gpx2ipod: Mac-Based Paperless Caching Redux

I’ve written a script – gpx2ipod – to enable Mac-based paperless geocaching with an iPod.

Mac-based paperless caching for people who own an iPod but not a PDA. Batch-converts a pile of .gpx files to plain text for use with the iPod’s “Notes” feature. Super-fast — cut your geocaching prep time to a few minutes. gpx2ipod handles both individual and Pocket Query (multiple-cache).gpx files. Cache files will display alphabetically on the iPod for easy access in the field. gpx2ipod can inject generated text files directly into your iPod (most users) or into a local “output” folder (you might not have an iPod but might still want the text files for other purposes). gpx2ipod is a Terminal application (shell script), but can be run painlessly with a double-click — no shell experience required.

The script requires gpsbabel 1.3.4 or higher, and can be downloaded either with or without gpsbabel bundled.

For me, it’s been a very fast way to reduce prep time before going caching – I can now build and receive a pocket query from, then load hundreds of waypoints into the GPSr and all of their metadata into the iPod in a few minutes (previously I had to selectively print out data pages for each cache I intended to visit – a laborious and wasteful process).

Just received an email from a super-happy beta tester who’s as excited by this as I am – gratifying to know I’m not just barking up my own tree. A future version will feed gpx files to the GPSr and text files to the iPod in the same run.

This tool is also available through VersionTracker.

This is the official support / comment page for gpx2ipod.

42 Replies to “gpx2ipod: Mac-Based Paperless Caching Redux”

  1. Thanks for the script! Very useful!
    On my Mac/iPod combination it outputs junk characters for the Swedish “special” letters ‘åäö’ when transfered to the iPod though.. But anyway, thanks!

  2. Hi Nick – Can you send me a .gpx files with these characters included so I can test? I may or may not be able to fix this (it’s probably a problem with gpsbabel). Thanks.

  3. Oops – If you downloaded this earlier and found that there was nothing double-clickable in the folder, it was because you’re using StuffIt Expander to unzip your .zips rather than OS X’s built-in unzipper. To get around this problem, I’ve repackaged gpx2ipod as a .dmg. If it didn’t work for you last night, please try again.

  4. Nick – It looks like this is a limitation of the iPod itself. The file is being converted with special characters intact, but when copied to the iPod, they show up as junk. Bummer. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about this.

  5. Hi,

    gpx2ipod is amazing software. Exactly what I need; nothing more, nothing less!

    Is there any chance in this world that v1.1 could cause my Mac formatted iPod to croak? I’ve had the iPod for about two years, and it has treated me well. After using gpx2ipod (as well as Onyx for maintenance – they claim no chance of ipod issues) my iPod will not mount in XP or OSX. I get the Do Not Disconnect screen, but the iPod never mounts on the Desktop or within iTunes. I’ve restarted both computers, as well as the iPod many times and keep getting the same result. Any ideas?

    I would like to restore the iPod, but no OS recognizes it!



  6. Hi Jason – I’m amazed that you would say that gpx2ipod is amazing AND that it killed your iPod in the same sentence :)

    However, I’m extremely dubious that it could have anything to do with your iPod problem. All it does is copy some text files to the Notes folder – exactly as it’s supposed to be used. It has no further interaction with the iPod whatsoever.

    I’ve used gpx2ipod on a bunch of different computers, with a bunch of different ipods, and haven’t experienced any problem with ipods as a result of using it, nor have I heard from any users with issues.

    Out of curiosity, does it show up on the FireWire bus in Disk Utility?

    I just googled for “ipod won’t mount” and came up with a bunch of helpful-looking sites. here’s one.

    Good luck, and let us know whether you get this resolved.

  7. Jason,

    Exaclty the same has happened to my iPod twice scince I started using gpx2ipod . I have been able to restore it on Windows using iTunes but I can’t really remember the process. Just try different approaches – it will work eventually. BTW, I have a Intel Mac Mini and an iPod Video 60GB.

  8. BTW, I would be very curious to know whether Nick or Jason are able to reproduce this problem by simply dragging files to the Notes folder on the iPod volume (since that’s basically all gpx2ipod is doing). If you can, then it sounds like we’re looking at a serious iPod bug.

    FWIW, I developed gpx2ipod on both a PowerPC and an Intel iMac (I upgraded my Mac somewhere between v1.0 and v1.1).

  9. I *do* love the software. I’m sick of printing of stacks of sheets, then getting them all mixed up! Since I coincidentally started having iPod issues I figured I’d check if there’s any way that gpx2ipod is somehow responsible.

    I have three 30 gig iPod videos (Mac Formatted – for my classroom) that I use with my iBook. The one that had the gpx2ipod test ended up being the one that is having problems. I’m not totally panicked yet since I can still charge it and use it. I just can’t mount it to take stuff off and put stuff on. I always eject/unmount when I’m done using. I launched Disk Utility and didn’t see anything about Firewire Bus when I iPod was connected…

    Thanks! :)

  10. Jason, glad you love the software! I really do think the issue you’re experiencing is completely coincidental though. I think you should read through the pages of the iPod support site I linked to above. Somewhere out there knows what to do with a finicky iPod. …

  11. OK, I’ve put some text files in the notes directory and will leave them there for a week or so. If all goes well I’ll give gpx2ipod another go to see if my iPod refuses to mount again.

  12. The amount of time you leave them there wouldn’t have any effect. If you can put them there and then unmount and then remount the iPod, then you know your iPod doesn’t have any problem with the Notes feature, and that therefore gpx2ipod is not related to the problem you’re experiencing.

  13. 1. Mounted, put text files in notes, unmounted, read a textfile, mounted again – no problem.

    2. Mounted, transfered cache descriptions to iPod using gpx2ipod, unmounted, read a description, iPod does not mount.

    Have to start my Windows machine and try to remember how I fixed this the last time.

  14. Nick – I’m *completely* flummoxed by this, straining my brain to imagine how it might be possible. I’ll think about it and get back to you.

    Meanwhile, an alternative might be to have gpx2ipod just output to its “output” folder and then manually copy the files over to the Notes folder. Should be functionally identical to what gpx2ipod does, but it sounds like Finder copies are working for you for some reason while Terminal copies are not.

  15. Nick, If you figure out how to restore, please tell me!!! :)

    Also, Scot, a few of the sample files didn’t render correctly for me on my ipod… (Cooper’s Lament, Angel Island, & Gun Jumper)

  16. Jason, when you say “didn’t render correctly” can you be more specific? Are you saying the filenames aren’t correct, or that the contents of the file aren’t correct?

    I think I just spotted an issue with creating filenames when the cache names contain a colon – that’s easy to fix.

    Any rendering issues inside the files are outside of my control, since we rely on gpsbabel to do that work.

  17. Some of the names are a little misformatted and they are the only 3 w/o the GCXXXX in the name 1st. also, the body of the note appears to be blank

  18. That sounds like some filenaming issues stemming from caches with slashes and colons in their names (since those are illegal characters in filenames).

    Want to give version 1.2 a shot and let me know how it does on those sample files? Empty your output folder first so we can be sure you’re seeing new, not old output.

  19. Jason, I don’t know if this will work for you but for me it did the trick (this time – last time was a lot harder).

    This is exactly what I did:
    1. After iPod not mounting, pull out the USB cable from the Mac leaving it connected to the iPod.
    2. Reset the iPod by holding down Enter+Menu until it restarts.
    3. Connect the USB cable to a powered off Windows computer with iTunes installed.
    4. Power on the PC.
    5. When you log in, iTunes will hopefully recognize your ipod and ask if you want to make a Win filesystem on it. Aswer yes.
    6. After it finishes, unmount from PC and connect to Mac and restore.

    Last time iTunes did not recognize the iPod in Win I had to start Disk Management (or whatever it’s called) and let it work for a long time. It did not see my iPod but when I restarted iTunes it asked me if I wanted to format my device.

    Hope this works for you. Good luck!

  20. I ran the sample files through v1.2 and everything looks great. No funky symbols & the desired body text is present!

    Now back to the other iPod. It will eventually mount under Windows XP, but clicking restore within iTunes isn’t working. Need to try Nick’s instructions… :)

  21. Excellent! Glad to hear it, and thanks for your feedback in tamping down these little stray character bugs.

    I wonder if there’s any chance that trying to create files with /s and :s in them could in any way be related to certain models of iPod getting confused …. Sure wish I could reproduce the problem so I could be of more assistance on that problem.

  22. Hey, cool tool!

    I don’t know whose fault it is, but the cache descriptions are cut after a specific amount of text.
    It’s probably a Notes length limitation of my 4th gen iPod.
    Need to check each and every cache description for which I know it might be too long…

  23. Thanks blubalu – Glad you’re enjoying. I actually haven’t noticed a problem with descriptions being cut short. Can you point me to a cache that gave you this problem? I’d like to see if I can reproduce this. Thanks.

  24. Sure, this is a Cache ID where it happens: GCP093.

    But I’ve seen it with others too.
    I’ll have a look into the GPX file myself. Maybe it’s some weird characters in it.
    The file has been exported with CacheWolf, btw.

  25. Maybe I should also tell where it happens: it’s after the following text:

    “Die Anzahl der Buchstaben (L) auf einem Doppelschild (…), bei einem”

  26. OK – I downloaded the .gpx for that file and ran it through gpx2ipod, and the description was not truncated. Rather than output it to the iPod, I output to the “output” directory and opened up the result in a text editor. So I’m curious whether this is happening for you on the iPod or in the output as viewed from your Mac. Thanks.

  27. I also output it to the “output” directory.
    There the contents is not truncated.
    After transferring it to the Notes folder on the iPod it’s truncated.
    So it might be an iPod problem after all?
    It’s a 4th gen click-wheel ipod w/ s/w version 3.1.1, Mac-formatted.

    Just found this:

    There’s 4kb notes size limit :(

  28. Actually, thinking about this more… I could potentially scan for the filesize of each output file and split it into two parts if larger than 4k. Don’t have time to do this soon, but look for that in a future release of gpx2ipod.

  29. Has anyone ever reported successful use of gpx2ipod with Cygwin on Windows?
    I’d like to give it a try but am not sure what I need. I don’t want to have a full Cygwin installation…

    Any ideas you want to share with me?

  30. Although I mention that in the readme, I’ve never tried it and have never heard from a user who has. Basically it would involve going through the code and tweaking any paths that that don’t work outside the Mac (shouldn’t be much). Also, I don’t know how to make a double-clickable shell script for cygwin, so you’d probably have to run it from the shell directly.

  31. Guess who’s the first to have gpx2ipod running in cygwin? :)
    Yes, I managed to get it working. It wasn’t too much work, only some paths tweaking as you said.

    I use the native Windows version of gpsbabel because I wanted to keep cygwin’s footprint as small as possible right now and didn’t want to compile it myself.

  32. Yow! FanTAStic to hear. If you could document the process or any changes you had to make, and whether you were able to keep it double-clickable, I’ll either include that in the readme or, if possible, alter the script to make it a user option.

  33. Hi,
    I’ve used version 1.0 in the past and have experienced both of the bugs noted here – failure to recognize ipod (must ‘force quit’ and reboot each time) and failure to load info on caches with a colon in the title. I’ve just downloaded the newest version with hope s that it would work better for me, but am now experiencing a further glitch and am getting the following response. Any idea what I’m doing wrong? If I have to resort to using MacCaching for my forthcoming trip, I won’t have the log info, which I agree is key. thanks so much, Heidi

    gpsbabel is available … good.

    Processing input/1505735-wpts.gpx…
    Unsupported character set “-i”!
    Processing input/1505735.gpx…
    Unsupported character set “-i”!
    Processing input/1508727.gpx…
    Unsupported character set “-i”!
    sed: /tmp/gpx2ipod/*: No such file or directory
    sed: /tmp/gpx2ipod/*: No such file or directory
    cat: /tmp/gpx2ipod/*: No such file or directory

  34. Hi Heidi – recent versions of gpx2ipod filter out a bunch of special characters in cache names that become problematic when transformed into filenames. Sounds like I need to add the colon character to that list. Can you send me the problematic gpx file, or tell me the cache ID so I can grab it myself? This should be an easy fix. Thanks!

  35. Love the program, it saves tons of time (and paper), but there’s a a big bug in there for some of us.

    Identical to some of the complaints above, after I synced to the Notes on my iPod, it would no longer mount. When the iPod is docked the “Do not disconnect” screen appears, but does not blink.

    I had to reset the iPod while it was in the cradle to get it to mount and sync with iTunes. I knew to do that because this happened to me about a year and a half ago.

    I had just tried a program that would automatically sync to iPod Notes (can’t remember what it was). Afterwards it would not mount. I didn’t make the connection then to the Notes synchronization, but now it seems obvious.

    So I manually removed the geocaching notes from the iPod and deleted gpx2ipod. I will reinstall, but I will have the notes exported as a file that I will manually place in the Notes folder.

    Don’t know where the problem lays, but I will keep trying.

    Thanks and keep up the support and development. Great job


  36. Hi Josh – Glad you’re liking the program – thanks! My best guess about the mounting problem was that some versions of the ipod got really cranky when trying to create filenames with special characters in them. So if a cache was called “sun/glasses” then it would try to create a file called “sun/glasses” – but “/” is a separate between directories. So some iPod’s would choke on that. But I fixed up all of those problems a long time ago, as far as I know.

    If anyone is able to figure out *which particular* cache names are giving them grief, I’d have a starting point to work from. But at this point I just don’t know where to dig in further on that problem.

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