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GPS FAQs

What is GPS?

GPS is acronym for Global Positioning System. It is actually a constellation of 24 satellites providing navigational information for the whole world.  But when some people say "GPS", they are usually referring to GPS-receivers ... small, portable electronic devices about the size of a cellphone, similar to the picture on the right, that receive information from the satellites.

What does it do?

A basic GPS receiver interprets signals from the satellites and tells you your position on this planet. It usually gives you your position in coordinates (longtitude and latitude), so, together with a map, you can have a fairly good idea of where you are. Practically all GPS receivers nowadays do more than just determine your position.  Due to advances in microprocessor technology, GPS receivers can now store thousands of known positions called waypoints in their memory and are able to provide a virtual "map" of destinations or points of interests and it shows you the direction and distance to a destination, it shows you the accurate time and lots of other stuff too.

Do I need it?

If you know the places where you are going to very well ... probably not.  But if you are venturing into territory that is totally new to you and you are not able to ask reliable directions or the place you are going to does not have permanent landmarks, you will appreciate the fact that a GPS receiver can lead you to "known" destinations even without a map and compass.  Oh, but even if you are already familiar with places, a GPS receiver would serve as a very nice tool for sharing locations and directions with other people.

How accurate is the system?

The satellite constellation that provides the GPS receiver information is maintained by the U.S.Department of Defense (DoD).  GPS positioning, for general use, provides 25 meter accuracy or better.  Since the general public can access the signals from the satellites, the U.S. DoD has introduced errors in the signals for security reasons.   The errors are referred to as Selective Availability (SA).  SA used to introduce an error of about 100 meters.   SA was turned off on May 2000 and has since then provided accuracy as good as 10 meters.

So many GPS receivers on the market. Which one shall I buy?

The choice will ultimately be yours.  But as you begin your search, start by taking a look at the popular models (the SporTrak Series from Magellan and the eTrex series from Garmin) and compare their specs and choose the one that suits you best.  We currently use the Magellan GPS315 and the Rino120 for this website.  They are the only receivers we have and we are very satisfied with them so far.  We are hoping to get our hands on other brands and models so we can help you evaluate them.

If a company makes use of GPS receivers, do they need a get a service provider for this in order for the devices to work.? Is it similar to the internet that you have to get a service provider before you can have access to the internet?

You do not need to get any service provider for these devices to work. The "service" of the satellites are provided by the US authorities and these satellites are transmitting their signals freely for the use of the general public who own GPS receivers. You simply need to buy a receiver and power it up and you can immediately start your navigation, tracking, waypoint marking, etc.

How can I make use of the downloadable waypoint files?  Do I need a GPS receiver to be able to use these files?

Our downloadable waypoints are gathered and compiled in such a manner that it can be useful to trekkers and travellers whether they own GPS receivers or not.   Click here for more details on how to use the waypoint files.

Questions?  You can email us your questions or you can join and post your questions at the waypointsdotph egroup.   Alternatively, you can check out other more comprehensive GPS FAQ sites on our Links Page