Friday, July 25, 2008

Okay, I lied.

I just can't leave it alone. ;)

I took my new iPhone 3G out for it's first geocaching run this evening. I left my magellan at home to see how it worked.

I intentionally drove a few miles. My work on saving coordinates paid off, I got to watch my testing coordinates move my target arrow down the road.

With the 3G phone I was able to quickly pull up the first traditional cache I could find. What luck, it was about 200 meters from me. In a park that doubled for a water basin along the road a block away. There were a bunch of kids there so I decided to look for another cache. I picked a cache that I recognized and had previously wanted to hit but hadn't had the time. I drove nearly right to it and wandered around for a minute. I didn't know how much to trust the GPS in the iPhone, so instead of trusting it I looked first where I thought the cache would be. After a minute or two I gave up and followed the coordinates, not really believing them.

And there it was, right where the iPhone said it should be. Within a meter. Guess I need to be less trusting of the haters out there that have trashed the GPS in the iPhone. =)

I came away from this experience with a couple of things.

First, it's much more annoying than I thought to not have the compass auto-rotate. This will be much easier to do with the new firmware that apple has in beta, but I may do something here sooner than that. Did I mention it was annoying? =) I wish I had had access to a 3G iPhone sooner, some o fthis would have been taken care of via testing like this.

Second, the screen going dark and locking is terribly annoying. I know how to fix this, but I didn't believe that it would be a huge issue. I hated this. Mark that one down for the next update.

Third, the arrow and coordinates are updating a ton. And I mean a TON. I may actually throttle back the updates, it really doesn't need to happen more than once or twice a second. It's nice, but it's got to be a battery drain.

Fourth, the accuracy is more of a problem than I thought. With no indication of accuracy I was never sure really how close I was to the cache. Once I lost the GPS signal and my range jumped to almost a kilometer then back again fairly quickly. I'll have to add something for both of these in there.

Gotta love usability testing. =)

Oh, I have added a FAQ here. Please post any questions and/or answers that you feel would be appropriate for geopher lite.

Again, I'm planning on doing a Q/A response to some of the comments here soon, but I won't force you to sit through that at the moment.

Thanks for stopping by.


Patty Hayes said...

Found my first geocache with your program today! w00t! Accurate to within a meter or two I would say (wow!).

I wouldn't worry so much about not integrating smoothly with - your program seems to be the iphone app that is the furthest along as a general purpose GPS interface. I know i'm for sure going to use it to mark mushroom patches in the forst come september.

One thing though - it's KILLER on the batteries. Perhaps there could be something in the settings page that sets how often it updates lat/lon?

Or perhaps we all need buy battery extenders when we are GPSing -

Thanks so much for your work!



Marlin said...

I agree it's a battery killer. Gps updates every second would be fine if it saves on the battery.

Since it looks like we are stuck with manually entering the coords, what can be done to streamline the process?

Personally, I think that it should default to a user set N W E S on the lat or long. It isn't like most users are going to be switching those very often, and that would save on the fiddling with the alpha keyboard. Would there be a way to be able to use the numerical keyboard and let it auto fill in the decimal?

Deacon Patrick said...


I'm delighted that you have created geocaching software; however, I am looking for a downloadable topo map / GPS interface for use in hiking areas beyond data signal. Any ideas? Any plans for Geopher updates having such capability?

Gilbert said...

Three ideas for making it easier to enter the coordinates:

a) implement copy/paste for the page.

b) make a user setting for the coordinates' format and give us preset fields for degrees, minutes etc.

c) use a drop-down (like when setting the alarm clock) for those fields.

Patty Hayes said...

Another option is to is auto fill in lat and lon fields partially depending on the users location. So all they need to fill in the latter part of the coordinates. Of course you wouuld allow them to back-up and enter a location that is far away - but auto-filling the begginging of coordinates would help

Just some ideas to throw around!


DadGuy said...

Thanks patrick. I originally did this, but it became tedious quickly to always backspace out what had been auto-entered. I am planning on entering the direction automatically based on the existing coordinates already, I will consider auto-entering the major portion of the latitude/longitude as well. Thanks for the suggestion.

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DadGuy has been working with apple computers since the mac classic. I love games and puzzles and like to solve problems. I'm having a blast developing for the iPhone and iPad.