Archive for the ‘Garmin’ tag
Something I’ve done for some time now, is use a little GSAK macro magic to ‘flag’ those puzzle caches that I have solved and have corrected coordinates for – in the image below these are marked with the yellow triangles.
Alas, by default, these don’t show up easily on my Garmin Montana when I load the GPX files. So, I’ve done a little hacking with the cache name in GSAK to make it easier to identify caches that I have in fact solved. Before I go into my solution – yes, I know there are macros out there to do similar, I don’t care I wanted to play around and do it my way. And as you’ll find in future, I do a lot more than just export an ‘x’ in the cache name to indicate correct coordinates.
So, assuming that you have correct coordinates stored in GSAK, you can use the following code to achieve something similar to my approach. First create a GSAK macro in your macros directory with the following code. Call it something like ‘RewriteName.gsk’.
$Attributes = ""
$Attributes = $Attributes + "x|"
$_Special = $Attributes + $d_Name
Now, when you go to export the GPX file (Control-G) you need to modify one of the fields, to ensure this little renaming macro is run for each and every cache that is processed. Of course, this version will only prefix ‘x|’ for those that have corrected coordinates.
You’ll see that there are two things we have done on the GPX Export dialog.
- We’ve entered a command that calls our macro code in the ‘Cache description’ box – %macro=”RewriteName.gsk”
- We’ve ticked that we want this to ‘Also apply to cache name’
This is a brief product announcement I provided to The Box, it was published on Tuesday the 2nd of June, 2009. It is archived here for my records.
Garmin announced their latest high-end hand-held outdoors GPS unit recently, and the headline feature is the inclusion of a 3.2MP camera with built in geotagging. This means that any photos taken with the unit will be instantly plot-able on maps, and will be a convenient tool for people enjoying the great outdoors and travelling. Other nice upgrades to the flagship Oregon line include support for a 3d electronic compass for accurate bearings when standing still; increased storage for waypoints, tracks, routes; capacity for a massive 5000 paperless geocaches; and fast USB 2.0 transfer when connecting to a computer at last.
What seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote my initial thoughts on the Garmin Colorado after having owned it for a few weeks. Now I’d like to return and offer more definitive thoughts on it after nearly a year of fairly heavy use. In this time it has been with me on somewhere around 1000 cache hunts, and a few overseas trips – mostly to Australia, but also Singapore and Sri Lanka. Naturally, it has seen a fair bit of domestic usage in little ole New Zealand as well.
I’m not going to spend any time going over what the Garmin Colorado is – there are plenty of articles on the net. I want to focus on the big pro’s and con’s associated with the Colorado. (Many of these comments may or may not also apply to the Oregon, I haven’t had enough hands on time with one to see what improvements they made from the Colorado.)
Made of Win
Win 1 – Stunning Maps. The screen and map display on the Colorado is absolutely gorgeous and blows away all of the previous generations of Garmin mapping handheld GPS units. The clarity of of the mapping display and the ability to clearly represent more layers at the same time is just great. I really struggle going back to older mapping units like the 60 series with far lower resolution and clarity in the maps.
Win 2 – USB Storage Device. Whilst it doesn’t sound like much, the change in metaphor for sending/receiving information from the GPS is a huge plus. You can accomplish most things purely by mounting the GPS as a USB device, and copying/deleting files from the GPS. No longer is it necessary to have Garmin GPS drivers to be able to communicate with the GPS. This is incredibly handy for travelling. If you prepare a whole lot of geocaching GPX files before you go, you can just store them on the device, and as you move around delete the active ones you are finished with, and store the others under a filename that the GPS won’t recognise e.g. use .bak or similar. Then, just rename the file from .gpx.bak to .gpx and next time you boot up, the GPS will load the new geocaches. This works the same for maps when travelling from country to country. If you have enough storage space to store multiple countries .img files from OpenStreetMap in the main memory, then as you move from one country to another, you can just rename/delete the old file, and rename the next country you’re heading to as the current gmapsupp.img – it works very well. Compare this with the alternative of either creating a massive gmapsupp file with all the countries you are travelling to, or having to take MapSource/RoadTrip with you and reloading maps as you go.
Win 3 – Paperless Caching (PC). The basic paperless caching functionality works pretty well. Two thousand caches is a far more reasonable limit than 500/1000 waypoints. The cache specific icons are great and make it so easy to see the types of caches at a glance on the map. The field notes work really well and speed up the logging of caches no end. It is very useful having the cache descriptions and logs, and we used this feature well on the road when figuring which caches to do next on a road trip.
Win 4 – Roller. What can I say, it is absolutely brilliant for zooming in and out on the maps.
Win 5 – Mount. The new mount connecter is very solid and works well on bikes and car dash mounts.
With that said, there are some areas where the Colorado let’s you down fairly significantly.
Fail 1 – Archived Tracklogs. The 60 series had a near perfect means of archiving tracklogs. You could set it up to record to the SD card, and the unit would create a file for each day. Never, ever, did the GPS unit end up writing over already recorded tracklog data. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Colorado. The archive track capability of the Colorado will only store 20 GPX files of approximately 1MB/5k trackpoints each before it will start overwriting the archived tracklogs. As a keen OpenStreetMap track logger, and also someone that wants to keep tracklogs from travel so that one day I can geotag some of my photos, I was livid the first time that I have found the Colorado was overwriting archived tracklogs. I really liked the 60 series handling where you could leave it going, and just trust that you come back and once every couple of months copy of all the archived tracks. Not so with the Colorado and it is one of my biggest frustrations. This means that archiving tracklogs becomes a hassle and a chore. This is such a big dealbreaker to me I am now considering what my next GPS is going to be. I want to be able to travel for weeks, have everything archived AND HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING DELETED WITHOUT ASKING ME FIRST. Why can’t the system save tracklogs to the external SD card just like the 60/76 series do?
Fail 2 – Paperless Caching. Whilst PC has been extremely successful for traditional caches, there are many, many failures and oversights. Consider that earthcaches don’t have their own icon, and for some reason Garmin has seen fit to default them back to Traditional caches, when at a minimum they should be Virtuals. How hard is it really for Garmin to update the software to display them with their correct icons, or at the very least as a Virtual? Why, are all the child waypoints associated with a cache loaded as actual waypoints, rather than being linked to and accessible as part of the cache? All they do is take up the waypoint allocation, and they aren’t easily accessible from a cache description. Why does the list of nearest geocaches not show the cache type icon – instead you have to click through each cache to see what type it is.
Fail 3 – Lack of user-centric design. I’m not sure how Garmin tested the Colorado, but there are some silly design decisions that make no sense at all. When changing the location of a waypoint (e.g. editing the co-ordinates to enter a waypoint for a multicache) you can only see 10 of the 20 characters at any time. This makes it very frustrating when copying co-ordinates from a cache. The only way you can see them all at once is if you save the waypoint, then find it, and view the co-ordinates on the screen before selecting ‘Go’. This is an impractical solution. This is perhaps my most frustrating experiences, but there are others, and these point to a poorly designed interface that doesn’t appear to have any real thought around the development. How hard would it have been on the lat/long entry screen to have both the latitude and longitude visible at once? There is certainly enough screen real estate to support it.
So, what does this mean?
To me, I think there is something inherently flawed in Garmin’s design process. A number of these usability errors SHOULD have been picked during testing before release. One wonders if Garmin skimped on the end-user testing and rushed the Colorado to market. The Colorado has the feel of Windows Vista about it – some really nice new features, but some absolutely fundamental design errors that are real deal-breakers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to sell the Colorado and move back to a 60 or 76 series – I just couldn’t handle looking at the maps on one of them again, or losing the paperless caching. But, more than ever, my recent experience with losing archived tracklogs on the Colorado has got me thinking about the best approach to paperless caching and decent tracklogging – what is the next step.
Perhaps it is a fundamental mistake by me, thinking that I can have a single GPS that does everything I need it to. Even now, I still need my iPhone with caching details in addition to the Colorado. Perhaps I need to use a simple tracklogging GPS unit such as the Wintec G Rays 2 for logging tracks and not rely on the Colorado for this – it after all will automatically delete the archived data (which I don’t think is mentioned in the manual, just on the unofficial Colorado wiki).
The iPhone may end up being my saviour for paperless caching. Currently, we are tied to Garmin’s model and method of paperless caching on their units – you either use their approach, or you use another piece of hardware.
I’m starting to think that perhaps I can go the other way. Perhaps I should focus on looking for paperless caching capabilities in the iPhone. After all, all we need is something like GSAK/GPXSonar for iPhone, with an inbuilt map viewer that understands Garmin img map files, and that solution would likely blow away anything that Garmin could come up with (based on my 11 months with the Colorado). Sure, you could still use a basic eTrex high-sensitivity unit with caches loaded as POI’s, and take all the intelligent processing to a device capable of acting in an intelligent manner.
Garmin has had at least 12 months to improve the capabilities of the Colorado via software updates. All these issues, and hundreds more have been identified in the Garmin Coloroado wiki. Yet few have actually been resolved.
The core problem here comes down to Garmin being a hardware vendor, and they are still locked into the thinking that once the hardware is sold, only critical bugs will be fixed, and everything else will be left to the next generation of units – so you have to purchase new hardware to get a real upgrade.
This is in almost complete contrast to the Apple iPhone. With the iPhone, the software sees regular updates, and there have been some significant updates to old hardware. For example, the 1st generation iPhone and iPod touch were able to be upgraded to the v2 OS for either free or minimal fee, but the user received significant new capabilities. Come this June or July, even the original users of these devices will be able to upgrade to v3 of the OS and reap nearly all the benefits (yes, 1st gen. iPhones don’t have A-GPS, so the users will miss out on that – one of the reasons I didn’t get an iPhone until it had GPS).
On top if this, the iPhone allows developers to create competing applications. This means if you are so inclined, you can write a caching application if you choose. Whilst only geocaching.com will be able to have the tight integration with their website, I still believe there are possibilities for developers to deliver some stunning paperless geocaching applications that will blow away any capability that a hardware vendor such as Garmin appears to be capable of developing.
The software approach means that applications are sometimes updated every couple of months for existing users, and this is an area that Garmin has perhaps had their biggest fail. Garmin has failed to improve the utility in their existing units by fixing minor issues that the community have identified, and they are not releasing software updates as frequently as they should be. Any Garmin release generally addresses only a limited number of issues, especially when compared to the large number of outstanding issues identified by the user community.
This has perhaps been my big lesson with the Garmin Colorado. Garmin don’t appear capable of maintaining and improving unit capabilities once the product has been sold – certainly not when compared to iPhone updates. If Garmin keeps up like this, they are going to be made increasingly irrelevant by programmable devices like the Apple iPhone that will deliver extremely powerful paperless caching applications in spades.
The corollary, of course, is that if Garmin want to continue to deliver more complex and software-driven units to the market, they need to be far more responsive to the issues raised by the community, and provide more significant software updates.
The summary of course is that I’ll continue to use the Colorado – it is after all a sunk cost for me, and it does do some basic things pretty well. But am I seriously going to be keeping an eye out for alternative solutions that are more responsive to user feedback. I’m hoping that by sharing my experience with the Colorado, it will get you thinking about your choices more too.
Here are a couple of articles that were posted on the Garmin Blog recently.
Firstly, Garmin appears to be following a number of other technology companies into the realm of setting up their own dedicated retail store. Of course, I expect it will be a long time before we get anything like that here. There is a Garmin press release available here.
Secondly, a tale of a rather hardy GPS unit…
…it was no surprise that the display was nothing but a horizontal straight line; I did not give up. I put the thing in my oven at 200 degrees for 1.5 hours. When I turned it back on…
I purchased my first GPS in April 2001 when I was over in Australia for a friend’s wedding. I wanted to get a GPS primarily to learn about its application for Civil Defence and Emergency Management, but I had also heard about this thing called geocaching on Slashdot.
My first play with it was on the back deck of the Manly Ferry sailing from town out to my friend’s place near Manly. It was very cool when it locked onto the satellites and I got my first lat/long reading and a velocity
The key points that sold me on the 12XL were twofold. First, it was a model that I could connect to a computer, and secondly I could connect and external antenna to the unit.
Key Stats: -
- Dimensions (HxWxD) : 148x54x31mm
- Weight : 270 grams
- Screen (HxV) : 38mm x 56mm
- Pixels (HxV) : 64 x 100, Black and White
- Waypoints : 500
- Tracklog Points : 1024
- Routes : 20
- Waypoints per Route : 30
The 12XL is a simple yet powerful GPS unit. The screen is medium sized, but has a low resolution by todays standards, so it is not capable nor suitable for uploading maps to. It does the job for displaying waypoints and tracklogs though.
It is one of the best performing handheld GPS units when it comes to retaining satellite lock under tree canopy where other units, such as the Garmin eTrex will have reduced or no signal.
These days however, the 12XL has been knocked down the specification ladder by newer, faster, cheaper and more powerful units. It would make a great unit for getting started when picked up secondhand however!
- Great battery life from 4AA’s
- External antenna connector
- Very good reception under bush canopy relative to other handheld units
- Software Version 4.58 works very well
- Can connect to computer via serial port
- Small screen and resolution relative to newer units
- Some units have a problem with the memory battery failing and having to be replaced
- Older software versions not as good
Related Links: -
- GPS 12 XL on Garmin’s website