TAG :: Toronto Area Geocachers

Sep 12 2011

BFL Boot Camp, our annual night caching tradition,  usually starts at a pub, and then we head out into the woods for a night of geocaching. While the main event was announced a few weeks ago, we still needed some time to get the pub together. Today, I’m glad to say we’ve addressed the pub situation. We’re meeting at the Mohawk Inn and Conference Centre for our pub.

In previous years, we’ve had problems accommodating everyone who wanted to come to the pub, as frankly there aren’t a lot of pubs that can handle crowds of 100+ people all at once. We tried to solve the problem one year by splitting the pub up and taking over three venues. This year we’re fortunate that the facility can handle up to 180 people – we’re taking over a banquet hall.

Still, in less than 12 hours we’ve signed up over 80 people for the pub event which is approaching the half full status so, if you’re coming out for BFL and want a seat at the pub, best to get that will attend in now.

Another fantastic opportunity this year is that the pub is, in fact, an Inn. So you can crash there after caching most of the night, or you can leave family members there to relax while you’re out caching if they are only interested in the pub portion of the evening. Rooms start at $75.

More information about the event activities can be found on the BFL Boot Camp website. The events are listed on Geocaching.com.

[ BFL Boot Camp VI – Super Pub Night ] [ BFL Boot Camp VI – Retro Reflect ] [ BFL Boot Camp Website ]

Sep 07 2011

COGger’s are much happier tonight, now that Groundspeak has finally corrected the series of errors that followed the issuing of the first Mega Event souvenir in Canada (Spring Fling 007). At first, the Souvenir had a crappy, low resolution image that featured a man holding a gun (of all things):

Next, they replaced the artwork with a much better logo, the one that was featured on the shirts you all bought at the event:

But the bio was still that of the Groundspeak Lackey who came up with the original gun themed image! I’m glad to report (via rca777) that the proper bio is now up for local cacher Elf (of Rainbow’s Connections). Rather than explain who she is, here’s how Groundspeak wrote up her bio on the updated Souvenir page:

About the Artist:Elf is a Geocacher with an interest in the simpler, kookier, and often overlooked things in life. She will help you step outside your comfort zone, and make you think about your world, your ways, and your thoughts on just about any topic. When not hiking or geocaching, she spends her time reading, writing, creating stuff, marshaling bicycle races, and challenging those around her to become even more amazing people. She also tends to attract various wildlife such as beavers, moose, and grackles, to get stuck upside down inside tree trunks, caves, and other hard to get into spaces, and to get quite muddy, wet, scratched, scraped, and bruised – all in the name of fun. She also enjoys wrestling salmon and working on her “How One Gets Oneself into these Situations: The Guide” photo album.

Congratulations to Elf for having her artwork featured in a Groundspeak Souvenir. It’s a great show, and much better represents the event as it was. Here’s hoping they call you first next year for the Spring Fling 8 Souvenir.

[ Spring Fling 007 Souvenir Page ]

Sep 01 2011

Well, Waterloo Region had their GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit, and Alberta had theirs. Now, it’s Toronto’s turn!

The GPS Maze Exhibit is an interactive display about geocaching put together by Groundspeak, Minotaur Mazes and Trimble Navigation. The travelling exhibit features a 2,500 square foot maze with interactive experiences that teach about GPS technology and, of course, geocaching. The Waterloo Maze exhibit was clearly American oriented but this time (the rumours say) it will be the redesigned Canadian specific version that debuted in Alberta this summer.

The exhibit will run at the Ontario Science Centre from October 2, 2011 through January 8, 2012. There is an admission fee for the Science Centre but it’s a really cool place to explore in addition to the Maze Exhibit.

Also, just like they did in Waterloo, Groundspeak will host a Geocaching Event complete with a Lackey (Eric) on opening day. The event runs from 11AM to 2PM on October 2.

[ GC33AVY – GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit Event ] [ GC32XHM GPS Adventures Exhibit ]

Aug 20 2011

Not to be outdone by Groundspeak’s “Challenges” updates, Garmin’s Opencaching.com site has also posted a site update. Most of the changes are little UI tweaks like making the map full screen,  and updated searching.

There are some GPS specific changes though. If you have a Montana, 62 series, Oregon or Dakota, there’s a firmware update waiting for you. This will let you rate a cache’s “awesomeness” in the field, and participate in the new digital verification feature. Colorado owners (like me) are left out in the cold on this one.

Digital verification lets a cache owner verify your find by having you scan a QR code, enter a code manually or … respond to a chirp beacon.  The manual code method will work for owners of older devices and I presume the QR code feature will make it’s way to the smartphone apps. Otherwise only those of you using an absolute top of the line camera built in Garmin GPS need apply.

Another tidbit that I found in the release is that the Garmin Dakota a week giveaway has expanded from the USA to include Canada now. Every 10 approved caches placed before August 28 earns you an entry to win a Dakota 20 GPS.

[ Garmin OpenCaching Update ] [ Garmin Advanced Geocache Logging ]

Aug 18 2011

Also as promised, Groundspeak has posted smartphone updates for Geocaching challenges. Only it’s a separate application, not a part of the Geocaching app. On iOS anyway. Presumably the Windows Phone 7 and Android apps have also launched, though I don’t see it when I search the Android Marketplace right now (or Windows Phone either).

From the iOS App store description:

Geocaching Challenges turn every location into an adventure.

Go somewhere, do something. That’s the basic idea behind Geocaching Challenges. You might be challenged to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, sing a song in the middle of Times Square, or take a picture of yourself walking through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Are you up for it?

Create your FREE account at http://www.geocaching.com to play.

Application Features Include:

– Direct access to the Geocaching.com database of Challenges

– Ability to accept and complete Challenges anywhere in the world

– Search nearby and worldwide Challenges from your current location

– View and upload Challenge gallery images from your phone

– Keep track of your accepted and completed Challenges

When you start up the app, it gives the standard Groundspeak “This can be dangerous!”, followed by a couple descriptive screens:

Intro Screen 1 of 2

Intro Screen 2 of 2

You’ll need to sign in to actually search for challenges. When I fired up the app, there were two Challenges in my area. One is at the CN Tower, the other is in Gage Park, Hamilton. Both are “Photo” challenges. You’ll see the thumbs up/thumbs down ranking for the challenge, and you can accept it, or even complete it from the app.

More screens from the app:

Searching for Challenges

Note the distances are in imperial in this screen shot as the app defaults to that. Quick click on that settings button in the middle and we’re over to metric:

The Settings Page

Once you pick a challenge, you get details, you can accept/complete or rate:

Photo Challenge – Hamilton Gage Park

Accept a Challenge?

Of course, there’s a map view too. The GPS accuracy you see in the screenshot reflects the fact I’m indoors right now.

If anyone spots a link to the Android or WP7 apps, drop a comment and I’ll put the links up in this article too.

[ iOS Challenges App ] [ Groundspeak Challenges FAQ ]

Aug 18 2011

It’s not Tuesday, but as expected Groundspeak has taken the site offline to launch Challenges ahead of Groundspeak’s big Block Party.

We’ve been over challenges already, the part I noted in the announcement was more the details about the fact that changes are already planned:

Challenges is a work in progress! We are planing several hotfixes in the next couple weeks to address bugs and feature requests. Some ideas for the next phases include:

  • Highly rated Challenges displayed in geocache search results
  • Pocket Queries for Challenges (and GPX downloads)
  • Mapping tools
  • New Challenge Types
  • Support for verification questions

Also noteworthy in the update is some minor changes to logs and profile pages. They are working toward diminishing the find count from being visible on the cache logs – instead of showing Handle (5000 found) there’s a little bar chart underneath your profile thumbnail pic (that pic is new). You can hover your mouse on the thumbnail pic for more details on finds/challenge completions.

Challenges are a new feature to experiment with, and Groundspeak will be issuing a new challenge once a day to get things started up. Premium Members will also be able to post one per day, and we’re getting a “thumbs up/thumbs down” ranking for these challenges. (Now there’s quite a few people asking for that for caches, but we only got the “thumbs up” on that one). [ Groundspeak August 18th Release Notes ]

Aug 16 2011

Update: Looks like the overall find count will go up when you log a challenge. [Link] (Thanks Avernar)

Groundspeak released a video on Youtube (via their Latitude 47 Blog) that describes “Action” Challenges, where a cacher will be expected to go to a certain location and perform an action of some sort. The example provided in the video is “go to a spot and play chess”. This activity, which brings back additional logging requirements virtual caches in a slightly different way, is set to launch later this week. The smartphone apps will all be updated once it launches. Groundspeak also has a “Photo Challenge” type, that presumably requires you to take a photo in a given location (which is much more “virtual cache” like).

Take a look at the video:


Premium members will be able to create new challenges, and when you complete one you do get a “smiley”, though these will not count toward your total geocaching finds count.

This isn’t to be confused with the already existing “Challenge Caches”, where there is a physical cache to be found but you cannot log a cache online until you meet the cache owner’s “challenge” (example: find a cache in every county of the Province, or find all difficulty/terrain combinations).

It’s Not About the Numbers also has some information on this new caching type on their blog.

[ Latitude 47 ] [ INATN ]

Aug 10 2011

Not for the feint of heart, but GSAK – the Geocaching Swiss Army Knife has posted a beta of the next major version. Version 8 is going to be a chargeable upgrade, but in the mean time you can play with the beta version using your version 7 registration key.

The big update here is that you can interact with the Geocaching.com public API using GSAK 8. This is an extremely useful bit of functionality – just think about the potential for this in the macro section for example

Clyde calls out three main changes over V7:

Version 8 includes many changes since Version 7, but probably the 3 biggest of note are:

1. Increased functionality by leveraging the new Groundspeak api 2. Support for custom data (virtually unlimited number of fields)

3. A newer, more modern look and feel

The rest of the changes are located here.

If you are a macro developer, or a GSAK power user who wants to try the new program before it’s complete go on over and download it. If you are not ready to use potentially broken software, or put up with bugs wait until the final release.

[ GSAK ]

Aug 10 2011

BFL Boot Camp is an annual night caching gathering held in North Halton by the Keepers of the Order of the BFL, or simply “The BFL Crew”. This group of cachers head out every friday night looking for geocaches hidden throughout the Greater Toronto Area. One night each year, the tables are turned – and the BFL Crew hides the caches, and hosts an event. This is the 6th year we have held the event.

Most event caches feature caching followed by a meal at a pub. Not this event – our tradition is to meet at a local pub, then send everyone out to look for the caches over the rest of the night. We set up a “command centre” where you can interact with other cachers, chat with the BFL Crew, or simply warm up with some hot chocolate. The pub portion of the event runs typically from 7pm to 9pm, and the caching runs from 9pm to 4am.

We have two “events” hosted on Geocaching.com:

  • GC31VTF – BFL Boot Camp VI – Briefing Pub  (Not published yet – still working out which pub to take over)
    This is a gathering before the night caching where cachers may get together and share stories, or group up for the upcoming night caching session in the woods. The pub is still being organized, so it has not been activated on Geocaching.com just yet
  • GC2YVBH – BFL Boot Camp VI – Retro Reflect
    Is the main geocaching event. This is the location of the “command centre”.We’ll be out there in the woods from 9:30pm to 4:00am.

The event this year is being held on October 29.

Aug 09 2011

A couple weeks ago (July 20), a new app quietly popped up in the  App Store by Pi-Soft Consulting. These are the guys who brought us the Wherigo player for iPhone which later became Groundspeak’s official Wherigo App for iPhone. The new app is called GeoBeacon …. it enables another technology that is used for geocaching, namely Garmin’s Chirp beacons.

The $1.99 app requires you to purchase a $80 Fisica key before you can use it. These are sold as Wahoo Fisica (pictured above), or you can also get the one from Digifit. This adds the important Ant+ technology to your iPhone, since the iPhone doesn’t have it built in.  Once you have the app and the Fisica key, you simply open the app and use it to locate … or even program a Garmin Chirp. I have seen the Fisica key at Mountain Equipment Co-Op, might be a good spot to check before you import one from the USA.

The app can read a Chirp, program a Chirp, plot Chirp waypoints on a map. It’ll show you all the details including the number of visitors and when the last visit was, plus the run time and battery condition. One nice touch is the app will store lots of Chirp data rather than overwriting it immediately like the Garmin units do if another beacon comes in range.

The Fisica key is also useful outside the GeoBeacon app, so don’t feel like you’re spending $82 just to find a Chirp cache (though it is less than the average Garmin GPS with Chirp costs). I also use the Fisica key with my Garmin Heart Rate Monitor to keep track of my runs with RunKeeper.

Here’s a few screen shots from the app:

Connecting to a Chirp

Here the beacon data is being read. It’s kinda neat how it “paints” in bit by bit.

Here’s a detail screen that you get after the data is loaded. See the battery status?

Chirp details plotted on the map. Leave it to Pi-Soft to include the map view.

[ GeoBeacon (iTunes) ] [ Garmin Chirp ]