Geocaching Swiss Army Knife
Shortly after I started Geocaching I discovered Geocaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK). GSAK is an excellent database application that is geared towards tracking all of your caching activities. I rely on this one program to load thousands of caches into my GPSr, keep track of what I have found (as well hidden) and all of the recent activity in caches I haven’t yet found. In my experience it is the best program written for this purpose. There are other applications that can do parts of what GSAK can do but none offer the same complete package.
Sounds great, right? The only problem I have with this program is that it is written for Windows. There is no Linux port! Since I run Ubuntu on all of my mobile computers (and even my work computers), I can only use it on my Windows computer at home. This (for me) was limiting. Of course Windows users don’t have a problem with this. For us Linux users however, we are simply stuck if we need to reload our GPSr units in the field or do any research while we are out of range of the internet.
Wine Is Not A Windows Emulator
Over the years I have tried numerous Linux based tools trying to replace this functionality. Each time I eventually gave up and went back to doing it in Windows. One day recently I decided to give the latest development build of Wine (WINe is Not an Emulator) to see if GSAK would work at all. In past revisions of Wine GSAK would either not load at all or would crash and burn shortly after loading. After updating my laptop and giving it a shot I found out that it works! I was able to finally load GSAK and browse around the program without crashing. What a relief!
So, how did I get it to work? My Linux distribution of choice as of this writing is Ubuntu 10.10. The default version of Wine that is in the Ubuntu software repository is version 1.2. Don’t try to run GSAK in this version as it will not work. You can find detailed instructions on how to install Wine 1.3 below (summarized):
Run the following commands on the command line:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install wine1.3
These commands will install the latest version of Wine automatically. If you already had Wine installed then the upgrade will remove version 1.2 first. I had the most success by manually deleting the Wine version 1.2 /home/user/.wine directory. Opening Wine version 1.3 will create these files again from scratch.
You need Wine version 1.3 or higher to make GSAK work.
After you have installed the latest version of Wine and created the new configuration files, download the latest version of GSAK. Open the command line and browse to the downloads directory. Enter the following command to install GSAK:
Latest version of GSAK
Now that the software is installed you can start it up, enter your licensing information and get started! Once I had finished the installation and tried out a sample database, I was ready to start putting this to use. I solved the issue of getting the software to work in the first place. Now I had to solve the problem of portability. How can I move my GSAK installation around with me wherever I go? I have desktops at work and at home, a laptop and a netbook. That’s a lot of devices! I could be using any of them at any time so what happens when I have my netbook but GSAK is on my laptop?
Dropbox solves this problem nicely. I am running this service on all of my computers to synchronize my important files everywhere I go. With so many computers it is virtually impossible to keep up with where my data is. Dropbox takes care of this completely. I went to my Windows computer and copied my existing GSAK settings files to my Dropbox folder. Once you have copied the settings files over you will need to change the Application Data, Database Folder and Backup Folder paths in Tools – Options – General. As you move from computer to computer GSAK will open up and pull in the latest database information. It really is seamless!
It is seamless however, until I try to open GSAK on my one Windows computer. The Application Data and Database Folder settings survive the transition from Linux to Windows. The Backup Folder path does not change. It still looks for the last path used. If you want to back up the database in Windows you have to manually change the options coming and going from Windows. I posted a note in the GSAK forum asking that the Backup Folder be turned into a variable instead of a hard coded path. Hopefully that will change in future versions.
So What Doesn’t Work In Windows?
There are two areas of GSAK that still doesn’t work with Wine:
- Split Screen View – This feature doesn’t work at all. It loads the first cache when the program loads but never loads another one after that. Sometimes the program crashes when it tries to load. I only run this view when I am on my Windows computer and I have to turn it off before I go back to Linux.
- Macros – Most of the macros that I am accustomed to using work well in Linux. Only the macros that require Windows drive letters won’t work in Linux. That doesn’t affect me very much so I haven’t spent much time on it.
It really works!
So there you have it, GSAK works in Linux! There are still a few kinks to be worked out but considering that a few months ago it wouldn’t even load properly this is enormous progress. I hope more of my fellow Linux users will start running it. Perhaps we can get the last few glitches worked out at some point and have the same functionality as our Windows brethren. Happy Caching!