Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Those Nagging Little Details....

I just uploaded a few tweaks to Atlas Quest this afternoon, and this one is so minor, it's probably not even going to be noticed by anyone. So, I'd like to bring your attention to it, if for no other reason than to let you know what I've been up to and, perhaps, catch any defects that I might have introduced.

In this case, an example might be the easiest way to explain this tweak. Take a look at this search of San Luis Obispo, CA, sorted alphabetically. The #2 entry is for the "Beach Vacation Series"--the quotes are part of the box name, not me quoting the box name. In the old days (that is, before today), Atlas Quest would sort boxes on a character-by-character basis, and because quotes come before letters, it would have shown as the first box. Now, quotes (and other punctuation marks) are ignored, so the box is now correctly placed after the A from All the News That's Fit to Print.

A related issue are box names that start with "useless" words--the, and, a, etc. In the old days (that is, before today), a box named The Building would have been sorted under the T's. If you check those search results, however, you'll now see it listed along with the other B's, where it should be.

Number 12 in the search results is called A Dragon in the Library: Adelinde. In the old days, it would have shown up in the A's. Today? Nope, not anymore.... It's with the other Ds.

Because punctuation marks are ignored, you'll also find that words like dogs and dog's map to the same word pattern. In the old days, a search for either of those words wouldn't find both of them. You can see this happen in a global search for boxes with the word dogs. In my results, the first six use the word dogs, but #7 uses the word dog's.

In another slight tweak in the search results, in this search for Winter Falls, you'll find none of the first several entries use the word winter. Why would they rank so highly, then? Because it's part of a series, and one of the boxes in the series use the word winter. If you click on the Silver Falls series, it ranks highly because there's a box within the series named Winter Falls. In the old days, AQ was not able to match words in the names of individual boxes within a series--but now it should!

Anyhow, these are minor little tweaks, but I'm a little concerned I've overlooked something. If you happen to notice any search results that aren't quite as expected or find an unexpected glitch, do let me know! Thanks! =)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

New Edition of the Letterboxer's Companion!

It only took eight years, but the second edition of The Letterboxer's Companion is finally out! =) I was going to write a book review of it--I got my grubby little hands on it several weeks ago, and I've never officially written a "book review" before. But now that the book is officially out, I find myself mired with other more important things to work on. *grumble grumble* Stupid bugs.... Seems like I've been hit with a number of difficult-to-fix issues recently, and I'm still working through the problems. (Fortunately, for the most part, the problems aren't that obvious, so most of you surfing Atlas Quest probably don't even know about them! But they're there, and they do need to get fixed.)

But I will say, I like this edition better than the first one. It's smaller, lighter, and a little more portable. Cheaper too--it's paperback! =) (There's even a Kindle version this time!) I read the book, from cover to cover, and it's certainly been updated with a lot of information about Atlas Quest that wasn't there before--mostly because Atlas Quest didn't exist when the first edition came out. There's a bit more detail about how to work the LbNA website as well.

Amanda had a copy of the first edition hidden away and I flipped through them both looking for anything that was different, and they were actually more alike than I remembered. Reading the second edition, it seemed like it had a lot more information about carving stamps than I remembered, but as it turned out--not really. Just my imagination playing tricks on me. *shrug*

There are a couple of places where new material was added. In the chapter of Advanced Techniques, Mapsurfer (a.k.a. Randy Hall) added a bit about book codes, which had me hunting through the book to solve an example one provided where the book code used his own book--a teasing message, but I'll let you solve that yourself. ;o) Then he describes "Other Codes and Ciphers," explaining what cryptograms are and an example of the Freemason's cipher (or "pig-pen cipher"). He describes what these codes are, but he doesn't actually explain how one would go about solving them--instead suggesting to the reader to research the ciphers on the Internet. Well, I suppose one could make a case for "teaching a man to fish" rather than "giving a man a fish," but still, it seems lazy to show these codes then not explain how to solve them. There are still plenty of other codes and ciphers to research on the Internet. Revealing the secrets of some of the most commonly used ones or a short section of letter frequencies would have been convenient.

There's a whole chapter on "Internet Resources" that been expanded greatly. The original book had a section called "Internet Resources," but I guess there wasn't enough material then to actually call it a chapter in its own right. It's now been upgraded to a full chapter in the second edition. Considering how much of our hobby is Internet based, it's a well-deserved upgrade.

Anyhow, the book was officially released March 1st. I looked on's website and they say that only 7 are left in stock (but more are on the way). Looks like it's already become a best seller! =)

For any serious letterboxer, you probably won't learn anything new from this book. But I still like it. It's small, compact, and light. And if you know someone who might be interested in letterboxing, this book could be the perfect gift. And who knows.... if a lot of people start using this edition as a code book for their clues, you might need the book just to find some letterboxes! ;o)