All together now: The cheapest thing on a BMW is the rider.
I've ridden and worked on BMW motorcycles since I began riding /2 bikes in the early 1970s. These days, on-board computers and electronics are prevalent, and I thought it'd be interesting and useful to have a modern tool to assess function and assist in fault diagnosis on my current R1200R.
My riding buddy Rad also has an R1200R, and both of us have been interested in HexCode's GS-911, which provides this specialized functionality. Rad left the computer setup to me; while not a computer expert, I'm comfortable in that environment, especially since I have another friend who's a first-rate computer resource when I need help.
This thread isn't about using the GS-911 or the HexCode software. HexCode's online manual and help forums as well as MOA members' postings in the MOA forums all do a good job of showing how the GS-911 and its software work. Instead, this describes how we reduced the cost of buying the GS-911 and purchased a less-expensive older PC laptop to run the GS-911 software, as well as the challenges we faced getting the setup to behave as we wished.
Buying a GS-911
The GS-911's US Distributor is Ted Porter's Beemershop. Rad and I liked the GS-911 functionality but were put off by the cost. We did these things, and suggest them to lower your expenditure:
a) Share the device. We decided to share a single GS-911 between us: we live fairly close so transferring the GS-911 back and forth isn't a chore. This halved the cost for each of us.
b) Pick the right product. Because we each own only one bike, and don't envision buying additional BMWs (or at least not too many), the less expensive 10-VIN "Enthusiast" model was suitable. We have toured comfortably for years without significant roadside repairs. Hoping to keep that streak intact by working only in our garages, we chose the USB-only model, which was a bit less expensive than the Bluetooth one.
c) Buy it on sale. Usually $299, the Enthusiast GS-911 USB was on sale in December 2013 for $269.
The GS-911 (in computer parlance: a dongle) provides the USB connection between the bike's diagnostic connector and the user's computer. The real magic is the HexCode GS-911 software, an application that runs on the user's computer and allows the user to view and change many aspects of the bike's electrical life. However, don't connect the GS-911 to your computer just yet - wait until you've been instructed to do so by the HexCode software.