Archive for the ‘geocaching’ Tag

BCaching Release 0.6.6

Another small update, full details here.

Biggest new feature is MOBILE MAP VIEW … with a catch. It only works on Android and iPhone devices. Sorry Blackberry users! As soon as the blackberry browser gets a little better (webkit maybe?) it should be supported too.  Mobile Map View is very similar to Desktop Map view with the cache overlay. There is a new “Map” link to it on the Mobile Find nearest caches page — IF you’re on an Android or iPhone device.  If you’re using something else and want to try it on your phone, navigate to http://www.bcaching.com/m/Map.aspx. If it works for your device let me know and I’ll add the link for that device as well.

The new map view is based on version 3 of the Google Maps API which now has support for mobile devices.

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BCaching Release 0.6.5

Another minor update tonight. Full details here.

Most interesting (in my opinion) is MUCH better support for touch screen devices. I’ve been able to test it on a Motorola Droid and Blackberry Storm, but I’d love to hear some feedback on how it looks on some other mobile browsers… like iPhone, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile and what about  Nokia, and LG touch screen browsers?

BCaching API

This topic is no longer up to date. The latest API documentation can be found here on the forums.

The bcaching API is intended for use by mobile geocaching apps to retrieve geocache data and have access to a large repository of geocache data without needing to store it all on the device itself. Response data for all requests except for “login” is in the standard GPX format. All query results are restricted to those that are accessible by the authenticated user.

Request format is
http://(www|test).bcaching.com/api/q.ashx?u=<username>&REQUEST&time=<current-time>&sig=<signature>
where:

  • username is a valid bcaching.com username
  • current-time is the current mobile device time in “java” milliseconds (i.e. java.util.Date.getTime) or equivalent
  • signature is an md5 hash of the querystring plus an md5 hash of the bcaching user’s password.

{{REQUEST}} can be one of the following:

  • Verify login only: a=login
    Does nothing more than return success or failure based on the validation of the username password/hashword.
  • Find nearest caches (Summary): a=find&lat=<latitude>&lon=<longitude>&find=<find>&maxdistance=<max-distance>&maxcount=<max-count>
    Returns summary-only gpx data — with no short or long descriptions, extra waypoints, logs, etc.

     

    • latitude is the latitude in signed degree decimal form i.e. 40.123456
    • longitude is the longitude in signed degree decimal form i.e. -74.987654
    • find is a URL-encoded string to search for caches by waypoint# (with or without the GC prefix) or partial name match.
    • max-distance is optional and specifies the maximum distance in degrees. Default is 0.3 – about 30 miles
    • max-count is optional and specifies the maximum number of nearest caches to return in the gpx data. Default is 50.
  • Get cache detail: a=detail&ids=<cache-id-list>&desc=<description-mode>&wpts=<wpts>&logs=<logs>&tbs=<tbs>
    Returns detailed gpx data for one or more caches

     

    • cache-id-list is a comma-separated list of cache ids (not waypoint numbers). Cache ids are included in the summary gpx request.
    • description-mode indicates what form to send the description and can be one of the following:
      • none: neither short nor long description is included
      • short: short description is included, converted to text if was html
      • long: short and long description are included, converted to text they were html
      • html: full original short and long descriptions are included
    • wpts is a flag indicating whether or not additional waypoints should be included: 0 = no waypoints (default), 1 = include waypoints
    • logs is the maximum number of logs to include: 0 = none (default), 1 or more indicates the maximum number
    • tbs is a flag indicating whether or not cache inventory should be included: 0 = no waypoints (default), 1 = include TBs
  • Get nearest caches (Detail): a=nearest&maxcount=<max-count>&desc=<description-mode>&wpts=<wpts>&logs=<logs>&tbs=<tbs>
    • max-count is optional and specifies the maximum number of nearest caches to return in the gpx data. Default is 30.
    • all other parameters (desc, wpts, logs, tbs) are identical to Get cache detail section.

Garmin Custom Waypoint Symbols

You can use BCaching to send geocaching waypoints to your Garmin device using custom geocaching waypoint symbols that differentiate cache type (Traditional, Multi-Cache, Mystery Cache, Letterbox, etc.) using the following symbol set:

Custom Symbols

First you must load the custom symbols onto your device (see below), then to use the custom symbols, go to the BCaching Desktop Map View, find the location you want to use as the center of the geocache data to load. Click [Send to Garmin Device] at the bottom of the page, then choose [Custom Waypoint Symbols] and follow the rest of the instructions on that page to finish.

Note that using Custom symbols will limit the Geocaching “functionality” built into some Garmin devices since only one symbol can be designated as a  “Geocache” that can be marked “Found”. If you want to retain that functionality for all geocache types then don’t use this feature. If you want to designate one of the custom symbols as a Geocache (such as the symbol for Traditional since they’re the most common), use the the Geocache Setup function on your device (on the 60CSx: Find => Geocache => Menu => Geocache Setup) and change the Find symbol.

Loading Symbols onto your Garmin Device

  1. To load the custom symbols into your Garmin device, you must first download and install Garmin’s xImage utility (for Windows 2000 or later only).
  2. Then download the Custom Waypoint Symbols ZIP file and extract them to a temporary folder on your computer.
  3. Connect your Garmin device to your computer and turn it on.
  4. Run the xImage program and click [Next] on the Welcome page.
  5. On the Device Settings page, click [Find Device] to identity and select your device, then click [Next].
  6. Click [Send images to the GPS] and click [Next].
  7. Click [Select All] to highlight all Waypoint Symbols then click [Next].
  8. Browse for and select the Custom Waypoint Symbols folder from where you extracted the ZIP file and click [OK]. xImage will then send the images to your device.
  9. Click [Finish] to exit.

BCaching Release 0.5

Release 0.5 includes a few new Desktop Map features (no mobile enhancements with this release)

  • Desktop Map now includes a Filter panel that allows filtering of geocache types, containers, terrain, difficulty and more.
  • You can now download a summary GPX file (up to 999 waypoints) based on the current filter. The GPX file may be used in Google Earth or to send to your GPS device. The summary includes additional waypoints, but it does not include descriptions or logs. Enter the maximum number of waypoints (default is 500) and click the [Download GPX] button at the bottom of the Desktop Map page.
  • You can also send cache data directly to your Garmin device using the Garmin Communicator web plug-in. It also uses the current filter and sends the same information that would be sent in the GPX file. To begin, click the [Send to Garmin Device] button at the bottom of the Desktop Map page.

If you encounter any issues, please post them on the forum.

– Update 7.28.2009

This wasn’t quite ready last week, but now you can also send waypoints to your Garmin using Custom Waypoint Symbols that represent cache type: traditional, multi, letterbox, mystery, etc. See the follow-up post for details.

Comparing Geocaching WAP site and BCaching

Here’s a comparison between Geocaching.com’s WAP site functions and bcaching.com, hereafter referred to as GCWAP and BC.

View Cache Search

  • GCWAP requires entry of GC waypoint with or without the GC prefix.
  • BC does this too but will also search the cache name (although name search is only done near your current origin).

View Cache Detail

  • GCWAP includes name, gc#, owner, coords, short and long descriptions in plain text.
  • BC does this but also shows when it was hidden, when the last find was, size, difficulty, terrain, and also shows the full html version of the description with images and links (note: if the description exceeds a certain size only the plaintext version is shown and truncated at that, but then there is a link to view the complete original description.)
  • GCWAP and BC both show hints and travel bugs in the cache.
  • BC will also show additional waypoints
  • GCWAP will show the 5 most recent logs. These will always be the most recent and up to date.
  • BC will show as many logs as are available on BCaching. After the first pocket query, there may only be the most recent 5, but over time with regular updates, the number of logs will increase. However, it will only be as up to date as the most recent pocket query.
  • BC also shows the icons for the 8 most recent finds up top of the detail page so you know right away if there are a bunch of finds, DNFs, notes, etc.
  • BC provides links at the bottom of the details page to various GC pages: full detail, print view with logs (same as full detail but takes less bandwidth, Cache Owner profile page, Log, and Nearest caches).
  • GCWAP has a link to a google map image.
  • BC links to Google Mobile Maps or Blackberry Maps (both of these currently only work on Blackberries though).
  • GCWAP has super small pages and uses very little bandwidth.
  • BC has larger page sizes than GCWAP, but provides more information and sends the pages compressed with gzip if possible (supported by most modern mobile phone browsers).

Logs and Field Notes

  • GCWAP lets you write LIVE cache logs and drop off trackables from your inventory.
  • BC uses Garmin Colorado-style field notes that have to be later downloaded from BC and uploaded to gc.com. Trackable Inventory is managed independently of gc.com so they have to be logged in gc.com later when writing logs from the field notes.
  • BC also keeps track of your finds and can include the find# in your log.
  • BC can also include the find-time in your log and keep track of a recurring header to be included at the beginning of your logs.

Find Caches Near a Location

  • GCWAP lets you search by coordinates or zipcode and lists cache summary information with distance.
  • BC supports coordinates, zipcodes, and also city names. You can also find nearest caches from another cache.
  • BC displays summary information with distance and ALSO direction.
  • BC uses keeps track of where you are based on the field notes you write. As you travel from cache to cache and write a field note for each cache, BC automatically updates your origin based on the cache coordinates of the last field note.
  • GCWAP does not exclude caches you’ve already found from it’s list of nearby caches.
  • BC by default DOES exclude caches you’ve already found, but also lets you setup a custom filter similar to a pocket query: including cache types, container types, difficulty and terrain ranges, caches you’ve found, haven’t found or even own.

Travel Bugs

  • GCWAP lets you lookup trackables, view its detail, history, and write LIVE logs for pickup, discovers, and notes.
  • BC lets you lookup trackables, view LIMITED detail (with a link to the full gc.com page), NO history, and manage your FIELD inventory. All pickups and discovers must also be recorded later on gc.com.

New Features and Enhancements

  • GCWAP hasn’t changed much in years.
  • BC is under active PART-TIME development and I’m always looking for ideas to improve the site (The Travel Bug inventory management and Field Note headers functions were user requests).

BC Only (not applicable to GCWAP)

  • Since it can be a pain to have to keep a mobile/pda application up to date with the latest pocket queries, BC provides a personalized email address for each user to which GC pocket queries can be be sent to directly on a regular basis; eliminating the need to manually run and upload pocket queries.

New BCaching Screenshots

Here are some of the latest BCaching screenshots. Some are taken from a blackberry emulator, others from a desktop web browser, but it should give you an idea of how the mobile view works. It’s free, so try it for yourself at www.bcaching.com. Use it with any internet-connected mobile phone: Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android, etc.

The first page you see on your mobile device after login. Enter a location by name or zipcode. You can also enter a geocache waypoint like GCxxxx or without the GC prefix.

find-01

After you click “Go” it will search for the specified criteria and return the results. If the Find page does find a matching cache by name or waypoint it will give you a link to search for the entered criteria as a location:

find-02

That gives you a list of location results based on a google location search.

find-03

Selecting a location will set your origin and all nearby caches that you have not found will be listed with their distance and direction.

find-04

Selection of a cache waypoint link will jump to the Cache Detail page. This provides links to Field Notes (for that cache — the top menu Notes shows all recent field notes). A link to show all nearby caches, using this cache as the new origin, links to view the cache location in Google Maps and Blackberry Maps (both of these only work on Blackberries as far as I know). If there are additional waypoints or trackables there will be links to show them as well.

Below that is a quick view of the most recent field note (Found It in this case) followed by other cache details. Also shown is when it was last found and the icons associated with the 8 most recent logs so you can quickly see the recent find to dnf ratio or other important logs.

detail-1

Scroll past the description to see the hints and logs (you can also click the Logs link to jump right to the logs).

detail-2

Scroll all the way to the bottom to find various links to gc.com regarding this cache. Detail shows the full gc.com cache detail page, Print shows the lower bandwidth print view (with logs), Owner shows the cache owner’s profile page, Log takes you to the cache’s log posting page in case you want post your find/dnf/note directly to gc.com, and Nearby will show you the gc.com nearest caches list.

detail-3

The Inventory page lets you lookup caches by tracking #.

inventory-1

Scroll down past the trackable details and you can log a retrieve or discover from the most recently viewed cache (or from a generic “somewhere else”). The description defaults to the trackable’s name, but you can customize it to make it easier to remember which one it is. You can also view the complete trackable details page on gc.com.

inventory-2

The Field Notes page lets you post a Found It, Didn’t Find It, Write Note, Attended (for events), or Webcam photo taken (for webcams). You can adjust the time, include your current find# (if checked), include the time in your note (if checked), include a header (if checked) that is saved from note to note, and of course write some comments in the body. If there are trackables in your inventory, they will automatically be listed below the Submit button. Just check of the trackables you are dropping off and they will automatically be included in the field note and removed from your inventory.

notes

After you submit your note, if “View nearby on submit” is checked, you will automatically be redirected to the Find nearest caches page with this cache as your new origin. This way it keeps track of where you are and is always showing you the nearest unfound caches.

BCaching Release “Orlando”

Introducing the latest release of BCaching.com, “Orlando”.

The past month has been spent on the development of some cool new features, usability improvements, bug fixes, and field testing and since most of the field testing was done on vacation in Orlando, Florida it takes its release codename from there. I hope you enjoy the improved navigation (clicking, not driving), Inventory management, and field notes headers features.

mobile-device Continue reading

Mobile Paperless Caching

BCaching.com is up and open. If you have internet access on your mobile phone and you are a premium member at geocaching.com, you can start using BCaching for free to view mobile-optimized cache pages. You’ll still need a separate GPS for navigation, but you’ll have access to complete descriptions, hints, and logs in the field and can even keep track of your finds.

Reprinted from the forum:

I’d Rather Be Caching

BCaching is a free service intended to make caching with a mobile Internet-connected phone easier. No more printing out cache pages, no loading your paperless device with the latest updates, no loading field notes from your device back to the computer. Less work, more fun.

Supported Devices
The intent is for BCaching to work with any mobile phone that has a modern browser and an Internet access data plan. Although we do our best to limit the size of the data transfers needed for most pages, we highly recommend an unlimited data plan with your mobile phone provider to avoid the risk of excessive fees from overuse of limited data allowances.

The application has had the most field testing with a Blackberry Pearl 8130 on the Verizon Wireless network but some basic testing has also been done with an emulator for the OpenWave Browser that is used on many Smartphones. It should also work on Windows Mobile and iPhone devices.

Installing
Surprise! There is nothing to install. The entire application is browser-based. You simply navigate from page to page using the Internet browser on your mobile phone.

There are also components of the application that require a desktop browser such as loading Pocket Queries from Geocaching.com and downloading field notes for uploading back to Geocaching.com.

Getting Started
The first thing you must do after registering on BCaching is upload your first “My Finds” pocket query. This will link your BCaching login with your Geocaching handle. Your BCaching login can be linked to one and only one Geocaching handle. After your accounts are linked you can upload additional pocket queries for the areas in which you plan to cache. Uploaded data is only available for 30 days to prevent it from getting out of date so you must upload pocket queries on a regular basis. To make this easier, you can have your pocket queries sent directly from Geocaching.com to your BCaching account via your personalized BCaching email address. You can also forward pocket queries from your own email account.

Why is it FREE?
All the best things in life are free. This may not be one of the best things, but it’s a good thing. The web-based version of the site will always be free for Geocaching.com users to get access to their pocket queries in the field.

Paperless Caching Mobile Browser Screenshots

Here are some screenshots from the current version.

Nearest Caches, with Blackberry

With Blackberry

Cache Details

Hints and Logs

Cache Details Menu

Notes