Updated Geocaching Coordinate Calculator

Open the Popup Coordinate Distance Calculator

In Geocaching there is a type of cache called a “Multi”, or “Multi-Cache”. It requires the user to locate an initial cache that provides directions to the next cache, which when found provides directions to another cache, and so-on until the final cache is found. My initial thoughts to these type of caches were that they are like the old fictional pirate treasure maps.

I’m sure you’ll recognize the following excerpt from a popular 80’s movie:

Mikey pulls out the doubloon and verifies another critical alignment.

Mikey: Guys...I think I have a match. I'm sure of it! The lighthouse, the rock, and the restaurant all fit the doubloon. That must mean that the rich stuff is near the restaurant. So, (pulls the map out of his shirt), wait a second, Mouth, I'm going to need you to translate the map because I don't understand Spanish. (Pointing) Right here.

Mouth: (Looking at the map) Alright, alright, alright. (Reading) (spanish)

Mikey: What does that mean?

Mouth: Ten times ten.

Mikey: Uh, hundred.

Data: Hundred.

Mouth: (Translating) ...stretching feet to nearest northern point.

Mikey: North. What's north? Which way is north?

Mouth: That's where you'll find the treat.

Mikey: The treat...the rich stuff! The treat! The rich stuff. That's it!

Data: (Checks his compass and points) North is that way.

Now you can fulfill your childhood fantasies of joining Mikey’s gang in search for magical pirate treasure right from the convenience of this page.

I first attempted to create this calculator five years ago. My understanding of spherical coordinates was very limited – it still is – but I cracked open some websites and learned quite a bit. The trigonometry I did so well in during my time in High School was rusty, but I remembered enough that it was helpful.

It turns out this calculator was already placed up on NASA’s website a couple of years ago, though I’m not sure what algorithm they use. When doing research on that, I came across one of Wolfram Research’s pages on Spherical Trigonometry. Ah! Good head-spinning stuff… pun intended.

Sometimes it’s not a multi-cache, but a puzzle cache which would call for a calculator like this. Examples include the No Latitude and A-Rock-No-Phobia puzzle caches.

Here’s what to enter:

  • Distance (Feet) = the distance from the center point in feet. If you’re interested in metric entry and results, post a comment.
  • Heading (Compass Degrees) = the heading in compass degrees. 0 degrees is due North, 90 degrees is due East, 180 degrees is due South, and 270 degrees is due West.
  • Latitude of Origin = coordinates in the format “N XX° YYY.ZZZZ'” where N denotes North/South from a drop-down, XX is the degrees and YYY.ZZZZ is the decimal minutes. This is the common form that Geocaching.com provides for coordinates.
  • Longitude of Origin = the same as the Latitude, only for Longitude. It should now be able to handle W or E hemispheres to handle our friends on the other side of the meridian.

The Calculations are for nerds. The Results are for you. The coordinate results should display a link to Google maps when you’ve entered in all the criteria.

Update: 2017-06-15, I corrected the algorithm. Instead of using the angular distance, it uses a formula based on Haversine distance equation.

Open the Popup Coordinate Distance Calculator

Have fun and post a comment to let me know if it’s useful.

The Telecommuting Family Man

OFFICE door
Leo Reynolds / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As someone who has worked from an office in his house for nearly 15 years, I have the experience to help others find the discipline and configuration they need to enjoy the comfortable benefits of telecommuting that many companies are now feeling inclined to provide.

That’s not to say, however, that working from home doesn’t have its host of issues and challenges; this post provides one tip that could make that job with a daily pajama commute a happy memory – it’s one of the more important rules to telecommuting that you need to address.

The most important aspect of telecommuting from a home office is the office door and a solid end-of-day routine. There are times that telecommuters will feel the urge to return to work after sitting down to a family meal. Don’t blend your personal life with a business other than your own or you’ll look back with regret. If you are heading back to your office, spend that time on building your personal brand, a personal skill, or your personal business, not on daily grind. There will always be one-more-thing that work will demand of you. You need to budget and spend your time like you should be doing with your money.

Multitasking is dead. The trick to multitasking effectively is to not multitask. You break your day into blocks of time that are given to each of the projects individually. Consider personal growth time in the same way. Sometimes the two coincide (and it’s exhilarating when that symbiotic relationship is in full swing), but there still needs to be that separation for your family. This is another reason to have a separate place for personal growth, such as a laptop in the bedroom, so you’re not tempted to return to the office after hours, which inevitably leads to sitting back down to work several hours more while the family is pining for your company. This is the main reason I appreciate personal laptops and iPads and I keep mine out of the office. Better than that, I’ve grown a fondness to books over the past year because I can’t get pulled out of it as easily as I do when reading online.

A routine with feedback builds habit. By replacing your workaholic habit with one that gives priority to your beliefs and the ones you love, it makes you a better, smarter, healthier, guilt-free worker (during business hours) and a fantastic community helper, parent and spouse.

The times when the lines blur a little is when you’re running your own start-up business, in which case, as I’ve heard several entrepreneurs discuss, you’d be better off with pen and paper, discussing ideas in front of a coffee shop with highly talented people and friends than sitting in front of a computer in an isolated room.

The problems with paperless geocaching

Those with GPS receivers know the problems of their devices all too well.

It’s frustrating when your unit claims that you’re just a few feet from ground zero just to have the GPS suddenly jump and say you’re 20 feet away in the opposite direction… then you walk to the new coordinates to have it jump again saying your now 50 feet away in a different direction altogether.

This dance involves staring down at the GPS while blindly walking in circles that could include stepping into piles of excrement or into oncoming traffic. The problem could be blamed on signal echos or signal obstruction, both which make sense in areas with dense trees or tall buildings, but the root of the issue is too much dependence on the electronic device.

Such was my fate last weekend. It’s okay now … the gummy fecal canine deposits have been kicked, scraped and walked off … but as a result I’ve decided to review the rudimentary way I work the caches.

I know a couple of geocachers who worked almost solely off of printed maps. The maps had handwritten scribbles and notes to suppliment the printed Geocache codes and pins. We drove or walked about locating the next item on the list, but navigated solely off printed maps. This has me thinking about the printed map advantages:

  1. Better planning
    By planning what you plan to do, you’ll be better prepared. Are there caches in the woods? Bring hiking gear. Are they in the city? Wear walking shoes.
  2. Less chance of overzealous hunting
    Knowing that there are ten other caches on the map, hunters are less likely to spend an hour on one difficult to find cache.
  3. More attention to the environment and surroundings
    Instead of going strictly off of coordinates, there was more observation work going on.
  4. No accidental puzzle caches
    Some cache owners accidentally put the wrong category icon for the cache. Going off of the iPhone app, the result is spending time to get to a location then, after ten minutes of searching around, reading the details to find out it’s a puzzle cache. However, if you prepared the trip through a printed map, you don’t depend on instant information so you have to print all that information out at the time, meaning you likely noticed this snafu beforehand and either solve the puzzle before heading out, or don’t waste your time going to the original coordinates… either way makes a happier outing.

On our next outing we’ll try the other extreme and put away our GPS receivers, using a purely printed approach and report what happens. Stay tuned.