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[P]
How useful are GPS receivers?

By Philipp in News
Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 06:56:52 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

A few months ago I discovered at the local Staples that you can buy GPS receivers for just around $100. Apparently, you can connect them to a laptop as well. There seem to be so many cool nerdy things that you could do with them, for instance: track your multiple ways to your job/college/whatever and collect empirical evidence what is the fastest, including average waiting time at stop signs.

My question: Is anybody using them? How good are they? How well do they integrate with laptops, or even Linux?


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How useful are GPS receivers? | 34 comments (34 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I'm going to vote for this, because... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 04:10:16 PM EST

Paul Dunne voted 1 on this story.

I'm going to vote for this, because I'm fascinated to discover what possible use anyone could have for a GPS who doesn't a) live on a boat in the ocean or b) live the life of a desert nomad.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/

Re: I'm going to vote for this, because... (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by fluffy grue on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:36:47 PM EST

One of the ongoing informal student research projects here at NMSU is a project to make a virtual reality tour of campus. A GPS comes in real handy for obtaining approximate real-world coordinates of various landscape features. Two GPSes with differential capability are real handy for obtaining the real real-world coordinates. :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: I'm going to vote for this, because... (none / 0) (#18)
by superfly on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 09:59:41 PM EST

That's pretty cool. Any idea when it will be finished? A HOWTO would be excellent. I wouldn't mind doing something like that for UBC.

[ Parent ]
Re: I'm going to vote for this, because... (none / 0) (#24)
by fluffy grue on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 11:01:14 PM EST

I have no idea. I'm not on the project, but the impression I get is that they just might finish this semester. They've apparently got most of the buildings modelled, and are now ironing out actually getting everything put together in a (pre-existing) VR engine, as far as I know.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

A good chance for ... Link Propagation! (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by joeyo on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:26:17 PM EST

Well for starters there is this techno bra which monitors its wearer's heart rate and can tell when she is in danger and notify the authorities. It uses GPS to determine her location.

And here you can read about a subdermal implant which can be tracked through GPS. (I find this one rather interesting because it is "powered electromechanically through the movement of muscles")

--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi
[ Parent ]

One possible use... (1.00 / 1) (#25)
by Notromda on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 11:04:01 PM EST

Ok, this may sound a bit cheesy, but it sounds fun to me... I want to make a precision water ballon catapult. The catapult would be computerized to calculate the weight of ballon, acceleration, direction etc. To get the targeting information though... GPS! Using a laser rangefinder connected to a GPS unit, it would be fairly trivial to triangulate any position.

Imagine, being able to launch a ballon over a building and hit targets with inches of precision... *drool* Ok, so I have a lot of targets, being on a stretch of road between the university and the bars.... :P

Trouble is, I can do the software part, but I'm clueless about how to do the hardware.

[ Parent ]

Re: One possible use... (none / 0) (#27)
by confidential on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 12:43:53 AM EST

another problem would be calculating for wind speed and velocity and most people dont know that the off the store GPS's have a + or - 30 ft radius or error or something like that... although it might scare me to have a waterbaloon launched at me, 30 feet away isnt too scary

[ Parent ]
You don't need GPS for that! (none / 0) (#29)
by hoss10 on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 06:47:25 AM EST

How would GPS help targeting a water balloon at all? You want the distance (and elevation) of the target from wherever you are. Putting a GPS receiver at both places and calculating differences is a bit overkill.

Just use the laser rangefinder you talk about. It would be
> fairly trivial to triangulate any position
like you say WITHOUT any GPS at all

[ Parent ]

Re: You don't need GPS for that! (none / 0) (#31)
by Notromda on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:25:43 AM EST

Except if the range finder is mobile... not connected to the catapult. Then something would be needed to keep track of its position. Also, a land based signal would be needed to gain the precision needed, but that's not much more of a dream than the whole contraption anyways.

[ Parent ]
Advanced water baloon tactics (none / 0) (#32)
by joeyo on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 12:51:15 PM EST

You could use a setup not unlike the TOW Missiles: Attach a really long wire to the balloon and as the balloon is in flight you can adjust its position using the wire...

--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi
[ Parent ]

Or even a continuous mapquest. OK ... (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by schporto on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 04:11:04 PM EST

schporto voted 1 on this story.

Or even a continuous mapquest. OK it would require a net connection unless its all on your computer, but, something that knows where you are, tell it where you're going and it lets you know when turns are coming up.

I know they exist for airplanes and GPSs. You program way points and go point to point it follows you and lets you know when you're hitting the next way point. Of course those are dedicated units usually, but there are some that merge with laptops.

-cpd


Good ?... (1.00 / 1) (#9)
by JumpSuit Boy on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 04:18:22 PM EST

JumpSuit Boy voted 1 on this story.

Good ?
The Director disavows any knowledge of the preceding comment.

Are we really _that_ nerdy?... (1.00 / 1) (#10)
by FoodMike on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 04:42:49 PM EST

FoodMike voted -1 on this story.

Are we really _that_ nerdy?

Don't have one. Wanna get one. Wan... (2.00 / 1) (#8)
by jetpack on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 04:47:54 PM EST

jetpack voted 1 on this story.

Don't have one. Wanna get one. Wanna hear from folks who use them. Two thumbs up.
--
/* The beatings will continue until morale improves */

You can't participate in the Degree... (3.30 / 3) (#4)
by eann on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 05:00:07 PM EST

eann voted 1 on this story.

You can't participate in the Degree Confluence Project without one.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


How accurate are GPS receivers allo... (2.00 / 1) (#3)
by alisdair on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 05:10:24 PM EST

alisdair voted 1 on this story.

How accurate are GPS receivers allowed to be now anyways? Is it 5m in Europe yet?

Cool topic, but the link is dead. ... (1.00 / 1) (#6)
by marlowe on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 05:13:18 PM EST

marlowe voted -1 on this story.

Cool topic, but the link is dead.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

I've been wodering about this too. ... (1.00 / 1) (#12)
by DemiGodez on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 05:59:44 PM EST

DemiGodez voted 1 on this story.

I've been wodering about this too. I'd really like to hear a success story before I invest.

sounds like an interesting question... (1.00 / 1) (#2)
by pope nihil on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 06:00:46 PM EST

pope nihil voted 1 on this story.

sounds like an interesting question.

I voted.

could create some interesting threa... (1.00 / 2) (#11)
by neutrino on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 06:24:43 PM EST

neutrino voted 1 on this story.

could create some interesting threads

I have been able to use one of thes... (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by scorpion on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 06:56:52 PM EST

scorpion voted 1 on this story.

I have been able to use one of these devices and it worked very well with my laptop. Easy to install the software etc.... But unless you are on the road all over the place(as I am) it is not really worth much. Buy a paper map!

Re: I have been able to use one of thes... (none / 0) (#13)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 07:35:43 PM EST

You have a GPS?? Ok, that's just ridiculous. Is that for the new franchise they're opening on Everest? :-)

Note to the confused: scorpion is my Dad. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: I have been able to use one of thes... (none / 0) (#16)
by fluffy grue on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:34:06 PM EST

Franchise of what? (And Rusty's dad: which are you, ferrous or oxide?)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: I have been able to use one of thes... (none / 0) (#23)
by scorpion on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:38:15 PM EST

I work with franchisees on finding new locations for Dunkin' Donuts ,Baskin Robbins,and Togo's .

[ Parent ]
Re: I have been able to use one of thes... (none / 0) (#21)
by scorpion on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:32:55 PM EST

I have used the GPS in order to get the longitude and lat for sites. I then use another software package which has demographics /traffic/food service info based on a specific site(lat/long). I do not use it to get from one place to another (a good plain paper map works for me. However, I must know every road from Fort Kent,Me to Norfolk,Va to Buffalo,NY or Lancaster,Pa.)

[ Parent ]
Re: I have been able to use one of thes... (none / 0) (#14)
by Philipp on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 07:39:00 PM EST

Can you provide any details regarding the receiver and the software?

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
Re: I have been able to use one of thes... (none / 0) (#22)
by scorpion on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:34:18 PM EST

The DeLorme GPS and Road atlas package is a good one and easy to use and install.

[ Parent ]
Re: How useful are GPS receivers? (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by YogSothoth on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:03:38 PM EST

This article seems to suggest that GPS receivers and linux can be made to play nicely together though it is a bit sparse on specifics. On the other hand, I'd be surprised if any of the readers here didn't get a kick out of reading it regardless.

palm pilots and gps fun (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by dougb on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:29:39 PM EST

Hi all:

I went to Amsterdam last summer and took my Garmin 12XL with me, along with my
Palm Pilot.

I bought the 12XL because it was cheap ($150) and it could store a lot of
waypoints (or at least enough for my purposes).  I had never been to Amsterdam
before, I was so happy to have the gps with me because I tend to walk around
new cities until I get lost and hungry and want to get back to my hotel room. 
It was easy with my gps, I just took a reading of my hotel and made it a
waypoint, when I got tired I just took a reading of my current location and
walked towards the hotel.  It worked pretty well, although if you keep it on
all the time, the batteries will only last you for 24 hours.  (4 AA, I think.)

I was going to take some of the cool apps from gpspilot.com with me, but I
didn't have a Windows machine at the time and the tool they use to download
maps to your palm runs on Windows only.  It's kinda cool, you can use any map
or picture you want, you just have to tell the palm the lat/long of the upper
left/lower right corners of the map (or something like that) and then it will
synchronize your movements with the map.

Instead, I kept a log on my palm pilot of my favorite restaurants and their
lat/long coordinates so that the next time I go to Amsterdam, I'll have a lot
easier time finding them.  Some of the places I found after 3-4 hours of
wandering around the city, so it would be really hard to retrace my footsteps a
year later.  ;-)

Garmin sells gps->PC serial cables, and this page from gpspilot.com tells
you how to build your own cable and what baud/parity settings you need to set
on your serial port:

http://www.gpspilot.com/GPReceiver.htm

This site is the GPS Resource Library, highly recommended:

http://www.gpsy.com/gpsinfo/index.html

ISTR having code somewhere that decoded the strings that come from the GPS, it
was a simple matter of parsing them and figuring out how many satellites you
had a fix on, what your altitude was, current speed, direction, stuff like
that.  I wish I still had the code around.

I'll bet that freshmeat has some gps code, I think I'm going to go check it out
now and see if I can find anything interesting to play with...

Doug


missions, etc... (none / 0) (#26)
by xah on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 11:09:09 PM EST

Let's say you're on a mission. Extraction. Retrieve the secret plans for world domination on the microchip embedded in Professor Zangun's diamond stick pin. Because you know Zangun has sealed himself in the Brzneti Forest with 3 score of his most formidable henchmen (2 KGB agents died for this information), your infiltration plan requires you to know your exact longitude and latitude as you creep through the brambles and branches, tracking down the evil professor of economics. Thus, you may wish to bring along the GPS unit you just bought at Radio Shack, although Q's model which doubles as a satellite uplink might be more your style. Don't forget the Lotus/submarine.

Re: How useful are GPS receivers? (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by buzzbomb on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:41:26 AM EST

I have one of the cheapie must-be-hooked-to-laptop TripMate GPS receivers along with Delorme Street Atlas USA. If you do any traveling to strange cities, it can't be beat. I have yet to find any city that isn't completely mapped. (This includes little POS podunk towns.) When I bought my setup 3 years ago or so, it was $150 and worth every cent. You may be able to find it cheaper now and the new Street Atlas software is the shit! I guess it's kinda like a CD-R(W)...if you're gonna use it a couple times a year and ya have friends that have CD-R(W)s, it's a waste of space and money...but if ya use it plenty, it's worth it. Mail me with any questions...

GPS for Stationary Objects (ex. Traffic Grid) (none / 0) (#30)
by goodviking on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 09:49:50 AM EST

One of the most interesting uses I have heard of is using GPS for stationary objects. If an object is mobile, GPS tells you where you are. If an object is stationary, GPS acts like a super accurate clock. In this way, widely distributed collections of objects can be easily synchronized without physically connecting them. A lot of the new traffic light controllers have a GPS receiver integrated into them for exactly this reason. It becomes considerably less expensive to synchronize a network given this timing mechanism.

GPS & Gameboy (none / 0) (#33)
by Dacta on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 11:29:44 PM EST

I have a friend who works for a large multinational technology company who do a lot of Satellite & microprocessor stuff (among other things).

Anyway, there is this guy there who is trying to hook up a Gameboy (writing the software using that Gameboy Dev Pack that was linked to on Slashdot a while back) to a GPS.

Forget a Palm, That would be cool. Of course, I haven't actually seen it work, so I don't know what state it is in, or if it is just an urban legend passed on as truth.

Re: How useful are GPS receivers? (none / 0) (#34)
by Roskolnikov on Mon May 01, 2000 at 07:12:04 PM EST

I picked up a nifty little unit from Garmin (III +) that logs my activities (hiking, biking, driving) logs them and allows for storage on the laptop. Map support under linux is not so good, but I can use it as a really accurate time piece (correct me if I am wrong) just about as accurate as a stratum two device (anyone out there use NTP ?) I suppose you could use it to sync networked machines/routers without going past your firewall for my bicycle its a really expensive speedo (average speed) for hiking its a nice companion to map and compass (doesn't replace the map, but certainly lends some authority to my compass work.) a really cool toy.

How useful are GPS receivers? | 34 comments (34 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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