The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'google maps'
In light of Google Maps launching their Australasian coverage, I am of the opinion that one geographical innovation Australia could do with is street-level post codes.
If one thinks of postcodes as merely a bit of stuff you write on a letter to help the postman, it may not seem like such a big deal. Though once postcodes are seen in a broader context, as coordinates optimised for specifying how to get to a location, they really come into their own. A 4-digit Australian postcode gives a few square kilometers of urban area, or several times that in the outback. A 6-7 character British postcode, however, can home in on a street or a segment of a street, down to a few dozen houses. Type in a postcode like "NW6 7JR" into Google Maps and you'll get a map showing you where your destination is; enter it into something like the Transport for London Journey Planner, and it has enough information to determine an optimal route for getting to the location in question, getting you close enough to find your destination without any further help. Because the postcode is a code in a very specific format, there is no need for guesswork, address parsing, or the computer asking you to select which location you meant from a list of alternatives.
I modestly propose that Australia would benefit from street level postcodes. The increased efficiency in mail delivery would save the Post Office money, and the streamlining of computer-based navigation technologies would boost the increasingly high-tech, high-speed economy, not to mention provide a valuable public utility. One could possibly even make an environmental argument for finer-grained postcodes, that in optimising navigation, they would reduce the amount of fuel used and pollution emitted. The street-level information could be added on as a suffix to existing postcodes, much in the way ZIP+4 was added to US ZIP codes in 1983, and could consist of an alphanumeric suffix. For example, a segment of a street in Fitzroy could be designated by something that looks like 3065-AB3. (They could also be purely numeric, though alphanumeric suffixes would allow for more information in fewer characters, and keeping the total length to 7 characters or less (as per The Magical Number Seven +/- 2, this being the capacity of human immediate memory) Punch that into a website or mobile phone application and you can get detailed instructions on how to get to your desired location.
Of course, proposing such a scheme is one thing, and getting bureaucrats, politicians and various vested interests to run with it is another, so one probably shouldn't hold one's breath.
And if it never happens, we could always move to a purely latitude/longitude-based coding system like the Natural Area Coding System. The problem with that is that, being purely physical, it does not take into account local geographical features, such as whether two points are adjacent houses on a street or houses in two streets only reachable by a long detour.
Google Maps has added Australia. (And New Zealand as well, while they were in the neighbourhood.) It looks like a fairly comprehensive map covering the entirety of the vast country, from the major cities to small country towns and rural roads. Interestingly enough, their Australian maps actually show property boundaries in grey; perhaps a lot of the data comes from land titles databases? There don't seem to be any discontinuities along state borders, of the sorts that happen on the borders of European countries, so presumably the data is fairly uniform across Australia.
There is not yet a maps.google.com.au, and searches for Australian locations yield little ("melbourne australia" will get you on the right page, though anything below that, like, say, "northcote australia", a street name or a post code, draws a blank), though if you go to the US, UK or Japanese site and drag, you can get to the wide brown land with green bits around the edges.
Google Maps has expanded its coverage again. It now covers
all most of the EU (excluding Slovenia), Scandinavia and Finland (though not Iceland or the Faroes). Some parts of Europe (France, Germany, the Czech Republic and such) are more densely covered than others (Poland and Hungary, for example), and map coverage cuts off altogether at the EU's eastern frontier, though as a bonus, you get greater Moscow (or "Москва", as Google Maps, ever sensitive to local ways, labels it), plus an orange umbilicus of a highway connecting it to the rest of the known world, via the Belarussian wilderness. Greece and Istanbul are connected in a similar fashion through Serbia and Montenegro. Oh, and the Canary Islands get covered, presumably to cater to all the Europeans catching cheap flights there.
Google Maps' long-awaited expansion into Europe may be coming; the mapping service has just added maps of a patch of north-western Italy, which joins North America, the UK and Japan in the mapped world. The map cuts off on a suspiciously vertical line just east of Alessandria, though; perhaps the rest of Italy will show up in the next day or so?
Pub database + Google Maps = PintSearch. It only seems to cover London now, and, as you might expect, in many places you can't click to drag the map without selecting a pub.
A hacker has demonstrated how easily publicly available data such as Amazon.com wishlists and web services can be used to locate Americans with potentially "subversive" beliefs or sympathies, thus demonstrating the potential threat to privacy and freedom of association of "anti-terrorist" data-mining/wiretapping proposals:
"In previous years, there were only about a thousand court-ordered wiretaps in the United States per year, at the federal, state, and local levels combined. It's hard to see how the government could even employ enough judges to sign enough wiretap orders to wiretap 1 percent of all our phone calls, much less hire enough federal agents to sit and listen to all that traffic in real time. The only plausible way of processing that amount of traffic is a massive Orwellian application of automated voice recognition technology to sift through it all, searching for interesting keywords or searching for a particular speaker's voice. If the government doesn't find the target in the first 1 percent sample, the wiretaps can be shifted over to a different 1 percent until the target is found, or until everyone's phone line has been checked for subversive traffic. The FBI said they need this capacity to plan for the future. This plan sparked such outrage that it was defeated in Congress. But the mere fact that the FBI even asked for these broad powers is revealing of their agenda."
Thanks to Google Maps (and many similar services) a street address is all we need to get a satellite image of a person's home. Tempted as I was to provide satellite images of the homes of the search subjects, it just seemed a bit extreme even for this article. Instead, I opted only to pinpoint the centers of the towns in which they live. So at least you'll know that there's somebody in your community reading Critical Thinking or some other dangerous text.The article has embedded Google Maps with markers showing where those wishing for copies of George Orwell's 1984 and the Torah (btw, would this be an instance of Godwin's Law by insinuation?) live.
(via bOING bOING)
Google Local, formerly known as Google Maps, is now available for mobile phones. There are Java applets which will run on a variety of phones and allow you to scroll and zoom around the Google Maps map. For some reason, you can't zoom in to street level, at least for the UK. Also, being able to bookmark locations would be good. Other than that, it's pretty nifty, and could end up giving PDA-based static map software like Tube a run for its money.
Impressive hack of the day: turning a Nintendo DS into a GPS-enabled map viewer, using a GPS unit wired to its serial port and a CompactFlash card full of map tile images purloined from Google Maps.
The use of downloaded Google Maps tiles is interesting; I wonder how long until someone writes a map viewer for PalmOS which uses these, effectively cutting into the market share of programs like Tube (which have limited coverage, and often annoying qualities such as being unable to scroll between map tiles; a pain when you're looking for somewhere just off the map, or in the intersection between two tiles). Then again, Google may be able and/or obliged to use the DMCA against any software which attempts to use its map tiles in this fashion (though I am not a lawyer).
Google Maps now has satellite imagery (of varying resolution) and coastlines/borders for the entire world. While Australia is probably far from getting anything like street maps (in terms of potential AdWords revenue per square kilometre, for example, it'd probably trail some way behind Europe and Asia, making it a low priority, unless they just do the major cities or something), it does have maximum-resolution satellite maps. Here, for example, is a view of Brunswick St. and the Fitzroy Pool. And here is Merri Creek and the last house I lived. (Searches on "fitzroy north" draw a blank right now, though; apparently there are no places by this name in the UK or North America. There are quite a few Brunswick Streets in Britain, though.)
Interestingly enough, much of Carlton/Parkville is shrouded in cloud, and the resolution drops off sharply just east of the State Library (it appears that they only have high-res photos for a chunk of Melbourne from Hobsons Bay to Geelong and some adjoining chunks). This, however, is a lot better than Sydney appears to have fared; I believe that this is the coathanger at the highest resolution they've currently got it; though things get much clearer below that for some reason. Meanwhile, Brisbane gets some nice photos, as do Perth and Adelaide. Darwin and Hobart, however, are blurred. It also manages to find Ballarat, Wollongong, Cairns and Albury (though be sure to put in "australia", otherwise it'll ask whether you want the one in Hertfordshire or Surrey), but draws a blank at suburbs and smaller places.
Google Maps now has a UK edition, in which, rather than consisting only of North America, the globe consists of only the British Isles. The site doesn't have satellite photos yet, though it does seem to have everything else the American site has. Seeing places you've actually been adds quite a bit to the experience.
Compulsively draggable click-toy Google Maps has added satellite imagery to its site; you can now switch between line-art maps and satellite photographs, all zoomable. Some regions don't have satellite imagery at the highest resolution.
Interestingly enough, while the maps are still North America-only, you can drag the satellite view to anywhere in the world; most parts of the world don't let you zoom in to any level that shows signs of habitation though.
Google once again raises the bar of what you can do with a web browser. Their latest is Google Maps, an entirely DHTML-based, instantly responsive, scrollable, zoomable map. Functionally, it doesn't seem to do anything that online street maps haven't done for a few years now, but that's not the point; it's the way it does it. Where street maps until now have been clunky and slow, Google Maps feels instantaneous; you can drag the map around, zoom it in and out, and new tiles load on demand. (On a fast connection, it's not slow enough to be annoying.) And the way it displays signposts, with composited Gaussian-blurred shadows, looks pretty cool too. Currently, they only have North America, and only have detailed maps for the United States, but then again, it's still in beta, so hopefully they'll add other parts of the world soon.