USB GPS Receiver Uses

I have several blogs on GPS modules.  Most of them deal with either counterfeit modules or using a USB GPS module on an offline computer.

Then someone recently emailed me and asked,  “who the heck needs a USB GPS receiver”?  That is a perfectly good question to ask.   Most of us know right where we are, and besides, our phones and a lot of our cameras already have built in GPS.  While you know your phone has GPS and you can drop a pin to someone………when’s the last time you actually saw the coordinates?

And ask yourself if you can share that GPS with other devices on your network?

Who Uses These Things?

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?


Pulses Per Second (PPS)

The first thing that popped into my mind were people with a need to have super accurate time.  GPS uses something called PPS or Pulses Per Second to provide EXACT time.  It is the most exact time you can get short of an atomic clock.

Typically, though you won’t find PPS as an option in a USB GPS, but you will find that capability in serial GPS modules.   Many Linux users will set up an NTP server with a program called chrony to provide accurate time across all their devices.


IT pros and scientists will tell you that having synchronized time is critical in some experiments or applications.

Astronomy Geeks

Know anyone with a computerized telescope?  Before you can find what you are looking for, your base station needs to know where it is exactly to aid in precision alignment.  While most telescopes have proprietary systems and cables and plugs, some folks still DIY up their rigs by using GPS pucks.


Guys like me just like knowing how things work and exploit their capabilities. In my case I typically view a USB GPS device as something you might need in an emergency.  If things go dark down here there is a pretty good chance the satellites will be unaffected.   If you wake up one day and find out that we are doing our best impression of the 1880’s again some technology, heck any technology will be welcome.

Preppers And Privacy Advocates

This ties in with the previous paragraph.  People that live the prepper lifestyle currently know how important it is to know where you are at, and where you are headed to. They also typically prefer total privacy.  And let’s face it, your phone knows everything about you and shares every bit of that information with God knows who.

A USB GPS Receiver hooked to an offline computer doesn’t share ANYTHING.  You are pretty autonomous.

Simple Navigation

Neither vehicle we own has built in navigation.  Yesterday, just to test things out I put a Linux computer offline completely and hooked up a USB GPS puck and drove somewhere.  Sure enough it followed my track perfectly, maps and all.  If you are navigating in stressful conditions, would you rather look at a phone screen or a 13″ or larger computer screen?

Following Emergency Communications

I have a several Uniden Police Scanners.  If you load the National Database into these devices and connect a GPS to it, it will seamlessly shift from jurisdiction to jurisdiction while you are on the move.  Here’s an example of how that works:

While Uniden sells GPS pucks they are about double to triple the cost of what I DIY’d up in that video.  Here’s a blog on how I made one for my Uniden SDS200 for probably around $10 – $20.

GPS Is Everywhere

I’ve tried to confine this blog to hobbyist uses of USB GPS devices specifically.  And I guarantee I’ve missed some things.

But let’s face it.  GPS users are all over the place.  From surveyors, to pilots, to the pizza delivery guy, almost everyone relies on GPS whether you realize it or not.  You can learn more about it at

No matter what your thoughts are on having a USB GPS, everyone should have a “get home bag” and there should be a GPS puck inside of it.  And here’s hoping that you never have to use it.  But if you do, you can thank me later.




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