How can I help my dad get the most out of his Garmin GPS that I just gave him?
September 18, 2011 7:34 PM   Subscribe

I just gave my dad a Garmin etrex legend hcx for his birthday. I have a mac, he uses Ubuntu. Could anyone help me help him get the maps that he needs to make his new tool as useful as possible for him?

I think I finally succeeded in finding something that he didn't have out of which I think he could derive a lot of use and fun. He is 65, but in excellent shape and has spent the last two winters of his retirement cycling around SE Asia.

I would like to help him equip his GPS with the maps he would need to get the most out of the unit, no matter where he is in the world. But neither of us want to pay Garmin hundreds of dollars for these maps. Since he is a Linux user, what software would he need to manage and install maps? And where could he find these for free?

I would appreciate any additional resources that would help us collectively overcome noobhood. Thanks.
posted by SpicyMustard to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I like to use GPSFileDepot. It has a lot of good free maps that you can get. It also has tutorials for the two main Garmin software for PC/Mac, however it looks like there isn't official support from Garmin for Linux yet. I tried searching their site and only found a couple of mentions of Linux or Ubuntu from their forums. I know ideally you want him to be able to do it on his own, but maybe for now you could set up BaseCamp on your Mac and transfer the maps that way?
posted by Deflagro at 8:16 PM on September 18, 2011

Are the maps available from retailers like Amazon? Could they be cheaper that way?
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:39 AM on September 19, 2011

The OpenStreetMap Wiki has some useful links.
posted by pharm at 3:43 AM on September 19, 2011

Typing "garmin" into the Ubuntu Software Center search utility returns a number of packages. Among them are:
  • "gpstrans - communicate with a Garmin GPS receiver"
  • "mkgmap - Generate Garmin maps from OpenStreetMap data"
  • "gpsbabel - GPS file conversion plus transfer to/from GPS units."
I don't have specific experience with these programs yet (no GPS, thinking about getting one soon), but here's some general advice on getting the most out of Ubuntu: use the Software Center. There is existing free software for most common computing tasks, and updates will occur automatically.

I will add that the files produced by Garmin GPS units are just specially formatted text files, so there are a lot of folks who have written scripts to parse them so the data can be used elsewhere. I did this once to allow my employer to import the data into spreadsheets, etc., etc. But I doubt that you'll need any of those kinds of tools for general use when there are so many packages available.
posted by richyoung at 8:31 AM on September 19, 2011

Thank you for the responses thus far. I don't have Ubuntu, so I was unfamiliar with the Ubuntu Software Center, but I will pass that on to him. I'll keep this up and post up some results in case others are interested.
posted by SpicyMustard at 10:23 AM on September 19, 2011

There's also "Synaptic Package Manager" which should have access to the same libraries the software center does. He may prefer to use that.
posted by axiom at 7:57 PM on September 20, 2011

I haven't done it, but you might try this:
posted by Argyle at 10:20 PM on September 22, 2011

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