GPS Haicom HI-302 CF: full GPS support for Mac OS 9 and X
by Settimio Perlini
08-12-2003

(la versione italiana è su questa pagina di MacProf)


Since october 2000 MacProf has tried to test and experiment GPS for Mac and our first success was the pairing of Garmin external receiver and Route 66 thanks to USB-Serial adapters.

The solution, has many "universal" advantages since you can also use it on portable Mac that lacks a PCMCIA slot and if you have the right serial adapter you can use it also on PDAs.
But if you want to get rid of cables, adapters and chargers and you have a Powerbook (14", Titanium or 17") that can host a PC Card the most useful solution could a Compact Flash GPS!
With no declared Mac compatibility, Haicom 302 is sold by many GPS specialists all over the world as Pocket PC and Windows peripheral.


But Mac has always been "plug and play" and many PMCIA cards work out of the box without specific drivers.
So what about a try with this peripheral that can be turned from a CF to a PCMCIA by a simple adapter?
Anticipating the result we can tell you that it works smoothly either with Mac OS 9 either with the most recent versions of Mac OS X.

Package
Thank to the italian reseller Mobit (specialized on GPS receivers - internal or standalone) we have tested a fully accesoried version of the product that is distributed with the GPS receiver on CF, the PCMIA adpater (it works also on Pocket PC PDAs), the external "windshield" antenna with a long cable and the case where the receiver can be hosted when you put it away from your Powerbook.

The English manual and the enclosed software talk only about the Windows and Windows CE compatibility....


Plug and Play
with Mac OS 9
Not scared by the absence of Mac referencies, we inserted the CF GPS in the PCMCIA adapter and then both in the PCMCIA slot and as magic the PC Card icon appeared on the desktop: it's seen as a modem (if you click on it the modem panel opens): it's a serial device and it's seen by all the applications as that.


But does it work with Mac GPS applications?



At Work
To test the device functionality we downloaded the latest demo version of GPSY (the last update was on 11/11/2001 but it works well on 9.2.2) that functions only for 15 minutes, good enough for aquiring data from the GPS satellites.
You can see the results on the screenshot aside.
The satellite are locked up in about a minute if you are in open space 10-14 meters away from tall buildings.

But the most interesting test was done with Route 2002 application: GPS is not only useful for boaters or topographics but also for people traveling in foreign countries and unknow roads.

As we found many months ago, Route 2002 allows you to link via serial connection a standalone Garmin or Magellan GPS receiver: the Haicom is recognized by the software (download the latest software update from Route 66 website to make it work): after 90 seconds in good "sky conditions" our GPS receiver shows our 2D position and puts a marker on the Map on screen localizing our position on the Italian territory.
Obviously if you move around you'll obtain direction, speed, time form start and 3d data as Altitude.


Works with OS X too!

With the first versions of Mac OS X there was no way to make Route 66 recognize the CF GPS adapter and we lost our hope of traveling around with our PowerBook booted from X and the device.
But many recent updates of the OS have added PCMCIA cards compatibilities and we wanted to try if it was the case also with Haico.
Booting from Mac OS X 10.2.6 with the card inserted we received a good surprise: the CF GPS receiver is seen as PC CARD Serial IO and interacts perfectly with the Mac OS X version of Route 66 showing our 2D and 3D coordinates and our direction.





On travel
The best way to test a GPS system is to start a little travel and check the precision of the position on the Map and that in the "real world".
We made several test on little country roads with small or no buildings around and in small italian cities with narrow roads and 6-8 storey buildings: in the first condition we had no problem at all with the PowerBook sitted aside the driver (not a secure traveling condition... beware!), in the second condition the signal gets lost occasionally and the external antenna mounted on the rear windshield could be of great help.
Even if the signal gets lost for a while you position is correctly restored when a third or fourth satellite is not obscured by tall buildings.

As for the rensponsivness of the position indicator: the update is almost immediate: you can obtain your "real position" on the map within a 1 second delay.

When you travel around the GPS and PowerBook with Route 66 combination shows your direction and if you have selected a route shows also the remaining time and km.

A good navigator: if it only could speak!

The only thin we missed was vocal communication: if you travel in your car alone your attention has to remain on the road and not on your computer screen!
Any way you can alwasys stop and check your position or at least receive an help from your passengers.

Conclusions
Haicom 302 is a pratical GPS device, easy to set up, has no cables, accumulators and works with your powerbook for hours and hours (providing you have car surge adapter for your laptop).

Works well with Windows and Pocket PCs (we tested it also with a Dell Axim X5).


A good tool for frequent and also occasional travellers, owners of Route 66 and a Powerbook and trekker with a PocketPC with CF slot

We haven't tried with Nautical software (Max Sea isn't developed for Mac anymore and NavimaQ is being rewritten for Mac OS X) but we will check with GPSNavX (a 49.99 $ shareware described as... "the solution for the boater that wants to take the Macintosh aboard for real-time display of position on full color charts. Just plug your GPS into your Macintosh and watch as your boat moves along in real-time, plotting a track behind the boat and logging your historic position on a digital chart"...)

Good

- No surge or batteries required,
- Good cold start speed
- Good reception with external antenna (it works also on boats and has a low price=
- works with Route 66 and GPSY and also on Mac OS X 10.2.6

Bad
- It protrudes a lot from PowerBook side and requires attention when in use
on car's seat.

Price and distribution (Europe)

GPS receiver on compact flash Euro 209 + Local taxes
GPS receiver on compact flash + antenna Euro 249 + Local taxes
Bundle tested here (receiver + antenna+ PCMCIA adapter) 269 Euro + Local taxes
You can buy it online from www.mobit.com.

Technical Data:
HI-302: Ricevitore GPS 12 canali in formato Compact Flash
- Antenna integrata
- Connettore per antenna esterna MMCX
- Antenna esterna preamplificata impermeabile a base magnetica opzionale
- LED indicatore del funzionamento 
- Adattatore PCMCIA opzionale per utilizzarlo su qualsiasi notebook
-  Chipset SiRFStar II, rapidissima riacquisizione in caso di perdita di segnale: 0.1 sec in media
- Accuratezza: 10 m, 95%
- Comunica con il sistema a 4800 bps 8N1, Dati in formato NMEA 2.2
- Consumo 160 mA max • Dimensioni 43 x 93 x 29 mm
- Compatibile Waas-Egnos
- Temperature di esercizio: 0 - 60 °C • Compatibile con Windows CE, Pocket PC, Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 e Mac OS 8.6, 9 e X!

Note: A more versatile version of the receiver with orientable antenna is model 303 on CF sold at 239 Euro + Local taxes. We didn't test it with Mac OS X but the functionality seem the same of Model 302.


Links: check the Route 66 website for the latest Maps for US and Europe.

A simple note for the may U.S. readers who have wrote for the lack of USA and Canada Maps: Route 2004 For Mac USA/Canada will be avalaible soon as a representative of Route 66 told us this week.
Meanwhile the USA 2002 version is still available for direct buy from them... check this link.