Sunday, March 18, 2012

Serial to USB converters and GPS receivers

So you got a new laptop, which has no serial port, but your GPS came with a serial cable. What do you do? The answer lies in a serial to USB converter, but sometimes they don’t work at first. I’ve heard people say that some cheap models are problematic, and that you should buy a name brand. Generally speaking, I think this is good advice. But I’ve also heard of cheap brands working and name brands failing to. What is going on here? A thread on the Yahoo OziExplorer discussion board delved into the topic this past week. Here are a few key snippets from the discussion…

I recently purchased a Dell Inspiron 6000 but I am not able to unload/download from my Lowrance Global 100 GPS. I only get a GPS Communications Failure message saying Failure to Initialize GPS. The connection is via the standard serial GPS cable with a USB adapter cable. The PC software is Windows XP. This arrangement worked fine on my old desktop. Any suggestions?

…Your USB adapter will have allocated a new COM port number. You need to find what number this is (from Control Panel) in order to set this into Ozi’s configuration program. You could try 1-4, then 5, without going into Control Panel. My own USB-Serial converter allocates com 5.

…One also has to remember that unless the USB converter has a unique serial # in it (the cheap ones don’t) a *new* com port number will get created each time it is plugged into a *different* USB port (new port on the computer, a new port on a hub, etc). This plays havoc with configuration of application software that uses
such devices.

Such problems are atypical, but at least this explains why some cheap adapters are problematic. Here is the beginning post on serial to USB adapters for anyone who wants to delve into the issue further.

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

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