Geocaching API Distance Limits

Geocaching Live, GSAK 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 ]

 

 

 

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Pro Tip: Downgrading your Garmin GPSr firmware

This tip is for the Colorado, Oregon, GPSMAP 62/78 and Dakota line of Garmin GPS recievers.

The story goes something like this.  You upgraded your Garmin GPS receiver to the latest beta firmware.  Perhaps it was because of a new feature, or a bug that was listed as fixed, or a bug that wasn’t listed but you were hoping was fixed, or you’re just a glutton for punishment.  Whatever the reason, you’re now running the latest and greatest.  Or so you thought…  You notice that a new bug, or two, has been introduced.  It’s serious enough that the reason you upgraded isn’t worth the aggravation.  You want to go back.

If you were running a previous beta it’s easy.  Just run the EXE file for that firmware and you’re back to where you were.

But what if you want to go back to a release version.  You don’t have an EXE for that since you’ve probably used Webupdater to load it.  No problem.  Webupdater puts the firmware file in the Garmin folder on your unit in a file called gupdate.gcd.  All you had to do was copy this file somewhere else before you rebooted your GPS receiver.  Just copy that file back to the Garmin folder and reboot.  You’re done.

“But I didn’t back up anything!”, you say.  Since this is the first time you want to go back you probably didn’t make a back up of the firmware file.  Fortunately you’re not stuck.  The good folks at gpsfix.net have prepared for this possibility and have links to the firmware files on their wiki pages.  Just download GCD file for the firmware you want, rename it to gupdate.gcd, put it in your Garmin folder on your GPS receiver and reboot.

There is one small gotcha.  Going back to a previous version of firmware will reset all the settings on your GPSr.  Your battery type, WAAS enabled, units, and other customizations will all go back to defaults.  Your loaded maps, geocaches and custom POI will be left alone.  Waypoints will probably survive as well.

Here’s the links to the wiki pages for all the GPS recievers:

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New beta firmware for Colorado GPS Receiver

Colorado 3.52 Updater

Garmin has released a firmware update for the Colorado.  What’s exciting is that they added Chirp support.  There were mixed messages coming from Garmin tech support as to whether or not the Colorado’s hardware was capable of talking to a Chirp.

Colorado Beta 3.52 Screen Capture

Colorado v3.52: Download

  • Added support for chirp™ detection. This software update will allow Colorado units to detect previously-programmed chirp™ units. See http://www.garmin.com/chirp for details on which units are chirp™ compatible. NOTE: Due to the hardware present in Colorado devices, chirp™ detection range may be less than that of other compatible devices.
  • Updated magnetic Earth field data.
  • Fixed issue with certain JPEGs not drawing from Custom Maps.
  • Fixed issue with Oblique Mercator User Grid distances.

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New beta firmware for GPSMAP 62/78, Oregon x50, Oregon and Dakota GPS Receivers

Garmin has release a second round of firmware updates for their Geocaching capable receivers.

GPSMAP 62/78 v2.92: Download

  • Fixed issues with WAAS/EGNOS
  • Fixed issue with progress bar displaying properly on power up
  • Fixed issue with track navigation not adding waypoints to the Active Route list when they are exactly equal to a track point

Oregon v4.12: Download

  • Fixed issues with WAAS/EGNOS
  • Fixed issue with photo viewer not displaying correctly
  • Fixed issue with 3D view
  • Fixed issue with track navigation not adding waypoints to the Active Route list when they are exactly equal to a track point

Oregon x50 v4.32: Download

  • Fixed issues with WAAS/EGNOS
  • Fixed issue with moon not showing on sun and moon page
  • Fixed issue with photo viewer not displaying correctly
  • Fixed issue with progress bar displaying properly on power up
  • Fixed issue with waypoint distances showing significantly off in the waypoint manager
  • Fixed issue with 3D view
  • Fixed issue with track navigation not adding waypoints to the Active Route list when they are exactly equal to a track point

Dakota v3.82: Download

  • Fixed issues with WAAS/EGNOS
  • Fixed a hang that occurred when a unit had 1000 auto-named waypoints
  • Fixed issue with track navigation not adding waypoints to the Active Route list when they are exactly equal to a track point

As always, use at your own risk.  If you have to go back  to a previous version of firmware it will reset all your settings to default.

Dakota software version 3.82

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Geocaching.com – Maintenance Mode!

The long awaited update to the geocaching.com web site has begun today shortly after 2pm.

The three main updates are:

  • Geocaching Favorites
  • Geocaching Maps
  • Geocaching Statistics

You can read more about it here:  Geocaching.com site update 12/21/10

Geocaching Favorites

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Oregon x50 v4.31, Oregon v4.11, and Dakota v3.81 Beta Firmware

Garmin has also released beta firmware for the Oregon series. Very similar list of fixes:

  • Updated magnetic Earth field data
  • Improved GPS performance
  • Fixed issue with track navigation sometimes not adding waypoints to the Active Route list
  • Fixed issue with MPC map labels disappearing
  • Fixed shutdown on the map page when you have a geocache dashboard active and return after pressing the geocache name

The firmware can be downloaded either here Oregon Updates & Downloads or here Oregon x50 Updates & Downloads depending on which model you own.

The Dakota also has beta firmware, again with a very similar list of fixes:

  • Updated magnetic Earth field data
  • Improved GPS performance
  • Fixed issue with track navigation sometimes not adding waypoints to the Active Route list
  • Fixed issue with MPC map labels disappearing

The firmware can be downloaded here: Dakota Updates & Downloads

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GPSMAP 62/78 Beta Firmware v2.91

Garmin has made the beta v2.91 firmware for the GPSMAP 62/78 series GPS receivers available for download. As with all beta firmware, use at your own risk.

The fixes in this version:

  • Updated magnetic Earth field data
  • Improved GPS performance
  • Fixed issue with track navigation sometimes not adding waypoints to the Active Route list
  • Fixed issue with track and route review from the map page if you came from the elevation plot
  • Fixed issue with MPC map labels disappearing
  • Fixed issue with gpi files that have alerts attached to the points

The firmware can be downloaded at: GPSMAP 62/72 Updates & Downloads

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Geocaching.com Growing Pains

While the Geocaching.com site may be back up after the update, it’s not without any hiccups. The site is very slow in responding currently.

Pocket Queries have also not run for today and the iPhone app can’t connect to the site.

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