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Old 01-02-2011, 12:56 PM   #1
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GPS maps

OK, I admit it. I don't like the soft female voice in GPS units telling me when to turn and, more often, saying "recalculating." I always think she's adding, to herself, "you dummy."

And I don't like the cartoon version of maps that are in the small GPS displays. Hate would be a better word, I suppose, so let me extoll the amazing maps that are freely available today--maps that will satisfy you in the city or on the highway but, better yet, will give you all the detail you could want for boondocking.

Everyone has seen Google Street Maps. Did you know there are several other maping systems that are also downloadable--Open Cycle Maps, Open Streets, Google Terrain, and Google Satellite? Here's some small scale examples:

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These maps are OK and may have some real advantages for specific navigation objectives, but for me they are a bit cartoonish. On the other hand, the Open Cycle maps, when the scale starts to get a bit larger, incorporate real topo lines. I guess it depends on whether or not you want the details, or prefer the depiction of slope as in the Google Terrain maps. These examples are from the Olympic Peninsula.

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(All the following examples are from the area NW of Bluff, Utah. The Comb Ridge, running north-south just west of Bluff, is especially rich in anasazi ruins.[open your browser up wide to look at the details between the three images in each comparison])

For you explorers and boondockers, you can always scan in a map from published paper copies. This is a bit tedious, but often provide details that you can't find anywhere else.

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Or you can download USGS Topo maps. The following comparison doesn't do justice to the 1:24,000 (commonly called Quads, or 7.5' sectionals), which are more colorful than this small piece can show. The thing to note here is that cultural artifacts are not depicted on the 1:100,00 scale maps and the details on the 1:250,000 and 1:24,000 are different. So if you're looking for the details, you need to scan all the maps for the area you're going to boondock/hike in.

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If you want to limit yourself to electronic data based maps, there are still several choices of type--roads, terrain, or satellite images. There are various sources for these maps, but the example here shows the ones that a mapping program called Oziexplorer can download automatically. These examples are approximately 1:100,000 scale. The satellite image is particularly interesting--the Comb Ridge really does stand out as a white ridge among the usual red rocks of southern Utah.

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More on why I use Virtual Earth Streets in the next post.

happy exploring,
Zep
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Old 01-02-2011, 01:15 PM   #2
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Google vs. Virtual Earth in the boondocks

(once again, all examples are from the area around Bluff, Utah, and the Comb Ridge)

IMHO, Virtual Earth depicts parks, forests, and Indian country better than Google. In addition, VE's details of secondary and tertiary roads in remote areas is better. You can click on these examples at various scales and decide for yourself.

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[scale 12]

Above scale 12, the road information doesn't seem to get any better.

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So I use Virtual Earth Streets for all my navigation outside of cities and for city navigation when all I want is to follow the highways to get through a city.

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Old 01-02-2011, 01:31 PM   #3
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Google vs. Virtual Earth in the city

(these examples are from San Francisco)

Without going through a lot of different scales, these examples provide a contrast between the two products. At scale 13 the VE map is more cluttered, but at 15 the Google map has more detail without being cluttered. It turns out that scale 15 is the scale at which all street names are depicted, regardless of town/city size (in both products).

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You don't get any additional street information above scale 15, but you do get additional cultural data. The Google map below shows the details at scale 17. It's interesting to look at Washington, DC, at this scale--all the large government office buildings and museums are clearly drawn. VE provides filled outlines, but does not draw the buildings in the quasi-three dimensional way that Google does.

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now, if the maps only showed open parking spots...
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Old 01-02-2011, 01:51 PM   #4
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I think I will stick with my GPS.

Load a route via lat/lon way points and follow it I don't let the GPS decide my trip for me.
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Old 01-02-2011, 01:54 PM   #5
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Oziexplorer

Oziexplorer is the software I use to collect and use these maps. Any time you have internet access, Ozi will download map fingernails (tiny map image fragments) and store them. You can then use them when you're not connected. Ozi downloads the fingernails for the area of your open window, so to get maps at a particular scale, you need to drag your map window across the area of interest.

It's within reason to collect the whole world up to scale 7, and the USA up to scale 10 (road maps and terrain). At more detailed scales, your window is getting "smaller" and it takes more dragging (and download time, although Ozi can fill a whole 1900x1200 window in just a few seconds) to collect a full map. So above scale 10 I collect isolated areas, eg, cities and special boondocking areas of interest.

My current map system has Mexico, Canada, and the USA, in both road and terrain maps, in 8 gigs and 920,000 files. This includes a lot of city details at scales up to 15, as well as satellite images of boondocking areas of interest to me. The files are small, so copying so many files from the desktop to a laptop takes hours, which is the only real down side, as far as I can tell.

All my other maps--FAA sectionals, USGS topos (100K and 250K), and scanned paper maps (state highway, BLM land use, parks, Mexico topos) take up 15 gigs, but only 2,100 files.

Here's an example of Great Britain and Ireland at scale 7 (with apologies to other included areas). You can get a pretty complete Atlas of the World in just a few minutes.

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More on Ozi capabilities and features in a future post.

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Old 01-02-2011, 03:32 PM   #6
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Good Information - Thanks

Thanks Zeppelinium,

My wife and I just returned from a ten-day trip (across four states and back) and we made it without the use of a GPS system. I can certainly see some positive aspects to the Garmin and other units but I find the downside to be very annoying. I'll give your approach some consideration before I go the GPS route.

Thanks again. If you find more useful information please post to this thread.

Lucius
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Old 01-02-2011, 04:25 PM   #7
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Ozi & etc. instead of GPS?

I appreciate your providing a different perspective on ways to view maps!

And I was unsure how these worked for you.

Obviously you'd need a web connection - WiFi, cell - use Google Earth or Virtual earth. So are you perhaps printing these maps out before your trip? I don't have/plan on having a printer away from home.

OziExplorer is a C note for the maps (or is it the program) after the trial period. A quick look didn't seem to tell me the details. Noticed the free maps - but is that for the less detailed maps?

Just wondered how you use that as well. Is this in conjunction with a GPS? BTW, I don't mind the voice, and I sometimes purposely go a different route for various reasons.

Thanks for your perspective.
Steve
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Old 01-02-2011, 04:50 PM   #8
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Thanks for starting this thread, Zepp.

We used OziExplorer a long long time ago with the boat, but actually haven't had it installed for a few years. My old registration still works, however. Newest version all loaded up. That's pretty good product support.

Look forward to your posts and I'll try to use it to make the transition from nautical to a land based use.

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Old 01-02-2011, 05:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pbearsailor View Post
Thanks for starting this thread, Zepp.

We used OziExplorer a long long time ago with the boat.....

Look forward to your posts and I'll try to use it to make the transition from nautical to a land based use.

cheers,
steve
Hey Steve,

I'm a sailor as well. I was looking for how either of you use it for navigation on the waterway.

Steve
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Old 01-02-2011, 06:03 PM   #10
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Zep...have you played with this site to any extent?

ALL US AND CANADA CAMPGROUNDS: STATE PARKS NATIONAL PARKS FORESTS MORE california oregon washington new york pennsylvania more

The pull down menu in the upper, RH corner of the window allows different views of sites you've selected in the main map window...

They don't have the Virtual Earth images, however...

This site is great for checking out public campgrounds and nearby Boondocking opportunities, etc...

You can of course copy the Lat/Lon data and import it into your GPS device...I use Expert GPS...

Regards...
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Old 01-02-2011, 06:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sav'h Steve View Post
Obviously you'd need a web connection - WiFi, cell - use Google Earth or Virtual earth. So are you perhaps printing these maps out before your trip? I don't have/plan on having a printer away from home.
You only need a web connection to get the maps. Ozi stores them and they are ready to use later, with or without a web connection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sav'h Steve View Post
OziExplorer is a C note for the maps (or is it the program) after the trial period. A quick look didn't seem to tell me the details. Noticed the free maps - but is that for the less detailed maps?
$100 for registration. Your registration is good for upgrades, too, forever. The free maps at the website are just large scale (large area but fewer details, which always seems backwards to me) just to try it out. They are really not much use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sav'h Steve View Post
Just wondered how you use that as well. Is this in conjunction with a GPS? ...
You use it with a laptop and a GPS USB dongle (available on the net for $40). You probably need to make some sort of support shelf to go next to the driver, so it's not a great system for use in a car. Pickups have enough room, but the laptop is always in the way of the radio and heater controls. Oh, well. Here's how I did it in an Explorer. But it gives you a great moving map display that's readable at night (Ozi can dim the screen for night viewing).

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Old 01-02-2011, 06:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garry View Post
I think I will stick with my GPS.

Load a route via lat/lon way points and follow it I don't let the GPS decide my trip for me.
Well, that's a step above letting the navigator tell you the route, but I can't believe you'd enter lat/lon points by hand. What a pain.

With Ozi, you can use the mouse to designate waypoints. Pick the scale you want (how accurate do you want to place the waypoints?). The Ozi screen shown here is much smaller than full screen, but shows all the feature icons at full size. It's beyond the scope of this thread to describe all the functions, but I'll get around to most of them eventually.

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IF you use a small scale for the long legs of the trip, but want to have precision at the end, you can change the scale and add more waypoints without losing the first ones.

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Once you have entered the waypoints, you can make a route from them, which measures all the distances (and bearings for you sailors) and adds them up in a total route plan.

By the way, you can upload waypoints to your handheld GPS unit or download tracks for display within Ozi. So if you have some very small scale maps you can plan hikes, not just road trips. For example, there are a number of hiking trails in the National Forest behind my house. I take a Garman GPS III+ when I hike and then download the track into Ozi. I load a local USGS Quad and plot the track(s) on it. Now I have a Quad with all the trails mapped out. I can print that map for visitors who want to take day hikes from the house.

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Old 01-02-2011, 06:41 PM   #13
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Recording tracks in Ozi

I record all my hikes and road trips. You can select how often you want your position recorded, so you can have small files for even long trips, or you can have your position recorded every second. As an example of a recorded trip, here's three tracks taking me from Boise to Seattle.

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I often want to know more than the gross start and end points of a trip. For example, where did I take that photo? You may not make note of it at the time, but if you record your position often, you will be surprised how much info a simple track can contain. The image below is the same track as above, but on a much smaller scale map. What I can get from this is that when I stopped in Prosser, I went to the Snoqualmie Winery, then went downtown to get diesel, then over to Hogue Cellars, then up the hill to the overlook before finally departing south over the Horse Heaven mesa. You can go back and deduce photo spots and picnic places by the same method.

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Old 01-02-2011, 06:58 PM   #14
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Nautical Ozi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sav'h Steve View Post
...I'm a sailor as well. I was looking for how either of you use it for navigation on the waterway...
I almost forgot! Ozi can import BSB charts, as well as other sources of coastal waterway info. Here's a very small piece of the NOAA 18427 Anacortes to Skagit Bay chart showing Deception Pass. The full chart is available as a download and Ozi displays the whole chart, including the info on the map borders.

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Ozi was originally written for sailboat navigation, so it has the capability to project the heading and course lines and computation of drift angle. It also has an autopilot module for lateral/course line steering (sorry, airplane guys).

I use the nautical charts around the San Juans and the Pacific coast for planning kayak expeditions.

Ozi does an excellent job on FAA sectionals, too.

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These screen shots are only 9" diagonally. On a normal laptop you'll be using full screen, somewhere between 15.5" and 16.4", maybe even wider on the 16:9 screens. You get a lot more map than you would suppose, since the toolbars remain the same size and all the extra area is devoted to the map image. If you need to see more of the map, you can use the +/- scale buttons to expand or contract the display (this works for all the raster [scannned] maps, but not the internet maps). The above sectional is at 100%, below at 33%.

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