Downloading Sony GPS Assist Data Manually

After having bought a new Sony DSC-HX5V digital camera, which is equipped with an integrated GPS, I discovered that it comes with windows-only software for downloading and updating the GPS almanac on the camera (the supplied PMB Portable software runs on Apple OS X, but it does not support downloading the GPS almanac).

After tinkering a bit with tcpdump(1) and friends I found out how to perform the download and update manually:

  1. Download assistme.dat
  2. Download assistme.md5
  3. Verify that the MD5 sum of the assistme.dat file matches the one in the assistme.md5 file
  4. Create a top-level folder hierarchy on the memory card for the camera (not the internal memory of the camera) called PRIVATE/SONY/GPS/
  5. Place the downloaded assistme.dat file in the PRIVATE/SONY/GPS/ folder
  6. Place the memory card in the camera and verify that the GPS Assist Data is valid

I have written a small perl script for automating the above tasks. The script takes the mount point of the memory card as argument.

74 thoughts on “Downloading Sony GPS Assist Data Manually”

  1. Sidenote: What’s the point of verifying the md5 checksum if you download the checksum from the same source as the data? If somebody can tinker with the data, surely they can update the md5 checksum as well…

  2. That’s true – I am only just replicating what the application provided by Sony does (better safe than sorry, wouldn’t want to download known invalid data to the camera GPS).

  3. Nice work!

    I am currently considering buying a new camera, and was a bit worried about the gps lock-on time, but this script is a godsend. I am Linux user – just tested, and it works perfectly on my system (if the required modules have been installed – for some weird reason I needed to install a new version of File::Path).

  4. Hi Mads,

    Thank you :-)

    With valid GPS Assist Data loaded onto the camera the GPS lock-on time is typically less than 10 seconds – which isn’t so bad, I think.

    Which version of perl do you use? The script uses File::Path::make_path() which is the a newer API for the deprecated File::Path::mkpath() – perhaps I should add a check for which version of the API is available and use the correct method name…

  5. Hello,
    you did apparently great job (quite incredible that SONY ignores Mac community that much) – congratulations. I managed to do the job “manually” by expanding on SD the folder tree with GPS subfolder and paste there the assistme.dat file. Can you please explain in a bit more detail how to use you script (for people who have no knowledge of the advanced things like script (I suppose they are basic for you, but believe me – there are some people around who would gladly use your method but do not know how).
    Thank you
    Best regards
    Jerzy

  6. Hi Jerzy,
    Glad you got it working manually.

    To use the script, open Terminal.app and locate the downloaded update-gps-assist-data.pl file. Connect your memory card (or your camera) to your mac and note the name of the memory card (e.g. ‘Untitled’). Next type in the following command in Terminal.app and press Enter: perl update-gps-assist-data.pl /Volumes/Untitled/

    The script will print out information as it downloads and writes the assistme.dat file to your memory card.

  7. Hi Brix

    Yes, it appears the older versions of Linux, e.g. Ubuntu 9* does have a File::Path module with mkpath instead of make_path. Dunno if there are suitable Perl magic to work in both situations (s/make_path/mkpath/ works great, btw :-)

    Thanks for the script – it works perfectly. It is tempting to write a small gui for it – but for now it will do very fine indeed :-)

    Regards

    Mads

  8. Hi Brix,
    Many thanks for this. I use PC actually, but embarked on a trip without the SONY software installed on my laptop and my GPS assist data outdated. GPS on my DSC-HX5 would not lock-in at all without that. The internet connection I have here clocks at about 1Kb/s, so downloading the whole software package (if I could find one), was out of question. I followed your instruction (less MD5 verification), and it worked like a charm. I am real glad I run into your page!
    Zbig

  9. Hi Brix

    your instructions are very clear and easy. I’ve done it manually and the data are valid, yet the expiration date is set to 2010.06.01 – what does that mean? What happens after that date?

  10. Hi Andy,

    After that date, the information in the downloaded GPS almanac is no longer valid (the GPS almanac only contains satellite positions for the next 30 days or so), meaning you should download a new GPS almanac to the camera before that date if you still wish to have quick GPS fix.

    I normally download and place a new GPS almanac on my memory card every time I empty it for photos.

  11. Hi Brix,

    this is somewhat silly! Sony wants me to download these data every month? What if I don’t do that?

    What do you recommend me to do? Ask Apple to build that into iPhoto?

    Thanks for your short response time BTW :-)

  12. Hi Andy,

    Yes, that is a bit silly considering a “regular” GPS almanac normally is valid for 180 days. If you do not update the GPS Assist Data on your camera it will be considerably slower at getting a GPS fix.

    I doubt it that Apple will build this functionality into iPhoto as it is very camera specific. Your best bet is probably to complain to Sony and get them to build this functionality into their PMB Portable software for Mac OS X – or to continue using the instructions mentioned in this blog post.

    Brix

  13. Hi,

    your script inspired me to snoop a bit around myself :)
    My first plan was to automate your script, but then i decided to just make a native OS X app instead.
    I see that the Sony PMB sends a “GPSSupportTool”-useragent. Apparently they don’t check it at this moment, since i don’t send it and it seems to work.
    Hope my tool works for you too, it seems to work fine for me.

    Teun

  14. Brix – thanks for those scripts, which worked perfectly for me. My only remaining problem with my HX5V is that I am unable to load its AVCHD video files into my Mac, either through the camera connection or a card reader. When the camera’s connected, only the AVCHD files fail to appear. When I try a card reader, it doesn’t show up on my desktop. You wouldn’t happen to know of a way that would enable me to do this, would you?

    Thanks again,

    Mike

  15. Hello Mike,

    I’m glad the script works for you. I normally just read the AVCHD files directly from the memory card using iMovie. The files wont show up in iPhoto, if that’s what you are using.

  16. Hi Brix,

    Thanks for all your work but I am unable to get it to work. Probably I am not very smart about running perl. I dragged and dropped the script to Terminal and then used the instructions you gave to run the script but says it cant find perl update-gps-assist-data.pl. What am I doing wrong? Can you help?

    Thanks,
    Shawn

  17. Hello Shawn,

    I did not mention anything about drag-n-drop regarding this script. Did you try the more detailed instructions written by me in the comments section?

    Brix

  18. Hi Brix,

    I downloaded the script to my desktop then opened Terminal and typed in” perl update-gps-assist-data.pl /Volumes/Untitled/’ but Terminal said “it cant find perl update-gps-assist-data.pl.” My memory stick is titled “Untitled”.

    Thanks for your help Brix.

  19. Hi Brix,

    That worked. Thanks for taking the time to help and thanks for the script.

    Shawn

  20. Thanks, Brix. I just bought an HX5V and was hoping to just use my MacBook Pro for my trip. This blog post just saved me from having to load up Windows!

  21. Hi Brix

    Thank you for the presented method which works great with my Sony HX9V (I did not test the scipt).

    Best regards, luckyrotor

  22. -correction- (please correct my entry, as I have a Sony HX5V (and not a HX9V), Regards, luckyrotor

  23. Thanks for the great post!

    It works magic on the lock time for my HX5V’s GPS…

    The GPS feature is finally usable.

  24. Great work, thanks a lot! This helped me at my work and with Windows. Because I’m not Administrator, PMB’s GPS Support Tool can’t connect to update site so I was stuck with restrictions made by my employer…

  25. hi,

    have just bought the sony dec hx5v and although i followed your instructions i can’t seem to get the gps assist tot work or find a fix on the gps

    I use a mac running lion,…..

    could you email me very basic instructions on how to get it running….any help appreciated….

  26. Hi mick

    Check the earlier comments for very detailed usage instructions. Your camera should be able to get a GPS fix even without the GPS assist data. If it can’t something else is wrong.
    I am using the script on OS X Lion myself.

    Brix

  27. Hi,
    I have the new HX7V, downloaded the GPS assist file to the SD card and camera says it’s valid.
    However it still takes long to get a GPS fix, sometimes more than 20 seconds, although I had a fix at my previous location just minutes ago. I tested in a city which buildings just 3-4 storeys high.
    Is this normal? You write that it takes less than 10 seconds with the HX5V.
    Any help highly appreciated. Thanks a lot!

  28. Yes, that is quite normal. GPS signals requires line-of-sight from the camera to a number GPS satellites above. The less visible satellites, (in your scenario, the tall buildings shadow the GPS satellites), the longer it will take to aquire a GPS fix. 20 seconds isn’t half bad all considered.

  29. Thanks a lot! I already started reversing the software, but this safes me a great deal of time:-D. No more booting into Windows just to update the GPS almanac.

  30. I’m about to buy a Cyber-shot Digital Camera HX200V. I assume this will be the same way to upgrade the GPS data assist for that camera. My question is where to I get the updates? The “Assistme.dat” file is a permanent file that I leave on all the cards I use for this camera? How is the satellite information updated every 180 days? Do I come here to this site to get updates. Is there anyway that the camera sees the internet when hooked up to a Mac to update from menu on camera? I’m confused about this.

  31. Hello!
    Sony send me to you! Because I can’t really use GPS in my new Alpha A65.
    So I downloaded the files assistme.dat and assistme.md5, but I don’t understand : “Verify that the MD5 sum of the assistme.dat file matches the one in the assistme.md5 file”. My english is quite poor ;-).
    When I try to open assistme.dat, it opens MPEG streamclip ???
    Does this means I have to create one folder in which I have to drag and drop the 2 files ? Then copy this folder in the SDcard ?
    And as your almanac is 2010, will it work now may 2012 ?
    Thanks a lot for your work ;-)
    (if someone speaks french, maybe I’ll understand better)

  32. Thanks also!

    These infos work perfectly on a SLT-A77 too.

    I wrote a simple bash script to do a wget of the file each time I plug my SD card using the infos you provided.

    So again, thanks a lot!

  33. Hi Richard,

    The assistme.dat and assistme.md5 files are maintained and updated by SONY; the official SONY software uses the exact same files. There is no need for the file to be on the memory card at all times, just allow the camera to load the file from the card every time you have downloaded a new version.

    To download the files, either use the official SONY software or the script referred to in the blog post. Your camera can not connect to the internet on its own.

  34. Hi alphatango,

    Just use the script referred to in the blog post; it will download the files, verify the MD5 sum, create the folder etc. The almanac is maintained and updated by SONY.

  35. Hi Al1,

    Thank you for the report – I’ve updated the script to use PRIVATE/SONY/GPS/ instead, as that also works for the HX5V.

  36. Dude, you rock. I was groaning at the thought of booting up a Windows VM and futzing with the Sony software, and you saved the day. Thanks.

  37. Many thanks, worked for my A77 and for my DSC-HX20V. I have not used your script but generated the folders by hand. (If you format the card in the camera the PRIVATE folder is already there (for the video files), you only have to add the GPS folder and copy the “assistme.dat” file to it.

  38. Thank you for a perfect solution to my GPS problem. It works like a charm with DSC-HX5

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