Finally! After you initialize your GPS receiver and change some of the system settings, it’s time to use it. Start with
- Going through the GPS receiver’s different onscreen pages and see what information is displayed.
- Walking around and watching what happens to the numbers and your position on the GPS receiver’s mapping and trip pages. (Do this outside, of course.)
- Pressing buttons and seeing what happens. You may want to have your user manual nearby in case you get lost between information screens.
GPS receivers are pretty robust, and you’re not going to hurt your new purchase by being curious.
GPS receiver screens can be scratched relatively easily. Investing in a carrying case will keep the screen scratch-free; many cases have a clear plastic face that allows you to use and view the GPS without taking it out of the case. Another way to keep the screen from being scratched is to buy thin, clear plastic sheets used to protect PDA screens, cut them to shape, and place the sheet on top of the GPS receiver screen.
The following are some simple exercises you can try that will help you become familiar with your GPS receiver. When you first start using your GPS receiver, take the user manual with you. If you forget how to do something or have a question, the manual will be right there for reference.
Everyone has opinions and like to know where people stand on different things, so here’s an exercise to let you know exactly where you stand — when you’re outside your backdoor.
- Take your GPS receiver outside where you live and create a waypoint for the spot where you’re standing.
- Name the waypoint HOME.
- Turn the GPS receiver off and go for a walk.
How far is up to you, but at least travel far enough that you can see your starting point.
- When you’re ready to head back home, turn the GPS receiver back on and use it to navigate back to the HOME waypoint.
Be sure to move through the different onscreen pages to watch the direction and distance change as you head back home.
After you enter the HOME waypoint, no matter where you are, if you have your GPS receiver with you, you can always tell exactly how far away home is. Remember, this is in a straight line as the crow flies unless you’ve got a GPS receiver that supports auto-routing.
How far, how fast?
Your GPS receiver also contains a very accurate trip computer that displays information about distance, speed, and time. After you read your user manual on how to reset and start the trip computer, here are some ideas for getting familiar with how it works:
- When exercising: When you run, jog, bike, or whatever, take your GPS receiver with you on your favorite course to see just how far you go. At the end, check your average and maximum speed. (Chapter 23 is filled with tips on using GPS if you’re an athlete.)
- When on walks: If you have children and they walk to school, go with them on their route to see exactly how far it is.
- When doing lawn work: The next time you cut the grass, take your GPS receiver with you and see just how far you push your lawn mower.
Finding your ancestors
A lot of people are into genealogy these days, and your GPS receiver can be a helpful tool in tracking your ancestors. When you visit a cemetery looking for long-lost kin, bring your GPS receiver with you to record the exact locations of tombstones and grave plots. You can pass the latitude and longitude on to other relatives doing their own genealogical research. The coordinates can be extremely useful for someone locating a small out-of-the-way cemetery in the countryside, or a relative buried in a cemetery with thousands of plots.
Some GPS receivers have a simulator or demonstration mode. This is probably one of the most overlooked (but coolest) features on a GPS receiver. The simulator mode acts as if the receiver is actually acquiring GPS satellite information. You select a speed and a direction, and the GPS receiver pretends you’re moving. Because the receiver isn’t relying on acquiring satellite data, you can comfortably sit inside the house in your favorite chair, getting familiar with your new purchase.
Depending on where you live or work, how many windows you have, and your view of the sky, your GPS receiver might (might) work indoors (or at least close to windows). Although you’re limited to what you can do with a GPS receiver indoors, it’s fun to see just how much GPS coverage you can get walking around inside a building.
There are lots more things you can do with a GPS receiver besides using it for basic navigation. Think outside the box. Some examples include
- Take digital pictures of cool places and record their coordinates with your GPS receiver. You can post them on a Web site or e-mail them to friends.
- If you have a small GPS receiver (like a Garmin Geko), securely attach it to your dog’s collar and track where Fido goes for the day. (You can also find commercial GPS pet locator products on the market.)
- Use your track log to create art. Some GPS users express themselves as artists by using theirGPS receiver to record their movements as they walk around trying to create shapes or pictures.
Your goal should be to become confident using your GPS receiver and to have fun in the process.
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