The nature of this tracking device is extremely limited and technical, but if you can hack it, this really works -- and that in itself is really exciting. The limitations are at times frustrating:
- The 2-way radios necessitate a linear or nearly linear sight on your tracking device (which in many cases may spoil the whole point anyway).
- You must be closer to the transmitter than the nominal range of your radios.
- The tracker can get bulky (think about it -- you're basically lashing together two electronic devices that were originally meant to work separately).
- This one is the worst limitation: you will need to be able to manually sift through the static garbage that radios usually emit to find the data your GPS is trying to send. If you are a total 1337 h4ck3r, you may be able to write a program that pulls it out automatically and feeds it into Google Earth. (If, incidentally, you do accomplish this, tell me what to do to gain your favor when you take over the world.) Beware! Radio static can get really random, and will even imitate the data you are after, often giving you misleading results.
To quote, with a slight change, someone who inspired me to think this way: "If you can't modify it, you don't own it!"
Building on that, the lesson I have learned and hope to teach others is that something's label should not limit the way we use it.
Step 1: Gather Supplies, Tools, and Materials
Get a cable that connects the GPS to a computer. For my project, I used a COM port plug, since I already had it lying around, but I suspect using a USB connector would have been slightly easier.
Get a pair of walkie-talkies (Americanese for 2-way radios) that have an impressive range. For this example, I am using a pair that boasts a 12-mile range.
Other materials included in this project: Wire, solder, batteries, a computer, and glue or epoxy. Optional: something to track.
Tools you will use include: wire cutters, wire strippers, screwdrivers, pliers, a soldering iron, a DMM (Digital Multi-Meter), scissors, an undefiled radio, and the user manual of your GPS.
Find a quiet, peaceful place to fine-tune this. Several of the steps are bound to be frustrating for a first-timer, as they were to me.