Bookmarks for April 24th through April 27th

These are my links for April 24th through April 27th:

Scale of the Myanmar cyclone damage vs SF Bay Area

It’s difficult to get a sense of scale with natural phenomenon, including weather disasters, since they’re so much larger than what we normally deal with in every day life. There is some amazing before-and-after satellite imagery of the recent cyclone in Myanmar (Burma), in which the flooding in the river delta areas is clearly visible. For comparison, I’ve made a Google Maps view of the Bay Area in a similar (not identical) scale. The NASA imagery has a 25km reference scale, the Google Maps image I’ve scaled here was originally at 20km reference scale.



Public domain Soviet maps of the world

During the initial planning and survey phase of the Kuppam project a few years ago, I discovered it was nearly impossible to obtain high resolution topographic maps (or any other sort) for rural India. The government-operated Survey of India has high quality data, but it hasn’t generally made its way into the equivalent of US Geological Survey 15-minute quadrangles on paper or the DTM / DEM data sets. The best I was able to come up with was some old Soviet military maps from the 1950s.

Hadn’t thought about it for a while, but I see someone else has found out about these:

Paul sez, “Soviets mapped the entire world at various scales between 1940 and 1990.In some areas the Russian maps are still the best available maps. Amazingly, none of the maps are copyright.

BoingBoing, Soviet Military Maps of Britain

Amazing customized Yahoo maps with Flash

Just when I’d started getting a little bored with Google-based pincushion maps du jour, I come across something surprising built on the new Yahoo Maps API:
from Justin’s Rich Media Blog:

With the power of Flash 8, you can customize the Yahoo! Maps on your site to actually blend with the surrounding design of the site or application. Forget about a rectangular maps and default colors of the map tiles. Use ActionScript, or the IDE to add runtime filters to the map tiles themselves.

The radar “scan” is animated to rotate around, while the pirate map telescope also serves as the zoom level slider.

I’ve seen so many Google Maps applications in the past few months that the sheer novelty and utility value of new ways to access data and maps has started to wear off. These demos made me stop to take a look simply because they look so much better than what we’ve gotten used to lately, and are likely to precipitate a wave of interesting new ideas.

I’m ambivalent about requiring Flash as a client technology. It’s really neat, and is deployed on a lot (but not all) browsers. It’s also somewhat opaque, and chews up a lot of system resources. I can usually tell when I’ve landed on a web page with Flash content somewhere because the fan in my T42 usually starts spinning up after a few seconds instead of running dead silent.

But in the meantime, this made my day.

(via PhotoMatt)

Map My Run

Map My Run is a new Google Maps-based application for plotting and measuring your runs. I just tried plotting one of my usual loops around the Stanford campus and it’s pretty close to what I get with my GPS running watch.

You can plot routes by clicking points on the map, or upload a GPS tracklog (didn’t try this, though). These sorts of applications are great for estimating your mileage when you don’t actually have a GPS or some way to measure the course. Unfortunately, Google’s map coverage is still somewhat limited outside the US, so it works great for plotting runs around London’s Hyde Park but not so good for loops around the Vidhana Soudha or Cubbon Park in Bangalore, although if you know your way around you can use the satellite view to make a rough guesstimate.

As an aside, it’s remarkably hard to find a good online map of Bangalore, given the huge number of technology-related business travellers that visit there. Maps of India has a reasonable city overview, but if you want street-level detail, try this one from Superseva (only seems to work on Internet Explorer). It’s an interactive scanned image of a paper map(!).

See also: Gmaps Pedometer, Favorite Run, Walk Jog Run, Motion Based

via Google Maps Mania

Whizzy update to Yahoo Maps

Yahoo has a major update to Yahoo Maps this evening, bringing it back on par with Google Maps, and with a full set of web APIs for building mapping applications.

From the Yahoo Maps API overview:

Building Block Components

Several Yahoo! APIs help you create a powerful and useful Yahoo! Maps mashups. Use these together with the Yahoo! Maps APIs to enhance the user experience.

  • Geocoding API – Pass in location data by address and receive geocoded (encoded with latitude-longitude) responses.
  • Map Image API – Stitch map images together to build your own maps for usage in custom applications, including mobile and offline use.
  • Traffic APIs – Build applications that take dynamic traffic report data to help you plan optimal routes and keep on top of your commute using either our REST API or Dynamic RSS Feed.
  • Local Search APIs – Query against the Yahoo! Local service, which now returns longitude-latitude with every search result for easy plotting on a map. Also new is the inclusion of ratings from Yahoo! users for each establishment to give added context.

They also spell out their free service restrictions:

Rate Limit

The Simple API that displays your map data on the Yahoo! Maps site has no rate limit, thought it is limited to non-commercial use. The Yahoo! Maps Embeddedable APIs (the Flash and AJAX APIs are limited to 50,000 queries per IP per day and to non-commercial use. See the specific terms attached to each API for that API’s rate limit. See information on rate limiting.

This restriction is more interesting:

Sensor-Based Location Limit

You may use location data derived from GPS or other location sensing devices in connection with the Yahoo! Maps APIs, provided that such location data is not based on real-time (i.e., less than 6 hours) GPS or any other real-time location sensing device, the GPS or location sensing device that derives the location data cannot automatically (i.e. without human intervention) provide the end user’s location, and any such location data must be uploaded by an end-user (and not you) to the Yahoo! Maps APIs.

So uploading a track log after running or hiking is OK, but doing a live GPS ping from your notebook, PDA, or cell phone to show where you are isn’t? I think this is intended to exclude traffic and fleet tracking applications, but it seems to include geocoded blog maps by accident. I don’t think they’d actually mind that.

There are several sample applications to look at. The events map seems nicely done, pulling up locations, images, and events for venues within the search window.

To display appropriate images for events, local event output was sent into the Term Extraction API, then the term vector was given to the Image Search API. The results are often incredibly accurate.

I’ve been meaning to take a look at the Term Extraction service, it looks like it might be a handy tool for building some quick-and-dirty personal meme engines or other filters for wrangling down my ever growing list of feeds.

Announcement at Yahoo Search Blog

More from TechCrunch, Jeremy Zawodny, Chad Dickerson

How to make a Google Earth movie with free software

Here’s how to make a movie from Google Earth, using a DirectX capture utility. (via LifeHacker)

Starting with the free version of Google Earth, I installed FRAPS, a program that saves the video from programs that use DirectX (mostly games) directly to the hard drive in an uncommpressed avi format. Works real nice, makes good quality movies, but with a very large file size. FRAPS uses a codec that can not be read by anything else. So, using VirtualDub (installed on the same PC as FRAPS), I converted the avi to a much smaller Divx Avi. From there I could edit/play the video on anything, like my Mac!

The tool chain used here is pretty obscure for a normal person, but is probably usable by an interesting fraction of the early adopters that have jumped on the new interfaces for Google Maps / Google Earth.

The user-friendly way to make a Google Earth movie is to pay for the upgraded version, which adds several features, including movie output ($400).

Google Earth

I’m semi-offline, travelling in India this week, but had a little time to check out Google Earth, which just launched. This is basically the Keyhole software, integrated with Google. It provides a 3-d interface to satellite imagery and GIS data for the whole earth, including terrain, 3-d building models in a few metro areas (such as San Francisco) and is free for personal use.

The main downside is that it’s a fat client (10MB to download), and requires an internet connection to log in on the image server. It’s great fun to play with though, and I can see a new round of interesting applications similar to the Google Maps hacks that have been emerging over the past few months.