Monday, February 23, 2009

GPS and Xubuntu 8.04

This post is obsolete and has been superseded


I'm experimenting with USB GPS receiver (dongle). It's a Canmore GT-730F that I received in January 2009. Here's what I've learned so far.


Manually getting data using the command line (source):

  1. Check dmesg, the kernel log, to find out where the device has been mounted. In my case, it mounts reliably to /dev/ttyUSB0. If it doesn't mount, try the command sudo modprobe pl2303 to load the correct USB driver.
  2. Set the data output rate to 4800 baud using the stty command: stty 4800 > /dev/ttyUSB0
  3. Read the data stream using the cat command: cat /dev/ttyUSB0
  4. You should see a set of data scroll down the screen. Use CTRL+C to end the test.


The Linux GPS Daemon (gpsd) is the central clearinghouse for receiving GPS data from the receiver, buffering it, and forwarding it to the applications that want it. gpsd has features to broadcast to dbus (system bus), update ntpd, and respond to a multitude of specific queries from clients. References: Project home page, gpsd man page, and a great example program

$sudo apt-get install gpsd gpsd-clients  # Installs the daemon (gpsd) and test set (gpsd-clients) packages
$gpsd -b /dev/ttyUSB0                    # Start gpsd, telling it where to find the receiver
$cgps                                    # Current satellite data - great way to test that the receiver and gpsd are working


gpsfake is a gpsd simulator. It tricks gpsd into reading from a logfile instead of a real GPS device. Very handy for testing without actually using a GPS dongle. It is included with the gpsd package, and has a man page for additional reference. To make a logfile, and then to use gpsfake:

$cat /dev/ttyUSB0 > path/to/testlog  # Create the log file. Use CTRL+C to end the capture.
$gpsfake path/to/testlog             # Run gpsd simulator (not a daemon - it will occupy the terminal)


Python interface to gpsd (python-gps) is a programming tool to build your own gps-aware application.

>>>import gps                             # Load the module
>>>session = gps.gps('localhost','2947')  # Open a connection to gpsd
>>>session.query('o')                     # See man gpsd(8) for the list of commands
>>>print session.fix.latitude             # Query responses are attributes of the session
>>>dir(session)                           # To see the possible responses
>>>del session                            # Close the connection to gpsd


In this case, it seems that I need a periodic session.query('p'), which just gives lat/lon and timestamp.


Time might be an issue, since the system and the GPS may think the time is different. To see if it's an issue, compare them using the python script below. In my tests, they vary from 0.08 to 1.3 seconds apart, not enough to worry about. GPS timestamps use GMT, not localtime.

#!/usr/bin/env python
import calendar, time, gps
system_time = calendar.timegm(time.gmtime())  # System time (in seconds)
session = gps.gps('localhost','2947')         # Open a connection to gpsd
session.query('p')                            # See man gpsd(8) for the list of commands
gps_time = session.timings.c_recv_time        # GPS time (in seconds)
print ('The time difference is ' + str(system_time - gps_time) + ' seconds.')


MGRS (military map coordinates) conversion to/from latitude and longitude is not currently available in Ubuntu...that I can find. The dongle documentation doesn't mention MGRS at all. An online converter is available. The proj package looks promising, but I haven't figured it out yet. Perhaps Lat/Lon -> UTM -> MGRS?


DBus access appears to be undocumented...but there are tantalizing hints on Google that examples are out there. I can listen to dBus using cgps to make traffic, then dbus-monitor --system to see it.


The best storage format for tracklogs, routes, and waypoints seems to be GPX format, since it's easy to understand and cgpxlogger, included with gpsd, will create an XML track in GPX 1.1 format. Google's KML is more powerful, but also much more complex. GPSbabel universal data translator is a command-line application that translates one file type to another, and does convert GPX <-> KML.

$cgpxlogger -i 30 > path/to/logfile         # Save data every 30 seconds to an XML file
$gpsbabel -i gpx -f path/to/gpx_file -x duplicate -o kml -F path/to/kml_file
$#gpsbabel [options] -i INTYPE -f INFILE -x FILTER -o OUTTYPE -F OUTFILE


GPSdrive navigation system looks cool, but I couldn't get maps to load, so it's utility was limited. However, it seems that online plotting of tracklogs, routes, and waypoints is possible on Google Maps (and Yahoo Maps, and others). One example is the cool GPS Visualizer.


Gypsy is an alternative daemon, but not currently in Debian or Ubuntu, so I haven't tried it. Last release 0.6 in March 2008.


GPSman device manager is an app I know nothing about. I couldn't get it to work, so I removed it. The dongle seems small enough and simple enough that it may not need to be 'managed' at all.

1 comment:

Rozza Jullie said...
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