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Even after a year, I'm amazed how well Google Earth navigation performs - and for free. It completely kicks butt over any nav system out there.

This tutorial shows you how to set up the hottest in-car nav and Web setup that's far better than store-bought standalone GPS units alone. If you already have an old laptop, it's cheaper as well.





The benefits of in-car Internet continually amaze my wife and I. You enjoy yourself so much more because you're never lost, and always have all the information you need. Trip planning happens on the fly. Change reservations. Find gas. Find steak. Get the weather. Stream videos. You can always get all the answers you need to make your trips so much better than before.

In-car Internet is cheap and easy. You need:

1. The cheapest old laptop.
2. Any handheld GPS with either a serial or USB output, or an external GPS antenna made expressly for laptops.
3. A cellular Air Card.





Mounting your laptop

Mounting your laptop can be done a variety of ways. However you must NEVER set it on the dash. When the airbag goes, you will be looking for your passenger's head for some time. I researched this over a year ago when I did my mount, and I wouldn't even rest a pair of sunglasses on top of the dash. The bag explodes up out of the top of the dash, then straight back.

My setup above is safe because the airbag clears the top of the screen and does not carry the computer with it.

If you want to fabricate your own mount, there is Frogeye's easy-to-build version. He runs his without a passenger however. So, the only change I would make to it is to lengthen the supports to hold the laptop lower. There is also my version pictured here, but it requires simple sheet metal fabrication.





Cellular Internet

I'm no cellular expert; there are a few folks here that are, however. This cellular Air Card cost me about $60 at Cingular. Then the monthly charge was about $20. However, this was a year ago, so there's probably a lot of cooler stuff on the market now.

Out in the sticks, the reception sucks like any cell phone. However, there's a fix. Google "Cellular range extender" and there are zillions of little devices that you can stick in your FJ to improve not only the laptop's signal, but your cell phone's as well. I have a 5 watt extender that I hooked to an antenna on the roof and it's really good.


GPS

If you do not have a handheld GPS like a Garmin or Magellan, there are many USB GPS receivers that just plug into your laptop.



Amazon.com: USB GPS Receiver: Electronics


I have a Garmin handheld that I was forced to mount in an unusual way, up between the cage tubes in the ceiling. It's USB-attached to the computer:




Firing it up

Google Earth needs an Internet connection to constantly download the maps. However, in a pinch you can do it without a connection if you take the time to cache the maps in GE before you leave home.

The free version of Google Earth does not include a GPS driver. The Pro version does ($20/year), but it's not too hot. Your GPS driver is a great piece of freeware called Earth Bridge. Earth Bridge not only hooks up your GPS signal with Google Earth, it lets you tailor it in cool ways, like letting you adjust how you view "yourself", how far away, what angle, etc. Here is a screenshot as it shows you the quality of signal reception you're getting:





Earth Bridge is set-and-forget and you only need to use it once, to turn on the GPS signal for Google Earth.





Here, I've requested directions from Vegas to Ballarat, a Death Valley ghost town. Google draws the route in purple. If you want, you can right-click it and save it for later.

For trails that Google doesn't know, there is a Draw tool so you can make your own. While researching a trip at home, you find the trail from the satellite image, draw a trail on it, then save it. When you are actually driving that trail, you'll be able to follow it.





Then all the cool GE panning and perspective features come in. Zoom in 50 feet above your truck. Swivel around and check out the scenery - even at night.





Ah - a storm is coming in. Believe it or not all this is... free!


 

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Thanks for posting this Todd, its great info and I will be using it one day for sure. :)

Now to get a laptop. :indifferent:
 

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Todd I've always wanted to try Google earth with a cellular card. The only thing that is stopping me is the card. I'm on Cingular and I have a feeling this is a very expensive thing to have and use. I'm not sure though, I haven't done my homework yet. I guess I should check into it. Can this be done with the free version of GE or do you need to buy GE professional?

It is a very cool option.

I'm hoping that my Delorme GPS receiver would work with GE too. Will it?
 

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Great post man, thanks for contributing.
 

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Todd I've always wanted to try Google earth with a cellular card. The only thing that is stopping me is the card. I'm on Cingular and I have a feeling this is a very expensive thing to have and use. I'm not sure though, I haven't done my homework yet. I guess I should check into it. Can this be done with the free version of GE or do you need to buy GE professional?

It is a very cool option.

I'm hoping that my Delorme GPS receiver would work with GE too. Will it?
The cards aren't that much actually froggy, you should look in to them and get some numbers I think you can get them now through Verizon, Sprint, Cingular and AT&T so you have some options.

Google Earth Free works fine you just need to also download and install Earth Bridge.

Todd talks about it here
Firing it up

Google Earth needs an Internet connection to constantly download the maps. However, in a pinch you can do it without a connection if you take the time to cache the maps in GE before you leave home.

The free version of Google Earth does not include a GPS driver. The Pro version does ($20/year), but it's not too hot. Your GPS driver is a great piece of freeware called Earth Bridge. Earth Bridge not only hooks up your GPS signal with Google Earth, it lets you tailor it in cool ways, like letting you adjust how you view "yourself", how far away, what angle, etc. Here is a screenshot as it shows you the quality of signal reception you're getting
Your Delorme GPS receiver should work fine.

Thas whats so cool about useing GE all the software to run it is free. :bigthumb:
 

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Thanks Jeshy, I might have to look into this for our upcoming Ouray trip.

The cards aren't that much actually froggy, you should look in to them and get some numbers I think you can get them now through Verizon, Sprint, Cingular and AT&T so you have some options.

Google Earth Free works fine you just need to also download and install Earth Bridge.

Todd talks about it here


Your Delorme GPS receiver should work fine.

Thas whats so cool about useing GE all the software to run it is free. :bigthumb:
 

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Thanks Jeshy, I might have to look into this for our upcoming Ouray trip.
It would be nice for it only not sure if it is high res all over Ouray and Kokop, I think thats the only draw back for GE when you get out from the High res stuff it is hard to follow.
 

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just want to say thanks! I had no idea in car internet would be so easy to set up
 

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Don't know if anyone else has tried this but you can do the same thing using National Geographic Topo state maps. For example we just came back from Silverton, Ouray (Black Bear Pass, Imogene, Engineer and Cinamon) disk #6 and had real time tracking on our laptops. The tracking was literaly within 3 meters. Pulg in your GPS or like I did, buy a Garmin GPS puck with USB, tell it to Track GPS and viola! Maps are very detailed. No need for an internet connection.

Hope this helps

Rick
 

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Don't know if anyone else has tried this but you can do the same thing using National Geographic Topo state maps. For example we just came back from Silverton, Ouray (Black Bear Pass, Imogene, Engineer and Cinamon) disk #6 and had real time tracking on our laptops. The tracking was literaly within 3 meters. Pulg in your GPS or like I did, buy a Garmin GPS puck with USB, tell it to Track GPS and viola! Maps are very detailed. No need for an internet connection.
That is exactly what I do except I use Terrain Navigator Pro by MapTech instead of Nat. Geo. Still need a good way to secure the laptop though, 'cause it doesn't work to have the laptop crashing around the cabin on a steep trail.

The cool thing about Todd's setup though is not having to buy and carry around a stack of CD's for the whole state.
 

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You can load the disks right onto your laptop in the Nat. Geo program maps folder. I was driving alone and seatbelted the PC into the seat. Still a little ify though.

Rick
 

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Are there any broadband options for less than $60 a month?? Hard to justify that part of it, but I'd love to go the google earth route.

Does the GPs receiver need to be outside or does near a window work?
 

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When I used the Nat. Geo maps, my Garmin puck was laying on the floorboards. Worked like a champ!

Rick
 

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Ah sweet! I need to get this setup going. Would be great for SAR work...
 

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Hey Air2Air...

I any concerns with the hard drive faulting from jouncing around in the truck while spinning? I am seriously toying with the idea of doing up a system for this, though I can't help but wonder at just how much the hard drive can take without smacking a platter and getting nuked.

Any input?
 

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Laptops have a suspended HD setup where it floats on rubber mounts. I'm pretty sure that the HD is built to withstand the bumps much better as well. My current laptop has been dropped at least twice from 3-4 ft while up and spinning. It never missed a beat... well, one time the battery came out, so it did stop that time.I've also had it running gps with the lid shut, on end in the floorboard leaning on the center console when some pretty fun FJ things happened. I keep expecting mine to fail, but it hasn't yet.

It seems the worst damage ever done to my laptop was to have CompUSA work on it.
 

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That is exactly what I do except I use Terrain Navigator Pro by MapTech instead of Nat. Geo. Still need a good way to secure the laptop though, 'cause it doesn't work to have the laptop crashing around the cabin on a steep trail.

The cool thing about Todd's setup though is not having to buy and carry around a stack of CD's for the whole state.
I also use NG TOPO software. I have Wash., Ore., Calif., Nev., Utah, Colorado and Arizona loaded on my laptop, so I can go just about anywhere with no problem. The real time tracking is outstanding.

Here is a link to my mount. http://www.fjcruiserforums.com/forums/stereo-electronics/46455-another-laptop-mount.html

Both the mount and laptop has had zero problems on some really bad roads The laptop has stayed put with nary a movement. Velco will hold anything.
 
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