Last weekend, during the holiday break, The Wife turns to me and says, "What do you think of getting a GPS device and taking up geocaching?"
I was shocked. I had been secretly coveting the Garmin Nüvi ever since Scott Hanselman talked it up a while back. I was very subtle in my hints, but I finally got it across that I was only interested in the Nüvi.
Well, The Wife is a keen lady indeed on the Google search engine. She discovered that the Nüvi is not recommended for geocaching; its much more suited for use in the car or walking around a tourist town with its (relatively) large screen size and feature set.
There's another set of GPS devices that are better suited for geocaching. The GPSMAP 78CSx series has a better waterproof standard of IEC 529 IPX7, a built in compass, altimeter, celestial information, tide prediction and other things are just meant for folks out wandering around in nature. There are several other sets of GPS units such as marine and aviation. I think my brother has a Garmin in his plane and my other brother has one in his boat.
I was bummed, but glad that we were going to purchase the right device. I'm still keen on the Garmin Nüvi though. :)
My day job involves building websites for companies and giving them a fantastic place to promote their brand, product or service so perhaps my bar is a little higher than some, but the Garmin website blows. The site has a semi-decent Flash piece to promote one part of the site, but over all, its a typical 1998 experience. The user interface could do well with a little bit of polish and take advantage of some usability factors we (the web development community) have learned over the past few years.
With the holiday weekend and all, I did extensive checking online for retailers and let my fingers to the walking. There's a wide range of phone experiences; from appallingly bad all the way to very helpful. REI was one of the best phone experiences, plus they had one in stock!
The Wife and I bundle up for the rain and head out to the local REI to purchase our new GPS device. REI held it for us at the customer service desk, so I just walked up to them and they handed it over. They provide fantastic service and I highly recommend them for your outdoor and sporting needs. During checkout, they asked if we were members and The Wife recalled that we signed up when we lived in Chicago. I had no idea. That ended up saving us nearly $50 off the price! Booya!
We brought the device home and booted it up. It's very pretty and has a great layout of buttons and controls. Unfortunately the device didn't synch up with the satellites. We saw between 2 and 8 bars in varying heights, but they wouldn't fill in, which would indicate a successful initialization. We tried all sorts of things including a reinstallation of the software using the USB connection. We even drove out to the airport to assure ourselves of a wide open range. We got the most bars there, but again, they were not filled in. We left it outside in our backyard for about 90 minutes too, still nothing. I even drove up to Mt. Tabor and tried it there. Nada.
We bought it on Friday and now it was Sunday. I got in the car and headed back down to REI to exchange it for a new one. I went to the customer service desk and explained the situation. The nice fella gave me a store voucher, took the broken device and asked me to go to the GPS display and get another one (downstairs). I was filled with glee!
I bolted for the display. Too bad, they were out. I did have a quirky exchange with one REI staffer at the display though. I explain the problem to him and he retorts, "Did you initialize the device? Do you even know what initialization is?" I was a tad startled by his gruff questioning, plus I was really interested in getting the device to work. Perhaps I had forgotten something and I was merely a few minutes away from eternal bliss. Alas, no. Everything this jerk explained was something I had already tried. I've written him off though; I still really like REI.
At this point, I could either ask REI to order another device for me, or I could try my luck on the broken device. I decided to go back to the customer service desk, retrieve the broken device and try some more for the remainder of the Sunday. With no luck, I phoned Garmin during the week and explained the situation. The fella was awful nice on the phone and said, based on my description that the device was probably broken. Since the bars appeared at varying heights, the antenna was probably fine and it could "see" the satellites, but it was having problems reading packets from the satellites. He said to return it to REI and grab another. Ha!
The Wife and I went back to REI today and exchanged the device. Fortunately they received a shipment recently, so they had a device available for us immediately. Yay! Plus, they were super nice to us. The Wife was immediately skeptical, so we walked a few blocks down to Jameson Square to test it out. It just took two minutes and we were locked in! Yay!
REI also gave us a $20 gift certificate for an Introduction to GPS Navigation Class. The Wife and I are looking forward to taking that for starters. I've been reading Patrick Cauldwell's posts about geocaching too. This looks like a great hobby to dive into.