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Bluetooth GPS software - Nick [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Bluetooth GPS software [Jan. 14th, 2006|12:48 pm]
Since my bluetooth GPS talks NMEA, most software for GPSs will work with it. Since NMEA 0183 is so well defined and text based, you can almost just do "cat /dev/rfcomm8" and make sense of the data yourself :)

Personally, I was quite interested in what my GPS had to say. So, I've started writing a basic NMEA groker script. This takes in NMEA data (eg pipe the serial connection from the GPS into it), and it reports what it sees. I'm expecting this to be more a way to see what your GPS has to say, rather than a friendly fluffy display, but it could also be useful as a base for other programs, or to debug stuff.

Linux wise, I bind a rfcomm serial socket, and the gps is ready to talk. This means most NMEA software "just works", which is handy. There are two packages I like the look of, QGPS and np. QGPS is a fancy (but not complete) qt application for monitoring gps's. It shows location, what satellites your gps is seeing, that sort of thing. I find it works sometimes just fine, but others gives an xlib error, so it's not quite there. The other is np, which is command line (and also cgi) based. It looks like it'll show loads of info, but I can't quite get it to like the data from my gps. Hopefully that'll get fixed soon though.

The other nifty thing about having a bluetooth gps is doing stuff on my phone with it. There are quite a few (expensive) mapping packages, that will show your location on the map based on your GPS location. They do tend to require very large memory cards (to hold mapping data), and cost >100 quid, so I haven't gone for any of these.

There are quite a few programs though that capture GPS logs, show GPS info etc. So far, I've played with GETrack and GPSDisp. GPSDisp shows you your location, speed and heading (if moving) and altitude. It doesn't show satellite coverage, but it's nice and cheap, and shows you the core details in a good way. GETrack logs your position at configurable intervals (5,10,20,30,60,300 seconds) to a file on your phone. It then allows you to send it to your computer in a variety of formats, so you can upload it to OpenStreetmap, view it in google earth etc.

Another good thing about GETrack is it has a really great author. I've been having problems getting the tracks off my phone, so I emailed him about it. I got a reply 30 minutes later, and I've had probably 5-6 emails in the last 24 hours, not to mention a new version of the software! You can't really beat that for support, and he's interested in ideas for new versions, so it's definitely one to get.

Update: After lots of help from Bjoern, a fairly obscure bug was tracked down in GETrack, and I can now get the track files off my phone :)