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Garmin InReach/SPOT rant


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We're in SW Colorado for another month to six weeks and I got the InReach personal locator beacon out to update the firmware and pair with my cell phone for emergency messaging since we'd like to do a little bikepacking.  It's an older InReach, bought just as Garmin bought out DeLorme. 

Then I remembered I ran into this problem awhile back.   Garmin firmware updater and other support works only with Windows and MAC; Garmin still can't be bothered to support Chrome or Linux.  We have two Chromebooks and no Windows or MAC here. 

Mr. June Bug has a new to him Chumba Stella and it came with lots of bike packing gear and an unused (still in the package) SPOT.   As it turns out, the SPOT firmware update (the most recent is 2/7/2022) also works only with Windows and MAC, but this SPOT is new enough that it may not need an update and possibly could be paired directly with our Android phones.  I'll check and see how this works. 

Anyway, this pisses me off insanely.  These are global companies; can they just not be bothered to sync with Chrome?  Ditto with SPOT.  We're more than a bit stuck.  There is no Discount Electronics store or anything remotely related here where we could pick up an old Windows desktop cheap. 

Two words that I hate are "work around" but if anyone knows of a work around, please post up.  I haven't seen anything online that offers help. 

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Check with your local library, sometimes they can be helpful in these situations.

Normally they should have all of the USB ports disabled for security, but it is highly likely that libraries in small towns are poor with security.

Also, a bike shop might be able to help you. A 6-pack goes a long way in that regard.

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I'm frustrated that way too as I prefer neither windows or macos ... but there's just not enough market share that most of these hardware companies can support the one offs. I've gotten a windows virtual machine working under Linux and that helps in some cases, but not always.

It would be great ifnthwse devices supported updates via only mobile phone, that's like the best-least denominator now. But, for the size of the updates that pretty much requires wifi-direct connections, bluetooth just isn't fast enough.

Garmin has been doing a lot more of these phone based updates to devices, but more are needed.

Heck, my Fenix watch got and update from the phone that resulted in my watch updating the firmware in my bike's wheel sensor. What a crazy jenga-stack that is!

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I checked in with the local LBS and they suggested a phone repair place that also does a little bit of computer stuff, but that doesn't seem like quite the right avenue. 

I'll head to the library today. Since I have a local address, they gave me a free library card.  I use them when I need to print something and to check out Tony Hillerman and Anne Hillerman murder mysteries.   Like all librarians they are very helpful, but I don't know how tech savvy they are or if they have one tech savvy person on staff. 

The computers do have Firefox for the default browser; not sure if they are Windows based.   Sadly, they don't have MAC laptops for checkout.

I want to do a ride in a few days from Hovenweep National Monument on the Colorado/Utah border, over to Hatch Trading Post (now abandoned) via unpaved Black Steer Canyon Rd. This is a recon of sorts for a longer ride I want to do. 

This is not wilderness by any means but it's way the heck out there with very little traffic and zero cell service -- an empty quarter of sorts.  We're old people on our own (74 and 77) and I don't want to be out there without an InReach or some way to get help if anything should happen. 

 

    

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I have recycled so many computers we weren't using.   In fact I have a mini computer (not a laptop, just a small case desktop) that was my media PC and it has Windows 7 on it.  I'll boot it up and if it works it's yours.

 

Sorry, I hadn't realized you're out of town.

Edited by AntonioGG
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I went to the library and got to the point where I had to get an admin log on and password to complete the download to update the InReach firmware and I knew that wasn't going to happen. 

We took the InReach with us on our ride today - the SOS function will work in dire circumstances, so I'll just let that be what it is.

Garmin InReach pairs with Earthmate, but I'll save all of that to when we get back to Austin. 

Yesterday I bought Ride With GPS Basic and it may be the best money I've ever spent.  Setting up the route for today's ride was, literally, effortless and Ride With GPS  will work without internet or cell service.  The web site has a list of all the things to do to extend battery life in that mode.  Even with the screen off, it gave voice prompts, so we easily navigated from Hovenweep National Monument to Hatch Trading Post via Black Steer Canyon.  We got to Hatch Trading Post in record time (all hard packed dirt and gravel after the first mile) because there's  a cumulative loss of just under 800' over 11 miles, mostly from dropping down off Cajon Mesa into Black Steer Canyon; lots of rolling terrain as well.   It was brutal on the return with a headwind of 15 to 20 mph and some steep pitches to get back up  to  the top of Cajon Mesa. 

Amazing country out there.  This was a useful recon to see if it was feasible to bike ride  the 43 miles down Montezuma Canyon Rd (gravel) to Hatch Trading Post with an overnight camping, then head east to Hovenweep National Monument on Black Steer Canyon Rd. (Hovenweep would be a safe place to leave a car)  As it turns out, we rode about a mile up Montezuma Canyon Rd from Hatch Trading Post and it was total washboard misery, so unless San Juan County, Utah decides to maintain and blade Montezuma Canyon Rd, we'll put this on the back burner.  

Click here for some info on the amazing Montezuma Canyon. 

 

Edited by June Bug
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I disliked my SPOT experience as well. I had to get it to participate in the Texas Water Safari this year. I felt like their website/registration process was outdated and predatory trying to get you to pay for added on features. Total r/assholedesign stuff. Then canceling the subscription had to be one of the most unintuitive, PITA processes ever. Which over charged me a month. 

This is all after having a Garmin watch/account that offers live tracking free of charge that notifies my person of choice as soon as I start an activity.

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Adding to this, their markets are going to be shrinking in the future. 

Cell phones today are starting to employ low earth orbit satellite connectivity. This will be limited only to sending small text messages, not surfing the web, but it will provide the "always connected" experience for people that they currently get from things like Spot. The tracking capability won't necessarily be there (at least not officially or immediately) but it will eventually get there.  But for a sizable chunk of their user base, the "connect to help in an emergency" is far more important - they will lose these people soon enough.

These guys are the equivalent of the companies designing the proprietary in-vehicle navigation systems. When everyone carries a smartphone, nobody uses the in-vehicle nav very often because it has shitty usability and relies on out of date technology. 

Their days are numbered.

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3 hours ago, AustinBike said:

These guys are the equivalent of the companies designing the proprietary in-vehicle navigation systems. When everyone carries a smartphone, nobody uses the in-vehicle nav very often because it has shitty usability and relies on out of date technology.

Rather a sweeping generalization. My built-in nav works just great, and I use it on every road trip.

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2 hours ago, TAF said:

Rather a sweeping generalization. My built-in nav works just great, and I use it on every road trip.

Varies by OEM. My '17 Toyota Nav was out of date ~10 years before they released it. Destination entry is a wretched UI, map data must be updated via $150 micro SD annually, Resolution is circa 2005, no Apple Carplay/Android Auto, overall absolute junk. Feels like the '93 Jurassic Park Ford Explorer Infotainment system whenever I attempt to use it.

image.png.1d4638025e19b2783641221d8e089795.png

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My old company used to sell the specialized memory (non-volatile) for companies that make the systems. The design in cycle is really long and so many of the platforms are highly specific to the different auto models. We also did the black box memory for airbus, but I digress.

The reason that so many of these are terrible is that the car platform refreshes are long cycle, typically 4-5 years. So, Imagine you are buying a 2022 Nissan Rogue. the platform refreshed in 2021. The design cycle on the NAV was probably 3 years, so the bulk of the design work started in 2018. Right now you are sitting on 4 year old technology. That *might* not seem too bad. But the 2017 was the previous platform and that one was designed ~2014. If you bought your Rogue in 2020, you were buying 6-year old tech. Now consider that you are going to hold the car 5-6 years and by the time you get rid of it you're sitting on ~11 or 12-year-old technology.

Compare that to the phone that you carry in your pocket that you refresh every few years and you can see how the gaps can widen.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a really big deal for auto manufacturers because they allow them to move away from a business that they have generally performed poorly in over time. As evidenced by the huge aftermarket that exists for in-dash entertainment systems. 10 years from now the default option will be wireless connection to your phone and having your phone do all of the heavy lifting, they are just waiting on smartphone penetration. Someone will come up with a smartphone analog, some type of 3rd party device for maps, music, etc. that can be plugged in. The idea of in-dash NAV and entertainment is going to go away as soon as they can get a semi-standard figured out.

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