Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Apple > Operating Systems

  • Print
  • + Share This
Like this article? We recommend

Some Software To Get You Started

Sadly, a hardware connection isn't enough to make things work. You still need software. Software is what gets the two devices—your GPS and your Mac—talking to each other.

I experimented with a number of shareware and freeware GPS software products and found three that do what I need to do. Here's a quick look at each of them.

MacGPSBabel

MacGPSBabel is a freeware program written by Robert Lipe and available at SourceForge.net, a programmers' cooperative. MacGPSBabel, which supports Garmin and Magellan GPSes, reads, writes, and manipulates GPS waypoints in a wide variety of formats. I think of it as my "Swiss Army Knife" for GPS/Mac communications. I use it for transferring raw data between my GPS and Macintosh or for converting GPS data from one format to another.

Launching MacGPSBabel displays its main window, which offers several basic but powerful options, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2 MacGPSBabel's main window, all set up to download tracks from my GPS.

From this point, follow these steps:

  1. Start by choosing an option from the Operating Mode menu: Waypoints, Tracks, or Routes. Then tell the software what the input (source) data is and what the output (destination) data is.

    For example, suppose you want to download saved GPS tracks from your GPS to your Mac. Choose Tracks from the Operating Mode pop-up menu. Turn on the "Use GPS receiver for input" option. Then choose a file format from the bottom pop-up menu. (You can see all these features in Figure 2.)

  2. Click Download. In the Select GPS dialog box (see Figure 3), use the pop-up menus to select your GPS and specify the port to which the GPS is connected. Then click Continue.
  3. Use the resulting Save Output As dialog box (see Figure 4) to enter a name and choose a location on disk to save the file; then click Save.
    Figure 3

    Figure 3 Use this dialog box to tell MacGPSBabel about your GPS and your connection.

    Figure 4

    Figure 4 Use a standard Save dialog box to enter a name and location for the GPS data.

  4. Now wait while MacGPSBabel connects to the GPS and downloads the data. A spinning cursor appears in its main window while it works; you'll know it's done when a dialog box tells you so. Click OK.

Here's another example. Suppose you just downloaded a list of geocache waypoints from Geocaching.com, which uses a .loc format. To put those waypoints on your GPS, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Waypoints from the Operating Mode menu.
  2. Choose Geocaching.com .loc from the middle pop-up menu.
  3. Click the Select a File button and use the resulting Choose a File dialog box to locate, select, and choose the .loc file you want to import.
  4. Turn on the "Use GPS receiver for output" option. Click Upload.
    Figure 5

    Figure 5 You can also upload data from a file on disk to your GPS.

  5. The Select GPS dialog box (refer to Figure 3) appears. Choose your GPS model and connection port from the pop-up menus, and click Continue. Then wait while MacGPSBabel does its thing. Couldn't be much easier than that, huh?

These are just two examples of how you can use MacGPSBabel. The more you work with your GPS and GPS data files, the more work you'll find for this great program.

And remember one thing: Just because this software is free, it doesn't mean that the author or SourceForge.net wouldn't appreciate a donation from satisfied users. If you like this software, prove it by sending a few bucks their way. You can learn how when you download the software.

GPS Connect

Chimoosoft's GPS Connect is a freeware program that enables you to connect to a Garmin GPS to display its real-time data on your Macintosh. You might find this feature helpful when working with a laptop. But the feature I like best is the ability to open and edit waypoint data files (on disk or downloaded from the GPS) and upload changed data to your GPS.

Launching GPS Connect displays a disclaimer telling you that the software is in beta. (I use version 0.2 with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.) Click the Close button to dismiss the window. Then, in the GPS Connect main window, choose the appropriate port and protocol from the pop-up menus and click Connect. GPS Connect connects to your GPS and displays some information from it, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6

Figure 6 GPS Connect's main window after connecting with a Garmin GPS.

To enable real-time tracking, choose GPS Action > Enable PVT Mode. If your GPS has a signal, it displays location data in the window. This information changes automatically as your GPS moves.

To download waypoints from your GPS, click the Download Waypoints button. In a flash, the waypoints are downloaded and appear in a window like the one in Figure 7. What's cool about this list is that you can double-click any entry in it to change its contents. You can also use menu commands to add more waypoints, upload a selected waypoint to your GPS, or save the list to disk for other uses.

Figure 7

Figure 7 A downloaded waypoint list. This one includes all the Geocaching.com waypoints I uploaded with MacGPSBabel in Figure 5.

Terrabrowser

I saved the best for last. Terrabrowser is a Chimoosoft shareware program that not only downloads data from your GPS, but displays it on aerial photographs or maps. All you need is an Internet connection.

The first time you launch Terrabrowser, it displays a warning. Read it and click OK. Next, you'll see a typical shareware nag screen. Wait until 10 seconds have ticked away and click Okay. (If you continue to use Terrabrowser, I think you'll find it well worth the $15 shareware fee, so pay up and enter your registration code.) Finally, you'll see a blank Terrabrowser browser window.

To set up communication between your computer and GPS, choose the correct serial port from the Serial Port submenu under the GPS menu (see Figure 8). Then, if necessary, choose the correct Garmin from the Protocol submenu under the GPS.

Figure 8

Figure 8 Use the Serial Port submenu to choose the correct connection.

Although Terrabrowser should support live tracking, the version I was using (1.5b3) was unable to do so with my Garmin GPSMAP 60C. That's okay, though. I use Terrabrowser for its ability to visually display GPS track logs or waypoints.

For example, suppose you have a specific waypoint saved on your GPS, and you want to see it on a satellite photo. Choose GPS > Connect to connect your GPS. Then choose GPS > Download Waypoints to download all waypoints on your GPS to Terrabrowser. They'll appear in a window like the one in Figure 9.

Figure 9

Figure 9 Downloaded waypoints appear in a window like this one.

Select the waypoint you want to see in a photo and click the Play button in the window's toolbar. (It looks like a blue triangle.) Switch to the browser window. If necessary, choose Photo from the pop-up menu and set the slider to choose a magnification. When the image is finished loading, it will indicate the waypoint in a photo (see Figure 10).

Figure 10

Figure 10 Here's my house (still under construction when this photo was taken in 1997) from a satellite. When I say I live at the edge of nowhere, I'm not kidding!

You can have a lot of fun playing with this feature. Use the slider to change magnification. Use the pop-up menu to change the type of image. Figure 11 shows another example.

Figure 11

Figure 11 Here's my house on a topographical map.

Of course, you can also just enter coordinates in the browser window and click the Play button to view them. Or open a GPX format file that you downloaded with MacGPSBabel or GPS Connect and display waypoints from that. Or do my favorite thing: Download and display an entire track. Figure 12 shows part of a long road trip I made this past summer (when I was supposed to be writing this article).

Figure 12

Figure 12 Terrabrowser can also show tracks on maps or satellite photos.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020