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, 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
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!