Tag Archive: Google Maps

Google Maps Screws Up

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I’m not one of those people that mounts protests every time Facebook changes their layout, or when GMail makes some slight change. I even like the new updates to Flickr, even though some users are threatening to abandon it for Ipernity. So, when I say that Google Maps has really screwed up with their latest updates, I really mean it.

Initially the update looked promising, so I signed up for the Beta version. The 3D views and integration with Google Earth look very slick. However, right away I started to seeing some problems. The “My Places” section was hidden – de-emphasized as if Google may be doing away with it. When you click on the map you get links to (surprise, surprise) businesses with potential advertising. For users like me, I now had several steps instead of one or two to get to what I wanted, and it looked like one of my primary tools was being threatened.

However, the real clincher came as I was trying to geotag some photos from my last paddling trip to Lake Marion. For this past trip I had photos from three cameras – GoPro, Panasonic Lumix LX-5, and a Fuji WP33. I had GPS tracks from a Garmin Venture HC and an iGotU 120 tracker. I use the GPSPhotoLinker software on my Mac to match the photos with the GPS tracks.

I can check individual photos by clicking on “Show on map” in GPSPhotoLinker. By default, this brings up a Google Map with the latitude/longitude coordinates for the photo. If it’s not where I expect it to be, I can tweak either the timing or some other variable to get it where I want it.

Unfortunately, this morning I couldn’t get any of my photos to show up correctly on Google Maps. I assumed that the either the GPS clock or the internal camera clock must be off. However, it didn’t matter which camera or which GPS track, the photos showed up on the same road as shown below:

New Google Maps

After an hour and a half of trying to get this to work (and even downloading a trial version of a new geocoding program), it dawned on me to try something else. I started by popping the photos into Lightroom and using the mapping program there to check geocoding. Using the same images and GPS tracks, it showed the photos where they are supposed to be. However, the Lightroom geotagging function is useless because it doesn’t write the location data to the image’s EXIF data when the picture is exported.

Since the images and GPS tracks seemed to be synced OK, I decided to try something else. I went back to GPSPhotoLinker and set the default so that it would display on MapQuest instead of Google Maps. Worked like a charm. Now my images were showing up where they were supposed to be. Since that worked I decided to switch back to the Google Maps “Classic View” for the default view, and that cleared up the problem. The images appeared once again were geocoded correctly, in the middle of the lake instead of a lakeside neighborhood.

Classic Google Maps

As far as I can tell, what the new version of Google Maps is doing is when a set of coordinates is input into the service, it returns the location for the nearest street address – always. That doesn’t help if your coordinates are in the middle of a lake, or if you’re hiking in the middle of nowhere. it seems that Google Maps is now only useful for people driving or people on streets. I can’t find anywhere to turn off that “feature.”

So, Google, if you’re truly wanting feedback about your beta product, you need to make your maps once again useful to those of us that tend to stray off of the roads.

Thus endeth the rant. Selah.

Street View Time Lapse

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Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 6.42.00 AM

I’ve been enjoying creating time-lapse videos while driving. Unfortunately, I’ve just been driving back and forth to work or rehearsal, so the scenery doesn’t change much.

So while I was looking at Google Earth the other day it occurred to me – I could use the images from Street View to create the same type of time-lapse. (more…)

Local Paddling Venues

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Lily Fields

After a spring full of multiple paddling trips, some on consecutive Saturdays, we finally had a weekend to ourselves with no paddling trips planned. Well, actually, I could have gone with my Lowcountry Unfiltered friends to Little Tybee Island on Saturday, but Laura and I really needed a weekend to ourselves at home. Even so, paddling still entered the picture.

I got a call from a friend saying that she wanted to take her boats out for the afternoon, and was looking for some good local venues. She had paddled Lakes Saluda, Robinson, and Cunningham, and was looking for something else. As I described some locations for her, it occurred to me that I don’t have a good collection of local venues. That started another quest.

When Laura and I got our kayaks nearly 15 years ago we would often take off up to Lake Cunningham above Greer. We could be there and on the water within 30 minutes, so it was a great quick escape. However, there are others about as close.

So, describing a few places to my friend on the phone, I set out to to make a list of local paddling venues. My locations had to have the following criteria:

  • Close – within an hour or so from Greenville
  • Easy access – a boat ramp or some other easy way to get to the water, no steep throw-ins.
  • Out-and-back – in other words, flat water.  Simple is better, and a shuttle requires more than one vehicle.
  • Suitable for solo paddling – This also eliminates shuttles.  Although solo paddling isn’t really a safe thing, I was still looking for simplicity.

I created a Google Map showing the locations of various access points.  I came up with quite a few, some I had paddled, and some that I haven’t had a chance to explore.  I haven’t listed all of the boat ramps on Lakes Hartwell and Keowee, but there were a couple that bore acknowledgment.  These venues included the following:

  • Saluda River
  • Lake Lyman
  • Lake Cooley
  • Lake Jocassee
  • Lake Oolenoy
  • Lake Adger
  • Parr Shoals
  • Monticello Reservoir
  • Lake Croft
  • Lake Julian
  • Lake Greenwood
  • Tugaloo River

…and several others.

The map is editable by the public.  I’m taking suggestions for other locations I might have missed.  Consider this a work in progress.


View Local Paddling Venues in a larger map

Also see Paddling South Carolina’s Rivers.

Google Earth Meets Google Maps

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Google Earth is now accessible through a browser via the Google Maps page.  The plug-in for Google Earth has been available for quite some time now, so this is only a natural progression.  On the Maps page there is now an “Earth” view in addition to Map and Satellite.  Terrain has been relegated to the “More” category.

Google Earth in Maps.png by RndConnections on Aviary

It looks like the Earth view has much of the same functionality as regular Google Earth. You can zoom, pan and even change the angle for a 3D view. The imagery is just as sharp as regular Google Earth. You also have access to 3-D buildings, etc., which previously wasn’t possible in Google Maps.

There are some limitations, though. There are some performance issues with the application opening slowly, or hanging up in some browsers. The amount of screen real estate is limited. You can’t open KMZ/KML files from your desktop. You can pull them into Google Maps if they are already online. Lots of the other tools available in stand alone Google Earth are also not available, such as all of the cool layers and the the ability to open and create complex Google Earth files.

One neat thing is that you can open any files saved under “My Maps” in Google Earth view. You can also embed Google Earth views into blog posts and other web sites. Below I’ve opened up a map of a recent Enoree River paddling trip that I had stored in Google Maps. I opened it in Google Earth view and embedded that view. It functions almost the same as if I were looking at the Maps page.


View Enoree Paddle – Whitmire Stretch in a larger map

If you’re in a situation where a stand-alone version of Google Earth isn’t available, this might be a viable alternative. While the overall imagery isn’t much different from the satellite view, the navigation and 3D capabilities make it a different experience. It is an excellent addition to the Google collection of mapping tools.

More Disc Golf Resources

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I realized that in yesterday’s post I didn’t get any maps or locations to the two disc golf courses I’d played.  The easiest thing would be to see if the Upstate Disc Golf Club website had links to maps on their course list, but there were not even any written directions.

I thought I had remembered someone putting together a KML file on the Google Earth Community bulletin board system, but their search functions are miserable and I couldn’t locate it.  A google search led me to one resource on the Disc Golf Fusion website, but it wasn’t accurate at all.  All it did was map to the zip codes, which would only get you to the right city.  Waymarking.com has a category for disc golf courses, but it’s by no means comprehensive.

So, I visited the Professional Disc Golf Association website and searched their listings for courses in our area.  In some cases there were links to Google Maps or MapQuest, but not for all courses.  I wound up just following the direction descriptions and creating my own Google Maps collection.  I also copied the info for the courses from the PDGA site and pasted it into the placemark information.  These are the courses that are closest to Greenville.  There are more in South Carolina, but I didn’t include them.  I have only played five of these courses, but one day I’d love to visit them all.


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Greenville in Street View!

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Much of the Upstate, including Greenville, is now available in Google Street View. Last night I discovered that Columbia and Charlotte had been added, and this morning Greenville was also on the list. The blue areas in the map below show the current coverage:

SC-Street-View-Coverage

In Google Earth, the coverage is a bit deceptive. There are camera icons for Spartanburg and Anderson, but it is really only those areas in terms of spreading out from Greenville. So, for example, the Duncan, Lyman, Wellford areas are on the very eastern edge of the Greenville coverage. Since they are in Spartanburg County, Spartanburg gets a camera icon.

Of course, the first thing I had to do was find our house and my office:

My-House-Street-View

District Office Street View

I did blank our our address on my house image.

It looks like these images were taken sometime last winter, probably in the January-February time frame. The new cul-de-sac at the end of our street has been completed, and our new neighbors across the street have one of those P.O.D.S. in their front yard. Since my garbage and recycling are out front and since only my truck is in the yard, this was probably taken on a Friday. I was able to find images from one of our new schools currently under construction, and it looks like it’s fairly far along.

It’s interesting to see which areas are covered and which are not. For example, downtown Spartanburg isn’t covered, but downtown Campobello is. It looks like the Google van took a road trip up along Highway 414 over to Landrum, then down I-26, but not many roads in-between. Speaking of the van, you can see its shadow in several views. The Immersive Media camera is clearly visible on a pole atop the car in the shadow.

While I’ve enjoyed visiting new places in Street View, visiting places that I know very well is equally interesting. Oddly enough, none of the coastal areas are currently covered. Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Hilton Head – the more touristy areas – haven’t been visited by Google. I’m sure that’s just a matter of time.

[tags]Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View[/tags]

Embeddable Google Earth

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The functionality of Google Earth is showing up in more and more places outside of the actual Google Earth software. Much of what you could do in GE is now available in Google Maps. Maps has had the ability to read KML/KMZ files for awhile now, and for the most part the imagery is the same for both systems. Well the folks at Google have blurred the line even more with the recent release of the Google Earth COM API.

The new API allows developers to create interfaces to the Google Earth data. Probably one of the best examples of this has been done by the folks at TakItWithMe.com. They have created a version of Google Earth than can be embedded into blog posts, web pages, etc.

In order to take advantage of this three things have got to be in place:

  1. Google Earth 4.x or higher must be installed on your computer.
  2. You have to install the Google Earth 3D plugin for the browser you plan to use.
  3. The KML/KMZ file you plan to use must be available online, either on hosted webspace or on the user’s My Maps folder in Google Maps.

If you have at least the first two of these already in place on your computer, you can click the link below to read more, and you’ll see a demonstration…

(more…)

Seero – Geospatially Aware Video

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In my discussions about geotagging, one of the questions that always arises is the issue what location should be tagged. If you’re tagging photographs, should you tag the location where you took the shot, or should you tag the location of the subject. For example, if you were standing on an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and take a picture of something in a valley below, your subject might be several miles away, which is a significant difference for geotagging. Most photographers agree that you should tag the location from which you took the shot, and not the location of the subject. You’re tagging a specific view.

Since a photograph is a frozen moment in time, each image can be matched with a discreet location. That gets a bit thorny when talking about tagging audio or video. Thinking back to my recent flight with my cousin where I did some video work, the video lasted for much of the trip. Do I geotag the starting point, the ending point, or somewhere in between? The same question would apply to audio that is recorded while traveling.

Well, the folks at Seero have come up with a pretty cool solution. Their service matches the video with a GPS track, so that you can tag the entire length of the video. According to their website, Seero lets users…

  • Broadcast live video and archive it for on-demand playback.
  • Track GPS position in real-time and archive a course for playback with video.
  • Explore the world and discover video through an innovative geo-navigational interface.
  • Geo-tag your video clips to showcase the destinations where they take place.
  • Experience location specific factoids and feeds with a video broadcast.

It sounds pretty interesting. The demonstration video I saw showed a clip of the two site creators driving around Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The video appears on the left, and a Google map interface appears on the right. The map is updated with correct location as the video progresses, tracking the trip along with the video. In addition to the track, placemarks can be added to the video.

I’ve tried added their new “embed” feature below. Because the video/map combination is wider than the formatting used for this web page, it will bleed over onto the menu items on the right. Sorry, but it can’t be helped.

I’ve signed up for an account with them, but I don’t have anything to contribute just yet. I may try a driving tour around Greenville, using one of the Greenville Library guides, or one that I come up with on my own. We’ll see. In the meantime, I may visit some of the other tours that have already been contributed to the site. This looks like it has some very good potential.

[tags]Seero, geotagging, Google Maps, video[/tags]

Hey! What’s That?

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Via the blog Free Geography Tools, I’ve learned about one of the coolest new applications to take advantage of the Google Maps/Earth interface. The service is called “Hey! What’s That?” and it allows users to create panoramas from any point on Earth.

Think of it this way…

You’re up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and you pull off at one of the overlooks. There’s a sign there reflecting the vista before you, with labels identifying the various peaks, etc. That’s exactly what “Hey! What’s That?” does for you. You can select from an extensive list of already available panoramas, or you can generate your own from an address or lat/long coordinate. The panoramas are 360 degrees, with a corresponding view in Google Maps. Here’s what the panorama looks like for Paris Mountain, just north of Greenville. You really need to click on the image to see it larger for it to make sense:

HeyWhatsThatPano

And this is what the corresponding Google Map looks like:

HeyWhatsThat1

The red shaded areas are a new layer called a “visibility cloak” which shows all the locations that should be visible from that point on a clear day. Clicking on any of the points on the panorama will bring up a placemark on the map with a straight-line distance back to the vista point.

“Hey! What’s That?” goes one step further by providing this information as a KML file for Google Earth. From their ReadMe file, here’s what you see…

This Google Earth file contains several layers to show what you can see from Paris Mountain.
Paris Mountain

  • The viewer position used for the calculation Visibility cloak
  • Shows, in red, exactly which areas are visible from that point. Every red pixel covers about two acres. Conventionally known as the viewshed. Visibility cloak outline
  • Shows the maximum extent of the cloak in every direction, or, more poetically, the horizon. The visibility cloak can take a long time to load, so we default to just having the outline visible. You may sometimes find that there is no red of the visibility cloak at the purple outline limit; this is because we use data at several different resolutions in our computations. Peaks folder
  • Lists the summits that we calculate will be visible to the viewer. For a summit to make the list, its peak and some slope on either side must be visible, it must appear against the horizon, and it must appear in the gazetteer we use. (For more on these criteria, and to understand the (shown at …) parenthetical comments, see the FAQ.)
  • Bearings listed are true; for magnetic bearings add 6°.
  • Panorama
  • The computed image of the horizon as seen from the viewer’s position.

Here’s a screen capture from the Google Earth file:

HeyWhatsThat3

As you can see, the visibility cloak layer has been enabled, as has the panorama layer.

I think this is a fascinating new utility.  I’m still trying to figure out ways it might be useful, but it’s certainly worth spending some time with it.

[tags]Google Earth, Google Maps, panorama, Hey!  What’s That?[/tags]

Super Geotagged

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SuperGeotagged

One of the problems with native KML support in Flickr is that it only displays the last 20 geotagged images from the specified search criteria. If you want a more inclusive display of Flickr geotagged images, you need to use something like Metaltoad, Flyr or Loc.alize.us. Flyr gives you better granularity of control for searches based on tags, users, etc., and Metaltoad displays all geotagged images – good or bad – based on theA level of “interestingness” as determined by Flickr. Loc.alize.us uses Google Maps, and will sort according to date or interestingness. It provides clickable links for tags in its display.

Now there is a new player in the geotagging field. Supergeotagged displays all geotagged images in Flickr on its map. These are displayed as thumbnail overlays on a Google Map, and as you can see in the image above, the effect is rather impressive. Images in the same location are shown as layers, as can be seen by this image zoomed into South Carolina.

SuperGeotaggedSC

The display is very impressive, and certainly gets across the concept of geotagging. I wish I’d had this available when I was teaching my classes last week. However, as far as functionality is concerned, there is not very much “super” about it. Sure, it displays all geotagged images from Flickr, but there is no way to sort or filter apart from zooming into an area, and there is no way to export the data to a KML file. Regardless, I think it’s a great effort, and I’m happy to see more and more people developing ways to view geotagged images from Flickr.

[tags]Supergeotagged, Google Earth, Google Maps, Flickr, geotagged, photography[/tags]

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