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Old 26-12-2009, 13:07   #1
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What Handheld GPS to Mate with OpenCPN?

I've just discovered OpenCPN and really like what I see. With a little time and experience I'd love to contribute whenever possible. For the time being though, I want to purchase a hand held GPS unit and want it to mate with OpenCPN. Are there certain specs I need to have on the unit I buy? Is there a list of GPS units that are compatible? Will any USB unit work?


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Old 26-12-2009, 17:00   #2
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Hi Carl,

The world is your oyster .... or something like that. Just about ANY GPS can be used .. the proviso being that it must be able to output NMEA data to the computer.

I've used fixed, handheld and 'hocky puck' units of various brands without problems.

Most modern computers lack a com port (9-pin) and for those GPS units which output via a cable it is necessary to use an adapter from RS232 to USB. This is normally the case with fixed and handheld units.

The small, waterproof and inexpensive 'hocky puck' GPS units (such as the BU-353U) connect directly via a USB interface and draw their power from the USB connection. Neat!

Some GPS units interface via a Bluetooth connection, which work fine but my personal opinion is that these units require a battery which can give you a problem on a long passage.

Not aware of any list since it would be huge!

Good luck and welcome to OpenCPN.


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Old 26-12-2009, 22:18   #3
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Thanks for the info. Sounds like I can't go wrong. I do believe I'll stick with the USB units.

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Old 27-12-2009, 05:37   #4
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I completely agree with Terry but would like to share my personal experience and trade-in of my USB (hockey puck) GPS device.

I did have a USB GPS but a) didnít like the Prolific Serial driver, almost always problems. And b) I installed a multiplexer. This because of the two baud rates on my NMEA 0183 bus. Low speed 4800 for GPS, AP etc and high speed 38400 for AIS. All now standardized to one high speed, one port, to my computer 38400 with the multiplexer.

As stated before, I had a USB GPS and switched it for a serial one so was able to directly connect to the multiplexer. The signal from a serial GPS device is NMEA 0183

Now, I donít need my laptop switched on all the time for my GPS position, speed, ect info, itís on my NMEA bus. I must agree, I have a laptop with a serial port and donít know the future when I need to buy a new one that might not have a serial port anymore, but when times comeÖÖ

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Old 27-12-2009, 10:06   #5
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My laptop (and this goes for any new laptop you buy today) only has USB and firewire ports. The serial ports are no longer standard euipment. Since the Prolific Serial driver is a USB to Serial driver, I think it wouldn't be an issue with an all USB connection.
I have a lot of older electronics onboard (including a GPS unit that will not intergrate with anything) which will eventually get upgraded and intergraded, but not for several years. In the mean time, I'm looking for charting software and a way to track my position. I thought OpenCPN and a $150-$200 USB handheld unit would do this for me and give me a portable backup. Thanks for the info, and I'll keep the multiplexer in mind when I start upgrading.
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