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Everything posted by IndianaDan

  1. If only there were a way to have the compass without the wonkiness and constant recalibration of a barometric altimeter.
  2. There are only two things I wish I'd known before I bought my Vista HCx: 1. The Barometric altimeter is worse than the GPS altimeter for most of what I'm doing. I assumed you could turn it off and use GPS altitude, but you can't. I should have saved $20 or whatever and bought the Legend. 2. When you save a track, you lose *all* the date/time information, and if there are more than 500 points, it will drop points from your track to make it fit. You can enable microSD card logging to keep all the data. While this is a silly way to do it, it does what I need-- it just doesn't explain this in the manual. If you're going to geotag pictures or keep high-detail tracklogs, enable microSD card logging as soon as you get it. Other than that, it's been great.
  3. I had the exact same issue with an ancient yellow eTrex. The best I was able to do was to buy a AA battery holder at radio shack and cut one of the springs out with a pair of sidecuts. I tried soldering it in, but the solder joint was never strong enough to keep it in there through a battery swap, so I just wedged it in carefully every time I changed the batteries. If you find a way to get those contacts replaced, let us know! It seems likely that that's how any GPS unit is most likely to die-- they're pretty bombproof otherwise, but those little flimsy contacts get bent and unbent over and over with use.
  4. The manual for the Garmin Vista HCx is a bit thin on details, but there seem to be quite a few knowledgeable people here. I have a few questions about the barometric altimeter in the Vista HCx: 1. Does the unit do any self-calibration? Since it knows the GPS altitude and the error estimate, it would seem to be a simple thing to recalibrate anytime the barometric altimeter gives a reading outside the GPS altitude + error range. I would also imagine that it has to recalibrate itself every couple of hours just due to weather. Anything else would make it less accurate than the GPS altitude, right? 2. Is there a way to view the GPS altitude outside of the manual calibration screen? The barometric altimeter is nice, but it's useless if you're in a pressurized vehicle of some sort, like an airplane. 3. Is there no way to turn off the barometric altimeter (like with the compass)? 4. Which altitude value gets recorded in the tracklog? GPS, or barometric?
  5. That's great, if you happen to already know that your tracks are being shortened when you save them so that you could dig this up in the FAQ. It would have been nice to know it in advance.
  6. Now that I know all this, I don't have any gripes except that it's fairly awkward the goofy way things are set up. I mean, look at this and tell me it makes sense: 1. Tracks are automatically logged, but will eventually overwrite themselves unless you save. 2. Of course, if you save, you lose dates and data points. 3. Unless you enabled SD logging, where you get everything, except... 4. You can't view the SD tracks on the unit, and... 5. You can't put them back on the unit with a PC unless you manually chop them into 500-point segments. 6. But you can only put 20 of those back on the unit, so if your logs add up to more than that, tough, unless... 7. You rename the big file "ACTIVE LOG" and load it to the unit, but... 8. Goto 1 As silly and amateur-hour as this design is, I can live with it. But I'm gonna be cranky at Garmin for a while for omitting this information from the manual and the user interface. The "saving tracks" section of the Vista HCx manual says nothing about truncating date information or dropping points to get to 500, and there's no warning from the unit when information is going to be dropped, either. Like somebody else said, the only way to learn is to go on a trip long enough that the tracklog loops. Sure, it's mentioned here in the forums, but how would you know to look for it? The word "save" has a pretty well-established meaning in the world of electronics and computers. You don't expect your word processor to save a document that's truncated to 500 words and has all the page numbers removed when you click "save," do you?
  7. I think you'd find that those of us who are willing to walk to a way-out cache would be perfectly willing to do the maintenance for the owner if the cache's entry was updated to list what it might need. For example, the Whitney cache was full of useful emergency supplies, but all the logs indicated that it was mostly toys and TBs going in and out. Since I was a newbie, I tried to bring things that "fit in," but it turns out that I was mistaken. If the owner had updated the description to mention that it needed band-aids or stick-on nylon repair patches or a pair of gloves... I would have been happy to restock the cache. As long as people are logging their swaps (or, in the case of a cache like this, "emergency withdrawals on credit"), the owner should be able to update the list of what the cache needs to be restocked with in the cache's description. As long as I know what I'm supposed to bring, it's not any different than any other cache, except that I have a shopping list instead of wondering what sort of random doodad I'm going to put in. That almost seems like a more interesting and useful pursuit than geocaching-- it's like "emergency supply geocaching."
  8. I'm confused by this-- I don't need or want any more tracks on the unit at one time. In fact, it seems like 10,000 track points would probably record just about any route I'd want to do, even if I have to chop it into 500-point segments as I go. The only problem is that I lose the timestamps without warning when I do so, and nothing in the documentation mentions I'll lose data points if I save a chunk with more than 500 points in it. That's it. The unit does more than enough to meet my needs, it just does it in a really awkward and undocumented way. If the manual had said "Enable SD card logging to preserve dates and full track detail," you better believe I would have turned it on. If the unit had ever warned me "About to save track with more than 500 points. Remove points to fit? Y/N" you better believe I wouldn't have cleared the tracklog after saving.
  9. I don't think you understand what a mountaineering "trail" looks like. There's not a visible path for large sections (say, more than 3/4) of the route-- only good ways and bad ways to climb the rocks. Some of the bad ways are really, really bad, with long unprotected falls. Some of the good ways are particularly nonintuitive, like climbing a short steep cliff early to avoid a tall dangerous cliff (which you can't currently see) later. Many of these features are too small to appear on even the most detailed topo maps. Parts of the "trail" may cross big rock slabs where no amount of foot traffic will ever leave a mark. While this seems straightforward, it can be hard to tell from a mile away whether that crack up ahead is the sort of thing you can step over, or if it's six feet wide and you need to make a stream crossing, downhike around a bluff, and come back up the other side. The map will never say "this route looks easy but is full of loose, sliding debris" or "this route looks steep, but only because you can't see over the seven-foot wall in front of you, after which it's easy going for half a mile." This one is a route I had done before, and I wanted to have good documentation of it to share with other people, with pictures of how to avoid the nasty spots and where to go when the "right path" is not an obvious route. You're right to suggest that I can get by with what I have. It would have been really, really nice if the manual or the user interface on the unit made any mention of the artificial limitations prior to this last trip, but now I know. You're also right that you can't see 200 switchcbacks on a 2" screen all at once. I don't see how that makes a difference, though... you view the track zoomed in. If it is dropping points, you're going to have a track in the wrong place. Numerous switch backs will make this error really, really bad. Imagine a simple example track with five points. When you connect them, you get a "\/\/" shape, like a couple of switchbacks. Now, imagine that when you save this track, you only have room for four data points. The unit has to decide to throw one of these away. You will be left with a grossly inaccurate track that looks something like "\_/", depending on which point is removed. This is the problem with the unit silently throwing away location points when saving-- if you've used more than 500 points, particularly on a very long and twisty hike, it is likely to smooth critical turns and detours *right out of the trail*. Four points is a low and contrived limit for the sake of this example, but I hope it helps you to understand why it's frustrating that the unit throws away information without any indication on the unit or in the manual that this is happening.
  10. That helps to some degree, but it assumes I already know all the good areas to hike in. I was hoping the search for caches would lead me to some cool hikes, but I think I'll end up just finding hikes the old-fashioned way and checking to see if there's an easy cache after the fact. I may give the pocket query thing a spin, but I'm a little put off by paying to do basic search filtering. $3 is worth it to give it a try, though, and if it turns out to really provide lots of good hikes, it's worth it.
  11. I snagged my first cache this weekend, an ammo box at the top of Mt. Whitney. We hiked up the North Fork to Iceberg Lake, swam for a while, and then did the summit via the mountaineers' route and the hike out the next day. Finding the cache was a nice side note to an awesome trip. The cache was well stocked with wilderness emergency supplies, which seem like really appropriate things to put in a cache. I was pleasantly surprised after all the talk of little plastic toys and such. I feel bad that I left a rubber lizard and a USB flash drive now... I only brought the lizard because reading these forums made me think that this is the sort of thing that's expected. From now on, it's first aid stuff, batteries, and on-the-trail gear repair supplies. After some miserable failures trying to find caches closer to home (where the game seems to be more about obscure hiding places than hiking to a location), I'm wondering how to weed out all the thousands and thousands of caches to find more of the sort I like. I notice that there is both a terrain difficulty and a cache difficulty, and Whitney was a 4.5/1, whereas some of the ones that frustrated me were more along the 2.5/2 lines. Apparently, I'm confounded by the most basic of hiding-- but have no problem with the most severe of terrain. I'd much prefer an excellent, challenging hike, climb, swim, or ride with an easy find at the end, but I can't seem to figure out how to narrow my search criteria to achieve this. Additionally, terrain difficulty alone doesn't seem specific enough-- I'm not super-excited about caches that are a half-mile from a parking lot, either. I'd like to search for long hikes or runs with tough terrain that have easy-peasy caches at the end. If I could do that, I think I could really get into this.
  12. Now that's just not true at all. There are many situations where 500 points in a track is useless for navigation. Yeah... imagine, if you will, a long and twisty mountain trail with a couple hundred switchbacks. The *instant* you've changed direction more than 500 times, it's gonna turn a switchback into a straight climb up the cliff when it throws away one of those data points. Not everything is mostly straight lines and right angles like city streets, where dropping a few points in the middle of a street is impossible to notice.
  13. It's not covered in my manual. There is absolutely no mention of the loss of timestamps or data points when saving. The "Using Tracks" section doesn't even mention the 500-points-per track limit. It does mention that you can enable saving to the data card, but unless they tell you there's a difference in the data it doesn't make sense to do so unless you know you're going to fill up the device's memory-- and my fairly extensive three weeks of testing indicated I'd have plenty of room for this trip's saved tracks. How was I supposed to know it was achieving this by throwing away data? I'd have at least been informed of the issue if Garmin had taken the time to mention it in the HCx manual. Instead, there are instructions on how to "save the entire tracklog," "save a portion of the tracklog," and "log tracks to a MicroSD card." None of these three things makes any indication that they are in any way different from eachother. I should have purged the tracklog on my biggest test run. That would have clued me in. Instead, I left it there-- because the manual makes it sound like the data in both files is exactly the same.
  14. Yeah, it's at least *partly* my fault, but I certainly did NOT attempt this trip without testing. I have made a dozen long hikes with the unit through local terrain for testing, and then took another multi-day trip into the mountains in advance of this trip to work out any last kinks in the process. As I noted earlier, my only mistake was not noticing that there was a difference between the saved tracks and the uncut tracklogs-- something that Garmin has made it impossible to tell. Everything worked in the test run, but *only* because I just barely managed to fit the whole trip into the tracklog before it looped, and the .gpx save file contained both the saved tracks *and* the uncut data. That's a better workaround than I've got so far-- you're saying clearing the tracklog when SD card logging is enabled starts a new entry on the SD card without erasing the old entry on the SD card? I still reserve the right to mutter and grumble that there are no warnings about data loss when saving a track and that the SD card logging is not enabled automatically when an SD card is installed.
  15. Since the unit already apparently supports saving the tracklog to the SD card, it certainly does seem silly that it won't take advantage of the free space there when saving a track. This sort of data loss is neither intuitive or expected. There is no warning when saving, no description with the save function, and no indication in the saved files that both location and time data are being thrown away. Only a side-by-side comparison of the two (or a miserably failed attempt to find a small feature that was "compressed" out of a fairly tricky mountaineering route, or the inability to geotag) would reveal to an end user that their unit was doing this. At the very least, I would think you'd want full detail saved by default with a "space saver" option available if needed. Does anyone know of a good utility for adding timestamps back into a tracklog? I may be able to at least salvage some rough location data for flickr-viewing purposes by using the handful of waypoints I set along the track to mark times, and then doing a linear interpolation between to add approximate offset times to each segment of the tracks. I can probably pull it off in excel or something, or write a little converter program, but an existing tool would make life easier.
  16. Ouch!! At least the Vista HCx doesn't appear to do that. I did a dry run for this trip two weeks ago to work the kinks out of the process, but overlooked this one. When I built my big save file, it had active logs and saved tracks in it. I didn't notice the lost data since the saved file contained both types. This trip was longer, so I was clearing the active log periodically to prevent it from eating its own tail. I had no idea that I was losing data by doing so-- after all, I *did* click "save," right? There was more than a gigabyte of free space, but the software behaves as if every byte is precious. If the device already supports saving this data to the card, it seems trivial to do it by default when an SD card is present. I think you might want the option to save space, and enabling it should clearly warn you about the loss of information-- but the default really ought to be full data saved.
  17. I found the "log to memory card" setting-- it's not what I was expecting. Does it just save a larger active log to the microSD card? What I'd really like to do is chop my tracks into logical segments in the field ("trail to first creek crossing", "trail up steep cliff face," etc...) while I'm thinking about it, and then save them with full date/time data and *all* the data points. I just noticed that in addition to dropping all of the dates and times, it's also capping the number of points per saved track at 500, which means it's throwing an absolute ton of data out the window. Is there any way to REALLY save a chunk of track data? Or is it just a choice between big, unfiltered tracklogs with all the data or organized, segmented saved tracks with missing data points and no time information? Is this some sort of 1980s-era programming idea to save space on devices with a meg or two of memory? Did they really do this on purpose?
  18. Sounds like this trip is a loss for geotagging, unless that's a default setting. I was hoping to have a really, really comprehensive set of route instructions for the Mountaineer's Route up Mt. Whitney to share, with pictures at all of the hard-to-find segments of trail up the ledges and slabs, and the final climb up to the summit from Iceberg Lake. Since I only took scenic shots on the downclimb (for which I have the original logs), it's a series of navigationally pointless shots of birds and chipmunks and distant waterfalls. Do you have any idea *why* it drops the date data? And it's even stranger that it keeps it around if you save in a different place. Very, very nonintuitive. At the very least there should be some warning that large quantities of information are being lost when you "save," which hardly seems like the right word for "erasing a significant portion of your data and saving".
  19. I was going to geotag a bunch of photographs from a recent trip up Mt. Whitney, but it seems that when you save a track on the unit that it drops all of the date/time information from the track! I have maybe a a third of the trip still in the active logs and usable for geotagging-- but I've lost the time information completely for the rest. This seems like a pretty serious bug. Why would it delete all of the time/offset information when saving? Is there any way to recover this information? Grumble grumble grumble.
  20. Whitney is a beautiful hike, although I've only done the mountaineers' route, not the 99-switchbacks up the other side. But it gets a 4.5? You don't even need a rope-- it's just hiking. There was a 9-year-old kid at the summit when I was last there, and at least one guy dayhiking the summit. This is the sort of cache I should be looking for, though. Trivial to find, but at least a moderate effort to get to it. I wish I'd thought to load one up before we did Mt. Langley last weekend, but this GPSr was brand new and I just barely had time to get tracks and waypoints for the trip loaded. This weekend is some tromping around Flagstaff with my wife-- I'll see what I can find.
  21. Today's hike was a terrain difficulty of about 2.5, but it was a definite "walk in the park," even in 110 degree heat with an extra four miles tacked on. What can I expect from a 5? Does it really ramp up, or is it just a hardy hike? It was supposed to be in an orange gatorade container-- I take it that regular sized containers are something more obvious, like a big rubbermaid tub? Also, how do I search for this stuff? I'm not sure how to filter the results by difficulty, terrain, or container size.
  22. I think I completely misunderstood what the game was about. I'm not really interested in looking for small artificial variances to the terrain-- I thought the caches would be relatively obvious endpoints to non-obvious hikes and trails, and that maybe I'd discover some cool new places by way of other people's experiences.
  23. I'm apparently having the same "I'm an idiot" problem they are. I went for a 2-star cache, and spent a couple of hours systematically spiralling outward and turning over every rock in sight with no luck. While the idea sounded like fun initially, I'm starting to have my doubts. Looking for a hidden gatorade container turned what should have been a gorgeous desert hike into a frustrating lizard census. I'll back up and go for a one-star cache, but I don't think I realized how much of this "game" was just hiding the box. I expected that the difficulty rating had more to do with how hard the hike/climb/swim was, rather than how deeply somebody can bury a box. I'm not sure it's more fun to spend hours staring at the ground when I could be staring at the scenery. I'm not quitting yet, but I'm definitely a little disheartened with how the game is actually played.
  24. As I mentioned earlier, I'm in for $10 if we can scrape together a few other folks.
  25. What happens when you try to download it? Have you contacted Garmin? Once you click through their site to the page where you download WebUpdater: In firefox, it gets as far as opening the little "downloads" window, but the progress bar never gets past "starting..." In IE7, it just sits there while the little circle icon on the tab spins around, but it never gets anywhere. I'll call Garmin on monday-- their support lines are apparently closed for the weekend. I figured it was just a transient fileserver problem, but it's gone on for quite a while now.
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