As of this week there are 57,370 people who have accounts at geocaching.com. They have placed 550,474 caches around the world for others to enjoy finding. In the last 7 days, there have been 440,577 new log entries written by account holders describing their experiences at finding (or not finding) the caches. For me, there are a lot more to find — since January 2003 I have found 81 caches (plus 90 benchmarks) in eight states and seven countries. I really enjoy the sport and hope to find quite a few more caches this summer. Geocaching is the tip of the iceberg of "location based" applications.
There are many GPS receivers on the market now with some breaking below the $100 mark. The hot area is GPS for cars. Many new cars offer built-in units as an option but the "after" market is much larger. One of the newest entries is Dash. The new Dash Express claims to be the first two-way, Internet-connected GPS navigation system. The device delivers traffic and destination information in a new way. You can look up somewhere that you want to go using the Internet and then have that "waypoint" delivered via cellular or WiFi signal directly to your Dash. You then select the new waypoint and the GPS will guide you to your destination. The Dash can also show you the location of all other cars nearby that have a Dash. That makes it a good proxy for traffic but what would be much better would be if all the GPS manufacturers got to together and agreed on a standard for information sharing so that each GPS could actually show the "total" traffic in the area, not just traffic of those cars that have a Dash.
I have been using GPS devices for quite a few years and have or have had most of the manufacturers. On the trike, I have the TomTom Rider. On other bikes I have Garmins. For the last few years I have been using a Magellan for geocaching. They make a really nice device but I don’t like their software. GPS is becoming ubiquitous but the formats for the data storage and data interchange with PCs is a Tower of Babel. Magellan is not alone — the entire GPS industry thrives on proprietary formats that they think help them maintain market share but actually constrict the market and confuse customers. Thankfully, there is a great piece of software called GSAK (geocaching Swiss Army Knife) that is indispensable for anyone who wants to exchange GPS data with their PC. I highly recommend it. GSAK allows you to download thousands of caches from geocaching.com to an easy to use desktop application. You can then sort them, search them, organize them in various ways, see all the logs of those of have found (or not) the caches, and a Google Map to show exactly where the caches are. Once you are ready to pack up and head for the trails, GSAK allows you to easily transfer the selected cache information to your GPS.
As soon as the backorder gets filled I will be ready to go geocaching with the new Garmin Colorado 400t. Looks like the Colorado will be a rugged and advanced handheld and it will be pre-loaded with detailed topographic maps with a 3-D map view, a high-sensitivity receiver, barometric altimeter, electronic compass, an SD card slot, picture viewer and a bright color display. I will be reporting on whether it is as good as it sounds or not. Meanwhile two of my Magellans went on eBay this week and hopefully they will make a new geocacher somewhere happy.