Garmin Edge 705 using Ubuntu

7 minute read

I recently bought a Garmin Edge 705, but came across the age old problem of using a device with Linux. Thankfully, Garmin have done quite well for themselves. and I've managed to use the device as I want within Ubuntu. Here's a review of the device, and how I've got to using it. I've also updated the article over time with new websites, updates and generally how the Garmin Edge is doing.

Purchase

I bought my Garmin Edge 705 from Amazon.co.uk for £250 (on 05/04/2009). There are a number of different versions that are sold. I went for one of the cheapest, the Edge 705 with Heart-rate Monitor (without the bundled maps).

I think this was the best value (given I decided not to get the Cadence Monitor). The more expensive options come with a map pack. By picking the cheaper option I saved £80 or so, and I went with using OpenStreetMap which is free... I keep meaning to contribute to it.

Maps

City Navigator Europe is the obvious option for general road maps all over Europe. Given I am, for now, just using my Edge around the UK and London, I figured I didn't need the extra £80 spend to get the City Navigator maps. Instead I've opted for OpenStreetMap, in fact I use some modified maps courtesy of "andyg". You can download them here. Another great website for OpenStreetMap maps, especially for countries other than the UK is CloudMade.

Additional Memory

When buying my Garmin I also got a 2Gb Mini SD card to increase the default storage of the device. I've since upgraded to a 16Gb Mini SD card. The Garmin will support a card this size, but you need to make sure you are running the latest version of the firmware. You can find out if you are on the Garmin website.

The 2Gb cost me around £8 (05/04/2009), and the 16Gb card £14 in May 2011. So far I've not fully used all of the additional storage, but I still use it for keeping backups of maps, and my routes, or history that I want to keep, but not have on the device itself.

Either way it's a handy feature to be able to add to the storage capacity of the device, and again hats off to Garmin for using a decent standard, ie Mini SD and making it be recognised as a removable drive (a separate one to the Garmin).

Edge 705 Pros

  • Standard USB Connection - A huge plus for me. Garmin have used a standard USB connection on their device! No damn proprietary connection like with my iPod, and Sony Phone etc... It never stops to amaze me how companies just add to the mess of cables around my desk by using proprietary cables. One connection to rule them all. Well done Garmin.
  • USB Mounted Device - yes, not only do they use a standard USB connection, but the Garmin mounts as a normal USB device in Ubuntu. Drag 'n' drop functionality all the way, makes it so much easier. I can drop new maps, routes onto the device, and get my history from it too. No crappy, half baked, buggy software that I'm forced to use.
  • Two Bike Mounts - very handy. Either one as a spare, or if you have two bikes (like me, Road and MTB) you can mount the Garmin Edge on either without having to faff around with swapping the mounting over.
  • Battery Life - apparently 15 hours. I've never actually run mine flat, I always charge it again before it gets low. Either way the battery life is very good.
  • Waterproof - so far over 2 years worth of use in the UK rain, it has been fine. Even on absolute downpours.

Edge 705 Cons

  • Clarity - sometimes the device becomes a little crowded by road names. They often block the route you're trying to see, and generally just get in the way. I tried turning the detail down, but that didn't affect road names. Either way, it would be nice to reduce the font size, and/or reduce the number of street names shown.
  • Garmin Connect - Garmin's equivalent of www.mapmyride.com (see further down). But I need Windows to upload my history to it! Why??? I have the TCX's, it would be nice just to upload them without needing Windows. I've not tried, but as mentioned in the comments you can upload to Garmin Connect without Windows by manually setting the upload options in Garmin Connect.
  • Default Map - the map installed on the Edge 705 when you buy it is useless. Not even worth trying to use it. And it's annoying to have to spend £80 on decent maps when you've already spent £250 on the device. Thankfully there is OpenStreetMap which is free. The OSM maps also load very quickly when first turning on the device (I hate long boot times / waiting around).

Setup Niggles

My first cycle route was a little slow, partly because I'm not that fit, and also because of a few annoying default settings on the Edge 705.

  • Auto Zoom - by default this is on. I found it a little disorientating. Look at the GPS one minute, then check it again, and the scale has changed! I turned this off in the settings.
  • Orientation - this is more a personal preference. By default, it rotates the map around the user. The user always points upwards. Being a reasonable map reader I can't stand this though. I look at the GPS, look away, look back, and everything has rotated around. It's especially confusing when you're trying to get your bearings and change your route (should you hit roadworks etc...).
  • Recalculate - should you go a little off track, it'll either try to recalculate, or prompt if you want it to. I turned this off completely. The OpenStreetMap I use sometimes doesn't quite match up with the GPX's I make on Google Maps. So I'm on track, but the GPS doesn't think so. The prompts becoming annyoing so I just turn them off.
  • Time Zone - there's no GMT! It's only the central time zone for the whole world. I chose "Europe West" but read somewhere that Paris is "Europe Central" ?!?! A simple thing they could sort out.

Getting Routes Onto The Garmin

Firstly, don't bother using Waypoints. The Garmin can only handle a maximum of 100, which given every turn gets used up in no distance at all. Instead of waypoints, trackpoints are what should be used.

  1. Use www.mapmyride.com to build a route. It has inbuilt, convert to GPX functionality. This is now currently the way I do things, although I find their software a lightly buggy, and not always user friendly they've updated their site which really is quite excellent now.
  2. Create a Route - I use the gmap-pedometer website (that sits on top of Google Maps) to make a route. Save the route, and keep a note of the saved url.
  3. Convert to GPX - follow the instructions on this site. You basically have to add a JavaScript bookmark to your browsers toolbar. Go to the saved url, and click the shortcut. You'll get an overlay with the GPX info inside. Copy the text, and save it as a GPX file on your desktop.
  4. Convert Waypoints to Trackpoints - the GPX created from the above steps contains waypoints. You need to convert it to trackpoints. You can do so on gpsies.com. Select the GPX you want to upload, and choose to convert to a "GPX Track".
  5. Place GPX on Garmin - the converted file will still be a GPX. You need to place it in the \\GARMIN\Garmin\Maps folder.

Getting History Off The Garmin

Garmin stores all of your history in TCX files. You can get these just by plugging it in and browsing to \\GARMIN\Garmin\History.

One problem I had was displaying and using this data in Ubuntu. There aren't many easy to use/install/setup applications in Ubuntu for such data, especially compared to Windows.

On www.mapmyrun.com you can upload your routes. It integrates very well with Google Maps, and you can see Elevation, Speed etc... and monitor your total progress, calories burnt etc... Plus I can share my routes with others.

Now I just need a way to overlay photos onto my route by matching time stamp data in the photos to GPS location points...

Conclusion

A few niggles, but on the whole a great device. I can happily cycle longer distances (I'm trying for 100 miles in one day by the end of the year), and go to places that aren't familiar. And when I do get lost (it sometimes happens), I can find my way back on track very quickly. Especially in London given all the one-ways, road works and nasty junctions.

Plus it has handy additional functions, such as "Find nearest...", pub for example (which often throws up awful results). An expensive item, but I think it will pay off its worth over time (it has so far over the course of a couple of years).

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