New Garmin Forerunner

April 10, 2009
By

(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 Marathon) 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 this page and the gant tarball. 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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