When you buy a portable GPS device like those offered by Garmin and TomTom, what you get is a compact package that will send you in the right direction and let you know where you are. If you're not prepared to spend $300 or more on a GPS navigation device, however, you can choose to spend a third of that on something called Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008.
Retailing for about $100, Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 comes with its own compact SiRFStar III GPS receiver that plugs into your computer's USB port. The provided software is preloaded with maps of the United States and Canada, including information about points of interest and the ability to give you turn-by-turn driving instructions. It's arguably just as good, if not better than the standalone units. The biggest drawback, of course, is that you're lugging a laptop around instead of a little handheld device.
What's in the Box?
The packaging for Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 is much like any other piece of productivity software that you would purchase from Adobe, Microsoft, or whoever. It's a box about the size of a paperback book, and it opens up to reveal all sorts of sales copy that tries to convince you just how great this product is.
Opening the box, you receive the following:
- DVD-ROM containing the Streets and Trips 2008 software
- Compact GPS locator
- USB adapter for the GPS locator (with two end caps)
- USB extension cable for the USB adapter
- Instruction manual
The actual GPS locator is remarkably small, having a footprint that isn't much bigger than a CompactFlash memory card. It's very thin as well, measuring a hair thicker than 10mm. Unfortunately, it cannot be used directly in this form. Instead, you've got to make use of a USB adapter that's about the same size as a standard USB flash drive. The GPS receiver plugs into this, which in turn can plug into your notebook's USB port. For optimal reception, you'll want to make use of the USB extension cable as well, suction-cupping the GPS locator onto the windshield of your car.
Installation and Setup
To get going with the Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 is surprisingly easy. They remind you that you should install the software, including the drivers, before you plug the GPS locator into your computer. All you need to do is insert the provided DVD-ROM into your computer and it will automatically launch the installation wizard, walking you through every step of the way. It really couldn't be easier.
After Streets and Trips has been installed, you can boot up the program. At this point, you insert the GPS locator into an available USB port on your laptop. Bring up the GPS Pane through an icon in the taskbar and then click on configure GPS. You will then need to scan your computer's ports until it finds the Microsoft GPS device. Select the appropriate port and then you're on your way to getting navigated. This configuration process only needs to be done one time. Subsequent GPS tracking sessions can be started from the get-go.
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