VaibhaV Sharma

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Tag: gps

Geocaching Day #2

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For the second weekend in a row, we went around looking for caches.

After brunch at Portland’s famous Cadillac Cafe, we headed out to find 5 locations and claimed 3 of them. One of the two unclaimed caches required a balancing act on a fallen tree over a small water body in a dense area of a park, the other one was in a small park in a community and too many people looking at what we were up to. Yeah some of the caches require you to work in stealth mode.

Another day well spent. Total caches found till date – 6.

Geocaching fun

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After hearing from Tom about how much fun Geocaching was, I mentioned it to Pooja and she got excited about trying it and I too wanted to see how it worked.

I first read about it several years ago when I started playing with GPS receivers. With no GPS receiver to play with, it was just another “tech news” to me in those days. But I am glad we tried it over this weekend and were very successful. Of course we had a lot of fun.

We started with creating an account on Geocaching.com while looking for software options for the Treo 680 to manage the cache locations and details. After going through a few forums, we decided to try GeoNiche for the Palm with my Holux bluetooth receiver.

We were thrilled to find out that we had 4 caches hidden within a few hundered feet of our apartment.

The first one (The Shadow Knows) was pretty easy, hidden in the bushes. Second one (Dr. Octopus) was easy too except that we didn’t claim it because it was hidden under a tree which was a very dirty place to crawl under because of the rain. The third one was interesting – a multi-cache called “Long Walk Teddy“. And boy it was a long walk even after we cheated by using a car to count the 16 powerline pylons. Here is the description –

This cache is fairly simple, but involves a bit of a stroll through Beaverton trails and neighborhoods. It’s about 5 miles roundtrip, so bring your walking shoes.

At the above coordinates, you will be at the beginning of a paved path heading Northwest. Off to your left there is a large electrical pylon. It is #1. You will have to walk past 16 of these types of pylons to find the cache. Disregard all other telephone and power poles. We are only dealing with the exact type that match #1. At one point, you will have to walk through suburbia to maintain your course, but you will never need to be on Private Property. AFTER you pass the 16th pylon, look for a yellow natural gas pipe marker. The cache is about 7 feet to the west of it. Happy Trails!

When we reached the final pylon the first time, we could not spot the box. Had lunch, came back home, looked up the area on google earth to confirm that we had the right pylon number. 🙂 Then went back and found it! We also ended up finding another cache 50m away (Monk Monk Cache) from this one and that was the last one for the day.

Overall, it was a fun day. We ended up walking almost 2 miles back and forth and spent half a day to find 4 caches.

Oh! and there are 30 caches in India too. Some people travel international destinations just to geocache. And we now know why.

Good fun!

Thank you Tom.

GPS Fun

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Sometime last year, I got to use a borrowed bluetooth gps receiver. Since then, I have used various combinations of gps receivers with smart phones and software that can munch on the data and spit out something useful.

Last month while flying from NY to Portland, I used my macbook to log gps data using –

That gave me raw NMEA data from the GPS device. Used GPSBabel to convert that data to Google Earth KML and here is what I got.

What I really wanted to do was to track my flight training sessions on gps and plot them on google earth. There were various problems. First was that I did not have a bluetooth GPS unit of my own. I borrowed a Teletype GPS receiver from Siddharth (another gadget fiddler) sometimes. Other was that I did not have a smart phone kinda device to log that data on the move. Last november, I picked up a Nokia E50 from India which runs a decent version of Symbian. I tried a bunch of cool GPS software for symbian but none of them did what I needed. There were also a lot of problems with the GPS receiver’s accuracy.

There were a lot of sophisticated options available if I had a palm or a windows mobile device. So I borrowed a Tungsten T for a few days and among other experiments, tried the combination with Soaring Pilot. That worked really well. Soaring Pilot is designed for glider pilots but it worked well for my use too. So I went and bought a Treo 680 hoping that I can mount it on the yoke. It turned out that basic SoaringPilot features worked fine on it but when transferring the logged data out of the device, it crashed and rebooted the whole device. Bad! Maybe the next version will fix these problems.

I was back to where I started.

A few weeks back, Mrinal posted a GPS route which he recorded using his Nokia phone. I was thrilled to know that it recorded altitude data too. More than that, it could export the data to google earth format directly. That was *exactly* what I was trying to do. After some initial problems with making the Nokia E50 talk to the bluetooth GPS, I finally figured it out and the results have been amazing.

So, a few days ago, I was flying with a friend who has his own airplane. We flew for about 4 hours in total. He has been trying to log hours like crazy for his commercial rating. We flew down south from Aurora Airport to north bend and then flew for a few miles over the beach at 1500 ft. following US101. That side of Oregon is *really* beautiful. Here is the Google earth file to prove it. Load this file, zoom in and try tilting. With the ocean on one side and lush green jungles on the other, it was just amazing. After a fuel fill up break at Corvallis, we headed back to Aurora airport.

After a successful data log, I decided to log my first solo flight to the West Practice Area. Here is the result. Load in google earth, zoom and tilt for best results. There is a lot of data missing from the point I took off and then just before I landed back at Hillsboro Airport. That is because of the crappy 8 channel GPS receiver I have. I ordered a better unit yesterday and it should be here by tuesday.

For now, I am happy with what I can do with my existing resources.

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