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GPS

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) developed by the United States Department of Defense and managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. It is the only fully functional GNSS in the world, can be used freely by anyone, anywhere, and is often used by civilians for navigation purposes. It uses a constellation of between 24 and 32 medium Earth orbit satellites that transmit precise radiowave signals, which allow GPS receivers to determine their current location, the time, and their velocity. Its official name is NAVSTAR GPS. Although NAVSTAR is not an acronym,[1] a few backronyms have been created for it.[2]

Since it became fully operational on April 27, 1995, GPS has become a widely used aid to navigation worldwide, and a useful tool for map-making, land surveying, commerce, scientific uses, tracking and surveillance, and hobbies such as geocaching. Also, the precise time reference is used in many applications including the scientific study of earthquakes and as a required time synchronization method for cellular network protocols such as the IS-95 standard for CDMA.

GPS navigation software usually falls into one of the following two categories:

Navigation with route calculation and directions from the software to the user of the route to take, based on a vector-based map, normally for motorised vehicles with some motorised forms added on as an afterthought. Navigation tracking, often with a map "picture" in the background, but showing where you have been, and allowing "routes" to be preprogrammed, giving a line you can follow on the screen. This type can also be used for geocaching.

Software

There is a number of navigation software products available. They can be divided into the following three groups:

[edit] Commercial navigation software with embedded maps
Nav N Go
TomTom Navigator
TomTom Mobile
Destinator
Garmin nRoute
Garmin BaseCamp (to be released by the end of March 2009) [1]
GPS Tuner (Version 6.0 to be released beginning 2nd Q 2009) [2]
Microsoft Streets and Trips 2009
iGO GPS Navigation
Terminology

Track
A track is a trace of somewhere that you have actually been (often called a "breadcrumb trail"). The GPS unit (external or internal) periodically sends details of the location which are recorded by the software, either by taking a reading based on a set time interval, based on a set distance, based on a change in direction by more than a certain angle, or a combination of these. Each point is stored together with its date and time. The resulting track can be displayed as a series of the recorded points or a line connecting them.

Retracing your steps is a simple matter of following the track back to the source.

Route
A route is a preset series of points that make up a set route to follow for your destination. Most software allows the route and the track to be displayed at the same time.

Waypoint
Waypoints are used to mark particular locations, typically used as markers along the "way" to somewhere. They are either key entered by users or downloaded from other sources, depending upon the sophistication of the device. Although not linked to tracks or routes, they can be used to simplify the construction of routes, by being able to be re-used. Frequently, waypoints serve a "safety" purpose, enabling a route to be taken around obstacles such as shallow water (marine navigation) or streams/cliffs/other hazards which may prevent a safe passage directly from point "A" to point "B".

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