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.

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.

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!