Monday, November 28, 2011

Adopt a Highway!

Aiphid's US Route 1
A few weeks ago, Aiphid asked me how he could get US Route 1 added to the Trip Planner on Atlas Quest. So I explained to him the tedious process of plotting the entire route, from end to end, which is inputted into Atlas Quest. And usually, when someone asks me about a route, that's where it ends. The person walks away and says, "Yeah, that sucks."

But not Aiphid. Oh, no.... he actually went in and started plotting the US Route 1 from somewhere in Maine to Key West, Florida. In all, there were about 1,400 plotted points--which is pretty remarkable. By comparison, when I did Interstate 95, I plotted a measly 159 points to mark the route. To be fair, there were reasons why the route was so poorly plotted out, but it was a remarkable amount of work.

And then I did absolutely nothing with it. The problem for me, you see, is that when I did the great Geocoder Update, I made some significant upgrades to how the trip planner worked. It allowed for much more accurate and precise information than ever before. One thing I did not upgrade, however, was my code to upload a new route. I no longer had any working code to upload the wonderfully detailed route Aiphid had created!

So my latest project has been to recreate this ability. Not only that, but to allow anyone to upload their own routes. Not only that, but to make it easier and faster than ever before. It's still a tedious, mind-numbing process to plot out thousands of points for a route--I've found no way around that--but the process of doing it could be made much easier. =)

And last night, I updated AQ with my updates. I'm still working on some stuff so I'm going to share all of the new features just yet... with a few exceptions.

  • I used Aiphid's route to test the new code. Works great! =) Which also means you'll now see "US Route 1" as the last option in the Trip Planner. Enjoy! And thank Aiphid for the new route if you ever find yourself using it. =)
  • Like the map image at the beginning of this post? AQ generated it for me. Well, technically, Google generated the map, but based on the information from AQ. =) Soon, you'll be able to see such images for all routes. You'll even be able to zoom in and see exactly what AQ is using to calculate distances from the route. And if you've ever wondered why the distances sometimes seem so screwed up, this will show the reason!
  • I used Aiphid's route to test the creation of a new route. I also wanted to test the editing of an existing route and spent four hours this morning re-mapping 2,932 vertices that make up Interstate 5. So if you do any searches along I-5, you'll find that the distances are very accurate now along the entire route. (On a side note, AQ is still processing the data for I-5 which should take a few hours. So technically, you might get "unusual" results during that timespan. When it's done, though....) The limiting factor with precision is no longer the route, but the precision of the location for each letterbox.
  • When you manually write out a Trip Planner search from the Advanced Search page, you'll usually type something like "along I-5 FROM San Diego, CA to Los Angeles, CA." Now, you can also call other commonly known names such as the "along the San Diego Freeway from San Diego to Los Angeles" and it'll work too. AQ, however, isn't particularly smart about where that particular name starts or ends along the route--as far as it knows, all of I-5 is called the San Diego Freeway. Other names that will work in place of I-5 include Pacific Highway, Cascade Wonderland Highway, West Side Freeway, Grand Army of the Republic Highway, Santa Ana Freeway, and Golden State Freeway.
And finally--what the title of this post is about: Adopting a highway! It took me about four hours to plot I-5 accurately, and there are currently 74 routes supported on AQ. At this rate, it would take me nearly 300 hours to re-plot all of the routes. (Okay, maybe a little less--I-5 is one of the longest routes supported. Most routes are shorter!) And frankly, if you had to wait for me to fix all of the routes, you'll likely be waiting for years.

But another new feature I've added is the ability to transfer ownership of routes to other members, and I'm looking to adopt all of these routes out. =) Aiphid gets Route 1, and I've already done I-5, but all other routes are up for grabs. If you've ever wanted to fix problems with a route you travel frequently, now's your chance! And, as a special incentive, anyone who adopts and fixs up a route also get first access to a number of new features including making your own personal routes. =) One catch, though--you do have to be a premium member in order to volunteer. Personal routes are going to be a premium-member perk.

I'm also interested in adding new routes for Canada and Europe. If you are interested in creating such routes, let me know. =)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Quick Links!

My fancy icons just got fancier!
You can't see any difference with the icons by people's names, but its there. Now, those big icons sometimes actually link to useful information--much more than the help pages it used to link to!

For instance, take that trophy. We all know it represents the number of letterboxes that person has planted. Clicking on it used to take you to a page that told you this. But wouldn't it be more useful to have it link to my logbook's plant page? So now it does!

The ribbons link to my logbook's finds page. Well, technically, my preferences are set to hide finds, so it'll go to option number two which is to display my plants page. However--assuming one's preferences aren't set to hide your finds--clicking it will take you that person's finds.

And clicking the stars? That'll take you to that person's most recent posts.

And the premium member hat? That'll take you to the premium membership page.

The updated profile icon--that egg with sunglasses--that one now takes you to that person's profile.

And--hopefully, you'll never see this icon by your own name--but the R.I.P. icon links to that person's tribute page.

The rest of the icons didn't seem to have a natural "landing" page like these did, so they continue to link to the icon help in the help pages.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wassa Jr's first Halloween. Wassa seemed more
interested in the food than the costumes, though!
Are you a blogger? Do you think is the lamest URL ever? Starting today, you can upgrade to an domain name! Which is perfect for any letterboxing blog you might be running. (You can use them for non-letterboxing blogs as well, but those readers may not appreciate how cool it is to attach your blog to the domain!)

What's a subdomain?

A subdomain is the part that comes before the domain name in a URL. For instance, the domain name for Atlas Quest is The subdomain, for most pages on Atlas Quest is www. This blog, however, uses another subdomain: blog. As in, very different website! That's the power of a subdomain.

So what subdomains are available?

I suspect that most people would prefer to have their trailname as a subdomain, but you can choose anything you want. If you aren't sure your choice is available, try typing it in—you'll get a 'server not found' error for unused subdomains. Subdomains made up of inappropriate words or language will not be released, nor can you acquire anyone else's trail name. We don't want you impersonating other innocent members, after all! Only letters and numbers are allowed as part of a subdomain.

How long do I get the subdomains?

For all practical purposes—forever! So long as Atlas Quest stays in business—and we plan to be around for decades to come!—we'll keep your subdomains working. However, any content you post to the subdomains are expected to comply with the Terms of Service and you subdomain can be revoked if we find you posting material inappropriate for Atlas Quest. We won't actively monitor your blogs or content, but if abusive or inappropriate material is brought to our attention, the subdomain may be revoked with no notice or compensation.

Are other domain names available?

We can hook you up with any domain name we own including,,,, and several other variations. While all of these are technically available, we don't really expect anyone to be interested in them. Everyone is most familiar with, after all.

Where can I host my blog or other content?

Wassa Jr has time to think about what he did wrong....
Purchasing a subdomain does not include any hosting services—just the URL name. Hosting content must be done through another source. For Bloggers (a.k.a. Blogspot) out there, this is incredibly easy to set and and entirely free. Blogger will host your photos, posts, and other content for absolutely free, and this is what the official Atlas Quest Blog uses. The URLs for your post will use the subdomain you purchased, but all of the content and tools to manage your blog all come through Blogger's servers through a feature they call 'custom domains.'

You can probably use a similar feature for places like WordPress or personal websites, and we'll be happy to try to work with you to see if that's possible, but Blogger's custom domain feature is the only one we're familiar with and can guarantee will work properly. (If you want to try another option, do let me know and we can try to figure out if we can make it work for you. If it doesn't work, I'll refund your money.)

What if I already have a blog on Blogger?

Not a problem! Once the custom domain feature is set up and working, all of your old content, photos, and links to will redirect to automatically. You'll see this happen with the official AQ blog by trying to go to the original URL for the blog: Notice the link automatically redirects to the subdomain on Atlas Quest.

What if I don't already have a blog on Blogger?

Creating one is free! Go for it! =) Just go to to get started. You don't even need a subdomain on Atlas Quest to get it started.

How much does this cost?

For premium members, a lifetime subdomain is just $59. For non premium members, the lifetime subdomain is $99. There are no annual prices available for subdomains—it's a lifetime gig only.

What if I need to change my subdomain?

If you want to change any information about your subdomain—either the subdomain you use (perhaps you changed your trailname?) or change your hosting provider (from Blogger to WordPress, for instance?)—it will cost $20.

What if I change my mind?

We have a 30 day money back guarantee. If, within 30 days, you aren't satisfied with your subdomain, we'll refund 100% of your money!


Where do I sign up?!

Send an AQ mail to Green Tortuga to get started.