First Time Linux


Note: Garble as it is cannot cope with the newer Garmin models like the etrex vista hcx. I managed to get the waypoint and track download features working with this receiver (via the USB connection) but only using the garmin_gps module and the /dev/ttyUSB0 device. This module unfortunately hangs causing timeouts for large data downloads, making it unusable. Similarly the screenshot function persistently gets timeouts and development is stuck.

There are two alternatives - gpsbabel can do the downloading of tracks and waypoints using the usb: device and its own usb code (after garmin_gps has been removed). And for the screenshots there's QLandkarte which can get screenshots from the hcx but not the older vista.

For these reasons there doesn't seem much point in duplicating the effort in garble, so there won't be any more versions released here.

Garble is a command-line tool to communicate with a Garmin GPS over the serial port. It's distributed as part of GpsDrive, and therefore comes standard with Knoppix, but it's a little buggy and no longer supported by the official sourceforge page. This source tarball here contains some bug fixes and has been tested with a Garmin etrex Vista. The owner is no longer contactable so this is being made available here as version 1.1.0.

tgz file garble-1.1.0.tar.gz (31 kb)

There is a known bug with the timezone handling, whereby both the current time and the track timestamps are off from local time, but it's still very usable for downloading waypoints, tracks and screen grabs.


Extract the contents of the compressed tar file into an appropriate directory:

tar -xvf garble-version.tar.gz
Then use make to compile the source:
cd garble-version

This should produce an executable called garble in the current directory.


Firstly you need to know where your serial port is on your machine. You can do this using minicom or just by experimenting. The device to use is given as a command line option to garble, as follows:

garble -d /dev/ttyS1 --get-time

This command should interrogate the connected GPS device and display the current time. Other commands can be listed by typing:

garble --help

The most useful ones will probably be --get-waypoints, --get-tracks and --get-screenshot.

Make sure the GPS device is connected to the serial port, switched on, and with the mode set to "Garmin" and not NMEA.

Project history

For completeness, and because these old versions of Garble are scattered over various internet sites, here is a selection of previous iterations of the software.

GpsDrive version 2.9

For some reason garble is being distributed along with the GpsDrive application, even though the interaction between the programs is somewhat weak. The version number reported by garble is 1.0.2 and is dated August 2002. The whole source bundle (including GpsDrive) can be downloaded from

tgz file garble-1.0.2.tar.gz (27 kb)

Garble eTrex version

Referenced from the home page of the author Douglas De Couto (at, this version is dated January 2001 and reports the version number 1.0.1 (confusingly unchanged since the previous version). It includes changes by Danilo Beuche to provide support for Garmin's eTrex range of GPSs.

tgz file garble-1.0.1.etrex.tar.gz (29 kb)

Garble version 1.0.1

Available from the sourceforge download page, this version 1.0.1 is dated May 2000 and is shown as providing bug fixes to the original 1.0 release. This version shares the number 1.0.1 with the eTrex version, see above. This means that untarring them to the same directory will overwrite files.

tgz file garble-1.0.1.tar.gz (25 kb)

Garble version 1.0

The first release of Garble from Douglas De Couto, available from the sourceforge download page. This tar is dated February 2000 and (for some strange reason) contains two identical copies of the source files.

tgz file garble-1.0.tar.gz (49 kb)