Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Where am I ?

I finally bit the bullet and bought a gadget I have been bursting for, for years, a hand-held GPS. I have little real need for one, but I am a map fetishist (you should see the maps on every wall of my flat!!).

Support for GPS on Macs has never been great, which is why I have held off so long, but Garmin is beginning to fix the situation by releasing the first of a few necessary applications (no map uploads yet).

I bought the Garmin GPSmap 60CSx, with a European streetmap on a Mini SD card. It uses USB, where there is even less support on the Mac, because Garmin never released a driver. However, surprisingly several shareware/freeware products (see below) can access it.

I am (mostly) very happy with the device ...... there are some problems though ...... doing postcode lookups is often not reliable, Garmin tech support say it is impossible to backup the expensive data on the Mini SD card etc. etc.

My main usage so far has been route navigation and geotagging photos.

Nick and I drove down to Cornwall for Easter, we used my GPS for navigation, it was impressive ..... smooth and intuitive. Nick said it worked a lot better than his older unit, specially inside houses and cars.

When I go out taking photographs, I take the GPS. I set it up to record my track. When I get home I can merge the GPS track and the photos, to add location info to the photos meta data. TIP: Take a photo of your GPS's time display before you start, so you know the time difference between them.

Here is some of the software I have been using :

The wonderful GoogleEarth Plus ($20 paid-for version). Adds a GPS Menu under Tools that reads tracks, waypoints and routes from your GPS and plots them in GE. Why on earth Google did not implement WRITING TO THE GPS I have no idea (hey guys please fix this!!).

I started adding my favourite restaurants around Brixton to the GE Community (I hope I can still get a table).

The venerable Swiss Army Knife of GPS, GPSBabel can read and write to the unit plus convert between file formats, it even has a half decent GUI wrapper.

There is a pretty looking geotagging tool called HoudahGeo, you can use it to merge GPS tracks with photos.

There are some Automator plugins for reading GPS data and geotagging photos, I have not tried them yet, but hopefully soon I can get around to making an application that will automatically download my photos and tracks, geotag and import the photos into Aperture.

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