Monday, January 16, 2006

3dTracking: GPS tracks on Google Earth & Google Local

I love when someone reads your mind and comes up with exactly what you are about to look for! With the whole mashups scene cooking I start to wonder if there was something that I could use to upload a .gpx or .log file with GPS waypoints and have them mapped on Google Local. Well, now you have. And free!

I did ran into several other ways to accomplish similar results but nothing as easy and simple. 3dTracking is making GPS tracking incredible easy. First you create an account, just type a new username and password (can it get any simpler?). Then download the client software. Currently you can install to a PocketPC, or Symbian phone running Java.

I choose to install the .cab file on a PocketPC 2003 PDA (I will try with the i415 later on and report back, or if you did get it to work let us know). The minimalist app let you select the COM port for your GPS receiver, how often you want to save a position and upload the data to the server. Don't wait for the red bar to go away by itself, hit Start and it soon will lock in with the "visible" satellites.

Ten seconds seems like way too often if you are walking, I got a bit too many points. You can choose to send the data manually as you might not have a wireless connection available in the interval alloted for uploads.

The app seemed pretty robust, timing out when no connection was available or reporting back that the upload was successful or not. It also kept good connection with the GPS receiver reporting how many satellites it had a lock with.

Back to a browser, check your account. You can select a time interval for the uploaded points, the data will be kept available on the server. Under "Live" you can see the last 20 positions of data uploaded to the server. Google Local maps gets displayed by default. As usual you can select the satellite view or combine both.

If you select Google Earth and have it installed, a "static.kml" file will get loaded and you will be able to watch a fly over to the area you just tracked. Way cool. The only thing is that your account name will be displayed on each waypoint. At the navigation bar you can check the speed (if you seeing speed always zero, upgrade to version 1.01 for a fix to this bug) you had that you had at that time. If you are walking you won't get much from it but biking or driving will get you something.

Tres cool for a very welcome service!

GPS2CAD

For a bit more ($395 for a single user license) you can now plot GPS data for Garmin and other receivers in AutoCAD with GPS2CAD. It will also let you display data on TerraServer and other free map services. A trial download is available.

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