Mashup makers take note: the Google Maps API now supports driving directions.
At a Developer Day talk, Google’s plans for integrating AdSense into its map products. (Disclaimer: I make money from AdSense.)
Mashup makers take note: the Google Maps API now supports driving directions.
At a Developer Day talk, Google’s plans for integrating AdSense into its map products. (Disclaimer: I make money from AdSense.)
When you consider the privacy concerns — freakouts, really — that were raised when the online map sites made satellite and aerial imagery readily available, it’s not surprising that there would be similar concerns raised about the street-level imagery announced by Google yesterday. I am surprised, though, that it took a whole day for it to surface: Boing Boing shares a reader’s concern that at maximum zoom, you can see her cat in her window. Other examples were given in follow-up comments: people on sidewalks, cars (and licence plates) in driveways.
Legally speaking, in many countries there is no expectation of privacy when you’re out in public. You can’t stop someone from taking your picture on the street, for example, or from taking a picture of your house and putting it online. And anyone driving down your street would see your house, your car in the driveway and your cat in the window. If you’re concerned about that, you should hide your stuff from public view regardless of whether street-level images exist for mapping applications.
(I just hope people don’t think these images are real-time, like many people seem to with aerial photography.)
(Postscript. There is apparently a way to notify Google if an image infringes on privacy.)
GPS Adventures “is a hands-on traveling exhibit that features GPS technology — its history, current uses and future possibilities; and simulates geocaching indoors by leading visitors through a 2,500 square foot maze rich with interactive experiences.” At Minnetrista, an Indiana cultural centre and museum, from June 2 until September 3. Geocachers are calling the opening an “event cache,” which is their funny way of describing a meeting. Via Gadling.
An article from The American Surveyor that discusses the candidates for the world’s oldest map — and, interestingly, the criteria involved: what makes a map a map and not a painting, for example. The Soleto Map and the Papyrus of Artemidorus, which we’ve encountered before, are in the running; wall and cave paintings and tablets from Turkey, China and Iraq are also in the running.
Next month, ESRI Press is reprinting Eduard Imhof’s classic Cartographic Relief Presentation, which was first published as Kartographische Geländedarstellung in 1965 and translated into English in 1982; it’s been out of print since then. Press release: GISuser.com, Directions.
Update, 6/13: ESRI Mapping Center has more details on the reprint.
Valleywag on the competition between Google and Microsoft on the mapping front, touching on yesterday’s Street View announcement: “The battle for mapping supremacy continues with the rush to add new features. Unfortunately for Microsoft, being first has not been a valued differentiator. In most cases, Google’s implementation is cleaner and more thoughtful (compare Street View’s slick in-map photo views with Microsoft’s silly car-based metaphor) and/or goodwill and search supremacy has carried it to broader adoption and press coverage.”
Daniel Jalkut has a couple of suggestions about the user-unfriendliness of tightly clustered pushpins on Google Maps: “[T]o find out what’s actually at the cluster point, I have to go back to the ugly list and click items to see where they pop up in the map. With all that space to work with, surely Google could come up with something better.” Via Daring Fireball.
GPS Review: Expectations of GPS, an article about what people should expect, in terms of map accuracy, routing and number of points of interest, from their GPS receivers. “What I was most amazed about was how quickly their expectations of the device went from pure amazement of the moving map and being bewildered by the fact that the GPS has side streets to disappointment that not every POI was in the database and road changes just completed a few months before were not yet in the database.”
Probably not fortuitous that Microsoft’s monthly Virtual Earth imagery update (see previous entry) also took place today: the Virtual Earth/Live Maps blog has the details; I note with interest that Ottawa, the closest city to me, is among the cities receiving 3D building coverage. Not that I can see any of this without a Windows machine. Lots of European bird’s-eye coverage and one-metre imagery updates in many locations around the world. See also All Points Blog.
Google’s been busy today. They also announced a developer preview of Mapplets, which to me seems like a mashup in reverse: instead of importing Google’s maps to data on your web site, data on your web site is imported into the Google Maps interface. Or, perhaps more simply: mini-applications or widgets that can be imported into the Google Maps sidebar. Documentation is here. Via Google Lat Long Blog.
Garmin has announced an API and a new web site for developers, the rationale for which is explained on their corporate blog: “Well, this site is for software developers and content provides who want to make their website, applications and data content compatible with Garmin devices. Essentially this site will make it easier for third-party sites to communicate with Garmin devices, which has been difficult in the past. The site includes six core products, and has free and licensed Garmin resources that developers may use.” O’Reilly Conference News, GPS Review.
The big news so far from Where 2.0 is the announcement of Google’s street-level imagery for five U.S. cities — Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, New York and (of course) San Francisco — which, in a fit of originality, they’re calling Street View: Google Earth Blog, Google Lat Long, O’Reilly Radar.
It doesn’t normally appear in my browser window, but adding
&gl=us at the end of the URL string, as Frank’s commenters suggest, does the trick. I wonder what’s up with that, and why that hack works. Anyway, if it doesn’t show up normally when viewing one of the five cities, try that. (Update 5/30: It’s working for me now without the hack.)
This is not the first instance of street-level imagery to come to an online mapping service, to be sure (see earlier efforts by A9 and Microsoft), but Google’s implementation is well-integrated into the rest of its maps — roads with street-level imagery are outlined in blue — and the user-interface, as you might expect by now, is really good.
There’s also this very strange video tutorial:
The third annual Where 2.0 conference, O’Reilly’s get-together about geospatial and web mapping technologies, is now under way in San Jose, California. Glenn and Frank are at the conference, so be sure to check their blogs for updates, as well as the conference blog and O’Reilly Radar.
As for today, there already have been some significant announcements that I will deal with in separate posts.
Google Transit adds Reno and San Diego; I must have missed when they added the Japanese rail networks, domestic airlines and ferries.
Not a new feature (MapQuest had it first), but Google Maps’s routing engine now has an “avoid highways” option.
The Journal News has more on the recovery of the 1823 Tanner Atlas. The atlas was taken from the Rockland Historical Society last month; the suspect is a former society employee. A Philadelphia bookseller who had been tipped off to the atlas’s theft essentially set the suspect up: after e-mail back and forth, the suspect, who was trying to sell the atlas, walked into the store to find five police detectives waiting for him. The suspect will surrender to police next week. Via MapHist.
Numan Parada’s map of an extensive, and imaginary, rapid transit network for Los Angeles is one of several on the web site of the Transit Coalition, a public transit advocacy group. The maps envision a Los Angeles with a rapid transit network the equal of New York or a European city; Parada’s map is particularly well done, not only aping the Beck design down to the font, but, according to the L. A. Times profile of Parada and the group earlier this month, also taking into account where good locations for stations would be. The article also points out the cost and impracticality of such imagined networks in a low-density conurbation like Los Angeles. Via Boing Boing.
Don’t expect instant results when you submit errors to a mapping data provider. A dentist whose office is not on the map discovers that NAVTEQ can take as much as a year, if not more, to process corrections or new material. They say they get 80,000 requests a day. I imagine the infrastructure given over to corrections and updates will expand as more people rely on this stuff. Via All Points Blog.
Previously: Tele Atlas Introduces Map Feedback.
In Trends of Online Mapping Portals, O’Reilly Radar’s Brady Forrest writes, “Last week there were several announcements made that show the direction of the online mapping portals. Satellite images and slippy maps are no longer differentiators for attracting users […] Some of these new differentiators are immersive experiences, owning the stack, and data!” He’s talking about building outlines, neighbourhood data, and Yahoo’s in-house directions engine.
Last September, in addition to his 3½-year prison sentence, map thief E. Forbes Smiley III was ordered to pay restitution to his victims; at the time, the amount was tentatively set at $1.9 million (see previous entry). Today the final amount of restitution was set at $2.3 million, the Associated Press reports; the amount “was changed after the parties worked to recover the maps and assess their value.” The sum may be academic, since Smiley may never be able to pay the full amount. Via Map the Universe.
I knew that Adobe was ending development on FreeHand; after its purchase of Macromedia, keeping both the competing FreeHand and Illustrator going made little sense. I should have realized that, like Illustrator, FreeHand has been used to draw maps — but if Edward and James are any indication, a lot of people may have already moved on to other programs.
Cartifact was involved in Yahoo’s new map design, which was launched last week. From the press release: “Cartifact contributed features not found in other online maps. At higher zoom levels, shaded relief conveys a sense of terrain and elevation, while land-cover/vegetation coloring gives a feeling of the natural environment. At city levels, in Manhattan and San Francisco, Cartifact employed color to define neighborhoods. At street levels, the designers added building footprints, labeling selected buildings and color-coding them by use.” Via All Points Blog.
The Tubemap Wallet is one of those ideas that sounds really neat — even practical — in theory: a special wallet that folds out to reveal a map of either the London Underground or the New York subway. The problem, of course, is that pulling out your wallet to check a subway map in the middle of a large city is rarely a good idea. Costs £35. Via Gadling.
This map shows the projected climate of Europe in 2071, but it does so in a rather confusing way: it relocates the cities to reflect what present-day locations match their projected climates. So, for example, London, Paris, Stockholm and Oslo would have a climate similar to modern-day Spain and Portugal; Berlin would have a climate similar to that of Algeria. In the meantime, what do the colours represent: today or tomorrow? Via Kottke.
Whitwell’s Rational Geographical Nomenclature: “Stedman Whitwell, 19th-century social reformer and architect of Robert Owen’s failed Utopian city at New Harmony, was deeply troubled by the will-nilly way that cities and towns were named in America, and proposed a more “rational” system of geographical nomenclature, which would have renamed Washington as Feili Neivul, Philadelphia as Outeon Eveldo, and Pittsburgh as Otfu Veitoup … ” Reminds me of some of the Technocratic ideas from the 1930s.
Some more material about updating road data after disasters that I missed the first time around (and am only getting to now). Via Mapping Hacks, a San Francisco Chronicle article that discussed updating driving directions in the wake of the MacArthur Maze, but that also looked at the big picture: updates take an awful long time. Another case in point, and an understandably touchy one: the U.S. Route 90 bridge in Mississippi was destroyed by Katrina a year and a half ago, but it’s still in the mapping databases, and directions are still given over that now-nonexistent bridge.
What does this say when compared to the MacArthur Maze update, which occurred within days of the collapse? Such updates — like error corrections of obvious driving direction snafus — seem manual in nature. Someone has to catch them, and report them. So it might be easy to infer that, as far as the tech community is concerned, a major commuter route in the Bay area — their backyard — is going to get more attention, and be deemed much more urgent, than a highway bridge in Mississippi. On the other hand, there’s no comparing the very real difference in impact. But I imagine that the alacrity with which the MacArthur Maze was updated might be seen as a slight where similar situations did not result in speedy updates.
The art of Francesca Berrini, who “transforms vintage maps of places she has longed to visit into fine art maps of entirely new and imagined worlds. She obsessively tears up original vintage maps into tiny pieces, and then reconstitutes them, using a painterly process, into new maps and directional devices that reflect a longing for places unseen” (bio). Via Strange Maps.
Yahoo moved its maps to a new platform today, IDG News Service reports: “[W]ith the new platform, developed in-house, Yahoo Maps will perform better, offer more precise results and make backend upgrades easier to implement, Yahoo said. … The new platform will not disrupt the mapping service’s existing APIs (application programming interfaces) nor will third-party applications built using them require retooling, said Jeremy Kreitler, director of product management for Yahoo Maps.” The maps themselves, however, look quite different. Possibly better. Via All Points Blog.
In this four-minute outtake that didn’t make it into the final version of the documentary film Helvetica, designer Massimo Vignelli talks about his 1972 map of the New York subway system — which, you may recall, encountered stout opposition. Vignelli argues that, far from being too abstract, as the map’s detractors argued, his map wasn’t abstract enough: he should have left out the geographical references to waterways and parks, he thinks, leaving a blank background instead. Via Anil Dash, who also points to this 2004 entry at Design Observer about the Vignelli map.
Catholicgauze calls this map — “Angling in Troubled Waters,” an 1899 map by Fred W. Rose — “one of the best historical maps I have ever seen.” The map, which apparently is reprinted in New Worlds: Maps from the Age of Discovery, crams historical figures into the territories of European countries in a way that reminds me of The Illustrated Enemy (see previous entry).
Update, 5/17 at 1:30 PM: Fixed link.
This is a couple of weeks old, but I’m that far behind. The U.S. Library of Congress has been in possession of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map — you know, the first map with the name “America” on it — since 2003, but because it’s on the list of German cultural treasures, the map’s ownership had to be formally transferred. This was done by German chancellor Angela Merkel in a ceremony on April 30: Associated Press, EUX.tv, Kommersant. Via Map History/History of Cartography and Map the Universe.
In other Waldseemüller map news: NPR also has an item about the map (Real/Windows Media only; via MapHist). And, from 2003, an article about how the Library of Congress acquired the map.
Still on the subject of in-car navigation systems, it turns out that these systems — which apparently cost something like $2,000 — actually increase a car’s depreciation, according to an article in USA Today. As Autoblog points out, “It makes perfect sense if you try to use some of the integrated nav setups in one- or two-year old used cars out there.” Consumer electronics go obsolete a lot faster than cars: I drive a ’98 Mazda Protegé, but I wouldn’t want to have to use the computer I used in 1998 — a Thinkpad with a 150-MHz Pentium (I’ve gone through five computers since then). Last year GPS Tracklog recommended buying an aftermarket unit, which is cheaper, portable, upgradable and, of course, replaceable. All Points Blog, GeoThought, GPS Tracklog.
And this is exactly the sort of thing I was on about before: trusting her GPS navigation system implicitly, a British woman drives onto the tracks; while closing the level crossing gate (first clue) behind her, her car is hit by a train. To be fair, this was at night, but dashboard navigation is never a substitute for your own eyes. I am surprised at how many stories like this are coming out of the UK. Via Boing Boing.
Previously: Plunging into a River — That Makes Sense; ‘Do Not Follow Satnav’; Ambulance Goes Slightly Astray; More German Driving Misadventures; Hang a Left at the Pile of Sand; Getting Stuck in a Narrow Welsh Laneway; Because My Car Said So; Crackpot Directions Send Drivers Along a Cliff.
Three weeks ago, I was contacted by a writer for iPass who was working on an article about the accuracy of driving directions on online mapping sites. I provided some pithy comments. Her article is now online and to my surprise I’m quoted all over the place. (I wasn’t expecting that; I should have been more explicit that I am no expert.) What follows is my e-mail to the writer, so you can compare it with the finished product; I essentially gave my take on errors and driving directions, based on all the stories I’ve seen lately.
I don’t think online maps are inherently more or less error-prone than paper maps. No mapping method has a monopoly on accuracy — or error.
Directions are something else. If you’re using a paper map to figure out a route in an area you’re not familiar with, you study the map and make your best guess based on what information you have. You’ll probably stick to major arteries rather than try to work your way via back roads. Locals might know which back road or side street is a short cut; you don’t. So you play it safe and pick the obvious route.
The problem with online directions is that we put too much faith in them. We expect them to have that local intelligence: which side streets are better, where the construction sites are, that kind of thing. And, though I don’t know what algorithms the mapping providers use — I’d be fascinated to find out, actually — I don’t think they’re that smart. Software isn’t perfect, and mistakes happen. When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that the directions are as accurate as they are as often as they are.
Every so often, you hear about a glitch: someone posts a link to some directions that take them in a crazy loop in every direction but straight — kind of like Billy in “The Family Circus” — which is funny, until you hear about someone who actually follows those directions. There’s been a rash of news stories, for example, about someone blithely following directions while ignoring their surroundings or warning signs — like truckers getting stuck in narrow lanes, or people driving their cars straight into rivers.
They’re tools: useful, but you shouldn’t trust them implicitly. They’re no substitute for carefully reading the map (whether it’s digital or paper), paying attention to road signs, and generally using your common sense.
In other words, don’t check your brain when you get behind the wheel.
If I’m off-base, I’d love to hear about it.
William Roy’s Military Survey of Scotland was undertaken between 1747 and 1755, in the wake of the Jacobite Rebellion, which revealed a military need for a decent survey of the country. The originals are in the hands of the British Library, but a digital version is now being made available on the National Library of Scotland web site. (At the moment they’re sort of in a pre-release mode, so there may still be some lingering bugs. The web interface doesn’t work in Safari, for example.) More from the Edinburgh Evening News; via MapHist.
The municipal government of Shanghai is cracking down on “problem” maps. Key grafs from an announcement that is the epitome of Commie turgidity:
[F]rom time to time, on maps that appeared in a variety of newspapers and periodicals, on TV and the Internet, in advertisements, stationery commodities, handicrafts, souvenirs, and tourist products, the boundaries of our country and our administrative regions are drawn incorrectly, some important islands, such as Diaoyu Islands, Chiwei Islands and the islands in South China Sea are left out, anamorphic maps are used at will, and maps are compiled and published in an illegal way. What’s more, such mistakes and illegal acts even appear in non-profit advertisements and textbooks and coaching materials for primary and middle school students, which not only infringes upon consumers’ interests but also is detrimental to the State’s interests, thus causing bad political influence. …
In case any news media or publication or production unit is found to be involved with “problem maps” that seriously violate laws and regulations, their leaders and staff workers concerned shall be prosecuted for liability according to law; and any units that do not carry out serious rectification after being penalized for “problem maps” that seriously violate the laws and regulations, or still involves themselves with “problem maps” after repeated penalties shall be severely punished according to law.
Via MapHist. Undated, so I’m not sure how recent this is. Possibly from last year.
Previously: China Cracks Down on Mapmaking.
The Road Map Collectors Association’s 2007 annual meeting and map expo will take place September 21-22 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Few details available as yet, but, they say, “We expect to have displays of rare Texas maps, courtesy of the Texas Map Society and, furthermore, we are exploring the possibility of a Saturday evening dinner with speaker(s) from the Texas Map Society.” Via Maps-L.
Frank and Stefan report on a new beta version, version 4.1, of Google Earth. Improvements include SpaceNavigator compatibility in the Mac version, more languages, tips and a feature allowing you to view the same thing in Google Maps.
If you’re using a high-end Nikon digital SLR (D200 and above), the simplest method of adding lat/long coordinates to your photo’s EXIF data is to use the MC-35 GPS adapter cable, which has a port for a GPS receiver’s serial cable. (The Nikon web site only lists the cable as being compatible with the D2-series pro cameras, but Chet reports that it works with a D200.) But the cable seems to be hard to find and is moreover a little bit expensive ($120+). A do-it-yourself alternative has been cooked up by Chris Harrison: it’s much less expensive, but you’ve got to be comfortable with circuit diagrams and breadboards. A different DIY project involves stuffing a GPS module into the MC-35 itself — not cheap, but more compact, and again not for the timid. Via Ogle Earth.
Richard has a review of the GlobalSat DG-100 GPS data logger, which can be used for geotagging (if the clocks on the data logger and camera are in sync). And presumably tracerouting. He also compares it to the Sony GPS-CS1, which he reviewed last September. “The software is a bit more complex to use than Sony’s, so it may not be good for novice or inexpert computer users, but it offers many more features. The Globalsat software does not offer photo geocoding, only location download and mapping; you will need additional software to map your photos.”
Pipes is a relatively new Yahoo service that allows users to do all sorts of things with feeds, though I haven’t yet had an opportunity to try it. It has now added geodata support, which means that RSS feeds containing coordinate data can be plotted on a map or exported in KML format. Via O’Reilly Radar.
Geotagging links have been piling up in my note-taking application; time to flush the queue.
Via MapHist, a report on the Ex-Libris mailing list that a copy of Tanner’s 1823 New American Atlas was stolen from a downstate New York library between April 20 and 22. (The David Rumsey site has numerous examples from this atlas.) Local police and the FBI have been alerted; one complication is that the atlas may be difficult to identify. “Unfortunately, our institution had yet to agree on what to do with the atlas (keep or deaccession/sell at an auction),” according to the report, “so it does not have any markings on it.” Though there are apparently numerous condition notes.
Alumni magazine Dartmouth Life has an article about geography and GIS at Dartmouth College, which “remains the only college in the Ivy League with a distinct geography department.”
This week has revealed a lot about how the online mapping sites respond to disasters that close major routes and affect driving directions. Within two days of the MacArthur Maze freeway collapse in Oakland, Google Maps, Yahoo Maps and MapQuest had updated their web sites and revised their recommended driving directions; Tele Atlas’s database was updated within a day (Newsfactor, Yahoo Local and Maps Blog). In contrast, no update was issued when a Seattle-area bridge was closed: the difference is in the duration of the closure. If a bridge or freeway is out for days, it’s not worth updating, because it’ll likely be open again by the time the updates are pushed through the system. Longer term closures — like the MacArthur Maze collapse — are a different matter. Via All Points Blog.
XKCD’s map of online communities purports to represent the estimated size of each community by geographic area; more noteworthy is that it’s in the style of a D&D (or fantasy trilogy) map and has lots of little in-jokes, web-related or otherwise — see, for example, “The Compass-Rose-Shaped Island.” Via Boing Boing.