[ Ø ] Harsh Prakash – GIS Blog

Quiet Musings On Applied Spatial (Health, Disaster, Technology, Planning et al.)

Archive for the ‘google’ tag

Conference Presentation: GIS TECH 201 – Mapping Mashups

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Verizon iPhone or iNot?

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Back in the summer of 2010, as one of the million proud owners of iPhone 4, I noticed a certain setting to switch phone carrier. That setting then portended the change we will see tomorrow. But should you bite the bait? Assuming CDMA and GSM don’t matter, here’s part 1 of my guide:

There is a lot of spin around Apple’s flagship cash cow, or as we have come to know it- the iPhone, which only recently represented about 43% of its overall sales. Not all of the coverage is positive (remember Foxconn?). Apple’s growing pains also include a big lawsuit fight. But for those with out a blind searing faith in Steve Jobs, the genius patriarch, the iPhone may very well be suffocating. If true, could Jobs be repeating his original sin? And if so, should your phone follow his sin to the grave?

iOS works better than Android out-of-the-box. To better understand the genesis of its famed usability and cool minimalism, watch Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. If you decide to switch, be prepared to shell out monies in cool apps and media. From a quick glance, I paid around $750 over 2 years. To Apple. Not AT&T (that averaged around $2,400 for the same time). And remember that MP3s from Amazon, somethings you can’t buy on your iPhone, tend to be less expensive and redownloadable – a big plus for some. And all that precious data would cost even more to put into MobileMe, Apple’s own cloud solution, never mind the naysayers. So more additions to your ever burgeoning monthly bill (Tethering, Personal Hotspot, …).

iPhone’s Mythical Advantage: Apps

Apple still disallows Adobe Flash (or Oracle Java) from iOS. It appears to be more a business decision than a technology constraint, designed to control the sprawl of Flash-based gaming mobile websites where you could buy outside of Apple’s walled-garden. How this affects HTML5 gaming websites is still unfolding, but it certainly helps the lagging QuickTime in the meantime. In any case, it goes against the customer’s best interests by taking away her choice to enjoy multimedia content in one of the industry’s most prolific formats. But Apple has you covered with the most commonly used app: the browser. Mobile Safari, hands down is the best mobile browser out there between the platforms that I tested, namely iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. For the GIS pros among you, Joben blogs about GIS apps for the iPhone. You can always find an increasing number at the App Store, like the iGIS.

Jailbreaking Folsom

So you switch and finally get that toy you were waiting for? Why jailbreak it? Jailbreaking the iPhone isn’t worth the effort, even if it is legal. And even if not upgrading to the latest and greatest release (something that iTunes would handle seamlessly for you, but something that you can’t always do with Cydia because Cydia often trots a step behind) is an acceptable risk, ask yourself if your precious data is too important to jailbreak. After all, you could brick your iPhone and quite possibly provide no way for iTunes to restore it. But if your phone data is not critical ahem, then you can add some developer functionalities by jailbreaking and escape the infamous iTunes bloat. Now jailbreaking could also introduce your spanking iOS to new viruses, but if you must, hope over to Cydia. If you need a copy of the old firmware during jailbreak, grab it from here. Once you jailbreak, remember to download a file browser or explorer, like iFunBox or iPhoneBrowser. You may also want to jailbreak if you want to install a phone firewall out of privacy concerns. After all, Apple did confess to collecting GPS data from iOS 3 and iOS 4 daily. Then again, if that is what propels you, why share your payment info with Cydia’s marketplace (just asking)?

Some quick notes on iFunBox or iPhoneBrowser – You can’t watch your uploaded pics or videos, or play your uploaded songs in their native app, even if you upload them to the folders that the iPhone looks under, say //var/mobile/Media/DCIM/100APPLE/. This is because the iPhone, much like the Android, extensively uses SQLite as its Swiss Army database, and all your uploads need to be first registered in the database, say //private/var/mobile/Media/PhotoData/Photos.sqlite which links your IMG_0001.JPG or IMG_0002.MOV. Now there are Cydia apps like iFile that help add your photos, but videos are still no go. But if you are brave enough to try, download the SQLite Manager add-on for Firefox and test your luck.

PS: More

Written by Harsh

February 9th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Webinar Series: GIS TECH 101 – Mapping Mashups

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#TeleKinesis

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Those investors who are rushing to their brokers for a piece of TeleNav’s IPO (TeleNav GPS Navigator needs extra cash to fight Google Map Navigation, or prep itself for a buyout), note that TeleNav (read LBS) has nothing to do with TeleAtlas of TomTom (read data). Yet.

PS:
* LBS’ Halloween – Interesting post @ Google Redefines Disruption: The “Less Than Free” Business Model.

Written by Harsh

November 2nd, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Taking Wolfram|Alpha on an Alpha Run

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Wolfram|Alpha is being billed as an Answer Engine for the scientifically-minded, as opposed to a Search Engine: It takes your query, implied or otherwise, that critical step further by selecting from its list of matches, the one objective description, image etc, and lays them out in context. Not that Google never attempts definitive answers [chord], but when it does, Wolfram|Alpha [note] handily beats it to it with background information. START, on the other hand, is sometimes embarrassing. Note that it may not know what to do, but it does not give the wrong answer. Yet.

So Wolfram|Alpha dares to do more than say, Google or Yahoo or Microsoft, and impresses despite its alpha status.

There are inherent risks in such an approach in that it hopes our queries are frequently specific enough, which in some cases, will not be because that is how we generally are. There is also that small issue of assigning culpability to its user for a dumb query. But through consistent performance and by avoiding curation, link-fraud etc pitfalls, Wolfram|Alpha has the potential to wean away some of the Google fan-base, notwithstanding Google Squared. And by targeting the scientific community, it has the potential to emerge as a niche Answer Engine despite semantic ambiguity or crowd-sourcing.

Bookmark it now. And keep checking.

Here are some stumpers:
* What is the elevation above sea level at 38.889483,-77.035254? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* What was the annual revenue of the state of Maryland for Fiscal Year 2007?
Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* What is the maximum height of the Guggenheim Museum NY? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* How many symphonies did Sergei Rachmaninoff compose? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START

Related:
* Developers

Written by Harsh

May 17th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Google Earth [GE] Hacks

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GEMMO is a massively multiplayer online game [MMOG or MMO] for Google Earth that allows you to “explore the world as you collect gold, fight evil monsters and try to collect the crystals that are guarded in major cities [19 so far] across the planet” without any additional software to download.
Pi: Quite Musing
Given the gathering whispers of our rumor-mill, some morph of this could make it big- a la Scrabulous. Good job Mickey of MickMel Inc!

— π

Related:
• Google Earth [GE] @ Work
• Google Earth in Second Life!
• Metaverse

Written by Harsh

March 2nd, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Posted in Virtual Globe

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Follow Up [1]: Never the Twain Shall Meet

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Written by Harsh

November 21st, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Technology,Web

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Google Earth [GE] @ Work

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This week I had the opportunity to listen to the Google Guys. Having earlier missed a similar opportunity for Jack Dangermond due to schedule conflicts, I made sure I was present at this seminar.

Pi: Quiet MusingOn display were the GE Enterprise solutions- Fusion, Server and Enterprise Client. With GE Enterprise, you can sign into multiple servers, grab the most accurate data from each and roll everything into one seamless experience. You may even squeeze your private globe onto a pocket-sized device and strut it out on a field. For a private domain, GE Enterprise can scale upto a healthy 250 concurrent users, or a little less than those supported by a default PostgreSQL 8.X on Windows.

One astounding statistic quoted was the vast number of users GE has been able to accumulate over its short life- approximately 200 million; reportedly many more than those by Google Maps, with nearly 80% for casual uses. And a surprising number, or so we are told, falls in the 45+ age group.

Approximations aside, here’s my take:

When you try to fathom the 200 million number, you are reminded yet again how ESRI, Intergraph, MapInfo, Autodesk et al, poorly missed the globe software bandwagon. And the traditional SIS companies still do not have a clear winner when it comes to 3D buildings and surface textures, despite counting 3DS Max and Maya. All that information is what users now expect from any cutting-edge globe software.

From the looks of it and the high-end price tag of over $100,000, Google has smelled blood- the fat inside some governments; ESRI and Intergraph can attest to that. If Google succeeds in this aggressive push, the traditional SIS companies will cede further into the background on data visualization; they are anyway planted firmly in the backseat with regards to a lot of casual uses.

So when you combine this push with GE user groups, the KML offer to OGC, KML-based searchesPi: Quiet Musing and other enterprise solutions, then you can see why some traditions may be feeling nervous. Add to that the general perception about Google’s speed-of-innovation- ‘when you use a Google product, Google would innovate faster than the traditional SIS companies to support it’.

As I see it, that growing perception should be the biggest reason for the traditional industry’s nervousness.

–π

Related:
• Application: PortlandMaps
• Ogle Earth
• More

Written by Harsh

February 28th, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Posted in GIS,Virtual Globe

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Follow Up [1]: ESRI Ketchup!

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Following on the heels of E2, Google recently consolidated GE’s usergroups through some interesting collaborations with Wikipedia and Panoramio. These follow earlier deals with UNEP, NASA, USGS, ESA, Discovery, National Geographic et al.

These steps slowly push one other software- ESRI’s ArcGlobe, part of the ArcGIS 3D Analyst extension, further away from all that is important. ArcGlobe was useful in that it eventually led to E2, but ESRI had much bigger plans- it was promoted to become widely adopted for 3D data mapping and visualization.

Then Google came along, and ArcGlobe and all the shabby flyby animations and painstaking multipatches in ArcScene, also part of 3D Analyst, suddenly became embarrassing.

That leads me to my prediction of the week: all this will force ESRI to either lower the inflation-adjusted cost of its pricey 3D Analyst- currently marked at $2500, or absorb some of it into E2 or the desktop. Note that Google Earth Pro today costs a fraction at $400.

Pi: Quiet Musing
Fortius One‘s GeoIQ: A free simple Spatial Analyst?

–π

Related:
• ArcGIS Extensions
• More via Google Earth Links
• More

Written by Harsh

December 16th, 2006 at 10:01 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

Tagged with ,

ESRI Ketchup!

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After months of wild speculations and foot-dragging, ESRI finally released ArcGIS Explorer– twice as big as Google Earth and a shade shy. Here is why:

Google Earth [googleearth.exe]
+ Searches better
– Does not offer native support for popular spatial data types

ESRI ArcGIS Explorer [E2.exe]
+ Offers native support for popular spatial data types
– Clunkier navigation and interface

• Both show comparable spatial data displays and memory usages. I am pleasantly surprised by how consenting NASA of World Wind fame, has been to all such uses, given the murky legal waters of the future when others start using this precedent to demand equal treatment.

Pi: Quiet Musing
ESRI ArcGIS Explorer: Adding content

Being true to the misplaced compulsions of most commercial companies, ESRI only lets you export your layers in E2’s markup language [*.nmf]. However, to piggy-back on the growing user community around GE and because ESRI has no current alternative to Google SketchUp, E2 allows you to import *.kml and *.kmz files. GE, on the other hand, also imports *.gpz and *.loc GPS files in its commerical flavor.

E2 can also create geoprocessing tasks, and styles and symbologies; export identification results; display attribute tables.

So what is the bottom-line: GE is better suited for consumers of spatial data, while E2 is targeted more at the creators and editors. And how close does E2 come to following the “if you are late, you better be better” mantra? Not quite, but then again, it is just a beta.

Now the waiting game begins for arguably the most innovative internet company in recent times, notwithstanding the acquired nature of GE and SketchUp- Google, to hit back after losing ground to Yahoo Maps– better driving directions planning, and Microsoft Virtual Earth– ability to add and save shapes, and browser-based GE-esque 3D and street level views.

–π

PS:
•
I wonder how the good folks at Arc2Earth and Shape2Earth would maintain their rates of innovation in response?

Related:
• ArcGIS Explorer Overview Podcast
• ArcGIS Online Services
• Server Object Manager [SOM] Setup
• Sample *.nmf containing 1 point feature derived from feature class [e2.shp] in GCS_North_American_1983 coordinate system
• TerrainView
• Follow Up [4]: Graphic Software
• Follow Up [2]: Map Viewer and Google

Written by Harsh

November 29th, 2006 at 10:04 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

Tagged with ,

Follow Up [4]: Graphic Software

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Yet more evidence of acceptance of Google Maps and through it, of spatial relevance, by established publications:

• A Guide to Commuting and Readers’ Stories
• How Much Is Gas In Jersey?

In a related development, Microsoft continues to play catch-up with Google by acquiring GeoTango. However, with its “3D Internet Visualization- a truly open and web services-oriented solution”, GeoTango may just be the partner Microsoft needs for a tango.

–π

Related:
• ESRI ArcWeb Services
• NASA World Wind

Written by Harsh

December 28th, 2005 at 6:00 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

Tagged with , ,

Follow Up [3]: Graphic Software

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This week Yahoo released its own take on online mapping. Its new service includes both Flash and AJAX APIs coupled with the ability to geocode.

If you think about it, sooner or later this had to happen- developers finally mustering the courage to embrace arty Macromedia Flash for distributing spatial information in a big way, like Geocentric. Actually, Google has been using Flash for a different distribution for quite some time now. But this release by Yahoo and its under-1000 dollar price-tag should help Flash emerge as a more visible player in the online mapping game.

Did the earlier musings portend this?

–π

Related:
• Yahoo Developer Network
• GeoCool! Tutorial
• Google Local, MSN Virtual Earth, Amazon A9, AOL MapQuest
• Application: Google Earth
• Discussion Forum

Written by Harsh

November 3rd, 2005 at 6:32 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

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Never the Twain Shall Meet

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On the eve of the launch of Virtual Earth, as Microsoft plays catch-up with Google‘s high-rate of innovation, here’s a transcript of some tete-a-tete:

[Sometime before 2000]
Bill Gates: Now that we are in the email business with Hotmail, we need to think of ways to fatten the bottom-line.
Steve Ballmer: Online marketing is the way to go Bill! Let’s just create ahem ahem unnecessary page-views when the user logs-in and put as many graphic-intensive ads on each one of them as possible.
Bill Gates: …something like that SNL skit about advertisements on MSNBC flooding the screen and blocking the anchor’s face?!
Steve Ballmer: …hehehe, something like that! Hey, it’s a free service- the user might as well pay for it through ad views. You’ve got to market these goodies aggressively!
Bill Gates: Yeah, the bottom-line is the key!

[Sometime before 2004]
Larry Page: We need to get into the email business with a Google mail. The current services aren’t up to par.
Sergey Brin: Yeah, but given our relative size we must offer something that is significantly superior to what the market currently offers to make any reasonable in-roads.
Larry Page: OK, let’s start with a clean slate- how do we offer a better email service?
Sergey Brin: It’s all about the user-experience. At the end, if the user likes it, she will come back for more.
Larry Page: So we don’t flood the page with pop-ups and such junk??
Sergey Brin: That’s right! Advertisements should be useful but as unobtrusive as possible.
Larry Page: Agreed, the user-experience is the key!

Related:
• Follow Up [2]: Map Viewer and Google

–π

PS:
• Rudyard Kipling

Written by Harsh

July 24th, 2005 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Technology,Web

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Follow Up [2]: Map Viewer and Google

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Written by Harsh

May 27th, 2005 at 6:40 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

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Follow Up [1]: Graphic Software

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It is good to know that some professionals concur with the views expressed in my earlier post on the potential for graphic software, like Macromedia Flash. One comment links to an impressive demonstration of this largely untapped potential.

Anyway, two companies whose product GUI I enjoy interfacing with- Adobe and Macromedia, announced their merger earlier this month.

Both their flagship products have become industry-standards in exchanging documents and creating experience-rich applications across platforms. The largely unused spatial potential within Macromedia Flash combined with the increasingly widespread use of Adobe PDF/SVG maps and the sprouting of some exciting derivatives like geoPDF, pstoedit and GSview, make this merger important to how spatial information is exchanged in the near future.

Written by Harsh

April 28th, 2005 at 6:01 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

Tagged with , ,

Follow Up [1]: Map Viewer and Google

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A quick note on the happenings at Google: Yesterday, Google added satellite imagery to its mapping. For speedy displays, 256px*256px JPEG image-tiles scanned at different zoom-levels and each weighing around 30 KB, coupled with some nifty AJAX come handy.

Such a drag-and-drool tiling paradigm, although practised for some time now by website developers to load large images, when applied to internet mapping represents a refreshing out-of-the-box approach. The GET HTTP request method uses a cryptic naming convention to fetch these image-tiles from a preexisting pallette, like so:

http://kh.google.com/kh?v=1&t=TILE…

WHERE in one instance, TILE zooms closer from [tqtsqr] to [tqtsqrtssssrq] and still closer to [tqtsqrtssssrtrttr].

Unlike for its regular mapping where Google predictably uses GIF image-tiles each sized at 128px*128px, for its satellite imagery, Google’s preference for JPEG over another competitive format PNG, is worthy of a second glance: As is common knowledge, JPEG supports millions of colors, but is infamous for its lossy compression. PNG on the other hand, is lossless while supporting millions of colors. However, PNG is currently not supported by all browsers and depending on compression settings, may end-up weighing more.

–π

Written by Harsh

April 5th, 2005 at 7:29 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

Tagged with ,

Graphic Software

with one comment

The discussion “So …How About That Election Coverage?” at Directions Magazine makes you think about graphic software, like Macromedia Flash, that cater to small-time spatial needs.

Such graphic software, minus the topology and advanced query benefits, function well as basic spatial tools and comfortably serve data over the web with a “fair” amount of interactivity.

Does this make your overpriced IMS overhyped and overblown too?

[my comment]
“Macromedia Flash fills this niche quite well as demonstrated [here]. And as the market seems to indicate, it does that [while] satisfying more customers than what an overly fancy GIS would. [This] reminds me of the MapQuest survey when polled customers had expressed great contentment with their level of map detail, whereas cartographers were red with indignation. Akin to using an atomic clock to serve your wake-up call- not needed!”
[/my comment]

So is the complexity in Geospatial, better still Spatial, Information System or SIS overblown too? Much of SIS requires common-sense logic arranged linearly. If a person can drive her car in rush-hour traffic as she deciphers vague directions off a schematic map while trying to make sense of rain-washed road signs and maintain a semblance of conversation with her passenger, and still manage to engage the kid in the back-seat [read “multi-linear tasking”]; she can achieve a sound understanding of spatial databases with little persistence, except for the eye-for-details that comes with practice.

My point: SIS is non-complex and not at the cutting-edge of technological change, and there is ample room for non-traditional spatial software!

PS:
• This rise of non-traditional spatial software challenges the accepted definition of SIS. If you were to follow the modernist’s approach to design where in the end you remove everything you can without taking away from the essence of your creation and apply it to defining a SIS, you wonder what such a conceptual SIS would be in its simplest stark-naked Spartan form?

Written by Harsh

November 11th, 2004 at 7:35 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup

Tagged with , ,

Map Viewer and Google

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Interesting web-based map viewer– very snazzy. Now only if the download was quicker.

In related news, Google acquires Keyhole: a company promising a similar 3D interface. Right now, if you google an address, Google provides links to its 2D maps from Yahoo!Maps and MapQuest. Google also provides possible address matches and map links if you type in a name, akin to what Switchboard does.

It would be better if you could click and drag on a map to limit the spatial extent for your search. Although that would clutter the clean interface of Google Local, which by the way, does show maps.

Note to self- invest in Google.

PS:
Pi: Quiet Musing
• Google acquires gbrowser.com, and moves into video search. And here‘s the Google Blog.

Written by Harsh

October 27th, 2004 at 6:15 pm

Posted in GIS,Mashup,Service

Tagged with ,