Saturday, January 21, 2006

GPSDash 2.5

Stefan Plattner has been working hard to improve GPSDash, his one-stop-shop GPS app (minus street navigation) for PocketPC devices. And he is doing a great job at it. GPSDash 2.5x requires a subscription fee upgrade (currently US$8) for owners of GPSDash 2.0. The idea is that you will be able to upgrade to new version releases during the subscription period of one year.

GPSDash 2.5 adds some interesting new tools to its already large feature set that includes support for waypoints, routes, map navigation, data analysis and log file recording and playback.

Map Manager

Major improvements were added to the companion Windows utility Map Manager (version 1.13). You can now convert multiple maps to the PDA format at once; georeference "un-northed" or non y-aligned image maps and export a (gun-ziped compressed) NMEA based log file to Google Earth. You can also export logs into comma-separated-values based files (.csv).

I obtained better results with a log file recorded without interruptions, or stops and that maintained a regular distance between its points.

To export a log file, generate one with GPSDash in the PDA (Log | Create New...) and then transfer it to a PC. Launch MapManager and select Log | Export to Google Earth... Hit Ok to the dialog box and Google Earth will be launched.

The Terrain checkbox is turned off in Google Earth so you can see the exported track and it will use the altitude information from your log file. The result will depend on how well your chip handles it.

To workaround the altitude issue, GPSDash 2.5x includes a new option under the GPS menu for Geoid Separation. That will use an altitude correction value provided by some receivers. This correction can then be added or subtracted from the one obtained from the receiver. You will need to figure out if your receiver provides this correction value or not to use this feature.

You can use any image to generate a map for GPSDash and the website provides a tutorial about how to import maps from Google Earth. If you follow the tutorial using Map Manager, make sure you select Tools | Coordinates | WGS84 | DD.DDDD before setting the references to an exported image. Also re-check the map coordinates by moving the mouse over it and checking the status bar before using it in the field.

GPSDash 2.5x

You can now lock the dashboard items to avoid making unintended changes and measure distances with a new Ruler tool. First stop any log you might be recording, then in the Map tab hit the Ruler once. Then tap the map in two or more points. Tap the ruler again and it will display the distance covered between those points.

And for Sirf-based receivers you can now use "warm start" to improve the time to obtain a lock with the GPS receiver (called in previous versions Hot Connect).

If you haven't checked GPSDash yet, now is a good time to try it out (23 Euros for a new license). If you already got it, the upgrade is worth its price.

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