Monday, June 01, 2009

"Getting There' Fun with a GPS

Summer is quickly approaching. Kids will be out of school, and with any luck, the folks at Exxon will show a bit of restraint with gas prices. For many, after a year’s hiatus, the summer road trip may be in the cards. In days gone by, loading up Fido and the kids, after making sure that the old “Chev” is working properly, used to be about all you needed to do in order to be ready for that trip to Aunt Esmeralda and Uncle Otto’s house at the lake. Oh, you may have stopped by the local filling station to pick up one of those free road maps. Yes I said “free.”

Finding that “free” road map may be harder than finding gas for less than $2.50 per gallon. Instead many of us will rely on a GPS unit to get us to our summer fun spots.
GPS or Global Positioning Satellite technology has been with us for many years. Once a pricey option for high end automobiles, the units have become much more functional and compact. Some connect to a lap top while others can fit in your pocket. Of course you can still get them installed as a factory option in about any model of car.

Over the years I have owned two GPS units. The first one was a very early model with a postage stamp sized back and white screen displaying very simple graphics. Most recently, my wife gave me a new pocket size model that has a large color screen, and enough navigation features to guide an aircraft carrier. The model I have even “talks”, giving directions as we drive. (Since you can choose the type of voice and language, I selected a woman’s voice with a British accent. It makes me feel a bit continental as I drive to Columbus.)

Portable models start at about $100 and go up from there. You will be surprised at the features that are incorporated into even the most inexpensive models. Here are a few things to consider when buying a GPS unit:

Make sure that it can be updated. Most have a USB connection that allows you to periodically connect with the manufacturer’s web site to download updated information. Since roads, new businesses and attractions are stored in the GPS, you want to make sure you have the most current ones. You don’t want to find out that the gas station you were counting on, and the GPS indicated was just over the next mountain, is no longer there.

If you are going to use the GPS on a bike or while walking, make sure that it has settings for that use. The scale and sensitivity is different for use in slow moving vehicles or walking than it is while driving on an expressway.

If you are going to use the GPS on a bike or while walking make sure that the internal battery has adequate life.

Go with one of the major manufactures like Garmin® or TomTom®. They both put out very good products and have good customer support.

Finally, if you do get a GPS, play with it while walking or in your own backyard. When you first get it and use it in your car you will be tempted to watch that little screen more than the road. Better to look at that semi slowing down in front of you than the neat graphic on the GPS.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home