Ron Parker - GPSBabel Developer

GPSBabel and Me

Ron in a Lego lion's mouth
No GPSBabel content, but what a geek!

I don't even remember when or why I first started using GPSBabel. I do know it was before October of 2002, because that's the date on the first patch that's credited to me in the GPSBabel CVS repository.

At the time, I was an active geocacher and I was using my Palm V with a Magellan GPS Companion for geocaching. Anyone who looks at the list of modules I contributed can probably guess that I was using Magellan Nav Companion, Cetus GPS, and GPSPilot Tracker for my software needs. I reverse-engineered the file formats of all three of those programs and contributed code to read and write them, and I was hooked. Since then, of course, we have talked to Kjeld Jensen of Cetus GPS and gotten official record formats for that program's records, but the other two remain largely the product of my reverse-engineering.

Once I was hooked, I began contributing infrastructure improvements, big changes to the GPX module, and lots of filters to do the things that I needed. Believe it or not, as long as the list of things I've worked on in GPSBabel is, every single one of them was something I wanted for some personal project.

Today, most of my GPSBabel work is centered around various DeLorme file formats. Part of that is because it allows me to indulge my reverse-engineering addiction, but a bigger part of it is that I hang out in the DeLorme Support Forum and I like to evangelize GPSBabel there. The more it can do, the more I can evangelize.

My Secret Identity

By day, I work as a programmer for a company that makes and sells software and hardware for the blind and visually impaired. I spend hours and hours hunched over a keyboard, poring through debugging traces, and making the computer do weird and wonderful stuff, just so someone can use all of that software out there that is generally designed more for aesthetics than for good user interface practice.

So, of course, it's obvious that I'd come home and spend hours more poring over hex dumps of obscure binary mapping formats, right? When I'm not doing stuff for GPSBabel, I also occasionally write little utilities to solve my own geographic file format difficulties. Some of those can be found at my website but many of them have been supplanted by GPSBabel modules that do the same things only better.

In a previous life, I worked for a manufacturer of GIS software for precision agriculture. I was using DGPS in the days before geocaching, back when Selective Availability was a fact of life and the best accuracy you could expect from autonomous-mode GPS was on the order of 100 meters. Uphill, both ways, in the snow. But you tell that to kids today...