For in vehicle navigation, I use software called Overland Navigator. Released by Spatialminds, Overland Navigator is a very simple tool that shows me where I am on a map, and has the ability to display .GPX tracks. It makes use of USGS quads and offers several different zoom levels with different scales. I really like the programs simplicity, and how easily it runs on a small touch screen.
When planning trips, I always ensure I have a compass, proper paper maps of an area, and a good plan. For digital planning, I use Google Earth to make routes, and save them as .KML files. I then use GPSBabel to convert those files into .GPX files, which I can easily display in Overland Navigator. Google Earth and GPSBabel are both free programs, and offer a very robust number of options for route planning.
In the Cruisers, I run the software on a CF-74 Panasonic Toughbook that I keep stored elsewhere in my vehicle, with a USB touch screen mounted on my windshield. I am currently working on a dedicated storage area for the Toughbook in the HZJ75 that will leave it well hidden from view, but still safe and properly vented.
Here’s what it looks like hooked up on my desk. I have it set up so the tough book runs when closed.
The touchscreen has a built in keyboard application and is very accurate. Also, it allows you to single click (by tapping once), double click (by tapping twice), and right-click (by touching and holding down for a second) which means you still have full functionality in windows. With that and the virtual keyboard (pictured below) there’s no reason to take the laptop out unless you want to.
The touchscreen I use is a Proximus 7″ USB Touch Screen Monitor.
This touch screen will bolt directly to this very affordable Arkon Windshield Mount, which I find to be very versatile. I have a few of these for different applications.
Now, the Arkon unit is technically made for 7″ tablets, but I’ve found it’s great for smart phones, my Garmin, and even eReaders. It comes with a spring loaded “hand” that holds tablets, but it will not hold the Proximus Touch Screen in that manner very well.
In order to mount the touch screen unit, simply unscrew the “hand” from the Arkon and use that same bolt directly into the back of the Proximus. It is the same thread/pitch and works very well.
Once this is on there, you can mount it on the windshield in any number of ways. Because I see a lot of washboard roads and my stuff gets pretty rattled, I chose to mount mine in such a way that the weight of the screen is distributed on the dash. This takes a lot of stress off of the windshield mount (though it could handle it, in my opinion, I just like redundancy) and keeps the screen out of the way.
I prefer the smaller touch screen to the larger screen, or even the laptop, for several reasons. In the end, it’s much less cluttered in the cab (and Sydney is a skinny gal, so there’s not too much room up front!) and the price of a decent laptop mount is about 3-4 times what this screen/windshield mount cost me. To move this to a different truck is as easy as moving a Tom-Tom GPS type unit.
At the end of the day, this screen will provide a fully functional interface with a computer without any of the peripherals or bulk in the way. It will play movies (aux input to my stereo) which will be a nice feature while we’re cruising for the lady.
After some additional thought, this set up would be ideal for running a second monitor into the backseat for DVD’s (run it as an extended desktop, for instance). Also, for a vehicle set up with driver/navigator, the navigation display could be cloned onto this monitor so the driver could see what the navigator was looking at and watch in real time as they manipulated the display.