Tag Archives: gps

More Garmin 500 Woes … #30daysofbiking

So Garmin release a new firmware for the Edge 500, to fix some problems with data being lost once you hook up your USB cable in.  Well, even after the firmware update, I found that once you power off, then sync, it loses the data.  That’s odd … fix one problem, start another.  Where do they get these QA Engineers from?

Well, that’s nothing.  Wait till you hear what later happened to me.  I’m riding into work, then hit a bump, and my Garmin goes flying off.  After going back and retrieving it, I try to remount it but I couldn’t.  Well, it turns out the plastic mount on the bottom unit chipped away.  After doing some google searches, I found this is a problem with the unit.  Well that sucks.  Luckily, my unit is still under warranty, so I’ll be sending it in.

It’s actually still functional, so I figured I would just put it in my pocket, and it will still record data.  Get ready to go for a ride this evening, then try to turn the unit on, and guess what … it won’t turn on!  I try plugging it in to my PC, and the Garmin software doesn’t recognize it.  WTF … not only is the mount defective, now I can’t turn on the unit, and can’t get anything to recognize the Garmin unit via USB.  This just sucks, royally.

Update: I later found out how to reset the Garmin.  Hit Power/Light, Page/Menuy, and Lap/Reset buttons all at the same time.

Well, I do have an RMA number, so I can send this in … but this just sucks.  Luckily, I still have my old Garmin 305, so I can still record data.  But tonight’s ride … no data.  Oh well.

Garmin Edge 500 Review

So I splurged and upgraded to a Garmin 500 GPS.  Actually, I had been looking at this for a while (even before it was released).  I’ve always had issues with my Garmin Edge 305 due to its lack of battery capacity.  I am aiming for a triple crown, and with the 305 lasting only 11 hours, there is no way it’s going to last an entire double century.  Then, on my last ride on Saturday, my 305 turned itself off not once, not twice, but 3 times.  After all of this, that convinced me (along with proddings of a bunch of others) to go for the upgrade to a Garmin Edge 500.

Regarding the unit turning itself off, apparently this is a chronic problem with the Edge 305, if running under those humming power lines.  It causes some disruptions to power on the GPS unit.  In fact, JP mentioned that after he upgraded to 705, the power disconnects have disappeared.

So the first thing I like is the mount.  On the other Garmin GPS units, it requires you to wrap the mount around the handlebar with zip ties.  When you remove it, it is such a hassle, as you have to cut that zip tie … really ugly.  With the Edge 500, you have a pair of bands that you wrap around, and it is easily removable.  I know, it’s something really simple, and not a function of the unit itself, but it is nice to not rely on zip ties to mount your GPS to your bike.  The unit is a bayonet type mount, where you slip matching slots, and rotate 90 degrees, to get it into place.  You do have to realize the positioning of the unit will be 90 degrees from where you initially mount it.

When you power up the unit, it does have a nice initial install sequence on the unit.  It asks whether or not you have a cadence sensor, and if you have a heart rate monitor.  Since mine was just an upgrade, I already have both of these, so getting started is pretty easy.

So I took it out on a ride today, with about 3000 feet of climbing, so plenty of opportunity to test it out.  I’m proud to report that it had no problems with shutting itself off.  However, there was one really annoying thing, and I’m not sure if it’s something that I set on the unit … it gives lap split times after every mile.  That is really annoying.  I’ll have to check it out a little later.

So all is good there, and now, upload it to my PC.  Oh, I forgot to register the unit, so log on to http://www.garmin.com, and register the GPS unit.  I go through the usual upgrade firmware/software drivers, etc … after doing all of this, I go to connect.garmin.com, and it syncs fine.  However, I don’t like connect.garmin.com, and I usually use Ascent or ridewithgps.com.  However, both of those have issues with downloading data from my Garmin unit.  When trying to use Ascent, it gives me some bogus message saying that the disk was not ejected properly.  I also check out ridewithgps.com, and it gives me an error “UnsupportedDataTypeException: Your device does not support reading of the type: FitnessHistoryDirectory”.  What???

I did a few google searches, and it appears that the Garmin Edge 500 uses a new file format called fit.  Actually, it’s probably more than just a file format.  With this new format, it can cause interop problems with other vendors, like Ascent, ridewithgps, or any other site that offers import via gpx file.  If you try to export your download to connect.garmin.com, it will not import to another program.  It provides an I/O error.

Well, after further research, it looks like Garmin did not publish documentation on fit format so that other vendors may inter-operate.  The SDK kit was not released, and they’ll be releasing it in the next few days.  Vendors may be receiving the SDK, but then it will take some time for them to implement that on their software.  I guess for now, Garmin Edge 500 data will be proprietary to only connect.garmin.com.  It would have been nice if they published SDK kit for those developers who wish to import data from the Edge 500 to be utilized on their software product.

Although I am happy with the general operation of the Edge 500 (battery capacity is still something to be determined), but I am really upset that they did not offer the SDK for other vendors.  This means Ascent, ridewithgps, and any other vendor who imports gpx data will be deemed useless.  Oh, and connect.garmin.com ??? It doesn’t have the ability to provide expansive data for you to manipulate.

I hear that some vendors, who are in a coalition for the ANT technology may have the SDK, and have it implemented on their product .. one such example is Trainingpeaks.  However, I wish they could have shared the SDK with vendors before they released the product … or how about this … enhance their weak connect.garmin.com interface to provide more granular information that Ascent and ridewithgps already provides.

Wide Variance in Altitude Gains using same gpx Data File

I’ve been using my Garmin Edge 305 for a while, and I’ve always wondered how accurate the elevation gain is on the various applications used to track gps data.  Using the same data, shouldn’t the elevation gain be the same, no matter which program you use?

I have 4 different applications to interpret gpx data … connect.garmin.com, Ascent, SportTracks, and ridewithgps.com.  I took about a 2.5 week sample (some with deep canyons, others were just hill climbs), and I saw a huge variants.  From this sample, connect.garmin.com seems to run low, http://www.ridewithgps.com seems to run high, while Ascent is the one that comes closest to the average.

Description connect.garmin.com Ascent GTC SportTracks ridewithgps Average
Crown/Starlight Crest 2465 2284 2420 1623 2416 2241.6
Mt. Hamilton 4892 4952 4973 4777 5052 4929.2
Page Mill, OLH, Kings 5743 6013 6148 5088 6270 5852.4
Morgan Territory, Mt. Diablo 5855 6167 6286 5189 6344 5968.2
Montebello, Mt. Eden 2670 2820 2932 2432 2943 2759.4

Taking a look at Morgan Territory/Mt. Diablo.  This had climbs mostly out in the open, without too many shades.  However, notice the big difference between http://connect.garmin.com and http://www.ridewithgps.com

The average is 5968 feet, with Sport Tracks at a low of 5189, and ridewithgps at a high of 6344.  Ascent seems to be the closest, being a little higher than the median, followed by connect.garmin.com (although it is a little on the low side).

Based on this, I think the most accurate reading will be from Ascent.  Talking to Marco, it seems that some software applications use digital elevation model underlay, and depending on which version each application uses, the resulting elevation gain may vary, even though the same source data (from the gpx file) is used.

Even though http://www.ridewithgps.com reads overly high, I still like to use it, because when you hover over the elevation profile, you can actually see the percent grade of the hill you were climbing, speed, and distance.  Ascent is more accurate, and I like the way the graph are more vectored, and yes, more geekly looking than connect.garmin.com is.  If there is one thing I wished Montebello Software could do with Ascent, is to give you a summary, in table form, giving you at a glance, stats like elevation gain, speed, distance, etc.  Right now, you have to click the calendar, and drill down to the data you want.

Now what am I getting at?  Well, from an Engineering standpoint, it doesn’t make sense.  If you have the same data file (gpx file), and same data points, why shouldn’t you get the same elevation gain?  Or maybe the gpx file does not give you the actual elevation data … who knows, and that elevation data is based on something else?  Who knows????