We strongly recommend that you follow our Facebook page where we post about our changes more frequently. Most of the information end up here as well at a later point though.
Huge update of map data
Then and now
Project-GC has historically used multiple sources of data for rendering static maps and assigning regions and counties to geocaches. The last year we have been working on improving this workflow, the data, and the rendered end results. This has finally come together to a state where it's ready for release.
From now on OpenStreetMap will form the basis for all region and county assignments to geocaches, with one single exception, Canada. Canada will be using a mix between OpenStreetMap and third party census data. This was the only country where we couldn't find a reasonable solution using OpenStreetMap data only.
All countries that have region support at Geocaching.com will use the same names in Project-GC, to keep compatibility. For other countries we have been more free to try our best to align the data with the latest demographics and OpenStreetMap data. For county data we do not have any dependency on Geocaching.com since the data doesn't exist there.
There has been a lot of new region and county data added to Project-GC, while a small number (not too geocaching active) countries have lost their data. In many cases the polygon data has been improved to be more accurate, both in terms of border definitions and names.
With updated demographics in various ways, the Country badges in BadgeGen might also be affected for some countries. In some cases they will be easier to accomplish, in others they will be harder. The Country badges levels depends on the number of regions in their respective country.
Also since almost all border definitions, and many names, have been updated, a lot of geocaches may now have a new region and/or county assigned to them. This can be either because our old data was bad, the new is worse, demographics in the country has changed, or because the borders actually have changed. In general the changes will be an improvement, and not a deterioration.
Primary goals with the update
The main objectives with this task have been to improve the maps in Profile stats, a lot, but also to make our tool chain more effective during upgrade of polygon definitions, faster code, more data, and making the data more up to date. This has required us to rewrite a lot of code in Project-GC, but the end result is something that really feels a lot better and more thought through.
Regarding adding more data. Formerly Project-GC had region support for 138 countries, and county support for 88 of them. With this releases this has increased to 235 and 149 respective.
Profile stats maps
Besides the fact that the maps now will be a lot more detailed, and in that way look better, the map projection has changed to a projection that will feel more familiar to most users, making the countries feel more properly sized. With the new improved data we also have the option to render maps in higher resolution, that still looks great.
Another thing that will be very noticable is that we have introduced coloring based on the number of finds in an area. Besides the color for having zero finds there are five levels to achieve in each area in a country, where the first color requires a single find. The colors are based on having either a fixed number of finds, or having more finds than a percentage of the currently active geocaches.
As mentioned, a lot of Challenge caches will be affected by this, for example those of the type "Find X amount of geocaches in county Y". We have tried our best to adjust all existing challenge checkers to the new data using scripts. There is a small chance that some challenge checkers have been updated in the wrong way, though we don't think so.
In some cases we have been forced to disable challenge checkers because the cache owner needs to make a decision. For example if the cache owner requires 100 finds in county X, but county X have now merged with county Y and have ten times as many geocaches available. The cache owner then needs to contact the challenge checker developers to find a solution. Two suggested solutions are:
- Keep the amount required, but allow county Y as well (technically the new merged county).
- Create a user-defined area matching the old county. User-defined areas aren't normally allowed, but since the Challenge is already published it should be seen as a grandfathered one, where it's just a technical solution to external circumstances.
The following days
The new maps will be applied to users gradually. Paying members first, and the rest after that. Expect up to ~1 week for most users to have the latest maps in the statistics.
During the closest days after this release it's likely that it will be hard to load the new maps in Profile stats. Rendering millions of new maps will require more hardware resources than we can make available. All rendered maps are however cached locally and with time things will start running more smoothly. In short, map images not always loading the first 1-2 weeks is expected.
We have also tried our best to make all geocaches have their region and county up-to-date within the hour after this release. But there are a few corner cases that wasn't realistic for us to cover. There will be a few days where some geocaches might have the wrong region/county data and their update to the correct location is a bit delayed. We expect everything to be back to normal on that matter within a day or two. This may affect for example Challenge checkers and rendered maps in Profile stats.
Speclal thanks to:
- vogelbird for helping with the initial work, matching data between the Geocaching world and OpenStreetMap.
- clappy for creating the color theme for the maps in Profile stats.
- Pleu for making an enourmous work with creating polygons definitions. And after that, helping out preparing data so that most of the Challenge checkers could be fixed preemptive. She has done a tremendous work, and spent a lot of hours researching various countries, it has been a very thorough task.
In case there is anything you dislike with the changes, please do not contact the above contributors/volunteers directly, they do not hold the responsibility. Contact Project-GC's support instead.
- New and improved maps in Profile stats.
- New region/county data for most countries.
- Some Challenge caches are affected, in most cases the challenge checkers are already fixed.
- Some Country badges might be affected as well.
- Expect issues loading the map images in Profile stats the following week.
Documenting the site using wiki
Almost a year ago we added a wiki engine to the site. This was done in connection with updating BadgeGen to version 4. We really needed somewhere to document the badges and we felt that this was a much better solution than static HTML. As a bonus it opened up a lot of other possibilites like having a living general documentation of the site.
Every user of Project-GC is allowed to edit the wiki pages, and we really encourage that you do if you have something to add, or just found a spelling/grammar error. There is no account registration needed, just click the Login-button and your Project-GC authentication will be shared to the Wiki-engine. After an hour of idle you are automatically logged out again. You can read more about editing the pages on the Welcome page.
Keep in mind that it is okay to create a page without perfect formatting. The whole point with the wiki-engine is to collaborate and if someone adds great information, someone else can help with the grammar and a third person with headers, links and other formatting.
Updating the wiki pages is an ongoing work that will never be finished, it's meant to be a living documentation where more and more pages and information will be added with time. BadgeGen is fairly thoroughly documented, though there are a lot of details to add for those who wish to dig deeper into it. There is a short description written for most pages at Project-GC and even some technical background processes described. Currently there are around 300 pages created by approximately 15 users. A special thank you to Pleu and Optimist on the run who have done a tremendous job with filling the wiki with content.
There are also pages that are regularly automatically updated with data meant for analyses. Currently there are two such pages, one related to BadgeGen and one to Challenges.
The wiki texts are written in English only.
In February we released a new version of BadgeGen. There have been a few minor tweaks and other updates during the year. Two things we find really worth mentioning are these:
- For The All Around Cacher-badge there wasn't any tool when it was released. It wasn't easy at all to progress, or to see the current distribution of the finds. A tool was however promised and in Mars it was released. First in a few preview versions for users with paid memberships only, then to all users of Project-GC. The tool itself can be found in the Tools menu, named 360 from home.
- When BadgeGen v4 was released there was an inconsistency in the design between the "standard" badges and the Country Badges. In May the country badges were updated as well.
Gifting, Labs and Elevations
With the new payment methods added last month we temporarily removed the option to gift a membership to someone else. The timing was a bit bad since Christmas is coming up, but we had plans to solve it differently from before. The goal was to have it ready in the beginning of December, but it was a bit delayed and wasn't ready until mid-December.
The new solution is that you can buy a membership for yourself, then you can transfer an amount of days from your own account to someone else's. You can find the option to do this on the membership page under Transfer membership time. A message will be sent to the receiving user account and you can both view the transaction under Payment history on the membership page.
Lab caches generally aren't included in the data that Project-GC uses. This is due to technical reasons and their incompatibility with geocache data. We do however include them in Profile statistics for paying members who have chosen to opt-in for it. That's currently the only place they are included.
There has also been an issue with the data we have used for them. All find dates on Lab caches have been based on UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and not the same timestamp used by Geocaching.com. Starting this week we will instead use the correct timestamp, which will move the date for some finds when viewing them at Project-GC. It's naturally much more likely for this to be noticed if you have logged Lab caches far from UTC, like outside Europe/Africa. The new date should however align with the date used by Geocaching.com's statistics.
We also quite often get questions why Lab caches aren't included in our overall statistics. There are several reasons to this, one of them is that they are technically incompatible. First off they are missing most meta-data that standard geocaches have. Secondly we don't have any locations on them and we don't know who owns them. Their unique IDs are also incompatible which makes it hard to merge the data with our real-time searches.
There are places we could add them without overwhelming effort, but it would only add more confusion if they were added in some places, but not others. Therefore we have this far decided to keep them in Profile stats only. This could potentially change in the future, but it requires a major reconstruction of things.
We have been fiddling with the elevation on and off for a few years now. Actually, we have probably spent too much time on it. There aren't any sources which are 100% correct, and in fact, most sources have quite big cons in some area. Google's elevation services seem to be the best, which we have used. But a few years back they added a cost to it that wasn't feasible, not even worth considering. Since then we have been trying several different approaches.
Earlier this year we started to use a source called Mapzen. It's actually a merge of several other sources. The idea is to use the source that's best in the area it's best in. We have slowly been converting our data from our old, to data received from this system. After 1-2 months of progress we found out that there were some real discrepancies in many of the zones where differen sub-sources were close to each other. Sometimes values way higher than Mount Everest were returned in areas that were close to sea level. We then made some fail-safes in our end, and restarted processing data.
About now we are back when we were as furthest, with about 30% of our data converted to the new elevation system. We will keep converting data slowly and by time we will catch up, hopefully with a better end-result.
Note that the elevation data probably never will be perfect. We are using sources available to get as good data as we can. It's not feasible for us to manually review and update elevation data for millions of positions on the earth. Due to that we have decided that we don't make manual exceptions at all. However, cases which are wildly off will be investigated, analyzed and hopefully countered.
New payment methods and Black Friday discounts
New payment methods
During September and October we have been looking into the payment options available to get a paid membership with Project-GC. During the years we have had several requests for alternatives to PayPal, but it hasn't really been an option for us until now.
Adding new payment methods required some rewriting of core functionality in the background which had to be the first step for us. After that we implemented a newer and more modern way of using PayPal than the one we implemented almost ten years ago.
There are now two ways to pay with PayPal. Either credit card information can be entered directly on our web, without having a PayPal account. The payment is still processed by PayPal and the full credit card information is never handled, or even passed to, ourselves. The other alternative is similar to before, the user is brought to PayPal.com and completes the payment process there. When the payment is done, the user is returned to Project-GC.com.
In general this means more secure payments, and should also include a better user experience.
The new integration of PayPal was released on November the 4th. However, PayPal has increased their prices quite a lot over the years. So besides that several users have requested alternatives we also had a high interest in this.
After looking into several other alternatives we landed with Stripe. Stripe is a payment gateway which also allow us to do direct card payments similar to PayPal, but it's cheaper. Actually it's about half the cost for us to accept payments via Stripe instead of PayPal. Card payments are therefore our preferred choice and is at the top of the list of payment methods.
The user interface is similar to card payments using PayPal, but it honestly works better. Also in case the payment is denied we receive better feedback of why. We strongly advice our users to use this service when applicable.
Stripe also provides us with several local payment methods. These vary depending on the user's country and the currency chosen. Right now there are only local payment methods available for a few selected countries in Europe. The options available are highly dependent on what's available with the payment gateways we use.
These payment options were made available a week after the new PayPal integration and have now been in use for over two weeks.
To celebrate our new payment options and Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) we'll have a discount campaign this year. Hopefully something many of you have been waiting for.
All Project-GC memberships now have a 10% discount. The campaign lasts until Tuesday the 1st of December 8 am UTC. If you feel unsure about time zones, don't wait until the last day. You will see that the campaign is active by the "Black Friday 10% discount!" sticker on the membership page.
If you are interested in renewing your membership we would be grateful if you choose to pay via Stripe (the payment method called Card payment). Otherwise we are happy anyway. Also, you don't have to wait for your membership to expire. Any additional membership time bought will extend your current membership, so no time will be lost.
Did you know we also have a shop for merchandise? Primarily we are selling trackables there. By using the coupon code BF2020 there is free shipping for the rest of the year.
BadgeGen was originally created by Kyle Mills as a macro for GSAK. It's an award system where you get Badges for fulfilling different Geocaching goals. These badges can then be worked on to achieve higher levels of the same badge. It's a very popular system and we are very impressed by the work of Kyle.
In the early days of Project-GC we got the permission to implement a similar version into the site. We have mainly used it as a part of our Profile stats.
We have for quite some time looked into further developing BadgeGen and adding new badges, new features and also some adjustments of requirements. For various reasons this has been postponed more than once, but early 2020 we finally started working on it, and there is now a Beta-release available.
Those who regularly check their Badges have for sure noticed that the look of the badges has been updated. Here are some major highlights of the new version:
- On the 6th of February 2020 the license of BadgeGen was transferred to the owner of Project-GC.
- Updated graphics, the new design was created by Markus (clappy).
- Addons - Additional rewards available on several badges.
- Increased number of max loops on some badges.
- New Badges.
- Other major badge changes.
- Updated requirements.
You will find most things regarding the new BadgeGen version documented in our brand new Wiki. Special thanks to Optimist on the run for helping out with documenting BadgeGen, and also contributing to other parts of the Wiki.
BadgeGen is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license. You may copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format for non-commercial purposes, but it may not be adapted without permission.
The way to here
To get where we are now we have been testing different variants and trying our best to listen to the community. This has mainly happened via our Community support system and Facebook. Primarily using these threads:
- Facebook 27th November 2019
- Facebook 8th February 2020
- Facebook 12th February 2020
- Community support - Updated artwork for BadgeGen_v4.0.c
- Community support - Can we have the original BadgeGen back please?
We are still calling this Beta, and there are several reasons for it.
- Graphics are not final. Markus (clappy) still has a long list of notes that he will go through. Even after that we will still be listening to feedback.
- Requirements for different badge-levels might get updated again. Hopefully only minor adjustments, but the new badges are more likely to get bigger changes. We expect the requirements to be final in 1-2 months.
- There might be bugs in the logic behind them, or errors in the documentation.
- There are still a few badges where we are discussing/considering some major changes.
With Leap day coming up you should look into the Leap day-addons. Maybe you can get one or two of these addons for your badges? Remember, it's four years until next time, and this year it happens to end up on a weekend.
More news from 2019, and 2018
2018 - D/T History
In the end of 2015 we mentioned that we were working a D/T History page. That actually was put aside for a while, and then more or less forgotten. In the end of 2018 we actually released the first version of it, but we forgot to announce it. At least we can't find an announcement of it.
The purpose of the tool is to find out which Geocache has changed D/T rating if you notice that you lost one. It could be that you for example notice that you lost your full D/T and aren't aware of why.
You can find the tool here: https://project-gc.com/Tools/DTHistory
We do not encourage you to contact the cache owner and complain. If you do, we suggest that you are very modest, try to explain your situation, and also listen to why the D/T was updated.
2019-05 - Fetching corrected coordinates from the proper field
In the last newsletter we mentioned that we had switched to a new API. The API is used to fetch data from Geocaching.com. This new API made it possible for us to use the Corrected coordinates field to show Geocaches in their correct position, for those users who have modified the coordinates.
Formerly we only parsed Cache notes for coordinates, and very seldom used the Corrected coordinates field. Now we normally use both. There are exceptions though, as it works now, we have issues fetching the data for users who have several thousands of Corrected coordinates, we hope for a solution in the future. Fetching from Cache notes still works as well as before.
Some more details can be found in our FAQ.
2019-05 - Multiple FTF bookmark lists
Project-GC has two methods to find out about First to Finds. We support specific tags in the logs themselves, and we also support that the user maintains a bookmark list with their FTFs. When this was implemented, we knew that there was a limit of 1,000 geocaches per Bookmark list at Geocaching.com. We figured that 1,000 FTFs was quite a lot, and should be enough. It might have been, back when it was implemented. But with time, Geocaching changes, and so does the geocacher's behavior. When users started to ask us what to do when they had more than 1,000 FTFs we made a change so that we could help them add a second (or more) lists in our system, but there was no way for them to add them themselves.
In May 2019 we solved this by rewriting some code and updating the UI of the Settings page. That is where you add your FTF Bookmark lists. Note that they must be public.
You can find more information regarding FTFs and our implementations in the FAQ.
2019-09 - New hardware
In September we updated a few of our servers.
First off, we upgraded a data warehouse storage engine's hardware. From 3 servers, up to 8 servers, each server with better specifications than the old ones. It's a software that scales very well over multiple servers, so we could buy decently priced hardware for the purpose. This database cluster is primarily used when compiling statistics like top lists and such.
Secondly we upgraded our virtual host environment. Two of our former servers were replaced by one new. The new server has at least twice as much resources as the two old ones combined, probably significantly more.
Third and last we installed a new database server for our main database cluster, one of the old ones could then be removed. The difference in resources between these are huge, it's a pleasure to have this new hardware in place.
All in all step two and three really made the web feel faster. We could feel it ourselves, and we could definitely see it on page load times and resources used. We also have more room to grow with now. There are still plenty of optimizations to do on the site itself though, we are aware of the fact that the site isn't super fast and we will work on it, step by step, over the years. Some parts would need fundamental changes.
We always recommend to follow us on Facebook. We published a post about this during our upgrades, not the least since it caused some interruptions.
2019-10 - Top found Challenges
If you are interested in Challenges you might like that we added a top list over who has logged the most of them.
For the top list, actual Challenge caches are counted. It's not easy to detect Challenges. Some doesn't have the correct names, some mystery caches looks like Challenges. But Project-GC has a community-driven system where dedicated users votes and maintain a list of exceptions. With this data, we know which Geocaches actually are Challenges, and which aren't.
You can find the top list here: https://project-gc.com/Statistics/TopFoundChallenges
A recap of 2019
As you might have noticed we didn't compile many news entry during 2019. In fact, we only wrote one. We have now been going through our logs to see what we actually did during 2019, and will try to make a short recap here.
For us it feels that we didn't make much progress to the site, compared to before. But by looking in our revision history, we can see that we did do quite a lot. The issue is that most of it was quite boring work that didn't give the end users much, besides keeping the site running.
In 2019 we had 889 commits into our version control system. In 2018 we only had 692 commits. This has been done with the same human resources, or maybe even less.
Rewrote framework code
As mentioned, most of the work was actually behind the scenes code, or background code that shouldn't be noticable.
In the beginning of 2019 (January to February) we rewrote the very core code of our framework. In the end, the visible result was similar to before. There were however two primary goals which were fulfilled.
- Easier future development, and more compatible code.
- The core code became a bit faster, requiring less resources.
Geocaching HQ also had prepared a new version of their API. The API is used to communicate with their servers and fetch Geocaching data. For us, this was an enormous amount of work. It required both planning and a lot of new code. Not the least, the new data we had access to wasn't 100% compatible with our old data, so we had a lot of adjustments and compromises to do.
The fact is that all Partners to HQ had a quite long period to implement the API. It was released long before the deadline to switch to it (the shutdown of the old API). The problem was that no partner really rushed into it, leaving it quite untested.
There was also some functionality missing. Some parts were required for us to be able to keep existing, other partners had other needs. We can not speak for others, but HQ was very accommodating to us, listening to our needs and solving them.
Most of our time was spent on adapting the site towards the new API between March and June 2019. That says a bit of how much work it was for a small group as us. Added to that there has of course been many bugs that we had to solve after actually switching to the new API. In the beginning, quite a few, then fewer and fewer. The latest "new" API related bug we fixed was about two months ago.
In general we are happy with the new API though. It's more thought through, more consistent, and not the least, more stable.
After working a lot during the spring, definitely more than full-time, we decided to take it a bit chill during the summer. That's when it hit me (magma1447, owner and main developer of Project-GC). I got a thrombus in my right eye.
Besides the fact that I lost more or less all my eye sight in that eye, I also had quite a lot of pain in the eye, which made me constantly tired. The eye had huge issues focusing since it was all blurred by blood. This resulted in a very tired eye, and therefore the pain. The best solution was to not use the eye more than neccessary. As self-employed it's not always too easy to just call yourself stick and skip work for a month or two.
At least I could work as little as possible and only do neccessary maintenance, bookkeeping, bug fixing and such. I am also happy that I worked so much during the spring, so that it still felt fair.
I have then gradually been working more and more, and since 2-3 months back I am back at full-time, and also full of energy. Losing site in one eye doesn't really affect my work anymore, the human eyes and brain have amazing abilities to compensate, even for someone who is 40+.
Another thing that has taken more time than we would have hoped for is GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulations). At first, it was mostly about documenting, rewriting licensing, going through data and comparing it to needs.
Geocaching HQ however had to take a lot more actions. Their actions however help us in a way. If they remove unwanted data, it's removed from us as well. The problem here is that we have been going through multiple variants and implementations. Each of them costing us time for implementing, workarounds, bugfixes and so forth. As we see it, we are up to 4-5 different solutions by now. Each one of them have created weird bugs which has been hard to track down.
This has been an ongoing work since 2016, and we had expected it to be a one-time thing. But it has really followed us and created new work every year. The latest is that Californa has implemented their version (CCPA), which also caused a few new changes in the API.
It's not that we are against the privacy laws, not at all. But it's an issue for a small company when it takes up even as little as 10% of the resources you have for a longer time period.
All in all, we just wanted to tell you that we actually have been working a lot during 2019, even though it might not seem so.
Next time we will provide some more user-visible news. Both from 2019 and from the beginning of 2020.
Early Black Friday/Cyber Monday!
Black Friday Campaign
We are starting this year's Black Friday campaign early. It started today, the 22nd November 12:00 UTC. The honest reason that we are starting the campaign this early is that we are in need of US Dollars. We have a big invoice to pay, and we do not have enough money in USD. Using other capital (EUR/SEK) will cost us a few extra percent in exchange fees.
If you pay for a Project-GC membership during this campaign with US Dollars, you will receive 25% extra membership time. Paying in EUR or SEK will grant you 10% extra membership time. The extra time from the campaign will be added a day or two after your purchase.
Please help us get some US Dollars into our bank account. This is a perfect time for an early renewal, or to start paying for that service that you use regulary.
Visit our Membership page to take an advantage of this deal before it ends.
The site's economy
While we don't feel that the site is threatend by lack of income, we currently aren't bringing in as much money as we need. This is mainly holding back on further development on the site since we can't afford hiring developers/artists. We do have many ideas and features that we would like to implement, but right now it's going slow.
This has led us to change our strategy regarding ads and free use of the site. As before, the site is 100% ad free for our paying members, and we have no plans to change that. But since ~90% of our users are no-paying, we feel that we have the need to try to convert more of them or at least get some more income from ads. Therefore, the site has been going through a few changes on that topic lately.
First off we have moved the ads around, and without doubt increased the amount of ads. We will get back to this to make sure that we feel that there is a reasonable level of ads, and that they aren't too intrusive. Related to this, we have also improved our anti-Adblock implementations. If you do not wish for a paid membership, we at least hope that you can accept seeing ads on the site.
We have also added more reminders in different forms, asking frequent users to upgrade to a paid membership. We will try our best to not nag those who rarely uses the site.
We have recently added Google Maps as tilelayers to our maps again. They are only available for our paying members though. There are a few extra clicks to enable them, and we are sorry about that. The fact is that it would just cost way too much to have them loaded on each map load. We estimate that the cost would be 10-20% of our revenue.
While many users are satisfied with other alternatives to the Google Road map layer, Google's Satellite images are hard to replace. Therefore we are happy that we finally have managed to provide a decent solution for this.
Free membership time
Project-GC is translated into several languages. This is all done by the community and we are extremely grateful for that. We hope those users using the site in another language than English are as well. To reciprocate those translating the site we will start granting free membership time to them. The amount of words/strings translated will be converted into a number of days of free membership time.
In the beginning we handled this manually, but with a growing amount of translators, it just wasn't managable anymore. Now we have been working on a more automatic process. The plan is to grant free membership time retroactive for the work during 2018 and 2019. After that we will grant it on a monthly basis. See this FAQ entry for some more details.
Hopefully we can find similar solutions for those helping out in the QA forum and creating Challenge Checkers as well.
The lack of news
As the observant may have noticed we haven't posted any news here in over a year. There is no real reason for that, besides having the wrong priorities. We will therefore post a few entries the coming week, telling about some of the work that has been done the last year.
We do however recommend you to follow us on Facebook. Besides posting about site issues and such, we are better at posting about smaller changes there. It also happens that we just post some interesting data for people to enjoy.
In May 2000 Geocaching was born on the 3rd of May, this date the first documented Geocache was hidden. That means that Geocaching is now 18 years old, and still thriving!
Project-GC also celebrates its birthday in May, we had our official launch May 9th 2012. We therefore celebrate 6 years of active service today. Project-GC has existed a bit longer than that though, but in the beginning it was quite unofficial and most didn't know of it. It has been six exciting years, and it still feels like we are just getting started. We have so many more things that we would like to create and present to you all.
To celebrate Geocaching's and most of all, Project-GC's birthday, we will be running a discount campaign on our paid memberships. More of that later in this newsletter, under Discount campaign.
We have been updating some geographic data lately, as usual. This time it was a bit more complicated for us since HQ has updated some of their data and we of course needed to adjust to this as well. The biggest change is that Czech Republic has been renamed to Czechia in the systems. Then there has been some minor changes to UK, Canada and various small islands as well. This was only step one of HQs updates that we will have to adjust to, we are waiting for the next batch.
We have also been updating polygon data for Slovenia the last month.
As mentioned in the last newsletter, we have been updating some software in the system. We went through with the upgrade from PHP 5.6 to 7.0. Even though we had prepared for it for a long time, it was still plenty of work and we had several minor issues while launching it. Plenty of other systems have also been upgraded, but we still have a few more to go through.
Most importantly we need to bring our database servers up to more recent versions. We also have some operating systems that we would like to upgrade to the latest stable releases. This will be an ongoing project the coming months. Upgrading the database servers will probably require the longest downtime, maybe even a full day. We will get back to you with information regarding this ones it's scheduled.
Discount campaign Starting Wednesday this week (May 9th, UTC) we will grant extra membership time for every sale we make. For the first days, we will grant 30% extra membership time, and after that it's reduced to 20%. Starting Wednesday this week, until the end of Sunday (9th - 13th), everyone who buys a membership will get 30% additional membership time added to their account. Take your chance and get 4 years of membership while only paying for 3 years. We have also just introduced the "5 years" level, so that you can buy 5 years at a time. If you wish, you can even buy 5 years twice, and get a total of 13 years of membership time added to your account. For the rest of the month, from Monday 14th May until the end of May, we will grant 20% extra membership time to everyone who pays for a membership. If you already have an active membership, additional bought time will be added upon your current time. No paid membership time will be lost. You can verify that you got your additional membership time added by visiting the Membership page and clicking Payment history. Please allow a few minutes for the payment to go through. This is also where you can see when your current membership expires. All dates/times mentioned are defined for timezone UTC. This offer can not be combined with gifting, referrals, or any other offers.
Free membership time
Besides the campaign we are running above, we are also giving away 100 months of free membership. If you click the below link, you can activate a 30 day free membership. If you already have an active membership, your current one will be extended. But, the below coupon code only has 100 charges. The first 100 to click it and follow the instructions will get their free 30 days.
Downtime scheduled on Thursday the 15th
The last week we have been working with major software upgrades on our servers. We have now scheduled an update of the Live servers for Thursday the 15th of March at 9 am UTC (10 am CET). Expected downtime is ~6 hours.
During the downtime a status page will be shown where we will try our best to post updates about how it's going, and if we are on schedule or not.
The primary task is to upgrade PHP from 5.6 to 7.0, something we have been working towards for well over a year. With this we have also completely rewritten our Sandbox environment for the Challenge checkers. Related to that, there have been quite a few updates and changes for the developers of challenge checkers, it has been a fairly big task overall.
New firewall and routing equipment
Last week we switched our old firewall and router to new hardware. The new equipment is more modern and allows us a more automatic failover when there are Internet issues on our primary connection.
During this time we had some downtime as well. The first downtime period lasted for about an hour, but there was some configuration issues and we reverted. A few hours later we brought the systems down again. That time the maintenance window lasted for ~40 minutes, and the switch of hardware was successful.
We are very satisfied with that result, considering we had written over 2500 lines of configuration for the hardware, with minimal testing.
Earlier, we have been holding off on maintentance that has required downtime of the site. We have really wanted to keep the site up. That might not have been very smart since we now have plenty of tasks that requires downtime. We will try to change our point of view here and actually do it when we feel that it's neccessary. Therefore, there might be a few more maintenance windows the coming months. We have at least two more major upgrades that we would like to execute this spring.
When we are starting to plan these, we will first announce them on our Facebook page. They are announced there when we have an idea of which day it might happen. When we have more detailed information we will try to post it on the site as well. Either as an alert message on top, or in a news entry like this one.
Challenge tab in Profile Stats
For our paying members we have added a new tab in the Profile stats, a Challenge tab. Besides listing all challenges that you have logged, there is also a seperate section listing challenges that has been noted. On those noted challenges it will also show a cached result from the corresponding Challenge checker. This way you can see if you have any signed challenges that you have now fulfilled.
Proper list of challenges
While working on the Challenge tab for Profile stats we also added an interface to handle a proper list of challenges. Some geocaches has the word challenge in the title even though they are not challenges, and also the other way around. Project-GC now has a proper way to maintain a list of which geocaches actually is a challenge cache, many thanks to those in the community who has helped out building that list.
As usual we have been going through some polygon updates. Here is a list of countries that have been updated since we last posted a list back in April (last year). Some of them have been updated more than once during the period.
- New Zealand