REPOST DEC 2006 GPS Mapping for Birders RE: [Birding-Aus] GPS units

To: <>, <>
Subject: REPOST DEC 2006 GPS Mapping for Birders RE: [Birding-Aus] GPS units
From: Simon Mustoe <>
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2009 08:57:04 +0000

This is the second time I've reposted this message from 2006.

That is to say, I am not sure things have changed all that much. Whilst iPhones 
are great for certain things, they have significant shortfalls when it comes to 
mobile data management. I have yet to be convinced that they are the right 
medium for the 'full package'. When it comes to maps for Australia, you can't 
do better than a PDA running Oziexplorer CE with the CSIRO 1:250,000 scale maps 
loaded. It takes little to set up and the software will set you back little 
over $200.

As for data...any iPhone app can do this but can't readily sync with a PC, 
because of data sharing issues over iTunes etc. Which means most iPhone apps 
are online only...great if you are in a city but not so good anywhere else. 
That may change in due course but right now, I would still opt for a phone 
running Windows CE over an iPhone. As an ardent Mac user it pains me to say 
this because iPhones have great potential but it's still easier to use a Mac 
and integrate with PC technology than the other way around.



This is a REPOST from Dec 2006. Please, don't waste your money buying a GPS
these days. Get yourself a PDA with a built in GPS - it's also your phone and
everything else. If you want simple mapping software, use Oziexplorer. Amongst
other things, I run all the Australian 1:250,000 scale maps on mine.  
___Hi,I've refrained from commenting on this thread until now but since it
overlaps with another recent thread about bird and animal lists, I will do so
now. For my part, I use a Bluetooth GPS with my PDA. Although my Ipaq has a
built-in GPS, this drains batteries quickly. I use a BT338 which boasts a
battery life in excess of 9 hours continual use but 20+ hours on battery saver
mode. It clips nearly to my binocular strap and from a warm start, gets a fix
within a few seconds. More recently I have been toying with customised
databases for storing wildlife records in the field. There is a fantastic piece
of freeware called Cybertracker ( which was
developed for South African game researchers using EU funding. You just
download it and register. It is amazingly versatile, althoug somewhat difficult
DATABASE I HAVE WRITTEN] They include various simple formats but the real
benefits are in the customised databases. For instance, I have produced a
database for recording seabird and cetacean sightings offshore, which includes
a moving map and logs all information with time, date and position. It is
amazingly easy and sychronises with my PC enabling me to download and produce
maps and reports in minutes. I have done the same for dragonflies in Victoria
and would like to do the same for birds in due course. It would take no more
than a couple of hours for instance, to build a database that records data in
BA Atlas format*. Since I travel everywhere with my PDA / phone, I can turn on
and log data anytime any place. Previously I have depended on having a notebook
available and then finding the time later to record data in electronic format.
Ninety percent of what I collect never sees the light of day but that is
changing thanks to taking the effort out of processing the written word**.
*Incidentally, I have had no luck finding an electronic list of birds from BA
including BA Atlas codes. BA have seemed reluctant to provide this, although it
would make me much more likely to regularly submit records. An regularly
updated list codes would be a useful resource. Similarly, I can't believe that
there are not complete lists of species available for other groups. For
instance, who keeps the current formal list of mammal taxonomy in Australia?
And herps, butterflies etc.?**For those of you about to being a tawdry thread
about the relative merits of notebooks vs PDAs, please don't. It doesn't
replace a field notebook, it merely augments the process. My notebook is no
longer full of lats and lons, enabling me to use the space for sketches and
descriptions instead. I could continue on this topic for ages but won't. If
anyone is interested in getting into this themselves, then I would strongly
recommend starting with Cybertracker. You will however need to be familar with
database design and patiently work through various help and FAQ files. This and
a lot of trial and error and you will shortly be able to build a database that
does anything you need. I have only just scraped the surface of its uses to
now. For general mapping, Oziexplorer is cheap and incredibly versatile. You
can georeference any map - easily done with reasonable accuracy by pinning
locations in Google Earth (edit the properties of your pins and it gives you
the lat and lon) and using these as your geo-reference points in Oziexplorer.
Alternatively, you can scan and georeference any map whatsoever or simply buy
the CSIRO 1:250000 maps on CD. For the PDA you need a $10 add-on for
Oziexplorer and you have to save maps in a separate format before using them.

> From: 
> To: 
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] The perfect phone for  a birder?
> Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2009 15:05:06 +1100
> CC: ; 
> Chris,
> Do you have any ideas on how much data you need to cache?For example
> when you zoom in on the map to street level would you have had to do
> that at home to cache it? I have no idea how to work this out or
> calculate the data required etc.
> Any tips?
> Peter - yes the inability of third party apps to run in the background
> is an Apple restriction on developers.
> Cheers
> Dave
> On 27/12/2009, at 12:59 PM, Chris wrote:
> Motion x gps software (about $5) also caches maps, so you can browse
> an intended area of travel while on the home wireless network, then
> when you go there you're not reling on the phone loading maps through
> 3G (mobile network).
> Battery life is poor on the iPhone so get a car charger in the deal.
> Having ditched my nokia e63 for the iPhone (and this being my first
> ever apple product purchase) I'll never go back to a more traditional
> phone again.
> I could bore you with every little detail of why I prefer iPhone to
> any other phone. If you really wan me to, let me know. In summary, it
> just works and they've designed it to be intuitive. It has a still/
> video camera and voice recorder too. It'll read PDF and xls. There are
> apps for facebook, flickr, etc. Heck, even google earth is on it.
> For Australian coverage, you'll want telstra, no other option.
> For detailed aus maps out of mobile coverage areas I'm sure you'd find
> maps you could buy for the phone.
> Regarding 500 bird mp3s, I'm sure you could fit 500 music CDs on the
> 32gb drive on this phone. Tas parks has an application which gives you
> all the stats of their more common natives including mp3s, and a new
> version is due out which will be comprehensive.
> If you're on foot though, and using the iPhone all the time for gps, 
> audio, etc, you'll only get a few hours of battery and you can't
> access the battery - ie no buying a second battery.
> Just did a quick search for iPhone microphones and there seem to be
> plent available:
> This email was written on the iPhone, including doing the google
> search in the middle, copying the URL and coming back to the email and 
> pasting it, and it's not too much slower than using the pc. So good I 
> rarely check mail on the pc at home any more. Not worth waiting for
> the pc to boot up :)
> Chris
> On 27/12/2009, at 11:08 AM, David Stowe <> 
> wrote:
> Hi Peter,
> Like Damian and Russell I also use an iPhone and love it.
> 1. Coverage - I recently switched to Telstra 'Next-G' for my trip out
> to Round Hill so that my wife could contact me if needed. Even
> compared to Telstras normal GSM coverage the difference in alot of
> areas is amazing. Check their website for coverage details.
> You do pay for it though.
> 2. No idea about International sorry
> 3. I must admit that I would love to know for sure about the gps etc
> too. I use an app called Motion X GPS which is fantastic. It plots
> your course on a map creating a track file that you can then email to
> others/yourself which has a link showing it on Google Maps. Great to
> send my wife while i was away letting her know where i was. Biggest
> downsides are that you have to have the application running in the
> foreground for it to work and it chews the battery ALOT faster. One
> clever thing they did though was create an iPod interface within the
> application so you can access music/bird calls from within the app so
> that the gps tracking keeps going.
> It has a number of maps that it can source (including google) and you
> can cache a certain amount but this is where I'm not sure about how
> much you are needing to download etc.
> 4. I would think Tom Tom for iPhone as Damian suggested would be good
> although it costs $100. You can also get an cradle with an external
> gps which offers superior performance. i have a mate who has it
> (without the external gps) and he is constantly frustrated with it
> telling him to turn after he has passed the street!
> 5. Perfect for this - i have masses of cds plus all the BOCA cds. You
> can also use an external speaker although i have been impressed with
> the quality of the built in speaker and it's ability to call in small
> birds.
> 6. No idea
> 7. Bird recording software - i also use Birdsight and whilst its a bit
> slower than a notepad it does save another thing to carry.
> Hope that helps :)
> Cheers
> Dave
> On 26/12/2009, at 6:45 PM, Peter Marsh wrote:
> Dear Birders,
> Knowing that you will all be at a loose end too full of Christmas pud
> to be able to go out birding let me test your tech savvy by asking
> what is the perfect phone for a birder?
> I appreciate that the question goes a bit further than the phone.
> There is also the carrier and software to consider. Therefor the
> answer that I am looking at will necessarily cover these issues.
> What I know I want in a phone are the following features :-
> 1.. As great a coverage within Australia as is possible
> 2.. As much international coverage as is possible
> 3.. GPS coverage whether within coverage are or not
> 4.. Access to detailed maps of Australian rural areas when out of
> coverage
> 5.. MP3 player to hold 500+ bird calls
> 6.. Sound recording capability ideally with the capacity to use an
> external mike
> Possible other wants are :-
> 1.. ability to load bird recording software
> What else should I want in a phone?
> So, what handset do I need, Who should my carrier be, what maps do I
> want, what other software etc, etc.
> Hope responding to this RFI will fill in your post Christmas birding
> lull!
> Oh, and may the new year bring many birds into your life.
> regards
> Peter
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