GPS on RISC OS with Raspberry Pi HATs

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hz320I’m sure most people are familiar with GPS today. It feels like it’s built into every kind of portable device on the market at the moment.

If you’ve recently traveled forward in time and you’re not aware of what GPS is, it is a global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.

Historically there’s hasn’t been a real need for GPS on RISC OS, as all computers running the OS have generally only been desktop machines and thus not very portable.

That’s all changed with the rise of small-form factor boards such as the Raspberry Pi, and now the capability is here.

SatNav (provisional name) is utility that receives GPS data from a module connected to the Raspberry Pi’s 40-pin header, interprets and decodes the data, displays location and bearing via its iconbar icon and transmits a ‘geo:’ URI.

Due to the availability of GPS modules in the form of  HAT boards, I’d say Satnav is more targeted at the Raspberry Pi at the moment. The picture in this article is Chris Hall’s implementation of the Adafruit Ultimate GPS HAT running RISC OS and Satnav in conjunction with RiscOSM in order to show the board’s current location.

Chris has advised however that there’s a possibility of supporting serial access on all RISC OS system which would allow a wide variety of  RISC OS computers to utilise GPS.

The tool generally requires other applications to implement its functionality. When used in conjunction with the vector map rendering application RiscOSM, Satnav can display the travel of the machine on a map.

What’s interesting with this development is GPS on a board running RISC OS could really appeal to people looking for a very light system that isn’t resource-hungry and can be placed into a portable environment and just work. At the moment, I can’t see it really being widely implemented without wi-fi support on RISC OS (for remote tracking), although if wireless support was ever to come in then I’d expect a takeup in the number of boards such as the Raspberry Pi 3 (which has built-in wireless capabilities) can report its GPS location back to another system.

The lack of wireless support on RISC OS aside, this could still be quite attractive for someone wanting a barebones embedded system – even if it only saves GPS location data to memory in order to be read later as a log.

Version 0.50 of Satnav can be downloaded from the Pling Store or directly from Chris Hall’s website.

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