March 31, 2012

Roll Your Own Trail Mapping Website

In a number of previous posts, I've highlighted some of my favorite GPS track uploading websites, such as Everytrail and others, that let you share your GPS tracks and photos in a web-based mapping environment.

Well, now there's a site that lets you create your own, personalized version of these types of track-sharing tools, called Trail Charts, by TripGeo.

Using a spreadsheet as the main data source, Trail Charts is a mapping API which can be used on your website to display a large number of separate KML feeds (trails) on a map. You can customize how data fields from your spreadsheet are displayed on the map. A great example of Trail Charts in action can be found at Mr. Hollister shares his amazing photos and GPS tracks from numerous hikes in around the Yosemite area using this service. 

If you keep copies of your GPS tracks, this could be a great way to share your geocaching adventures with others.

Cache On!

March 24, 2012

mygeocachingprofile Master Lists Available

One of my favorite sites,, has made their "master" lists of Jasmer, Fizzy, and DeLorme challenge caches available on Since most states have at least one, or more, of these challenge caches, it's nice to be able to quickly see where they are, or to check out some of the different variations of these challenge caches. Following are links to the saved lists:

Following is an interactive map showing all the Fizzy Challenge Caches in the Master List:

Cache On!

March 18, 2012

Access KML's on Your Mobile Device

Google announced this week that you can now access custom Google Earth content (KML files) on your mobile device. Previously, this was only possible from a desktop or laptop machine running Google Earth. This could come in handy when you've converted your cache waypoints file from GPX to KML format and you want to see your data in a Google Earth environment on your mobile device. The 6.2 release of Google Earth for Android and iOS also includes improvements in navigation, which make it even easier to fly to your favorite spots on the globe. As would be expected, the Android version is available now in "Google Play". The iOS version will be available in the App store "soon". 

Cache On!

March 3, 2012

More On Maps

You’ve probably noticed by now, or at least heard, that Groundspeak has changed the background basemap they use on the website, from Google Maps to OpenStreetMap. They cite cost as the main reason for doing so in this brief Latitude 47 blog post. This sparked off a lively debate, as seen in that same blog post’s comment section.

For those not familiar with OpenStreetMap, or OSM, it is often referred to as the Wikipedia of geography, because all of the mapping is done, and updated, by the user community; a method known as crowd-sourcing. The maps are then made available for free.

One of the main complaints reiterated in the Latitude 47 blog’s comments was that the OSM maps are not nearly as accurate as Google Maps. While this is probably a legitimate concern in certain parts of the country, especially in some of the more rural areas, I don’t think this is true overall. Not only are the OSM maps in my neck of the woods just as accurate as Google and Bing Maps are, they are also more detailed in many respects (similar to the example shown in the Latitude 47 post). For example, the OSM maps of the parks and open spaces here in the San Francisco Bay Area contain far more trail detail (with labels) than Google maps does.

OSM View of Redwood Regional Park

The same view in Google Maps. Where'd all the trails go?

Of course, I am fortunate enough to live in an area with a very active OSM community that is constantly updating and adding features to the maps. I realize that’s not the case everywhere.

My two main complaints, however, with the new map interface vs. the old is that the satellite imagery is poorer than Google’s, and the rendering speed is much slower than before. I understand that Groundspeak is addressing the drawing speed issue, but I think we’re stuck with the imagery resolution problem for now. Oh well, we can always copy and paste a cache’s coordinates into Google Maps and open up street view; as long as it’s still free for us to do so. ;)

You may be interested to learn that there has been a concerted effort underway for some time now, advocating that people, and companies, switch to OSM as their online mapping provider. And it’s not just Groundspeak that realized that the “free” online mapping services that Google offers isn’t really free at all. Just this week, Foursquare announced that they too are switching from Google to OSM, for mainly the same reason that Groundspeak did.

OSM has been very popular in Europe for years, and just seems to be starting to gain momentum here in the U.S. It’s likely that OSM’s popularity will continue to grow as the maps continue to improve in quality and more companies begin to dump their pay-for-geography services for the OSM alternative. And the growing interest in OSM isn’t limited to just online mapping: NavFree touts itself as "The world's first free professional GPS navigation software for the iPhone and iPad, for free." How can it be free, you ask? Because it uses OpenStreetMap.

Cache On!