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Laptop Questions (GPS related)

Old 06-04-04, 07:08 PM
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Laptop Questions (GPS related)

Just bought myself a new Dell laptop for business and travel, and I was wondering if anybody had any recommendations.

1.) What is a good GPS to purchase for my laptop, I'm looking for one that would work with Microsoft Streets and Trips.

2.) I also need a good car power adapter (plugs in to my cig lighter) for my laptop, any suggestions on that as well?
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Old 06-06-04, 05:17 PM
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You're not getting much help here. I'll try, but I haven't bought a new computer or new GPS in a couple of years, so I warn you that my input may be a little out of date. I think the issue will focus around USB support.

Historically (like 8 years or so), virtually all GPS have output what are called NMEA sentences through a serial port (NMEA is an association of marine electronics manufacturers). Streets and Trips has a very primitive GPS interface, and just captures one of the NMEA sentences, the one which gives current position coordinates. S&T does not use any of the other GPS features, nor does it support building waypoint lists or transferring data into the GPS (so you can use it standalone for hiking).

Even the simplest GPS (with NMEA output) supports S&T, and you don't get better support with a better GPS. (Garmin makes map software that makes better use of GPS features if you are interested). But, just adding exactly where you are to S&T is useful. S&T provides the map display and routing and the "you are here" places you on the map.

Now the rub. Dell has stripped serial ports out of most of their laptops, leaving only USB. My (2002) version of S&T doesn't support a USB interface to GPS units. I don't know if the latest does. Also, most GPS only use a USB port for transferring maps, and use serial for NMEA sentences. I think it is possible to output the NMEA data through a USB interface, I just haven't seen ads that anyone is doing it. So the physical interface may be important and you need to look at laptop hardware, S&T software, and GPS for three way compatibility.

The only other issue is built-in vs remote antenna on GPS. If you can lay it on dash with good sky view thru windshield, the internal antenna may suffice but it may be a little marginal in some areas. The ability to connect an external antenna instead of the internal is an important GPS feature in cars, not so much hiking. Usually, the external is a patch antenna on a magnetic mount and sticking it to roof really improves reception (but in a lot of areas you can get by without it if you fiddle with where you set the GPS.)

To summarize, if you have a serial port, almost anything will work, if you don't, then whether you can interface via USB will be a critical issue.

I have used a Garmin GPS-48 (marine version of 12XL) with S&T 2002 on a laptop with serial port. I use a Lowe remote patch antenna usually in the car, but I use the GPS more for hiking and boating with just its internal antenna.

Edit: Great site for GPS info, but a little overwhelming due to size.
http://gpsinformation.net/

Last edited by OldDude; 06-06-04 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 06-06-04, 07:40 PM
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Whoa! Lots of good information there thanks!

I know about the USB only, and I was looking in to USB GPS but I'm not sure if I want to go with the antenna or not. I do have a Navman GPS 3450 that worked like a charm on my recent Canada trip, I only lost signal once and that was going around a fairly large mountain. The only problem with that is the size, it's too small and I can't get a good picture of where I want to go; thus the reason for the laptop.

Well looks like I have a lot of reading to do tonight.

Thanks again.

Anybody else have suggestions?
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Old 06-06-04, 08:08 PM
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Originally posted by Lateralus
but I'm not sure if I want to go with the antenna or not. I do have a Navman GPS 3450
Some models have a BNC or MCX connector to accomodate external antenna, some don't. All I'm saying is give extra consideration to models that at least allow for it. You can always buy it later. (Your present one has MCX connector)

Too bad about the USB, otherwise your present one would work. It outputs the necessary NMEA sentences.
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Old 06-06-04, 11:15 PM
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btw, you can get a Belkin or other brand USB-to-serial cable. This is what I have to setup waypoints and routes for my Garmin Streetpilot III from my laptop.
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