New Garmin Forerunner

April 10, 2009

(This article was first published on Thinking inside the box , and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Going for a run–or a race–almost always meant grabbing the GPS and
often also meant setting a target pace and distance. For the last four and a
half years, this was measured by a Garmin Forerunner
201. That’s the large rectangular model in the original “brick” form factor.
I’ve come to love the device. Training is great because the distance log, as
well as the pacing, keeps you honest. Racing is probably better because it
helps a lot with the pacing (but then I also had PRs in race where I had
forgotten the GPS at home). But there is a downside. This model sometimes
takes forever to find tracking, and has interference / weak signal problems
when it is cloudy or moist. But worst of all, it just bonks out in the ‘urban
jungle’ downtown where it drops signals too easily. And now after all these
years the display had some minor damage, the strap didn’t really hold
anymore, and it was generally time for something new. On Tuesday it even lost
a quarter mile when we were going for a short but really fast three miler.

But then a few days prior I had followed fellow Debian
marathoner Christian
and used my birthday at the end of this month (as
well as the upcoming Boston
) as an excuse for conspicuous comsumption. After some price
comparison, I ordered a factory reconditioned Garmin Forerunner 405 from
this web discounter at a nice rebate to
the regular price. It arrived this afternoon, seemingly shining new and I
have been fiddling with it for the last little while.

This device features wireless data transfer to a usbstick. This meant
booting the laptop in windoze for the first time in years to load the ‘client
software’ after which data transfer proceeded. The Garmin Connect site has very slick
presentation and aggregation of the data. The trouble is of course how to
get the data there when running Linux… Christian had mentioned the garmin-forerunner-tools
package. Unfortunately, this seems to really be written for the Forerunner
305 models as it doesn’t see the device at all. Some more googling lead to
and the gant
. All still fairly raw, but with some prodding in the settings of
the 405 (‘pairing’ set to ‘on’, ‘force send’ set to ‘yes'; which may have to be
reset each time ?) I got my two xml files off the gps watch. Yay. We’ll see
what mode I will settle one. With the 201 and its ancient serial port, I
basically just dropped the run and training histories which their fairly
limited data collections.

Last but not least, fellow Oak Park runner Peter Sagal had a humorous
Runner’s World column
on the whole GPS geekyness. If he’d only known how
to pair it with programming geekyness…

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