a tale of GPS woe…

I’m a little bit obsessed by maps… and gadgets. Oh, alright, computers too! So, naturally, a GPS was one of those things I just had to have. I was lucky enough to have a Garmin eTrex Venture for a six month loan. Nice little unit – some limitations, but as a first taste it was perfect… I was hooked. When the time came to give back the loan unit, I knew I wouldn’t survive without one for long, so I started researching my purchase.

etrex-legendDidn’t take me long to decide on the Garmin eTrex Legend Cx. For a start, I liked the original Garmin, and they were the only company offering Mac support (albeit, at some date in the future). I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied without colour, maps, USB and expandable memory, so the choice was easy.

It is gorgeous. It does everything I could have asked for – and more, but it hasn’t been without it’s problems. It has taken two trips back to the distributor – one for replacement – and a lot of careful testing, but I think I’ve found the problem and just want other Mac/Garmin users to beware.

I have Virtual PC, which allowed me to use Garmin MapSource without a problem, but I also have a number of Mac tools I’ve used with other devices quite happily – my favourite is Load My Tracks. Simple, and it mostly does what I need. My mistake was to use a mac tool while Virtual PC had control of the USB port. I am sure this it the issue, though I’m not about to sacrifice another GPS to test it. Virtual PC ‘captures’ the USB port for its own use, but the Mac still knows it’s there and it seems apps can use it. Result is mixed messages to the GPS, possibly writing data to places it shouldn’t or maybe missing an end of file marker… who knows, but the result seems to be a major software glitch.

Aside from the fact that it happens, which is a bit of a concern, it highlights a major failing with the Garmin that I can’t do a hard reset. Garmin support did at one stage talk me through a couple of ‘reset’ procedures, but they seem to be at a higher level than I needed. Having to send the unit back to base just to have it reset is a bit of a worry.

Anyway, more recently, I’ve kept my MapSource use to a PC and never used LoadMyTracks when Virtual PC was loaded, and things seem to be sweet. I recommend other mac users do the same.

3 replies on “a tale of GPS woe…”

  1. Seems to be something in common with the Garmin Edge, I’ve got an Edge 305 and the USB support on it is woeful.

    Of all the USB devices I’ve ever owned, its the only thing that has to be treated with kid gloves. If you make the mistake of leaving it plugged in when you restart the PC then it gets into some sort of interesting mode where it appears to be switched off but actually flattens the battery. Sometimes simply unplugging it from the USB cable gets it into the same state, so you get into the habit of unplug, switch on, check it works, switch off.

    Oh, and the plastic bracket for mounting them on a bike handlebar seems a bit flimsy and loose.

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