Showing posts with label gps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gps. Show all posts

26 August 2015

Update #4 Google Maps Directions to GPX data w/elevation data

The  Google Maps Directions to GPX tool now has support for elevation data for each route/track point.

Try it here

Elevation Notes

The tool relies on the Google Elevation API for elevation information.

This data is obtained by sampling along the given path, which in this case will be the start and end point of your directions.

Due to restrictions in the Google Elevation API, rather than return elevation data at each route point along the path, I had to implement the tool to request elevation by sampling along the length of the path. The number of samples requested is equal to the number of route points. Due to the fact that the path is sampled along the surface of the earth the accuracy of this elevation data might have a high degree of in-accuracy.

16 August 2015

Update #1 to Google Maps Directions to GPX data

I've applied several major updates to the tool discussed in this article. Update #1Update #2Update #3, Update #4 and Original post.

In a previous post I shared an experimental tool that I had been tinkering with that converts Google directions to GPX format.

After quite a few interesting suggestions and discussions with readers I want to present Update #1 to this tool.

Try it

Major changes

  1. New and more user friendly UI with error checking.
  2. More control over output format and output file types (the tool now defaults to generating a file that has the broadest compatibility with the GPX standard).
  3. Auto-generation of unique route point names (format "RPxxx").
  4. Option to include the full direction text with each route point in the <desc> field.
  5. Option to include a brief next turn information with each route point in the <cmt> field.
  6. Optional JSON response for future web-development
The new UI with all options

Try it

11 July 2015

Updating the ESA Small & Medium Sized Enterprises map (#3)

Since I created the ESA contractor map in November I've been surprised to see that I seem to get regular traffic to it.

I must admit that when I built this first I was not concerned with tracking how often the underlying SME database changes on the ESA side and the project doesn't really have any built in stats tracking that (yet).

Neither have I found time to fully automate the extraction and parsing of the data from the SME database. This code to produce and prepare the background data all lives in a C# application that currently I need to run manually to get the updated lists of companies and fields.

Out of curiosity I decided to run an update on the underlying data today and was surprised at the number of new and updated entries that were located.

View Latest

The Changes

All in all there where 39 major changes to the registry including new, deleted and updated companies.

I've updated the map markers and fixed a few minor bugs relating to mobile clients.

I also introduced a change list section. This section is shown in the lower right hand corner of the map and lists the changes that I have made to the map source data.

I should do this to all of my applications actually, it is really handy to track what has changed and when.

A version of this article is also available on LinkedIn

15 January 2015

Filtering the ESA Small & Medium Sized Enterprises on a map (#2)

The project discussed in this article has now been updated with newer data see post 3.

As a follow up on the work I did in an earlier post I decided to go ahead and expand my initial implementation quite a bit in an attempt to make it more useful for people looking for ESA vetoed contracting firms.

Try it

So I implemented two major enhancements:

1. Richer company info

Now when you click on a marker it will show you a much richer details about each company. Specifically its primary fields of expertise and contact information (in case you're interested in working there).

2. Filtering of companies

You can now hover over a little blue icon in the lower right-hand corner to open up a filter menu. By selecting individual filters in this menu you can limit the markers shown on the map to only companies that specialize in these fields.

Super useful. Wow

24 November 2014

ESA Small & Medium Sized Enterprises on a map

This article has been expanded and updated in post 2 and post 3.

Recently I had some business on the European Space Agency (ESA) SME Database. This database lists small and medium sized companies that have been cleared or granted privileges to work as contractors for the ESA.

The primary public access to this database is a long tabular list of company names and addresses. This data can be better presented today by overlaying it on an interactive map instead of a list. Using such a format can also make it easier for people to browse and investigate opportunities in specific areas.

So, in the spirit of being the change you want to see, I set out to create an offline parser (.NET) to source the list of companies from the SME database and then a simple PHP website to render the results onto a nice modern map (in this case Google Maps).

The change

First version is done and you are welcome to use it:

Try it

This first version is very basic. Currently the following improvements are planned

  1. More details about companies shown when the markers are clicked
         2015-01-11: Page now shows company fields of expertise as well as contact information 
  2. Filter companies by their sector and project types
  3. Select companies and print a list for future reference (in case you're job hunting)

3 June 2014

Programming Garmin Nüvi 1690 SatNav using C#

Update Oct 2015
I've now written a web-tool that automagically converts
Google Maps directions to GPX format. Its pretty awesome!

Take me to the new article

Oh dear, this is going to be one of these things that make you go d'oh.

If you just want to know how the tech bits and skip the narrative you can jump to the Solution section below.

I have a now rather ancient Garmin SatNav, a Nüvi 1690. I bought it a few years back when I realized that renting a GPS device with my rental car would be more expensive after the second time than buying a new device.

This little device has paid for itself many times over by now. However the process of getting data points to the device prior to a trip has always been a very complicated and round-about way one which I've vowed to make smoother every time I go through it.

My Process

I like to plan my medium to long trips using either Google Maps or Google Earth. These are excellent tools to find hotels, parking, places of interest and planning which roads to take. However neither of these two tools can handle the necessary GPS data formats (GPX being the most common) that the Garmin tools do. The Google tools (understandably if you remember their original acquisition source) only deal with KML and KMZ data formats.

This has required me to take the following steps:
  1. Plan points and routes in Google Earth/Maps
  2. Save waypoint data from Google Earth to KML file
  3. Convert KML file to GPX file (excellent tool for this is GPS Visualizer)
  4. Handle any data format errors
  5. Use any of the many Garmin tools to import the data to the device
    1. Sometimes I've used Google Map's "Send to GPS" feature for single points. This feature seems to have been removed from the new Google Maps.
    2. BaseCamp has very good support for importing waypoints and routes. It regretfully lacks support to delete said points from the Nüvi device though.
    3. myGarmin web page used to have an import feature with their GarminConnector plugin (but this is gone now)
    4. MapSource had some support for this (but this tool is discontinued now and cannot be downloaded)
    5. Garmin Express is simply useless when it comes to uploading waypoints (it is atrociously simple)
This time the only tool available to me was the rather nice BaseCamp tool. However I ran into some problems as I was unable to delete some previously loaded waypoints off my device. BaseCamp could not delete anything and even after deleting everything I could from the device menus there were still some points that lingered in there.

Deleting Everything

When using Windows 7 and newer the Garmin device shows up as an external USB storage drive. So after spending a very unsuccessful hour trying to clean my previous data from the device I finally decided to open up Windows Explorer and go hunting through the mounted drive.

I finally found that the GPX folder actually held an archive of my waypoints and trips that were somehow read by the device. Deleting every gpx file in this folder removed all custom points from the device (I also removed the Archive folder for good measure).

The Garmin USB Protocol

My perception of the device communication standard has always been the thing that has scared me away from actually diving in and creating a helper application. I decided to embark on trying to understand and leverage this protocol to automate my process as much as I could.

Cutting a very long story short, after numerous attempts using their Garmin SDK library and reverse engineering their .NET libraries I had made no real progress. The SDK samples I had, strangely just indicated that there seemed to be no compatible GPS device connected to my machine. This was weird as I could easily verify that the device was there by using their BaseCamp tool and the web-based GarminConnector (showed it connected and accessible).

Solution: USB Mass Storage Mode

Although embarrassing I, in desperation, went back to Windows Explorer and scoured through the device that was mounted as my G:\ drive trying to find any hints to how to access it.

I found a rather interesting file under the Garmin\ folder which was named GarminDevice.xml. Looking through this file it wasn't long until the shear stupidity of what I had been trying to do hit me.

I was already accessing the device! I had previously removed waypoints by deleting the files from the GPX directory, I could just as well have added a file in there with my new data!

And sure enough, this is indeed the case for a large range of Garmin devices. Below is an explanation of the relevant GarminDevice.xml section:
The GpsData DataType element also contains a File element with TransferDirection=InputToUnit which specifies a file type, extension and file path. The application places a GPS Exchange (.gpx) file containing routes, tracks and waypoints in the directory path specified. This file will be processed by the GPS device upon exit from mass storage mode.
This has reduced the problem to a simple FileIO and XML parsing exercise which is trivial to implement using any modern programming language (e.g. C# or Python).

Stay tuned for my new app :)