Category Archives: Orienteering

Awesome Umstead Park map

Backwoods Orienteering Klub is selling full-size Umstead Park maps. This is the same map we are using for our orienteering events, except that ours are generally scale 1:10,000 printed on a letter-size paper, whereas this is 1:15,000 printed on a much larger sheet (events are usually happening in about a quarter of the mapped area).

The park-maintained trails are marked with red on top of the standard orienteering black.

The level of details is amazing (what you expect from orienteering maps). There is history behind the map too, apparently after one of the major hurricanes (Fran, 1997) the map was redone and somewhere close to 15,000 trees were _individually_ mapped. Also, at some point you could see the trail of a tornado taking down a huge number of trees (1989) – now only impassible areas of overgrown vegetation.

To quote from the map description:

… Utilizing orthophoto base materials, detailed field surveys were performed in various stages by eleven different individuals over twenty-six yers. It took an estimated one thousand one hundred man hours of labor to produce this map. Drafting was done on computer using OCAD software. This map is printed, using soy based inks, on PaperTyger, a paper plastic laminate, making it water and tear resistant.

If you are interested in one, check out one of the retailers, or let me know and I can try to pick one up for you when I get mine.

More orienteering

It’s been a busy orienteering season this year, with additional “training” events for members only, that made the schedule more interesting.

The June 8 event was fun, even though the heat added to the challenge of overgrown vegetation. I could have done better, since I lost a lot of time on several controls (and the worst one was the last). But exhaustion does play tricks to your mind. Vladimir Stemkovski described his experience on the Brown course, and he has posted the map. I believe that, when trying to hit control 12, I got to the trail (dotted black line) between 11 and 12, right where I was supposed to be, but missed the saddle, then got back on the trail and thought I was on the top of the hill, so my compass bearing dropped me on the paved road instead. Approaching the control from the paved road was easier, the large re-entrant helped me get in the right spot, and even then I had troubles seeing the saddle.

I was 20 minutes late past the 3PM course closing time, but I wasn’t the last one on the course (as I found out later, one orienteer suffered from heat exhaustion). I was pretty happy with the fact that I was able to run large portions of the course, but when I got to finish I probably looked like I stepped out of the pool (although I suspect there was some mud involved too). Long pants are mandatory to protect from bugs and branches, and that doesn’t help much for cooling you down, even though the tech fabric is definitely light and breathable.

In other news, I started working on a PalmOS application to download data from SportIdent  control stations. I didn’t have any time to work on it over the past months, but hopefully I’ll make some progress in a few weeks, when my schedule clears up a bit.

Remote Forests

It’s been a few busy weekends. Sunday Feb 10th we had an orienteering event at Raven Rock, and Feb 17th was Birkhead Wilderness. Both are awesome parks.

The part of Raven Rock where most of the event happened had a lot of underbrush that made it near-impossible to run – but otherwise the course was very well chosen, with some awesome terrain features. The forest is South of Cape Fear, and the cliffs close to the river are very impressive.

Birkhead was a brand new course for Backwoods Orienteering, a bit far (close to the NC Zoo in Asheboro), but still a lot of fun. The forest is sprinkled with huge boulders, and controls were placed in a variety of features that made it less monotone than usual (where reentrants are the norm).

Orienteering, the modern way

The orienteering club I am a member of has made the decision to purchase electronic punching equipment. Since I grew up with the classic punching equipment that has probably not changed in the last 40 years, this is pretty exciting.

I was kind of puzzled originally that an e-punch card could cost  about $35, while being able to store information about you and up to 33 punches. Assuming a generous 100 bytes per punch, that can’t be more than 4k of storage. 1G USB keys can be bought for a bit over $10 (sometimes even less). I guess there is a lot of research and development invested in making the solution resilient to the elements (the control stations are waterproof and smart enough to save their batteries etc), and there is not a high demand in orienteering equipment either, but I still think there’s a pretty high margin in selling the e-punch cards at $30+.

People are already unhappy that the new cards only work in new control stations  and that forces clubs to ditch their older equipment. There may well be valid reasons to force the incompatibility (after all, the newer e-punch cards are more than twice as fast as the old ones, and it may be that the old stations just can’t handle that).

Since I’m not traveling to A-meets, it doesn’t bother me that I will have a new e-punch card. But it does point out one fact: the good old stapler-like puncher lasted for the past half a century and is still a valid option – can you say the same thing about electronic equipment? I am worried we’ll see the same trend as with modern computers: update every 3 years or you won’t find software to run.

What I’ve been up to

It’s been a while since my last post, so here’s what’s been going on.

  •  Very busy working on Conary (though still not making progress fast enough through my issues list).
  • Speaking of that, I’ve reached the respectable 6 months with rPath.
  • Moved over the weekend.
  • Packaged gnucash 2.1.0 – and hit some guile issues in the process. Hopefully will finish tomorrow.
  • Does “April 17th” tell you something?
  • Before moving, a bunch of repairs made – that was all my spare time went.
  • Ran an orienteering event at the Schenck forest (and I missed a bunch of controls). Got to cross a 20-ish-ft river over a rotten log 3 times before the heavy rain started. I was completely soaked when I finished. But it was fun.
  • Did not run as much lately because of my evenings being “a different workout”.


Wow, almost a month from the previous post. If blogging were one of my New Year resolutions, I’d be behind already.

Anyway, I was pretty busy lately. We had friends visiting for Christmas, more friends visiting between Christmas and New Year, and an orienteering event at Lake Johnson to organize.

I’ve been playing with vmware quite a bit lately, partly for my work with software appliances (which are a very cool concept) and for Condes, the Orienteering course editor. I initially tried to run Condes under wine, and it installs and starts, but for some unknown reason all features on the map are drawn with extra thick lines/points, so everything becomes unreadable. I believe something in the way Condes displays OCAD maps. Otherwise, Condes can be run in Windows under vmware, but it’s slower. I’ve found a thread about Condes on Linux here, and I’ve chimed in, let’s see how much interest my experience generates.

I’ve also dipped my toes in the murky waters of Java programming, working on porting some jira plugins to the latest and greatest, version 3.7.1. I haven’t decided yet if I like maven or not. The fact that maven2 is not backwards compatible with maven1 (and doesn’t complain if it can’t find the .pom file) makes me a bit hesitant. Also, packaging Java applications feels weird: each application ships with all the jar files. Sure, you remove the inter-dependency between applications, you can now independently upgrade one without touching the other, but if you have a security issue and have to patch version X of a jar file, you’re dead in the water since there are no good ways you can list all applications that use a jar (that I could find, at least). That’s my 10k foot view of a subject I am not familiar with, so take it with as much salt as you like.

Back to software appliances. Isn’t it nice that when you need a PostgreSQL database server, you just go and download a PostgreSQL appliance that you unzip and start using vmplayer or xen and run it as a server? It even comes with phpPgAdmin, so you can do all the administration remotely. It literally takes a few minutes to have something up and running and not worry about extra packages you have to install, extra hardware to solve possible security problems etc.

One final gripe. I spent an hour last night with someone from Fidelity trying to understand where some of my ESPP stock has gone. To make the story short, they will gladly lose history of your purchases because the software that does the transactions uses an “oldest first” policy. Enough said. Your assets are still there, it’s not like you lose money, but you do lose important historical information.

Another orienteering weekend

After a gorgeous Saturday, with temperatures close to 80, the Sunday didn’t look promising: rainy and cold. But, just like the last time, the rain stopped around noon, just in time for the start.

I could not leave the church until 1:30PM, which meant I was only able to start around 1:50. I was nervous I won’t be able to finish a green course, but Nadya (the course director) encouraged me to do it anyway. And I am happy I did.

This is the result. I timed myself too (I kept the splits for each control), but I refused to look at the total time. I thought I will be back in less than an hour, I was very surprised and disappointed at the finish line that I was 23 minutes over an hour (15 minutes after the 3PM closing time). I don’t exactly know why I thought I did it faster, I did try to run all the way through. The course was beautiful, it also helped that I started to know Umstead South a bit better and some controls were a deja-vu (especially control 7 on the cliff, but also the steep river bank, control 8 – I am positive we’ve had controls there before – it’s easy to find out since I have the maps for the past 2 years). (update: those were controls 40 and 53 from the Umstead 911 Score Event)

Other surprises: Green course was 5.6km, it’s usually 5.1km; for the first time I notice there was a Blue course as well (8.7km) – not that I could do it in the timeframe I had, plus it would definitely be long. Nadya estimated 10 minutes per kilometer in orienteering, I seem to be at 15.

On the way back home I noticed how gorgeous the woods are in the fall. It’s probably the best month to do orienteering, cool enough and with less vegetation, plus the foilage.

A Rainy Sunday

The weather didn’t look very promising for Sunday. The morning was cold (around 55F) and it drizzled. However, the rain conveniently stopped around 1PM, so my orienteering experience was actually surprisingly pleasant. I didn’t get as wet as last time (when it was in the mid 80s), probably also because I didn’t have to cross the stream (twice) knee-deep in water. I still got a bit wet because of the vegetation, but not nearly as bad as I thought, and since I was running most of the time I didn’t notice the cold anyway.

I competed on the green course (5.1km) and finished in 75:43 (definitely not the fastest time, I’ve seen at least 2 faster times, one at 60 minutes and one at 71 minutes), but I am really happy with it. I only had troubles with 2 out of the 9 controls, that’s where I knew I lost time; the rest was just me taking my time.

As usual, I really enjoyed Umstead Park. The event was in the North side of the park, which is generally a problem for me coming from the South, because I have to go around either West-bound (I-540 and US-70) or East-bound (Blue Ridge / Duraleigh / Ebeneezer Church / US-70). Blue Ridge Road is a no-no these days with the State Fair blocking all the traffic, so I used I-40 / Wade Avenue / Edwards Mill / Duraleigh / … and that wasn’t bad at all. It’s surprising that the Reedy Creek / South entrance and the North entrance in the park do not communicate so you can get by car through the park – for those who don’t know why, the reason is historical and dates from the Segregation period. I guess not being able to drive across the Park is a good thing after all, I wouldn’t want cars speeeding through.

… And the week after the week of vacation

First week at the new company (rPath). Not a lot of comments, other than I am trying to learn as fast as I can.

I’ve started by installing rPath Linux on the laptop, and just finished reinstalling it with Foresight Linux, mostly because I was looking for more recent versions of NetworkManager, XChat and a working suspend-to-RAM. Plus, Foresight has a lot more desktop goodies.
After using Foresight for about half an hour, I can say I got 33% of what I wanted. XChat has been replaced with xchat-gnome, and suspend didn’t work in different ways (no kernel support – easily fixed by running the rPath Linux kernel). Another thing is the music player: Foresight comes with Banshee whereas Fedora Core 5 comes with Rhythmbox. Apparently I will have to look at Amarok too.

I did spend some of my time with paperwork, inherrent to getting a new job (new health insurance plan etc.).

Hopefully I will not be subject to the viruses that are affecting some of my friends (no, not computer viruses, I’m talking about cold/flu), and the weather on Sunday will hold for the orienteering event.