Connecting a Windows Mobile GPS

BackCountry Navigator works with Windows Mobile GPS receivers. Many of the modern Windows Mobile Phones have a GPS built in. For others, they can be equipped with a bluetooth GPS Receiver, that adds the GPS capability. Common once, although less common now, are GPS receivers that fit in a compact flash card space. 

For Windows Mobile 5 and above, there is a GPS Control Panel to setup your GPS for all applications to use. Generally accessed from Settings->System->External GPS.

GPS Control Panel Settings.
GPS Control Panel Settings.

If these have already been set up by you or the manufacturer for an internal GPS, don’t touch them. If, however, you have setup a bluetooth GPS, setup the Hardware port as the “Incoming Serial Port” from your bluetooth setup, and set the Program port to an unused port. (yes it is a bit of a guess to find what is unused). 

GPS Control Panel Settings.

The last screen should normally be setup to Manage the GPS Automatically.  Under this setting, BackCountry Navigator will generally find something like “Shared NMEA device on Port …”. 

The GPS Tab has a few ways of finding and connecting to your GPS. You can explicitly specify a port number and baud rate. You can also use the Detect button to search for a list of devices on your system. Connect will also automatically trigger a detection if no settings have been chosen. 

When you push the Connect button, the pretty lights fire up on the little GPS. For a while, though nothing else seems to be happening. The GPS is establishing communications with the satellites. This can take up to two minutes the first time, but is usually faster at subsequent starts.

Once this has been done, satellites come into view in a number of formations. It is not important to know exactly what the colors or numbers mean in this view; it is just to keep you entertained while you get a better fix on your position.

Moving back to the map view, we see that our position is now marked on the map. Since your first practice with a GPS will probably be around your own neighborhood, we’ve chosen a neighborhood here as well.

Since the topo view of this neighborhood is not very interesting I switch to the aerial photograph view and zoom in closer. Now it does look like a neighborhood with a bunch of houses, bordered by a forest and a rock quarry.

Now I would like to navigate to a waypoint, in this case a house up the street. Forget for a moment that you probably already know how to get to another house in your neighborhood. You can tap on a waypoint, place, or arbitrary point and select Point -> Activate. A line appears connecting the GPS point to the point in question.

As I navigate to the destination, I switch to the Nav screen, a view that will be familiar to most people who have used a GPS.

Compass Navigation with Windows Mobile GPS Software

The top of the compass indicates our direction of travel, while the purple arrow indicates the direction of the waypoint. This allows you fine tune your travel toward the point in question.

You can also see at a glance your speed and bearing, and compare that to the direction and distance to your destination.