GPS & Geotagging update

Well as mentioned, I did give the Wintec GPS dongle and the Canon G10 a spin when over in the US recently. See previous blog posts here and here.

On the whole, the Wintec did a good job when it could acquire a GPS signal. It didn’t pick up a tour I did around Hollywood, but then I did leave it in my friends car boot as we drove around, so no surprises there then!

My main issue was workflow – how to use the GPS tracking data from the Wintec successfully with getting the photos off the camera and into iPhoto. As it transpires, I missed a trick by not installing the supplied Canon software to retrieve the photos off the camera, before importing them into iPhoto. Once the photos are in iPhoto, it’s a major pain to update them with GPS data as iPhoto won’t let you update the photos in situ.

Unusually, I can’t “see” the Canon G10 from the Finder, so I couldn’t access the memory card directly and extract them natively, or point HoudahGeo at the files on the camera. I had to use iPhoto to get the photos off the camera.

Then I ended up having to export them from iPhoto, updating them with HoudahGeo and then re-importing them into iPhoto.

Not the most sensible way!

Had I installed the Canon software, I could have just imported the photos to a “staging” area, updated them with the tracking data from HoudahGeo and then imported into iPhoto.

HoudahGeo and the Wintec WBT-201 worked seamlessly together by the way. I just turned on bluetooth on the Wintec and HoudahGeo just sucked all of the track data across just fine. I didn’t bother changing the timezone on either the camera or the wintec, I just left them as GMT.

I have to say though that I’ve started to wonder if Aperture isn’t the way to go?

As far as I’m aware, you can update photos with GPS info directly in the Aperture library with HoudahGeo and there are a number of GPS plugins now available to display and manage your map data directly in Aperture itself. I’ve installed Aperture onto my MacBook pro to give it a spin and I’ll let you know how I get on.

I’d be interested if anyone could share their proven workflow with updating photos with GPS tracking information using either iPhoto or Aperture. Please feel free to share via the comments!

GPS update….

Thanks for all the comments on the previous post, extremely useful!

I think Chris and Jonathan have hit the nail on the head with respect to the particular device I have (Wintec WBT-201) in that the main barrier to its use is the terrible instructions provided with it. It transpires you don’t really need to run the supplied Windows software as it just works out of the box.

First, make sure the battery is fully charged and the press the Power key and it will come on. Top red light means GPS is activated and once signal is acquired, it will blink. You need to be outside or in clear sight of the sky for this to happen. If the blue light is on, bluetooth is enabled. Press the power button again to switch BT off. Go about your business and when you’ve finished tracking, switch the device off by pressing Power again.

Switch on the device so BT is enabled (blue light lit up) and pair the device with your Mac using the BT preference pane (it uses the passcode 0000).

Once paired, HoudaGeo will see the device and pull off the data. I also used GPSBabel+ using BT to extract the tracking data in various formats.

So really, not as painful as I first thought, just difficult to understand what to do with such poor documentation.

All I need to know now is how long the battery will last, will the devices ever get “full” and do I need to delete anything off the device (I think it uses circular logs).

We’ll see how it behave in real life later this week.

Serious GPS logging…

You may have seen the ScreenCastsOnline show where I used the iPhone for GPS logging to allow me to geotag my photos.

As I’ve a fair amount of travel planned for this year and I’ve got a new shiny camera to record it all, I’d love to be able to properly log all my photos and assign geotags.

Following on from discussions on the ScreenCastsOnline forum and various emails, I decided not to rely on the GPS tracker applications on the iPhone and go with a dedicated GPS tracker. One that I could just switch on in the morning and just forget about. The theory being I could forget all about GPS signal acquisition and not worry about running the battery down.

I toyed with the idea of getting a camera with GPS built in but they are very few and far between and the one I did consider, the reviews I found indicated that the GPS would have an adverse effect on battery life on the camera.

So what to do?

In the end I decided to get a dedicated GPS logger and went with the Wintec WBT-201, the recommended GPS tracker to work with Houdah Geo, the application I’ll be using to merge the GPS data and photos. I figured I’d get one for the trip to the US later this week so I could put it through its paces.

So the device has arrived and after fiddling with it for a couple of days, I’ve decided that GPS tracking is not for the fainthearted and certainly not ready for prime time! The issue may well be that the device has no native Mac software supplied with it and the instructions are very poorly written, but I consider myself fairly tech savvy and have to admit, it’s been a struggle trying to work out exactly what I need to do to set it all up. I even resorted to installing VMFusion on my MBP to run the Windows based software to see if that helped but even that is problematic and extremely complex.

There are some open source cross platform applications that allow you to access and configure the device but when I tried to download some of the apps and image files, I’m finding missing DMG files, broken links and even if I find the files, do I really want to build and compile code?

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with all these easy to use Mac apps?

Eventually, I’ve been able to connect to the device using USB via Windows but I’ve no idea if I need to change any of the default settings. I’ve taken a walk round the block and managed to record a GPS track, load it into Google Earth and look at it on a map, but I seem to have waypoints all over the place but at least, they appear in the general vicinity of the walk I took.

It now looks like I can use HoudaGeo to import the track information via USB but I doubt I’ll have much time to play further before leaving on Thursday. I’ll try and play/research a bit more but I’ve no idea how or if I need to reset the device, how often to download the data to the Mac and just really if I’m doing all I need to.

Fingers crossed it will all work out but if anyone has links for the definitive guide to using the Wintec WBT-201 with a Mac or some simple hints and tips, I’d really appreciate it!

Update: After reading the really useful comments below, checkout my update