Safely docked at Pier 39, lures galore, multiple nearby gyms,…

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Safely docked at Pier 39, lures galore, multiple nearby gyms, and three Magikarp in the Nearby tray. Nice.

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Birds and whales and Pokémon, oh my! I’ve discovered that one…

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Birds and whales and Pokémon, oh my!

I’ve discovered that one difference between passage-making on a sailboat and on a powerboat is that on a powerboat there’s more time for sightseeing. Today the wind was light and southwesterly, which was ideal for the longest leg of our trip past Big Sur, the Monterey Peninsula, and Monterey Bay.

There was so much to see! Images above:

– The fog lifting to reveal Point Sur.

– A flyby by a black-footed albatross off Cypress Point. I saw more albatrosses today than I’d previously seen in my entire life. They’re amazing!

– A badly framed shot of a humpbacked whale sounding. There were humpbacks everywhere.

– The huge flock of sooty shearwaters we plowed through in Monterey Bay. We also saw pink-footed shearwaters, rhinoceros auklets, common murres, red-necked phalaropes, some kind of murrelet, pigeon gulliemonts, Forster’s terns, western gulls… The birdy highlight for me, though, were the aforementioned albatrosses.

– My dad steering us into the anchorage in Santa Cruz.

– The view of the pier IRL.

– The view of the pier in AR. Ahhhh! There are raids happening right now just a few yards away!

It’s okay. I can wait. The plan for tomorrow is another crack-of-dawn departure and the final leg of our trip. With luck we’ll soon be at the West Coast mecca for boaters and Pokémon players alike. Wish us luck!


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Safely anchored in San Simeon Cove. Hearst Castle is hidden by…

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Safely anchored in San Simeon Cove. Hearst Castle is hidden by the clouds, but the new Pokémon gyms are active! We don’t have any plans to go ashore, and we intend to leave tomorrow at crack of dawn, so no chance to play for now. But still, closer… 🙂

Seadra is still a little short of evolving to Kingdra. I was able to pick up a few Horsea candies en route, but it’s a much slower accumulation than while walking. Not sure why that is.

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The sky keeps trying to distract me when I’m playing…

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

The sky keeps trying to distract me when I’m playing pokemon.

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Pokémon GO tracking using the Nearby feature

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

Below the cut I discuss Pokémon GO tracking using the newly revamped Nearby tray. In particular, I describe my use of a separate app (Topo Maps for iPhone) to help in that process.

A lot of people have already explained how to do Pomémon GO tracking using the Nearby feature. There’s a (presumed) 200m radius of visibility for Pokémon shown in the Nearby tray. Knowing this, you can use the following technique:

  • When the Pokémon first appears in the tray, you’re exactly 200m from it. Make a
    mental note of your location as Point A.
  • Pick a direction and start walking in a straight line. When the Pokémon disappears from the tray, note that as Point B.
  • Backtrack to a point midway between A and B, turn 90 degrees and start walking. You should now be headed either directly toward or directly away from the Pokémon.
  • If the Pokémon disappears from the tray you’re going the wrong way. Turn 180 degrees and walk the other way.
  • Keep walking until the Pokémon appears.

The technique works, and has the virtue of being easy to describe and remember. Still, it isn’t as efficient as it could be. There’s also the problem that when walking on city streets you can’t always walk in straight lines or at right angles; sometimes your route is constrained.

I’ve been using a third-party app (Topo Maps for iPhone by Phil Endecott) to help address those problems. The app isn’t free ($7.99), but I had it already for hiking and like it a lot.

Side note: Someone I was describing this to wondered if using a third-party app like this violates the Pokémon GO Terms of Service. My view is that unlike GPS spoofers or bots, or trackers like Pokevision, all of which involve lying to the Niantic servers and/or sharing game information with other users, all I’m doing is using an app to help me interpret legitimate in-game information. Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but as someone who chose not to use Pokevision because it felt like crossing an ethical line, I’m fine with using the Topo Maps app like this. Still, as Emily says:


There were a few setup steps needed to get Topo Maps ready for tracking. First, I downloaded topographic maps for the area where I hunt Pokemon. (The maps are free once you’ve paid for the app itself.) The app’s built-in Help feature explains how to do that.

Second, by default Topo Maps shows distance circles graduated in fractions of a mile:


By pressing and holding the offset-distance readout toward the upper-right of the screen, though, I made a selector appear that lets me switch to km:


…after which I get an inner circle with a radius of 200m, perfect for tracking Pokémon:


While playing I keep the Pokémon GO app in the foreground and the Topo Maps app in the background, switching back and forth by double-pressing the Home button.

Let’s see the technique in action. (Full disclosure: Some of the following screenshots were recreated after the fact, which you can tell if you look closely.)

Here I am, happily walking down the street: 


Suddenly, a wild Eevee appears in the Nearby tray:


Sweet! I want one of those. Switching to the Topo Maps app, I drop a pin at my current location (Topo Maps calls this “Creating a waypoint”) and label it “A”:


If I display a 200m circle around that point, I know that the Eevee must be somewhere on that circle:


Now I need a second point, point B, that is also 200m from the Eevee but that is at least 50m or so away from point A. (If point B is too close to point A, any errors will tend to be magnified, making it harder to determine the target Pokémon’s location.)

Note that unlike the standard tracking technique described above, I don’t need to walk a straight line or keep track of the midpoint between A and B. The Topo Maps app will take care of that for me. All I need to do is switch back to the Pokémon app and start walking until I find a place a little ways away where the Eevee again disappears from the Nearby tray. Once I find that spot I switch back to the Topo Maps app and drop a new pin, labeling it “B”:


Again, because point B marks a place where the Pokémon appears and disappears from the Nearby tray, the Pokémon must be somewhere on a 200m circle centered on that point:


At this point I know enough to determine the two places where the Pokémon could be. There’s no need to backtrack to the midpoint of A and B and walk at a right angle; I can plot the Pokémon’s two likely locations from here, pick one of those locations, and immediately head for it via whatever route I want.

One way to find the two possible locations would be to plot a 200m circle centered on point A, and another 200m circle centered on point B, and see where the two circles intersect. The two points of intersection are the only places the Pokémon could be.

Unfortunately the Topo Maps app only displays one set of distance circles at a time. Here’s the workaround I’ve been using for that:

  • Position Point B at the center of the map. (It will be there already if you have the GPS tracking turned on and just dropped the pin.)
  • Display the 200m circle centered on point B.
  • Judging by eye, pick a point on point B’s 200m circle that is equidistant from A and B.
  • Turn off GPS tracking in the Topo Maps app (so you can reposition the map), then drag the map so the estimated location is at the center of the screen.
  • Turn off the 200m distance circle (which will still be centered on point B), then turn it on again to position it at the center of the screen.
  • If you picked the right spot, the new 200m circle should pass through both points A and B. If it’s off, nudge the map a bit, then cycle the distance circle off and on again to reposition until you get it right. (It doesn’t have to be perfect.)
  • Drop a pin and label the new location “C1”.
  • Repeat the above steps to plot the other possible location on the opposite side of points A and B. Label it “C2”.
  • Pick one of the two possible locations (C1 or C2) and start walking toward it. If you reach a place within 200m of that point without the Pokémon reappearing in the Nearby tray, you’re going the wrong way. Turn around and go to the other point C.

Here’s how that looks in the app. Estimating point C1:


Dropping and labeling the pin for C1:


Dropping and labeling the pin for C2:


Some observations about my experience using this technique:

  • It sounds like a lot of work, and it’s certainly harder to describe than the standard approach. But in practice it’s pretty quick.
  • That’s good, because time is a factor. So far I’ve only had about a 33% success rate at tracking down Pokémon before they despawn.
  • As a semi-rural player, I have to fight the urge to stop and catch low-quality Pokémon while I’m tracking. Seconds count.
  • There’s an inherent conflict between navigational accuracy and speed. For example, doing a quick backtrack at the time a Pokémon appears or disappears can help confirm that I actually crossed a detection boundary, rather than seeing a spawn or despawn. But even a brief backtrack takes time. It’s a judgement call whether it’s worth doing or not.
  • The new-style Nearby tray only displays each species once, so if there are multiple Pokémon of the same species present it will mask the 200m disappearance/reappearance events. Fortunately, rarer Pokémon are the ones most worth tracking.

Have fun tracking Pokémon!

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