Using the GPS (Global Positioning System) on Your HP Palmtop

By Makoto Niwa

The "Global Positioning System" (GPS) uses information from the U.S.'s 24 orbiting Global Positioning satellites to enable a marine, aviation, or other user's receiver to calculate position, altitude, and velocity, anywhere in the world.

The photo below shows a PC Card Navigation Kit PACY-CNV10 from SONY. It consists of the GPS Unit IPS-5100G, a PCMCIA Serial I/O PC Card, a connection cable, and Map Software "ATLAS RD for Windows 95" from Alps Mapping Co., Ltd.

This kit is primarily for a Notebook PC running Windows 95. As such, the software cannot run on the 100/200LX as it is. However, the palmtop can use the hardware of this kit (GPS unit, PC Card and the cable) and several maps extracted from the Map Software to give you position.

Other GPS units with PC Cards, such as NavCardLP from Rockwell, have been available on the market for some time. Unfortunately, these draw too much power from their host and cannot be used on the Palmtop PC. The GPS unit IPS-5100G from Sony draws less power and can work with the limited power supplied by the 100/200LX.

To use the GPS unit you insert its PC card interface into your palmtop and connect it to the GPS unit. You can enable the card with CIC100 (a built-in card enabler software found in D:\BIN on the 100/200LX) in the same manner as for a modem card. The GPS unit is recognized as COM2 port and ready to use.

Once per second, GPS data is sent to the communication port as plain ASCII text. Start DataComm on your System Manager, press (MENU) Connect Settings and make sure you're configured properly by activating COM2 as the Interface port. Then you can easily acquire the latitude and longitude of your current position.

Latitude and longitude are just numbers. It's much better to display your position on a map. To do this, use CMAP (by NetSurfer), a software program that overlays and displays GPS data on a map in monochrome PCX format. CMAP can display multiple maps defined in its configuration file and therefore is good for the navigation in a wide area.

 CMAP running on the HP 200LX.

You can create the maps in PCX format with ATLAS RD for Windows 95, a software program bundled with the kit. To do this you need to:

1. Run ATLAS RD on your Win95 PC and display the map you want to use.

2. Select the necessary area in the map and copy it to the Win95 clipboard. (Clipboard now contains bitmap data of the map and a text data locating the upper-left and lower-right corners of the map in the latitude and longitude.)

3. Paste the bitmap data into a graphics program, such as Photoshop, adjust the contrast and aspect ratio, reduce the colors to monochrome and save it in monochrome PCX format.

4 Copy the latitude and longitude data from the selected map to the configuration file of CMAP.

5. Run CMAP.

Your current location is shown by a cross-form cursor on the map (see graphic above). The latitude, longitude, speed, distance above sea level, and the time are also displayed on the screen. This information can be recorded in a log file for later playback. You can also trace your movement on the screen.

This navigation kit, CMAP and the HP Palmtop have the potential of greatly expanding the field of GPS navigation. If you are traveling by boat or car, you can use a notebook PC with this kit. If you are out for mountain climbing or hiking, you can use CMAP and the 100/200LX.

[Note: CMAP is still in beta version. Current version supports the display in Japan and its vicinity (Korea, China and others). The author of this article has requested that CMAP's developer modify it for other areas of the world, but it has not materialized yet. The bundled software "ATLAS RD for Windows 95" is only for Tokyo and surrounding Kanto area in Japan. If you want to use it in other areas in Osaka or in Beijin for example , you need to prepare the maps in PCX format. Scanning a normal map will do.]

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