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


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!