Monday, May 30, 2016

Downloadable Garmin GPS Maps

At the beginning of 2015, I tried selling statewide BirdsEye(TM)-format maps on MicroSD cards.  Because Garmin locks your GPS's firmware, you need to install an unlocked copy in order get maps from anywhere other than their paid BirdsEye subscription service.  A naked cash grab if there ever was one; Garmin would apparently prefer to milk its captive market while it can, rather than take steps which might delay or prevent smartphones from eating the consumer GPS market for lunch.

At any rate, the locked firmware is enough to prevent someone like me from selling map cards through a major retailer.  Sales from the CalTopo store were never huge, and always seemed to come at inconvenient times, like when I was on vacation or similarly indisposed.  Because I was selling physical products, an annoying degree of paperwork was required to report marginal amounts of sales tax.  I was always worried about losing a thumbdrive in the mail, or sending it to the wrong address due to a typo.

It's past time for me to move away from selling physical products.  Instead, all of the JNX files I'd sold on thumbdrives and SD cards are now available as downloads to pro-level subscribers.  Simply click on the new downloads tab of your account dialog, and then on an individual layer link

Newer maps are broken up into 1 degree by 1 degree blocks, and named based on the southeast corner.  Older maps have custom boundaries as illustrated here and here.

Although this is only available to pro-level subscribers, a 1-year pro subscription costs the same as the SD cards I was selling, but gives you access to all the maps rather than just one state.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Go North - Alaska Gets (Partial) Elevation Data

The USGS has been adding portions of Alaska to the National Elevation Dataset (NED), and although coverage isn't anywhere near complete, I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger on an initial buildout of elevation data for Alaska.

current coverage footprint
The buildout includes:

  • Normal and enhanced relief
  • 40' contours
  • Elevation data
  • DEM shading, viewsheds and sunlight analysis
  • View from here
  • Fixed and gradient slope shading

Denali looks kind of mellow until you turn on slope angle shading, at which point the West Buttress route becomes a little more obvious.

My viewshed and sunlight layers, as well as the view from here feature, assume that nothing is higher than about 14k, as a performance optimization feature.  So for the moment, the view of Denali from Hunter looks a little messed up:

I still don't have canopy and or land coverage data for Alaska or Hawaii, so while I can display terrain stats, those fields are blank:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New Help System

Answering emails has become a growing part of my daily routine, and I've been looking for ways to cut back.  A support forum felt like the obvious answer, but I didn't want to force people to signup for forum accounts, and it would be nice if private account issues could be handled in the same place as public UI questions.

I recently discovered Tender (, not to be confused with the food-dating tender smartphone app), and it looks like a good fit.  Forum-based discussions that anyone can chime in on, email integration, and the ability to set conversations as either public or private.

There's now a new help and support site up at, with a discussion forum and soon-to-be-expanded knowledge base.  Once the kinks are worked out, I'll start routing emails there as well, so that I can make useful conversations public.