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


N37 51.500, W122 07.500

Lake Tahoe


1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500


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 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


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!