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USB GPS receivers are a small, easy to carry items that everybody
should have as an accessory for a Laptop these days. Just like
every other accessory you connect to your Laptop, the USB GPS
connects to your Laptop's serial output, turning your Laptop into
a great navigational tool. Theoretically, the USB GPS can be also
connected in the same way to a desktop, only that it will be pretty
useless; since you're not going to move your desktop or walk away
with it, the GPS navigation feature is totally useless.
So the USB GPS receivers are devices that need to be connected
to the USB port of a laptop computer to function. They are often
called "mouse GPS", because while connected to the Laptop they
resembles a computer mouse. The USB GPS unit is in fact a GPS
receiver contained within a plastic housing with a cable attached.
Most have a magnetic base which can be attached to the dash of
a vehicle. Also, most have some sort of rubberized base to minimize
sliding around when used on the dash of a car.
As you can see, you don't always need to buy a special GPS for your
car. You can take your Laptop with you - something you do anyway,
connect the USB GPS to the Laptop, attach it to the dash of the car,
and that's it. Now you can navigate just like you would navigate if
you had an installed GPS. Moreover, if your Laptop has been loaded
with the right GPS software, you can now use it to search for gas
stations, restaurants, hotels and local sights to visit.
Many of the USB GPS devices are waterproof. While some models
can run on external power supplied by the vehicle, the USB GPS can
be powered through the laptop's USB connection. Some models
come with navigating software installed. When you think of it, why
should you need to buy a USB GPS with software if you're going to
connect it to a Laptop? After all, since most of them have no display
screen, you obviously don't need separate software.
The prices of USB GPS are relatively inexpensive - sometimes less
than $100 US. They perform at least as good as car-dedicated units
or handhelds as they can be placed on the part of the dash that has
the best "view" of the sky or placed on the outside of the vehicle.
USB GPS work with most mapping applications including Microsoft
Streets & Trips, among others. They are extremely useful and easy
to use, and all you need to do is to plug your device into your
Laptop's USB port. Once you do that you'll immediately see your
location. Then, you'll be able to start navigating.
If your USB GPS device has a serial connector and your Laptop has
only USB ports, you'll need a Serial Port Adapter. Most GPS receivers
are required to connect to a Serial Port but most new laptops only
have USB ports, they may not have a serial port.