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GPS Data Transfer Course (at my house) #4539
Back To Discussion List Written: 2016.01.23 by: Robin Tivy

Chris Ludwig and I are hosting a series of hands on courses on GPS operation and (Chris Ludwig is the webmaster of the BCMC website and a noted trail builder of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC). The focus of the course is how to work your GPS and transfer data back and forth between and your GPS. It is a hands-on course, and participants should bring a laptop and their GPS. The GPS can be a Garmin unit or a smartphone running a GPS app such as Backcountry Navigator. The course will be at my house, Bivouac headquarters, from 7:00 to 9:30 on Monday night (Jan 25).

Cookies and snacks are provided, and a wi-fi connection for your laptop or smartphone. Chris is running the course and I am an assistant. We'll get you going on downloading bivouac roads and trails onto your GPS. And uploading your own track logs to your computer. You get a good idea of what will be covered by reading the following:

An Introduction to GPS Data Transfer

If you would like to come, I'd be glad to meet you. Let me know by email ASAP, because there are only a couple of more slots. If there is overwhelming demand, we'll have another course.

Free for Bivouac members who promise to post a few road bulletins or even a trip report this year. Free after course phone support. Free Data. Free tour of Bivouac headquarters.


#1835 - 2016.04.29 Robin Tivy - Revised Course Outline and notes
We had the course again last night, with 12 participants and everybody was able to work most of the examples. The demand for this course seems to be high, so we are running the course again 2 weeks, and maybe more after that since there is still a waiting list beyond that. So I thought it would be worthwhile to write a "course report" and review the course outline, and make minor fixups to the supporting documents.

In general, I was really impressed that the participants really emerged able to do all the stuff we were talking about. After all, there were all sorts of models of computer, browser, smart phone, and GPS hardware, so at every stage, we'd have to run around and figure out how to do it on THAT device.

  1. Create Bivouac Account
     Almost everybody had a working Bivouac account before the course started. This turns out to be important right off the bat, because we could get people to refer to the corresponding instructions on Bivouac as they follow the course. And I expect that most people will forget some of the details mentioned in the course, so you want them to be able to look back.

    As people came in, I scrambled to enable the free accounts with a free month of Bivouac so they could follow the course. Next time I might try to enable all course participants with their free month in advance.

  2. Connect everybody with Wi-fi.
     Since everybody arrived with their laptops, the first job was to get everybody connected via wi-fi. So we scrambled to do this, and I had to repeat the password a dozen times, then we had everybody connected. Next time, I could do even better by telling people in advance. The wi-fi account at my house is called "Perky dlink data". The password is "perkysec". Everybody should also refresh in advance how to connect to wi-fi. (I had to refresh this myself: On a Mac laptop, push the Wi-Fi symbol. On my Android smart phone, just press and hold the Wi-fi symbol.

  3. What are track logs and waypoints?
     The course starts off by making sure everybody knows the difference between a track log and a waypoint. And how to see a list of track logs using your track log manager. The basic concept of track logs and waypoints is introduced in An Introduction to GPS Data Transfer (which most people read in advance).

  4. Create a Track
     Everybody needs to know how to start a track log, and save the track log on their device. It's hard when sitting in a course to create and save a realistic track log. Ideally people could create one in advance, by walking around the block with their GPS. But otherwise, it is helpful to create a couple of dummy track logs, just so we can discuss the track log manager.

  5. Track Log Manager
     Given that people know the concept of "track log", what we want to make sure is that everybody knows where to find the "track manager" on their GPS. It's different for every GPS.

  6. Configure Track Log Interval
     Given that people know about track logs, we can discuss how to configure the track log interval on your GPS. How to do that varies with each model of GPS App. On bivouac is a table which has detailed instructions on how to do this for various models of GPS App. These instructions are in a big "framework" called Standard GPS Operations. Every row in that table is a standard operation that is possible on all GPS programs. So all participants need to go to the table and click on the row titled "Track Log Interval", just to know it is there. Ideally, some people will have familiarized themselves with this table in advance, but objective #1 in the course is to make sure everybody knows how to find that table on Bivouac, and how to click on the row titled "Track Log Interval".

  7. Bivouac Intro
     Chris did an intro to the Bivouac "database". So everybody knows the basic idea of being able to search for a given "mountain" page, then bringing up the Gmap display, and being able to click on the roads and see the road bulletins. We used "Black Tusk" as an example, and then got people to click on the Rubble creek Road from GMap,and see the bulletins. This was something many of the participants had not done before, and they were quite pleased to see what you could do.

    Chris also explained "prominence", which people found interesting, and of course I had to say a few words. But I suppose that is a bit of a distraction from the main goal of GPS data transfer.

  8. Downloading a gpx file from Bivouac
     Download a .gpx file from Bivouac to your GPS for a given road. The point is that the road becomes a track log on your GPS. And can be viewed on the GPS map. People really liked this. In the case of those people with Garmin GPS, they plug the GPS into the computer, then browse to the folder containing gpx files for their tracks. In the case of people with smart phone GPS apps, they did the whole thing on the phone. For example, they browse to Bivouac on the phone browser, tap the "Download Gpx" link, and then start up their GPS App and import the gpx from the download folder.

    Ideally those with smart phone apps have already figured out how to download and cache 1:50K topo maps. However I was able to quickly show some people how to cache the maps, at least in Backcountry Navigator.

  9. Uploading GPX files to Bivouac
     We went thru how to create a "Waypoint working file" in Bivouac, and then upload a raw GPX file. This allows you to see your own track log on the Bivouac topo maps. A waypoint working file is just a stripped down trip report.

  10. Draw and Save
     After cookies and food, people were in the mood for more advanced stuff, so we showed everybody how to use the GMap "Draw and Save" function. Just turn on "Draw and Save", then some waypoints, put labels on them, etc. All the things explained in the help file Get bivouac waypoints from GMap "Draw and Save"..

#1821 - 2016.01.26 Robin Tivy - Course participants learn GPS basics
Chris Ludwig's course went well, with cookies and tea. Everybody left with the ability to do the following on their own GPS (which was a challenge since we had 7 types of GPS, both Garmin non touch, Garmin touch, and Smartphone (Backcountry Navigator): And we got everybody set up so they could access the internet with Wi-Fi.

The initial idea of the course was to concentrate mostly on GPS data transfer, but as it turned out, there were three main topics:

1. Basic GPS operation
  2. Bivouac Intro
  3. Uploading and downloading track logs from Bivouac to GPS

Here are the things everybody learned:

  Configure Track Log Interval
  Capturing Track Logs
  Track Log Manager
  Using GPS Altimeter
  Using GPS Compass

Capturing Waypoints
  Waypoint Manager

Importing Single Trip Track log
  Bivouac Intro
  Create accounts, verify email
  Mountain page
  Road Bulletins
  GMap Tutorial:
  Click on roads
  Click on peaks
  changing background maps
  Satellite view
  Gpx20/Kml20 link
  Importing Gpx20 file into GPS
  Using track manager to turn on individual trails
  Exporting Gpx file and importing to Bivouac

The one thing that went wrong was we tried to use "Black Tusk" as a test for the Gpx20 link, and had problems. I thought the whole thing was broken, but today I figured out the problem was the Gpx20 link did not handle two word names under some circumstances. I fixed this today, so now the gpx filenames will be just the first 6 characters, and without space.