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GPS tracking getting better (still not great for the unwashed masses)

Today’s New York Times has an article titled, “See Spot Run. Now Find Out Where He Went.” The author tried out the Zoombak, a GPS tracking tool designed to be used on dogs and children. As the author noted, it didn’t work so well, with lots of false locations and slow updates.

Luckily I’m past tracking dogs and children – my goal is to create paths we follow when we go on holiday, and then geotag my photos so I can create another dimension for my travelogues.

I bought a Trackstick2 and tried it in the States and in Europe. I didn’t like it at all – it took at least 15 minutes of clear sky to acquire a satellite, and would loose tracking whenever you went in a building. It wasn’t very accurate either, sometimes showing me 300 meters off of my real position. On the plus side, you could control the update rate and create a reasonable trail, when it worked.

Now I’m using a RIM Blackberry Curve 8310, which seems to work adequately. I’ve got TeleNav and GoogleMaps installed and both seem to work well for showing me where I am, although both let me down in the middle of the high plains of Utah because there was no cell signal and so no way to load maps.

The web site Blackberry GPS Tracker provides the missing link, the ability to track the device. I found that works pretty well, as the Curve acquires a satellite quickly and seems to provide pretty good location information. There’s an application to run on the Blackberry that connects to the site for regular updates. When turned on, the battery drains much faster, pretty much requiring a daily recharge. But it does work. And they’ve added an “electric fence” feature to send alerts when the device goes outside a preset boundary (I haven’t tried this).

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