Friday, April 21, 2006

Bluetooth trip to Europe

I'm pretty happy right now. After a week and a half without posting (I had to either get it or give it up) I got a not that useful setting to work in what I hope is an introduction to Bluetooth.

For me Bluetooth is an European Invention & Standard. You might need to think like an European to get it fast. It took me a while, a south-american transplant that somehow tries to keep its best roots (or routes) at close contact, to get it right.

First I didn't have a Bluetooth GPS Receiver at hand while using a Nokia 3660 phone so: How can I check the GPS packages available for this phone? New Nokia phones will include what I believe are Assisted GPS chipsets for the US market. The 3660 doesn't have either one. True or assisted GPS.

Bluetooth GPS Receivers

eBay had some at about $80, mostly shipping from Taiwan. Didn't quite felt like it. Semsons came up with a good organized way to scope the available landscape. But again $80 bucks was about the lowest acceptable. Bottomline: I wasn't going to fork that amount to try this thing.

Not sure where I got the idea. Guess started while thinking about a way to get Bluetooth out from my existing receivers, then I thought about the DeLorme USB cable and I guess the idea of a USB to Bluetooth converter just become available for use.

To call it a converter doesn't even begin to fill what really happens when you add the software side of this equation but for now, it will do. I found one at NewEgg for $20 including shipping. BlueTake, model 9si. A little thing that you become afraid of losing forever anytime you have to put it away somewhere.

Bluetake requires you to give your life away at the support site for driver downloads so be forewarned. On XP it installs quite a few new devices. But the only one I'm interested right this moment is the serial comm port service.

But I had just realized that I would have to try all this under a roof, so no real fix was going to be available. Can a GPS Simulator give this phone a fix?

GPS Simulators

Recap: "Ok, I don't have a Bluetooth receiver. But I got GPS receivers I can have acting as a server, and/or I could just plain use a simulator, playing a random log so that I could link that thru a serial port, to the Bluetooth bridge and finally to a GPS app running on the phone."

I still had the trial of GPS Simulator from SkyLab installed and start playing with it but I could not set a value from the empty comboboxes for a serial COM port. It had a Bluetooth button I could push, but who knows what I could really get from it.

gpsfeed+

To make your life easier go straight to the gpsfeed+ project page at SourceForge and get the executable. Key points: set the right COM port value (keep the colon, :) and under Connection check "Serial" on.

But just for the sake of completion, there is another option: the shareware gpssimul which doesn't include support for COM ports above 4.

By default, gpsfeed+ will start to walk around circles, by outputting corresponding NMEA sentences for that kind of a path. (Reminds you of those labirints monks use to meditate.)

Blue Soleil

By default, BlueSoleil (an interface installed with the BlueTake converter) starts both serial port services on the PC. You can use ports COM8 or 9 so, go back to the Serial settings on
gpsfeed+ and change COM1 to COM8. Now don't be a snob and stay on the easy menu or view of the Blue Soleil interface.

It shows a cool sun at the center if nothing is happening. So, to begin the party go the the Nokia and select Connect. Pick Bluetooth and shift to the tab at right. That shows the partnerships your device have established.

There is a passcode value exchanged between the devices that are trying to establish a secure partnership. Provide the same value in both ends.

Also keep an eye on Tools | Configurations | Quick Connect... to see or start making things happen.

Partners

Back to the Blue Soleil easy view you can now see either a MAC ID or the device name circling your PC Sun. [One interesting side effect of BlueSoleil is that you will get key communication states between the PC and any other Bluetook device as tooltips at the bottom of the XP screen.]

So, flashbacking a bit: GPS simulator outputs through COM8; Serial COM service on BlueSoleil on port COM8 already started. Now you need something in the phone trying to use a GPS Receiver.

MapViewGPS2

I won't be able to explore everything you get with this free package, let's just say that it is a lot. MapViewGPS2 also has a bigger brother, so this looks like really good stuff on a first impression basis.

Maps can be used in both versions. A utility that converts basic image formats into OziExplorer map format can be used to generate compatible map data. Calibration is another story. Check the pretty international message board and FAQ to a link to an FTP site with pre-calibrated maps. Here are some screenshots of an older version of the old brother.

You will also need to copy the maps to a subdirectory under the application folder. I found FExplorer to be a great File Manager for the Symbian 60 series, but today I couldn't get to their site.

[And if you have been wondering about the screenshots ScreenSnap is a freeware available at SmartphoneWare.com that does the job quite well. Infrared does the rest of the transferring.]

Back to MapViewGPS2 and its big brother, you got basic modes of operation where you either browse on a little world map or actually see GPS data. Before having this setup, I was able to move the location pointer around the little world map and see San Francisco showing up at the status bar as its current location. [BTW, the image above is from GeoViewX, but that package won't let you connect to a GPS in trial mode].

In the GPS view you have four screens to scroll around. Under Layout you can change the amount of info provided. Highly recommended. But for the scope of this post, the sole objective here is to start talking to the GPS simulator running on the PC on the serial COM8 port.

Changing to the GPS mode, select GPS and Connect.

Back to the Solar System

Now I can see a little arrow flowing from the Sun to the little icon of a cell phone with Nokia under it. Or the device name you picked for yours. I could also see several start/stop connections between the server and the client let's say.

Then magic happen. The phone started showing up the movement in the circle. It's GPS data, a compass moving around in sync, speeds that didn't make much sense but it was really cool.

I couldn't quite get a fix with the data sent by gpsfeed+ and the range from the Bluetooth signal was surprisingly large, so make use of good passcodes if you are concerned about intruders.

And finally here are some pointers of other GPS packages available, including SmartComGPS, MapViewGPS' big brother.

All of this a week and a half later. But it was a cool trip.

Welcome back.

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