Jeff Barr's Blog

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Laptop GPS

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2005Later this summer I’ll be taking my family on a 9 day, 3000 mile road trip. After picking up one of my middle daughter at gymnastics camp, we’ll visit Hollywood, Disneyland, Universal Studios, the Hearst Castle, San Francisco, and the Spruce Goose.

I was thinking about getting an in-car navigation system but didn’t want to spend the $900 or so that it would take to get a good one. Instead, I paid a visit to The GPS Store and bought a $80 GPS receiver for my laptop. Last night I hooked it up to the USB port, loaded Microsoft Streets and Trips onto the laptop, and went for a drive. After about 10 minutes it was able to find enough satellites to accurately fix our position, and we set it on tracking mode. As we drove through Redmond it drew a nice blue line on the map, tracking our position with a high degree of accuracy.

I asked my youngest daughter if the display was following our turns or not (she was in the back seat watching it). She said “no, it takes a couple of milliseconds.” Strong words for a 10 year old!

National Lampoon's Vacation (20th Anniversary Special Edition)There are tons of online resources for road trip planning, but there’s still a ton of work involved. Finding good hotels (preferably with free internet) with availability at peak times necessitates a lot of searching. I have also found that none of the top travel sites have very good coverage in many areas. I ended up going directly to the hotel sites in most cases.

Funny thing, but whenever I think “road trip” I always think of Chevy Chase, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Ferraris.