I have a Garmin Etrex 20x GPS handheld. I use it mostly as a GPS tracker. What places did I visit and when? This Wonderfull device is a true turn on and forgets tracker. I turn it on and throw it in my backpack. It will immediately start recording my coordinates. After a trip, I can see exactly what I visited, how long I spend in an area and how far I traveled. I can even use this GPS information to modify my photos I took on my trip with GPS metadata.

What are the advantages of using a GPS tracker above a mobile phone?

  1. Battery life is unbeatable. It can run 24 hours non-stop on two AA batteries. At night I charged the empty batteries with a small USB Eneloop charger I imported from Japan. When I run out of batteries I can buy almost in every convenient store new AA batteries.
  2. It is using a reflective screen. The screen is always active and is viewable in the brightest sunlight.
  3. The build quality is like a tank. Waterproof and super rigid (But the screen plastic is too soft and will easily get scratches.)
  4. It uses three methods of position. GPS, GLONASS and WAAS/EGNOS. So it’s super accurate and has a quick fix.
  5. It works offline. All the maps are stored on an SD card.

I use two different sources for maps. The free updates Garmin is offering for the build-in European maps and the maps I download from openstreetmaps for Asia and America. If you want to update the official Garmin cards you need to connect the Garmin Etrex with a USB cable to the computer and run the Garmin Express application. Unfortunately, Garmin is still using USB 1.0 (Superslow protocol from 1996). This means that uploading a new official Garmin map can take four to eight hours. That’s not acceptable for a device introduced in 2015. Why is Garmin using a 19-year-old protocol in a modern device? Maybe their GPS devices are using a reference design for the last 20 years?

If I put the external memory card of the Etrex in my USB3.0 card-reader I can’t update the maps. Garmin express, the special software updater from Garmin, doesn’t allow me to update to a memorycard. You have to write the maps to the internal memory. But that’s so sloooowwwwww.

There has to be a way to speed up the updates to this GPS device. I start searching on the internet for a solution. There is an article on the poi-factory. You can fool the Garmin Express application that a normal SD card is a Garmin device. You have to copy the GarminDevice.xml file from the Etrex’s internal memory to the Garmin folder on an external memory card. Garmin express will now think that the memory card is the Etrex GPS tracker.

Instead of the normal 80KB/s upload speed, Garmin Express can now reach speeds of 7,6 MB/s (I think that it the maximum write speed of this budget Sandisk memory card). The update that normal takes hours is now finished in 20 minutes.

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