25Oct/05

Importing GPX Waypoints

BackCountry Navigator imports a variety of waypoint files in the GPX format, allowing you to benefit from GPS waypoints that are freely available on the internet.

Geocaching files are not the only waypoints available on the internet in GPX (GPS Exchange) format. Often you are able to find shared waypoints from people who have been to your destination, marked points, and made helpful notes.

The map below is an area surrounding Celebration Park and Halverson Lake in Southwest Idaho. Initially, it had no waypoints. GPSTrailMaps.com had a great page with pictures and notes on this area. It also had a GPX file for download. When I imported the file, I then had the waypoints shown on the right.

 

Each of the waypoints from the file has descriptive notes that let me know what to see along the way.

As of 2.0, you can also bring in any recorded tracks from the GPX file.

 

22Jul/05

Creating a Map File

One of the first steps in using BackCountry Navigator is creating a map datafile. This file will contain all the images, places, and waypoints that you will use for an outdoor adventure in a particular area. You can create as many as you need, name them anything you want, and use one of them at a time.

When you first run BackCountry Navigator, you will be prompted to choose a filename for your first adventure with BackCountry Navigator. Do not be initimidated by this choice, you can always create more later. For best results, choose a storage card or builtin storage for the location.

Also when first started, the trial screen will appear. At some point, you may want to get rid of this dialog by purchasing the software and entering a code. For now, press  the Skip button to enter the program.

If you have not chosen a filename, not all the options will be available to you.

Do not panic if you see these screens; simply choose New… from the Data page to choose a filename. Once you have chosen a file name, more options will be available to you on the Data screen.

Coming up, we will load map data into this file.

13Jul/05

Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions that have or will be asked about BackCountry Navigator Software.

Do you support Palm PDAs?

We support the Treo 700W.

Do you run on Windows Mobile 5?

Yes. BackCountry Navigator versions 1 and 2 both run on Windows Mobile 5. Version 2.0 or later is reccommended for that platform.  

Do you have maps for Canada, Mexico, or Europe?

Not at this time. The topographic maps and aerial photographs are downloaded from TerraServer USA, which only covers the United States.

How do I tell whether an area I wish to visit is covered? 

While TerraServer has topo maps for all of the US that we are aware of, there are patches where aerial photography is not available.  To preview coverage in your area, see the coverage map at TerraServer-USA. Note that some areas will display a snow-like matte in place of an aerial photograph, which will be downloaded also by BackCountry Navigator.

Can I install the program to my Storage Card?

 Yes. When the ActiveSync Add/Remove Program dialog asks whether to install in default location, select No. You may then choose an alternate location.

Can I download maps to my Storage Card?

Yes. Downloading big files to main memory is definitely going out of style. When you create a New map datafile, choose the Location as your storage card in the Save As dialog. All maps and data will be stored in the file you have chosen.

Can I create maps from my own scanned images?

Not at this time.

Where can I buy a GPS receiver for my PocketPC?

The store BuyGPSNow specializes in receivers for Pocket PC. They have several good models of bluetooth, mouse, and compact flash receivers that have received good reviews.

Where can I go for news and rumors in the Pocket PC world?

Pocket PC Thoughts – contains news, thoughts, and reviews related to Pocket PCs.

19Jun/05

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.

19Jun/05

Defining Custom Waypoints

BackCountry Navigator allows you to define custom waypoints as easily as tapping the screen of your Pocket PC. Once defined, you can add the elevation, custom description, and notes.

Although using a basic GPS can be a lot of fun, the interface to add waypoints often leaves a little to be desired. Entering them using a few buttons can be quite tedious.

With BackCountry Navigator on your Pocket PC, you can add waypoints as easily as you do addresses or appointments.

Let’s suppose we want to mark the marina on the Lewis River where we will be starting our trip. We can mark it with a crosshairs by tapping on the map. Using the menu item Action-> Select -> Mark Waypoint . . . will then bring up the Waypoint dialog.

 Here, we can enter the name and descriptive information. If we are connected to the internet, we can even estimate the elevation by pushing the Estimate! button.

The dialog has retrieved an elevation estimate from the USGS Elevation Web Service, based on the longitude and latitude This is something you’d normally have to estimate from a map or guidebook, or wait and measure with your GPS.

The Waypoint and label now show up on the map.

Here are some addtional things to note about defining Waypoints:

  • If you wish to enter the coordinates for a point, perhaps from a paper map or guidebook, simply change the latitude, longitude, and/or elevation after bringing up the dialog.
  • The elevation estimate is not available in all areas (though it is in most), and is only accurate within 30 meters or so in the horizontal directions.
  • You can later add notes to a waypoint or change the description based on your experience there.

 

10Jun/05

Geocaching with Windows Mobile

Do you have a Windows Mobile Phone or PDA, and want to do some paperless geocaching? Here’s an example of how it is done.

Simply importing your GPX file (pocket query) into BackCountry Navigator will put you well on the way to this high tech treasure hunting adventure. Once you’ve done this, you can:

  • Preload maps of the surrounding area and see all the caches on the map. 
  • Navigate to each cache on your target list. 
  • Read clues and descriptions 

Geocaching is a treasure hunting sport where you find caches that others have hidden at specific geographic coordinates. Your GPS guides you to hidden places where you can swap trinkets and sign logs. To learn more about geocaching, please visit www.geocaching.com.

Once you have a GPX of a single cache or pocket query, you want to put it where BackCountry Navigator can read it. To explore the file system on your Windows Mobile, press the Explore button on ActiveSync. You can then place the GPX file in a directory on your storage card.


Once you’ve done that, it is easy to import the GPX file. Choose the menu item Program->File->Import->GPX. This brings up a file dialog. Here, you find the file that you have previously placed on the storage card.  


Once you’ve imported the file (may take a moment if it is a big one), a good sized cluster of geocaches appear on the map. You can then focus on a particular collection of these caches. In this case, I want to focus on some of these caches for a scout troop orienteering event. I draw some rectangles by using Action->Select->Type->Rectangles and then tapping the screen.  


It’s time to get some free outdoor maps for this area. I choose Action->Select->Download Maps to begin the process. I’m soon downloading maps from TerraServer-USA.com.


Soon, you are able to see the caches in context of the surrounding terrain, either Topographical maps or Aerial Photography. Color Aerial Photography (Urban Areas) is also available to download in some areas, including this one.


When navigating or planning a trip, its helpful to see what caches are nearby. Selecting Action->List, allows tyou to identify the Nearest Waypoints.


 

From here you can choose your next cache to find and select the Goto button or menu. BackCountry Navigator will then give you guidance as you get closer to this waypoint.


You can also choose Edit to see the full description of the cache. Note that the cache information is formatted in html as it would be on the geocache web page. This includes logs of people who have recently tried to find the cache and a clue provided by the cache owner.



Does this all sound like fun? Download a trial of BackCountry Navigator today.

Loc files (.loc) can also be imported into BackCountry Navigator. Note that they are waypoint files only and do not contain the caching specific description information you see on this page.

Note that obtaining cache GPX files will require you to sign up for a membership at geocaching,com. It is worthwhile if you plan to get into this exciting sport for GPS users. 

10Jun/05

Adding USGS Places Data

You can instantly download geographic places from the USGS database, marking important features on the map at the touch of a button.   

From the Data page, choose Download next to USGS Places Data. An hourglass will momentarily appear as data is downloaded from an internet server. That’s all you need to do. You will then see that the map is now populated with a number of symbols. While some of them are other symbols, many are a small triangle.

Data Tab on BackCountry Navigator

To find out what each of the places are, you can turn on Labels under Places in the View menu. You can also select a point by tapping the screen and selecting the name of the place in the Point menu. A dialog will appear, where we see that this is the historical Indian village of Chathalpotle, encountered by Lewis and Clark.  

 

 

05Jun/05

Trial Version Download

A trial version of BackCountry Navigator is available for download. We accept all feedback as we continue to make improvements in updated versions. 

To download, please create an account through the link to the right. If you are already logged in, the Download link should appear in the user menu. 

 

To participate, you must have a handheld device running Windows Mobile 2003, 2003SE or Windows Mobile 5 or 6 or later (Your device must use a stylus). A GPS receiver that attaches to your Pocket PC is helpful but not required.

To know if your device will work, ask yourself the following:

  • Does it run Windows Mobile?
  • Does it use a stylus? (touchscreen).

If so, register to download the trial today.

You will be asked certain information about your device for our records.  Your login will then allow you to access a page from which you can download the product installer.

The version you download will function for  21 days. Other than the fixed trial period, there is no difference between the trial version and a licensed version.   

If you choose, you can purchase an activation code for the product to continue using it past the trial period. An activation code costs $35 USD and entitles you to all compatible updates.The Desktop version is avaialble separately at $25 USD.

03Jun/05

Download

Android Version:
Android gps software download
Android version of BackCountry Navigator has been posted to the market with both DEMO and PRO version.  While it incorporates many of the same ideas as the Windows Mobile, it is designed from the ground up to use the Android platform's features and to be a fun and usable product.  

To keep up on the progress of BackCountry Navigator for Android, please sign up for the Android newsletter in the app welcome screen.  

If you are visiting this page from your Android phone, this link will take you to BackCountry Navigator on the Android market

BackCountry Navigator DEMO on Android Market.
 


Windows Mobile:

You can install the latest Windows Mobile version of BackCountry Navigator from this page. If you've already installed it, the previous version will be replaced.  

NOTE: Due to server changes at Microsoft, there have been some failures to connect. I'd reccommend using this cab file to update after you go through the initial installation. This will update your version to 2.9:

BackCountry Navigator CAB file

You may try the software free for 21 days. There is no difference in the full and trial versions other than time. 

You will need:

  • Windows Mobile PDA or Phone, 2003 or later, with touch screen
  • AND/OR
  • A Windows PC. 
  • (Optional)A GPS receiver for your device. Many have them built in now.

You won't need to:

  • Look around for maps to use with BackCountry Navigator. Install it, and it will find them!

HOW ARE YOU VIEWING THIS PAGE?


FROM YOUR MOBILE BROWSER:
Direct download of topo map to PDA.
Download and run this file:

Download and Run on Mobile Device (Version 2.7.8)

Select Yes when asked if you want to run Autorun.exe. 

IT IS SUGGESTED THAT YOU UNINSTALL PREVIOUS VERSIONS FIRST. 


FROM YOUR PC WITH MOBILE DEVICE CONNECTED:

Mobile Device connected to PC for installing software

Download and run this file to install the mobile version:

Install Mobile Version from Desktop (Version 2.9) 

IT IS SUGGESTED THAT YOU UNINSTALL PREVIOUS VERSIONS FIRST. 

You will be prompted to connect to the device and complete installation there.

-AND-
Download and run this file to Install the Desktop Edition on your PC:

Download BackCountry Navigator Desktop Edition 2.9

!NOTE: THE WINDOWS DESKTOP VERSION IS NOT MEANT FOR USE WITH ANDROID AND IS ONLY PROVIDED FOR WINDOWS MOBILE. IF YOU WANT TO PREPARE MAPS ON THE DESKTOP FOR ANDROID, PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE. 

The desktop version installer may prompt you to install the .NET 2.0 Framework, which is also available here:

  .NET 2.0 Framework (from Microsoft) 



What if I get unexpected messages?

  • "Autorun.exe[1] is not a valid win32 executable": The "Run on Device" link was used from your desktop computer. See the options above.
  • "BcNavInstall is a valid pocket pc program": The "Run From Desktop" link was used on your mobile device. See the options above.     

What if I have a version already installed?

  • Ensure that it is not running (soft reset if you need to make sure). Then you can install the new version over it.
  • If you are using a trial version, the number of days left will not be affected.
  • If you have purchased and activated the software, installing the new version will not affect the license and will not require reactivation. 

The following are part of the install for 2.0:

  • .NET Compact Framework Version 2.0 SP2. The next generation of the .NET Framework brings greater robustness, better multithreaded performance, and support for drawing trails. This is preloaded in WM 6.0 devices, but will be updated to Service Pack 2 by the install.  
  • .NET CF 2.0 String Resources.  A small installation with English system messages.
  • BackCountry Navigator 2. This installs the binaries for the BackCountry Navigator program itself.

It is reccommended that you accept the install/upgrade for all of these components to ensure that BackCountry Navigator functions properly on your device. After the first installation, you can simply accept the upgrade for BackCountry Navigator.  

The trial version of the software will function for 21 days. It is identical to the full version except for the time restrictions. 


Feedback

You may submit defect reports, questions, and feature suggestions to support at Backcountrynavigator.com.

If this is a defect report, or error message you have received, please include the file BCNavLog.txt from the "My Documents" folder on your mobile device.  This contains additional information that may be helpful in our debugging. Please mention also what steps you took before the error message occurred. You may be contacted for additional information.