Transfer Garmin GPS 60CSx Active Track Data to Ubuntu with GPSBabel

Not all cameras have a built-in GPS receiver. But, if you have a portable GPS (and this includes the one in your phone), you can use it to geotag your photos. There are a number of computer programs available (e.g Breeze Downloader Pro for Windows, Digikam for Windows / Linux / Mac) that will geotag photos based on the “track” data stored in a GPS.

A key step in this process is getting the data from the GPS to your computer. One of the most versatile pieces of software for doing this is called GPSBabel.

Colter Bay (photograph copyright 2012 Arthur Marshall)

Colter Bay

Here’s a brief “how to” for GPSBabel with the Garmin GPSmap 60CSx and Ubuntu 12.04 (aka Precise Pangolin):

0) Make sure the GPS is turned on and with you while you’re taking photos! Your camera’s clock must be synchronized with the GPS, since that’s how the software will match the location data to your pictures later. Beware: the 60CSx has a “save track” function. Don’t use it. You need your data to be in the “active track” for GPSBabel to find it.

1) If you haven’t done it already, install GPSBabel from the Ubuntu Software Center.

2) Turn on the 60CSx and plug it into a USB port on your computer.

3) Start up a terminal. You should see a prompt like this:

accountname@hostname:~$ _

If you want, type lsusb to be sure your 60CSx is visible:

accountname@hostname:~$ lsusb

Your computer should display something like:

Bus 006 Device 006: ID 091e:0003 Garmin International GPS (various models)

4) Now, navigate to the place on your hard drive where you want to save the data. To do this in Linux, use the cd command. For example, if you have set up a folder named “gpstracks” within your home folder, you can type “cd /gpstracks”:

accountname@hostname:~$ cd /gpstracks

(I actually use Dolphin so I can navigate folders with a GUI).

5) Now you are ready to upload the track data to your computer. You need to use the sudo command, to give GPSBabel root privileges, so it can access the USB port. (This is not without risk – you are essentially giving GPSBabel complete control of your computer! But there’s no easy alternative.) Type “sudo gpsbabel -t -i garmin -f usb: -o gpx -F whateverTrackNameYouWant.gpx”:

accountname@hostname:~gpstracks$ sudo gpsbabel -t -i garmin -f usb: -o gpx -F whateverTrackNameYouWant.gpx

(All of those parameters are needed to specify: track data “-t”, input file type “-i garmin”, input source “-f usb:”, output file type “-o gpx” and output file name “-F whateverTrackNameYouWant.gpx”).

You will need to provide your login password.

Cottonwood Creek (photograph copyright 2012 Arthur Marshall)

Cottonwood Creek

If all went according to plan, you should see the file whateverTrackNameYouWant.gpx appear in the /gpstracks directory.

Unplug the 60CSx – you’re done.