Monday, July 07, 2008

Garmin Geko Tips

I've really been enjoying my Garmin Geko. It's lightweight, reliable and sips battery juice. Here are a few tips that I've found helpful while using it these last few weeks. Some of these aren't so much Geko tips as they are GPS tips in general.

  • Get the first satellite lock of the day -- My biggest concern with the Garmin Geko was how quickly it would get a satellite lock and how reliably it would hold on to it. I learned from our last trip that if you give the device plenty of clear sky, and plenty of time, to get a lock first thing during the day, you'll be fine the rest of the day. Even in the narrow alleyways of Barcelona or Rome, the satellite lock held just fine. But it definitely needed a clear view to get that initial lock.
  • Don't forget about the measure distance feature -- The Geko is pretty much the same software as the eTrex with one handy difference. The Geko, from the map screen, allows you to measure distances between waypoints or your current location and waypoints. It'll even predict when you'll arrive at a waypoint. This was really handy to make sure we could make it back to the boat on time.
  • Gather latitude and longitude points directly from -- This a great hack from the folks at LifeHacker. What you do is setup right mouse click on any area of the Google Map and select Center map here. Then enter the following into the address bar:
    You can manually enter these coordinates in your Garmin, or as you see below, push them over in bulk. While not the fastest way to get waypoint data, it is nice to know that any Internet Cafe can provide you with waypoint data.
  • Use GPS Babel to quickly push waypoints to your Geko -- You can use GPSBabel to easily download waypoints from the Geko. It turns out, you can also use it the other way, to upload waypoints. Start off by filling out a CSV file like so:
    Put as many waypoints as you want in the .csv file. Then plug in the device and run the commmand:
    gpsbabel.exe -i csv -f upload.csv -o garmin -F COM1
    If you want to get fancy you can use the unicsv format which allows you to specify more data, such as the icon to use on the map.
  • TODO: Figure out a use for the streaming GPS Data the Geko can produce -- If you set the interface mode to text out and connect it up to your laptop, you can get a stream of live GPS Data: In this case I used ZOC v5 to connect to the device at 4800 baud and N81. I felt like I was 12 years old again, dialing up to a BBS...ahhh...but I digress. I'm not sure what to do with this live stream of data, but it's got to be used for something. It's just way too hackable to ignore.

Have any other tips I should add to the list?

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