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Why Don't Not Make Task Specific Firmware?

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I know this wouldn't please everyone but it occurred to me the other day while caching how nice it would be if GPSr manufacturers would make various firmwares that are written SPECIFICALLY for the task.


Firmware is changeable just like loading maps in/out... why not make 2 or 3 different types of firmware available to the user. Have each one written for a specific aspect of GPSr usage (geocaching, street navigation, hunting/fishing, etc).


Alot of the 'missing' features we're wanting, are most likely missing because of limited space within the GPSr. When they are writing the firmware for a unit they have to try to cram a few key features from each aspect of GPSr usage in there and so NONE of the usage aspects ever gets all the features they want.


If they would write, say a geocaching specific firmware they could devote the entire firmware space to writing awesome firmware that could have all the bells & whistles we want. GPX files hold TONS of the cache information within them, but when loaded into your GPSr alot of it is simply thrown away since there are not data fields within the GPSr software to handle them. That's why so many of us have resorted to carrying not only a GPSr but a PDA. Why not have geocaching specific firmware that would let the GPSr retain all (or most) of that information out of the GPX file?


I'm sure there are alot of things people would like their GPSr to do in street navigation mode that could be added too.


The consumer could download the firmwares he wants to use and swap them in/out as needed. Like I said, sure this won't please everyone cause some people use the street navigation (routing etc) part of the GPSr to get to the caching location. Oh well, those folks would be stuck with the normal 'decent all, but not GOOD at any' firmware. B)


I realize this creates more work for the GPSr manufacturers, having to create/maintain multiple firmwares... but so what? If they want to sell us their stuff they should make it with the features we want, right? :P

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How much would you be willing to pay for firmware specific to geocaching? If Garmin, Magellan, etc knew we were willing to pay for it, they may be more willing to develop the firmware, knowing they'd be able to recoup some of the cost of development. Exactly what kind of features are you looking for? From reading GPS and MP3 player forums, it seems people expect miracles from firmware updates. I think the GPSr manufacturers would be foolish not to implement geocaching specific firmware if we were willing to pay modestly for it, especially since we account for the purchase of untold thousands of their products. Maybe there's more to it than we know.

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You can always do it yourself. Most units, at least my garmin, appears to use an ARM processor.

Searching google I found a project for putting uclinux on a magellan allowing the interface to be written in C, however to undertake a project of that size is very difficult and time consuming and only works (usually) for the specific hardware you are working with. (i.e. Not compatible with other gps models).

It's not as easy as it looks.


Just take a look at ipodlinux.org

Over a year of development and it's still not quite up to par with the default firmware provided by apple.

It's harder yet becuase of the lack of documentation, and usually companies like this aren't just going to give you the full technical specs about their product.

Edited by jmstacey
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The only reason that you couldn't have all the features present in a single firmware load would be because of insufficient memory. But at current memory prices I'd think almost everyone would rather pay a few more dollars for enough memory rather than have the inconvenience of reloading firmware periodically and the likelihood of finding that a specific feature isn't present just when you'd really like to have it. [Garmin should also take this to heart in deciding on how much map memory to include as long as they insist on not having memory cards in any handheld other than the disc. eMap.]


Rather than separate firmware loads, I'd like to see more use made of profiles where the GPS receiver could be set up one way for driving, another way for hiking, a third way for caching, etc. and then by making just one profile selection it would change all the user options (data fields, pages displayed, track up vs. north up, units, etc.).

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This is what I wanted with the GPS V, but now I got rid of the 2 GPS V's I had, and got a Map60C GPS.


I wanted a different firmware for the GPS V, for on foot, like with 10,000 breadcrumb tracklogs, and other ON-foot features.


What would be cool, if Garmin sold a mode switcher for GPS units, so you can hook up the GPS to the PC, and switch the firmware from Autorouting, to Fitness, to Geocaching, or whatever floats your boat, like firmware for fishing.


Garmin could introduce some GPS units with an optional Mode switching Firmware loader program for $50 that works on you PC, and it would keep track of the latest firmwares for the Mode Switcher.


Blue Tooth would also be cool with this GPS.


The Explorist XL would have been cool, if it worked with Blue tooth, and also would allow Palm PDA software on the unit, for Geocaching, astronomy, or whatever.


The Explorist XL would be perfect with a Planetarium program on it, with a complete alminac of all the celestial objects.

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The details of this point seem predicated that features are bound by available flash memory. As Peter highlights, flash memory is really inexpensive these days. What isn't inexpenensive is software development, documentation, support, and RMA'ing the units that get slagged during an upgrade.


Sidebar: I don't agree with much of what he writes, but this article comes to mind.



I do suspect that we're on the edge of seeing units that are more cognizant of the needs of cachers. Street routing is pretty well understood these days, but I think geocaching is pretty new on the radars of the vendors in this market. But the thought of having different upgrade cycles (which means different compatibility issues, different bugs, never having all the features I'd want, etc.) makes me hope we don't see them as different firmware options.


I do, of course, want it all - and I want it all at once, not each piece at a time. :-)


A reasonable compromise may very well be a PDA with a GPS, either aftermarket or integral. You could pick (or write or fund) whatever software scratched _your_ itch...

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The point that memory prices have dropped and are dropping dramatically is definitely true. If that's the case then we should start seeing some very feature rich GPSrs in the next year right?! B) So yea it's probably NOT a lack of space at this point that is limiting the feature set of GPSrs but as someone mentioned... the time and cost involved in firmware development.


I'm sure the manufacturers are devoting alot more time to the street navigation aspects than geocaching or any other. The market there is much larger, so it's more worth their time.


That said, there should be plenty of corporate funds available for firmware development these days since hardware development is probably pretty much at a standstill. The basic electronics of grabbing the data off the satellites is probably getting to be pretty much bog standard these days. Not much you can improve upon there except maybe fighting for better signal lock in tree cover and city canyons.


And yet I can't say I feel they are doing a good job of firmware development. Look at all the various bug complaints in the newest Explorist series. Seems like they are going the route alot of PC game makers have been lately... letting the CONSUMER beta test their software for them.

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