The Washknight Tapes

Ha ha, well not tapes exactly but an interrogation nonetheless.

This chap I know, who caches under the pseudonym Washknight, has been pestering inviting the blogging cachers (or should that be caching bloggers?) he knows to post a response to a set of 20 questions. So I have, finally, managed to sit down in front of my Mac, roll my sleeves up in a purely figurative way, open a bottle of my favourite “thinking mixture” and, cracking my finger joints in the manner of the best piano virtuoso, peck out this missive on my keyboard.

1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?

A few years ago at work, the topic of geocaching came up a couple of times; finally one of my geocaching friends (you know who you are!) pulled up the map and it turned out there was a cache very close to my house. I went and had a look but didn’t do anything about it. Some weeks later another friend (The Bongtwashes) arranged an off-roading day in Berkshire. We stopped for lunch on our way to the off-road site and it “just so happened” that there was a cache nearby, so we set off to look for it. What I didn’t realise at the time (but  subsequently discovered) was that it is standard practice to arrange routes, lunch stops etc. so that they pass near to geocaches! Anyway after that I went back to find that local one near my home and that, as they say, was that.

So, David and Bob, I blame you for infecting me with this bug for which there appears to be no cure. 😀

2. Do you remember your first find?

Certainly do! It was the one I found with The Bongtwashes. It was “A Different Approach to Recycling” . What was extra special was that when Bob read out the hint I immediately knew where to look and I found the cache before he did! I think that is the last time that has happened (LOL)

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?

When I started out I used my iPhone running the Groundspeak App but, being a clumsy sort of fellow, I quickly became concerned that I would drop it into a puddle (or worse). At this point I bought a Garmin Dakota which is still my main device. This is backed up by my iPhone which I use mainly for mapping (more screen real estate so I can see the map and caches in a wider context) and for interrogating the web while I’m out and about. The GPS on the newer models of iPhone is generally excellent and I sometimes use it solo for urban caching, the ocassional ad hoc cache or the increasingly rare FTF attempt. Oh, and I always put my iPhone in an “All Terrain” case.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

I live in Hertfordshire, and the borders with Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire are only a few miles away; there are thousands of geocaches as far as the eye can see. The nearest (my second find) was less that 0.1 mile from my house. There’s a good mixture of easy trads, naughty nanos and tricky puzzles plus some really good rings.

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

This has to be the Virtual cache “The Empire Strikes Back”. A cache in New York. What’s not to like? It also scores as my “Farthest from Home” and “Farthest West”.

We visited the ESB on the night of September 11th, 2012. To say the views were spectacular would be putting it midly. To top an amazing evening we were able to see the memorial twin towers of light which were beamed up from the site of the World Trade Centre towers on every anniversary night. Stunning and moving. Just wish we didn’t have to see it.

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

Just 3? Hmmm. Leatherman. Torch(es). Hat.

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?

Other geocachers. 😛

Seriously, and perhaps a little disappointingly,  I haven’t found anything really weird. I have however found some unexpected things, some beautiful countryside and spectacular views. The strangest thing I can recall finding was an old-fashioned “Tanoy” loudspeaker high up in a tree, in a wood miles from any building of any sort. Very puzzling.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?

“I’m not a number, I’m a free man!” 🙂

If you look at my yearly stats you’d realise it isn’t all about the numbers for me. I have always enjoyed walking and so being out in the countryside, (preferrably with Skye our West Highland Terrier) is something I really do enjoy, so I guess it’s about the journey as well as the geocaching.

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.

That’s difficult to answer because I’m not obsessed. There was a time when I would dash out for a FTF and I did get extremely wet completing a series of FTFs with The Bongtwashes in the pouring rain once. Note emphasis on the “once”.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?

Only the usual scratches and dents from thorns, brambles and barbed wire. Usually on my head, which is why nowadays I always put my hat on when I have to burrow into anywhere and I always carry a simple first aid kit.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?

Hmmm. I don’t want to offend anyone. Some of them seem to take it a bit too seriously.

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?

Trying to walk on something slippery such as sheet ice. That always ends badly in my experience.

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

In my house it’s called “Nerding”. They think I’m slightly mad. I’m not sure I have any non-caching friends…

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?

My favourite is “I lost my dog” or variations of that. This excuse works even when I don’t actually have Skye with me.

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?

To complete the Chiltern Hundreds. Because it is there.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

There’s a micro in Pinner which I’ve never been able to find, mainly because of the muggle traffic. It has recently had a spate of found logs so maybe I’ll go back for another go soon.

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.

Challenging. Outdoor fun. Mud!

18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

I started my first blog in October 2005 as an evolution from MySpace (remember that one?). On my blog I write about whatever interests or (sometimes) annoys me, not just about geocaching.

After I found my first cache I posted a short item about it, it’s only recently that I have been writing about my geocaching adventures on a more frequent basis.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.

I’m not sure I’m proud of any of my writing but I quite like this one  because it describes my best caching day (for numbers) and combines geocaching with another of my favourite pastimes – Green Laning.

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?

To be honest I’m only just discovering the geocaching blogs, with two exceptions.

Washknight’s Geocaching Blind  which I’ve been following for a while now. His posts are entertaining and I like the fact that he is happy to take the p*ss out of the fact that he can’t see jack. Yes, I know he triggered this post but no, that’s not why I’ve singled him out for a mention in dispatches.

The other blog of note has to be Dr Solly’s.  It’s not just about caching, his technical tales appeal to my techie side. I’m not going to elaborate here, as he says; you either know him or you don’t.

Well, that’s the 20 questions answered, Paul. That was an interesting challenge which gave me pause to think, and travel back in time in order to research a response to some of the questions. I hope you (and anyone else daft enough to read to the end) enjoys reading my answers. 😀

Test case

There is no way I would risk taking my iPhone 6 out in the countryside (or the urban jungle for that matter) without protecting it. When I go geocaching I mostly use my Garmin Dakota, principally because it will withstand being dropped into a muddy puddle – or of course just dropped! I do take my iPhone geocaching as well, mostly for detailed mapping or to look stuff up on the internet, but I’m always concerned for its safety, hence the need for a robust case.

For the last 2 years I’d used an Otterbox Defender with my iPhone 5 which protected it well enough but using it daily for such an extended period was bound to show up any flaws. Fortunately there aren’t many.

The Defender was a 3-part case which I found fiddly and time consuming to assemble and even longer to take apart when I wanted to remove my iPhone from the case. While most of the key ports and switches were covered, the home button, ear piece, speaker and microphones were all open to the elements and definitely not water resistant. Also, over time, the case let in dust (not a lot but enough to be annoying).

When I got my iPhone 6 I decided to see what other rugged cases were out there as an alternative. After a bit of research I decided against getting a new Otterbox Defender and I went instead for the Griffin Survivor All-Terrain case. First impressions are favourable, although inevitably with a case offering this much protection, it is a bit bulky.

iPhone 6 case

Here it is next to my iPhone 6. As you can see from this image, the whole screen, the front camera and the Touch ID sensor/Home button are covered by the protective front but once one adds the dimensions of the surrounding impact protection, the case has become quite big. Of course, the iPhone 6 is bigger than my old iPhone 5 so it was inevitable that the case would be larger too, nevertheless, it is not so big that it becomes cumbersome.

It has some great features which, for me,  put it ahead of the Defender. The iPhone 6 is a snug fit in the body of the case and is easy to insert or remove. In addition to having all the usual ports covered against water and dust, the microphones and speakers are also protected by a sort of membrane; Griffin say the case is rain-resistant that’s good enough for me as I would’t expect true waterproofing for the price. The only trouble I’ve encountered so far is operating the Touch ID with the case on – sometimes it doesn’t seem to read my fingerprint whereas at other times it does and unlocks without problems. However all other aspects of the iPhone operate as if the case wasn’t there so it’s a minor inconvenience which I’m not too bothered about.

This case is an excellent choice for me when I’m out and about, whether I’m geocaching or just walking Skye. I’ll also feel happier using my iPhone when I’m urban caching, especially in London and similar places where walking around with an expensive smartphone in one’s hand can be a risky activity. 🙂


iPhone 6

I’m pleased with my iPhone 6.

I haven’t managed to bend it.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about it because I’m not interested in stirring up the trolls or haters.  See paragraph one for my iPhone 6 review.

I’m not sure about the changes Apple have made to Photos with iOS 8, although I think I can see why they have done what they’ve done. It will be interesting to see how it all works once Yosemite drops. The only issue I’ve found is with the Instagram App which displays every photo on the device in duplicate (FB and others seem to have got it right).

Being a clumsy sort of fellow I have ordered a case for it, hopefully that will arrive tomorrow.

Recharging my batteries

Since we got home from New York, life in our household has been both hectic and draining, so I was getting desperate for some R&R.

Yesterday I finally managed to get out for a walk and grab some caches. I went up Chesham way to do some more Chiltern Hundreds. I found 8 of those, 4 of these finds were caches I’d DNFd on previous visits which I was very pleased about; I also DNFd a new one! Ah well can’t win them all. I also found a Church Micro and a random Captain Jack.

It made a nice change to be out in the English countryside, if only for a few hours.

And when I got home my iPhone 6 had arrived. 🙂



Living with the iPhone 4

Hello dear reader. So I’ve had my iPhone 4 for a week now and I thought that after the excitement of the Apple Store line, the pleasure of un-boxing and setting up, it was time to share my thoughts on the device.

I’d had my much-loved iPhone 3G for two years, so the advent of iOS4 made it an ideal time to upgrade to the latest version, particularly because many of the iOS4 features wouldn’t operate on my old 3G.

Holding iPhone4 in the hand is a sublime experience. The glass screen and back are so smooth to the touch that together with the overall weight of the phone, it makes simply holding iPhone 4 somehow satisfying. Strange you may think but perhaps you have to feel it to appreciate what I mean. I have quickly got used to the flat back and slightly angular sides (compared to the 3G) and the metal buttons on the metal sides are more direct and feel more solid in use.

In day to day use iPhone 4 is certainly faster, due in no small part to the faster chip and more RAM. It may be an illusion but the 3G and WiFi network speeds are faster as well. Another thing which particularly impresses me is the superb high resolution screen. Much has been made of the Retina Display containing more pixels than the eye can detect; whatever, the result is that your view the icons and text is “pixel free”, i.e. you can’t see the pixels at all! Battery life seems good too, although I haven’t carried out any tests yet.

Other highlights for me include the 5 megapixel camera. At last iPhone has a camera which I will enjoy using, the old one just didn’t take pictures I wanted to keep; now that has changed and I anticipate taking many more photographs using my “best camera” (the best camera, as everyone knows, is the camera you have on you when you need one!). The HD video looks good too, I’ve wanted to dabble in video for some time but have not been able to justify purchasing a video camera since my old VHS “brick” expired many years ago. So, look out for some “home movies” appearing here in the near future!

There’s also been much talk about the real benefits of folders and multitasking. I spent a couple of hours sorting everything into folders which means I currently have just two pages of Apps. Neat. I’ve also found multitasking very useful, especially since I had to reconfigure quite a few Apps on the new phone. This meant dipping in and out of my password manager (1Password) for login details, etc. (My memory isn’t what it was!). Being able to switch back and forth using multitasking with copy & paste was a real boon, this wouldn’t have been possible with third party apps before.

Cons. There have to be some cons, right? Well frankly not many. I have been able to replicate the “Antenna Problem” by bridging the gaps in the metal surround, however I personally don’t hold my phone like that so it’s not much of a problem for me. It’s still something Apple should resolve though. The only other complaint I have is that I have to be careful where I put iPhone 4 down. Place it on the slightest incline, such as one’s knee when seated, or a sofa arm and – presumably because of the low drag coefficient of the smooth glass back – it almost immediately starts to slide downhill. Rest assured it has only fallen off the sofa arm once!

So there endeth the lesson according to this Apple fan. Biased? Probably. Smitten by the iPhone 4? Definitely.

Got my iPhone4

Yesterday was iPhone4 launch day. At silly o’clock I made my way to the Apple Store at Brent Cross and queued up for my reserved iPhone4.

Wow, what a queue! TBH I had expected a line but not one of that magnitude. There were actually 2 lines, one for people with reservations and one for the optimists. I lost track of the time which seemed to pass quickly, because we were all like-minded Mac Geeks so had lots to talk about! Apple staff handed out bottles of water – thanks guys.

When it was my turn, time seemed to speed up and I found myself back outside the store clutching my Apple carrier bag within 10 minutes. Great service!

I’ll post my thoughts on the new device soon, once I’ve had a serious play with it!

Mr Fry reporting on smartphones

So there are alternatives to the iPhone but the BB Storm isn’t one of them. Some useful info in there from a self-confessed gadget nerd. But 4 iPhones? That’s just excessive Stephen!

I can’t say whether I agree with the detail, all I can say is that I prefer my iPhone to the BB Pearl my daughter uses. But that’s just me. Having said that we’ve made some progress with Mac connectivity, syncing iCal to the BB calendar which she finds quite useful and RIM’s push email is already pretty good.

My wish list for the iPhone?
Well being able to sync iCal without connecting to my Mac, i.e. OTA without paying for MobileMe.
Cut & Paste.
That’s about it.

Using the WordPress App on my iPhone

Sitting in the car while I wait for my daughter, thought I’d try out the iPhone App.

You can save your work mid-post as a draft and come back to it later, it gets saved locally instead of on the server, which could be an inconvenience, time will tell.

And you can add photos, unlike the browser-based one I tried before.

So I’ve added a couple of screen shots so you can see how it works, although you can’t see these in preview mode. Well let’s publish it and view the results!

Edit: Pictures are displayed with the last one added displayed first. Editing images in the iPhone App will be nigh on impossible as in edit mode the full HTML is displayed and without Cut & Paste… Still that’s probably not something I’d worry about, it’s really all about fast posting on the move which it seems to do rather well.

Smalling my website

I was reading a blog yesterday where the author had used a WordPress plugin to generate a customised version of his WordPress blog to suit the iPhone display. I think this only works if you host your own blog, because WordPress doesn’t allow mere mortals to add plugins. Still, not being too disheartened I decided to experiment with an “iPhone sized” version of my web site.

iPhone is perfectly capable of displaying any website in all its glory, however I thought it would be fun to develop a version which was customised so you don’t have to scroll or zoom to see the full page.

At the moment I’ve just coded a single page to see how it works. It’s just a first attempt and needs some work, e.g. I need to fix it to stop “floating”. If you want to have a look just click on the link at the end of this post. Of course if you don’t have an iPhone you won’t be able to appreciate the goodness.

The Wizzard Prang iPhone page