10 things you didn’t know about Geocaching.com


Ok, Ok, so you probably do know some of these things but I thought it was a good title for the blog. ;) I thought I’d put an entry together about all of the cool little things I’ve learned after using the site for a good few years. Hopefully someone will learn something from this…

1. You can add dynamically updating stats to your geocaching.com profile

Thanks to Groundspeak giving access to the Live API to developers we now have project-gc. This site allows you to get up to date statistics about geocaches as well as your Geocaching statistics. In the past you would have to use GSAK to manually generate your stats and copy and paste the html code to your profile page on a regular basis to keep up to date. Thanks to Project-GC we can now just paste the code in once and it will automatically update itself!!!

To do this, visit the Profile stats page of the site and click ‘Create dynamic image HTML code‘. You will be instantly given the link to add your stats to your profile. Simply paste it in and you’re up to date! :)

Part of the profile stats that will appear on your Geocaching profile page

Part of the profile stats that will appear on your Geocaching profile page

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Quick and Dirty GSAK Macros


This blog entry is long overdue and it’s going to be a geeky one! :-) A big thank you to the comments and emails I received following my GSAK 8 beginners guide blog post. I’m delighted that so many Geocachers have got to grips with GSAK after reading it.

Macros provide a way of automating GSAK, however require that you write code to create them – something that terrifies a lot of people! The Master Macro Index provides some great macros written by the community. Personally, I don’t spend much time writing big hefty macros, however there are a couple of quick and dirty ones which I have created that I often use with filters when quickly loading my GPS up for a caching trip (Particularly useful if you’re caching whilst on holiday)

When I’m heading off caching I will load the GPS up with a good thousand or so caches. Maybe I’ll be going for a walk around a series, maybe I’ll be hoping to quickly stop off and grab a cache as a drive-by as I see it appear. When Geocaching the best thing to do is check the cache description, check the logs to make sure everything is ok, etc. but let’s be honest… We don’t always do that. We end up hunting for 10 minutes for a cache only to realise it’s disabled or has a string of 5 DNFs on it or we go looking for a place to park for what looks like a “cache and dash” only to find it’s on a footpath that passes along a motorway.

The following macros modify the title field of the cache so that you can instantly see on your GPS if a cache is missing, disabled, a cache and dash or has a lot of favourite points. Just those useful little things when you’ve not done a lot of planning and want to see cache information instantly.

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GSAK 8 Beginners Guide


I’m a couple of weeks overdue with this post, but on 22nd September I presented a GSAK for beginners event. Those who didn’t attend the event were promised that the user guide I produced to support the presentation would be available through my blog at a later date.

So, you can download it from here.

The guide covers setting up GSAK, loading PQs, sorting and filtering, exporting data, database management, adding data to cache data, using the GSAK 8 API, installing and running macros, and a few useful macro suggestions.

An example of a couple of pages in the guide

Enjoy! :) Do feel free to drop me any questions or comments below this post!

GSAK 8 – New Features Tutorial


GSAK 8 is the most recently released version of Geocaching Swiss Army Knife. For those not familiar with the software, it’s basically a Geocaching database that you can use to store, filter and manipulate cache data. It’s an absolutely massive product and since version 8 now connects to the Geocaching.com Live API for better integration with the website. Previous versons of the software relied on you manually loading in your own caches, for example via Pocket Queries. Version 8 is better integrated with the Geocaching.com website and is able to not only automatically retrieve cache data, but also download extra logs for caches, add caches to your favourites, quickly log caches, and log caches using the field notes from your GPS.

GSAK8 has been out a fair while now, but I thought I’d use a blog entry to go into some depth as to what the new GSAK 8 features provide and how cachers can benefit from this update as I’ve recently upgraded to it. The update isn’t a freebie for existing GSAK users, however it is really reasonably priced for the amount of features you get ranging from $10 to $20 depending on how recently you purchased version 7. Anyone who doesn’t yet own GSAK can purchase it for $30, however you can get a free 21 day trial here to have a play before deciding to part with your hard earned cache cash! ;)

Get the latest patch

Although you may have installed GSAK8, unless you’re running the latest patch for it you could be really missing out! Click here to view a list of patches and what each patch adds to GSAK. Scroll to the very last post in the forum to download the latest patch. By default, GSAK is configured to tell you if there is a new version available. This doesn’t alert you about any of the latest patches, so I’d strongly recommend spending a few seconds modifying your GSAK preferences to enable patch alerts. To do this, click the ‘Tools‘ menu –> Options –> ‘Advanced‘ tab and then on the top right click the box that says ‘Also check for “patches”‘. Now it will pop up and tell you whenever there is a new patch for download.

Tick the 'Also check for patches' box

Geocaching.com Access

Version 8 of GSAK comes with a new menu item added along the top bar labelled ‘Geocaching.com Access‘. Under this menu is where all the new exciting stuff lives!

The Geocaching.com Access menu

A quick run down of the items:
Get Geocaches – Pull Geocache data straight from Geocaching.com. You’ll need premium membership (i.e. the ability to use Pocket Queries) to get any real benefit from this.
Refresh Cache Data – Update the caches in your database with the latest cache data from the Geocaching.com website.
Download Pocket Queries – Pull up a list of Pocket Queries in your account that are downloadable and download them into your GSAK database.
Status Check – Update the status of the caches in your database (Archived, Disabled, or Available)
Favourite Points – Add/Remove the currently selected cache from your favourites or get your Favourites balance.
Update User Information – In GSAK you can set your Home coordinates and User ID to find caches close to home (for example) and filter those owned/found by you. Instead of doing this manually, this option will pull the data from the your Geocaching.com account.
Publish Logs – Log a cache, or queue up a big list of logs to publish to the Geocaching.com website.
Add to Bookmark List – Add the currently selected cache to one of your bookmark lists, or create a new list to add it to.
Get Available Download Balance (New in Build 37 Patch) – Check what your available balance is for cache downloads (Out of 6000)
Get another Access token – Access to your Geocaching.com account is granted via a token. The first time you access your account via GSAK you will have to click to ‘Allow Access’. If you have 2 Geocaching.com accounts and want to switch to another one in order to download more caches (Perhaps you have 2 premium accounts?) you can do that by selecting this option.

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Cach’eye Version 1.3


It’s no secret that I absolutely love the website Cach’eye. In fact, I don’t ever use the Geocaching website maps, I simply run my pocket query and import it into the Cach’eye website. If you don’t know what Cach’eye is, I published a tutorial/review about it a while ago. Basically, it’s a free website that allows you to upload your pocket queries and view all of your caches on various maps (including OS maps), plot coordinates, measure distances, correct puzzle coords, etc. It’s fabulous.

Yesterday it got updated to version 1.3 so is even more fabulous, the updates are:
* cache limit increased from 3000 to 5000 caches
* option to add new caches to the existing ones during import; choosing this option when importing your caches results in adding all new caches to your map and updating all caches which were imported earlier
* populate Todo-List when exporting from GSAK

The new import options

The first two new additions on the list are really handy, and means you can view 5000 caches in the maps at once. Brilliant for planning a trip away. It also means you don’t have to rely on GSAK to grab 5000 caches, you can just import 5 pocket queries of 1000 caches at a time to get all 5000 displayed.

Happy Cach’eye-ing! ;)

Wherigo Caches – Part 1: Playing the game


What is Wherigo?

Wherigo is a GPS outdoor activity that was created by Groundspeak. The idea is that wherigo is a cross between geocaching and an adventure game. Each game is called a cartridge and the game is played on your GPS device. As I write there are only 41 wherigo Geocaches available in the entire country, so I think it’s fair to say that it never took off massively over here in connection with geocaching. Wherigo cartridges don’t have to have caches at the end. They could simply be a fun location based game. Groundspeak did however patent the idea in US Patent number 6,691,032 so they obviously thought they had a good idea at the time, however since their wherigo builder hasn’t received any update since May 2008 it seems like for now they have lost interest with the idea.

Not a lot to choose from!

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MMTracker Android App (OS maps on your smartphone)


Introduction

For ages I’ve been searching for something on my iPhone to allow me to view Ordnance Survey maps on it whilst I’m out Geocaching. The iOSMap app came out and this was absolutely useless as it requires a wifi internet connection to view the maps and adverts that come along with them. Then there was the official “Memory Map” app however this is £20 and doesn’t view old version of their qct files for each OS Map region, meaning having to buy every new version of the OS maps. I know it’s possible to get OS maps for your GPSr, however the ones that come with the Oregons (for example) are only 50k (less detailed) and you can only buy small parts of the country in 25k.

Then along came a Samsung Galaxy S Android phone and I found an app that answered our prayers “MMTracker“. There is a free version and a paid version of this, and the paid version is just under £5. Bargain. So what does this neat bit of software do?

Well, basically .qct files are files that hold an entire OS map for a particular region. For every paper-based Explorer (25k) OS map there is a qct file equivalent. MMTracker allows you to view these qct files on your phone AND adds a little crosshair, so via the GPS connection in your device you can see yourself moving on these OS maps. Pretty neat! That’s all for free. The paid version allows you to upload and create waypoints (Geocache locations) onto your device so you can navigate to them. You also have a load more features including tracks, and routes. I thought I’d give the app a go last weekend whilst we were out Geocaching. It definitely helped in quite a few spots where we weren’t sure where we were, or in particular when we wanted to find an alternative route back to the car instead of walking back across a horrible ploughed field.

Below is a pic of the app in action. In the top left hand corner your speed is displayed. Ours is at 0kph as we had to stop for the photo to be taken, however as you move you see the little red crosshair move with you.

The app in action. Notice the crosshair that moves with you

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GREAT RESOURCE: Finally view Caches on OS maps!


Our prayers are answered…

For cachers looking for a hassle-free way to compile caching maps including 1:25k ordnance survey maps with cache location on, our prayers have been answered. I’d previously blogged about using OS GB Mapping by the Hug which requires a bit of faffing about in Excel to get the GPX files in the correct format, and some Photoshopping to remove the route lines that it plots. Geocacher Pardlerum saw the post and was kind enough to drop me an email and let me know about another site that will allow cache plotting on maps including OS maps without the fuss. I can’t believe I’ve never encountered it as I searched, and searched, and searched for something to do this and came out empty handed. So, as most of you probably wouldn’t have stumbled across this site I thought I’d write a little tutorial post to introduce you to this. It really is the bees knees of cache mapping…

The site is CACH’EYE.

An example of an OS cache map

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GPX 1.0 vs GPX 1.0.1


I just imported a GPX file into GSAK and it told me something about using an old format of GPX file. Being your typical IT worker I didn’t read it, clicked don’t show me again and clicked “OK” (Something I do far too often without thinking!)

It then got me pondering about the GPX file formats. I’d read something about the different versions before, but not worried. Basically what it boils down to is two GPX verions:

GPX 1.0 which doesn’t include attributes and
GPX 1.0.1 which does include attributes.

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Duplicate logs – When is a find not a find?


When you’ve logged it twice, you silly cow!!! *sigh*

When I uploaded ‘My finds’ to http://www.mygeocachingprofile.com (great site by the way, do check it out!) it told me I had 1229 finds with 1227 distinct caches. WHAT? I scanned through the entire list and couldn’t find any duplicates. I did the same in GSAK. I couldn’t find any duplicates. To the rescue came ‘Cache stats‘ which I always thought you had to pay for but it’s free! Yay!

I immediately uploaded My Finds to cache stats and bingo! Two duplicate logs that I hadn’t seen! :(

Gotcha!

This is very sad news as it means our 1000th find wasn’t. It was our 998th find and the 45mins searching for coords 100ft off in the dark weren’t as special as we thought. However at the time it was special and to me that was our 1000th find. So, it is and it will always be our 1000th milestone even though the numbers aren’t quite the same. That’s what you get for logging on the iPhone! At least in the future I’ll know how to check for duplications!

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