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Getting Started with NavSpark mini GPS Module

I noticed NavSpark mini GPS module a couple of weeks ago, and since it was free, not including $10 for shipping, I went ahead and ordered. Since the freebie got popular, SkyTraq took some time to ship it, and when they did they provide a “not trackable” tracking number, which I’m not sure what that mean as I could track the parcel from Taiwan to Thailand using 17track website without issues.

The packages included NavSpark mini and a USB to TTL module as described, so I insert both and connect VCC ,GND, and UART as shown on the pictures on the product page.

Click to Enlarge

NavSpark mini (Left) and USB to TTL board (Right) Connected to Breadboard – Click to Enlarge

I also connected the GPS antenna from LinkIt ONE development kit to the uFL connector on NavSpark mini, as well as a micro USB to USB cable to my computer. If you don’t have such antenna, you’ll need to add the $9 GPS/GLONASS antenna on NavSpark website to your order.

The easiest way to get started, and make sure the board works is to use GNSS Viewer program. The downside for a Ubuntu guy like me is that it only runs on Windows. But no problem, I started my  Windows 7 virtual machine in Virtual, enable the USB to TTL port with Devices->USB menu, and installed Prolific drivers. However, I never managed to make the driver works, with Windows 7 complaining that:

Windows cannot verify the digital signature for the drivers required for this device. A recent hardware or software change might have installed a file that is signed incorrectly or damaged, or that might be malicious software from an unknown source. (Code 52)

I did not want to mess with Windows in the evening, so I simply started an old Acer netbook with Windows XP. No problems with drivers, but GNSS Viewer did not like my netbook resolution (1024×600), and the program is poorly written as it does not allow you to resize the window.

So I decided to just use the Arduino IDE in Ubuntu by following the instructions in the User’s guide:

  1. I already had Arduino 1.6.6 installed from https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software
  2. You’ll also need the LEON3 sparc toolchain to be install in /opt:
  3. You are also asked to install the 3-bit version of openJDK:
  4. Finally, you have to install NavSpark board manager (http://navspark.mybigcommerce.com/content/package_navspark_index.json) and configure the Arduino IDE to use NavSpark mini.
    NavSpark_mini_Arduino
    This looks good, except for the Invalid library found message…
  5. The next step is to find some hello work app to check GPS connectivity, and this is where I stopped, simply because there aren’t any available samples according to the user’s manual, except demo_hello_world_nmea.
    NavSpark_mini_code_sampleBut when you download the samples, they are all there, except the working one :)…

I’ve ask what need to be modified for partially compatible samples on the forums.

Finally, I remembered I still had a Windows 10 TV stick, I tried GNSS Viewer yet again in MeLE PCG01, and I was happy that after 3 hours of messing around, I finally managed to get a signal, and could make sure the board was indeed working.

GNSS_Viewer_NavSpark_mini

Click to Enlarge

All I had to do was to select the COM port for Prolific, and click on Scan All which connect the COM port @ 115,200, and got a very fast fix indoor.

If you are interested in such GPS module, the “freebie” is still available, and you just need to pay for $10 for shipping, and remember to add a u.FL GPS antenna if you don’t have one.

  1. Steve
    January 21st, 2016 at 07:40 | #1

    Mine arrived very quickly to the UK. Ordered it when I saw the promotion (which was only a week or so ago) and it arrived today.

  2. sky770
    January 21st, 2016 at 09:44 | #2

    17track? try packpin as well (might be slow sometimes but it’s quite good) 🙂

  3. Jesu
    January 21st, 2016 at 18:08 | #3

    From NavSpark forum:
    http://navsparkcommunity.ning.com/forum/gnss-viewer-on-linux

    GNSS “Windows” viewer on Linux:
    Ian Tester June 8, 2014 at 10:15am
    It runs fine under Wine. To map the COM port, make a symbolic link:

    ln -s /dev/ttyUSB0 ~/.wine/dosdevices/com1

  4. January 21st, 2016 at 18:56 | #4

    @Jesu
    Nice! I always forget about Wine because I’ve read about so many incompatibilities.

  5. Mario
    January 22nd, 2016 at 23:52 | #5

    I am loving it. Too simple, and fast shipping. I will tinker with the CHIP and forward results 🙂

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