I already had the Delorme Tripmate GPS receiver and had used it with Street Atlas 5 and Delorme’s Map Kit, making my own copies of marine charts. Now, I wanted to use it on a trip to England and looked for map programs that supported GPS tracking. I discovered only Microsoft-published software that was within my requirements for detail and price.
Fortunately, I had just bought a new laptop that had Microsoft Automap Streets Plus bundled with it and tested the Tripmate with it. Not surprisingly, the Tripmate wasn’t recognized even though I had defined a generic NMEA GPS device in Windows 95.
The problem was getting the data stream started and continuing while using Microsoft's programs.
At www.dejanews.com , and the Sci.Geo.Satellite-Nav newsgroup, and at Joe and Jack's GPS Information Website, I discovered two important sites. The first was Peter Bennett’s FTP site where I downloaded a program called GPSPac2.2.
This program provides all the necessary data one needs to track positions. I inserted the DeLorme word "ASTRAL" in the NMEA data initiation space that is found under "Utilities". This action started the NMEA data sentences, and after several minutes I had a fix with speed, direction and altitude. However, when I turned it off to initiate the GPS tracking in the Microsoft program, I got a "GPS receiver not found" message. As this was a "limited", free version, it had no capability to link to the Microsoft program.
At the second site, run by a chap named "Lumpy", ( see www.digitalcartography.com ) I found that he made a connector out of 2 DB9 plugs which fed the word "ASTRAL" back to the Tripmate automatically. Since it was so cheap, and came with diode indicators, I ordered one. Testing it with the Microsoft program, I found that the software still didn’t recognize the Tripmate even though the diodes flashed briefly. Seems that the timing was too brief to get more than the word "Astral".
I next tested the lash-up by starting the data flow with GPSPac2.2, shutting it down and initiating the GPS function in Microsoft's Streets Plus. Success! Using Lumpy’s piece of hardware did the trick. It kept the data flowing so that the Microsoft program could recognize that it was getting NMEA data. This hardware cost only $18 delivered, and I think it was a real bargain to give the needed capability. It doesn't work by itself, but with GPSPac2.2, it does the trick.
I now ordered the software for Great Britain, finding that the price, in pounds sterling, was what I would have expected to pay in American dollars. I also found that the versions sold for Great Britain and Europe do not have "street level" detail as does the American version. But the detail was better than most maps and provided a complete trip planning facility which we used for every leg of our tour.
I used the software and the Tripmate with Lumpy’s hardware and GPSPac2.2 for over 1600 miles of driving through Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Warwick and probably some other English counties. With my wife navigating, we were rarely off of the correct road. When we were, the GPS tracking showed us the best way to get back to the correct one. It was great to have as long as one understood that the information was restricted to "M", "A" and "B" type roads. It was also helpful finding our way through cities when we wanted to stay on the main roads. Those who know English "roundabouts" will understand how confusing it can be to suddenly come upon one in heavy traffic and not know which lane to go to before hand. The GPS greatly alleviated that problem.
For more details of the trip, please contact: Charles McKusick.
Published on the Joe Mehaffey and Jack Yeazel GPS Information Website.