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jfitzpat

Lostoutdoors.com Going Offline

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Greetings,

 

When I put together LostOutdoors on a whim several years ago, I had no idea it would be so popular. I'm glad that folks have found it useful, but between map requests and direct request for images, it has been saturating a T1 connection at my office for many months.

 

While my boss has been very good about it, the word has finally come down that I either have to start defraying some of the connection costs, or move the servers elsewhere. I looked at moving the image servers to the same ISP that hosts the web page, but when they quoted the bandwidth being used it came out to about the same as a T1 each month.

 

I toyed with the idea of asking for donations, but if I charge for the site I'd feel obligated to give it more attention than I have - and if the donations don't cover a hefty portion of the connection costs, I'd potentially be in the situation of taking away a site from people that have helped pay for it.

 

So, my current plan is to take down the servers at the end of the month. If anyone would like to host the service, I could donate the existing servers. I'd even be happy to change the icons and re-sign the ActiveX controls. Alternately, if someone has any other suggestions on how I could keep the service going, I'd like to hear about them. I can be reached via email at jfitzpat@etree.com.

 

-jjf

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Could the site be recoded to run locally?

How about a generic version that local caching associations and groups could run for their members?

You site has been a great resource to many cachers over the years, there must be some way to keep it useful.

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I have never used that site. Now I have looked at it and the white-on-black color scheme hurts my eyes. The adventure database is a great idea but it is practically empty, it only contains two entries. The site can generate USGS maps, but so can the software Usaphotomaps locally. The waypoint exchange thing... I'm not sure what it is but apparently it can be done locally as well, using usaphotomaps or something. So what's the big deal here, guys? How is this site so tremendously useful?

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I have never used that site. Now I have looked at it and the white-on-black color scheme hurts my eyes. The adventure database is a great idea but it is practically empty, it only contains two entries. The site can generate USGS maps, but so can the software Usaphotomaps locally. The waypoint exchange thing... I'm not sure what it is but apparently it can be done locally as well, using usaphotomaps or something. So what's the big deal here, guys? How is this site so tremendously useful?

Honestly, I'm not sure - but Geocachers are using it to the tune of about 400 GB a month...

 

Really, it isn't a big deal - but a fair number of people are linking directly and seem to be pulling images for various things. Since a lot of the high volume sites are geocaching related, I figured I'd give everyone fair warning and offer up the servers if they wanted to leave it up somewhere.

 

-jjf

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Ah, I see, so people just include images on their pages generated by a form at lostoutdoors.com, right? In that case, people could replace their images by static images on their servers, or if you could make your image-generating code available, they could use that code on their servers directly, thereby removing the load from lostoutdoors.com.

 

I would say keep the adventure database at least. If it expands, it can be a really useful resource in the future.

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Bummer! I love the site, use it all the time. I love being able to get maps, both photo and topo, with multiple waypoints on them, multiple scales, click on it to add waypoints and get the coordinates, etc. It's much easier, IMO, than any other site I've tried.

 

I really hope it can be saved. But if not, rest assurred that your efforts have been much appreciated.

Edited by 4x4van

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Bummer! I love the site, use it all the time. I love being able to get maps, both photo and topo, with multiple waypoints on them, multiple scales, click on it to add waypoints and get the coordinates, etc. It's much easier, IMO, than any other site I've tried.

 

I really hope it can be saved. But if not, rest assurred that your efforts have been much appreciated.

Exactly my thoughts ;) .

 

I liked using the site for plotting out mulicaches or, multiple nearby caches on the aerials, it was so easy ;) .

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I haven't used that site in a while (since I got ExpertGPS), but when I first started caching it was a great tool.

 

Thanks for keeping it running as long as you did.

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What's to happen to usgsmapsJ.dll ? Is there any possibility of issuing it as freeware? Source code so someone can port it to something that can run a *nix shared environment?

 

This is too cool to lose!

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The topo/aerial photos used in map creation..... where are they stored? On one of your own local machines? Isn't there some way this could be coded so that the images used are actually pulled off some govt site? I may sound really stupid, but I'm kind of multitasking here...

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As far as I know, they aren't stored on their servers, but grab the images needed, stitch them together, place a dot on them, and then issue them up as requested.

 

Could be a better way to do it, but I don't have the math or programing skills a the moment to make it happen. However, a less bandwidth intensive way could to let the browser stitch them together in a form of a TABLE grid and then issue a DHTML layer to place a dot. Geotags.com uses the DHTML layer technique so the map doesn't have to be redrawn for each request. And if I remember correctly the terraserver itself issues the images in tiles.

 

I'm thinking lostoutdoors.com can be done in a much lower bandwidth fashion.

 

Whatcha think?

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You can do all this with the software UsaPhotoMaps for Windows.

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Bummer! I love the site, use it all the time. I love being able to get maps, both photo and topo, with multiple waypoints on them, multiple scales, click on it to add waypoints and get the coordinates, etc. It's much easier, IMO, than any other site I've tried.

 

I really hope it can be saved. But if not, rest assurred that your efforts have been much appreciated.

Ditto for me too. I will miss LostOutDoors.com I have USAPhotoMaps - but the ease of printing a topo/photo map with coordinates made the site invaluable.

 

Thanks so much!

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As far as I know, they aren't stored on their servers, but grab the images needed, stitch them together, place a dot on them, and then issue them up as requested.

 

Could be a better way to do it, but I don't have the math or programing skills a the moment to make it happen. However, a less bandwidth intensive way could to let the browser stitch them together in a form of a TABLE grid and then issue a DHTML layer to place a dot. Geotags.com uses the DHTML layer technique so the map doesn't have to be redrawn for each request. And if I remember correctly the terraserver itself issues the images in tiles.

 

I'm thinking lostoutdoors.com can be done in a much lower bandwidth fashion.

 

Whatcha think?

FWIW, their are actually three potential problems with client side solutions. First, the dot 'moves' from browser to browser - In other words, the dot isn't exactly on the correct pixel. Generally close, but not dead on.

 

Second, in my case, all the source material was not in the same datum, so it seemed to make more sense to normalize things at the server end. Switching datums can move you a couple hundred yards.

 

Third, if you tile it is not trivial to save off images, with markers, for later. Sure, you can alt-printscreen and paste into paint, but that is a pain and only works if the whole image fits on screen.

 

I didn't actually write LostOutdoors with Geocachers, or bandwidth usage in mind. I wanted accurate markers and easily saveable images for a project I was doing with some friends. It seemed useful enough to make public, so I did. Similarly, short of transcribing, there wasn't an easy way for us to trade waypoints at the time, so the Waypoint exchage was written. The reason the Waypoint Exchanges lets you map waypoints directly from your GPSr, is that is the way I use it. I like to review waypoints after a climbing or hiking trip by just plugging in my GPSr.

 

There are actually a fair number of hidden, or semi hidden pages which are basically only for my own use. For example, I only recently made some tools I use for flight planning available on a volunteer pilot page. I find stuff like this:

 

http://www.lostoutdoors.com/routemap.php?r...XN%20OAK%20KOAK

 

useful, but it wasn't generically useful enough for me to widely expose. Sometimes, I'd just expose something for the heck of it, like the aviation database. But, other stuff, like a hidden page to convert tracks into Microsoft Flight Simulator videos, are fun for me (I actually like 'flying' hikes more than flights), but just a bit too hard to explain and support for broad general consumption.

 

If an online form of USA Photomaps (a fine program) tiling would be useful for Geocachers, I hope someone writes it. I didn't know about USA Photomaps when I wrote LostOutdoors MapMaker, if I had, it probably wouldn't exist. Still, USA Photomaps can stitch tiles together for saving, and can place markers quite accurately - both things which would still be awkward on a web based tile solution, so I will still either use the app, or a private link to my own NT service.

 

Sorry for the long boring explanation, I just want anyone to think that a tiling solution had not occured to me. It just wasn't accurate enough and covenient enough for my purposes, at least at the time. And, of course, when I made the stuff public I didn't really expect the sheer volume of requests.

 

-jjf

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What's to happen to usgsmapsJ.dll ? Is there any possibility of issuing it as freeware? Source code so someone can port it to something that can run a *nix shared environment?

 

This is too cool to lose!

I don't think that the ASPI DLL would be much use to anyone. It is pretty much just a front end to a specialized engine.

 

I did write some code once that pulled Terraserver Tiles, as a sample for another programmer, but I am pretty sure that it would require tweaking, since all the apps I know of that pull tiles had to be updated when Terraserver was rehosted awhile back. Still, if someone wanted it, I could send what I have.

 

I have some basic building blocks I offered up long ago, for example stuff to do basic UTM/LL conversion, and even datum conversion. I even offered a decent WGS84->NAD27 converter to this site back when one of the automatic links only accepted the older datum.

 

I'm pretty agreeable to giving away code, and even some guidance. But, if someone wants to deploy the same sort of image construction, for free, they are going to run into some high bandwidth usage.

 

I'm just not into the whole fee/member thing, since it would become an obligation instead of an occassional hobby. Again, I'm happy to donate, but someone might want to rethink the whole approach before making the comittment.

 

-jjf

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I will be very sorry to see that site gone. I use it all the time to try to rack down lost and forgotten cemeteries in my geneaology research, adn I have had my students use it to locate wetlands, geological formations...and to teach them how to read a topographic map.

 

Any suggestions for an alternative site that has the same capabilities?

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I've contacted jfitzpat about taking over the mapmaker function. Terracachers would need help in all areas of porting the appliction over though. We need a host that can handle the bandwidth and someone to help port and maintain the program. This is if jfitzpat is willing.

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That's too bad lostoutdoors.com is closing - Jim Fitzpatrick did a great job with it.

 

But there's another way to get a big aerial photo/topo from Microsoft's Terraserver website (beside using USAPhotoMaps). Just enter something like the following in your browser's address bar:

http://terraserver-usa.com/GetImageArea.as...9&w=2400&h=2400

 

I checked, and the above URL address doesn't show up correctly here. Maybe if I put quotes around it (take the quotes out when using it):

"http://terraserver-usa.com/GetImageArea.ashx?t=4&s=8&lon=-77.30820646&lat=38.87518279&w=2400&h=2400"

 

But wait, if you copy it from here, there'll probably be a line break in it, and so the whole thing won't show up on the address bar. So copy it into Notepad, turn off wordwrap, and go to the end of each line and press Delete to get rid of the line breaks. URL addresses can't have line breaks or blank spaces in them. Then copy and paste the long line into the address bar.

 

This particular address can be explained thus:

t=4 means it's an urban area

t=1 would mean it's a normal aerial photo

t=2 would mean it's a topo image

&s=8 means it's at 0.25 meters/pixel resolution

&s=9 would mean 0.5 meters/pixel resolution

&s=10 would mean 1 meter/pixel resolution

and so on...

note that only the urban area photos can go below 1 meter/pixel

lon and lat are self-explanatory

&w= and &h= means the data is 2400 pixels wide and 2400 pixels high

 

So just insert whatever you want into the above sample and when you go to that address, if data exists for that location, you'll see it.

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That didn't work for me.

 

But I did have an idea that would help with the bandwidth issue. Still do the tiling of the images except for the one with the dot. PHP has built in functions for manipulating images if you have the GD library installed. This way you would have the client pulling all of the images from the terraserver except for the one with the dot. Your server pulls the proper image, adds the dot, and serves up to the client. This would save buttloads of bandwidth.

 

You could still serve up stiched images, but in a limited fashion of your choosing. Plus, release the code and let the regional clubs host their own.

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But there's another way to get a big aerial photo/topo from Microsoft's Terraserver website (beside using USAPhotoMaps).

...deleted text...

So just insert whatever you want into the above sample and when you go to that address, if data exists for that location, you'll see it.

But I don't believe there is anyway to label a point on the map. That is what made LostOutdoors a great resource.

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Dang dang dang dang dang.

 

I LOVE this site, and use it for quite a few things - probably some of the reason for the high bandwidth 8.jpg.

 

I hope that SOMETHING can be done to keep this EXTREMELY useful tool online.

 

Dang dang dang dang dang.

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Ahhhhh! I've got to research all those long hike caches as soon as possible... and all the places I was thinking of placing a cache... man I gotta go!

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Hmmm... It's working for me now!

 

This is different from what I've found from before. JDMC, is there documentation for this? I only found the tile method.

 

If this is for public usage, aerial photos were just made a whole lot easier! I can use PHP to add the dot.

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Yep, pretty much straight forward.

 

This image:

71436_200.jpg

was produced with this script:

<?php

//grab map from server
$image = imagecreatefromjpeg("http://terraserver-usa.com/GetImageArea.ashx?t=1&s=10&lon=-79.930&lat=32.7695&w=300&h=300");

//define some colors
$red = imagecolorallocate($image, 0xFF, 0x00, 0x00);
$blk = imagecolorallocate($image, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00);

//draw red dot and then black outline
imagefilledellipse($image, 150, 150, 6, 6, $red);
imageellipse($image, 150, 150, 7, 7, $blk);

//send it
header("Content-type: image/jpeg");
imagejpeg($image);
imagedestroy($image);
?> 

 

Compare to the image lostoutdoors creates - LINK (This is at the standard minimum size of 600x600. Linked to save thread space.)

 

All that is required is a server with an up to date installation of PHP which IRRC includes the GD library required to make it work.

 

This is actually a LOT easier than the tiled method because here you don't have to mess with Lat/Lon to UTM conversion. (The reason I asked about it before.)

 

Hope this helps!

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FWIW: I have been using QuakeMap for all of my aerial/topo maps. This SW does a phenomenal job. You can load waypoints, create your own, upload tracks from a gps unit and see where you went (and at what time and speed), link digital photos to the spoe where you were when the photo was taken, save images to use offline in a computer/PDA/PPC, use it interactively with a gps as you are driving, etc (there are too many options to mention here). It isn't free but $10 is worth the price of admission.

Now I only use ExpertGPS to filter caches along travel routes.

Now, I have never used the site in question so I am not judging its usefulness but only offering an alternative. I am always amazed at the the level of creativity found in the geocaching community.

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CoyoteRed:

I was tempted to add your php code to my website, but I tried it, and apparently my ISP's server (DotEasy) doesn't support php. If someone did put it on their server or home page, it would probably use up a lot of download allowance (jfitzpat's problem), but someone could write a very simple program to have it run from their computer and download the photo/topo to their hard drive...

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For looking at aerial maps on your own computer USAPhotoMaps does an excellent job.

 

My issue was dynamically generated aerial maps on a webpage.

 

USAPhotoMaps is great in that when you download a tile it is cached in its system. You can downloads huge sections to your laptop and take it with you on the road. Works great.

 

Lostoutdoors.com's engine was useful to put marked aerial maps directly in your webpage. This technique is another way to do the same thing.

 

While I appreciate what Jim has done, it illustrates a problem with one person trying to provide for all. Allowing others to share the load reduces the burden on each and still provides for the service to continue.

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So, my current plan is to take down the servers at the end of the month.

Thanks for running it as long as you did. Whether by accident or design the photo-topo function is a great geo-resource. I use it often to do site research from the comfort of my laptop. Other approaches like USA PhotoMaps are not as easy to use and typically don't work on a Mac. The web browser approach is ideal because it works on most any computer and operating system. Unless I can find another source you can count on me getting lost more often! Regards and thanks again.

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CoyoteRed:

I was tempted to add your php code to my website, but I tried it, and apparently my ISP's server (DotEasy) doesn't support php. If someone did put it on their server or home page, it would probably use up a lot of download allowance (jfitzpat's problem), but someone could write a very simple program to have it run from their computer and download the photo/topo to their hard drive...

Here is a php version that doesn't require the gd library (the library stuff is commented out) - note you don't even need PHP - you can hard-code the parameters in the IMG tag. Thanks, CoyoteRed, for the idea! This will definitely suit my purposes for replacing LostOutdoors maps on my own page:

 

<?php
// settings:
$w = 700;
$h = 500;
$lat = 32.977533;
$lon = -117.270183;
$s = 10;  // 10-19
$t = 1;   // 1=aerial, 2=topo
$p = "22:$lon:$lat"; // 22 is a blue dot

// use image tag instead of gd lib:
echo "<IMG SRC='http://terraserver-usa.com/GetImageArea.ashx?t=$t&s=$s&lon=$lon&lat=$lat&w=$w&h=$h&p=$p'>";

// all the remaining lines are commented out:

//grab map from server
//$image = imagecreatefromjpeg("http://terraserver-usa.com/GetImageArea.ashx?t=$t&s=$s&lon=$lon&lat=$lat&w=$w&h=$h&p=$p");

//define some colors
//$red = imagecolorallocate($image, 0xFF, 0x00, 0x00);
//$blk = imagecolorallocate($image, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00);

//draw red dot and then black outline
//imagefilledellipse($image, $w/2, $h/2, 6, 6, $red);
//imageellipse($image, $w/2, $h/2, 7, 7, $blk);

//send it
//header("Content-type: image/jpeg");
//imagejpeg($image);
//imagedestroy($image);
?> 

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I see that the terraserver dot is not exactly in the right spot, so the php gd version would actually be more accurate if it is available.

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Here is my quick and dirty attempt at putting up something that would be useful to me. Thanks to the above folks for the info on how to format the URL. Feel free to play around with it and make suggestions for improvements.

 

--Marky

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I added the ability to recenter the image to where you click (approximately).

 

Any other bright ideas?

 

--Marky

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USA Photo maps has gotten a lot of attention in this thread. A much more powerfull and usefull program (at least to me) is expert GPS. It doesn't do the browser based stuff but it can do a lot more than what a browser based solution can.

 

USA Photo maps is free ExpertGPS is not but you can try it for 30 days. I was frustrated with the limitations of USAPhotoMaps so I switched to ExpertGPS.

 

YMMV...

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Here is my quick and dirty attempt at putting up something that would be useful to me. Thanks to the above folks for the info on how to format the URL. Feel free to play around with it and make suggestions for improvements.

 

--Marky

Works great. Thanks! :(

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Jim, your lostoutdoors.com has been a valuable extension to all who geocache - great job and thanks!

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For those who want to link to my Terraserver page from GSAK, add this URL to GSAK's custom HTML page (Tools->Options->HTML):

Terraserver Viewer=http://www.yvanovich.com/geocaching/index.php?lat1=%lat&lon1=%lon&mkr1=26&width=900&height=600

 

--Marky

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Here is my quick and dirty attempt at putting up something that would be useful to me. Thanks to the above folks for the info on how to format the URL. Feel free to play around with it and make suggestions for improvements.

 

--Marky

Do you have the "marker type" numbers indexed anywhere?

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Here is my quick and dirty attempt at putting up something that would be useful to me.  Thanks to the above folks for the info on how to format the URL.  Feel free to play around with it and make suggestions for improvements.

 

--Marky

Do you have the "marker type" numbers indexed anywhere?

I had a debug button on there for a while that would increment the marker number of waypoint 1. It seemed like too much work to take screen shots of all of them. Hmmm... lemme think about this. I think I can gen up a page of them, come to think of it. Check back here for a link in a little while.

 

--Marky

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Okay, the 'Marker Type' header on the front page is now a link to this page. The valid number range appears to be 1 - 258, with 257 being blank (and all numbers above 258 seem to be blank as well).

 

--Marky

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Marky, that's great. Thanks. One problem, though. The markers seem to be off just a bit. For example, If I put in the coords for my home (verified over multiple GPS readings/dates), the dot shows up about 50' n/ne of my home. The same coords show up correctly on Lostoutdoors.com. I also checked it against a few other locations, and it seems to be consistently about 50' n/ne of what lostoutdoors.com shows. Is it perhaps a Datum issue?

 

Is there a way to click on an area on the map, and have it report the coordinates for that spot? I found that feature of Lostoutdoors extremely useful for marking multiple points along a trail shown on the topo maps.

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Marky, that's great.  Thanks.  One problem, though.  The markers seem to be off just a bit.  For example, If I put in the coords for my home (verified over multiple GPS readings/dates), the dot shows up about 50' n/ne of my home.  The same coords show up correctly on Lostoutdoors.com.  I also checked it against a few other locations, and it seems to be consistently about 50' n/ne of what lostoutdoors.com shows.  Is it perhaps a Datum issue?

 

It's just how Terraserver draws it's data. I could attempt to come up with a correction factor.

 

Is there a way to click on an area on the map, and have it report the coordinates for that spot?  I found that feature of Lostoutdoors extremely useful for marking multiple points along a trail shown on the topo maps.

 

Currently, if you click on the map the estimated coords of where you clicked are displayed just above the image (and the image is recentered). This is not accurate as the correction factor I chose was just an eyeballed estimate.

 

This was just a quick and dirty attempt to see how much functionality I could get without overloading my web server. It will probably server my needs as it is, but I am open to suggestions. I could probably ask for the lostoutdoors code and see what he did for things like mouse clicks.

 

--Marky

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Marky, that's great.  Thanks.  One problem, though.  The markers seem to be off just a bit.  For example, If I put in the coords for my home (verified over multiple GPS readings/dates), the dot shows up about 50' n/ne of my home.  The same coords show up correctly on Lostoutdoors.com.  I also checked it against a few other locations, and it seems to be consistently about 50' n/ne of what lostoutdoors.com shows.  Is it perhaps a Datum issue?

 

It's just how Terraserver draws it's data. I could attempt to come up with a correction factor.

An easy way to see the problem is to enter a confluence point. The photo images usually have a cross in the image, and the dot is definitely always off by a certain amount.

 

--Marky

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I tried playing around with a correction factor, and in rare cases, the marker would disappear for no reason. I couldn't figure out why, so I gave up on it.

 

--Marky

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Does anyone know the parameters for "http://terraserver-usa.com/GetImageArea.ashx" or where I can find them?  In addition, are there any other "hidden" pages on "terraserver-usa.com"?  I've done quite a bit of looking and I can't find any documentation for "GetImageArea".

You can pretty much figure them out by playing with the values on my Terraserver Viewer page. If you have specific questions, go ahead and post them here.

 

--Marky

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I borrowed boulter's coordinate grabbing coord (in trade for a hint on a puzzle) and re-did the Terraserver Viewer page. I hope the changes don't bother too many people. It should be more flexible now.

Edited by Marky

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I just found this thread about LostOutdoors closing. I hate to hear :blink: that, being a new to geocaching I've used the site a lot. I just tried Marky's site and I'm thankful ;) to see that it looks like there will be a replacement for LostOutdoors for us new folk ;)

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It does everything I need it to do at the moment, but I am open to suggestions for improvements.

 

Check out the bookmarklet link I just added on the bottom of the main page (I tried to add it here, but the forum doesn't allow javascript: style URLs). Once saved into your favorites, you can then highlight some coordinates and then select the bookmark from your favorites and it will automatically open the map up to those coordinates. (requires javascript, obviously)

 

--Marky

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