Digital mapping on laptop

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 07, 2010 at 23:34
ThreadID: 76658 Views:4084 Replies:12 FollowUps:10
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Hi everyone,

I've never used digital maps before - only paper maps, so there's a lot I don't know about the subject. Perhaps the best approach might be if I can ask some questions in the hope that someone will know some answers (or tell me that I'm barking up the wrong tree!) Here goes:

1. Are digital maps worth the effort? - you apparently have to buy software, maps, a GPS receiver, etc... (I've already got a laptop) but it all sounds fairly expensive compared to paper maps. I've always got to where I wanted to go using paper maps, but am I missing out on something?

2. Which is the best software - Explore Oz, Memory Map, Trackmaster, etc?
3.Which maps are good? We like to explore back tracks and out of the way places in central Australia, Kimberley, Pilbara, etc.

4. What is a good type/brand of GPS receiver to plug into the laptop?

5. I can't really see any practical / safe way of using a laptop while a vehicle is in motion - is this possible/desirable/necessary?

6. Any other relevant info that you can think of that might help me make a decision?

Thanks in anticipation

John E.



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Reply By: Member - Doug T (NT) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 02:20

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 02:20
Quite I wouldn't be bothered with Laptops in cars, because of the size, brackets needed, I even hate those stupid pads instead of a mouse, how could you use that while mobile, it'd be worse than yappin' on a phone, dust in the keyboard will be another issue, and how long will the H/d last under vibrations,
With a Nuvi 765 GPS you get the Digital maps, Garmin Topo (extra) and City Navigator, voice directions, bluetooth for phone, MP3 player, and it'll fit into your shirt pocket, it sits on the windscreen , small, easy to read, and it's out of the way ,

In your Q1 you mention Explore Oz, ExploreOz is this website, I think you might mean OziExplorer.

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Reply By: The Explorer - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 02:24

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 02:24
Hi

"1. Are digital maps worth the effort? "

Yes - but only if you have a use for them.

"you apparently have to buy software, maps, a GPS receiver, etc... (I've already got a laptop) but it all sounds fairly expensive compared to paper maps."

Some maps (GeoScience Aus 250K, and soon 100K ) can be acquired for free or at much less cost than the paper versions (though sometimes you have to buy the complete set and not just 1 or 2 maps). Other costs vary (i.e. software, gps).

"I've always got to where I wanted to go using paper maps, but am I missing out on something?"

Missing something? - Probably not, depends what you are trying to achieve - if you are happy navigating with paper maps, continue as is. GPS mapping has an overlap of function with paper maps but they are not mutually exclusive. They are both navigating tools. GPS mapping software (and your average GPS) can also be used for accurate track/waypoint logging, trip planning, data sharing etc - unclear if this is what you want to do so it is difficult to provide specific advice.

2. Which is the best software - Explore Oz, Memory Map, Trackmaster, etc?

I think you mean OziExplorer, MemoryMap and TrackRanger. What is best – debatable? Without having done a proper survey would bet my life on the fact that, out of these three, most people use OziExplorer, which is not to say it’s the best – but it's certainly the most popular.

3. Which maps are good? We like to explore back tracks and out of the way places in central Australia, Kimberley, Pilbara, etc.

Check out the ExplorOz shop for various digital map products. (Vested interest warning – some products are mine!! Maybe I should have said that earlier:)

"4. What is a good type/brand of GPS receiver to plug into the laptop?"

If you have no need for a handheld GPS a usb "mouse" gps is probably the go.

5. I can't really see any practical / safe way of using a laptop while a vehicle is in motion - is this possible/desirable/necessary?

Me either (though some people do) - At moment I use Hema Navigator/TwoNav Aventura in the car and GPS handheld or Aventura when I hop out, so Laptop is only necessary if you feel the need for it..or after you stop and download info from the smaller device/plan next days trip etc. There are other options that may suit your requirements if a Laptop doesn’t.

6. Any other relevant info that you can think of that might help me make a decision?

Probably, but will wait for feedback from you/others – save me typing.

Good Luck

Cheers
Greg
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AnswerID: 407767

Follow Up By: B1B2 - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 18:45

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 18:45
G'day Greg,
That was a great answer.
I use Garmin Oregon 300 with City Navigator 2009 and (free)Shonky Maps.
I have had the previous Garmin eMap about 6 years and it still works, of course these ares used with Garmin Mapsource on the computer.
One advantage with electronic maps is the history you have. Everywhere i have been over the last 8 years, I have tracks, waypoints, dates etc. If your filing system is up to it, you can go back to remote places easily even on the previous older setup i had. I can also look at these tracks via Google Earth.
One of the friends i was travelling with asked me for the track we travelled to send to interested relatives in Holland. It is easy to use Garmin Mapsource, go to Google Earth and email the track to them, which I did.
It depends on whether you like computers and the latest technology.

Cheers,
Bill

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Reply By: Member - John Baas (WA) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 02:42

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 02:42
It depends on what you want it for.

If you're into 4WD exploration, then OziEx plus digital mapping will be a revelation - you will never go back! Absolutely never! And combined with free GoogleEarth the capacities are enormous.

But, if you're into highway and local roads stuff, don't bother - get a tom tom or similar.

If you do go the serious mapping option, then any beat up old Tosh will do (ours has a est. 2nd hand sale price of $20 if we're lucky - otherwise it's a Salvos job), plus an entry level gps and cables (Garmin Etrex for eg) plus buy the dig. maps. All up you'll (like us) have fully functional remote area mapping for about $400. (Altho if you want avoid batteries, an inverter will cost another $100).

Re safety, we were advised that a laptop couldn't handle 4WDing. 2 years later, over serious remote area country the Tosh is bullet proof. As long as you sit it on a plush duck down pillow, that is.

Believe me, you'll never look back - Ozi with just the 1:250K rasters as basic is a sensational product.

Cheers.
AnswerID: 407768

Follow Up By: get outmore - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 03:20

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 03:20
Im back in over a week - ill catch up with you and pass on some maps for the SW that leave the 250k maps for dead

but only for the areas they cover

the 250k maps are pretty good for the rest though. ive got the full Hema maps and apart fron main roads i dont use them much - they truly are the most overrated 4wd accessory avilable

the QPA maps and tracks of WA absalutly cane them for detail
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FollowupID: 677673

Reply By: Richard W (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 07:15

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 07:15
John,

Much has been covered.

Below is my setup. Not cheap but the laptop has got about 50,000KM of Oziexplorer recording plot files all over Australia.
The setup below suites the cruiser because it's auto and has a wide transmission tunnel.

Some of the plots below were recorded on a Dell Axiom PDA but I found the screen way to small.
I use CoPilot for street navigation in the metro area and run GPSGate which allows both applications to share the GPS reciever.

If your laptop has bluetooth, a bluetooth GPS reciever works pretty well.

Although I had many digital maps I bought the Hema which has all their maps plus the Geoscience 1:250,000 set.
Also have 1:100,000 for some states and 1:25,000 for NSW.

I find it good for:
Planning
Navigation
Reccy's
Writing Trip Reports
Reviewing on Google Earth









AnswerID: 407775

Follow Up By: Member - Wayne B (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:05

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:05
Richard
If that is a map of where you have been then you are a legend, mate that is fantastic.
Wayne Bell
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Follow Up By: Richard W (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 09, 2010 at 06:34

Tuesday, Mar 09, 2010 at 06:34
Wayne,

Sure is. Thanks mate. Tracks recorded since 2005.
If anyone wants copies of the plot files I'm happy to supply them (120mb).
If all goes to plan this year I'm doing the Canning Stock Route, Northern Highway and Great Central Road to tidy up some of central WA.
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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 08:01

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 08:01
John,

The three distinct advantages of digital mapping are:-

1. Moving map display showing exactly where you are.
2. The ability to record and play back your trek.
3. The ability to backtrack if the wrong route is taken.

Apart from the above, all else is the same as a paper map, assuming your paper maps are the same as the digital ones.

I gave away the idea of laptops in the vehicle. No matter how they are mounted, they are still intrusive and yes, you need to include something like a GPS mouse (plugs into the USB port) as no laptop I know of has a built-in GPS.
You also need to consider how you power the mongrel as well as how it is mounted.

If you wish to dabble in digital mapping, consider something like the Nuvi as Doug has suggested, a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) running OziExplorer and NATMAP Premium or Hema Maps, (these are available with a built-in GPS, or a ready-to-go device such as the Hema Navigator.


Bill.

Bill


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AnswerID: 407782

Reply By: Member - res.q.guy (Vic.) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 09:08

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 09:08
Hi John
I don't use a laptop in the car, a bit too bulky for me, but I do take one with me.
I have a Garmin Nuvi with CN2010, Shonky and T4A maps (other options woud be OSM, Topo Aust and Oztopo) for use while driving, I also have a handheld Garmin 60Cx running with the same maps, this unit logs the actual trip I am doing. I download the file each night onto the laptop using OziExplorer. I can also take the hand held when hiking or in the tinnie.
You can download a trial version of OziEplorer, to try before you buy.
Cheers
Neil
AnswerID: 407795

Reply By: Member - Lionel A (WA) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 09:26

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 09:26
I'm a bit like you John, paper maps and compass. I'm comfortable with that.

I've looked into digital mapping but not sure if its the advanced technology or the price of these set-ups that puts me off.

Do have a 10 yr old Garmin eMap which is a tad advanced for me, the first thing to go into the rubbish bag are 'instructions'....hahaha.
However, I do transfer co-ordinates from the GPS to the paper map to find out exactly where I am and use the compass from there. Only takes a minute.

Never been out by more than a few yards.

Do envy people that understand all this digital stuff, but by the same token, take all the batteries out and I'm sure there would be a few wondering where the hell they are.


Cheers.....Lionel.
AnswerID: 407802

Reply By: olcoolone - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 12:15

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 12:15
1) You see a lot more on the screen whilst driving and you explore more areas when using digital mapping because it is running all the time whereby you only use paper maps when needed.

2) Ozi Explorer is by far the more popular mapping software, the other two are easier to use as they don't have some of the functions. You can use Ozi Explorer very easily with very little input if you want to.

3) Most electronic maps are very good but remember some maps have not updated for over 20 years.

4) We use and recommend the Qstarz BT-Q818X using the MTK 2 chip set, by far the best most advanced GPS mouse on the market....Google it and read the reviews. Costs around the $130 mark.

5) Most people make or buy vehicle laptop mounts and they work very well, once you have used you laptop this way you miss it when you don't have it.Makes traveling more interesting, enjoyable and you see and understand more about the area you are traveling in.

6) Most people say why do it and that it is not needed but once you have you will not regret it.
AnswerID: 407845

Reply By: Member - Cantiva Clay (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 13:40

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 13:40
Hi John & Kaye, I have a 7" GPS from ebay which runs win ce 5 (i think) and oziexplorer, with topo 250k and hema maps. The gps is still pretty big but much easier to find a spot for than a laptop. Now I was into orienteering when I was a teenager so am quite at home with a map and compass but and I still use the nrma state map to plan my trips, or hemas paper maps, use the tom tom on main roads (you don't really need it I just like knowing how far it is to the next destination & prevents tne's (total navigation errors - major problem at night!) but let me give you an example, at the weekend I was up in the blue mountains behind Lithgow where there are dozens of forestry tracks, forget the tom-tom, looked at the nrma map which showed the main tracks, got a picture in my mind, then mentally applied that to the 250k roads picture on the gps then with half an eye on the gps and one and a half on the road (light rain the dirt road was just a little slippery...) you sorta knew where to go. What you are really meant to do is on the home computer or laptop and its nice big screen draw little lines, routes, on the map and copy these to the gps then just follow the road nearest the lines. Why bother? Well means you don't have to stop at every corner, get out the map, look at your pencil track and make the right turn...so it helps fuel economy and help trick the passengers into believing, hey he knows were he is going! One last thing, if your keen you can save your travels to a file that you can copy into google maps at home, look at the satellite image, and say to yourself "darn - I drove/sped right past that interesting looking place"!
AnswerID: 407855

Reply By: Member - John & Kaye (QLD) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 18:31

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 18:31
Thanks everyone for your replies and all the valuable info, hints and tips. It's going to take me a while to sift through it all ! But at least I now have ideas to work on.
And by the way, yes I did really mean OziExplorer and TrackRanger. I guess that's what happens when I try to do these things after my bedtime!!

Thanks again
John
AnswerID: 407915

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 20:29

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 20:29
A laptop doesn't have to bulky, complicated and in your face.

I use a remote 7" screen that folds away into the dash - it is fed by a 10 year old Tosh laptop that runs directly off 12V and has all the sockets at the back. The tosh spends its time folded in a pocket next to the seat. Can work the screen with a mouse, or just pull the laptop out of its pouch.

Here's my screen:
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One button press and you have the reversing camera:


This is where it lives.
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AnswerID: 407931

Follow Up By: Member - Wayne B (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:28

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:28
Mate that is a bit up market compared to mine below.
Great setup what did that set you back
Cheers
WB
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FollowupID: 677868

Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:42

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:42
Gday Wayne,
I thought it was pretty cheap!
Screen from Jaycar (not touch screen and not VGA): $200.
Reversing Camera off Ebay $54
BU353 mouse GPS: $50
Old Tosh 4280 laptop W98, 6 gig HDD, 64Mb ram, RCA Video out - free!
Then add Oziexplorer and the maps.

I've used this setup for about 5 years. Had laptops mounted in the cab before that and they get in the way - especially in a smaller cab like the 79series. I've thought of upgrading the computer, but the USB ports etc all come out the sides and front, making it hard to pack away. I'd also need an inverter. I like the old laptops!
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FollowupID: 677871

Reply By: Member - Wayne B (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:25

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:25
I love stuffing around with new toys so I went for the Laptop,250 Raster Maps and Ozi Explorer and Remote 7" screen. Took a bit for my old brain to figure out how to work it all, that was part of the challenge.

It is great and I love experimenting with it.
This is all I have on the dash and it is Hard wired to the vehicle. The PC loves under the passengers seat, it is also hard wired to he vehicle.

Not including the Lap top it cost me around $260 to $300 to set up
Image Could Not Be Found

Image Could Not Be Found

Sure you can get by with paper maps but this so much more fun and safer in the long run. It is also advisable to keep an eye on where you are on the paper maps just in case the Computer goes on holiday.

Also if crossing deep creeks I will have to remember to remove the Lap top from under the seat. They dont take kindly to water fro some reason ;-)

AnswerID: 407962

Follow Up By: Member - Wayne B (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:27

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 22:27
PS Its a touch Screen which makes it easy to change maps or anything you want to do.
Cheers
WB
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FollowupID: 677867

Follow Up By: Member - John & Kaye (QLD) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 23:09

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 23:09
Looks really good Wayne - where did you get it ? I also liked the look of Phil's, especially the way it slots back into the dash - but a touch screen would be much more useful. Having the laptop under the seat or in a door pocket has got to be way better than on a little table in the middle of the vehicle - all sorts of safety related problems there! It could break loose in a bingle and go flying around the cabin, you could whack your head on it, it could interfere with airbags, etc,etc.

Cheers
John
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FollowupID: 677878

Follow Up By: Member - Wayne B (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 23:23

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 23:23
John
Got it of E-bay
http://cgi.ebay.com.au/7-Dash-Top-Head-Rest-VGA-Touch-Screen-Monitor-for-Car_W0QQitemZ250587985234QQihZ015QQcategoryZ80053QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp4340.m444QQ_trkparmsZalgo%3DCRX%26its%3DC%252BS%26itu%3DSI%252BUA%252BLM%252BLA%26otn%3D5%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D8348339433622591174

Has buy it now price of $190 or Best Offer. I offered him $170 and it arrived in the post within a few days

Its made in China (most things are these days) and the program is set up for Windows XP and Vista. I have windows 7 and could not get the thing to work. I am dumb when it comes to computers.
A mate who knows his stuff came over had it working in 10 minutes.

I have only just fitted it so I cant vouch for reliability ect . So far it is doing the job very well. It can also be connected to a Reverse Camera and you can watch videos as well. The touch screen is easy to use however I need my glasses to activate the smaller Icons. Map scrolling is a breeze just run your finger along the screen

Worth a try I think

Cheers
Wayen
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FollowupID: 677881

Follow Up By: Member - Wayne B (NSW) - Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 23:26

Monday, Mar 08, 2010 at 23:26
SORRY LINK TO EBAY NOT WORKING YOU WILL HAVE TO DO A SEARCH FOR ELECTRICAL / REMOTE MONITORS
WB
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FollowupID: 677882

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