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Friday, July 10, 2009

Solutions For On-The-Go Paperless Geocaching

I have written several posts, articles and videos about paperless geocaching solutions and they are to this day functionally sound. The solution of that time was to utilize an application on your home computer like EasyGPS or GSAK among others and to load the waypoints onto your GPS and gather the geocache information on your PDA device. That way you did not need so much paper and all the information was still at your fingertips. As they say, that was then - this is now.

If you want to REALLY go portable and paperless you are going to have to upgrade a few things and when you do you will never want to look back to the ways of the past again.

I'm talking real portability on the fly which is going to be great if you are on vacation, on the road or you simply need the latest and greatest geocaching information hot and fresh.

Here is what I came up with:

Bye - Bye PDA, Hello Netbook
PDAs are great little helpers but it is time to turn in that old Palm or Handspring for a nice netbook. I just purchased a real nice one that has bluetooth and WiFi with a 160 gig hard drive for a smidgen over $300.00. PDAs still can cost that much today. The one that I am currently typing this on is a Dell Inspiron Mini with 1 gig memory and the aforementioned 160 gig hard drive. It has the power and the memory to run any application that I have at home on my PC but now it's portable with the bluetooth / WiFi connectivity.

Smart Phones Rock
I am sure there are dozens of smart phones out there that have bluetooth functionality. My BlackBerry Curve 8310 works great. It not only has the bluetooth but a built in GPS as well. So even if you still have your trusty GPS unit out there you can use applications like GeocacheNavigator or CacheBerry as backups or companions while geocaching. The main thing is that you are able to connect from your smartphone to your netbook via bluetooth.

Connectivity is the Key
Having WiFi on the netbook is a very nice thing. You are able to work pretty seamlessly with a WiFi hook-in and yet you are immediately limited to places that actually host WiFi. If you have it for your netbook then you have an advantage but what about when you are out and about with no hotspots are available? Read on.

Using your SmartPhone as a Modem
You are really going to have to do some research on this but there are a lot of success stories of people (including myself) who have been able to do this WAP connection. Meaning using your smartphone as a modem so your computer can hook into the Internet. I am going to give you the link I used to get mine working. Your success is going to depend on your phone carrier and the model phone you have. If this does not give you what you need check out the Internet for more details. It is out there you just have to look for it.

Here is the link I used:

Before you start using the Internet Access of your smart phone you should make sure that you have Unlimited Internet Access otherwise this could cost you more than just a pretty penny. Internet media is charged by the meg and can add up quickly. This is not the same as texting charges which are separate. When all is said and done you should be able to connect to WiFi networks and Bluetooth WAP connections from your netbook to the internet.

GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife)
GSAK is a very nice application used by geocachers that you should be able to run on your netbook without a hitch. It is basically a series of databases which holds information from .gpx or .loc based files and stores them for you to query specifics about geocaches. Many people are premium members of Geocaching.com and as members you can be sent a whole series of Pocket Queries which are configured by you and contain geocaches from any area or type you choose. They are then loaded into GSAK and visually displayed in the application itself.

There is a section of GSAK where you can type public logging information about a geocache when you find it. There is another part of that section where you can keep personal notes as well. Then when you are ready you can upload the public logging information to geocaching.com when ready.

How It All Comes Together
The netbook computer will have complete portability because it will have access to both WiFi hotspots and WAP connections through your smartphone. This will allow access to the internet for places like geocaching.com, google earth, etc. You will utilize pocket queries or standard queries through geocaching.com and store them into a geocaching application like GSAK. Once loaded into GSAK you can log your geocaching and personal notes per geocache then load them into geocaching.com any time you would like. So in a sence you have a mobile version of GSAK at your fingertips. If for some reason you do not have access to the Internet because of interference like high foliage, buildings, mountains, etc. You still have access to the GSAK database and can still pull geocache information.

After figuring out where you want to geocache you can download from your notebook into your different GPS devices both handheld and road. You will have access to a host of macros, filters and other criteria to choose exactly what and where you want to geocache.

All this and more can be achieved and you didn't have to use a single scrap of paper. In fact your notebook will be the center of your geocachemobile's headquarters.

See you out on the trails and BTW I typed all of this in a nice shaded park, miles from any WiFi hotspot. Ahh the joys of technology when it works.

Have fun and see you out on the trails,


Please don't forget to visit our GeoSnippits Geocaching Tutorial Videos Website at http://www.geosnippits.com


Camo said...

I too use a netbook (Asus Eee 1000) to do my paperless caching. I still have my Palm TX that was my main paperless unit, but it has certainly gone to the wayside. If you are able to shut the Wifi off on most of these netbooks, you can get 7 hours of battery life. Thats more than enough to get you through an entire day if you send it to sleep once in a while.
One other thing I would like to mention that I am not sure if many cachers are aware of is wap.geocaching.com, a light version of geocaching.com. It can get you the basics such as descriptions, hints and past logs (which have helped me Oh so much). This is accessible via a cell phone browser and is much easier on the MBs than a full HTML page, though I would still recommend a unlimited plan if possible. Plus you will likely always have your phone on you while in the woods, a place that my netbook does not follow me to :D

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Another (free) paperless tool to check out if you have a smartphone with data access is bcaching.com. It provides more information than the geocaching WAP site but still in a mobile-friendly format. Unlike the WAP site, it depends on pocket queries, but you get a personalized bcaching.com email to which you can send daily automated PQs so that your paperless info is always up to date. It also provides field notes that can be uploaded to geocaching.com for easy logging.