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Computer Log # 30 March 30, 2011

This Computer Log will be on GPS systems for cars. A GPS or Global Positioning System is the offshoot of some real neat military technology. Why GPS this time? Well, we use a GPS every time we want to know were we are. When we turn on the a Navigation system in a car or use our Smart Phone, If not turned off in a smart phone you could even be tracked. A GPS Navigation system uses a basic computer in them and in all reality, most out of box GPS Systems will also work as a MP3 player and in some cases you will be able to use audio books on them, but that is not the reason I am talking about them.

Last June, I went on a trip, so I decided to try out 2 different GPS Navigation systems, The Onstar Turn By Turn and the Average external GPS Navigation system, in this case I used a Magellan GPS that my sister owned. The Magellan runs much like the Garmin I use as a volunteer driver for the DAV. I had both to take me to an address in Pittsburgh Pa. The way you used the Magellan is to type the address in and the Onstar was to push the Onstar Button on the rear view mirror and tell the Onstar Operator where you want to go. I would think that they roads in both would vary by routes to get to my destination when I got closer to Pittsburgh, but they did not. The data used usually comes Tele- Atlas or NAVTEQ . And since Onstar and my sisters Magellan match exactly on what way to turn, and I suspect that the map data came from the same company.

Now for the good, the bad, the ugly and the funny.

The Good - The Onstar operator was very courteous and helpful and set the turn by turn within seconds to my car. The Magellan, all I had to do was enter the address via the touch pad and as the Garmin I use in the DAV Van.

The Bad - Onstar is a subscription service and is free the first year of ownership of a new GM car. The Magellan and the Garmin GPS system should be updated every now and then via the net and there is a cost involved. In most cases if you update every year, the cost is about the same as a new GPS navigation. You usually get the first year free and unless roads change quite a bit every year, you should not have many problems is you go for a few years.

The Ugly - All GPS navigation systems use satellite and Pittsburgh has lots of tunnels and long underpasses where the GPS will go off line, even the Onstar had problems. So my recommendation is to have the route on paper or a paper map of your destination. The other problem I see on the Magellan and Garmin in the DAV van did not use a qwerty keyboard and made it a bit of a pain for someone who uses a keyboard or computer everyday.

The funny - When I told the Onstar and the Magellan GPS to take me home, I was only 2 turns from I79 north and no tunnels to go through. I wish it would have taken me that way on the way down. Remember if you know a shortcut to your destination, use it.

As a final thought, do not depend on a GPS Navigation as the Gospel truth to get you there, You may wind up going in circles. I do prefer the Garmin over the Magellan because the screen is smaller and not that distracting while driving. Onstar uses the LCD screen in the radio and it is not that helpful. The Onstar uses just arrows on the little screen and not a nice picture of the road ahead.

Franklin S Werren is a Computer technician and runs Chautauqua Lake Hosting and Franks Radio in Sherman ` NY. And can be found on the web at , and , also via e-mail at

Disclaimer: “Franklin S. Werren” has not received any money or promotional items in anything talked about in this column.

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Page last modified on June 01, 2011, at 03:49 PM EST