December 20, 2009

Twitter List of Geocachers

To all those geocachers out there that use Twitter (you know who you are), you might be interested to know that a lot of developers are clamoring to create applications that take advantage of the new, "Twitter Lists" feature, as described further in this blog post by Mashable's Jennifer Van Grove.

So if everything worked correctly, you should be able to see a window below displaying the real-time tweets of all the geocachers that I follow on Twitter:





If not, well then the developers have more work to do. But you should at least be able to see the same list in the right hand column.

Cache On!

December 13, 2009

Searching Geocaching In Real-Time

You may have heard Google's announcement earlier this week that they've included real-time search capabilities in their search engine. So now when you do a Google search, you can retrieve a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web, including results from Twitter, FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before.

Of course, I had to test this out by doing a search of "geocaching", and sure enough, it was like getting a live feed of all the latest geocaching content from across the interwebz. To invoke this option, just select "Latest" under the search options in the left hand column:




Now I'm not saying that geocaching isn't popular, but if you want to see the real power of this feature, try searching for something like "Obama", or "Tiger Woods", for example. But still, it's nice to know that now you can stay up to date with all the latest geocaching gossip in real-time with a simple search.

Cache On!

December 5, 2009

10 Balloonies

Help Groundspeak win the DARPA Network Challenge, and they'll donate the prize money, plus $10,000 of their own money, to DonorsChoose.org. If you locate a balloon, send an email to darpa@groundspeak.com with the # of the balloon, the location (lat/lon preferable) and your Geocaching.com username (if you have one). You can read more about how to help at 10balloonies.com.

Now get out there and find some balloons (and some caches while you're at it).

Cache On!

November 28, 2009

My Anti-Black Friday

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, my old college buddies and our families and friends get together for a day-long hike in the hills of Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. And not one time have I ever regretted choosing hiking over shopping. This year, the weather wasn't particularly cooperative, which led to a somewhat lower-than-normal turnout, and a slightly modified route. And although it was cool, we managed to stay dry, enjoy the fall colors; and even grab a few caches.


Las Trampas Hike


Map your trip with EveryTrail

Cache On!

November 21, 2009

November 14, 2009

More on "12 of 12"

Last Thursday, November 12th, was another 12 of 12 opportunity. The "12 of 12" is a photography project designed to capture a day in the life of people through 12 photographs on the 12th day of each month. Eventually, geocachers got in on the action, and began submitting geocaching-specific 12 of 12 photos on various web sites.

Here are some samples I found from this month's submissions from different geocachers (click on each photo to see the entire set):




And finally, here is my submission, from my 56-cache-find day on 11/12/09:



Cache On!

November 7, 2009

World Wide Flash Mob VI - 11/14

The next World Wide Flash Mob (WWFM VI) event is scheduled for next Saturday, 11/14/09. "What's a Flash Mob", you say? Well, in the geocaching world, the World Wide Flash Mob Events occur all around the world, coordinated so they happen all at the same time; Oh yeah, and, they are only 15 minutes long! Everyone appears at the exact same moment (10:00 AM PST), signs the log sheet, partakes in some specific act of silliness determined by the event organizer. Then everyone disperses at exactly 10:15.

As of this posting, there were over 100 WWFM VI events planned world wide. This link simply displays the results of a standard geocaching.com search for keyword = "WWFM VI". Unfortunately, this listing won't help you find a flash mob event in your area, as it seems to be sorted somewhat randomly; or not at all. Luckily, a geocacher named Novac has gone to the trouble of creating a bookmark of all the events, sorted by country, then state/province. 

If you can find a WWFM VI event near you, I highly recommend attending.

Cache On!

October 31, 2009

Weekly Updates - New Look and Feel

If you've been a long-time subscriber to Groundspeak's "Weekly Update" newsletter, then you have to be happy with the new format. After years of sending out the newsletter as a text-based document, Groundspeak has finally converted it to an HTML formatted page. And very pleasing to the eye, I might add:



Of course, content is king, and luckily, that hasn't changed at all. I always loved getting all the latest geocaching information sent to my inbox each week. But now it's even more fun to read than ever.

Thanks Groundspeak!

Cache On!

October 18, 2009

You Have 10 Days To Tell Google Where To Go

When I first started geocaching many moons ago, the geo-referenced aerial imagery that was available back then was of such low resolution, that it wasn't really useful at all for visualizing the location of a geocache. Times have sure changed since then. First, Google Earth came along and made it easy to "see" the location of a geocache with this tool's continuously improving imagery. Then came Google Maps with the Street View feature which practically showed you a picture of the cache in its hiding place:



This works nicely, of course, as long as you are urban caching. But for those of us who do most of our geocaching "off-road," Street View doesn't offer much help; until now. Lucky for us, one of the Google engineers on the Street View team also happens to be an avid mountain biker, and decided to devise a way to take Street View off-road. The result was the Street View Trike:




You can read more about it on this recent Google Lat Long Blog post. Google would like to know where you'd like to see the Street View Trike go next. Do you have a favorite trail, park, pedestrian mall, campus, etc.? Cast your vote by October 28 to make sure you get your favorite off-road location added to Street View. Go to this site to make your voice heard, and to see some of the areas that have already been captured, including one of my favorites, the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail.

Cache On, and vote!

October 11, 2009

Offline Pocket Queries

If you have visited your profile page on gecoacaching.com lately, you may have noticed a new feature was recently added for premium users called, "Offline Pocket Queries":



If you click on the link, you won't get much information about the feature. But luckily, there is a good explanation of it, as well as some discussion of its usefulness, in the forums. Following is the feature description that is provided there:

  • "Offline Pocket Queries allow Premium Members to upload customized .GPX files to the website for later use by the Geocaching iPhone Application and select mobile devices. 
  • This feature allows you to download a customized Pocket Query, alter the data in your preferred third party waypoint manager and upload the altered version to Geocaching.com for later download to your mobile device.
  • The website will currently accept GPX version 1.0 uploads in either .GPX or .ZIP format.
  • Premium Members may save up to 10 Offline Pocket Queries, which will remain on the website for a maximum of 7 days. The Offline Pocket Query will display in red when there are 2 days remaining before its removal. 
  • Please Note: .GPX files must be limited to 500 waypoints."

From what I can tell, this new feature is only for people who use their mobile devices (iPhones/Blackberrys) for geocaching, as it allows them to upload modified pocket queries (ie: pqs with  corrected coordinates, user created additional waypoints, etc.), and then retrieve those pocket queries onto their devices.

While it seems like a nice way to get caches with corrected coordinates onto your iPhone, I tend to agree with most of the people that commented on the forum that it probably won't benefit the majority of geocachers. The feature doesn't really have any value to people with traditional GPS receivers that load waypoint coordinates (corrected or otherwise) directly onto their devices; and for those cachers that do use iPhones, it's difficult to imagine too many of them using this feature on a regular basis.

Even though I use the iPhone geoacaching application on my iPodTouch since I can store my regular (unmodified) pocket queries and field notes there, I really have no need for this feature since I load all my waypoints on to my Garmin.

If you are an iPhone geocacher, and you use, or plan to use this new feature, I'd love to hear your reaction, and whether or not you think this is a great enhancement.

Cache On!

October 4, 2009

Geocaching Goes Prime Time

While geocaching has been around for years now (almost 10, to be exact), most of the media attention that our hobby has generated has been limited to local, small-town newspapers. Recently, however, it seems that major television studios and even Hollywood has started jumping on the geocaching bandwagon. Following are some recent examples:


Law & Order: SVU
Aired September 30, 2009




Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Aired September 27, 2009


In Hawaii, the Hubers are out on the ocean, and when they return, they get to open the package Ty gave them before they left - it’s a GPS for the family to do one of their favorite things - geo-caching - which is a scavenger hunt in which you follow co-ordinates on the GPS. They are led to a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid car - Ty phones and tells them they can keep it! Jesse notes that it will make so much difference in their lives!



Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Aired May 8, 2005

STREET SHOOTINGS RAISE PUBLIC OUTCRY AS POLICE PROBE FEMALE STALKER -- AND HIGH-TECH TREASURE HUNT GAME -- After a young actor Mike, (guest star Jeffrey Hephner) is wounded and his fiancee is shot dead on the street, Detectives Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Eames (Kathryn Erbe) are pointed towards the surviving victim's former girlfriend, who is known to have stalked him. The key, however, might turn on their probe of "geocaching," a high-tech treasure-hunt game that could yield vital clues. As the media and public mourn the man's tragic loss, the police want to take another look at some of his acting buddies, especially one who never lets go of his Palm Pilot. Jamey Sheridan and Courtney B. Vance also star.


Splinterheads
Coming to a theater near you



Cache On!

September 27, 2009

EveryTrail

In previous blog posts, I've mentioned some of the web-based GPS mapping sites I like to use. One of my favorites right now is the feature-packed EveryTrail. This site lets you do it all, including search and find GPS tracks that others have uploaded that you can download into your GPS device. You can upload your own GPS tracks, either directly from your Garmin device (if you have one), or from a multitude of different file formats that you may have saved on your computer from your GPS, including Google Earth (KML) format.

There's also a "Guides" section, that lets you download detailed travel guides for your next adventure, including the GPS tracks for the route described in the Guide. Check out this Yosemite Valley hiking Guide page.

In addition, there are EveryTrail mobile apps that let you record and save your tracks with your GPS-enabled mobile device, including the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile devices, and the Android phone. And, you can easily share your trips on Facebook and Twitter.

I also like all the trip details the application provides about the trips you upload. Not only does it create a map of your GPS tracks, but it also includes trip stats including duration, length, vertical up and down, and even a time slider that let's you play back your trip:



EveryTrail even lets you embed your trips into your blog:

TRT-Tahoe City at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: Share and Plan your Trips

If you haven't used EveryTrail before, I highly recommend giving it a try. And if you have used it previously, but not for some time, check it out again, as they've made some major improvements to their site.

Cache On!

September 20, 2009

Show Me

In one of my very first blog posts, I explained how I like to save some of my frequently used geocaching. com pocket queries and searches as bookmarks. Well, now I found a nice little tool called Screenr that let's me show you how to do it. In addition, Screenr gives you the option to post your finished "how to" video on Twitter with the click of a button.

Although my presentation skills need a lot of improvement, below is my attempt at creating a screenr "how to" video.



Cache On!

September 12, 2009

Geocaching 12 of 12

Today marked the "Geocaching 12 of 12" event, where geocachers worldwide were encouraged to document their day of geocaching with 12 pictures, taken today, the 12th day of the month. Thus, 12 of 12.

The concept of 12 of 12 has been around for a few years, where people document the 12th day of the month with 12 pictures that exemplify their day. Here's a bit of history. But today was the first attempt to create a geocaching-specific 12 of 12 effort. Here's the official web site with lots more information, and instructions on how to submit your 12 photos if you happened to be one of the lucky ones who participated.

Unfortunately for me, I had to work today, so I will have to settle for enjoying everyone else's photos.

Cache On!

August 30, 2009

Crowdsourced Maps

An article appeared in Wired this past week that discussed how OpenStreetMap relies on people with GPS devices to upload their road and trail network data to contribute to the generation of a universal map. This crowdsourcing technique works similar to the Wikipedia model, with the end product being a non-proprietary road and trail map available for anyone to use, for free. This is different than the Googles and MapQuests of the world that rely on proprietary data from Navteq or TeleAtlas. And now that almost everything in the world is becoming GPS-enabled these days, more and more people are able to contribute to the public mapping effort, and thus, the data quality can only continue to improve.

The other nice thing about OpenStreetMap is, not only can you upload your GPS data to help out the mapping project cause, but you can also download the map data to your GPS device as well; something you can't do with Google Maps or MapQuest. In addition, OpenStreetMap seems to contain a lot of bike and hiking trails that you don't see in most online mapping products:


Thus, OSM offers a less expensive alternative than paying Garmin $100 for their Street or TOPO maps. While the Garmin maps may have more features, like routable trails and more POI's, it's nice to know there is a less expensive option available.

If you are primarily interested in acquiring free trail maps for your Garmin GPS device, and you happen to live in, or will be traveling to, the northwest, then you'll want to check out Northwest Trails, created by cacher, Moun10bikes. If you're looking for a similar mapset for the greater Arizona area, then checkout the Southwest Trails site, created, ironically, by "GoNorthWest".

For GPS maps of most other locations, I strongly recommend the GPS File Depot, which I've mentioned in this blog numerous times in the past.


Speaking of crowdsourcing, you may have noticed Google's announcement that they are now using crowdsourced GPS data from people using Google Maps Mobile to update their real-time traffic data on Google Maps.


And finally, a big shout out to EMC of Northridge, CA for setting the record the other day for the number of caches found in a 24-hour period: 413! It took me years to find that many, and she and her pals did it in one day. Amazing.

Cache On!

August 22, 2009

Drawing Pictures With GPS Tracks

It was only a matter of time before people would decide to do more than just generate tracks from their hiking, biking and off-roading outings with their GPS receivers. This article, titled, The Big Draw of a GPS Run, appeared in the NY Times this week, and links to it were all over the twittersphere. The article gives examples of people using their GPS-enabled devices to create huge drawings by following routes through city streets in the shapes of faces, dogs and other interesting things.

 
 
Check out these other impressive examples of "GPS Drawings". You have to especially love the effort that went into creating this Depeche Mode logo:

So the next time you download your GPS tracks, look beyond your total miles traveled and elevation gain to see the work of art that lies within.

Cache On!

August 16, 2009

Geocaching's 10th Anniversary

It seems hard to believe, but the very first geocache was hidden over nine years ago on May 3rd, 2000, and shortly after that, Groundspeak, the company that runs Geocaching.com, was born. This means our beloved hobby will be celebrating it's 10th anniversary next year, and the interweb is beginning to buzz with hints of plans for appropriate events, activities, and festivities.


The biggest hint to date is this blog post by Jeremy Irish, Groundspeak's president and co-founder, where he mentions plans for a big celebration next year, most likely in coordination with GeoWoodstock VIII on July 3rd, 2010. And there's also this August 14th Twitter post from Jeremy, which suggests more than one celebration, but possibly a year long extravaganza may be in the works!?

It appears some geocaching groups are also planning celebratory events of their own, as well:

to name a couple. And I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more to come. So keep an eye out for an anniversary event near you, and other surprises that Groundspeak may have in store for us!

Cache On!

August 9, 2009

Garmin's BaseCamp Now Free

Garmin announced this week that they are making their BaseCamp software, for both PC and Mac, free. Some of the features include:
  • Allows you to view 24K or 100K topographic maps and other topographic data from Garmin 
  • Displays maps in 2-D or 3-D, including elevation profiles, and allows you to view and rotate them at any angle
  • Allows you to create waypoints and routes on your computer and transfer maps, waypoints, routes, tracks and geotagged photos between your computer and your Garmin device
  • Shows animated playback of routes and tracks over time
  • Supports geotagged photos
  • Lets you easily organize data into foldersPrints full-page, color mapsExports user data for viewing in Google Earth
  • Includes advanced geocaching support; can import data from geocaching.com
 
 
Notice the first line above about viewing TOPO maps - what it doesn't mention is that you have to purchase them separately from Garmin. Otherwise, you can use the BaseCamp program with the standard, sparsely detailed base map that it comes with. Other than support for geotagged photos and animated route/track playback, most of the features listed above are already available in Garmin's MapSource program that comes with most Garmin handheld GPS receiver devices. What I like about MapSource is I can add other (aka, "free") TOPO maps to the background and view my GPS data on top. See GPSFileDepot for more information on downloading free TOPO maps for your Garmin and MapSource.
 
For now, I think I'll stick with MapSource. But if you happen to already have some of Garmin's 24K or 100K TOPO map products, you may want to give BaseCamp a try. The price is right.
Cache On!

August 2, 2009

Google Adds Data Layers to Google Maps for Mobile

This week Google released version 3.2 of Google Maps for Mobile. If you have a Symbian S60 or Windows Mobile phone, you can now access and interact with content such as Wikipedia, Transit, Traffic, and best of all, My Maps by tapping "Layers" in your main menu:

 
What's nice about the My Maps option, is you can save your cache data as a KML file, and then load that data into My Maps (all you need is a Google account). Here's a video that shows you how to add content to My Maps:



A while ago, I created a "My Maps" map to monitor my progress on conquering the "The "Lil" Devil Made Me Do It Challenge!" cache. This post describes how I created the My Maps page from my cache data. Now, with Google Maps for Mobile 3.2, I can access my Mt. Diablo cache map from my phone:



And, by clicking on one of the map icons, I can get the cache information:


This is great news. I can't wait to take advantage of the new features in Maps for Mobile 3.2 during my next cache outing.

Cache On!

July 25, 2009

Gotta Love The Groundspeak Forums

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the latest release of the iPhone Geocaching application, and how I was especially pleased with the new feature that lets you download your pocket queries to your device. This is especially useful for people like me that only have an iPodTouch and not an iPhone, so we only get internet access when we're within range of a wifi hotspot (in other words, rarely).

I've been wanting to test-drive this new feature so I can decide whether I want to switch from my current paperless caching solution: Cachemate on my smartphone. So I set up a special pocket query that pulls all my "unfound" caches within a 10-mile radius of my home coordinates. I never actually downloaded this query, since I typically load other PQ's that cover a larger radius into GSAK (and then just filter the caches I want for any particular cache run).

But to use the iPhone/Touch app., you don't need to download the pocket query, as it pulls the data directly from the Geocaching .com servers; or so I thought. Up until today, I've been frustrated by the fact that the iPhone app. only lists some, but not all, of my pocket queries. And unfortunately, my "10-mile radius" PQ was one of the unlisted queries on my iPodTouch.

So I headed over to the Groundspeak Forums to see if other people had run into a similar problem with this application. As it turns out, I quickly learned that the iPhone app. only lists pocket queries that you've downloaded within the last 7 days, as described in Skippermark's most helpful post. I took his advice, downloaded the PQ, and now it shows up on my iTouch, just as promised.

Over the years I've come to rely on the Groundspeak forums to find answers to almost any question I've had about geocaching and the many gadgets we use. There are so many helpful people there, like Skippermark, who are ready to offer up a quick solution to any problem imaginable. In fact, you would be hard pressed to come up with a geocaching question that hasn't already been addressed in the forums.

So the next time you get stuck, turn to the forums for the answer.

Cache On!

July 19, 2009

GPSFileDepot

One of my favorite web sites is the GPSFileDepot. It's a great source for free map data for your GPS receiver, assuming you have one that lets you load your own files. The home page maintains a running list of the latest data files that have been added, along with the most popular. You can also search for available maps by location, and the tutorials and forums are both very helpful.

A while ago, I downloaded the California TOPO map for my Garmin, and I've found it to be very detailed and accurate. While you cannot navigate by roads or trails like you can with Garmin's $99 TOPO product, I find that the TOPO file in the GPSFileDepot library includes many, many more trails than Garmin's 1:24,000 TOPO version does. In fact, I have yet to find a trail missing from the map.

The maps available for dowload here are all free because they have been created and donated by generous users. As of this writing, there were 187 custom maps available and there had been over 91 thousand downloads. Take some time to look over the site. You'll be glad you did.

Cache On!

July 11, 2009

Geocaching Goes Mainstream

I think whenever your quiet little hobby/obsession/addiction becomes the subplot of a major motion picture, it's no longer mommy's and daddy's little secret. Thus seems to be the case with geocaching thanks to a movie called Splinterheads, which debuted at the South-by-Southwest film festival in March. I believe the movie, starring Thomas Middleditch, Rachael Taylor and Lea Thompson (of "Back to the Future" fame), is set to be released at a theater near you this fall. Here's a sneak peak:



While geocaching seems to steadily be gaining in popularity on its own, we'll see how much of an impact Hollywood has on our fun little pastime.

Cache On!

July 4, 2009

Thank Geodness For Twitter

Very early yesterday morning there was a fire and subsequent power outage at the Fisher Plaza building in Seattle, Washington, which is the data center that houses the Geocaching.com servers. This resulted in the web site being down for over 24 hours, and a lot of disgruntled geocachers. You can read more about the details of the damage and the server outage on Jeremy Irish's blog post.

Lucky for those of us that follow Jeremy on Twitter, or monitored the #fisherfire Twitter hashtag, we were kept abreast of the events and the status of the repairs as the day progressed. For those geocachers that weren't aware of the problem, and especially those who use the geocaching.com iphone application, or GeocacheNavigator on their Blackberry, who rely on a network connection to gc.com, it must have been very frustrating. Of course, those of us who geocache the old fashioned way; by maintaining their cache lists and information in an offline database like GSAK, weren't impacted as much.


But I have to say, following the Twitter activity on this topic throughout the day was quite entertaining. You could read the panic and confusion in peoples' "Tweets" as they tried to figure out why they couldn't access gc.com. This was ultimately followed by relief once those of us who knew what was happening reassured them that there was nothing wrong with their ISP's, or their modems, or their iPhones, etc. Here is a sampling of some of the tweets from yesterday:

  • I guess geocaching.com is down because of #fisherfire... I should have checked Twitter before pressing F5 so many times.
  •  #geocaching Software for the #IPHONE is now completely useless? Says: No Network. Unable to search for caches. No network is available.
  • #fisherfire explains why #geocaching app for #iPHONE is down. Sorry guys! Will wait patiently for the fix!
  • Long live the offline #geocaching database! Long live #GSAK !!
  • 5 DNF's, aided by the site being down all day.
  • trying to research some geocaches (#geocaching ) but the blasted #fisherfire has ruined my plans.
  • who else is bitting their nails over the #fisherfire? I had plans to go #geocaching.
  • i finally bought the #geocaching app for my iphone and now their data center is on fire.
  • been #geocaching, found 11, can't log 'em, bored now!
I wonder if there was this much panic during the stock market crash of 1929? I have to say, it sure was nice having a service like Twitter to turn to for geocaching.com web site status information. Now, if Twitter ever goes down, then we're all in trouble. For information more about Twitter and Geocaching, see this earlier post.


Cache On!







June 27, 2009

Geocaching Live

In case you weren't aware, a new beta service has been launched by Groundspeak called "Geocaching Live". Geocaching Live is a new "project focused on real-time social interactions among geocachers. While geocaching outdoors you can post logs, images and video related to your current geocaching adventure for others to see in real-time!".


While you can follow people's caching adventures in real-time from your desktop PC, it's really intended for use on mobile phones and PDA's. Unfortunately, my GPS-less mobile phone is  not one of the supported models. If you look at the live map, you'll notice that the service seems to be more popular in Europe than in the U.S. at the moment. I have to admit that it is kind of fun to follow other cachers in real-time:





If you have one of the supported mobile devices, you may want to give it a try and see what you think of it. If you do, please post your experiences here, as I'm very curious to hear your reactions and see if this service will start to enjoy widespread use.


Thanks, and Cache On!


 

June 20, 2009

New Geocaching iPhone App. Version Released

You may have noticed that Grounspeak released version 2.1 of their Geocaching iPhone/iPodTouch application this week. If you're not familiar with this tool, you can read more about it here, or, visit the Apple iTunes Store download page.

Some of the features added to this latest version include:
  • Updated user interface.
  • Three different map options now available: Street, Topo, and Satellite.
  • For each map type, you can select the map source.
  • Custom waypoints can be added to the navigation map - a must for multi-caches.
  • Your active pocket queries can be downloaded to your device and accessed while you are outside of network coverage!
That last bullet is my favorite, especially since I have an iPodTouch and not an iPhone. I usually bring the Touch with me when I'm out caching, but only to listen to music. Up until now, it had no real caching capabilities since the only way I could get geocaching or navigation information was if I happened to be near a wi-fi hot spot. I can't think of too many caching locations I've been to where a wi-fi signal was available.

But now that I can download my pocket queries to the device, I may start using the iPodTouch more than my current smartphone/cachemate solution. Following are some screenshots of the new pocket query feature on the iPodTouch:

 New Interface With Pocket Query Option

  List Of My Active Pocket Queries

 
Selected Pocket Query Ready to Download
 
 
List of Saved Pocket Queries on Device

Cache List From Selected Pocket Query
(each one contains all the cache info.)

The other nice thing is that downloading the pocket queries to the Touch goes much faster than loading them into cachemate on my smartphone. My only complaint so far is that not all of my pocket queries show up on the active list in my device, and I haven't figured out why that is.

But for now, this is good enough to start testing to decide if it will become my new paperless caching solution. Stay tuned.

Cache On!

June 14, 2009

Get Your Log Sheets Here

So you've been geocaching for a while now, and you've decided you're ready to give back to the community and hide your first cache. Well, good for you. But before you do, you'll definitely want to check out geocaching.com's brief guidelines and helpful hints in hiding your first geocache.

Whether you're getting ready to hide your first cache or your hundreth, one of the most time consuming parts of the process is creating an appropriate log sheet for your container. Lucky for us, there are plenty of kind cachers out there who have already created numerous log sheet templates and made them available online.

Following are links to some of the web sites I've used to download and print different log sheets for some of my caches:

TechBlazer
This site contains a slew of different size, styles, and colors of log sheets; free for the downloading.

Cachebox
You can purchase rite in the rain sheets here, or scroll further down and print out pdf versions of 4 different sized templates.

Micro-cache log sheet, by Lil Devil
A micro log sheet in MS Word format that you can modify to suit your needs.

I'm sure there are other sites out there besides these that provide pre-made logs, but these are definitely three of my favorite. Now, go hide that cache!

Cache On!

June 7, 2009

New and Improved "Cache Along a Route" Filter

With the summer traveling season approaching, it's nice to know that geocaching.com allows you to select out just the caches you want along a route that you define (point A to point B), which you can then load into your GPS receiver. Those of you who have used this function in the past may be interested to know that there is a new and improved means to accomplish this task. You can still do it the old fashioned way if you prefer, but why would you when it's much simpler now?

Now all you do is click on the "Create A Route" link under the "My Profile" page, select your begin and end points and your search radius (buffer), and then "Save Route Changes":

This takes you to the "Create/Edit a Route" page, where you can add additional information about your route, and then save it as a pocket query and/or a gpx file:


Once you save the route as a pocket query, you will now have access to a list of all the caches along that route, within a given radius of the route, for your use. It doesn't get much simpler or sweeter.

Cache On!

June 1, 2009

The Saga Continues

I recently posted a piece on a Challenge Cache that a friend and I are doing called the Lil Devil Challenge which requires the successful geocacher to find all the hidden caches in Mt. Diablo State Park. During our most recent outing, we were able to find 9 out of the 10 caches we attempted that day.

One of the problems we're having, besides a few DNF's, is that new cahces keep getting added within the Park boundaries almost as fast as we find the existing hides. Three new caches were hidden there just in the last week.

In any event, here are our current stats:
  • Total Finds: 37
  • Total DNFs: 4
  • Total Yet-To-Find: 38
You can follow along on this map of our progress.

Cache On!

May 24, 2009

Shout Out To Geocachers

This post is simply meant to thank all you geocachers out there for hiding your treasures for the rest of us to find. Even though I live near some of the best parkland and open space areas imaginable, if it weren't for the caches that you all hide, I most likely wouldn't visit these locations nearly as often as I do.

On a recent outing, I had decided to visit Anthony Chabot Regional Park, located in the hills above Oakland, California, to grab a few new caches that had been placed there. Of course, I brought my bike, as this park has miles of dirt trails for horses, hikers and bicyclists. The trails are lined with huge Eucalyptus and Oak trees everywhere you go, which made the ride even nicer (I almost forgot I was looking for caches at times). And even though spring is quickly turning into summer out west, there was still quite a bit of Monkey Flower blooming.

 
After finding five caches in this park, I headed north to the neighboring Redwood Regional Park. This amazing place is home to a forest of Coast Redwood trees, and I love it whenever a new cache is hidden here, as it gives me an excuse to return. I was after one particular micro cache on this day; but it was definitely the journey that made this visit worth while. Here's a sample of what I saw:
 
Towering Giants
 
Fern Grotto
 
Trail to the Cache
It's worth noting that the location of the first picture was only 6 miles away from the others, which speaks to the tremendous natural diversity this region has to offer. So once again cachers, thank you for getting me out there to enjoy it all!
Cache On!

May 17, 2009

Get Cache Data Via E-mail

At some point when I wasn't looking, a nice new feature was added to GSAK that lets you automatically interrogate a POP3 email server to download attachments, and then optionally load any GPX/LOC files into your current database. I had always wished my email client had an option that would automatically send my pocket query files to my hard drive without me having to download them manually each time, but no such feature existed. Now, with the "get data via email" function (under the File menu) in GSAK, you can  automatically pull your pocket query files from your email, load them into GSAK, and then delete the email messages when finished (if you want); all in one step. It's very slick.

Here's a screen shot of the dialogue box that you see when you select this option:


It's pretty straight forward, and this feature should work with any email system that uses a POP3 server. There are, however, some quirks with gmail accounts, but these are addressed in the help files and in the forums. Give it a try. I think you'll be impressed.

Cache On!

May 10, 2009

New and Improved Tools

Just wanted to briefly mention some new and updated geo-social networking tools that I thought would be of interest to the blogging and micro-blogging (a.k.a., Twitter) geocaching community out there.While these are not strictly geocaching tools per se, a significant number of geocachers out there use these, and similar tools, on a daily basis.

Google Latitude
As if Google doesn't already control the world, they recently added another tool to their arsenal. Latitude (nice name, by the way) is Google's foray into the location-based social networking arena. It's similar to applications like Loopt and Brightkite, which have been around longer and seem to be more popular (at the moment). All these tools let you see where your friends are and what they're up to (and they, you) from either a mobile phone or desktop. Latitude is nicely integrated into Google Maps on your phone and as a widget on your iGoogle desktop.

This week, Google upped the ante by adding more functionality to Latitude. Now you can set Latitude to automatically update your Google Talk or Gmail chat status message with your location. In addition, Google now provides a "badge" that lets you publish your Latitude location on your blog or website, as I've done in the column to the right in this blog. You can learn more about these new features here.


TweetMap
This Google Maps and Twitter mash-up lets you search for any Twitter topic at any location. For example, the screenshot below shows the result of searching for tweets about 'geocaching' near San Francisco.


Geo Twitter
On the flip side, Geo Twitter lets you tweet from a Google Map. You just zoom into your location on the map and press 'Tweet'. Geo Twitter then automatically "tweets" your current location, using the #ll hastag, and your longitude and latitude coordinate pairs. It also adds your tweet to the map on the Geo Twitter page. It will be interesting to see if the #ll tag catches on in Twitter.

TweetPhoto
And finally, there's TweetPhoto, a nice little program that lets you share photos on Twitter from your desktop or mobile phone. What seems to set it apart from similar applications like Twitpic is that it also lets you interact with any user or any photo that's been posted. For example, you can see who's viewed photos, mark photos as "favorites" or retweet them, and see just the photos posted by your Twitter and Facebook friends if you want (rather than the Public Stream view). It also lets you publish your photos to both Twitter and Facebook at the same time, and it automatically geotags the photos and displays their locations on a map.

I hope you give some of these new and/or improved tools a try and find some of them useful in your daily geo-social networking lives. I'd love to hear your impressions of the applications listed here.

Cache and Geo-Locate On!

May 2, 2009

GSAK Continues To Impress

For the longest time, I couldn't figure out why some of the waypoint names in my GSAK database were showing up in bold text:


I finally realized that it wasn't due to a bug in the program, but rather another built in filtering feature. By default, GSAK highlights geocache names that have child waypoints in bold text. You can turn off this filter, or create your own font-altering filters, using the "Highlight..." command under the "Waypoint" menu:


The above example shows the filter that causes the geocaches with child waypoints to be highlighted in bold text. It just uses an "Mfilter" statement to set the search criteria. Just for fun, I created another highlight control that lists the Last GPX Date in red font for any waypoint that hasn't been updated in more than 30 days using this MFilter statement: $d_LastGPXDate < $_Today - 30.




You can set up to 20 different, and simultaneous, waypoint highlight filters. As if the standard GSAK filtering tools weren't powerful enough, the Waypoint/Highlight controls provide additional filtering options.

Oh, and by the way, a new version of GSAK (7.5.2 Build 27) was released this week that includes a number of bug fixes and minor enhancements.

Cache On!

April 25, 2009

Sharing Your Progress

I generally try to steer clear from rehashing my geocaching outings in my blog posts, and instead try to focus on geo-related technology and tools that will hopefully enhance your caching experiences. But every so often, there are occasions where describing a certain cache hunt also allows me an opportunity to share how I used certain geo-tools that you might find helpful and applicable. This is one of those times.

A few months back, a caching buddy of mine and I decided we wanted to tackle the "The "Lil" Devil Made Me Do It Challenge!", a 5-star difficulty and 5-star terrain cache that requires that you find and log all the caches within the boundaries of Mount Diablo State Park. This is one of the most scenic parks in the San Francisco Bay Area, and also one of the largest, covering about 20,000 total acres. It also contains some significant elevation changes, ranging from a few hundred feet at the base, up to 3,849 feet at the main summit.

Even though we knew this challenge would require multiple trips to the park to grab all the caches within, we decided we were up for it. When this cache was first published in 2007, there were only 43 total geocaches in the park. As of this writing, there are now 78; which means the longer this takes us, the tougher it gets to finish. Since our first visit back in January, we've found 28 caches on three separate outings (plus 3 others I found a couple years ago before this challenge came up). I use a pretty simple means of monitoring our progress, both in tabular and map form, which I'll describe below, step by step:

  1. The Lil Devil cache owner created, and updates, a bookmark list of all the caches in the park, and made the list available on the Lil Devil cache web page. I created a pocket query from the bookmark list, which you can do for any bookmark list
  2. I load the pocket query file into GSAK every time I receive a new one (2 or 3 times a week). I could create a separate database for these records in GSAK, but I like having all of my data in one main database. Then I use the powerful filtering feature to pull out the data I need.
  3.  In this case, I used the "UserData4" field and labeled all of the caches for this challenge "Diablo". Then, I created a filter that only displays "UserData4 = Diablo".
4. Then I run a great little macro, called myGoogleEarth Export, that exports all the caches from your current filter and loads them into Google Earth.
5. I then save that file from Google Earth to my desktop (using the "Save Place As..." command) as a KML file. Once you have your caches saved in a KML format, you can load them into Google Maps using the built in My Maps option. Click on My Maps, Create New Map, then Import. Find your KML file, and load it in.
    That's it. Then share the link to your new map with your friends and caching buddies. If you'd like to follow our progress on the Lil Devil challenge, here is a link to the map I created using these steps. I even color-coded the caches by found (green), need to find (blue), and DNF (red).


    Cache on!

    April 12, 2009

    Phoning It In

    If you use Google's Blogger application to generate and maintain your blog space, there is a feature available that you may not be aware of that allows you to create your blog posts from your mobile phone. It's called Blogger On The Go, and it's available from Blogger in Draft. Blogger in Draft offers more features than the standard Blogger, but it's a "beta", or, use-at-your-own-risk version of the program.

    Here's how easy Google claims it is to use Blogger On The Go:

    Blogger Mobile works with any device that can send texts via SMS, or email via MMS.

    I've tried it, and it seems to work great; in fact, a little too great. The problem is with my particular phone (a Palm Treo 700WX), and not with Blogger On The Go. My service provider, Sprint, adds a bunch of header and disclaimer information to the text and image that I send from the phone, and it all gets added to the blog post - which makes for one ugly looking post.

    It's nice to know I can blog from my mobile phone; however, I think I'll just stick to generating blog posts from text messages rather than trying to send photos.

    If you happen to have a decent phone that handles MMS well, and you use Blogger, this might be worth your while.

    Cache On!

    March 31, 2009

    Spring Time is Geocaching Time

    No geo/techno tip this week. Instead, just a friendly reminder that Spring is here, and this is by far the most enjoyable time of year for geocaching. Temperatures are mild, the weeds are soft and green, and the wildflowers and wildlife are abundant. All great reasons to get out there and get caching before the heat of summer arrives, and you miss this window of opportunity.

    As further enticement, here are some photos from my geocaching outing today in Briones Regional Park, located in the hills of the California east Bay Area (between Berkeley and Martinez). This is just a sampling of what makes Spring caching so wonderful:


    The hills are all green


    The trails are soft and cool


    The views seem more spectacular


    The wildflowers are blooming


    Even the caches are more fun. Here, Ralph picks a winner.


    The undergrowth is lusher


    Fields of poppies are abundant


    Only a rock a Ground Zero?


    Nope. Even apparent DNF's turn out to be caches

    So get out there and see all spring has to offer to us Geocachers.

    Cache On!

    March 23, 2009

    Map My Page

    Well, if this worked correctly, you should see little "clickable" globes next to geographic locations throughout this blog. If you click on a globe, it should bring up a Google Maps window centered on the corresponding location.

    This is all thanks to a cool little tool called, MapMyPage. By adding one simple line of JavaScript code to your web page or blog, you can add the same functionality. You can learn more about it here. And, if you use Google's Blogger, scroll down to item #13, where you'll find an "Add to Blogger" button to automatically add the code to your blog.

    I've included several different types of geographical references below to test whether or not the MapMyPage tool recognizes them. If so, the globes should show you the location on a map.

    San Francisco

    California

    N37 51.500, W122 07.500

    Lake Tahoe

    Yosemite

    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500

    Ireland


    Enjoy, and cache on!

    March 15, 2009

    Online Coordinate Converter

    Occasionally, you'll run into a puzzle cache that uses a coordinate system that you may not be familiar with, or displays lat/long coordinates in a different format than geocaching.com does (such as in degrees minutes seconds). Luckily, there are many coordinate conversion web sites available.

    A nice one is the Earth Point Coordinate Converter. It supports Degrees Lat Long, Degrees Minutes, Degrees Minutes Seconds, GEOREF, UTM/UPS, MGRS, and Grid North. It also lets you view your coordinate pair location in Google Earth. There's a nice write up of this tool's features in a recent Free Geography Tools blog post.

    This could come in handy, and is definitely worth bookmarking.

    Cache On!














    March 8, 2009

    Geo-Synthing

    In the last blog popst, we talked about a cool little application called Photosynth that can generate a virtual 3D world of an area or object from multiple images taken from different angles of your subject. As a follow-up to that post, I wanted to let you know that you can now geo-tag your "synths". Here's a detailed explanation, but I'll give you the reader's digest version below.

    It's really simple. When viewing one of your synths, just click on the litttle yellow globe icon. This brings up a map where you can zoom in and select the location from where your pictures were taken.

    That's all there is to it.

    If you want to see other peoples' synths that were created from pictures taken in your neighborhood, just use this map to explore all the geotagged synths that are currently available. In this example, I zoomed into San Francisco and held my mouse over one of the green synth icons. This opens another window which allows me to view the complete photosynth that was created at that location right from the map:

    Enjoy, and Cache On!

    March 1, 2009

    Geocaching and Photosynth

    Besides a GPS receiver and a PDA, or GPS-enabled mobile phone, a geocacher's "other" best friend tends to be a camera. Most cachers I know, myself included, tend to bring along their digital cameras to capture images of their geocaching adventures. If you're like me, you probably have folders on your computer full of digital images from your geocache outings.

    In a previous blog post, I described how you can display copies of your digital photos on a map in the exact spot you took the picture from. Today I want to introduce you to another online imaging application called Photosynth. Using this unique tool, you can basically create virtual 3D worlds from your own images.

    Here's how the application is described on the Photosynth web site:

    Imagine being able to share your photos using the cinematic quality of a movie, the control of a video game, and the detail of the real world. Photosynth examines groups of images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point each photo was taken from. With this information, we recreate the space and use it as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos.

    It's really easy to use and doesn't take long at all to create a 3D montage of your photos. The trick is to upload enough photos of your subject to get 360 degrees of coverage.

    In the following example, I uploaded all the pictures I could find on my harddrive of Mt. Diablo. Click on the following link to see the results after Photosynth performed it's magic:

    Mount Diablo

    You'll notice that since I didn't have complete 360 degree coverage, I only scored a "15% Synthy" rating.

    I tried again using pictures of a decorated ammo can that I bought at GeoWoodstock VI last year. My results were better (54% Synthy), but still far from perfect:


    To get an idea of what a 100% Synthy looks like, check out this amazing example:

    Rubik Cube

    Spend some time looking at some of the better examples on the web site, and then try using some of your own pictures. I'm looking forward to getting some nice panoramic shots during my next geocache outing and then seeing how they turn out in Photosynth.

    Cache On!