Scavenger Hunts and Technology

December 1, 2010

I’m going to let you in on a new pastime that seems to be gathering some steam. Geocaching as defined by its website is:

“Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online.”

What that means is fellow geocachers hide geocaches, which can be any type of container as long as it can hold a log book, outside where it can be legally accessed.  For instance, there is a statue memoralizing Robert Peary located near where I live.  Someone placed a geocache at this site as a way to bring in out-of-towners in to see it.  The container was a fake rock that contained a log book for successful cachers to sign.  Link to Geocache page.

The reason I enjoy this hobby so much is because it takes the good ol’ pastime of hiking and site seeing and mixes it with technology.


Technology


The GPSr (Global Positioning System Receiver) is the basic tool used for Geocaching. Although, it is not the only technological tool. Many popular companies are developing devices and software packages for Geocaching. For instance, Magellan and Garmin have been creating car and hiking GPSr’s, recently, to include modules for Geocaching. Also, software developers for both the iPhone and Android systems have been actively creating and updating helpful tools.


C:GEO

A popular software package that I, as well as the majority of Geocaching Android users, use is called C:Geo. Its a completely free tool that is built for both the casual and hardcore geocacher. C:Geo takes advantage of the Droid’s built in GPSr and allows the user to search for geocaches based on the phone’s location. For instance, say you’re in Washington DC and you suddenly have the urge to geocache. Simply open C:Geo and tell it to search for nearby geocaches, and it will display a list of geocaches base on their locations starting from nearest to farthest.

It also has a built in search function so that you can look up any geocache by name, location, GC numbers (unique number given to each geocache), or username.

Another function that C:Geo provides saves geocachers from a lot of headaches.

Finally, C:Geo allows you to post a “Found it” status on geocaching.com from where you are. No longer do you have to try and remember the names of all the geocaches you found during a long day of caching, you can simply log them as you go.

Where C:Geo comes up short is that it will only allow for live geocache searches while in 3G service. Once you drop signal, which happens frequently in the woods, C:Geo is basically useless.

Thankfully, C:Geo has released an update in which you can save geocaches onto your SD card for later use. This way if you know that you’re going after a certain geocache that won’t be in a 3G zone, you can cache it and pull it up in “offline” mode when needed.

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Windows Premium 7 for almost half the price?

December 1, 2010

If I were to tell you that I could get you Windows Home Premium 7 onto your computer for the price of around $127, you’d probably think I was bootlegging it or out of my mind.  Crazy as I am, it seems that Microsoft could be cheating its customers, or at least so it seems.

Recently, I had a Sony Vaio laptop given to me with the task of repairing it.  Once repaired and returned to its owner, the owner stated, with disgust, that the laptop has run like crap since the day she bought it.  She asked if perhaps the laptop could have been a lemon.  “Its not the laptop,” I told her.  “Its most likely Windows Vista that’s making your computer run like crap.”

In desperation, she forked over the money for a Windows 7 Upgrade Disk. Once purchased, I took it home with the thought of what a headache I had before me.  According to Microsoft, I was going to have to format the computer with Vista, install drivers in Vista, and then upgrade to Windows 7 via the upgrade disk.  Turns out, that the Windows 7 Upgrade disk is bootable and has the same interface that you would expect from the Windows 7 Home Premium disk.  I was able to format the partition and install a fresh copy of Windows 7.  Let me remind you that I didn’t install this over top of Vista’s file system.

I haven’t been able to test this on any other machines yet, so it could have been a fluke.  So don’t rush out getting upgrade disks unless you have a legal copy of Vista or XP, just in case.  My only hope for this article is that it potentially saves you the $70+ you could be spending for a full Windows 7 disk.

If you attempt this install, please share your experience by commenting below!

*NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that although it is possible to install Windows 7 without having XP or Vista previously installed, it is ILLEGAL to install it without owning a copy of XP or Vista.


DROID!

December 4, 2009


Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am the proud owner of the Motorola Droid.  This phone IS the iPhone killer. I know that’s a bold statement, but that’s how I feel.  This phone does everything from 3G web browsing, real time map updates while running a GPS, media playback, YouTube integration, thousands of apps, and more.

The following is a breakdown of my favorite features on the Droid:

3G Web Browsing. The web browser built into the Droid is much like the one implemented into the iPhone.  It allows for scrolling and zoom capabilities by the touch of the main screen.   A lot of phones on Verizon’s network up until now have great phones but terrible mobile web browsers.  If you wanted to navigate to a site that did not implement a mobile version of its site, you were screwed.  The Droid however allows you to view web pages in their original format.

802.11g capabilites. The Droid also has the ability to connect to access points for quicker browsing if you’re at home, work, Starbucks, or wherever.  Thanks to the nice little alerts bar at the top of the interface, its easy to connect to open WiFi connections that you may have stumbled upon.  You can also set up secured APs through the Droid’s settinsg app which will keep a database of SSIDs and their keys.   Once the Droid picks up one of the saved SSIDs, it will automatically connect to it.

WiFi

Google Maps/GPS/Car Mode. I absolutely love these features.  The Droid has an App that comes preloaded that changes the desktop layout of the droid into an easier to navigate while driving interface.  Instead of having to search for basic features such as phone, maps, and Google voice search on a cluttered desktop, they’re placed on a neatly organized toolbar.

The google maps and GPS integration is amazing.  This feature makes car GPS’s obsolete since Google maps never gets outdated.  What I mean by this is when you set up a route that you would like to travel, the Droid queries Google Map databases for the best route and then sends the latest map to your phone for navigation.  This is a great feature as long as you start your journey in a place that has 3G.  Maps will be unable to load if you attempt to set up a route from outside of the 3G network since Google databases will be unreachable.

Car App

Google Maps

Media Playback. The Droid comes default with a 16Gb micro SD card installed.  This allows for a lot of storage space for apps, music, videos, and other data.    Most of my 16Gb card is filled with mp3.  The music player is somewhat limited in features but organized neatly and efficiently.  When you first open the Music Player you are greeted with 4 options: Artists, Albums, Songs, and Playlists.  Each one respectively shows what it’s title describes.  Once you choose how you want to play the music, you are taken to the player itself.   The player comes equipped with Album art, playlist, shuffle, repeat, song information, play/pause, rewind/backtrack, fast forward/skip to next track, and a progress bar.

Multitasking. The Droid allows for true multitasking.  For instance, I use my Droid basically as a media center for my car.  I have the Droid connected to an FM tuner and resting on a dashboard mount.  It is common for me to be running Google Maps and Music Apps simultaneously.  The Music plays constantly until google maps has to tell me something or a phone call comes in.  In that case the music pauses and picks back up where it left off once the other apps are done alerting me.

YouTube Integration. I haven’t used this feature to its fullest potential yet, but it seems like a great idea.  With this preloaded app, you are able to view YouTube videos on your phone.  There is a built-in YouTube search button which allows you to search the YouTube database and load up videos.

The other feature in this app is the ability to record videos with the Droid’s built-in camera and then immediately upload it to YouTube via WiFi or 3G.  I’ve only tested this by uploaded a 30 second video, but it did in fact upload it pretty quickly (probably about 1 minute).

Youtube

Sliding Keyboard. The Droid is the only Android phone in Verizon’s arsenal that has a physical keyboard.  All other’s have touch screen keyboards much like the Dare’s or Env Touch’s.  The touch screen keyboard is nice, but I like to know that I’m actually hitting buttons.  This also allows, for me atleast, to minimize errors and compose e-mails/texts quicker.

Through all of its glory and majesty, there are some problems that I have with the Droid:

Screen is not multitouch. The screen on the Droid does not support multitouch which only really hurts the use of the on screen keyboard.  For instance, if you are typing something and accidentally have two fingers touching the screen at once, the Droid will only accept whatever the last key you typed was.  So if I typed the letter D and then had two fingers on the screen and tried to touch F, the Droid would register it a D.

Making phone calls. It seems like making a call is more of a hassle than it should be.  Say I wanted to make a call to my friend Todd.  There are 5 + ways I can go about this.  1) Open the phone app and dial his number 2)Open the phone app, hit the Contacts tab, scroll down to his name, touch his name, and finally pick whether I want to call his home or cell 3) Open phone app, hit contacts, touch search icon on phone, and begin to type his name out, touch his name, and choose whether to call his home or cell 4) Make a shortcut of his contact information on the Droid’s desktop 5)use google voice/text search and use keywork “Call Todd.”   It just seems that it takes too many touches to call anyone.

Overall, I give the Droid a 4.5/5