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Introduction

Hi all

Just an introduction as I have just joined these groups. I am a semi-retired engineer who has been using GPS and digital mapping since 2001 and with a background in metrology and electronics. I do not know if it is just me but there no longer seems to be the number of sites and people involved with this subject nor manufacturers of equipment and systems.
I am still using an HP Ipaq travel companion running Memory Map software for walking which is well over fifteen years old, it uses the Sirf 3 GPS engine and a helical antenna which gives good performance, much better than an android phone. I have looked at replacing it on several occasions but now with only Android devices this is causing problems. The one thing really good about the Ipaq is that it uses a resistive screen which allows the use of a stylus, more precise than a capacitive screen now found on most devices but the downside is that it is not as large or such good resolution as newer screens. I have brought a Ruggex Rhino 2 phone to evaluate, but inbuilt GPS is only just acceptable using A-Assist so no good for hiking. Have been working on a proper GNSS receiver using a Ublox NEO 7P and Bluetooth which gives very good results but then the bigger issue becomes the Android device. The software needs to receive NMEA data directly from the Bluetooth port and not use the location service which is switched off to save power, aeroplane mode & no SIM. This limits the software available, so far only Memory map and Locust maps has this ability, and I find it amazing that OS maps cannot, this is a product from the Ordnance survey that provides detailed and accurate mapping solutions but cannot use accurate GPS data from an external GNSS receiver.

Comments

  • Boyd 2035 Points
    edited February 3
    I have a Garmin GLO bluetooth GPS that I use with iOS and Android with no problems. On Android, you just need this little free program

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=googoo.android.btgps&hl=en_US&gl=US

    It's very clever... you go into the developer settings on the phone and turn on mock gps, which just reads a dummy position from a system file. Then the bluetooth GPS app communicates with the receiver and constantly updates that system file. So it is completely transparent and works with every app. It handles 10 position updates/sec from my GLO.

    Anyway, the program doesn't need to communicate directly with the bluetooth device, from its standpoint it is using the internal gps. But I don't completely understand your needs, are you saying that the app directly reading NMEA is. required?

    Have you looked at Oruxmaps? It is free and pretty feature-rich. It may be able to directly connect to the GPS, not sure.
  • spectric 2 Points
    Hi

    I will say that Android is new to me, I was brought up with DOS and then Windows, loved NT4, XP proved to be ok but not liking W10. I come from a software/electronics background but find Android & W10 both want to be the master and not the slave, they should always do what you want and not what they think you want!

    At my age I do not want to learn Android or how it ticks in detail but still into GNSS solutions, cartography and now woodworking to provide a relaxation from everything else. I will say one that the cost of digital mapping has fallen drastically over the last ten years, when I first used Memory map and you brought areas they were over two hundred pounds just for the Lake district, and you would not have wanted to buy the whole Uk which is now only a few hundred.

    The one important factor in my current project is battery life, the system needs to be power efficient and the GNSS module is fine, with a 6700 m/ah battery I can get a good eighteen hours which could be increased by using a larger capacity battery. The smartphone can be a problem, only got a 3100 m/ah battery but it can be swapped out and with no sim, internal GPS and location services off it makes a big difference to battery life and Memory map works fine but I don't like it's interface, the Windows mobile was much better. Looking at your reply is interesting, sounds like a middle man who continously accepts data and just passes it on to the program which is fooled into thinking it is coming from the internal GPS but is not. I am currently looking at OS maps which can only use a devices internal GPS, but this would circumnavigate this issue. Thanks for the info.
  • Boyd 2035 Points
    edited February 5
    Regarding battery capacity, I am writing my own GPS web app for phones. I have two iPhones but wanted to also test it on Android, so I bought two inexpensive rugged smartphones. One is a Ulefone Armor X7 that has a 4000 mAh battery.

    https://www.ulefone.com/armor-x7-pro.html

    image


    The other is a Oukitel WP5 with a huge 8000 mAh battery

    https://oukitel.com/pages/oukitel-wp5

    image


    These are very inexpensive (compared to a dedicated GPS from Garmin). They are available here in the US on Amazon in the $100 to $140 price range, depending on the amount of internal storage. They have microSD card slots that can be used if you need more space.

    My reason for getting these was just software testing, have not done any in-depth field testing yet. I don't have a SIM in either and they work fine that way. Of the two, I really like the 5" Ulefone for the size and feel - it fits very comfortably in my hand. The Oukitel is also nice and has a larger screen (5.5"), but it's much heavier because of the big battery and a bit less comfortable in the hand. It is still not as bulky as my Garmin Montana 600, which only has a 4" screen.

    The cool thing about these rugged phones is that they have a very nice, solid feel and are more compact than putting a regular phone in a case. They also have waterproof and drop ratings that are better than Garmin's dedicated devices, you can even use the camera to take underwater pictures!

    Now, these phones have 720p screens but they don't do so well in bright sunlight. Dedicated GPS units have transreflective screens that work well in full sun without a backlight, which also helps them achieve good battery life. You can get more expensive phones with better screens, but I'm very impressed by these cheap ones, considering the price. For use in bright conditions, you need to hold them so the screen gets some shade.

    Just looked at the specs for your Ruggex Rhino Two, I have not seen that one before and not sure if it is even available here in the US. Looks very nice, but rather expensive, I'd guess it has a brighter screen than the cheap phones I've been playing with.

    https://www.ruggex.com/rhino-two/

    @Chris_Sav started a thread about using a phone as a GPS awhile ago. Would be interesting to hear his thoughts on all this.

    http://forums.gpsreview.net/discussion/31237/rugged-smartphone-v-premium-gps/p1
  • Chris_Sav 132 Points
    Yes I'm still here thanks!

    I've been out of things for two years now. Start of 2019 my hip started deteriorating badly and I could barely get on a bike let alone ride any distance or even stand on the pegs. Hip was eventually done in September 2019, one of the worst cases the surgeon said he had seen. Unfortunately six months later just when I got the all clear to try gentle riding, the 'Beast from the East' arrived, so with circulation problems, I have been a house hermit for almost a year.

    I am still a lurker on the subject but no more than that. I am probably slightly unusual in that as a retired IT professional I am prepared to pay top dollar for a specialist GPS device.

    The future of supply is in smartphones however, but the GPS accuracy and mapping/sofware and lackof screen brightness (even oled) make them, at best in my view, a 'jack of all trades' device and thus master of none. My need is also peculair in that I ride lead for my group on an 85 year old bike so battery life is a major concern as no reliable hard wiring to Joe Lucas electrics and power packs expose vulnerable USB ports.

    On the other hand the latest dedicated premium GPS offerings all appear to me to have a major deficiencey. 276CX runs like a slug, Montana 700 series brightness appears deficient from many comments. XT cannot battery swap etc.

    Thus my pension remains in my wallet at present and the Montana 650T on the bars, should I be able to start riding, but the screen size is increasingly limiting for my eyes.

  • Boyd 2035 Points
    Thanks for the update Chris! Reading that old thread reminded me of your health issues, so sorry to hear that recovery is taking so long. I'm very fortunate to have my health, but have been voluntarily isolating myself since last March, only making trips to the grocery store every three weeks. I have a great place with my own beautiful woods, bordered by thousands of acres of public land. And isolation has allowed me to focus on writing computer code, which has been very productive.

    A GPS on a bike is certainly one of the most demanding uses since the screen is exposed to the full brightness of the sky. Use inside a car is much more forgiving, and handheld use allows you to tilt it to get some shade.

    But the creative act of making maps and writing software is where my focus has shifted, which I find much more satisfying than buying expensive Garmin devices in a search for the ultimate GPS. :) Take care, and I hope you get back on the road soon!

  • spectric 2 Points
    a 'jack of all trades' device and thus master of none. I think this about sums it up, plus Android seems to go out of it's way to stress you right out. My back end, the GNSS receiver works great, picking up GPS, Galileo, Bedoui and Glonass satelites on L1 and L2C bands with SBAS provided by EGNOS 136. I am trying that mock GPS provider which will open up the market for a front end as I can now trial OS maps which looks like a usable interface. Yes the Ruggex phones have a good specification, shame they do not use resistive screens so I can use a stylus, not easy in freezing weather with the wind howling trying to use a cold finger on the screen and a Windows OS. So far having experienced Android I am able to forgive Microsoft for Windows ME! I have never got into Garmin devices, hence why I am still using an ancient HP Ipaq.
  • spectric 2 Points
    Hi

    Just realised Memory map UK is no more, hence why they no longer distribute anything apart from downloads from their New York offices. Looks like they could be on there way out. The mock gps is no good with OS maps because their program only uses the location services and not bluetooth so the best accuracy I could achieve was around 300 feet, my GNSS gives me round 3ft. Locus maps seems to be Android devices only so not going there and so the search continues. May have to look at Windows rugged devices.
    The biggest issue is still Android, with Windows it has a straightforward file structure with file extensions associated with a program, Android cannot associate a map with the program but can be got to work when linked to Memory maps server.
  • Boyd 2035 Points
    spectric said:

    The mock gps is no good with OS maps because their program only uses the location services and not bluetooth so the best accuracy I could achieve was around 300 feet

    Something is wrong there. The app has no way to know whether the data is coming from Bluetooth or the internal GPS. That's the whole point of the Bluetooth GPS app I linked to above. I used this in the past on an old Android tablet with a number of different apps and it gave highly accurate results.

    Just installed it on my new rugged phone under Android 10, there was a message saying it was old and might not work, but it is fine. You then have to enable developer mode on the phone (google it for your phone) and enable mock locations. Then pair your GPS with the phone, start the Bluetooth GPS app and select your bluetooth device. After that, every app will access the bluetooth data although it thinks it's just reading the internal GPS.

    It works perfectly on my phone in OruxMaps. It shows my position right next to my house, within about 3 meters of where I'm sitting by the window. Not bad, considering the GPS receiver is inside the house. :)

    Some versions of Android might have a feature where it doesn't use your exact location unless you enable something in the privacy settings. My iPhone has a setting like that, but my Android phones do not.
  • Boyd 2035 Points
    image
  • Boyd 2035 Points
    spectric said:

    Locus maps seems to be Android devices only so not going there and so the search continues.

    I'm confused by what you want here. Why would you care if it is Android only? Do you have some requirement to use the same app on the computer and phone? As long as they recognize the same formats, not sure why it would matter.

    However, if that's a requirment, have a look at TwoNav (for Android, iOS and Windows) and its more expensive big brother, CompeGPS Land, which has a lot of advanced features. The same company also makes dedicated GPS devices that look nice, but they have no US dealers.

    https://www.twonav.com/en/software/app

    https://www.twonav.com/en/software/land

    Cartograph also has an app that runs on Windows, Macs, iOS and Android

    https://www.cartograph.eu

    And there's always OziExplorer, which is one of the oldest mapping apps. They have a Windows, Android and Windows CE version

    https://www.oziexplorer4.com/w/

    https://www.oziexplorer4.com/android/oziexplorer_android.html

  • spectric 2 Points
    Hi Boyd

    Thanks very much for the help, one of my biggest problems is that I am probably now classed as a dinosaur in that I still prefer keyboards and a mouse rather than touch screen like Android devices and my current mobile device has given such solid service that it has earned my trust.

    I have always had the same program on both the Pc and mobile device probably because it allowed them to share the maps which used to be extremely expensive, but I suppose this is no longer a real issue because as you say as long as the two devices can share the output data in the same format then no issues. I will look at all the programs you mention and revisit the Mock GPS device which has loaded and seems to work great.

    I will keep the post informed of progress as it may help others, not that it seems there are many left with an interest in the subject

  • Boyd 2035 Points
    edited February 8
    Yes, you have a bit of catching up to do. :) I've been there and done that, used lots of Windows GPS software, also Windows CE mobile devices. For awhile I used an HP Slate tablet that ran Windows 7 with a number of GPS programs. Frankly, it was terrible, had a netbook-class processor and a 1024x600 screen. And Windows 7 was a horrible experience on a touchscreen. Most of the GPS software that ran on Windows has been discontinued now.

    Things are really much better today, with inexpensive, powerful Android and iOS devices and too many apps to mention. What you may not realize is that Android is just Linux "under the hood". So there is actually a command line interface lurking there and everything you normally see on your phone is a just a program that runs under that operating system. Same thing with the iPhone, it is built on BSD unix.

    I was using BSD unix on a VT-220 terminal connected to a DEC VAX 11/750 with a 1200 baud modem back in 1985! Took my first computer course in 1967, we were keypunching our ALGOL programs on IBM cards and giving them to guys in white coats in the Computer Center to feed the a Burroughs B-55 mainframe. My first computer was an Apple ][ in 1978.

    The nostalgia is fun, but I am quite happy with the state of computing today and have no desire to return to those days. :)
  • spectric 2 Points
    Hi

    To solve a problem you need to find the cause, at the moment with Memory map loading maps to Android is just not happening. Now I have some older MM maps with a qct extension and they do seem to load ok but the newer map formats with a QC3 extension seem to be the issue. MM is saying the Android OS is what causes the issues but then other maping is working so I lay the problem with MM who are not to forthcoming with how their system actually works.
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