s site for more information on their products, and do an internet search for more information on hacking an existing device with a copy of Garmin’s software.


GPS + Real Time Data

One of the toys I got when I stopped by the Microsoft Company Store was Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services.

Connected Services is what Microsoft calls the FM side band service that provides real time data.  Real time data like, traffic, construction, weather, gas prices, etc.  Other GPS vendors might call it something different, but essentially they are all the same.

I was really excited to be able to put it to the test — and driving around the Bay Area it worked great.

But, when I hit the open road I found a number of short comings.

  • There aren’t that many areas that have the service.
  • In areas that have the service construction data doesn’t seem to be updated.
  • Traffic data also seems to be slow (especially in non-rush hour times; like a major accident in Houston in the middle of the day on the weekend).
  • Plus it takes FOREVER for the receiver to obtain data (twenty minutes is what they say; and that’s any time you enter a new service area since it has nothing cached).

I still think the real time data is a great idea; but it’s not quite as useful to travelers as one might hope, and using it has certainly reduced my desire to go buy a new GPS receiver that includes the service.

Also, why don’t vendors allow you to use your phone to get data via the cellular network?  Many people like me (and iPhone users) have unlimited data plans… oh yeah — they couldn’t charge an arm and a leg for that service.

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services

I picked up a copy of Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services; basically the package includes the same Pharos (re-branded) GPS module that Microsoft has been using along with a Pharos (re-branded) FM side-band receiver (similar technology as to what you can get on a number of all-in-one GPS units that provide real time data).

I haven’t tried all the wizzy new features for real yet, but in service areas I should be able to get real time data on traffic, construction, gas prices, weather, etc… the real question is how well S&T uses that data to auto-magically re-route.

I have a Pharos all-in-one GPS-150 receivers that’s a nice little unit, but it’s difficult to enter address information (there is not a sync to the PC option), and it doesn’t get real time data feeds. The Pharos all-in-one uses their Ostia software rather than Streets and Trips; but you can hack Tom-Tom PDA software to run quite nicely on it (the problem is getting the maps).


A bit of trivia for those that don’t know the connection between the word “Pharos” and mapping / navigation. Pharos was the name of the light house at Alexandria, Egypt. And “Ostia” was the ancient port of Rome at the mouth of the Tiber river.

Ambicom BT-GPS H1 Rev 2.0

Fry’s had a sale on Ambicom Bluetooth GPS units this weekend.  $39.00 less $20.00 mail in rebate.

The units are NEMA 0183 complaint and use the SiRF Star III chip set.  It works with a variety of software on PCs, Macs, PDA, smart phones, etc…

The unit is small, well built, rugged, includes a rechargable LiIon battery, and uses a standard mini-USB charging port (includes an automobile adapter as well).

For the price it’s hard to beat.

Fry’s PLU 5504110

Ambicom BT-GPS H1 Rev 2.0

Pharos GPS 150

Several months ago I purchased a Pharos GPS 150 at Fry’s for $149 with a $50 Mail-In-Rebate.

The Pharos GPS 150 is identical to the Pharos GPS 250 except with a smaller screen; and both run Windows CE and their own Ostia mapping / navigation software.

It’s a nice device, the only real short coming of it is that inability to manage addresses from a computer… but the mapping software is loaded onto an SD card, and it’s easy to remove — just break that warranty seal on the side and under it you’ll find an SD slot with a 1GB SD card in it.

To do any of the hacks you’re going to need to invest in a 2GB SD card.  I would recommend getting a fast card, because the performance of the device will suffer if you get a really slow card.  But that said, for $10 or less you should be able to buy a 100x 2GB SD card (I got one at Fry’s for $7.99 and got one free at Micro Center).

There are a number of hacks for the GPS, from adding more applications to it to allow you to watch videos, play music, view documents.

The other hack of interest is to take Tom Tom’s software they sell for Mobile Phones (and other Windows CE devices) and load it onto the GPS.  You could of course purchase the software from Tom Tom, and you can probably find it on a P2P network if you just wanted to try it out before you bought it.  Again, this software isn’t what they load onto their GPS units, but it is very similar.  Oh, if you want to try Tom Tom, make sure you get some maps (preferably of your immediate geographic area).

The instructions for hacking the GPS are fairly straight forward, but remember, copy your original SD card to somewhere safe, copy it to somewhere to modify it, and put the original card in a safe place… and don’t put your original SD card back into your computer.  If you manage to destroy your backup then it’s time to take a break and get away from the computer.

For a $100 GPS the unit’s quite capable without any hacks applied; but the ability to “customize” it makes it that much better of a buy.

FYI: retailers sell the Pharos device under private labels, and you should be able to hack those devices as well, but read up on the forums before you spend any money on what you think is a private label Pharos device.  While you can probably get the sticker off and put it back on without anyone being the wiser, some retailers charge restocking fees for non-defective GPS units, and only allow exchanges for defective ones.

Here are some useful links, you can do a search to find more.


Pharos GPS 150 Product Information

Pharos GPS 150 Hack – Details, with Tom Tom Information

Pharos GPS 150 Hack – Simplified, with Extra Applications


I purchased a MSI Wind U100 a couple weeks ago for an “on-the-go” computer.

At $299 plus $99 for a 2.5″ SATA2 500GB Seagate hard drive and $15 for an additional 1GB of DDR2 it’s a fairly economical solution to use to browse the web on the go, send/receive email, mapping, GPS, music and videos, contacts, date book, etc.

I looked at all the options, but I choose this one because I wanted 2GB of memory (most of them come with only 512MB built in so you can only have 1.5GB total and a couple only allow 1GB total).

The Atom N270 processor is by no means a top performer, but it does a fairly good job and mine is running Vista Home Premium with no issues at all (it ships with Windows XP Home).

The only thing I dislike about it is the fact that the keyboard is so small; but if you want a small notebook you’re going to have to live with a small keyboard!

No one computer is right for everyone, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for your particular needs, what your intended use is, and your budget.  There are actually models of netbooks you can purchase with an AT&T wireless modem installed for $99 (of course you have a two year contract your saddled with).

Bigger than a PDA, but far more flexible!

Microsoft Streets & Trips – Map Update

You own a copy of Microsoft Streets & Trips and use it and would like to get updated maps without having to pay to upgrade to a new version?


Download the Microsoft Streets & Trips 2010 Trial Edition; install that in a Virtual Machine (or on a machine you’re going to reformat); then copy the Data folder from the 2010 installation to your Street & Trips installation (you might want to back up the files you have, just in case).

Now you have the newest map files Microsoft publishes for Street & Trips!

Remember, it won’t give you any of the new features of Streets & Trips 2010… just updated geo-data.

Is it legal?

Well, probably not – but then again ask yourself it it’s legal that Microsoft sold many people Streets & Trips 2008 to work on Vista and it doesn’t (if you use the operating system in the recommended manner) without elevating your priviledges to run it (which prevents you from accessing the network) and absolutely has refused to fix it.  I wonder what a judge would rule… no fix, no refund — hmm, maybe no license agreement.

Streets & Trips 2010 Trial Edition