Optimizing and visualizing GPS data

Climbing Aid

Article from Issue 185/2016

Handheld navigation devices point the way and continuously record your position while you are walking. With a few scripts on Linux, extreme climber Mike Schilli attractively visualizes the data from some of his bold first ascents.

Every smartphone features a GPS receiver nowadays, and a generous collection of apps are guiding hikers across hill and dale by displaying maps. Of course, things can be pretty rustic out there in the wild, and it is a good idea to use more robust, water-splash protected devices with more powerful batteries. Some time ago, I purchased a Garmin 62s – on special offer. Although it might be a little outmoded by now, it looks as if you could drive a tank over it without causing any damage.

If you are spoiled by years of intuitive on-screen operation with your smartphone, you will probably be rubbing your eyes in disbelief to discover that LCD displays with weird menu designs – in which the user has to steer the cursor with a dozen plastic buttons on the front of the device – really do still exist (Figure 1).

UI for Steam Punks

Entering a single waypoint to mark the start of the trail nearly drove me mad. This is probably what the future of mobile telephony would have looked like if Bill Gates had asserted his aggressive monopoly policy – heaven forbid! If I were a product designer at Garmin, I would immediately launch a product line with a Mad Max Fury Road-influenced steam punk look.


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