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Is there an application that will tell me the compass bearing of what direction my laptop is facing?

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Technically, you will still need a "hardware" compass (or a GPS) in your laptop to have such information, though. –  Gnoupi Jul 5 '10 at 15:07

2 Answers 2

First of all, as user25866 points out, there's no way to find out without extra hardware.

Secondly, even a GPS receivers will not tell you this, as GPS only gives you your position (as in "dot on a map"), but not your orientation. AFAIK, this is a fundamental limitation of GPS.

Getting a heading from GPS is only possible in two ways:

  • If you are moving, you can use GPS to track your movement, and calculate the direction of movement (which may or may not be related to the direction your device is facing).
  • You can use two GPS receivers at a distance and compare the positions of both to get a heading (this is apparently how shipboard "GPS compasses" work). Only works with a good distance between the sensors (at least a few meters)...

There are "digital compasses" for sale, which basically have a real magnetic compass inside which they read. Those I found are for industrial applications, though; dunno if there's one that you can connect to a laptop.

Also note that e.g. the Vaio-P-Series laptops have a built-in digital compass (in addition to GPS). Maybe check those out...

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That's right I forgot the GPS direction was only a vector of motion and cannot tell you. Thank you for pointing that out. –  Incognito Jul 5 '10 at 17:53

No. Finding your orientation in the physical world requires hardware. For example, even if you have software to examine the position of the stars, you still need a camera to see them, which you might as well just have a GPS.

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Maybe his laptop has an included GPS chip. If so, what programs are available to him? –  Gnoupi Jul 5 '10 at 15:22
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GPS still doesn't give you a compass direction. It can estimate it if you're moving, but location and heading are two entirely different things. –  ceejayoz Jul 5 '10 at 16:06

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