Garmin Etrex GPS on Ubuntu

As previously mentioned I had my computer problems. I am okay at building computers so I took out the main hard drive from my dual-boot machine to try and recover the lost files. In the meantime I put in another drive and have been using the machine as a solely linux (Ubuntu) operating system.

Will I get round to putting the old HD in and go back to dual-boot? I don’t know. There is little reason for me to use Windows, though I have been having difficulty sorting my Garmin Etrex Venture Cx.

Garmin Etrex

I used to use Tracklogs and have a store of saved tracks. My usage was simple, making walking routes on the computer and then transferring them to the Etrex for a hike in the country. I have never yet used it for Geocaching which I don’t yet understand.

I liked the definition for Geocaching I came across, Geocaching – Verb “The use of $12Bn of military hardware to find someone’s hidden lunch box”.

I tried to get the Garmin to connect in Ubuntu and it was some time before I succeeded. I eventually found a bit of advice that told me how to get permissions to access the USB connection automatically. It involved using the command line (I’m not confident there) and getting it to list the connection ports.

I then opened a terminal and did it with the command, “ls -l /dev/ttyS*” It then listed something like the following (thanks to for this).

[richard@holly ~]$ ls -l /dev/ttyS*
crw-rw—- 1 root uucp 4, 64 2007-09-06 07:32 /dev/ttyS0
crw-rw—- 1 root uucp 4, 65 2007-09-06 07:32 /dev/ttyS1
crw-rw—- 1 root uucp 4, 66 2007-09-06 07:32 /dev/ttyS2
crw-rw—- 1 root uucp 4, 67 2007-09-06 07:32 /dev/ttyS3

I adapted the instructions on I saw that my list had a different word from ‘uucp’, mine had ‘dialout’. I then went into System, Administration, Users and Groups. I clicked ‘manage groups’ then ‘add group’. I added a group named dialout, the same as the word in my list like the one above. I then added me as the lone member of the group.

I knew I had succeeded because when I ran gpsman I could connect on the USB.

With gpsman I can transfer routes (.gpx files) from the Garmin and to it. Problem is, gpsman does not seem to handle tracklog files. I think gpsbabel is supposed to be able convert them but that brings me back to the command line again and I have not yet worked out how to do it, the same with gpstrans.

And after all the above I discovered a free site called ‘Route You‘. There I can make a route online and download it in .gpx format, and gpsman can then transfer it to the Etrex.

I did like the maps and 3D effects in Tracklogs though. I have Tracklogs on the Windows laptop but have never yet succeeded in getting the Etrex to connect to it yet.

Oh well, ‘Route You’ will do for now.

4 thoughts on “Garmin Etrex GPS on Ubuntu

  1. You have got to go try geocaching. I’ve been doing it since December and I’m having a great time. I have explored places I would have never knew existed otherwise. If you need some help getting started, visit my site and check out the links to helpful geocaching stuff. I’m always happy to answer geocaching questions.

    Geocaching With Team Hick@Heart

  2. Hulllo! I have an Acer Aspire one laptop that uses XP. I am thinking about switiching it over to Ubunto 8.10. My GPS receiver is a Garmin Etrex H.

    I can always use another computer to download my waypoints, tracks, ect.

    I am wondering if it would be worth my time to abandon expertGPS and vebnure into the world of linux-based GPS mapping software?

    Thanks for your time and happy GPSing!

  3. Hi Justin

    I have not used my gps for a while now and would not know if the Linux support has improved.

    The Aspire One will be great with Ubuntu on it. You will notice the difference not needing virus protection. You might miss the cluttered look of XP so you might prefer to KDE as your desktop look, but I prefer the Gnome desktop of Ubuntu as it hides much of its clever stuff behind a simple, elegant, uncluttered look.

    Ubuntu 8.10 is what I use on five machines at the moment. But on one of them, my Samsung NC10 netbook I have XP alongside Linux. Why not install Ubuntu alongside your XP installation? You can then still use your expertGPS in XP if you need to while you are getting used to Linux.

    See the following Linux post for more info about having windows side by side with Ubuntu.

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