Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From Russian to English

My friend is an MI 17 pilot in Army Aviation. MI17 is a huge thing which almost looks like an airplane rather than a rotary aircraft. 

His russian friend who proabably came to Pakistan at the time of handing over of the Russian built MI17s gave him a Garmin gpsmap 295 GPS. 

(Language converted to English)
Since it was being used by the Russian pilot, it was in Russian language; all menus and functions of the GPS were in Russian. Although my friend used it for basic navigation he couldn't use all the functions. Then one day my friend had to fly his helicopter to the place where I work! Have a look at a snapshot of his landing.

He asked me if I could change the language of the GPS for him and I thought, that should be the easiest thing in the world! Just go to the menus use a little bit of Google translate tool and figure out the menu where the language is changed to English! How foolish of me to think that my friend wouldn't have tried that! Anyway it turns out that you can't simply change the language directly, the firmware with English Language has to be installed and replaced by the Russian Language one. I did some Googling and managed to find the English version of the firmware file for this particular mode.

In order to update the firmware I needed a Serial cable that would connect to the GPS data port. Fortunately I had a similar but older model Garmin GPS with me whose cable I found to be the same for the new one. Now all I needed was a USB to Serial converter as most new computers don't have the old Serial port anymore and I should be able to update the firmware. I thought now it should be easy, except that the update software that was built ages ago in 2001 or 2003 would not work with a USB to serial cable. So I had to find a computer with a serial port. Fortunately again I have a very old IBM thinkpad lying around which I bought during my undergrad years for Rs 2000 only! It is such a rugged laptop that even with my nephew growing up playing games on it, it survived and still works!
It runs Windows 95! Anyway in order to get this to work after years of eating dust in my lab, I had to figure out a way to power it up. Not having an adapter with the required power rating and not knowing the pin configuration of the power port, I fiddled around with the battery input pins and figured out where to connect the ground and the 20 volts. I have a power supply which I used to power it up. 

Finally after powering it up I had to find Hyper Terminal for Windows 7. Hyper Terminal is a simple communications software that allows connecting to other devices using the PC com ports. It is a good software to debug a lot of devices that connect through the com ports via bluetooth or USB ports. Once that was done I transferred my Garmin new firmware and updater program via the serial port using Hyper Terminal. Once I had the files on my old ThinkPad I connected the serial cable of the GPS to the thinkpad and opened the updater application. 

 Voila! It worked and started updating with the new firmware file! And finally when it restarted I had all the menus in English. So we went from Russian to English! My friend is going to use it in his MI17! Mission accomplished.

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