DeLorme PN-40

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I have been using a PN-40 for about 2 months now. Originally I thought I'd sell my Garmin eTrex Vista HCX but now I am glad I did not. The PN-40 needs more polish. (That's a very short review isn't it?)

Longer review: it's pretty good for Geocaching.

Update 2010: Since I wrote that "needs more polish" comment there have been at least three major firmware updates. It's now GREAT for geocaching. Unlike the Garmin eTrex, when you transfer a geocache to the PN-40, you get all the notes and log entries and the HINT, never any need to print anything out or make additional notes. It's all there in the PN-40.

The PN-40 might not be a "serious tool" but it's a GREAT toy!

Update 2020: I gave the PN-40 and a lot of other gear to a ham. Hope he's enjoying it, or at least storing it in a cool, dry location. The labels wore off the buttons from so much use. My Garmin GPSMAP-62 completely replaced it though.

Customer support

DeLorme customer support has always worked well for me, something I can't say about OTHER gps companies.

Response by email is usually under 2 hours during business day. They have always been helpful.

I had an early PN-40 and had lots of trouble with battery life. I had to send it back for repairs (the note when it was returned said "replaced back plastics") and since then it has exhibited exemplary battery life. I use the standard DeLorme rechargeable lithium pack and usually charge it on the USB adapter from a laptop. Even though opening the case is a pain compared to the eTrex, I seldom need to since I can charge the batteries in situ.

Software and maps for the PN-40

Topo 8.0

My first impression of the data was that it was not very accurate. When I have an aerial photo loaded, I can see myself walking right down the sidewalk in the photo but on the vector street overlay I'd be well off the edge of the road by several meters. This is because the streets are really a single line of vector data which is displayed with a width that is not accurate at that zoom level -- the displayed street would be perhaps 20' wide when in fact it's really probably 60'. So it looks off on the GPS screen.

Topo 9.0

October 2010 update: I got a copy of Topo 9.0 and have not wrung it out yet. I installed it in a VirtualBox virtual machine on my Mac and graphic updates are appallingly bad, and it crashes. Since I have no interest in going back to the old XP laptop, I installed "Boot Camp" and can now boot the Mac directly into XP. (This is blasphemy! A Mac running XP!)

I will update this space soon with more Topo 9 notes.

Street Atlas 2009

I have a copy of SA 2009 and an LT40 USB GPS. As far as the PN-40 goes, forget it, you can't transfer Street Atlas data into the PN-40.

XMap 6.2

It's basically Topo 8 with some extra features. It lets you work with ESRI shapefiles by importing them. By far it was not worth the money. Get Topo 9 unless you absolutely have to have the data entry forms thing in XMap 7. As a GIS program I think there are better open source alternatives.

Then again I don't like the Topo/Xmap user interface so I have not committed to using these programs very much. It's nice to see something different though. I appreciate DeLorme's efforts to be creative.

USB to Serial

There is a program on the DeLorme site that you can use to take the live data coming in over USB and fan it out as one or more NMEA serial data streams. This means you can feed several client programs running on a Windows desktop machine at the same time. It also means you might not have to do anything at all with the binary protocol if you just want to get NMEA position data.

Binary protocol

The "DeLBin" (DeLorme Binary) Protocol spec is downloadable from the DeLorme forums as a PDF.

GPSbabel

July 2010 - I just downloaded the latest version of gpsbabel built for the Macintosh, and it supports DeLorme PN-* devices right out of the box! And it comes set up with its GUI. Very nice. I sent in my $25 to thank the author.

March 2010 - The version of gpsbabel that is in the Ubuntu archives (1.3.6-3) still does not include delbin support. Perhaps the compiled beta on the gpsbabel site does, but the following instructions still work fine.

July 2009 - Currently to get DeLBin support in gpsbabel you need to compile it from cvs sources. The gpsbabel page mentions it does not work under some Linux variations (specifically Fedora 7) but it seems to work fine on my Ubuntu desktop.

Transferring data

These notes are on the command line interface which I usually use on Linux systems, obviously if you are using the GUI you just pick from the comboboxes and off you go.

Waypoints

Transfer waypoints from the PN-40 device to a GPX file.

sudo gpsbabel -i delbin -f usb -o gpx  -F test.gpx

(I used "sudo" because I have a permissions issue with the USB device that I should fix!)

Transfer a geocaching 'loc' file to PN-40 -- gives "unexpected response" errors.

sudo gpsbabel -i geo -f geocaching.log -o delbin -F usb

I downloaded a GPX waypoint from http://waymarking.com/ so that I could try the extended Groundspeak format out. This is what the GPX file looks like: Sample Groundspeak GPX file

Here is the command to send it to the PN-40

sudo gpsbabel -i gpx -f WM3FZ4.gpx -o delbin,logs -F usb

The point shows up listed under "geocaches". The full text is in the comment area.

Tracks

27 July 09 I tried to transfer tracks with this command. It did not work.

sudo gpsbabel -t -i delbin -f usb -o gpx -F IronMountain.tracks.gpx

but this did.. strangely enough.

sudo gpsbabel -t -i delbin -f usb -o gpx -F Iron
mv Iron IronMountain.tracks.gpx

I also tried to output an ESRI shapefile and it did not create all the required parts so it was useless.

Links -- GPSbabel home page and the GPSBabel DelBin page

Building gpsbabel from sources

http://sourceforge.net/projects/gpsbabel/develop

Login to server

cvs -d:pserver:anonymous@gpsbabel.cvs.sourceforge.net:/cvsroot/gpsbabel login

Checkout source code - this will create a gpsbabel directory right here.

cvs -z3 -d:pserver:anonymous@gpsbabel.cvs.sourceforge.net:/cvsroot/gpsbabel co -P gpsbabel

I needed to install one package to get the usb.h file.

sudo apt-get install libusb-dev

On Ubuntu 9.10 I had to do this as well. Expat is needed to support reading GPX.

sudo apt-get install expat libexpat1-dev

Build and install

./configure
make 
sudo make install

Remove your old Ubuntu version if you have one.

sudo apt-get remove gpsbabel

(If you had the Ubuntu version installed then you should also tell the shell to forget about the old version by entering the command "hash -r".)

Now if you type "gpsbabel -h" at the command prompt you should get a lengthy list of supported formats that includes this block

delbin                DeLorme PN-20/PN-30/PN-40 USB protocol              
  get_posn              (0/1) Return current position as a waypoint       
  logs                  (0/1) Include groundspeak logs when writing       
  long_notes            (0/1) Use long waypoint notes regardless of PN ver

Using DNRGarmin to convert GPX files

If your goal is to transfer data into ArcMap, you can convert the DeLorme data into GPX format, and then use DNRGarmin to convert GPX files to shapefiles.

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mis/gis/tools/arcview/extensions/DNRGarmin/DNRGarmin.html

My results are not satisfactory, I had the program crash trying to load a track file, and though it can read a gpx waypoint file, when it saves it out to a shapefile layer it does whacked out things with the geometry. I had to save to a TXT file then load as an XY Event table in ArcMap to get the points into the real locations on the map. This is weird. DNRGarmin is 90% there, but has some very whacky issues with projections.

Transferring with GPSFile_to_SHP

Downloaded from http://arcscripts.esri.com/

DeLorme's ArcMap extension

You can buy the $250 ArcMap extension, I have a copy now and have tried it once or twice. You can move vector GIS data into the device and you can move data from the device into shapefiles without any extra steps. It seems very nice so far.

Data transfer with DeLorme's Topo 8

Jumping through some hoops, if you want to work with Topo 8 you can transfer track(s) from the PN-40 to a desktop, then in the Draw tab you can export the tracks as GPX data. Then you can convert the GPX files to ESRI shapefiles using DNR Garmin.