Tags: gps


Garmin nuvi 205W and geocaching

I picked up a Garmin nüvi 205W at Target last week because it was on sale. The price was about the same as a map upgrade so I figured I might as well buy the GPS to get the map. Of course, my first thought after getting the nüvi was how to use it for geocaching. As some may have picked up from my Twitter, I've been tinkering with it, trying various settings, etc. I took it out on a few geocaching runs to see how it works and to refine the settings. Here's how I set it up now:

After running gcmerge, I have a combined .loc file for geocaches from a number of areas. At first, I used POI Loader to load the data onto the GPS, but I preferred something a bit more command-line driven and scriptable, so I switched to GPSBabel.
    gpsbabel -i geo -f geocaches.loc -o garmin_gpi,bitmap="cache.bmp",
      category="Geocaches",units=s,proximity=0.6,descr -F geocaches.gpi
This command (all on a single line) converts the .loc file to Garmin GPI format. After running that command, I connect the GPS to the computer. The computer sees the GPS as a mass storage device so all I need to do is copy geocaches.gpi over to D:\Garmin\POI, where D: is the drive letter assigned to the GPS. That's it!

After that, waypoints show up on the GPS in the Custom POIs section:

List of POIs

I can select any one of those, hit "Go!", and the GPS will route me to the closest road to the waypoint. (Not always the best way to approach the cache but I can usually figure it out from there.) GPSBabel's "descr" option is the magic sauce that sets the POIs to display the cache name under each waypoint ID. "cache.bmp" is a 24x24 icon I borrowed from Gary Hayman's nüvi tips website.

cache icon on map

It's the yellow square with an "X" in the above screenshot. This icon can be replaced with any 24x24 or smaller BMP image but I find that simpler icons look better on the map display.

And finally, "units=s,proximity=0.6" sets a proximity alert of 0.6 miles on each POI. Here, it does nothing other than make the icons show up on the map when I drive within 0.6 miles of the waypoints. It's also possible to add sounds and popup messages but I'd rather miss a cache or two than add more distractions.

Too many Tech Bargains


The new GPS can optionally use a microSD card to store maps and tracks. I didn't have a spare microSD card, so I checked prices online at a number of websites and discovered that a 2GB microSD card was on sale at Micro Center. I just happened to have a Micro Center gift card that I got from a cache a while ago. So this evening, I went to their store in Paterson. This is a dangerous store to go to if you don't like spending money. After getting the memory card, I took a look around and saw that the memory upgrade for my desktop computer was on sale too! So I got that as well. Then I also picked up an inexpensive cigarette lighter power adapter for the GPS since it wouldn't be that much cheaper to order that from Amazon.

Dinner break at Quiznos in Paramus since I had coupons. I got a special chicken carbonara sub with egg in it. I had no idea you could request additions to a sandwich. I like egg on everything. :)

Got home and popped the memory into the computer. It's actually a bit more involved than that because I had to unplug everything and bring the computer case out to the living room where I had more space to work on it. Amazingly, that extra memory, even though it was only a bump up from 768MB to 1GB, helped a lot. I guess it was just a little short of memory before, especially when running Photoshop Elements. The rest of the evening was spent installing Garmin USB drivers, upgrading MapSource and EasyGPS, loading map data onto the GPS / microSD card, and making sure everything still works after that. I may need newer map data, however. Routing isn't very good with this data. For example, it told me to get onto the Garden State Parkway just to go to the Chinese restaurant down the street from home. Of course, I didn't expect the initial part of the route to make sense as I was doing a Go To from my bedroom (I'm amazed that it can get satellite lock in here), but still!

Covered Bridge Park Fall Picnic

Jordan Creek

There was a mascot gig today in Connecticut, but I chose instead to go to the Covered Bridge Park Fall Picnic at Covered Bridge Park in Allentown, PA. In the end, that proved to be a good choice. I didn't know how good it was until later in the day.

Made an earlier-than-usual start although I still wasn't early enough to make the actual start time for the event. I did 4 geocaches in New Jersey along the way before heading over to the Lehigh Valley. Got some Wawa food and continued onwards to another quick geocache and then the picnic. Had a good time at the picnic. But here's where the problem happened: During the event, I went for Just Log It...BYOP, a geocache that had been placed within the same park for the event. It was then when I saw that my GPS had started malfunctioning. I was on top of the cache site but the GPS was still reading 160 feet. Previously, although the GPS had been broken or flaky, it still at least gave readings that were good enough. Now, it was broken, flaky, and inaccurate. I had a spare GPS receiver, so I started setting it up. But then CinderBankers came along, so I joined them for this cache and two others before heading back to the picnic.

Back at the picnic, the Chinese auction and raffle had begun. I only had a ticket in the raffle, which was for a new eTrex Legend HCx GPS. Every attendee got a free ticket in that raffle. Listened in on the auction, although I wasn't really paying attention. When Linda of the Caching Nuts called the raffle number, I thought it sounded close to my number. So I checked and it WAS my number! I won the new GPS! And it was just in time to replace my malfunctioning eTrex Legend, so that was an amazing bit of luck!

Of course, I had to take the new GPS out for a spin. So I took it out of the box and put in some batteries. Did 11 more geocaches. (4 of those were after dark.) The color display was very nice. The Legend HCx also got satellite lock amazingly quickly every time and had solid GPS reception even under trees and near buildings. All in all, it's a great upgrade to the eTrex Legend.

The caches...Collapse )