Introduction: Portable GPS Unit for Notebook
It is a sad thing that our notebooks do not come with a GPS unit. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we can have access to our location when we are overseas? Our friends and parents would be delighted to know where we are if we are able to post a map or a view of the place on our social media from Google Earth or Google Maps? Smartphones are really slow and its battery drain out pretty fast. I love notebooks also because we can type so conveniently on it and do a lot of picture and word processing.
Okay, so today we are going to build something that is pretty easy. Here are what we need:
1. GPS module (Get the least expensive unit. Trust me, they still work beautifully.) You can get them from Sparkfun, Robotshop, element14, 4dsystems, etc.
2. a small perfboard
3. a resistor and 2 capacitors - 330ohm, 1uF, 0.01uF.
4. some circuit wires (0.6mm diameter), and a 5mm through-hole 1W blue LED for indication. If 4 or 5 satellites are detected and position is locked by the receiver, the LED stops blinking. This LED is optional actually.
5. a USB-UART dongle (to do RS232 interface to your notebook) (There are many out there on the market. You can hunt for them in element14.)
6. a USB type A male to USB mini B male data cable
1. Build the circuit. Test it on a breadboard first. After that transfer the circuit to a perfboard. You need to do soldering.
2. Hook up to your PC. Install the driver for the USB-UART dongle.
3. Check the COM port number of the USB-UART dongle in Control Panel - Systems - Device Manager - Ports. If the driver is not installed correctly, you would not see the dongle appear in the Ports list.
1. Download and launch Google Earth.
2. Click 'Tools - GPS'.
3. Click 'Realtime' tab.
4. Select 'NMEA'.
5. Check 'Automatically follow the path'.
6. Click 'Start' button to start tracking.
7. Google Earth will hunt for the COM port itself because the GPS unit gives out NMEA format data which can be parsed by Google Earth/Maps.
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