Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

I got a ton of good feedback from a couple of tutorials I wrote so I thought I would continue the streak and show everyone how to automate the updating of your GPS with Pocket Queries.

There are two files you will need, both of which are in the GPX.zip file.

The first is a windows batch file that I wrote that calls the second file called pqdl.exe

I did NOT write the pqdl.exe file, but am merely enclosing it in this zip file as a courtesy. To learn more about pqdl, go to Leo’s Geocaching Site.

Basically all I am documenting is the script I wrote to make downloading pocket queries idiot-roof using Leo’s awesome technology.

Ok lets get started!

First, download the prepared GPX.zip and extract its contents to a folder, anywhere.

Your directory should now have two files as shown below:

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The functionality of this script is way over-engineered but made to be simple.

BASIC Configuration

  1. Connect your GPS and make note of what drive letter it occupies. On my computer its drive letter F. Depending on what you have plugged in, your hard drive configuration, cd roms etc, this drive letter may change frequently
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  2. Open up your GPS and drill down to the directory where your GPX files are located on a typical Garmin Oregon GPS, this default directory is F:\Garmin\GPX
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    As you can see on my GPS, I already have gpx files loaded.

    MAKE NOTE of this directory, you can click on the URL bar (highlighted text in blue) and copy this directory, you will need it.

  3. Now go to any text editor and open the getgpx.bat file. It will look something like this6
  4. On line 8, it reads set gpsdir=\Garmin\GPX
    You want to change the \Garmin\GPX to be the same as what you have (blue highlighted text) in step two, MINUS the drive letter and colon. So if the highlighted text in step 2 reads Q:\Magellan\Caches you would change \Garmin\GPX to read \Magellan\Caches (don’t forget the leading \)

  5. Everything else should be in cruise control, but one other option is automatic login. If you leave it the way it is now, you will have to enter credentials each time. If you want it automated, change defaultusername (on line 14) to your geocaching.com username and defaultpassword (on line 20) to your geocaching.com password

Downloading Pocket Queries

Lets download pocket queries… If you don’t know how to do that, you can follow my pocket query tutorial, its not that hard but does have a few steps.

  1. Again, if you haven’t done so already, plug in your GPS, and make note of the drive letter it mounts to, as you did previously in step 1 of configuration.
  2. Double click on the getgpx.bat file
    If you entered your username and password from step 5 above, ignore these following steps and go straight to step 6.
  3. The first thing you will be asked for is your drive letter enter ONLY the single letter that is the drive letter. For my system it was F2
  4. Next is your geocaching.com username (this will be skipped if you configured for auto login)r3
  5. Followed by your geocaching.com password:r5
  6. Once you are done, just sit back. You’ll see a bunch of stuff on the screen, maybe even some error messages but don’t worry, its working.r7
  7. When its done, you will see that the GPX files have been downloaded, and now reside in the same directory you installed the script and pqdl.exe. You can leave them there or delete them.9
  8. Additionally, if you did everything right, your GPS should now have the new files as they script has copied them over.
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  9. Pretty much you are done. One thing you might want to do, since some GPS’s have limits to how many caches they can hold at a time (mine is 10,000), delete the .gpx files that you won’t need for your journey. It will make the gps run slightly faster and allow all the caches that are required for your jaunt without ignoring others because too many are loaded.

I hope this is helpful, let me know if i messed something up.

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So in the last tutorial we figured out how to make a pocket query.. Enough of this computer stuff, lets get to the outback and find that ellusive dingo! Now what?

Grab your trusty GPS, turn it on, and lets hit the road.

First hit ‘geocaches’. Again we are using a geocache aware device like a Garmin Oregon. If you are using another device, there should be something similar.

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Now touch ‘Find a Cache’

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Which will now show you all the caches that you loaded from the GPX you downloaded.

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Lets go find the 3rd cache called Tennis Anyone 2. Touch that button.

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Now press ‘GO’ and the GPS will plot an ‘as the crow fly’s’ route to the cache. If this is an urban cache (which I personally detest) you can follow the basemap streets on how to get there, using the + and – keys to zoom in and out. If it is wilderness, bust out the map and look for a trail on how to get there.

You will eventually find the cache (hopefully) and need to log the find… click on the ‘treasure chest’ icon in the upper right of the screen.

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Which will lead you to the log menu. At this point, you hopefully ‘Found’ the cache, or not.

NOTE: There are a couple of other options here to help you in finding the cache such as the description, and even a hint. Use those at will.

From this menu we are going to ‘Log Attempt’

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Which will lead you to the type of log:

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There will be times when you want to select something other than ‘Found’. Below are brief descriptions of the available options:

  • Did Not Find – You couldn’t find the cache for whatever reason. Many people will not use this option as they think its a mark of dishonor, but marking it as not found does a couple things.
    • Alerts the CO (Cache Owner) that an attempt was made and resulted in not finding it.
    • Alerts other cachers that you didn’t find it, and it either might not be there, or, is difficult. More than likely it is the latter. It is a mark of honor for the cache owner to have a cache not found and gives them feedback on whether the cache is too difficult or not desirable (because of brush, in a bad place, whatever). PLEASE if you don’t find a cache use this option, it is important.
    • Multiple DNFs (Did Not Find) will prompt the CO to either research why, revel in its difficulty or give guidance.
  • Needs Repair – Some of these caches are OLD, or victims of weather, poaching, you name it.. a NR log tells the CO that they need to get to this cache ASAP and do some repairs… Its the obligation of a cacher to do this out of respect for the sport.
  • Unattempted – This might be used in several instances, but mainly it tells the GPS to abandon tracking this cache to choose another. I often will be on a trail, thinking im going to one cache only to find the path leading in the other direction. Ill choose ‘unattempted’ and select a cache in the direction im going. Please do NOT use this option if you attempted to find the cache and were unsuccessful. Use the DNF (Did Not Find) option for this instead.

Moving on, lets assume you found the cache. Press ‘Found’

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There are 3 options:

  • Done – Logs the cache as found — Don’t use this one.. Ill explain why in a bit
  • Find Next Closest – This is the same as ‘unattempted’ and will give you the option to find another cache. I use this sometimes, when i find I am no longer heading to the cache i wanted and in another area and want to reset.
  • Add Comment – ALWAYS add a comment. In a given hike (or stroll) you will find several caches. In this section, put a brief description of the cache you found. Ill explain more in a bit when we log the cache to the website.

click on Add Comment

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This is the comment field. You basically want to use the keypad to put something brief yet informative to remind you of the cache when you log it on the website.

In this example, the GPS was ping ponging signal all over the place and i ended up moving in circles until i found it, but it was brilliantly hidden so i typed ‘neat camo’

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When you are done, hit the green check box, which takes you back to this screen

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and then hit ‘Done’ and repeat the process.

So after a few hours of running around, finding caches, you will eventually get home and want to upload all these logs to the geocaching website.

Go to the geocaching website at http://www.geocaching.com click on “Your Profile’ and Field Notes.

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You will be brought to a page with specific instructions on various methods of uploading, ignore all that stuff. You will want to click on “Upload my Field Notes’ at the bottom

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Which brings you to the following page. Make sure the checkbox is checked for “Ignore logs before…”. This site will remember the last time you uploaded and attempt to help you from uploading logs which have previously been entered

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From this window, click on ‘Browse’ and navigate to the file on your GPS acts as the log file.. On garmin products its called ‘geocache_visits.txt’

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Click on the ‘geocache_visits.txt’ file, and click on ‘Open’

You will then see this window again with the path to the file populated

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Now click on ‘Upload Field Notes’ which will grab the log, upload it to the web site and present you with the following:

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Notice now that the Tennis Anyone 2 cache that you marked as found is there. Now click on ‘Compose’ and you will see that the quick note you put in there has been uploaded.

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Go ahead and change this note to something more descriptive.

NOTE: Release that cache owners took the time to find the area, mark the coordinates, drop a cache, and log it on the website. That takes time and effort. The VERY least we can do is put a log in there describing your experience. Often cachers will put in tips (but NEVER spoilers) on where to find the cache.

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Once you put in a note, scroll to the bottom and click on ‘Submit Log Entry’

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Now just rinse, wash and repeat.

NOTE: There are a couple of other options here to help you in finding the cache such as the description, and even a hint. Use those at will.

So you got your first GPS, GREAT!  Now what?

The instructions on getting started with Geocaching are somewhat vague and despite all the video’s on youtube and word of mouth from friends, I people still get lost on where to start.. So here it is…

This assumes that you have a membership with Groundspeak (http://geocaching.com). If you don’t, do so. Its 30 bucks a year and well worth the investment.

If you don’t have a membership, you can stop here because you won’t be able to follow these steps without one. Namely the best feature you will get from a full membership is the ability to generate pocket queries, which I will explain below in brevity.

  1. Go to the geocaching.com website, and in the ‘Your Profile’ pulldown, go to Pocket Queries

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  2. You will get to the Pocket Query screen, click on the hyperlink called Create a new Query

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  3. Now is the guts of query:
    From this screen you want to put in a descriptive “Query Name” and check the box for the day of the week (today). I will talk more about this later. Lastly change the 500 to 1000 (the max you can generate)NOTE: If you leave this value at 500, when the system mails you notification that a PQ has finished, it will also mail you the PQ. Anything above 500 does not allow this feature to kick in. I personally like the bigger PQ’s and am willing to do a couple extra steps.

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  4. Because this is a beginners guide, I don’t expect you to know your home coordinates, or a local GC code (but you will soon enough) but you should know your postal zip code. In the Postal Zip code box put your mailing zip code, which will basically tell the site to generate 1000 (from before we changed it from 500) geocaches around this code. Also make sure the radio button next to Postal code is selected. This is the easiest way to get started.4
  5. Lastly, since you will be generating a lot of these in your geocaching exploits you will want to give this a name. Make sure BOTH of these check boxes are checked. One to compress the file(s) and the other to name the files according to where the caches are. This is important because at some point you will fill up your GPS’s capacity and you will be able to delete an entire location at once to make room.

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  6. Hit Submit Information and you are good to go, you will be sent back to the following page.I have a couple of gpx’s already stored and as you can see with the green check boxes, the query runs on those days. You can click and unclick them when you are ready to go on an outing and have the latest stuff generated on the fly. I automatically generate gpx’s on certain days where i tend to cache a lot.

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    NOTE: It is not advised that you select the checkboxes until you have the query set up perfectly.  You are have a daily allotment of PQ’s that can be generated in the day, and if you use them all up you might be left without a PQ to work with.

    What we are looking for is the last column (Last Generated PST). When you submit a geocache, or click a day checkbox, it will take a minute or two to actually generate the cache… Keep refreshing your browser (manually) until the Last Generated Column updates to the current time.

    When it does complete you will notice the 2nd tab on top named Pocket Queries Ready to Download (x) has a number in the parenthesis (the x). That means we are ready to grab our results and load it on the GPS.

  7. Click on the Pocket Queries Ready to Download tabIn my case, I have two queries ready to download and I am planning to go to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to see the caches there.. Click on the name of the GPX you want to download (in my case its PCH Hikes)

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  8. A dialog box pops up (note the file name).. You want to OPEN this. In my case I have winzip but if you don’t, Windows will open it up as a compressed folder.8
  9. Once you open the file, you will see its contents one is the actual gpx file you need (the big one) the other is a set of waypoints, which you may or may not use.. I don’t use it personally. Its usually extraneous locations like parking lots and things like that. Keep this window open for now, we will return to this.

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  10. If you haven’t done so already, plug in your GPS to your computer using the usb cable, and its internal storage should come up as a drive on your computer. Each GPS vendor is different, for this demo I use the Garmin 450T and the 550T. If you don’t have one of these, you just need to know where your gpx files are kept on your GPS. This should be in the instructions.

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  11. Double click (open) your GPS storage and navigate to the GPX directory. On the Garmin its under Garmin Oregon (F:)->Garmin->GPX

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  12. You should now see the GPX directory and it should have some gpx’s already in there as samples or maybe its empty. Go back to your gpx file that you downloaded from geocaching.com and drag those 2 files to this directory12
  13. Believe it or not.. You are DONE! All you have to do now is unplug your gps from the computer, it will probably reboot, and now you should have 1000 caches loaded, centered around the zip code you entered.
    Ill soon make a lesson on how to use it but your gps instruction manual will have specifics on how to select a site and navigate to it.

Basic Hardware/Software

Posted: April 4, 2011 in Geocaching, Tutorials
Tags:
Ill give you the short rundown of geocaching and what you want to do.

Granted you don’t need all of this stuff but it will tremendously add to your fun

I (currently) use the Magellan eXplorist GC as my GPSr and with that comes a program called VantagePoint detailed below. If you don’t use this hardware, there should be somthing similar to VantagePoint with the GPSr you purchase.

Priority: 9/10 (this is a must have)
Cost: $30/year

Make an account here… This is the central repository for everything geocaching. Groundspeak, the company that runs this whole thing not only maintains the site and keeps all the caches cataloged, but they they maintain a very strict set of rules that make it the most pleasant experience possible. There are a lot of caches that are premium only, but the main reason you want the premium membership (http://www.geocaching.com/membership/comparison.aspx) is so you can make pocket queries, which is the core of what you want to do.

 

VantagePoint (Software)
Priority: 9/10 (this is a must have)
Cost: Free

This should have come with your Explorist GC but i included the link anyway. This is the software which imports GPX files (this is what pocket queries make in the premium membership) to your GPS. There is a bunch of other stuff with it that works nice on streets, but for hiking its pretty much worthless.

Priority: 6/10
Cost: $25 (lifetime upgrades)

If you are a geocacher and you whip this sucker out, then people will know you are serious. This is basically your ‘offline’ database that shows a TON of information. When I am going on the road, i put this on a laptop instead of having to log into the geocache website. I can show you this if you don’t want to front the cash immediately but it is a GREAT tool.


Geocaching Phone Software
Priority: 7/10
Website: http://www.geocaching.com/android (for android phones)
Website: http://www.geocaching.com/iphone (for iphones)
Cost: $9.95
Website: http://cgeo.carnero.cc/ (android only)
Cost: Free

I always like to carry two GPS’s, one that is very accurate (the explorist) and one that actually shows maps, and can help me get home when i am lost. For the iPhone you only have one choice that I know of but there might be more. I just don’t know because I don’t have an iphone. For androids, there is an identical one (same as the iphone) which I bought, which seems very piggy on phone battery, so i switched to c:geo (the 3rd link). Both will let you directly to the geocaching website and read the descriptions, logs, clues etc but most importantly will give you satellite maps which will help you find landmarks like trees and big rocks.