Monday, January 12, 2009

Ah Modern Techology! Garmin Nuvi650 and Ham Radio

In September we got the Garmin Nuvi650 GPS. The manual referenced "Customized Points of Interest" (POI) files, but didn't elucidate on what that really meant. The Garmin webpage was a little sparse on this concept too. So I put it out of my mind for a while. This past weekend, I cranked up Google, to find out what these POI files were about.

I found a really nifty site, POI Factory that has a lot of user generated content. Basically, POI files allow you to develop a list of favorite locations keyed to their location. The file format is located here. For the Garmin you need to use their POI Loader to get the CSV file loaded on the Nuvi650. One sample file from the POI factory was the locations of Interstate rest stops (a vital concern).

I was very impressed with the extent of user provided content. I guess, a lot of people aren't very busy Friday nights! Looks like I am one of them. I was up till 1:30AM figuring this stuff out. Actually, this left me with a lot of positive feelings about the internet. Users developing content on their own time and making it freely available to the public.

Out of curiosity, I dug deeper to see if they had any amateur radio type files. It didn't take me long to find some files related to the location of ham radio repeaters. While driving out of your normal local area, a significant concern with ham radio is knowing the location of nearby repeaters and their operating frequencies. Sure, the ARRL sells a repeater directory, but its virtually impossible to use while driving. (The usual approach is to type out a list of repeaters along your route and to pre-program your car's radio before leaving.) The use of a POI file looked like a better solution. So I uploaded the repeater sites for North Carolina and I took a test drive. I was able to see the distance, direction, and operating frequencies of the nearby repeaters on the Nuvi650!! A GPS use that I had never thought of before. Makes driving and changing the car's radio's frequency a whole lot easier.


Pat said...

Thanks for this information Steve.

Now if I could only find a Garmin that works in Baja California....

Pat, KB6OXX/XE2, Tijuana

Steve R. said...

They don't work there? I assume that it is really a question of having a base map for Mexico. I would guess that you could still get the Latitude and Longitude from the Garmin, but then if you don't have a base map it would be "pointless".

Are there other providers that could provide a base map of Mexico that would be compatible with the Garmin?

What about APRS?
I forgot to mention APRS in my post. That would be a superior approach, but more complicated to implement. There is a possibility that data for Mexico could even be easier to get. But then I am out on a limb with that, since I don't really know.