Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

My GPS drawing

A few members of my J.D. graduating class wanted to do something special to welcome the University of Washington School of Law's new dean. Here was my little contribution:

It's a GPS drawing I made by riding my bicycle just north of the University of Washington two days ago.

Making this was a lot of fun, and I can see GPS drawing as a sport really taking off: after all, you not only end up exploring new streets and finding new things, and not only do you get exercise, but you also get to engage your creative side.

In case anyone else wants to give GPS drawing a try, here are the tips I'd offer based on this experience:

  1. Contrary to popular belief, an iPhone 3G or 3GS with the MotionX-GPS application is perfectly sufficient. The only real issue is with battery life: I'd recommend bringing your wall charger along so your phone can recharge while you're having lunch, and conserving battery life by not using your phone to listen to music as you're creating the drawing.
  2. I'm sure there are more sophisticated ways to make the drawing itself, but what worked for me (after generating the track using the "stopwatch" screen in Motion-X) was have the Motion-X application share the track with me via e-mail. I clicked on the link to Google Maps contained in that e-mail, deselected "End" and "Start" (as well as the two Motion-X ads) on the left before minimizing the Contents window, maximized my browser window, zoomed in as far as possible on the drawing itself, then did a screen capture.
  3. One of the easiest mistakes to make is forgetting to turn the GPS unit off when moving between parts of the drawing that aren't supposed to be connected. As you can see, I made that mistake when moving from the "T" to the "E" in "Testy." Similarly, you'll want to use the "lock" feature of the Motion-X application so that you don't accidentally hit the stop/resume button.
  4. If it's important to you that the drawing be absolutely perfect, then consider trying to follow it once by car: as you can see, I was taken by surprise several times in my drawing, where based on the map it looked like I should be able to complete a perfect square in the "O" in "Welcome" (it turns out the right side was a dead end street that continued as a trail) and where based on the map I thought I should be able to head north on 12th in the final stroke of the "W."

Oh, one last thing... This actually was what I was trying to figure out with the pencil and the map on Thursday, so it's now officially too late to claim the prize :)
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