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DennyG

Computer -> G P S Route Download

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Can anyone identify currently available Garmin GPS units that support downloading routes (not just waypoints) from a PC (e.g., via MapSource)? Or point me to some place this is available? Or identify a non-Garmin GPS unit with voice navigation that supports downloading of routes?

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Alrighty. I now have a new Garmin GPS with voice navigation that supports route downloading though selecting it was far from straight forward. I can't really put together a coherent answer to my own question so I'm just sharing a clump of ramblings and grumblings.

 

I didn't seriously pursue the non-Garmin part of my question. Even though DeLorme makes my favorite routing software, they weren't really a contender since no GPS unit they sell has voice navigation. Their software does offer voice navigation though computer hardware but even a netbook seems unwieldy to me in a car and they really don't have the volume to be heard over open-window road noise. Both TomTom and Magellan must support route download since packaged routes such as Route 66 are available for them. A casual look for how these routes are prepared didn't tell me much but the same thing is pretty much true for Garmin. There's a good chance that there is a method for plotting and downloading routes for TomToms and Magellans that meets my needs. I know there is a method for plotting and downloading routes for Garmin that meets my needs.

 

I stopped by the local brick & mortar Best Buy store and spoke with a flesh & blood salesperson. That person was fairly knowledgeable about the Garmin units the store carried. I'll admit to being a bit surprised by this but it was a nice surprise. I was not surprised that they knew nothing about downloading routes. I'm learning that folks who want to do that are a very tiny piece of the GPS market.

 

I submitted the "which units" question to Garmin and got an answer. Then I asked for a small clarification and got a different answer and, not very surprisingly at all, got yet a different answer when I asked for a clarification of the difference. The sad thing is that I don't think any of the answers was entirely wrong. Garmin, like other GPS manufacturers and every cell phone maker not named Apple, seems intent on making enough different models for everyone to have their own. Most, if not all, have updatable software so that specifics can change over time. Apparently the model I ended up buying was one that was released without the ability to accept downloaded routes but had it added later. Those currently shipping have it and I believe older ones can get it with a software update.

 

I ended up buying a 2360LMT which, despite assurances, I wasn't sure would accept a route until I successfully jammed one down its USB port. After all, I'd also had assurances that it wouldn't. I'm quite happy with it and I'm also quite happy to report that the Product Support people at Garmin are friendly and responsive. If you're thinking of a Garmin, and have some doubts or questions, give them a call or send an email. The more specific the question, the better the chances of getting the right answer the first time.

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I'm also quite happy to report that the Product Support people at Garmin are friendly and responsive. If you're thinking of a Garmin, and have some doubts or questions, give them a call or send an email.

 

 

I have had several positive interactions with Garmin about my handheld units. In one case they replaced my cracked screen under warranty even though it was my fault.

 

Good to hear you are making progress in your quest.

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Denny,

I have found that some locations that Google Maps added to my Garmin Nuvi 1450LMT were incorrect. I did not try downloading any routes due to not knowing our schedule on our trip to New Mexico because everything depended on when our son was available.

 

But my question concerns your mention of the Roadside America feature on your Garmin. Does it just alert you when you are within a certain number of miles from one of their "sites", or do you need to program in how to get to these places? Do you recommend adding this for finding locations while driving or is it better for advance planning?

 

Thanks for your advice when you get the opportunity.

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Denny,

I have found that some locations that Google Maps added to my Garmin Nuvi 1450LMT were incorrect. I did not try downloading any routes due to not knowing our schedule on our trip to New Mexico because everything depended on when our son was available.

 

But my question concerns your mention of the Roadside America feature on your Garmin. Does it just alert you when you are within a certain number of miles from one of their "sites", or do you need to program in how to get to these places? Do you recommend adding this for finding locations while driving or is it better for advance planning?

 

Thanks for your advice when you get the opportunity.

I'm only slightly familiar with Google Maps and not at all with their relationship with Garmin so can't comment on that at all. Does Google somehow allow you to download either POIs or routes to a Garmin unit?

 

Regarding incorrect locations, I've encountered quite a few of those in Garmin data over the years. A certain amount are due to outdated maps but some have no obvious explanations at all. The cataloged place just isn't there.

 

There are two Roadside America applications. The one you asked about, for some Garmin units, and one for iPhones. I have both.

 

I don't, however, have an iPhone. I have an iPod touch which I describe as an iPhone without the phone. This app is the cheaper of the two and the more comprehensive, too. But it requires an internet connection to be useful. I think it really just gives streamlined access to the RA website and makes use of location if it can.

 

The Garmin app stands alone which is, in my opinion, basically a good thing but it does rule out getting current information when things are updated at RA.com. It also means that descriptions are more limited. There are also less attractions in the Garmin app than online. Part of the reason for this, according to Doug Kirby of RA, is that only verified attractions with accurate locations are included in the Garmin app where unconfirmed reader tips and such are available online. He also said that they did this because users expect their GPS to give them accurate information. I got a chuckle out of that but will say that the RA information on the Garmin appears to be quite accurate.

 

The Garmin app works in two ways. One is the sounding of an alert when you are within .2 miles of an attraction. I've found no way to adjust this distance though I can turn off the alerts altogether. My unit also does alerts for red light cameras and they was identical to the RA alerts. Both display popups with text way too small for old eyes (and I suspect many younger eyes) to read.

 

The second way is through the normal Garmin search/where to functions. This lets you find things near your current location, a preselected city, and maybe a couple other options. Searches can be filtered by state and by a few categories (e.g., statues, museums). I use the search feature at two times. One is when an alert comes up and I want to find out what the unreadable text referred to. The other is to just check to see what, if anything, is nearby. Long stretches of Kansas two-lane can encourage this sort of curiosity.

 

I don't use the GPS unit it self for advance planning so I'm not sure how or even if the RA app would help with that. I actually have quite a bit to say about Garmin routing but I'll do that in a separate response rather than cluttering up your RA question.

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I have had several positive interactions with Garmin about my handheld units. In one case they replaced my cracked screen under warranty even though it was my fault.

 

Good to hear you are making progress in your quest.

My progress ended rather abruptly shortly after this post.

 

The first problem was in downloading long or maybe complex routes. When I made the earlier posts, I had downloaded some simple test routes to the Garmin. But, when I downloaded some "real" routes, they seemed to vanish. I had spent hours tweaking routes for a multi-week trip that was to start the next day. I panicked and called Garmin immediately. Email wouldn't be fast enough this time. I got plenty of help and attention from the Garmin people but never a completely useful answer. Some routes just took a long time to process, someone in the development side divulged through my contact in the help desk side. Possibly as much as half an hour.

 

I broke off a short piece from the front of my trip and got enough downloaded to get me through a few days as my blood pressure eased back toward normal. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when one of the longer routes suddenly appeared two days later. Apparently "as much as half an hour" was overly optimistic. But there's more going on than just slow processing. Some routes really have disappeared and others have been flattened to nothing more than a start and end point. Route downloading from Mapsource to a Garmin 2360LMT is broken.

 

The handling of successfully downloaded routes may not be broken but it is definitely misguided -- at least for roadies. The first problem I encountered was automatic recalculation. Say you've carefully crafted a route to follow Historic Route 66 through some area. You're part way through when you realize you're low on gas and head off the route a half mile to fill up. Instead of keeping your preplanned route so you could at least visually navigate back to it, my Garmin would automatically recalculate a new route from pump #2 to whatever your next waypoint was. There is no way to disable it and I'm assured by Garmin personnel that every current Garmin model works this way. (I may be wrong in thinking that Madmaps offers preplanned routes of things like Route 66 for Garmin GPS units. I've been meaning to ask them how this affects them assuming they do indeed sell actual routes. Writing this finally prompted met to ask the question but, of course, I don't yet have a response.)

 

A second issue is that the 2360 treats each waypoint as a separate endpoint. To it, a route is nothing more than a list of coordinates with no consideration of how they relate to each other. Only when you pass through Point A (and you must pass pretty much directly through it) does the unit start calculating a path to Point B. And, because of the automatic recalculation, the path isn't calculated from Point A but from your current position. Depending on your speed and the placement of intersections and waypoints, this might have little resemblance to the original path.

 

The treating of each waypoint as a distinct endpoint may be partially responsible for the requirement to manually select your next waypoint whenever you start to navigate a route. At first I thought this was just a silly shortcoming of the unit but I soon realized that it was a real problem. As you tweak a route to follow a specific path, some pretty arbitrary waypoints get inserted. Forcing the path through a semi-randomly selected point on some road yields the desired route segment so that's what you do. That point needs a name and, depending on software, it's probably automatically generated and pretty obscure. So, when the GPS unit asks you to "Select Next Destination" it isn't offering Washington Monument and Mount Rushmore as choices. The choices are more like (real examples) 7592 Old OH-3 and 7946 Old OH-3 and those addresses are not where Uncle Bill and Aunt Sally live they're addresses that were sort of close to some point you clicked on to get the route to go where you wanted. The point is they are pretty much meaningless to you yet you have to tell the GPS unit which one you'd like to go to. I can't speak for all Garmin products but the 2360, which is fairly far up the list, doesn't even give a hint at which ones are closest and that is silly.

 

There are other issues but those are the biggies. They stand out all the more because my previous unit, a Garmin Quest, did all of this just fine. I'd still be using it if current maps were available and I often think it might still be a better choice for me. Admittedly, some of this has the feel of immature software on a fairly new hardware platform but not all of it. That auto-calc thing was very intentional and has been praised by some users. I have a suspicion that making it the only choice simplified some of the software development and still left the vast majority of potential customers happy. While the issues I've described are huge to me and, I've a hunch, to other forum members, they don't matter at all to most GPS users. Most people just want a GPS unit to guide them to the nearest golf course or Starbucks though they are willing to pay extra to have it do that with Darth Vader's voice. I imagine the vast majority of Garmin owners are quite satisfied. Too bad we're in that tiny minority, eh?

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