All 3 entries tagged Maps

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August 24, 2005

Warwick from above

So like lots of people I’ve played with Google Maps and enjoyed the fact that you can view fantastic satellite imagery ranging from a view of the whole country all the way down to individual buildings. Disappointingly, though, there is no high-res satellite data for Coventry or Warwick at Google yet, so the chance to see whether there really is a concealed missile base on campus still eludes me.

Or at least it did. Enraged by this oversight on Google’s behalf, I vowed to provide equivalent imagery for the Warwick campus. And here it is.

Obviously, the hard part was getting the VC to agree to let me use his satellite (and figuring out how you switch it from “death ray” to “camera”) but after that, the results were quite pleasing. You can zoom in and out, drag the map around to pan, rotate the map or reset it. There are keyboard shortcuts too if you aren’t a mouse person; arrow keys to move, plus and minus to zoom, square bracket keys to rotate, space bar to reset.

The imagery required to do a zoomable map which goes to this level of detail is quite chunky; the original image used to develop the application is 24,000 pixels square, so it takes a while to open it up for editing. But the final effect is, for me anyway, endlessly entertaining. A prize for the first person who can tell me how many swimming pools and tennis courts are visible in the image. :-)

August 20, 2005

Flash Earth

Writing about web page

There's a continuing debate amongst web developers about whether Flash or Ajax is a better platform for interactive web applications. Google make some cool apps using Ajax – Google Maps, GMail and so on. Now, one guy has experimented to see whether the Google Maps satellite imagery interface could be done as well or better using Flash. The results are impressive: the redraw is better than Google's original, as is the panning and zooming, and he's added rotation, which is easy in Flash, but hard in HTML.

His interface feels nicer partly because he's gone to some trouble to polish the behaviour of the application; when you click the "zoom in" button, or the "pan north" button, the zoom (or pan) starts and slows to a stop smoothly. Handling both rotating and panning using the compass is a nice UI touch, too. And letting the user switch seamlessly between Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth to compare and contrast the two is clever and elegant. It's details like that which make the difference, and at the very least, this shows that Flash can do as good a job as Ajax for certain types of application – and, of course, this application works in every browser that can handle the Flash plugin, and there only needs to be one version of the code for all browsers – no conditional hacks to hide things from browser X. Worth a look.

February 08, 2005

Google maps

Writing about Google maps from Hannah's handbag

Hannah points out Google Maps which is a very nice interactive map tool, albeit one that's limited to the US and Canada right now. It's not that maps on the web are a new idea; after all there's MultiMap, MapQuest, MSN Maps and various others (and some of them have features that Google Maps doesn't, like creating Mobile pages for your Pocket PC, or trip planning, or alternate routes), but once again, Google score on the elegance of the interface.

Like Google Suggest and GMail, Maps uses dHTML and javascript to offer an interface that's miles nicer than anyone else's – drag the map to scroll around it, or use the arrow keys on your keyboard, plus the map only redraws the bits of itself it needs to, so you don't lose context.

As many commentators noted with GMail and Suggest, they're raising the bar on what people will come to expect from web interfaces. They're showing that you don't need a complete page reload to change visible data, that you can use keyboard shortcuts just like in a desktop application, that you can directly interact with your data. We might need to raise our client-side programming game. :-)

As an aside, is it just me, or are Google turning out new things faster than is even vaguely plausible? In the last few weeks alone, I count Maps, Video, Suggest and Scholar, and a complete list of Google applications now includes:-

  • Web search, Groups search, News search, Image search, Catalog search, Google alerts, Froogle, Compute, Sets, Desktop search, Toolbar, GMail, Print search, Scholar, Suggest, Video search, Maps, Blogger, Picasa, Keyhole, Translate, Appliances (including the new Google Mini).

Some of these are acquisitions, to be fair, and some of them are re-uses of the same core technology, but still, it's a pretty big portfolio, up from just "Search", what, three years ago?

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