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In the spring of 2000, a man in Oregon hid a box of toys in the woods, posted the geographic coordinates of its location on a Web site, and issued a challenge for others to find it. People used their GPS receivers to find his treasure, and a new game was born. Today over a million people worldwide participate in geocaching, hiding stashes of trinke[Read More]



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Are you looking for a gift for that hard-to-buy-for geocaching person in your life? Geocaching sweatshirts make the perfect gift. Geocaching clothing is impossible to buy in local stores. Purchasing a hoodie for yoru geocacher will not only help keep them warm, but the pocket in front is useful when looking for that difficult cache.



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intelligent_geocaching_575

One would think that someone smart enough to use a computer, the internet and a GPS to searched for geocaches, would also be smart enough to avoid causing a bomb scare.

The recent rash of bomb scares that turned out to be geocache containers, is a serious blow to the geocaching hobby. These reports not only give the wrong impression about geocaching, but could lead to a ban on geocaching. Some cities are considering laws and ordinances that limit, and in some cases ban geocaching because of the repeated bomb scares.

Recent headlines:

  • Geocache Causes Bomb Scare In New Zealand
  • Charges not likely after geocaching bomb scare
  • "Geocaching" Web Game Leads To Bomb Scare
  • A suspicious package attached to a pole forced the closure of Riverside Drive and a section of Ottawa’s bus Transitway for several hours yesterday.
  • An Internet treasure-hunting game sparked county-wide panic Friday night and resulted in a bomb squad from Harrisburg being called to Waynesboro to detonate a suspicious device.
  • GeoCache Game Creates Bomb Scare at Dog Beach - San Diego
  • BOISE -- Tuesday’s closure of Highway 55 has brought a lot of attention to something called geocaching.

Are laws limiting or prohibiting geocaching an over-reaction to a simple issue, or a reaction to the alarming increase in the lack of good judgment shown by a small percentage of Geocachers?

Why are geocaching container bomb scares a problem?  Not only does an emergency evacuation cause massive disruption, but can cause thousands of dollars to be spent by responding emergency personnel. If a bomb squad is deployed for a suspicious package, the cost of the emergency responders can top $10,000 for only a few hours.  Many cites are considering charging Geocachers for these unnecessary expenses.

As a group that enjoys geocaching, we must collectively police ourselves and discourage others from using geocache containers that may appear to be a bomb or suspicious package.  If you find a cache that could be mistaken for a bomb, report the cache to the owner and to the site that listed the cache (such as Geocaching.com)

Here are some tips to avoid any potential problems:

1. Do not hide a cache in an area that can cause immediate suspicion: avoid under bleachers, near intersections, under bridges, near schools or public gathering spaces.

2. Always use an external waterproof sticker on the cache that identifies it as a geocache container.

3. Use a clear container so the contents can be clearly visible to emergency responders that may be called.

4. Don't use a container that looks like a bomb. Incredibly, some Geocachers use bad judgment and make containers that look identical to a bucket bomb or pipe bomb.  What were they thinking?

The below geocaching containers were mistaken for bombs:



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Garmin Oregon 550t

GPS Checklist

When choosing a GPS to use for Geocaching, it's important to find the right unit for your needs. There are so many different choices available, it can be difficult to choose the right GPS.

Here are the basics to keep in mind:

1. Portability
Any GPS can be used for geocaching, but a portable hand-held GPS is almost a necessity. A vehicle mounted GPS can get you in the vicinity of a geocache, but unless you can dismount the GPS and carry it with you, "close" won't get you close enough.

The best GPS is a portable unit that fits comfortably in your hand. Hold the GPS in your hand and make sure that you can easily and comfortably manipulate the controls.

2. Waterproof
Not all hand-held GPS units are waterproof. A waterproof GPS is an absolute necessity. Even if you only do occasional and casual geocaching, you will get your GPS wet at some point. It will be dropped in the mud, dropped in a puddle or you will get caught in the rain. It's not a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when".

Be aware of the difference between "waterproof" and "water-resistant". Waterproof means that the GPS can be fully submerged in liquid and remain watertight and functional. "Water-Resistant" means that the GPS can tolerate a certain amount of moisture (such as getting rained on), but can not be fully submerged.

3. Shockproof
Like the question of will my GPS get wet, assume that at some point you will drop your GPS. It's not a matter of "if", it's a matter of when. Unfortunately, unlike the distinction between waterproof and water-resistant, the difference between "shockproof" and shock-resistant" is not as clear or easily defined. Look for a hand-held GPS that has a rubber outer coating. This not only helps you hold on to the GPS, but it helps reduce the shock if it's dropped.

4. Usability
GPS units can run the gauntlet from simple with limited functionality, to complicated with full functionality. Whatever GPS you choose, make sure that you can figure out how to load coordinates, search for locations and navigate through the menu options. You would be surprised at everything a full-featured GPS unit can do. The newer generation GPOS units can not only find geocaches, but they can show you the next exit on the highway and many even have a built in digital camera.

5. Updates
Every GPS needs the ability to receive map updates. Most GPS units can connect to a computer via a USB cable to receive software/map updates, and most also include a Secure Digital (SD) card slot for installing manufacturer updates.



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geomate_575

The Apisphere Geomate.Jr is a basic, entry level geocaching GPS designed to be beginner and kid friendly.  Cnet calls the Geomate.Jr the "Easy-Bake Oven of handheld GPS devices".

The Geomate.Jr offers a basic and easy to follow user interface that allows the users to concentrate more on geocaching than on the setup and loading of the geocache coordinates.

The good news: The Geomate.Jr comes pre-loaded with 250,000 caches and allows true out-of-the-box geocaching.

The bad news: You have to constantly pay for "update kits" to keep the cache list current. With the rate that caches are added, moved and changed, the updates could be costly.  As of the time of this writing, the projected cost of the update kit is $24.95

Pros:
Beginner and kid friendly operation.
Splash proof and shock resistant
Ability to set a "Home" location so your kids won't be lost.

Cons:
Not waterproof.
Unit can not be updated from the internet database, you must purchase update kits to get the newest caches or locations. The projected price of the update kit is $24.95.
No internal compass, so you must be moving for it to work.
Does not have the full function or capability of a standard GPS.

With the cost of the unit set at $70.00, and the need for constant updates at $25 pr update, the final cost of the Geomate.Jr could be well above a standard GPS - and you won't have the flexibility of updating cache locations as they change, or the full functionality of a GPS.

The cost of a full featured GPS can be between $65.00 and $100.00 for a starter unit. A standard GPS may be a little harder to learn to update, but is well worth the effort when you learn to use the units full capabilities.

Our recommendation: Go with a standard GPS that's waterproof and can be updated from your home computer.



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From DefenseSystems.com

GPS constellations have outlived usefulness By William Jackson May 08, 2009 New satellites may not be ready in time to prevent interruptions

The Defense Department's space-based Global Positioning System is essential to U.S. national security and critical to the success of our military operations around the world, the commander of the Joint Functional Command for Space told a House panel Thursday.

"Clearly, the GPS constellation enables our forces worldwide to maneuver into a militarily advantageous position and then, through various GPS-aided munitions, exploit that tactical advantage," Lt. Gen. Larry James told the House Oversight and Government Reform's subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

But the Space Command is struggling to maintain an aging system while a new generation of satellites is being readied.

"As with all our military satellite constellations, the GPS constellations includes satellites which have exceeded their design life, operate with partial capability, or are a single key component away from failure," James said.

The next generation of satellites, the first of which now is scheduled for launch in November, is three years behind schedule and the Government Accountability Office said the schedule for the subsequent generation, now in development stages, is overly optimistic.

"It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption," said Cristina T. Chaplain, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management. "If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected," as early as next year.

Concerns about the possible loss or degradation of some GPS services led the subcommittee to hold a hearing on the challenges facing the program.

GPS uses precise timing signals from a fleet of military satellites to provide real time positioning, navigation and timing services almost anywhere in the world. Originally intended for military use, a separate civilian signal also is provided for increasingly important commercial GPS services.

The Space Command is required to maintain at least 24 GPS satellites in orbit, and currently is maintaining 30 operational satellites, James said. This is possible in part by maintaining a "ghost fleet" of older, partially mission-capable satellites in backup mode.

"Currently, three vehicles are held in residual status and are returned to the constellation every six months to ensure operational capability,"
James said.

Extra life also is being squeezed from the satellites by reducing power to or turning off equipment for secondary missions aboard the GPS satellites.

The Air Force launched the seventh of the current generation of GPS satellites, the Block IIR-M, in March, and in 2007 successfully replaced a 22-year-old Master Control Station with a new station that will support the next generation of satellites, the GPS IIF, said Maj. Gen.
Neil McCasland, the Air Force's director of space acquisitions. The first IIF satellite is set to launch in November, with the remaining members of the family to be launched over the next three to five years.

McCasland acknowledged delays in the IIF program, but said the Air Force has learned from them to keep the following generation of satellites, the GPS III, on schedule.

"Learning from the difficulties encountered with GPS IIF, we have placed responsibility to deliver our system back where it belongs - with the government," he said. "We have also put a team of retired military officers and senior contractor leadership in place to provide management, systems engineering and business operations training and mentoring for these personnel."

McCasland said a preliminary design review of the IIIA satellite is on schedule to be completed in coming weeks and the program is on track for a first launch in 2014. Control systems, receivers and other systems to support the satellites also are in development, he said.

"We worked hard with our requirements arm, our industrial partners and our fiscal planners to ensure we integrated every lesson from the past to create a high-confidence GPS III schedule," he said.

But the GAO was not as sanguine about this schedule.

"GAO's analysis found that this schedule is optimistic, given the program's late start, past trends in space acquisitions and challenges facing the new contractor," Chaplain said. "Of particular concern is leadership for GPS acquisition, as GAO and other studies have found the lack of a single point of authority for space programs and frequent turnover in program managers have hampered requirements setting, funding stability and resource allocation."

GAO also raised concerns about a lack of synchronization between satellite development and acquisition, and acquisition of ground control and support equipment, and inadequate cooperation with civilian-sector stakeholders.

DOD has said recognized the importance of centralizing authority to oversee the evolution of the GPS and that it will work to improve civil agency understanding of the DOD requirements process and work to strengthen civil agency participation. Improved management and cooperation are critical, GAO said.

"If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to," Chaplain said. "Such a gap in capability could have wide-ranging impacts on all GPS users, though there are measures the Air Force and others can take to plan for and minimize these impacts."

Original Article:

http://defensesystems.com/Articles/2009/05/08/DOD-faces-GPS-challenges.aspx



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