April 28, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse Caching

With the annular solar eclipse coming up on May 20th, there will likely be a number of caching events scheduled to celebrate. This will be the first annular eclipse visible in the western United States since 1994.

A quick search of the geocaching.com website for event caches with the key word, "eclipse" only produces one cache so far: GC3D5D8, but I suspect there will be more showing up soon. I also came across this event cache set to take place near Susanville, California: GC3HK9E, which sounds like a fun one.

So keep an eye out for an eclipse event cache coming near you. And remember to view the eclipse with proper eye protection.

Cache On!

April 21, 2012

In Search of a Caching Map History Display, Part II

In the continuing saga (since my last post) of trying to find a way to display your cache finds on a map with a timeline display, here's the latest update. As you probably know, Google Earth has a time slider bar which appears anytime you load data that contains a field containing a date:

In this case, I've simply opened a GPX file containing a selection of my found caches directly into Google Earth. Note that GE will read GPX files directly without you having to do any GPX-to-KML conversion beforehand. Since the GPX file contains a date field (several, actually), the time slider bar automatically appears in Google Earth.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Google Earth uses the cache "created" date field (the date the cache was hidden), so when you click "play", it will display each cache in sequence based on the date it was hidden. There does not appear to be any option to use the "date found by me" field instead of the "date created" field; which is what we are ultimately trying to do here.

I was able to create a CSV version of my finds file using GSAK, and exporting my finds to CSV format. Then I used Excel to strip off the "created" date and "last found" date fields, leaving only the "found by me" date field as the only field in the file containing date information. I then tried using GPS Visulizer to convert the CSV file to both KML, and GPX formats, but both times, GPS Visualizer removed the date information completely during the conversions, so I was unable to use the time slider in Google Earth. So save yourself the trouble, and do not attempt this method at home.

I then looked for a decent GPX file editor online, in attempt to strip out all but my "found by me" date information from my original GPX file. While there are many GPX file editing tools, most seem to cater to people that want to edit their track data from their GPSr device, rather than provide a tool that lets you edit a waypoint GPX file.

I also tried using GPS Babel, which is a great GPS file conversion tool, but it doesn't let you edit or remove any of the data fields from the source GPX file prior to conversion.

I finally figured out that when I exported my original GPX file from GSAK, it only retains the "created date" field, and not the other date fields, so the only date field Google Earth "sees" is the creation date. Even when you modify the view in GSAK so the only date field showing is the "found by me" date, it still exports only the "created" date to GPX format.

So next, I created a pocket query that includes only the caches I've found in the state of Nevada; all 24 of them (I wanted a relatively small file to work with here). But alas, I end up with the same result - the only date field included in the downloaded PQ file is the cache creation date.

So there you have it.There is no seemingly simple way to generate a GPX or KML file containing a list of the caches you've found and the date you found them, that you could then open in Google Earth and run the timeline tool to see the caches appear in the order you found them. If anyone knows a way to accomplish this task, I'd love to hear about it.

Cache On

April 14, 2012

In Search of a Caching History Map Display

A caching buddy of mine recently asked me if there was a way to display your cache-finding history in a timeline display in Google Earth, or similar type of temporal map display. I thought I had seen this done before, but couldn't remember where or when. So I set off in search of a method for creating such a display. Along the way, I came across POI Editor, a web service that will generate a heat map of your finds, like this:

my geocache heatmap

Not exactly the prettiest map in the world, and without the ability to zoom in or out, it's somewhat limited in functionality. But it still gives you a pretty good indication of where you spend most of your caching time.

Of course, this doesn't answer the original question I set out to find, so my search continued. So I took a look at the GSAK macro page to see if they offered anything in the way of a timeline map display, and while I didn't see anything, I did find a much improved version of a heat map generator, called Google Map V3. This macro generates a heat map respecting whatever type of filter you have showing when you run the macro. For example, running this macro with just my finds filtered results in this nice, interactive Google map:

Each time you zoom in, the display points re-adjust and the data ranges are reclassified. Again, this is not what I had originally set out looking for, but it was too cool not to share. So as my search for a method of displaying finds over time continues, I'll share what I find in my next post. If any readers are aware of any such tools, please let us know in the comments section below. Until next time...

Cache On!

April 8, 2012

OpenStreetMap, Part II

We talked a little about OpenStreetMap, or OSM, a few weeks ago after Groundspeak made the decision to switch their geocaching.com online mapping service from Google Maps to OSM as a result of Google deciding  to charge host sites for the use of their mapping services. This has sparked a lot of new interest in OSM, especially from the geocaching community, as to how to edit OSM maps, and how to load OSM maps onto GPS receivers.

I ran across this great post yesterday from the GeoGearHeads. It includes links to some very helpful information and tutorials on these topics, as well as a great, approximately 15-minute podcast, about OSM. Following is one of the OpenStreetMap for Beginners tutorials to get you started:

OpenStreetMap for Beginners Part 1: Add points of interest from David Ellams on Vimeo.

Cache On!