Garmin Forerunner 301 & Mac OS X

Garmin Forerunner 301 & Mac OS X

I recently bought a Garmin 301 Forerunner, a nifty wrist-sized GPS unit with a heart rate monitor. The premise is pretty cool – I can see my heart rate next to the elevation profile of my route, along with an interactive map showing exactly where I went (once I upload the data to a computer, of course). I’ve been without any kind heart rate or cyclometer for almost 6 months since my old Polar S510 decided to croak. Apparently my sweat is so caustic that I rusted one of the buttons stuck and I lost some functionality. Then the battery died. A perfect excuse to upgrade, right?

Even before I bought the 301, I knew that it would have some problems. Specifically, Garmin is one of those block-headed companies that refuses to acknowledge Mac owners as more powerful than their market share suggests. We spend more money and buy more gadgets than Windozes people; see the iPod. I purchased the 301 anyway; I have an unconditional satisfaction guarantee with REI in case I give up on this project.

My hope was to to be able to use the 301 with Virtual PC. This is one of the first GPSes to use USB, rather than the antiquated serial that manufacturers still cling to. So I figured it may just work with VPC. However, no luck. It seems like it almost works – when I plug the GPS in Win XP recognizes the device and loads the Garmin USB GPS driver. The GPS shows up correctly in the device profile. I can install the Garmin software perfectly too. However, the Garmin software refuses to connect to the GPS. Very frustrating.

I verifed how it should work by using a regular PC, and I had no problems. Both the Garmin and MotionBased software works. Here is my first upload of a ride to MotionBased.

MotionBased is also annoying. The upload program is only Windows. The main interface is entirely web-based, but has poor Mac support. It makes Safari crash and I have had middling success using IE or Firefox. They have a free account option with limited functionality, and for $100/year the full suite of analyses. It’s unlikely I’ll be shelling out any money to them until they improve Mac support.

Right now I’m leaning to keeping the 301. I have enough access to Windoze machines to be able to use it. But I’ll keep it begrudingly. Garmin is a big enough company to put some time into Mac OS X.

2 thoughts on “Garmin Forerunner 301 & Mac OS X

  1. Unfortunately, Garmin reniged on its pledge to provide Mac support in the spring of ’06. Now, they say “by the end of the year.” Very frustrating to those of us who bought based on Garmin’s PR (I also got a 301 from REI). I’ve been trying to use the 301 through VPC, and am having the exact same problem as Stephen. The drivers are loaded correctly in WXP, but the USB settings at the bottom of the screen show an “unknown” USB device when I connect the cable, and the Garmin software refuses to recognize it. I think this is probably a VPC issue, but I’m loath to shell out the $35 to MS support to delve into it. I’m thinking of trying it on my Intel Mac through BootCamp, but the effort of extracting my licensed copy of WXP from VPC so far has gotten the best of me. Wouldn’t it have been simpler if Garmin had simply lived up to its promise?

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