My Apps — Chapter 10
Garmin BaseCamp

It looks like Garmin BaseCamp first appeared in 2008. I don’t recall when I first downloaded it but I do recall that it sucked. I use Garmin hardware and Garmin software is required to communicate with it. BaseCamp was the intended replacement for their MapSource program and, while I was hardly a fan of MapSource, at least it didn’t crash or hangup too often. Early BaseCamp did both somewhat regularly and its user interface was no more intuitive to me than MapSource’s. I put off switching as long as I could but the day came when I was forced to replace a program I didn’t like at all with one I disliked even more.

We’ve come a long way, BaseCamp and I. It has added some features that I suspect were initially put there to distract me from the frequent blowups and it quit blowing up as much. For my part, I’ve become more familiar with the interface and more tolerant of its oddities. I’m fairly comfortable with the arrangement of lists and folders that once mystified me and I’ve even plotted a few short trips entirely within BaseCamp. In fact, I’m pretty much ready to concede that my preference for creating routes in DeLorme’s Street Atlas now comes mostly from familiarity and not from any real superiority. BaseCamp’s ability to geotag photos using recorded tracks is quite convenient and the display of geotagged photos is very usable although I remain irritated by thumbnails hiding map details like town and road names.

Of course, personal preferences and peeves will soon be meaningless. Garmin acquired DeLorme in 2016 and Street Atlas development has already ceased. The 2015 edition is the final one and it is no longer available from DeLorme although a downloadable version is currently still available from Amazon. Necessity is the mother of many things but I am glad that it didn’t become necessary to rely on BaseCamp much earlier. BaseCamp has grown into a capable product and the necessity of becoming more familiar with it will eventually be a good thing. Other good things could come from the acquisition if DeLorme developers move to Garmin and bring some of those things I like with them. I’m not counting on it but it could happen.

My Apps – Chapter 9 — DeLorme Street Atlas

My Apps — Chapter 9
DeLorme Street Atlas

DeLorme Street Atlas is one of my oldest tools. I started using it in 2001. I’ve talked about it in a few posts but was surprised to see that it has never been the primary focus of a post. The reason, I suppose, is the old story of taking something for granted until you lose it. The first version I used was 9.0. There were a few more numbered revisions and a misstep into a Road Warrior version before the numeric year was used in the product name and a string of annual releases began. I didn’t grab every one. I more or less fell into biennial mode and upgraded just every other year. 2016 was to be my next planned update but plans changed. In early 2016 Garmin closed a deal to acquire DeLorme and all Street Atlas development was stopped. 2015 was the final version produced. This first post with DeLorme in the title will also be the last.

I did an earlier than planned update and purchased the 2015 version so I could have the latest possible. As I’ve written before, there is considerable overlap between Street Atlas and Garmin’s BaseCamp and it would make no sense for one company to maintain both products. BaseCamp can communicate with Garmin devices while Street Atlas cannot so the choice of which to keep is obvious.

However, even though I don’t believe that Street Atlas can do anything BaseCamp can not, I do believe there are things that Street Atlas does better or more conveniently. In some cases this really is simply my belief. When I purchased the latest version I looked through some of the customer comments and noticed that most of the negative comments were aimed at the user interface, the very thing that has kept me hooked.

For the immediate future, I expect to continue using Street Atlas for.a couple of tasks while admitting that the primary reason is nothing more than the fact that “old habits die hard”. I’m basically talking about routing and things related. Garmin seems to have eliminated all of the real problems that BaseCamp once had in this area and I accept that BaseCamp’s methods are probably just as easy as Street Atlas’s. But I have years of experience with Street Atlas and I sometimes struggle to do something in BaseCamp that I can accomplish in an instant with Street Atlas. I have plotted a few short routes directly in BaseCamp and I realize I need to switch over to it completely at some point but I’m going to continue living in the past just a little longer.

I will also continue using Street Atlas to produce the locator map posted for each documented trip. The “old habits” thing is certainly at work here but the truth is I have yet to seriously attempt to produce an equivalent map with BaseCamp so I have no idea what is hard and what is easy. I may eventually find that making my little maps is easier and quicker with BaseCamp but for the near term I’ll be posting maps that look just like they always have because they’re made the same way with the same tools.

Street Atlas is almost certainly not the only DeLorme offering that will be vanishing. It is pretty much accepted that Garmin bought DeLorme for its InReach satellite communication technology and that all other products, including maps, gazetteers, and GPS receivers are candidates for elimination. The Yarmouth, Maine, headquarters remains although the map store has been closed. Reportedly one of the conditions founder David DeLorme put on the sale was that Eartha, the World’s Largest Rotating, Revolving Globe, remain accessible to the public and so it is. The photo at left is from my 2015 visit.

The inevitable isn’t always easy to accept and sometimes we can even hold it off for a little bit. It may even be appropriate that, for at least a short while, I’ll be following decommissioned routes to abandoned buildings and ghost signs in bypassed towns with orphaned software.

My Apps — Chapter 8 FastStone Image Viewer

My Apps – Chapter 3
Garmin MapSource

MapSourceI started using Garmin’s MapSource when I got that first GPS back in 1999. That Garmin GPS III did not support routing in any meaningful sense so I don’t know if contemporary versions of MapSource did or not. For me and the GPS III, MapSource served only to load the unit with maps and points-of-interest covering my immediate needs. The limited capacity of the GPS III meant I had to do this every day or so. Occasionally less, Occasionally more. With the acquisition of the Garmin Quest in 2006, I started using MapSource to download routes.

I also used it — briefly — to create routes. As I admitted in My Apps Chapter 2, exactly when and why DeLorme’s Street Atlas became my router of choice is lost to history. It seems I first used it sometime in 2001 but I can’t say whether or not it was an instant hit.  Whatever the history, by 2006 I was a pretty solid fan of Street Atlas’ user interface. But I needed to use MapSource to get data to and from the Quest and, since it apparently contained some very capable route management features, I tried dumping DeLorme and switching completely to Garmin. It didn’t work.

I’ve gone through enough software updates in my life to understand that there is always some resistance to change and that learning something new requires some effort. I tried telling myself that I disliked the MapSource interface only because it was different. This was certainly true to a certain extent. Some things only seemed more difficult with MapSource because I was unfamiliar with it. But some things, such as moving a route’s endpoints, I believe really were more difficult. And there were a few things that simply couldn’t be done with MapSource. An example of this is the simultaneous display of multiple routes which I’d grown used to with Street Atlas and which just wasn’t possible with MapSource. So I went back to plotting routes with Street Atlas then exporting them to a GPX file which was easily imported to MapSource for transfer to the Quest. The exporting and importing was very simple and quick. It was also hazardous.

The map data used by the two products was not identical. A plotted point that was right in the center of a DeLorme road might miss the Garmin version of that road by several feet. That wasn’t a big deal most of the time but sometimes it was a real disaster. The clearest example is a point in the west bound lane of a divided highway for DeLorme that shows up in the east bound lane for Garmin. When Garmin GPS receivers announce the next action, they usually provide a hint of the following one as well. Taking a route directly from DeLorme to Garmin once caused the Quest to tell me “In 500 feet make a U-turn then make a U-turn.” Around cloverleaves and other complex interchanges, a route could really get mangled.

The “solution” was to  tweak the route in MapSource to match Garmin’s maps before transferring it to the GPS unit. Yes, it’s a pain but it’s a small pain and one I’ve decided I’m willing to endure in order to use Street Atlas for route creation. I know that not everyone would agree.

Regarding the maps themselves, I’ve discovered plenty of errors in both DeLorme and Garmin. Same with Google Maps which are starting to find their way into my life. I am not an authority and have no opinion on which has the most or worst errors. The bottom line is that I’ll be dealing with Garmin Maps and their support software as long as I’m dealing with Garmin GPS hardware and I’ll be doing that until something better for solo road-tripping comes along.

My Apps – Chapter 2 — First Routing Programs

My Apps – Chapter 2
First Routing Programs

Trip Planner - Streets & Trips - Street AtlasI really don’t remember it but there is hard proof that I used Microsoft Expedia Trip Planner 98 to plot a drive to Florida even before my first documented trip on Route 66 in 1999. In January of that year, my girl friend, Chris, and I drove to Daytona for the Rolex 24 Hour Race then to Pass Christian, Mississippi, to visit my daughter. The photos used in that first practice page I mentioned in the first My Apps installment were taken on that trip. If you had asked me a few days ago whether I had ever used Trip Planner for anything “real”, I’d have said no but there are a couple of maps and pages of turn-by-turn instructions for that trip which are clearly the product of Trip Planner 98.

My memory is just as bad regarding the other two pictured products. In a My Gear entry I described using Streets & Trips software to plot a trip then following the route with a laptop and a GPS receiver toward the end of 2001. That’s what I remembered but it’s wrong. There is no doubt that I owned Microsoft Streets & Trips 2001 and there isn’t much doubt that I used it during the summer of 2001 when I was plotting that trip but, when the rubber met the road and the GPS met the ‘puter, it was DeLorme Street Atlas 9.0 that was in play. Proof of that comes from the printed and posted maps and turn-by-turn directions with “Street Atlas USA® 9.0” in the upper right corner. I vaguely recall that something sometime caused me to switch to DeLorme but I thought that “sometime” was after the autumn 2001 trip. My best guess on the “something” is that it had to do with waypoint limits but my memory is clearly not to be trusted and moving to DeLorme may have eased limits but it certainly did not eliminate them.

I obviously don’t remember much about these programs. My memory of why I switched from Microsoft to DeLorme is vague and my memory of when was wrong. But, whatever the details of the battle, DeLorme Street Atlas emerged as my favorite routing tool pretty early and it remains my favorite. Of course, familiarity plays as big a role as anything in identifying favorites and that’s certainly a factor here. I have looked at some Garmin routing software and will talk of that in future My Apps posts but I don’t remember looking at Streets & Trips since 2002. Apparently I haven’t looked at it since 2001.

My Apps – Chapter 1 — PhotoWise & FP Express