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Yes! You Can Use Your GPS with Your Mac!

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Helicopter pilot and wanderer Maria Langer avoids getting lost by employing a very modern technology: GPS navigation. But for a while she was stuck using it with her Windows PC. Learn how she works navigational magic these days, with some readily available freeware and shareware that take advantage of GPS capabilities, but on the Mac.
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One of the drawbacks of being among the Mac faithful—the only drawback, as far as I'm concerned—is the apparent lack of limited-interest software available for Mac users. If you've been using a Mac for more than a short time, you know what I'm talking about. It appears that most profit-motivated software developers would rather produce software for the bigger share of the market—the Windows PC users—than for Mac users. The result: They get software that we don't.

I've been using a global positioning satellite (GPS) navigation for at least eight years now and, until recently, I've had to depend on my lone PC to communicate with my GPS. That means I had to start it up, fiddle around with COMM port cables, and run Windows software (yuck!) to exchange waypoints and track logs and routes between the two devices. I wasn't very happy about that. After all, we all know how I feel about Windows PCs.

One day, I snapped. It wasn't fair, I told myself. There has to be some Mac-compatible software that will work with my GPS. So I went surfing and came away with some great information and a few good pieces of software. Here's what I learned.

A Little About GPSes

Before I tell you about connecting your GPS with a Mac, let me take a moment to tell you a little bit about GPSes. I'll preface this discussion by admitting that I'm no expert. I only know through my experience with the models I've owned and pre-purchase research I've conducted.

I have two GPSes. My Garmin GPS Map 12 is an ancient thing (at least five years old) with a black-and-white screen and only 1MB of memory for storing maps. It works great, but I decided I wanted something a little better when I got into geocaching. So I picked up a Garmin GPSMAP 60C. This little baby has a color monitor and can hold more than 55MB of map information. It's also WAAS-capable, so under the right conditions it can be very precise.

Magellan and Lowrance are two other GPS makers. Although I've never owned units made by either company, they're highly regarded, quality units with plenty of features. And, like most Garmin units, most Magellan or Lowrance units are capable of exchanging information with a computer.

If you haven't purchased a GPS yet, consider computer connectivity when researching options. Although I've never seen a GPS datasheet admit connectivity to Macintosh computers, if it connects to a Windows PC, you may get good results when following the instructions in this article to connect to a Mac.

Oh, and if you know next to nothing about GPSes, take a break right now and point your web browser at the HowStuffWorks page on GPS receivers to learn the basics (and more) about how GPSes work.

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