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Using a Mouse-type GPS

One of the least expensive ways to start navigating with GPS is to add a mouse GPS receiver to a portable computer. Here is my experience with:

Rayming TripNav TN-200

DeLorme Earthmate GPS


Rayming TripNav TN-200

“It works.”

That’s what you want from a mouse-type GPS receiver, and that’s what you get with the TN-200 from Rayming.

For years I’d been using my handheld GPS receiver connected to my laptop computer running car navigation software. It’s still a good budget solution, but the problem is that either you run down batteries or you have extra cables tangling things up. The TN-200 is powered though the USB port connection, so there is only one cable coming from the receiver.

Finding a good place to put the TN-200 receiver was easy. In fact, the internal magnetic base was so strong, the receiver practically found its way to the dash by itself. I like to place the receiver on the roof of the car for long trips. During the my testing, the TN-200 never lost its grip on the roof, except once: When I opened the car door without retrieving the receiver though the window, I found that the cabling and strain relief were designed to take such punishment.

I liked having the LED status indicator on the receiver. The USB connection on my laptop sometimes gives me a problem, and it was good to be able to verify that the device was functioning properly. The indicator blinks when it’s locked-on to the satellite constellation and is steady illuminated when it is acquiring the signal. On one road trip to a hiking trail, I had my handheld GPS receiver with me also. I noticed that the TN-200 routinely acquired satellite lock faster than my Garmin 12XL.

Plugging-in and using the TN-200 receiver for the first time required some set-up on the computer. The TN-200 uses the USB connection to the computer as a “virtual comm port.” You have to install the driver that comes on the CD; it’s all explained in the instructions. Once you tell the driver which comm port you want to use for the TN-200, you’ll have to switch to that port in your GPS settings for your mapping/navigation software.

Overall the TN-200 from Rayming is a well-built device that does exactly what it is supposed to do. You can search the ‘net and find it for around a hundred bucks. For technical details visit:
http://www.rayming.com/products/tripnav_tn200.htm

DeLorme Earthmate

The new Earthmate GPS receiver with USB interface also works great and does what it is supposed to. The only functional difference I found between the Earthmate and the Rayming TripNav is that the Earthmate is designed for use inside the vehicle, where the more ruggedized Rayming TN-200 will better withstand extreme weather conditions. Typically, the Earthmate is placed on the dash, held there by a suction cup holding the USB cable to the wind shield (it's good that they showed how the suction cup works on the DeLorme web site or I may have never figured it out).

Contrary to confusion, the Earthmate *does* work with other mapping software programs, like Microsoft's Streets and Trips. Here's the thing: When you install the Earthmate software you must decide:

A) Will you use the Earthmate exclusively with DeLorme software?

- or -

B) Will you use the Earthmate with DeLorme and/or other mapping programs?

If you use the Earthmate exclusively DeLorme software you will load the USB drivers. If you will use Earthmate with other programs, like Streets and Trips, you will install the USB-to-Serial drivers.

One advantage of the Earthmate over the Rayming TN-200 is that the Earthmate has an optional power pack (miniature docking station) that comes with or without Bluetooth wireless capability. So you can use your Earthmate with your Palm, PocketPC, or Bluetooth device without having to purchase another GPS receiver.

For Earthmate GPS technical specifications visit:
http://www.delorme.com/earthmatelt20/default.asp

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I hope this helps!
Contact me if you have questions.

- Doug

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Read more about my experience with DeLorme Street Atlas Software in these articles:

DeLorem Street Atlas 2007 Car Navigation Software

DeLorm's Blue Logger Bluetooth wireless GPS receiver

Navigating by Voice

Navigating between the Ditches

GPS as a Tool for Real Estate Agents

 

 

 

 

 

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