No, finding a Little Chef on the A1 is not one of the six coolest ways to use your GPS. And we're not about to tell you that avoiding speed cameras is cool. But there are ways to get more out of your satnav than simple road navigation - as PC Advisor contributor John Brandon explains:
"You're never going to make that shot."
"Care to make a bet on that?" I countered.
I was playing golf at the Lincoln Park Golf Club near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, with my friend Erik. It was a cool mid-May morning with only a slight breeze coming off the ocean.
I was out to prove that technology can give you an edge over simple intuition, especially when your golf game is slightly less than spectacular (like mine).
Eventually, I decided on a 3 iron and lined up the shot. Thwack. With a low but powerful arc, my thunderous drive split the fairway and landed softly just a few yards from the green.
As any trainer can tell you, golf requires good fundamentals and sound judgment. If you know how far you can hit each driver or iron, you can easily shave a few strokes off each round. And yet, my trick is not that mysterious... and it's legal for even a touring pro - according to a PGA ruling from early last year.
I use a Magellan eXplorist XL to check the exact distance to the pin. The GPS device is accurate within a 1m or so, the screen is big enough to see course maps, and it's ruggedised with side grips and a thick plastic shell.
I've dropped it many times - on the golf course, during hiking trips with my kids and even over the side of a fishing boat - but it keeps right on working.
For corporate events, business trips or just a daily commute through rush-hour traffic, a GPS device is an indispensable ally. The GPS uses 24 satellites that follow precise orbiting patterns about 12,000 miles up in the sky. The handheld device typically locks onto three or four satellites at one time to find your exact position.
Once you have found an easy route through traffic - thanks to clear and accurate voice prompts - or hiked from one campsite to another without getting lost, there's no going back to maps or handwritten directions.
Here are six innovative uses for a GPS device during your day.
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1. Track your distance to the tee
I rarely golf without a GPS because it allows me to choose clubs more accurately. You can first "map" the fairway manually by walking the course and setting waypoints. On most GPS devices, you just click a button that looks like a flag near each tee box and hole. Then, when you play the course, the GPS shows you your current location and the distance to the next hole.
An easier approach is to use the GolfLogix handheld device, which not only shows you pin distances, but bunker locations and other hazards to avoid - such as lakes and even the best lay-up positions - all automatically for many popular courses.
You just pick the hole you are about to play and the GPS feeds you all of the relevant information. It takes all of the guesswork out of finding the flag. You can download the software for free and load it on many Garmin models (such as the eTrex Legend). The receiver comes with one free course; other courses cost just a few dollars each.
2. Catch more fish than the next guy
Fishing is another sport where persistence and fundamentals pay off, but a GPS provides several fishing perks beyond the basics. Garmin makes a fishing-friendly GPS, the 76CSx, that includes fishing and hunting schedules for the best days and times to fish and which species are in season. There's also a barometric altimeter - which determines your altitude based on atmospheric pressure - which can help you determine the best times for fishing.
For planning a corporate event, you can use a GPS to set a waypoint marker for all attendees, not only for the lake itself but for the best fishing spots on the lake.
There's also sunrise and sunset information, moon phases for judging how much light you will have for nighttime outings and tide tables for those who fish on the ocean. One last perk for fishing with a GPS: most recent models use a highly sensitive electronic compass that works even when you are motionless - unlike the analogue compasses used in earlier devices.
3. Hunt for buried treasure with your co-workers
One idea for a corporate event or after-work activity is to go geocaching. Sites such as Geocaching.com provide a list of downloadable waypoint markers for hidden treasures - there are loads all over the UK. Once you load the geocache on your GPS, you can then head to that location using the features on the GPS (such as the compass or street maps).
Once you are there, you'll typically find a coffee can or a shoe box that contains trinkets and coins, or possibly something a bit more valuable -- such as a watch or bracelet. The idea is that, if you find a geocache and take something, it's a good idea to leave some other trinket behind.
The Magellan eXplorist XL works well for geocaching. It has a large colour screen, and has one screen that lists all the geocaches you have loaded on the device so they are easy to find.
Geocaching has become a corporate "urban game" activity on a large scale. Microsoft recently hosted an event through GeoTeaming where each employee used a GPS device.
"We did a GPS-based scavenger hunt for 300 people in Disney World's Epcot Center," says Hal Howard, general manager of ERP product development.
"It was a fantastic event that required teamwork and planning to get done. GeoTeaming tailored the hunt to be about our business objectives and the strategies in the game reflected potential real-world strategies. It was motivational and educational for all."
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4. Find coffee shops, Wi-Fi hotspots, libraries or just about any public place
If you aren't interested in hunting for buried treasure, you might like hunting for dark roast coffee instead. Waymarking.com let's you search for just about any public place and then load the waypoint in your GPS.
Loading a waypoint is just a matter of connecting your GPS with a USB cable, and then using the software included with the GPS to transfer waypoint markers.
There's a marker for just about any taste. From follies in Cumbria to all of the historical markers in the US state of Texas, coffee shops with high-speed wireless access, the birthplace location of famous people, the best restaurants in small towns, pizza places located close to shopping centres and church listing by denomination, for examples.
5. Go for a hike, run, walk or bike ride and never get lost
Of course, one of the most common uses for a GPS is just going for a hike, walk, run or bike ride. Garmin makes the Forerunner 305, which is a GPS watch you wear on your wrist that shows you exercise data such as current heart rate, speed and distance, and your total workout time.
Software included with the Forerunner lets you map out your route on a PC and then track your workout progress. You can load a "ghost" runner on the GPS to see if you are running behind or ahead of previous workout times.
The Forerunner 305 also works with the website Motionbased.com, which lets you compare workout statistics with other users. It's similar to what you can do with the Nike + iPod workout system. Of course, any GPS will work for a hike in the woods - you can just set a waypoint marker for your start and finish location, and then track your speed and completion time.
One interesting marriage of technology and the great outdoors: Google provides a street-mapping feature that shows you a 360-degree digital photo for every street. You can use it to plan your walk for the day, and then use a GPS to set waypoint markers for the street locations. (So far, it works only in some major cities.)
6. Find your way around town
One last innovative use for a GPS is in-car navigation. A GPS system in a car - such as the Garmin Nuvi or the recently announced Harman-Kardon GPS-300 - lets you plan a route just by typing in an address, and then following voice prompts that tell you where (and when) to turn. The on-screen display shows you a bright easy-to-see find arrow for directions. As a corporate event, in-car systems can be a fun team-building activity.
For example, PlayTime hosts urban driving games where participants must complete various vehicular tasks. "Each task is linked to a business analogy," says Ed Cohen, a senior vice president at Satyam School of Leadership in India. "In San Francisco, we had them visit Lombard Street to represent 'twists and turns'; Coit Tower to represent 'climbing the ivory tower' and chocolates at Ghirardelli Square to represent 'sweetening the deal.' "
Many recent model cars include built-in car navigation systems as well, such as the MyGig system in many Chrysler models that shows you points-of-interest such as parks, wayside rests and libraries. The device has a USB port for loading waypoints from your laptop. Also, many rental car companies offer a GPS as a low-cost add-on for business travellers.