The Null Device


In other recent news, Apple launched the latest gadget yesterday, to much-anticipated adulation. There were few surprises in the overt details: the retina display showed up as everyone predicted, and the CPU and camera were also bumped up; oh, and it does LTE, which explains the enlarged battery.

The launch included a presentation demonstrating the new iPad and some new apps for it. Buried within the demonstration of a photo editing package was a bombshell: a fragment of a screen, seen briefly, showed a street map which looked distinctly unlike Google Maps (the mapping system used by iOS since the first iPhone), suggesting that Apple are about to move away from Google Maps to a different platform. Such a move wasn't entirely unanticipated; relations between Apple and Google have been icy recently, so it was only a matter of time until Apple moved to a different mapping system; Apple's acquisition of several mapping-related companies, which promptly disappeared beyond the Cupertino event horizon, suggested that Apple would roll its own system. The only questions were when and what form would it take.

More clues emerged when the iPhoto app became available: (examination of internet traffic from iPhoto revealed that the map tiles were being loaded from a server named, and soon, someone rigged up an unofficial web-based map viewer using the tiles. Finally, it was revealed that Apple are using data from OpenStreetMap for their maps, though rolling their own tiles. The service seems to be in its early stages so far; the resolution stops a few zoom levels short of street-map level and the data they're using is based on a slightly old snapshot of OpenStreetMap, though it's still pretty big news.

Apple's move to OpenStreetMap is the latest in a wave of defections from the once-ubiquitous Google Maps (FourSquare moved a few weeks ago and other sites have been moving to it, propelled by the carrot of OpenStreetMap's high-quality (and rich) data set and the stick of Google moving more aggressively to monetise their maps. As for other mapping services, they don't seem to be getting much of the action; Microsoft's Bing has Facebook, probably because Microsoft own 1% of Facebook, and Flickr still uses Yahoo!'s own mapping system. However, neither looks set to steal the crown from Google, as there isn't likely to be a crown to steal soon.

It looks like online geodata may have approached the tipping point that electronic encyclopædias reached with Wikipedia and UNIX on commodity hardware (remember commercial PC UNIX?) reached with Linux: the point beyond which it makes no economic or business sense to go it alone, and where proprietary products are an evolutionary dead end.

It'll be interesting what the UK's Ordnance Survey, for long the dog in the manger of geodata, will make of the new shifting environment it finds itself in.

apple geodata google maps open source openstreetmap 2

When testing drugs for treating depression on lab mice, it is important to have ways of determining whether or not a mouse is depressed, or suffering from the mouse equivalent of depression. Not surprisingly, mice deemed to be depressed are the ones which give up and stop struggling when faced with difficulty, and which get little joy from life:

Forced swimming test. The rat or mouse is placed into a cylinder partially filled with water from which escape is difficult. The longer it swims, the more actively it is trying to escape; if it stops swimming, this cessation is interpreted as depressionlike behavior, a kind of animal fatalism.
Sugar water preference. The preference an animal shows for sugar water is taken as an indication of its ability to derive pleasure, a quality that is missing in depression. Most rodents, when given two identical-looking sources of water, will drink much more of the sweetened water than the plain water. Rodents exposed to chronic stress or whose brains have been manipulated show no such preference.
(Previously: Scientists create a mouse that's permanently happy.)

(via Boing Boing) depression despair mice mouse psychology science 0