TAG :: Toronto Area Geocachers » groundspeak

Nov 16 2011

 Like many others, I’ve upgraded to GSAK version 8 and gave the new Geocaching API a try. At first I was really impressed.

I used the Get Logs function to grab the missing logs from my own caches so my stats page would be more accurate. Turns out, I missed several dozen logs by manually grabbing the GPX when people logged my caches.

I then played around with the Status Check function. This will be very useful before going caching in a specific area so that I don’t go looking for last minute disabled/archived caches.

A couple of days ago I took a look at the Get Geocaches screen.  I normally use a bunch of Pocket Queries to fill my GSAK database, so I wasn’t expecting that feature to be too useful to me personally.  One thing did catch my eye however.  I noticed I can filter on favourite points.  That would be very useful as I can’t do that with PQs yet.

So I set the minimum to 5 to get the more interesting caches.  I also put in a maximum distance of 500km which is about as far I’m willing to go on a day trip.  Then I hit OK.  After it downloaded the data I noticed it only returned around 300 cache results.  Odd, I expected a bit more.  I then sorted by favorite points in GSAK and the cache with the most favorite points only had 140.  That’s strange.  I knew that the Earth Caches and Virtuals in Niagara Falls were between 150 to 200 points.

So I did a bit of searching on the GSAK forums and quickly found out what was going on.  It turns out that there is a distance limit in the API.  You’re limited to 50km radius if you specify a center point and 100km corner to corner if you specify a bounding box.  I also found out that a warning was added in the latest GSAK patch regarding the limits:

That was rather disappointing.  It pretty much makes the filtering useless.  If someone wanted to find a Webcam for example they would be out of luck if there weren’t any within 50km of their search point.  With a pocket query however they could select an origin of None and pick the States and Provinces they wanted to search.  As long as they don’t search for something common that maxes out the PQ, they’ll get all the results in their search area.

If they wanted to search for something more common they can specify a search point and a limit of 800km (select 500 miles in the PQ).  That’s 16 times greater range than the API allows.  So for finding a certain type of cache Pocket Queries beat the API hands down.

This got me thinking.  How useful would the API be for populating your GSAK database for day to day use.  I did a search from my home coordinates and got around 4200 caches within 50km.  That’s not bad at all.  I filtered out my finds and still have 2100 caches to look for.  That’s more that enough to keep the “close to home” cachers busy for a while.

I’m not a “close to home” cacher however.  Over 40% of my finds are more than 50km away and 32% of my finds are 50 to 100km away which is only a 30 to 60 minute drive.  I would have to do multiple API queries along the edge of the 50km radius circle to pick up those caches.  That would give overlaps and holes in the coverage.

With Pocket Queries I have multiple queries set around my home coordinates with different place date ranges.  In 2 days I can get all the unfound caches within 100km of my home.  For the close to home cachers the API wins with it’s ease of use.  For the cacher that likes to travel Pocket Queries are the way to go.

I started wondering, how would the 50km limit affect me if I lived somewhere outside the Golden Horseshoe.   I did a 50km query centered on Owen Sound.  I was expecting a couple of thousand caches but was surprised to only see 577 results.   I then tried somewhere a bit more remote but still a large city.  I did another 50km query centered on the City of Sudbury.  I only got 506 results this time.  And these are fairly large population centers.  Small towns in Ontario’s north would get even worse results.

Using a Pocket Query you can get a 1000 caches easily.  I tried one centered around Sudbury, and it stretched out to just over 100km from the search point to get them all.  And this would expand out to the 800km limit as you find those caches and they’re excluded from the query.  Pocket Queries seem to be the better choice for those outside of major urban areas.

As a comparison I tried the OpenCaching.com API to see what limits it had.  Turns out it’s 5000 caches per request.  I tried three requests centered on Mississauga, Owen Sound and Sudbury.  Each time I received 5000 caches stretching out around 1200km from the search point.

For the close to home cachers in large urban areas the new Get Caches Geocaching API function in GSAK is all you really need. For those who like to cache in a large area or are in an area with a low cache density Pocket Queries would prove more useful. Those looking for specific types of caches will have to use Pocket Queries as the 50km radius limit doesn’t let you find much at all.

[ Geocaching Live API  ] [ GSAK ] [ OpenCaching API ]

Oct 22 2011

My how BFL Boot Camp has grown. The first year, we hid 6 geocaches and they were mainly based on the use of firetacks. The event “Fall Back to Night Caching” (archived – Geocaching login required) had 38 teams attend, and was organized by 5 people. At the time, we figured it would be a one time event.

Fast forward to 2011, and we are hosting the 6th iteration of this annual event. We’re looking forward to seeing 200 people attend this year, with over a dozen caches hidden for it. We have 20 people helping out on the organizing committee. The caches now feature lasers, UV paint, glow in the dark features, and more. Gone are the days of a simple follow the firetack to the tupperware type cache hunt. Over the years, the BFL Crew has hidden over 50 night caches in North Halton. Two of the original hides are still active – GCYPW9 The Circle, and GCYXNJ What Bugs You in the Night.

The event caught the attention of Groundspeak this week, and they have posted an article on the official Geocaching Blog – “Latitude 47” about the event. The article, titled “Geocaching in the Dark: The Great Canadian Night Caching Event” appeared on the blog Friday evening. Featuring information about night caching, our event and even some photos from past year’s events.

This year, the night caching event portion starts at 2130h and, while the even officially ends at 0400h,  often there are attendees still out well past that time. We look forward to seeing you at the event on Saturday, October 29th.

[ BFL Boot Camp VI – Retro Reflect ] [ Latitude 47 ]

Sep 27 2011

Screaming Skulls – photo by northernpenguin

Latitude 47, Groundspeak’s official blog has posted a feature article on GCPJNV – “Screaming Skulls”. The cache is one that is well known to Toronto area (and most Ontario) geocachers  as a fantastic geocaching day-trip destination. It’s Groundspeak’s “Cache of the week” this week.

This cache is located at Midlothian Ridge -just west of Burk’s Falls, amid the haunting art of Peter Camani. The art features concrete forms of head like figures which appear to be screaming. In the middle, is the artist’s home dubbed “Midlothian Castle“. Seen from the air, the concrete forms depict an image of a dragon. Some of the works quite literally depict souls … the artist has an option where you can have your cremation ashes added to the concrete when you move on to the afterlife.

The cache was placed by The Go Getters in 2005. It’s been visited by 211 people and has 43 favourite points. If you visit the cache, plan on spending at least an hour exploring the area. Autumn is a particularly nice time to visit!

For Groundspeak’s take on the popular cache, head on over to their story. The images in the Groundspeak story appear to be from visit logs by filmclips and simplyred.

[ GCPJNV Screaming Skulls ] [ Latitude 47 ]

Aug 02 2011

Geocaching.com has gone down for it’s monthly maintenance window. But the Release Notes have a gem. This update activates the third party developers API. That means you can get things like smartphone apps, which use live data – and not have them resort to site scraping. This API has been a very controversial popular request, as seen on UserVoice

The first app out the gate is CacheSense, a Blackberry geocaching application. This fills a bit of a need since Groundspeak has not created an official Blackberry app. Well, there was that Trimble thing but really, this fills the niche better.

Also notable, you can now put 15 attributes on your cache page instead of 10. Might be time to revisit your listings and see if you need to add anything that didn’t make the cut before. There are also some new attributes – Seasonal Access, Teamwork Required, Tourist Friendly, Tree Climbing and Front Yard

The rest of the changes happening today follow:

What else is new?


• Added a video to Geocaching.com/iPhone showing the Geocaching for iPhone application in action • Added new cache attributes: Seasonal Access, Teamwork Required, Tourist Friendly, Tree Climbing and Front Yard (private residence) • Added Hungarian translations to Geocaching.com • Retroactively awarded Mega event Souvenirs for 4 recent events • Increased total number of assignable cache attributes from 10 to 15 • Localized Basic and Premium registration pages so they can be translated in other languages • Increased the number of Trackable activation codes that can be retrieved within a one hour period • Added an option in search results to highlight “beginner caches” (low difficulty/traditional type/recently found etc.) • Added Twitter and Facebook sharing options to cache log pages, visit your profile or geocaching.com/my/sharing.aspx to connect your accounts • Added the ability to temporarily close the yellow banner announcing scheduled maintenance on Geocaching.com • Updated Terms of Use Agreement (Section 4) to clarify age restriction for posting to Groundspeak Discussion Forums

• Added special Block Party icon for annual Groundspeak headquarters event

Bug Fixes

• Removed meta tags from cache page source of unpublished cache pages so spoilers are not revealed pre-publication • Fixed bug which caused a Trackable to enter a limbo state if marked missing and moved to the owner’s collection • Membership referral field when creating an account will now properly recognize extended characters in usernames • Changed “Waypoint Name” to “GC Code” on Create a Pocket Query form • When previewing a Cache Along a Route the highlighted portion of the map will now properly adjust in size based on the zoom level • Added Chatham Islands as a region for New Zealand and now allowing caches placed there to have a West longitude • Fixed bug on home page search where street addresses were not recognized without a postal code • Fixed bug which prevented marking a Trackable missing when language set to German or Czech • Added missing “generic” Geocoin icon to Trackables inventory page and Trackable map • Fixed bug where retracted caches would still appear on the map for a short time • Fixed support request form to properly auto-populate your username when filling out a support inquiry • Caches found in the African nation Congo no longer incorrectly appear on the statistics map in the Democratic Republic of the Congo • Fixed profile statistics display in which the first cache type in a bar chart was truncated • Fixed bug in advanced search which improperly included found or owned caches in search results when the user requested they be excluded • Disabled Send to GPS link for PMO caches when viewed by a logged in Basic Member • Fixed paragraph formatting for print-friendly cache pages • Added a new text entry field on Trackables lookup page for situations where the Trackable ID was first entered incorrectly • Fixed bug which prevented the resending of validation emails when the first email was misplaced • Updated cache creation page to require a state selection when submitting caches for Belgium • Fixed Trackables description display issue which cause emoticons to disrupt HTML formatting • Updated cache log smiley icons to the higher contrast versions used on the map • Fixed styling issue on account creation page causing error message to be misaligned • Changed link on Travel Bugs ordering info page from shop.groundspeak.com to shop.geocaching.com

• Added ability for cache owners to set the “Needs Maintenance” attribute on caches they own

[ Geocaching.com August 2 Release Notes] [ CacheSense ]

Jul 23 2011

Been to Groundspeak’s Latitude 47 blog today? The blog is Groundspeak’s official one and normally features stories about caches, cachers or events from around the world. They also have caption competitions for “barely coveted” prizes. Well, today they are featuring a writeup by lackey “MissJenn” about … COG‘s recent Spring Fling Zero-Zero-7 Mega event cache.

Also, if you attended the event, check your profile for the Souvenir you earned!

[ Latitude 47 ] [ Central Ontario Geocachers ]

Jul 16 2011

PSA for cache hiders….
Cachedrone posted in the Canada Forum that there has been a minor change in the rules … or perhaps just the enforcement of the rules.

If you have a cache with a business name in it, the cache was most likely disabled over the last 24 hours or so.

This is fallout from a player complaint so the easy solution to the “grey area” or which names are allowed or not allowed – set the grey area to black or white and disallow all.

So, that WalMart micro may need to be renamed before you deactivate it.

In a later post, Cachedrone confirmed we can still name a business that an event is hosted at but only once in the description and certainly not in the title.

Forum post is here:

Jun 16 2011

PiGo, the Wherigo Player for iOS devices by Pi-Soft Consulting has been updated. Now it is no longer a guessing game with Groundspeak’s site changes. The app is the official WheriGo player for iOS devices, and supports uploading unlock files to the Wherigo site. The app has even been renamed “WheriGo” on the iTunes store. Those of you who were using the app from the start might remember that was it’s original name until Groundspeak spoke up. Turns out, Groundspeak liked it so much they made it official.

What I know is that playing WheriGo cartridges on my iPhone for the last 8 months has been far more enjoyable than it was on my Garmin Colorado … mainly due to the apps ability to show me a map screen.  

This should bolster Wherigo’s appeal to Geocaching players, and keep the game going in the future – regardless of Garmin’s GPS support.

[ Wherigo for iOS ]

May 03 2011

Geocaching.com is gearing up for a site update tomorrow. The site will be getting a new look and feel, with lots of changes visible on the main screen. There is a video posted on Latitude47, Groundspeak’s official blog, that shows what to expect.

From the Geocaching Forums, some lackeys are giving some small details about the planned outage:

Colin said:

Geocaching.com will be going offline for 4-6 hours for a site update on Wednesday, May 04, 2011 at approximately 9am PDT (GMT -7). We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

In an effort to keep people informed, here are some more details about the planned outage:

Estimated start time is 9 AM PST
Will be down:

  • Geocaching.com
  • Waymarking.com
  • Wherigo.com
  • Internal Groundspeak Admin tools
  • User Voice: unless you are already logged in – User Voice itself will be up, but you won’t be able to login with Geocaching.com
  • All API
  • Notifications
  • Pocket Queries

Will be up:

  • Knowledge Books
  • Forums will be operational

And, MissJenn added more detail about the involvement of the hamsters in the process (this was also in the weekly mailer):

… You may or may not be aware that Groundspeak’s servers are powered by hamsters.* We are adding several additional hamsters to the mix**, which should fix website service issues. Groundspeak products will go offline around 9 am Pacific Daylight Time (UTC/GMT -7 hours). We are not sure how long it will take to complete the upgrade; we estimate 4 to 6 hours, but it may be more or less. We will be providing updates on the 4th via Facebook and Twitter. When the Groundspeak products come back online, Geocaching.com will have an updated look and thewebsite performance will be improved.

*Our servers are not powered by hamsters
**Upgrading our database server

The short message here, is if you’re planning on geocaching tomorrow – generate and download your pocket queries now. The site will be out from noon to about 6pm Toronto time. You won’t be able to use the iPhone or Android apps either, unless you download a Pocket Query to your device and log with Field Notes instead of logs.

Apr 01 2011

Today Groundspeak is launching their new Maps Beta for Garmin program. The site is now offering free downloadable maps of the USA and Canada for Garmin handheld devices. The maps are available immediately at the Maps Beta download page.  The maps look and feel just like the new Maps Beta that Groundspeak introduced last december. Geocaches are featured prominently on the map screen for easy locating. They appear as coloured boxes when zoomed out, and full cache icons when zoomed in. Highlighting a cache on the map will give the name of the cache, and the difficulty/terrain rating.

The screenshots above are from a Garmin Colorado 400t. As you can see, the maps are quite detailed, and great for spontaneous caching.

The maps feature

  • Preloaded geocache information, including over 750,000 geocaches.
  • POI database with over 1.5 million points of interest including restaurants, pubs, and dollar stores
  • Full routing, including Geocache Route Optimization(tm) for power caching.

This is possibly a response from the Lillypad to Garmin over the OpenCaching initiative. In the forums, Jeremy was quoted, saying that “if Garmin was going to target Groundspeak’s profit center, then it was only fair for Groundspeak to go after Garmin’s lucrative map business”.

The maps are compatible with all Garmin handheld devices, including the Garmin eTrex, Colorado, Oregon and 62 series.

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.