TAG :: Toronto Area Geocachers » 2011 » January

Jan 13 2011

Here’s a developing story from the Groundspeak Forums. It seems that the Federal Communications Commission in the United States are going to allow a radio licencing change that could potentially affect the GPS L1 signal quality – the frequency used by civilian GPS units. In the efforts to increase mobile broadband internet capabilities, the proposal is to allow use of a frequency that is adjacent to the frequency used by L1. This could potentially result in signal interference, particularly in or near urban areas.

According to the discussion thread, the FCC is planning to skip on the lengthy consultation process and fast track this in next week. Will they? We don’t know. We do know that Garmin is rather concerned about LightSquared’s proposal (see the first post in the forum thread). Americans are being encouraged to file a complaint.

How will this affect a Toronto geocacher? Can’t really say for now. The FCC regulates radio frequency use in the United States, while in Canada this is handled by Industry Canada. Interference from terrestrial mobile broadband is unlikely to affect GPS users in Canada, except perhaps near border cities like Niagara Falls.

Jan 12 2011

Winter is upon us, and that changes things up for a cacher in the Toronto Area. Many geocachers will simply hang up the GPS until spring, coming out only for the occasional pub event cache. Then there are those cachers who will embrace the season and carry on caching, even preferring winter caching.

On the positive side for winter:

  • There are no bugs to worry about. You are quite unlikely to get West Nile or Lyme Disease while caching in a Toronto woodlot in January.
  • If another cacher (or cache owner) has been to the cache recently, you can follow the footprints in the snow right to the cache.
  • The deciduous trees have dropped their leaves, and the rest of the foliage is pretty sparse too – this can make caches (or their hiding spots) more visible to a seeker
  • Winter temperatures also tend to keep the muggles indoors
  • Snowshoe, Ski, Skate or Toboggan to a geocache for additional fun!

Of course, there are some negatives that come with the package

  • Freeze/thaw cycles can entomb a cache in ice, making it impossible to sign the log book
  • It gets dark very early
  • Icy trails can be tricky to navigate
  • Footprints in the snow can make muggles curious too
  • Cold temperatures, and winter weather require proper preparation
  • Electronics, like your GPS and camera suffer and the batteries will die quickly

There are some easy ways to make your caching experience much better if you plan ahead

  • Dress in layers. You will be able to dial up or dial down your comfort level with ease if you have a few layers.
  • Bring water, and make sure you drink it. We can be tricked into dehydrating ourselves because we’re not hot and sweaty.
  • It’s helpful to carry a collapsible shovel when hunting where the snow is deep. This will keep your hands dry if you resort to digging to a ground level cache
  • Keep your batteries on the inside of your coat, so they keep their charge better.
  • Carry a flashlight, even if you are caching in the afternoon. It gets dark earlier this time of year.
  • While it is tempting to wander across frozen lakes, make sure you know the ice can support you. When in doubt, don’t go out. Ice should be a good 2 – 3 inches thick before it will support a person or group of people on it.
  • Be very wary of wide open, flat, snow covered areas. These often are hiding water underneath.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are caching, and when you will be back.  Carry a cell phone ( inside your jacket).
  • Cache in a group if possible
  • If a cache is frozen in place, don’t try aggressively to free it.  You risk breaking the container, particularly if it is tupperware or a lock’n’lock. Most cache owners will accept an emailed photo of the cache in place of a log in the book. Be prepared to accept a DNF and come back another day if that cache owner won’t.
  • Don’t park on the side of the road during a major snowstorm, if the plow comes by you could be stranded in a snowbank.

Other local area organizations have been writing about Winter Caching as well.
Some of the ideas/concepts mentioned above  have been mentioned (sometimes first) on the these sites:

[ CacheMania ] [ SWOG ] [ GeoSwamp ]

If Tobogganing to a geocache sounds like fun, check out this upcoming event in the area:

[ GHMGC – Winter Fun Event Cache ]

Jan 11 2011

PiGo, the Wherigo player for iOS has received a minor update tonight that corrects a login issue. The login issue was a problem with cookies that prevented users from downloading Wherigo cartridges from within the app.

When downloading cartridges to PiGo, you should select the “PocketPC” version. Cartridges can be downloaded from within the app, or you can download on your computer and transfer them using iTunes.

Jan 10 2011

Got an iPhone? Hate Sudoku puzzles?
Well, Google has an app for you! Today’s update of the Google Mobile App for iPhone now adds a Suduko puzzle solver to the application. Literally, all you need to do is start up the Google Mobile App, aim the camera at the Sudoku puzzle in question and tap “Solve”. Within a few seconds Google will take all the work right out of that Sudoku puzzle you just encountered at stage 3 of that diabolical multi. No word on Kakuru puzzles yet though.

Jan 08 2011

The Groundspeak Geocaching App has been updated to version 4.2.2

This addresses the memory leak problem from iOS 4.2 (and 4.2.1) that caused the app to be very laggy.  According to the release notes, it also corrects issues with the app locking up when being restored from background or lock.

There is another issue with usernames with apostrophe’s in them that is corrected.

If you’re running iOS 4.2(.1) on your device, it’s a pretty good idea to run this update. I used it for my geocache outing tonight and it does seem quite improved.

Jan 07 2011

Starting with Colorado Firmware 3.52 beta, the device can listen for Garmin chirp devices. I loaded up that firmware and found very quickly it isn’t entirely intuitive to figure this out – it’s certainly not in the Garmin Colorado manual, having been added several years after the product line launched.

To use the feature, you have to enable it. As listening for chirp devices can potentially eat more battery on an already power hungry device like the Colorado, it is disabled by default. To enable it, go to your Geocaching menu, then select Options (top left button) and finally Start chirp(tm) searching.

When you encounter a chirp device, it will pop up automatically and grab the information from the chirp. Since the ANT hardware is not as efficient as it is in the newer Garmin devices you will have to be closer to the chirp. Once the chirp has finished communicating, you’ll have the option to display it’s details, or dismiss it.

To go back and see the chirp again after dismissing it, simply go back to Geocaches, then Options and select chirp(tm) Details.

To disable chirp, it’s the same procedure. Go back to Geocaches, then Options and select Stop chirp(tm) Searching.

The chirp details will be remembered until you encounter another chirp, you reboot the device or you disable chirp searching. That’s right, shutting off the device or disabling chirp erases the chirp details from the unit.

You’ll want to save any waypoint details you want to keep before shutting off. I have not found a way to save the information on the device itself, I’ll update this article if I find a way (there HAS to be a way).

Jan 06 2011

Here’s a neat little gem to come out of the CES show.

Now, you can get the functionality of the SPOT+Delorme Communicator package, using your smartphone device. The initial offering will be for Android users and other devices will be announced later.

The device pairs with your smartphone (running an app)  over Bluetooth and provides GPS location for your smartphone and – here’s where it gets interesting – the SPOT satellite communication services. This literally means you can do things like send a text message, update Twitter or Facebook with your location, or call for rescue even though you are many kilometers away from Bell, Telus or Rogers coverage (it uses satellite).  The SPOT Connect also lets you share your location in real time using Google Maps, so you can set up a hike tracker or share your location on that uber cache adventure to get 4.5lb Walleye.

The MSRP for the device is $169 USD and requires a SPOT service plan, these start at $99/year. It will launch at the end of January.

Jan 04 2011

If you’ve loaded up that 3.52 Colorado update, also run Webupdater as Garmin quietly posted a GPS Firmware update. At this point, we have no idea what changed. The GPS Software version stayed at 2.90 on my unit.

Jan 04 2011

Garmin has released a firmware update for the Colorado.  What’s exciting is that they added Chirp support.  There were mixed messages coming from Garmin tech support as to whether or not the Colorado’s hardware was capable of talking to a Chirp.

Colorado v3.52: Download

  • Added support for chirp™ detection. This software update will allow Colorado units to detect previously-programmed chirp™ units. See http://www.garmin.com/chirp for details on which units are chirp™ compatible. NOTE: Due to the hardware present in Colorado devices, chirp™ detection range may be less than that of other compatible devices.
  • Updated magnetic Earth field data.
  • Fixed issue with certain JPEGs not drawing from Custom Maps.
  • Fixed issue with Oblique Mercator User Grid distances.

Jan 04 2011

Today, Garmin has set another milestone by releasing a Navigation app for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad).

The application is a full 2D or 3D automotive navigation application, based on the popular StreetPilot series GPS units. It supports the usual functions including POI databases, routing to your contacts on your iPhone or even calling them, and of course, traffic (and even weather). Voice prompting with street names is included and it will operate in Portrait or Landscape modes.

This uses City Navigator NT data, and pulls it “over the air”, from Garmin servers. This is similar to Mapquest 4 Mobile. The advantage is you will not be sucking up a Gigabyte of space on  your device for local maps like Navigon’s 1.6GB for example. The disadvantage is that you will consume 3G data while using the application.  Traffic is also included (it’s $10/year on Navigon)

It is available only in the United States (UPDATE: USA and Canada) right now (so not available to us Canadians just yet, but the USA version has Canadian Maps). Cost is comparable to competing products, at $39.99 USD.
What makes this important is that it is the first real effort to supporting iOS device users, and likely a sign of things to come.

UPDATE: It’s showing up in the Canadian iTunes store too now, for $39.99 CAD