Opinion » Cybernaut


Joining the GPS set



For a tech writer, I fall behind the times with embarrassing regularity — which at least means that readers will generally have some idea what the hell I’m talking about. Articles I read on the leading tech websites are always talking about tomorrow’s technologies or just-out technologies that cost a fortune, when most people are still trying to get the hang of gadgets that are already a few years old.

That said, I recently joined the GPS set after bidding on, and winning, a Garmin Nuvi 200 at the recent Ken Quon Ride On fundraiser.

(I know, I wrote my last Cybernaut about a mini laptop I got free from my bank, and now I’m writing this week’s about a GPS receiver I got at a silent auction, but summer is a slow time for the tech industry.)

I realize the late purchase of the GPS puts me behind pretty much everybody who bought a mid-price car in the past five years or so, or finally broke down at the electronics store after taking one too many wrong turns. These days a lot of cell phones come equipped with some kind of GPS ability, from basic tracking systems for 911 calls to actual map-based systems that are similar to hand-held GPS devices.

The GPS I purchased is probably best for cars, but there’s nothing stopping me from carrying it around for a few hours while hiking. Or riding around with it on my bike.

The Garmin Nuvi 200 is considered an entry level GPS — the Nuvi 500 is voice-activated and will respond to verbal commands like “take me to the nearest gas station”, but it has all the features I need: up to date maps of North America, a memory card slot for extra maps (such as trail maps), the capability to preset and save destinations ahead of time, an easy to use touch screen that anticipates the street names you’re trying to spell out, and a few extras like a built-in currency converter. It also supplies you with a trip summary that shows you how far you went and how quickly.

Best of all, you don’t need to look at it while driving, as a pleasant voice will tell you where to turn, or let you know it’s recalculating the route when you get off-track.

While the navigation aspect of this device is key — after nine years living in B.C., Vancouver is still a mystery to me — there are lots of other things that you can do with a GPS these days.

For example, my device comes with the ability to add maps, including trail maps, using the solid state SD card slot. Battery life for my model is just five hours, but you can buy solar USB and battery chargers at most outdoor stores so it would be possible to bring it on backcountry hikes and paddles. Just don’t get it wet — the Nuvi 200 is not waterproof.

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