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Virtual GPS?

April 26th, 2008

Ok, so it’s fun to make your own booze and all, but Jenn’s parents are reading, so let’s change the subject for a day or two.

Today, in the midst of working on a half dozen things and finishing none of them, I managed to temporarily frag our Cradlepoint (the EVDO/wifi access point). Now, there was nothing wrong with the device that clearing my browser cache wouldn’t fix, but it took a call to tech support to have the obvious pointed out to me. Cradlepoint has an excellent support team by the way.

Anyhow, in the course of troubleshooting, one of the steps I took was to upgrade to the latest firmware (2.1.0). I was happily surprised to find that our little $100 router has at least one new feature added. It now supports the GPS functions of the newer EVDO cards! Luckily, I spent a couple of extra dollars for the Novatel U727 (with a shiny GPS) back when I still had a real job.

Rather than rehash my thoughts on these devices and their usefulness and occasional lack thereof, I’ll let you read about it here if you are so inclined.

Here’s a run down of the snazzy new features. There is a GPS Tools page in the administrative interface. On this page you can see your current longitude and latitude. Additionally, you can set the page to open a new browser window and keep your current coordinates updated in google maps, yahoo maps or mapquest. Finally, you can turn on a network port that will spit out NMEA format GPS coordinates.

This last bit interested me. We keep a gps dongle in the truck, but it can be a hassle to use it at times. With a bit of looking around, and fearing I’d have to write the code myself, I found com0com and com2tcp. Between the two of them, I was able to create a tcp connection that could masquerade as a com port for all intents and porpoises. After banging my head against DOS’s crackheaded batch files, I finally got a batch file that sets up the com2tcp connection and launches Streets and Trips. I don’t have to bother plugging in a GPS receiver… or look for one for that matter. As an added bonus, Jenn can use the same GPS with her laptop at the same time!

One caveat to this setup if you try it at home: use a com port that is below COM20. Streets and trips had issues with this while Netstumbler did not.

Oh, and one bonus that showed up in the previous firmware update. The ethernet port on the Cradlepoint CTR-350 can now be switched between WAN and LAN. There’s no more mucking around with WDS to get our NAS online. Simply switch the port to LAN and plug directly into it. Transfers are wifi speed, but most of the time it’s preferable to digging out the switch, plugging it in and dragging a laptop over to physically plug in for ethernet speeds.

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One Response to “Virtual GPS?”

  1. johnny says:

    Update:
    NMEA 1.0 is apparently kinda crufty. Streets and Trips wants 2.0 and is pretty hit or miss with NMEA 1.0.

    Hopefully a firmware update in the future will upgrade the NMEA format used. In the meantime, it’s more toy than useful tool I’m afraid.

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