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www.undertowsoftware.com • View topic - GPS Help

GPS Help

A discussion area for users of RTN2012, TLDCN2011, TLDCN2010, TLDC2009, TLDCN2008, TLDCN2007 & TLDCN2006

GPS Help

Postby paulct » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:43 am

I have a few older GPS devices, that I haven't used in a while, and I was wondering if I could use one of these with Trailer Life 2010 or if I need to buy a new one. I have an older Magellan GPS 4000 XL (I don't even know if it still works), a old yellow-puck Delorme (I can't see a model # anywhere) and one that came with MS Street and Trips about 4 years ago. Can any of these be used with Trailer Life? Do I need any special drivers? I guess I could just try them, but one can sink days into trying to get one of these contraptions to work, so I figure if someone has already tried, I could short-circuit the process.

If these don't sound like they may work, does anyone have any good recommendations for a cheap GPS?
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Re: GPS Help

Postby artmart » Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:51 pm

Sorry I can't help with specific answers but I can list some of the resolutions and operating attributes that I've run into recently.

A GPS with a USB cable will work much better than the older serial cable. The drivers are better and the speeds are generally much faster. The DeLorme and Microsoft devices had some proprietary drivers needed for them but they might not work with TLDCN per se. I can't recall the providers of the DeLorme or Microsoft devices but rest assured it was a GPS company - For example Pharos GPS provide the hardware for one of them.

If you are tech savvy, I have read that some have gotten devices to work with TLDCN even though TLDCN says they are supported. This doesn't mean they won't work, it just means to call them if there is a problem because they don't have the market or resources to help you from a business or technical standpoint.

If you do not have the hardware configurations recommended by TLDCN it might take some work understanding and researching what about this configuration is needed then knowing your products enough to get them to work. Another example, NMEA compliance. It will definitely require your thinking cap, and/or your wallet.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby Kevin_T » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:37 pm

paulct wrote:I have a few older GPS devices, that I haven't used in a while, and I was wondering if I could use one of these with Trailer Life 2010 or if I need to buy a new one. I have an older Magellan GPS 4000 XL (I don't even know if it still works), a old yellow-puck Delorme (I can't see a model # anywhere) and one that came with MS Street and Trips about 4 years ago. Can any of these be used with Trailer Life? Do I need any special drivers? I guess I could just try them, but one can sink days into trying to get one of these contraptions to work, so I figure if someone has already tried, I could short-circuit the process.

If these don't sound like they may work, does anyone have any good recommendations for a cheap GPS?

Ahhh, GPS. When they work right out of the box, they are fabulous. If you run into problems, they can be hell :-(

I have used a number of different devices with different versions of Trailer Life with varying degrees of success. First let me tell you that I am familiar with the Magellan 400 XL and you should donate it to the closest museum :-) Those devices were great in their day and they do provide valid NMEA sentences. But with only a serial port, you couldn't connect it to most laptops today, and if you were to add a serial-to-usb converter, you are adding another variable to the equation that may create more problems for you.

Now which GPS ? They all do pretty much the same thing. Unless you are going to use it as a standalone, all you need is a puck of some sort, no screen, etc. Your old Delorme will probably work (if it's a usb device) but you would need a device driver from Delorme to use it with programs other than theirs. I have trailer life with the LT20 that BT10 and a couple of other delormes very successfully. I have also used my Garmin Nuvi, even though Garmin tech support told me I could not use it as an antenna for a third party program :-) And I have also used it with a couple of no name Korean devices that were NMEA compliant.

The only tricky part for using any of these with Trailer Life is that you need to know your device and you need to *tell* Trailer Life all its characteristics (port, speed, etc.), the program doesn't get that information on its own.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby paulct » Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:25 am

I've spent over 10 hours trying to get this Microsoft one to work, to no avail. I've installed and re-installed drivers, I've changed COM ports, nothing :-( I don't have Streets and Trips installed any more, but I don't remember having this hard a time using the GPS with that program. Does anyone have any suggestions? Anything!
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Re: GPS Help

Postby artmart » Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:55 pm

I thought that the driver for that unit came with the version of the Streets and Trips program it was bundled with.

If I read your post correctly you are trying to use this without the S&T software and I don't think that's going to work. It is older and specific technology that might only be appropriate for a specific version of S&T, installed on the version of Microsoft OS to work correctly. Using anything newer does not guarantee functionality unless you can contact Microsoft and find out if this will work with anything different (newer). Installing and reinstalling drivers might not work if there is ANY difference in how the OS talks to a driver and this isn't always obvious.

Are you getting ANY "version concern" messages during installation. If you are, then this might be the reason. If the device is only the antenna, then S&T probably had the software that communicated with the antenna. Or maybe the device is broken.

If there's no way to recreate the environment where you did have it working, then it will be hard to say what about this new environment is the failing entity.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby bullaco » Tue Oct 19, 2010 2:48 pm

Though it's possible that the device was shipped with proprietary drivers, ONLY for S&T, that's not very likely. I've used the S&T product and at least for the versions I have used, the device driver is generic simply to provide a USB to serial conversion, so that S&T and other apps can grab to NEMA sentences. Now, I have to say, this has been my experience, but Microsoft may have changed their approach (not very likely), or this may be a different device that they bundling with their software. Since the OP said this is 3-4 years old, that's also unlikely.

*Paul C.T.* is there any writing on the device? Name, Model, anything else? Also, does it appear under "Ports" in control panel's devices? Any additional information there?

Like artmart said, it's also possible that the GPS is simply broken.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby paulct » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:10 pm

bullaco wrote:Though it's possible that the device was shipped with proprietary drivers, ONLY for S&T, that's not very likely. I've used the S&T product and at least for the versions I have used, the device driver is generic simply to provide a USB to serial conversion, so that S&T and other apps can grab to NEMA sentences. Now, I have to say, this has been my experience, but Microsoft may have changed their approach (not very likely), or this may be a different device that they bundling with their software. Since the OP said this is 3-4 years old, that's also unlikely.

*Paul C.T.* is there any writing on the device? Name, Model, anything else? Also, does it appear under "Ports" in control panel's devices? Any additional information there?

Like artmart said, it's also possible that the GPS is simply broken.

Well it says GPS 500 and SIRF III, if that's what you are looking for. I checked under Control Panel, System, Device Manager and I don't see the port. Which is weird because I have seen it there before. Now, I don't know why it's not there :-(
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Re: GPS Help

Postby bullaco » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:26 am

It sounds like the device(s) I have used in the past, actually same model and Sirf chip generation, but it's weird that it doesn't show up in control panel. And, you say you have used it before, right? But how could you have used it, if it's not present in your system config, that's the conundrum. Wait a minute, these are Prolific transient device drivers. Are you sure that the device was plugged in at the time? Because if it's not, then it wouldn't show up in the list.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby paulct » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:30 pm

bullaco wrote:It sounds like the device(s) I have used in the past, actually same model and Sirf chip generation, but it's weird that it doesn't show up in control panel. And, you say you have used it before, right? But how could you have used it, if it's not present in your system config, that's the conundrum. Wait a minute, these are Prolific transient device drivers. Are you sure that the device was plugged in at the time? Because if it's not, then it wouldn't show up in the list.

My bad :-( Indeed the unit was not connected. I connected it and it shows as COM6 in the control panel, System, Device Manager. But, the problem still exists. I started TL and when to the GPS setup. I set the port to COM6 and 9600, as expected, started tracking and got a timeout error after about a minute. I don't think the program is communicating.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby bullaco » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:06 pm

paulct wrote:
bullaco wrote:It sounds like the device(s) I have used in the past, actually same model and Sirf chip generation, but it's weird that it doesn't show up in control panel. And, you say you have used it before, right? But how could you have used it, if it's not present in your system config, that's the conundrum. Wait a minute, these are Prolific transient device drivers. Are you sure that the device was plugged in at the time? Because if it's not, then it wouldn't show up in the list.

My bad :-( Indeed the unit was not connected. I connected it and it shows as COM6 in the control panel, System, Device Manager. But, the problem still exists. I started TL and when to the GPS setup. I set the port to COM6 and 9600, as expected, started tracking and got a timeout error after about a minute. I don't think the program is communicating.

Ha, ha, ha,... it happens to all of us. You know,... "I can't get the printer to print anything..." Well, dud, you have to plug it into the AC outlet :-)

Now regarding your problem, I think I may know what the problem is. It's your baud rate. I thought that the docs for the device mentioned something about 4800, but I wan't sure, so I searched the Pharos support forum, and here is what I found.

"The iGPS-500 is NMEA-0183 (V3.1) standard compliant. If you are looking to use the GPS hardware with a third party application I would suggest for you to verify that the software is compatible with a Baud Rate of 4800 and NMEA-0183 compliant."

So, go the the GPS configuration for Trailer Life, and set the baud rate to 4800. See, if that makes a difference. Like others have said before, there is still a chance that the device is simply broken.

Let me know if you had any luck.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby artmart » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:33 pm

I hope the thing isn't broken. The good news is that devices that use the serial ports must have the exact baud rates or it won't work. They are not like wireless or ethernet connections that adjust up or down speeds to their maximums to make a connection. Serial devices on a PC can support up to 115K baud, but each device MUST have the same baud rate setting.

The 4800 baud find is significant. If you change the PC setting to 4800 baud and the Pharos GPS documentation states it communicates at 4800 baud, this should work. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
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Re: GPS Help

Postby paulct » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:16 am

I feel so stupid :-(

I plugged in the GPS, I checked Device Manager and confirmed it was on COM6, then I started TL, I set it to COM6 and 4800 baud and what do you know, it worked like a charm. Sorry to bother everyone here, had I read the documentation for the device, I would have known to set it to 4800. And, it helps if the GPS unit is plugged in, of course.

Does anyone know if 4800 is sort of the "standard" setting, or do different devices use different baud rates?
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Re: GPS Help

Postby artmart » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:13 pm

For most (RS232) serial devices there was no standard except that the hardware maker tried to "pick" the most common baud rate available at the time for the users of their devices. Years ago, GPS devices developed early on and have been around for such a long time I would not be surprised that they picked 4800 baud and stayed with it even though 9600 became popular, followed by 14,400 and 19,200. Finally it topped out at 115,000. It is very possible that different units will default to a certain speed, but it is typical that they can be set to other baud rates if whatever they are connecting too supports a higher speed. Many times the speed can be changed using dip (dual in-line package) switches. If you don't see a miniature block of multiple switches (dip) on the device (sometimes you have to take the cover off), then you probably can't change it. Of course, then you'd need to have the manual to know how to set the switches in the correct pattern for the desired baud rate. This was typical of a "passive" GPS that provided only the antenna function and used the serial port for communicating positional coordinates. It relied on tracking software to do the rest (like S&T or TLDCN).

As GPS units became more complex - antenna function AND tracking software - like what's found in hand held GPS devices that not only gave you the coordinates but also wanting to track, store and display more information (using memory cards). This is why newer GPS devices upgraded to higher speeds provided by USB. When USB was developed the speed then became negotiable between the two devices up to a certain speed. USB 1.0 went up to 12,000,000bps (12Mbps) and USB 2.0 increased this to 480,000,000 (480Mbps) or another 40 times increase. As you can see, this is why GPS units are preferring USB serial support because maps, stored information, routes and waypoints have much more information to transfer and doing this at 4800 baud is not practical.

Look at it this way, in this case by using a Forum to seek help there were a lot of things learned along the way. First and foremost, that S&T's GPS unit can be used with other tracking software (TLDCN) as antenna function. Second, a smart GPS used with TLDCN has been effectively turned into just an antenna (I do this on trips when I have my laptop and TLDCN along). Third, the history of Serial devices from RS-232 to USB. And last but not least, documentation is still for sissies. (just teasing about that last one - this has always irked the tech writers I knew)
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Re: GPS Help

Postby Kevin_T » Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:23 pm

I had actually read an article somewhere, where the com parameters on most of these units could be re-programmed through the USB port, but I just looked and couldn't locate the article. If I find it, I'll post the link here. It may be interesting for some users to increase the baud rate the GPS antennas use to communicate with their computer. Though, does it really matter? If I remember correctly, GPS signal is obtained at something like each 1/10 of a second, and each NMEA sentence contains a limited amount of information, so I am not sire that it would overwhelm a 4800 baud rate. But, it is an interesting exercise :-)
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