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Basics: Four Ways to Use Your Personal Computer With GPS Technology

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Your personal computer is the perfect companion to your GPS receiver. Here are four things you can do with your computer.

1. Map Updates

Keep your maps and other data on your GPS up to date. Most dedicated GPS devices come with a USB connection and software CD. With these you can download the latest road map and other data as needed. Many manufacturers allow you to purchase, download and install supplemental maps that go beyond the basemaps that came with your device.

2. Plot Routes, Analyze Data, Keep a Log

Plot routes before you depart, and download and analyze trip data when you return. GPS receivers may come with mapping software that permits you to plot a route on your personal computer before you depart, and then download it to your GPS device. This can be especially useful for day hiking or backpacking, when used in tandem with detailed supplemental topographic maps. Conversely, when you return from a trip or workout, you may upload your trip data back into your computer mapping software to analyze and graph the data. Storage and analysis of workout data, creating a digital, high-tech training diary, is especially useful to athletes.

3. Use Your Laptop as a GPS Device

Use your laptop computer itself as a GPS navigator. You may purchase a laptop-specific GPS receiver and link it to your laptop by USB or via a Bluetooth wireless connection. See my regularly update review of laptop GPS devices and software.

4. Try GPS-Enhanced Online Services

Use your personal computer with GPS-enhanced online services. Some online digital photo services, such as Flickr, let you attach GPS location data to your photos. These photos are keyed to a map, creating location-based photo galleries. Another type of online service lets you upload route and other data, such as elevation, or even heart rate from your GPS, and map and share it with friends, your coach, or with the world. Sites such as Garmin Connect and Allsport GPS help you manage and display route and training data.

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