Paperless Geocaching

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Concepts

Geocaching Requirements

  • In the game of geocaching, internet access is essential. A player needs to log onto the Geocaching website in order discover area geocaches, then retrieve geocache GPS coordinates and description in order to set out and find the cache and finally, after his hunt, to log the results of his search. However, ubiquitous internet access isn't a reality. There are time when geocache information must be carried with the player on his hunt and a player must return to an internet connection.
  • Geocache GPS coordinates loaded into a GPS unit points players to where a particualar geocache is located.
  • Geocache description holds all the pertinent information about the particular geocache and how to find it.

Paper Geocaching

Traditionally, players have printed out the geocache's description page directly from the Geocaching website and carried the paper with them on their hunts. Geocache information in a paper format makes geocaching a very planned activity. With paper, a player cannot spontaneously decide to do some geocaching in a new area. He is limited to the papers he is carrying with him at the time.

Paperless Geocaching

With a small portable electronic device with access to the geocaching data, a player can play the game at anytime and anywhere in the course of his travels. With his device, he can quickly access, search and filter the geocaching data to offer him good geocaching options based upon his criteria of the moment. On the player's person, he has everything needed to have a successful day geocaching.

Ideal Device

  • Internet Connectivity
    • Full web browser
    • Email client
  • Built-in GPS
  • Small
  • Rugged
  • Built-in Camera

Palm

Treo 700p

Tungsten T

CacheMate

iPhone

<flickr>1298565478|frame|m|left|Geocache Contact Details</flickr>

Contacts

GPSBabel

There is a open source software package called gpsbabel, which allows you to convert waypoints, tracks and route files from one file format to another.

Geocaching.com uses a very widely common file format called GPX to store a cache's information, which are then uploaded into your GPS. However, there is more information than waypoint name, cache name and coordinates used by your average GPS stored in the GPX file. Other juicy information tidbits included such things as:

  • Cache description
  • Past log entries
  • Travel bugs in the cache

GPSBabel can also convert Geocaching.com's GPX files into vCards, which can be loaded onto one's iPod or iPhone as contacts.

Though nice when combined with an iPod, it is incredible in conjunction with the iPhone's data network services. One easily can open geocache's Geocaching.com page with Mobile Safari directly from the geocache's contact URL field, or one can display a geocache's location in the Google Maps widget directly from the coordinates stored geocache's address field.

Homepage URL Field

When the vCards, or Contacts, converted with gpsbabel, are loaded onto the iPhone, an user can scroll through the "cache" contacts, select one, tap on the "cache" contact's homepage and bring up the cache's Geocaching.com's web page.

Address Field

<flickr>1297698815|frame|m|Click on the Geocache Address and Google has problems finding the cache on the map</flickr> Also if you store the cache's waypoint coordinates in the address field of the "cache" contact, an iPhone user can then tap on the "cache" contact's address, and the cache's location will be mapped out on the iPhone's Google Maps widget.

Caveat

For some reason or another, Google Maps does not like one to search for locations on its mapping services in the following format: latitude, longitude country. When you do so, Google Maps returns "No search results found". However, if you remove the country from the end of your search, Google Maps will plot the point on the map.

The iPhone, when you tap on a contact's address, will automatically add the contact's country to the end of the address. If no country is specified, it defaults the country to the United States. There is no way of turning this off. Therefore, when you tap on the "cache" contact's address field, the Google Maps widget will return "No search results found."

Work Around

If you manually delete the country from your search query and enter in only the GPS coordinates, the Google Maps widget will plot your cache's location.

frame|none|m|Go to the search field</flickr> frame|none|m|Delete the state and country</flickr> frame|none|m|Cache now displayed</flickr>

Contact Picture

As everyone knows, the iPhone comes with a built-in digital camera and allows you to add images taken with that camera to your contact picture field. To commemorate our geocaching finds, I will snap a quick digital image o our find and save the image in the contact picture field.

Pocket Queries

Preparing Pocket Query GPX files for iPhone Contacts

  1. Run the GPX through my custom XLST
  2. Because my GPS to VCF XSLT isn't complete, I still need to perform some manual find and replace tasks for HTML tags on the resulting VCF file, using TextWrangler. They are:
    • Find

<br> and replace with \\n (new line)

    • Find

<br /> and replace with \\n (new line)

    • Find

<p> and replace with \\n (new line)

    • Find

<li> and replace with \\n * (new line, followed by an asterisk)

    • Find

<.+?> (all other HTML tags using GREP) and replace with nothing

A Eureka Moment

When I first tried to replace the HTML tag for line break ( <br> ) with \n in TextWrangler, TextWrangler would add an actual line break in my file, not the literal text string "\n". This corrupted my resulting VCF file, and the file could not, in turn, be properly imported into my Address Book and then eventually into my iPhone.

I was beating my head as I plowed my way through thousands of Google search results, trying to found out how I could insert the literal text string "\n" instead of an actual line break. I searched under:

  • replace

<br> with \n using grep

  • insert \n as a string not a new line
  • insert \n as a string not a new line textwrangler
  • insert \n as literal string grep

Then in the Textwrangler user manual, I found my answer, add an additional escape character ("\") in front of "\n".

Filemaker Pro 9 Advanced and FMtouch

Since I use Filemaker Pro 9 Advanced on a regular basis, I immediately purchased FMTouch for my iPhone as soon as it was released. Then I began thinking about the possibilities of leverage my Filemaker knowledge to further my paperless geocaching quest.

Why Filemaker? Why Not Just Use the Contacts?

Though both applications are essentially the same, databases, Filemaker and its iPhone counterpart FMTouch would offer greater flexibility in searches and custom fields.

  • The iPhone's Contacts application really slows down with several hundred contacts.
  • FMTouch allows greater search capacability

Groundspeak's iPhone Geocaching Application

Cost

$9.99 from the iTunes Store

Main Screen

When the Geocaching application first begins, it asks for permission to use your iPhone's current location. When you choose yes, it utilizes your iPhone GPS coordinates to fetch a list of nearby caches.

On this main screen, you can:

  • Find Caches
  • Find Trackables
  • Look at Saved Items
  • Change your Settings
thumb|m|none</flickr>

Find Caches Screen

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You have the option of finding nearby caches by:

  • ZIP Code
  • Geocaching Waypoint
  • Street Address
  • a particular contact in your Contacts
  • your Current GPS Coordinates

Search Results Screen

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Cache Information

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Find Trackables Screen

Saved Items Screen

Settings Screen

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You can set:

  • Your geocaching.com account information, which allows you to filter out your finds from your search results
  • Your option to see just traditional type of caches (Basic) or all types of caches (Advanced)
  • Your option to hide your finds or show your finds in your search results