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Monday, April 18, 2011

GPS - Navigating the roadways

Well, our GPS receiver, circa 2006 finally died on our way back from Arizona a couple months ago. I knew I had a problem when the GPS location showed me 20 to 30 miles behind where we were. Then last month on our trip to Abilene, the computer failed to find the GPS receiver. Since I have several hours and hundreds of dollars tied up in my navigation system, I figured that just purchasing another GPS receiver would be the easiest thing to do. So, a Google search for a GPS receiver that would work with Microsoft Streets and Trips (which I use the most) netted me this item at Amazon:
GPS Receiver: Microsoft Pharos GPS-500 III GPS Receiver

GPS Receiver: Microsoft Pharos GPS-500 III GPS Receiver

With shipping this unit cost less than $30. It is newer technology than what it replaced (also a Microsoft branded receiver), but probably not the newest technology in GPS receivers. (Enhanced sensitivity receiver with SiRFstarIII GSC3f chip set (Fast acquisition time)).
I had brought the computer out of the motorhome because of the GPS problem, and it needed to have some updates for both Windows XP Pro and the Antivirus program. After completing the updates, I started MS Streets and Trips, connected the GPS receiver, configured it and within less than a minute it indicated on the map exactly where we were. Pretty impressed as it was inside the house and away from the windows.

In the motorhome we have a Via EPIA Pico-ITX Computer. It has a 1GHz Processor and 1GB RAM. The official description by Via is:
"The VIA EPIA PX-Series Pico-ITX Mainboard is an ultra compact native x86 platform

optimized for today's demanding embedded and productivity applications. The mainboard is
based on the VIA VX700 advanced all-in-one system processor featuring an embedded
hardware MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and WMV9 video decoding accelerator. Its integrated VIA
UniChrome™ Pro II 2D/3D graphics provide rich digital media performance. With the
sizable memory bandwidth of DDR2 533MHz SDRAM DIMM and the high data transfer
speeds of ATA-133 and further enhanced by support of 8-Channel High Definition Audio
Codec for Smart 7.1 surround sound and SPDIF, the VIA EPIA PX-Series delivers the
increased performance levels required by today’s embedded digital media applications."

It runs full version Windows XP Pro, and it has both Microsoft Streets and Trips 2010 as well as DeLorme Street Atlas 2008 Plus. Plus we have the standard Internet Explorer 8 and Adobe loaded as well. A USB Wireless G adapter allows me to get updates when we are in a "hotspot" area, or I tether my wireless phone to it though a USB connection. A connection from the speaker output of the computer goes to the on-board stereo in the motorhome through an auxiliary input. This gives us the voice navigation for navigation software. The computer is powered by a 6-24V DC/DC power supply which is connected to the batteries in the motorhome.  The monitor is a 10 inch 12v DC unit that I found on eBay. The monitor was designed for POS (point of sale/cash register) usage and does well what we use it for.
With the computer measuring about 6"x6"x2" it is easy to locate. I used velcro to attach  it to the wall next to the drivers seat. All the cabling runs from the top of the dash and through the dashboard and to the computer. I use a wireless keyboard and mouse for the input. This is a very nice package.
I am looking at installing the Silverleaf electronic engine/transmission monitoring software and connecting that to the monitor via a USB connection to the computer. All in the planning stages for this part. The Silverleaf software is free, but the cable to connect to the motorhome diagnostic port is expensive.

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