Tuesday, April 22, 2014

tweeting garmin

i'd like to start by saying that i am a map nerd. i'm not a cartographer or a surveyor. i am not a GIS specialist. i just like maps. i like trail maps, hand drawn maps, printed maps, online maps. i am delighted because the New York Public Library just came out with an online archive of maps, yay them! in a large sense, maps are just one fascinating way that we, small people, encode information about our world and try to make sense of it.

so when i took up geocaching, it was a sport i had only been waiting for my entire life.

this is where garmin comes in.

because i got a garmin GPS receiver.

now, i like the garmin GPS receivers. mostly. they feel right in my hand and they work pretty well.

one of the newer product lines, however, has a known "feature" in which the screen just freezes for no apparent reason and there is no way to fix that except to take the batteries out, wait a few seconds, put the batteries back in, turn the unit back on, and wait for it to boot up.

this is super annoying, especially if you're using the thing to, oh, i don't know, navigate or something and you have to get in the habit of checking it every fifteen seconds or so to see that it hasn't frozen, not that it will do you any good when you don' know if this is your turn or not and you have to take the batteries out of your GPS to find out.

what i'm saying is there were a lot of missed turns. or potentially missed turns. and if i wanted to do all my navigating myself, i'd not bother with the GPS. because really, if you have to keep checking your GPS and second guessing it in case it freezes up (on average twice a day), you basically have to navigate for yourself anyway.

for a couple of months i started tweeting daily the number of times my garmin GPS unit (one of the expensive models, mind you) froze up.

did garmin take any notice? no, they did not.

i also had a set of garmin maps on my laptop which worked pretty well but occasionally broke down for no apparent reason and the garmin customer service queue is a byzantine nightmare of a phone tree and the website is just as much of a clustertangle.

see, now, if you're garmin, these things do exactly what they're designed to do, which is to upsell you into the entire garmin universe of only garmin products.

but you can't go to the garmin website and just browse the catalog. you can't just look up what you need done and find out the units that will do it.

because garmin wants to channel your experience starting with you should decide BEFORE you can see any of the merchandise what activity you will be using it for.

and garmin wants you to buy some VERY expensive maps and some VERY expensive updating subscriptions and here's the thing: they make sure all the data YOU generate using their products are in THEIR proprietary format, which means that to use your own waypoint or route data you have to use it on garmin products, even crappy ones like basecamp.

and they make it so that your data that you generated using garmin products can't be easily reformatted so you can use it on older garmin products and your old mapsets can't be updated without breaking your data and new garmin mapsets can't be used on the old garmin products.

don't even think about using your another company's product with your garmin device or your garmin maps. while we're at it, don't even think about using more than one  garmin receiver with your garmin maps that cost you hundreds of dollars, because you have to buy a registration code for EACH DEVICE you want to use with the maps you bought and if for some reason your primary registered device breaks and you need to plug in your backup, the one set of maps you have installed suddenly won't give you anything but the basemap, which has only major highways.

this is what i want: to have maps i can use with whatever device i own, and to be able to manage MY DATA and stick it on whatever maps i have bought and while i understand that a company might prefer that i use their products uniformly to do that, it really starts to suck when their proprietary policies and controls interfere with YOUR USE OF THEIR PRODUCT.

in short, garmin's own restrictive controls made me want to look for some other things not garmin that might have the functionality i wanted.

garmin does not care. garmin is too big to care.

i still like my garmin receiver, even if it does freeze up twice a day, and i don't even care anymore about it freezing because i found a good alternative and because this is a long post, later on i will tell you how the problem got solved.

i may have been tweeting garmin every day, but it was a different company that finally took notice.

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