How to use technology to cycle and walk places you would never have imagined!

So, here is how technology has taken my cycling opportunities to all new levels, and how you can do the same to plan awesome cycle (and if you are that way inclined, walking) routes that you otherwise would never have imagined!

Using Back Country Navigator ( on my android phone, I can view Ordnance Survey style maps on my phone and mark waypoints in order to plan a route which includes bridleways, footpaths and minor roads which you just can’t find on Google maps or the likes of Map My Ride ( . Sometimes I may use Bing maps first ( as this too has an Ordnance Survey option (Back Country Navigator actually uses Bing maps as it’s engine), and so this allows me to just get an idea of things on a slightly larger screen.

Alternatively I may find a route that someone else has already done, and import it via a standard .gpx file.

When I have my route and waypoints marked on the phone, I can then export this to a .gpx file and use GPS Visualiser ( to put the waypoints onto a map which I can then share with my friends, or fellow journeymen via a link or downloadable HTML file. Just on a slight tangent, I can use Remote Web Desktop ( to start an FTP server on my phone, so I can connect to the phone via WIFI and download the file via FTP – you know, for those times where that pesky cable is upstairs!

I can then download the area of the map required to the phone (in Back Country Navigator), so that I know even when I am stuck somewhere remote with no signal (the best place to be on a bike!), I can rest safe in the knowledge I have a map at my finger tips and can still find my way.

Of course, I can then use Back Country Navigator to follow my route (and make diversions when I find that public footpath is infact impassible). It overlays my current heading, and location on the route I have already planned, just to keep things nice and simple. I can also use Back Country Navigator to track and record my actual path, though I tend to prefer the Map My Ride app for this, as this also records things like the time I have taken, my average and maximum speeds, which is all kinda groovy.

When I get home I can then export my actual route from the map mapped by map my ride, and use a WordPress plugin called GPX To Graphics ( to share the route via my blog. If I’ve been a bit touristy I can also upload the photos to my Picasa account and share them on here too!

All in all, this gives me everything that very expensive mapping software and GPS devices would give me – and a whole lot more. And the only cost is a meagre £7 for the Back Country Navigator app on the ‘droid.

I hope this may help someone to discover a whole new world of cycling or walking. Just a small disclaimer. Make sure you have spare batteries for your phone – enough to get you through a heavy days use, and, being sensible I would always also reccommend printing off, or having copies of maps of the area you are riding as a backup plan in the case that technology fails!


Back Country Navigator for Android

This is a fantastic little app. Turn your android device into a fully functioning GPS navigation device for just £6.

Import your waypoints from standard gpx files and then see your waypoints, current heading, and current direction nicely overlayed over detailed Os survey style maps from Multimap.

You can even download the maps to the phone so when you are lost in the arse end of nowhere with no mobile signal, you can still find your way about. Just make sure you have some spare batteries with you, although to be fair, even its battery use is very acceptable.

Other features include a compass, and detailed waypoint navigation on a point to point basis, and much more. For the price, it’s an excellent little app for all you intrepid explorers!

BackCountry Navigator PRO:

Better Keyboard 8 for Android

As anyone with a Droid knows, the stock keyboard is a bit pants. I tried several others before finding one I was really happy with, and this is it. It doesn’t do a lot of the clever swipey funky stuff but as a basic tap tap keyboard it just seems to work really well. Responsive and accurate!

Better Keyboard 8 (Gingerbread Edition):

Handling multiple SSL sites on a single IP address using Apache mod_rewrite

Recently at work we needed to come up with a way to have multiple sites using SSL on a single IP address. Each site used a different sub domain.

Normally with Apache, each site set up with SSL needs it’s own unique IP address, however by adding some clever internal redirect code into the Apache config files, it is possible to achieve exactly what we needed. I’m posting this here in case anyone else has the same problem and happens to come across this post!


This is done in the conf/httpd-vhosts.conf file.

One thing to note is that any other vhosts setup already for specific subdomains will continue to function as normal and will bypass this code entirely.

1. Firstly, the server must be assigned an unused SSL IP address which will handle all the site subdomains. In the example below, this IP address is:

2. Insert virtual hosts containing the rewrite code, into Apache

Below is the apache config code which achieves this. This can be lifted and added to a new server when needed. I have added some comments to explain what it is doing

# first we add a vhost for all port 80 traffic. This is to catch
<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerAdmin [email protected]

#the document root needs to be moved up one folder so we can then specify the subfolders for the individual sites
#in the main config file, the same change should be been made (i.e.if the server root was g:/inetpub/wwwroot, change to g:/inetpub)
DocumentRoot “g:/inetpub/”

#turn on the rewrite code (make sure mod_rewrite module is enabled in main httpd.conf)
RewriteEngine on

# this first line is important as it is the one that stops it recursively redirecting in an infinite loop.
# The condition is basically saying “do not do this if wwwroot is already in the path”
RewriteCond $1 !^wwwroot

#this was needed to stop it redirecting the PHP paths, which caused everything to break
#what is needed here may differ slightly depending on the PHP path variables setup, but this should cover most, if not all cases
# or may not be needed at all – depends on your config
RewriteCond $1 !/php5/
RewriteCond $1 !/php/

# this is the condition which says , apply the rewrite rule
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^([^.]+)\.yoursite\.co\.uk

#and this actually applies the rule. It prepends the path with wwwroot, so apache knows where to find the relevant files.
#the url shown in the browser does not change
RewriteRule (.*) /wwwroot/%1/$1 [L]


#We now create a virtual host for the IP we have assigned to the server, for SSL connections.
# Other than the virtual host declaration, the code is exactly the same as above, so no need to comment further.
ServerAdmin [email protected]

# the paths to your SSL certs etc – change as appropriate
SSLEngine On
SSLCertificateFile conf/ssl/server.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile conf/ssl/server.key

DocumentRoot “g:/inetpub/”
RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond $1 !^wwwroot
RewriteCond $1 !/php5/
RewriteCond $1 !/php/
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^([^.]+)\.yoursite\.co\.uk
RewriteRule (.*) /wwwroot/%1/$1 [L]


iPhone App Review: NDrive UK

I paid just £15 for this app, figuring at that price, it was worth a bit of a punt. I certainly don’t regret it. It’s an absolute bargain. It’s not perfect. At times a bit basic and the UI can be a bit clunky, but for the price, you really can’t complain.
I just got back from a road trip around the scottish highlands and it navigated me around flawlessly. Including diverting my route successfully when it first tried to take me down a snow-closed road. The instructions are clear and given in good time (repeated 3 times as you approach the direction, so no excuses for missing one!).
The map is clear enough and the time estimates it gives for your route are scarily accurate. I’m sure the TomTom and other expensive navigation apps do lot’s of really clever stuff, but if you just want a nice simple app that will get you from A to B without any complication, then you really can’t go wrong with this.