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  • GPS for DUMMIES (ebook)

    GPS for DUMMIES (ebook)
    Introduction


    As you may have guessed from the title, this book is about GPS (the
    satellite-based Global Positioning System) and maps; digital maps
    to be exact.


    I remember back in 1989 when Magellan introduced the first handheld GPS
    receiver, the NAV 1000. (Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those
    “I used to walk 20 miles to school in the snow when I was your age,” stories.)
    The NAV 1000 was the size of a brick, and weighed a little less than two
    pounds. It was single channel receiver, could only track four satellites, and
    just supported latitude and longitude coordinates. It could save 100 waypoints
    and you could have a single route with up to 10 waypoints. It cost
    $2,500.

    Fast forward to the present. Now I can go down to my neighborhood sporting
    goods store and buy a GPS receiver smaller than a small cell phone. It weighs
    a couple of ounces, can track up to 12 satellites, and on a good day tells me
    exactly where I’m located to within about 10 feet; and in several different
    coordinate systems by the way. It supports 500 waypoints and 20 routes, with
    125 waypoints apiece. Best of all it costs around $100.

    Maps have followed the same evolutionary path. Paper maps have turned digital and now you can visit a Web site and print out a map with driving directions to just about anywhere for free. For under $100 you can buy mapping software that has a collection of CD-ROMs with detailed topographic maps that fully cover any state in the United States. Aerial photographs are readily available over the Internet, and stunning three-dimensional maps can be created with a few mouse clicks. Once the exclusive domain of professional cartographers and GIS (Geographic Information System) specialists, the average computer user can create and use digital maps with relative ease.
    There are a number of free and inexpensive programs that make desktop mapping a reality for the rest of us. So, does all this mean we’re entering the dawn of a new era where no matter where you are it’s going to be hard to get lost? Well, yes and no. Over the past several years, GPS receivers have become extremely popular and affordable. Lots of people who venture away from urban areas are carrying them. Cars come installed with GPS navigation systems for negotiating city streets and highways. Cell phones are even starting to show up with tiny GPS receivers embedded inside. And even if you don’t have a GPS receiver you can always go out on the Web and print a map of where you want to go.

    But, there are a few hitches in this perfect, always found world:
     GPS receivers tend to boast so many features it’s easy to get lost trying to figure them all out. Plus, most GPS receiver owners typically only use a small subset of the available features (and sometimes don’t even know how to use these features well enough to avoid getting lost).
     GPS receivers have capabilities and limitations that many owners (or potential owners) really don’t understand. This leads to frustration or not being able to use the devices to their full potential.
     While many people have a general knowledge of how to read a map, at least the simple road variety, most don’t know how to really maximize using a map.
     And finally, the average computer user isn’t aware of the wealth of easyto-use, free or inexpensive mapping resources he or she could be using to stay found.

    The purpose of this book is to help you better understand and use GPS receivers and open your eyes to the world of digital mapping. And hopefully put you on the path of always staying found or finding what you’re looking for.

    Who This Book Is For
    If you’re browsing through this book at your favorite bookstore right now, and are wondering whether this book is for you, ask yourself these questions:
     Are you considering purchasing a GPS receiver?
     Have you recently purchased a GPS receiver?
     Have you owned a GPS receiver for a while, but want to get more out of it?
     Are you interested in using digital maps for your profession or hobby?
    If you answered yes to any of these questions, then stop reading and immediately proceed to the cash register, because this book will make your life easier (if you’re still not convinced, feel free to continue flipping through the pages to see what I mean).

    Getting a bit more specific, people in the following groups should find this
    book especially useful:
     Recreation – Hikers, hunters, fishers, mountain bikers, trail runners, cross country skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, ATV and 4 x 4 drivers, prospectors, pilots, paddlers, geocachers, and anyone else who ventures outdoors away from cities and streets (with or without a GPS receiver).
     Commercial – Land developers and real estate agents who are interested in the competitive advantage maps can bring them for planning or marketing purposes.
     Government – Emergency response agencies (search and rescue, fire, law enforcement, disaster relief) and urban planners who use maps as part of their planning and response activities.
     Environmental – Conservation agencies, organizations, consultants and scientists (biologists, botanists, and other ists) who use maps for resource management and research.
     Technology – Anyone who likes to play with cool technology.
    You may have noticed I didn’t mention people like surveyors or GIS professionals.
    If your job primarily focuses on GPS and/or maps, you’ll probably discover a few things in the following pages, but just remember that this book is for the average computer user and GPS receiver owner who doesn’t have your level of technical experience, proficiency, and skills. Please don’t expect to find the nuts and bolts and details of using GIS software or precision surveying electronics.

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