GPS Navigation 101 - Maps, Hardware, Problems And More
GPS - It's funny that a technology that has been around for close to 10 years can still be the source for so many problems.
It doesn't matter if you're trying to use handheld GPS units or GPS car DVDs, If you're getting a GPS navigator to get you from A to B GPS maps can be a pain.
Even if you are looking to use a GPS tracking device to retrace your route or keep tabs on your loved ones they don't always run smoothly either.
And if you're an eBay reseller or a dropshipper it's no easier.
You've got to take customers' incoherent questions, either answer them yourself or ask your GPS navigation supplier for help (and if you haven't sourced from Chinavasion you'll probably have to decipher that answer as well).
As a wholesaler Chinavasion provides the GPS- enabled hardware only, not the software. We cannot provide any warranty or customer support for GPS software.
While we have put together a guide on how GPS works, what exactly is involved in the GPS install process and some common questions about GPS mapping software we cannot provide downloads regarding GPS software.
These links have been recommended by online GPS navigation users and Chinavasion will not accept any responsiblity regarding these website's advice. Any software installation you undertake should be performed or supervised by a professional.
With that said lets take a look at how GPS works and how GPS navigation can be made to work for you:
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a technology where satellites send down radio signals which GPS units and receivers use to work out their current location (which is shown by latitude, longitude and elevation).
GPS works like this:
There are 24 working satellites circling the globe at any given moment. A GPS navigator or GPS tracker searches for the transmission signal from at least three satellites.
The receiver measures the time the the signal is sent, the time it is received and then multiplies both with speed of light to work out how far the satellite is away from the receiver.
It does that three more times and uses the result to calculate your location on the globe.
The first GPS satellite was launched way back in 1978 and by 1995 the US Department of Defence had declared the system functional. However, it wasn't till 2000 that Civillian-use GPS really took off.
Before then the US army had a choking application that prevented it from being used against the US.
Thanks to a special millitary frequency and the L2 signals the army can get up to millimeter accuracy while your handheld GPS or auto GPS can be anything up to 100 feet off.
Gadgets and Electronics with GPS
So what exactly will you find GPS functionality and GPS mapping software in?
GPS Trackers, Loggers and Receivers
Essentially set up to be a location recorder the GPS Tracker, GPS Logger or GPS receiver is a device that records your location when:
- A) A button on the device is triggered
- B) The device is triggered remotely (something that is capable on newer GSM tracking devices)
This is a useful tool to have if you want keep track of where you have been or keep family members and loved ones safe.
GPS trackers, GPS loggers and GPS receivers come in all shapes and sizes as can be seen below:
GPS Location Finders
A GPS location finder is a little like a GPS receiver with the only difference being that it works in an instant.
Lets say that you park your car in a large parking lot and you aren't sure you're going to find your way back. With a location finder you press the a button and when it's time to come back arrows will light up on the device to show you the way.
It's the antenna ball for the new century and it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.... just check out these cool designs:
Handheld GPS Navigation Units
When you hear GPS maps and GPS mapping software names like Tomtom, iGo and Route 66 there's a good chance that they are either referring to a Portable GPS navigator, or a GPS car DVD.
Handheld GPS units work just like the GPS on a car DVD. They show you destinations and help you pick the best way to get there. Many may even come with a car mounting kit so that you are able to use it in cars that don't already have a GPS car DVD installed.
A word of warning. Handheld GPS units purchased from China wholesale companies and China suppliers will, 99.9% of the time, not have genuine GPS software.
They will have cracked software that MAY appear to work but will let you down when you most need it. This is why, at Chinavasion, we send out our units with evaluation software only and let you select the software that best meets your needs.
Thankfully, installing GPS mapping software requires nothing more than a SD card from the GPS maps provider and help from either a professional installer or a very knowledgable friend. We would recommend employing the help of a professional... it's cheaper in the long run.
GPS Car DVD Players
When you're in a car you're usually trying to get somewhere, so putting the GPS navigation function into cars as auto GPS is almost a 'no-brainer'.
As we said earlier be very careful when buying GPS car DVD players from China suppliers and online shops. Make sure, if they say it comes with software it is in fact genuine and will not leave you high and dry when it is needed most.
And, after buying one of our fantastic GPS car DVD players ensure you get a professional (or a knowledgable friend) to install the GPS software.
Puzzled by Point Of Interest? Do latitude and longitude leave you scratching your head? Here is a quick guide to all those confusing words in GPS navigation from Assisted GPS to Waypoint.
- Altitude: Altitude is the measurment of how high something is. It can be measured in meters or feet and is benchmarked by sea level.
For more information about altitude and how to insert it into sites like Google Maps check out the Google Earth instructions.
- Assisted GPS: a system which uses cell phone networks to improve the performance GPS satellite-based positioning systems.
- Cracked Software: software that has been modified to remove protection methods that stop it from being sold by unlicensed vendors.
It very frequently turns up on GPS units sold by other Chinese electronics traders .
- Elevation: another form of altitude For more information about elevation and how to insert it into sites like Google Maps check out the Google Earth instructions.
- Geo Coding: The system of putting geographical identification metadata into media including photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds.
- Geo Spoofing: The process of using a device or software to mix GPS signals to give the impression that a GPS tracking unit has disappeared or is in a different location than it really is.
- Geotagging: The system of putting geographical identification metadata into media including photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds.
- GNU License: The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is an incredibly widely used open source free software license, which states that anybody is able to take and modify software providing the newly modified software retains the same lisence. It was created by Richard Stallman.
In terms of GPS Mapping software and GPS maps the GNU GPL is usually mentioned alongside such open source developents like the Open Street Map group.
- GPS: Global Positioning Systems, a technology where satellites make a living map of the world and then show you your location.
- GPS Software: A computer program that uses GPS satellite signals and digital maps to serve a purpose.
GPS mapping sofware or GPS navigational software will help map out routes and assist you get from point A to point B while GPS logging software will record your locations and transfer that information into programs like Flickr or Google Maps.
- Junction Image: A picture provided by some software that will help you decide whether or not to take a turnoff.
- Lane Assist: A function offered by some software that will help you decide which lane to take when driving.
- Lattitude: The measurment of imaginary horizontal lines that run around the world. It is normally displayed on GPS sites like Google Maps using the following format 12.52290570348247
- Linux: An open source operating system that is often used for IP security equipment and some GPS navigation software and it is often used for open source projects like the Open Street Browser Project.
- Longitude: The measurment of imaginary lines that run from the North Poll to the South Poll. When displayed on Google maps it looks like 194.83062591552734.
- L1: The satelite signal that carries the navigational message and the SPS (Standard Positioning System) Code signals.
It is not as accurate as the system used in L2 signals and it is used by most civillian GPS system providers.
- L2: The satelite signal that carries the navigational message and the PPS (Precise Positioning System) Code signals.
It is more accurate as the system used in L1 signals and is used by the militiary and by some civiilan companies.
- Mac OX: The OS designed for Apple Macintosh computers and products.
- Maemo: The OS used by Nokia in its smart phones.
- Open Source: computer software for which the source code is freely available.
- OS (Operating System): The basic software that a computer, or a device like a Portable GPS receiver or cell phone uses to tell it what to do.
- Point Of Interest: A specific point location that someone may find useful or interesting.
- Proprietary Software/Map: GPS Navigation or GPS Mapping Software that is owned by a company and requires users to either purchase a copy or buy a subscription to get access to it.
Maps by Garmin, Tomtom and other traditional GPS mapping software providers usually fall into this category.
- Route: The way to get to a destination, there are various types of routes including, fastest route, shortest route .
- Receiver: The thing which gets the signals and then gives information to the GPS unit so it can work out where it is.
- Satellite: A transmission station that orbits around the earth sending radio signals to help people find out where they are. There are 24 GPS satellitesin orbit.
- SD Card: A tiny memory card used to transfer data between different devices includingcar navigation systems, cellular phones, eBooks, PDAs, smartphones, digital cameras, music players, camcorders, and personal computers.
- TF Card: A memory card, smaller than an SD card used to transfer data between different devices includingcar navigation systems, cellular phones, eBooks, PDAs, smartphones, digital cameras, music players, camcorders, and personal computers.
- Trilateration: The method of using information from three satelites to determine a location.
- Transmission Signal: The signal sent from satelites to a GPS receiver which the GPS receiver then uses to work out its position.
- Unix: An OS which was developed in 1969 and is now largely used as an open source OS for electronic devices.
- Waypoint: A point between major points on a route, as along a track, it is used in GPS navigation software.
- Windows CE: Windows operating software developed especially for mobile devices like cell phones, car DVD players, GPS navigation devices and other portable devices with limited hardware.
RAM requirements for Windows CE 5 -6 can be as low as 128MB. It is essential that you select GPS navigation software that is compatible with the right Windows CE version.
GPS Maps -- How They Work And How To Find Them
While GPS navigation were used by the military as early as 1967 it wasn't really till 1989 that GPS mapping software started turning up on GPS navigation devices and GPS car DVD players.
But the market has more than made up for it since then with both proprietary and open source GPS navigation software being available.
That's right there are open source options out there so if you are not interested in paying for your GPS software then there is no need to rely on a cracked version of paid GPS mapping software you can go open source.
If you want something that comes with customer service you can always take the proprietory paid route.
Below are just some of the GPS mapping software providers that offer navigation software not attached to a specific handheld GPS navigator or GPS car DVD model:
- Mobium GPS
- NAVIGON AG
And GPS mapping software is something that we here at Chinavasion do not provide or support.
This might appear to be a strange thing for a GPS hardware supplier to say but the simple truth is that we are sourcing GPS ready devices that do not come fully equipped with maps to keep costs low for you.
This is actually better for you because you are able to use the software that works best for you. (In Europe that might be iGo, in the US that miught be Tomtom).
We will give you all the hardware specs you need to make the best software selection but after the choice is made the installation process and software maintenance is up to you.
GPS maps are much more than just points and routes, lets take a look at some of the things a piece of GPS mapping software is likely to offer (for a more detailed look at what these words mean check out the GPS Glossary above):
- Point Of Interest: Digitally recorded items that may be useful or interested for the user like petrol stations, hospitals, tourist attractions and toilets.
- Waypoint: a spot entered by the user to remember its destination.
- Route: A path programmed either by the user or the computer between two points.
But it doesn't matter whether you're looking for an open source free GPS mapping software or solution or fix to your paid proprietory GPS problem, there is bound to be a resource out there to help you. We have collected a few for your viewing pleasure and listed them below, although it is worth remembering that we neither endorse or affiliate ourselves with these sites: Free GPS MapsFree GPS Mapping Tools
GPS Navigation software
- Mapnik Mapmaking software based off openstreetmap.org
- maposmatic An online, relatively user friendly, map making tool (and map resource) whinch uses data from openstreetmap.org
- boulter.com A useful and easy tool that will take a geographical location (given with latitude and longitude) and map out the area around it.
GPS Routing Services
- GPS drive Free open source GPS navigation software which runs off Linux, Unix and Mac OS and gets its maps from openstreetmap.org
- Lucky GPS An offline routing, navigation, mapping and tracking application that needs gpsd and is compatible with Linux, Mac and Windows OS (Windows 7 32 and 64 bit).
- Navit Free open source GPS navigation software which runs off Linux.
- And Nav Free GPS mapping software that works off the Google Android platform
- GPS MID Free GPS mapping software that works off Java
- Traveling Salesman A GPS route-planning and navigation system based on libosm and the OpenStreetMap project.
- Rana A Python based GPS route-planning and navigation system based on the OpenStreetMap project.
- Gosmore A GPS routing device which is compatable with Maemo, Windows Linux and Mac OSX software that is build on the OpenStreetMap project.
- YOURS A routing website that uses the OpenStreetMap data to make routing easy.
- Always ensure that the GPS mapping software that you're considering is right for the operating system your device is using and the operating system version. (For example dont buy GPS mapping software that needs Windows CE6 for a portable GPS navigator that runs on Windows CE 5)
- Check any downloads for viruses before putting it onto your device
- Get a professional to help with the GPS map software installation
- GPS map software provided by China wholesale suppliers will probably be cracked and will break down. Ensure that you get your GPS mapping software from a reliable source.
Entering GPS coordinates from GPS tracker onto web maps and geo locators
Also called geotagging, the process of using photo loggers and GPS trackers has become very popular with the rise of sites and services like Google Earth, Flickr and YouTube.
And while many of the GPS Logger models available at Chinavasion already have extremely easy to use software that not only takes down the GPS locations but seamlessly integrates with Google maps, Flickr and YouTube to make it easy to put pictures in there some times, with older navigators it is not so easy.
Thankfully most web 2.0 sites also have drag functionality.
So if you know that you were on Peach St by the coffee shop when you took a particular picture and you can also avoid the advanced mathmatics.
If you know that you're going into 'uncharted' or unfamiliar teritory as a photographer you might like to take advantage of freeware geotagging programs like Geo Setter that combine coordinates from trackers with photos from cameras.
However, if neither of these situations apply and you have a GPS logger you can still geotag. Here is how you can do it:
Step 1: Getting the data.
The method of getting this depends on whether or not the device has a screen. For devices that have a screen you usually just need to take a picture of the readout of the device after/before you take photos you want to geotag.
If the device doesn't have a screen then use the details in the image to act as a record for when the picture was taken and match it up with records from the data logger.
Step 2: Decyphering the numbers.
You will probably have two numbers to read. One is is the latitude and the other is the longitude, however some units might also give an Altitude reading as well (for a detailed definition of these terms please check out the GPS Glossary above).
Put simply latitude is the measurment of imaginary horizontal lines that run around the world, longitude is the measurment of imaginary lines that run from the North Poll to the South Poll and altitude is how high something is from sea level.
Most latitude and longitude numbers on geotagging sites look something like: 12.52290570348247 194.83062591552734. On devices they can look a litle different and a typical reading might look like: 18390.0228, E 2157.3735, N 0.00.0.00% 210,119, 194337.261
Most online services make sense of readings in the following way. They require the following standards:
- Longitude should have two numbers a decimal point then the remainder of figures ( e.g 12.52290570348247 )
- Latitude should have three numbers, a decimal point, then the remainder of the figures ( e.g 194.83062591552734)
So, if you get a result on your GPS that reads like 18390.0228, E 2157.3735, N 0.00.0.00% 210,119, 194337.261you would take the number between E and N, Put it into the sites location bar first, then shift the period from the fourth number to the second number to get something like this: 21.573735.
Then take the number that ends at E, write it in the site second. Then shift the period from the fifth position to the third like this: 18.3900228
The full number should look like 21.573735 18.3900228 and you are now ready to hit enter.
If you are searching with Google Maps just put geo:lat= in front of the first number and geo:long= in front of the second number.
There's a more detailed guide to this at Map Tools but unless you are very unlucky it should be something that you are able to avoid.
Troubleshooting - GPS Problems And How To Solve Them
Do you have problems booting up your GPS software? Are you seeing something you shouldn't? Then check out this big list of questions and answers and see if we can't help you with your GPS software or GPS hardware problems.
- Which GPS Mapping Software is compatible with my equipment?
This is a good question where the answer depends very much on the OS software that you are running.
Many of the open source solutions in the GPS Maps section above run on either the Linux/Unix OS while others run on the Mac OS others run on the full Windows OS or on the stripped down Windows CE OS.
Check out the OS version we have on the description of our GPS car DVD players or portable GPS receivers to make sure they are running the right Windows CE version for software you are interested in.
- Why won't XYZ's GPS Mapping software install on my equipment?
Propietary software makers like Garmin and Tomtom don't always play nice with everybody.
Hardware-specific software such as Garmin tends not to run on GPS car DVD player or portable GPS receiver that it hasn't been set up for.
In other cases it may be that you are using cracked software or there may be a different fault.
The best thing to do in these cricumstances is to:
1) look at the OS software of the GPS car DVD player or portable GPS receiver to make sure that it is compatable with the software you are trying to use.
2) Make sure that you are not trying to use cracked software which may have been used somewhere else.
3) Consult a local electronics technician for software advice. Contact Chinavasion in the case of hardware queries (not software, installation, usage or upgrade queries).
- I live in the USA/Canada/Australia/South Africa etc. So why have you sent me European Mapping Software?
When we send you GPS car DVD players or portable GPS receivers we do so with some evaluation software.
This is so you can make sure that the screen works and the device does everything its supposed to.
It's then up to you to go out and find the software that is right for you.
- How do I find my home's GPS coordinates with a GPS unit?
It's always worth remembering that GPS coordinates from GPS units tends to be off by a few meters.
This is normally not a problem but if you want a more accurate fix on your location then you are, ironically, better getting it through Google Maps.
However, if a general fix is ok then just look for the 'mark current location' button and hit it when you are in your driveway.
- What is a GPS Unlock Code And Why Do I Need One?
The GPS unlock code is the serial code used to 'unlock' GPS software and allow it to be used on a portable GPS receiver or car DVD player.
Some GPS providers, like Magellan will require you to register the software online and they will then email the unlock code to you.
- My GPS doesn't appear to be picking up any signal, what should I do?
The largest cause of this is signal block. GPS signals don't travel so well through solid surfaces. Window tints, glass with a high magnetic content can also cause reception problems.
As a result it is best not to paint the GPS aerial and definitely not to paint it with metalic colors as this will severly hamper reception.
- My GPS doesn't appear to be as accurate as it should be, what should I do?
This can be caused by a number of factors including:
Orbital errors and Atmosphere delays: these occur when the satellite isn't where it should be and/ or variations in the atmosphere and the effect those variations have on the signal. This should only be temporary and your best option is to work with the results the best you can until you get to a place that has a better GPS signal.
Signal multipath: This happens when the received signal bounces off large items like buildings which lengthens the distance the signal has had to travel between the satellite and the receiver.
This should only be temporary and your best option is to work with the results the best you can until you get to a place that has a better GPS signal.
Receiver clock errors: This is when the internal clock in the receiver is either running too fast or too slow and cannot work out the actual time it took the GPS signal to arrive from the satelite.
If the factor is minor then it is possible to work arround it but if it is more notciable you may want to look into getting the GPS unit checked.
Outdated Maps: Maps are not always up to date at the best of times and if you are working off a older map then there is a good chance that it might be giving you information about roads that aren't there and denying the existance of roads that are.
Ensure that you've got the most up to date maps for your GPS mapping software installed in your portable GPS receiver or car DVD player.
- My GPS mapping sofware doesn't have junction image/only has junction image in certain regions is something wrong?
Junction image is a function which suggests which junction you should look for.
However, it is a feature that is found on different types of GPS mapping software but not all and is not common in some locations. For more information about junction image please talk to your GPS mapping software provider.
- My GPS mapping sofware doesn't have lane assist/only has lane assist in certain regions is something wrong?
Lane assist is a function which suggests which lane you should look for. However, it is a feature that is found on different types of GPS mapping software but not all and is not common in some locations.
For more information about lane assist please talk to your GPS mapping software provider.
- My GPS mapping sofware gave me a very long route to follow and I can see there is a faster one, which one should I take?
According to the blog/forum, GPS Review this happens more often than and by pressing the route button more than once you can resolve this issue.
- I have found a mistake in my GPS map. How do I fix it?
Again, according to the blog/forum GPS Review this can be a lengthy process. First you need to establish who made the map, contact the creator of the map, report the error and wait for the map and the software to change. This may take months or even years. For more details on the exact steps to take click on the link above.
Is something missing from this guide? Have you got a hot tip that you'd like to share? Email us at and let us know!