OCNA Photo uploads with logs

Mossy Bank Park overlook, Bath, N.Y.

We at the OCNA blog are falling behind already on our threat to start blogging more again after our 3rd anniversary, and we also vowed we’d talk less about “ourselves”. But here is an OC centric issue we should address; the process of uploading photos to our website with your cache log, and the apparently little known fact that we more than tripled the allowable upload size in March 2015, with the move to our new Web Hosting Company, Kickassd, Inc.

Photo uploads and alternative Geocaching sites:

We’ll mention it right up front. You have to resize your photos yourself in order to upload them to almost all of the free, volunteer run, alternative sites. Unless of course the photo’s size is already under their specified upload limit. Many of the long time users of these sites have become used to this practice, and it’s almost second nature for them. This practice dates back to Navicache.com in 2001, and is followed by gpsgames.org, and all our sister sites in the OpenCaching Network, all with varying maximum upload sizes. As far as Terracaching.com, from 2004-2014, you couldn’t even upload photos period, you had to link to your uploaded photo at a third party service such as photobucket or Flikr. However, with the “new” TC website, your large photos will be resized.

The OCNA upload limit:

From our inception in 2010 until March 2015, we advertised our maximum upload size as 100 kB on our page newpic.php, which you are taken to when you click on the “add picture” link in any log entry you have made on our site. In reality, this limit was 152 kB, and the 100 kB was a buffer, or deterrent of sorts. This was a carry over from Opencaching.uk, which was launched the year before us, and which our whole site is basically a copy of. With the advent of our lightening fast, lean and mean website with Kickassd, Inc., we decided we would increase this limit to 500 kB!

First, resize your photos:

As shown on newpic.php (there is a screen shot later in this post), our permitted file formats are .BMP, .GIF, .PNG and .JPG. We recommend a resolution of 480 x 360 pixels, but this is just a very general guideline to get a photo to below 500 kB in size.

We’re going to have to assume most internet savvy Geocachers have resized photos at some point, otherwise, we could go on for 15 paragraphs about it now! We do have some useful links for you below from the website WikiHow:

Additionally, when using the “share via email” option on a photo from your gallery on most Android or ios devices, you should have a resize option, although you will have to use the trial and error method to the the image below 500 kB. There are also dozens of online image resizer websites, such as imageoptimizer.net. Try that one, or do a Google search.

Add those photos!

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Simply post your log entry to our site first. After your log is posted, you will have the option to edit it, delete it, or to add Picture as shown above. After you click add picture, your are taken to the page newpic.php on our site:

NEWPICGive your image a title. This does not have to be short, there is a 100 character limit! Hit the Browse button to select the file from your computer or device. You are ready to hit submit now to upload your photo to our site, where it will be displayed with your log as a thumbnail image that can be clicked on by yourself or any other user to view full size in a lightbox window. But first notice that we have a SPOILER option. Such as if you took a picture of the cache in it’s hiding spot. In this case, the thumbnail image will be displayed as a blank white panel with the word “SPOILER” written inside it. However, if clicked on, they can see the full sized lightbox image. Here is one of the OCNA Blogger’s cache pages with an example.

Mossy Bank Park overlook-Bath, N.Y. examples from a May 30th find log by Mr.Yuck. The image is actually only about 180 kB, not much larger than our old 152 kB limit. It can be clicked on on this page to view full size in a lightbox window.

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Guest post: Building my “Simon Says” smart cache

This guest post, detailing how to build an awesome Simon Says type gadget cache, is by Hyliston, a Geocacher from Massachusetts. It originally appeared on his own Geocaching blog, on April 29th, 2016. You can read more about him at his nicely done Geocaching.com profile.


I actually built this cache last summer, but still get tons of requests for instructions on how to make it. I didn’t document everything as I went, but this should help people who are interested in building something similar.

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Inside Simon Says

The cache page for GC5PTYV: Simon Says can be found here.

The Cache Container

I did not take many photos of the container as I was building it.  Sorry.  But here a few things I kept in mind as I figured out the final dimension:

  • I needed the main panel to fit the four buttons and a 3 AA battery holder
  • I wanted to use a metal Pokémon tin as the cache container, so I had to make sure the cache compartment was big enough to hold it
  • I wanted the cache door to open on its own, so I had to leave space for a latching mechanism

I knew I wanted to try to make the outer container as a birdhouse.  So, the main button panel and the cache container determined the width and total height of the birdhouse, while the depth of the Pokémon tin determined the depth of the birdhouse.  It actually ended up being pretty close to the dimensions for a bluebird house.

I ended up building the birdhouse out of red oak, which was a mistake: it is HEAVY!  I was concerned about the steel pole holding it up properly, but it seems to be doing a good job, along with the tree behind it at the final location.  Because people will be pressing the buttons, I’d recommend some kind of object behind you final cache, so that they don’t push the whole thing over.

Simon Says Open by marcipanek
Simon Says Open by marcipanek
Simon Says Latching Mechanism
Simon Says Latching Mechanism

You can see the steel pipe and tree behind the cache in the left photo.  In the right photo, you can see the latching mechanism in more detail.  The bolt with the spring around it is slightly compressed when the door is closed, and pushes the door open when the latch releases.  Above the bolt, you can see a bent piece of metal with an orange wire tied around it.  It acts as the latch. A small hole is drilled for the wire to go through, which connects to the servo in the chamber above, which is where all the electronics are.  When the servo spins, it pulls on the orange wire, lifting the latch and allowing the springed-bolt to push open the door.

The Circuitry

For the circuit, I thought through what I wanted: an Arduino microcontroller, 4 different colored lights (preferable the same as the classic Simon game), 4 buttons, a speaker for sound, a way to power the cache, and a way to open the cache door.  Ideally, the 4 lights and 4 buttons should be the same object – that is, the buttons themselves should light up different colors.

The Prototype

Based on this, I decided to try and build a mock-up using parts I already had from Maker Shed’s Ultimate Arduino Microcontroller Pack, which my wife had gotten me for Christmas the previous year.

I made a video of the prototype in action:

 

You’ll notice a few compromises: all of the colors were red, the buttons and the lights were separate, and the power supply was coming straight from my computer over a USB cord.  This was just a proof of concept, and I was satisfied I could scale it up.  If you’d like to copy it, here is a circuit diagram of the prototype (minus the servo) from Sparkfun:

Simon Says Prototype Fritzing Diagram
Simon Says Prototype Fritzing Diagram

The Final Circuit

Here is a parts list for the final version (remember, I used small parts from a kit to prototype it), along with a rough cost in USD.  I have no affiliation with Adafruit.

You’ll also need a bunch of M-M jumper wires.  The servo can pull over 600 mA of current, which is why I went with Adafruit’s PowerBoost 1000 as my voltage converter.  When I tried a lesser step-up converter or a 9V battery connected directly to the Arduino, the circuit would brown out and fail when a signal was sent to the servo.  Short of plugging the whole thing into the wall, I never found another good solution for supplying power.  I also went with a slightly more expensive servo with metal gears.  I figure this will keep the gears from getting stripped.

Between the wood, hinges, electronics, etc., this cache is likely to cost you $100.  Keep that in mind when you determine if you want to build it and where you want to place it.  I ended up putting mine in a somewhat out-of-the-way location and making it a multi so that it takes a bit of work to find.

You don’t have to, but I also swapped out the LEDs and diodes that came with the arcade buttons with ultra-bright LEDs.  You can read more about my LED experiments here.

The Program

While I’m sure this would have been great fun to code from scratch, I started with some “Simon” code from a guide on sparkfun.com.  This code does way more than I need to it, including a head-to-head memory battle.

So, I started by stripping out anything that wasn’t for the one-player game.  I am playing a song, but not the entire Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive, so I also got rid of a bunch of musical note definitions that piezo buzzer wouldn’t use.  I also dropped the requirement to win from 13 to 10.  You’re welcome.   If you want to be a real bastard, feel free to increase that number (line 87) and the speed at which the buttons light up (line 170).

If you look at the top image of this post, which is the inside of my Simon Says cache, you may notice that there isn’t an Arduino UNO board in the picture.  I wasn’t willing to leave the $25 micro-controller in my cache, so I just used the main integrated circuit, an ATMEGA-328P.  It’s the long black rectangular thing in the middle-bottom.  I attached a timing crystal and two capacitors and it acts like a stripped-down Arduino.  All just to save $20.   I did a lot of reading to figure out how to do that, and unless you do too, your cache will look different than mine (because you’ll have a full Arduino inside yours).  Fair warning.

If I had to do it again, I’d probably just get an Arduino Nano and leave it in the breadboard, just like my Shave and a Haircut cache.  If you were to do that, your circuit diagram would look something like this:

Simon Says Wiring Diagram
Simon Says Wiring Diagram

The Final Result

Here is the cache in my shop.  The blue light is a bit dim, but it is much better in person.  This video is in the Hint for the cache.

 

If you decide to put a “Simon” cache out in the wild, please let me know!  I’d love to follow it and see the reactions of geocachers in your neck of the woods.  Thanks and good luck!

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12 more OCNA Challenge Caches released!

vsWe have released 12 more of our site owned locationless type challenge caches, for a total of 42 at this time. You can expect more in the future as well. Several of them are named “Variety Show”, and pertain to hiding some or all of the 14 different types of caches available on our site. Tentative plans call for about 30 more, and it should be obvious Variety Show challenges that pertain to finding some or all of the the 14 different types will be among them.  The 12 newly released caches also include seasonal finding challenges, and FTF challenges. They are all linked to below, along with a short explanation of their requirements.


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Only the lonely (New OCNA challenge caches released)

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On April 28th, 2015, one week to the day after the most popular Geocaching website in the world imposed a one year moratoriam on new challenge caches, we at OpenCaching North America introduced our own. As the banner above says, they are Locationless, so to speak. If you qualify, you can log it. They are owned by a special Admin account, OCNAChallenges, and are all Unknown (?) type caches. They are presented as Geo Art in the Gulf of Mexico. We released 12 on that day, April 28th, 2015, and released 8 more on May 6th, 2015.  And then, nothing. We are a small, all volunteer organization, we got busy! We hosted an After GeoWoodstock event in Maryland. We planned, ran, and handed out prizes for a contest on our site. We had to get our 5th anniversary Pathtags finalized, as well as a free back anyone can use for their own Pathtags. We endured an almost month long Denial of Service attack. Yes, that one really happened, although we never publicized it. 🙂 We could go on, but won’t.

R-3800772-1344942829-5073Only the lonely (Know the way I feel) was a smash hit for Roy Orbison in 1960, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts. If you’re a little younger than that, a totally different song titled Only the lonely by The Motels peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard chart in 1982. What does this have to do with us, or our challenge caches? Well, on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015, we released 10 more challenge caches (the letter N in The Gulf of Mexico), and they all pertain to lonely caches! Only the lonely, get it? Find caches that haven’t been found on our site in over 1 year, over 2 years, or over 3 years to be eligible to log some of these challenge caches.  The 10 caches are listed below, along with a short explanation of the requirements for each. This blog post is a couple days behind, so most have been logged by some of our more observant players who have noticed these new listings. And a heads up, we plan on releasing 12 more challenge caches in the near future. We’re certainly not planning another 5 1/2 month gap between them!


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Forging Community in Rome

Forging Community TagForging Community in Rome is a Geocaching event listed on our site coming up on Friday, October 16th in Rome, Georgia. This is a pre-event (unofficial) for the annual Going Caching Mega Event, now in it’s 5th year, and it’s 2nd consecutive at Ridge Ferry Park in Rome. This interactive Mega has a Renaissance theme this year. You’ll notice from the Forging Community pathtag artwork here you see both Munzee and Geocaching logo’s. This is in fact a tri-listed event for Geocaching (our site), Munzee and Eventzee, which is a less than a year old photo scavenger hunt app brought to you by The team at Munzee.com. If you’re not familiar with Eventzee, you can read more about it here. So at this event, you can expect to find temporary OCNA caches, event (temporary) Munzees with a badge for the event, and an Eventzee scavenger hunt. Another integral part of this is tri-event is a food and donation drive for the Action Ministries Rome that is the local food bank for the Rome Georgia area. For every 5 food items or $5 donated you will receive one of the Forging Community pathtags. The goal is to give back to the community that is hosting their fun that weekend. We sent a few questions to obxgeek, AKA Rob, who hails from Northern Virginia, about this tri-event.

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OCNA 5th Anniversary Locationless Event

Birthday-Cake-Clip-ArtPlease join us to celebrate our 5th Anniversary tonight, Tuesday August 18th at 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, for what we believe may be the first sanctioned Geocaching event streamed on the website ustream.tv. We are certainly not the first to stream a Geocaching event, that honor goes to The Dirtbag Geocaching Society; but we at OCNA allow this type of event to occur, unlike other Geocaching websites.

You can see the event page here, and it will be hosted on DudleyGrunt’s ustream channel. Note: You will not need a ustream account to participate. And we definitely have at least one recent newsworthy Geocaching topic to discuss; the closure of a similarly named website with which we are not affiliated, that is (was) owned by a major GPS Manufacturer. 🙂

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