Posted on February 28th, 2010
After an autumn and winter which saw me have very little time for geocaching or writing Ammotin, I’ve dusted off the project and plan to continue developing it. I used it last week end to plan a caching trip, and I’m “eating my dog food” by using it to write and submit my log entries.
As soon as I’ve got that basic plan-trip/submit-logs workflow working, I’ll look at releasing an alpha…
Posted on June 30th, 2009
This is exciting news – an even more complete topographic map of the earth. This should ultimately make contour lines and elevation data in OpenStreetMap and applications like Ammotin even better!
Here’s a view of Death Valley generated by NASA, created by draping an Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) simulated natural color image over digital topography from the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM) data set:
The NASA servers for getting at the data seem a bit overloaded at present, but I look forward to getting my hands on the data!
Posted on May 26th, 2009
When you’ve been out walking all day, logging all the finds can be slow, tedious work. Ammotin will hopefully streamline this process. You can click on the caches you’ve found and write your log entry into the activity box.
In order to make the process as smooth as possible, there’s no “OK” or “Save” buttons anywhere. Ammotin will just “do the right thing”. To guard against mistakes, there’s full Undo/Redo support.
Once you’ve completed your logging, you can generate a “Field Notes” file similar to the geocache_visits.txt file generated by a Garmin Colorado or Oregon, and upload it directly to Geocaching.com. There will also be support for Greasemonkey extensions to obtain the activity logs so that if you visit the cache page in Ammotin’s browser, it can auto-populate the log form for you.
There’s lots more I want to do here – for example, given a tracklog Ammotin could create some draft activity logs for you to review and expand on. This would be useful for “power trails” where the caches are often dull and unmemorable.
Getting close to the point where you can use Ammotin to plan and log a day’s activity – yay!
Posted on May 17th, 2009
OpenStreetMap is a free map of the world. It is created by volunteers who trace highways, byways and points of interest with a GPS, then use these raw data points to build a high quality map of the entire planet. Like Wikipedia, anyway can become an editor. But perhaps the crucial point is that anyone is free to use the data under a Creative Commons by-sa-2.0 licence.
While you can view the current state of the map at www.openstreetmap.org, there are other renderings of the data tailored for specific uses. For example, Freemap is aimed at walkers, while OpenCycleMap is tailored for cyclists.
It is this freedom which fosters innovation, and I think it’s an exciting time to be using OSM data.
Is there already any use of OSM data for geocaching?
Yes – it’s possible to use an OSM on many Garmin GPS units. Some regularly compiled data files with contour lines are available here, and there are even datasets which can be used for routing with Garmin units too.
So how will Ammotin use OpenStreetMap data?
I’m creating a rendering aimed at geocachers and walkers. The plan is to have good terrain rendering, possibly following the OpenCycleMap design but I may experiment with hill shading. Even in areas where the map is incomplete, the terrain should give some idea of what to expect. Road network will be pretty standard, but I will ensure that car park areas are well presented.
The raw elevation data will come from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. What I’m aiming to do is create a set of tiles corresponding to OSM map tiles, but providing elevation data. I’ll spin that off as “OpenHeightMap” or something similar. The aim is to foster more use of such elevation data, but also to try and gather user-contributed corrections for the numerous (but small) pockets of missing data from the shuttle mission. If you want to read more about those voids and how they can be filled, there’s a great paper on the subject. The Scottish Mountaineering Club have also done some good work with this data.
Is the data good enough?
I’m been impressed with the data in the UK, but there’s still lots of mapping still to be done. However, I believe that even in areas where the mapping is incomplete, the OSM data will still provide a good cartographic depiction to aid decision making, if only because of the elevation data and features which have been mapped.
Will Ammotin allow me to contribute back to OSM
I certainly hope so. My plan is that once upload your tracklog from a days walking into Ammotin you notice that part of your walk doesn’t appear to be on a footpath marked on the map. So, you highlight the relevant portion of the tracklog and choose “Send to OpenStreetMap” and away it goes. It would then guide you in selecting an OSM tool for editing the map based on your submitted tracklog.
So will any other maps be supported
I’ve written Ammotin to enable other mapping sources to be plumbed into it. In the UK, I’d really like to be able to offer Ordnance Survey maps. I’m enquiring about how I might be able to do that so fingers crossed.
If you know of a map source you’d like to see, get in touch!
Posted on May 16th, 2009
In the meantime, take a look at this OS Maps / Google Earth mashup. This uses tiles from Ordnance Survey’s OpenSpace API. This is one of the features I always liked about Memory Map, and its very cool to see this sort of thing done legitimately for free.
Edit #1: Service disabled by Ordnance Survey
Only a few days after I wrote this post, Ordnance Survey disabled the API key used to to provide the map tiles. Even though the implementation was simply delivery of a KML file which mashed up the OS map and Google Earth entirely on the client side, the OS seem to believe that the developer was using Google APIs and somehow transmitting OS property to Google. There’s more on the developer’s blog.
Edit #2: It’s back
Oddly enough, just after I wrote that last update, the service was back up. Hurray!
Posted on May 10th, 2009
Ammotin now has a web browser, allowing you to interact with geocaching websites. Here’s a screenshot of it in action (click for full size)
Just as minor digression, you can see the way the user interface is going – there will be several different “panels” like the map and browser, and you’ll be free to arrange these to suit the task at hand, and save your preferred layouts too. For example, you can arrange panels into tabs:
If you’ve got a multi-monitor desktop, you’ll also appreciate how you can tear off a panel into its own window too…
Back to the browser. It’s based on WebKit, the same engine at the heart of the Safari web browser. I’ve added to this an extension mechanism modelled on Greasemonkey. As far as possible, I’ll make it capable of using existing Greasemonkey scripts targeted at Firefox. However, I’m providing additional features that will allow myself and script authors to talk to Ammotin.
To whet your appetite, here’s a few ideas for things you can do with it
- a “send to ammotin” button on a cache listing to update the Ammotin database with cache details
- a “show in ammotin” button to snap the map to the cache location
- when logging, the cache page can auto-populate your log with notes you’ve made offline in the Ammotin database
I’ve still got to finesse the browser, it needs an address bar, back/forward/stop/reload buttons. It also accepts all cookies thrown at it, I need to make it configurable so the user can control which cookies it uses.
Once I’ve done that, I’ll be turning my attention to the cache listing and editing features. I have some great ideas for filtering caches which I hope will appeal to the novice without turning off the power user.
Continue watching this space!
Posted on May 10th, 2009
My friend and talented artist Peter Shorey will be lending his visual flair to Ammotin. Here’s a very early look at some of his ideas for a logo.
Peter was made redundant last week and is looking for a new gig. Get in touch with him if you know of any web design / graphic artist positions which might be of interest!
Posted on May 7th, 2009
Progress a little slow this week due to a nasty cold, but I now have the ability to download the tracklogs from a Garmin GPS over USB and display them on the map. Here’s the tracklog from my walk up to Pen y Fan at the weekend:
I plan to add the ability to review the speed and altitude profiles of tracklogs, but for now I’m focussed on helping the user review their activity and log their finds. Now that I can see where I’ve been, I want to be able to note which caches I found, and then log them as efficiently as possible. Ammotin will have its own web browser, with Greasemonkey-esque extensibility which will allow me and 3rd party extension authors to write scripts which can augment a webpage using information from the Ammotin database.
That might not sound exciting, but trust me, you’re going to love it.
Posted on May 5th, 2009
Not much progress over the bank holiday weekend – I spent the weekend camping in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, attending a geocaching event. While there I enjoyed a great walk up Pen y Fan, doing several caches en route.
Now that I’ve returned, I want to use Ammotin to review the hike and help me log the caches I did. I’m busy writing code to talk to Garmin GPS receivers over USB, so that I can review my tracklog on the map to see where I’ve been. This work is progressing well with my GPSMap 60csx, but I’ll need to beg and borrow other units for more testing! I hope to have it talking natively to the most common units used for caching. For all other units and power users I’ll provide a way of using GPSBabel or other command line tools to transfer data to and from the receiver.
Thanks for the questions and other feedback via Twitter too. Keep them coming!
Posted on April 29th, 2009
A lot of the work I’ve done so far has been “under the hood” and tediously dull, so it’s nice to reach a point where things are on the screen.
Here then is a first glimpse at how things are shaping up – click the image below for a view of the entire application window….
Veteran geocachers may recognize the icon design is similar to my “Lordelph’s Lovely Icons” for Memory Map. For Ammotin, I went back to the drawing board and created the icons as vector images, allowing me to render them in different sizes. Zoom out, and they are smaller. Zoom in, and they are bigger and more detailed.
Also pictured is a geocache tooltip, which isn’t finished but approaching what I hoped for. It’s nice to zoom in on area and get a rough idea about a geocache just by hovering the mouse.
The map in the background comes from OpenCycleMap, and is derived from OpenStreetMap data. I’m planning on creating a custom rendering of OpenStreetMap data for Ammotin, but I’ll write more about the mapping in another post. Onwards and upwards!