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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gary Price at Search Engine Watch notes a new Google beta for a trip planner using public transportation in Portland, Oregon. He didn’t get it to work and there are no definite plans from Google noted. Still, it’s an interesting future project. One cool tool: an estimate of the cost to drive to the destination compared to the public transportation cost.

by Adena Schutzberg on 12/08 at 08:31 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Despite Microsoft’s efforts to keep it a secret, Live Local was the talk of at least some parts of the Web yesterday. I noted it yesterday in this blog. By yesterday afternoon, Search Engine Watch had the press release, which my notes say wouldn’t be available until 9:01 am today.

So, should you be excited? I wasn’t. Yes it has the promised Pictometry Imagery. Yes it has updated directions tools (ooo – you can either print the maps, or the directions in steps, or both!). Yes, it has tools for annotating the map with you own push pins. But none of those are enough to drag me off of my preferred mapping platform.

Why? The app, now called Live Local powered by Virtual Earth, is still clunky. Things don’t work intuitively. In the demo, Tom Bailey, Director of Marketing, MSN, placed a custom push pin at the front door of a building. He then located a hotel and tried to create driving directions to that pushpin. I waited eagerly for him to double click on it in the scratch pad and for that location to populate the “to” part of the directions tool. No such luck – we had to zoom to the location, then click on the pushpin on the map! That’s inelegant and adds steps to what should be a simple process.

And, let’s consider Live Local as a name. The old MSN Virtual Earth URL points to the new, Live Local is one of the terms my local TV station uses to promote its news. Live Local does not sound like maps. (I have yet to hear anyone refer to Google Maps as Google Local, though its name changed some months ago.) And, perhaps maps should not be part of these offerings’ names. Local is about Search first, geography second. That said, I hope the company will also examine some of the core interface challenges as well.

Microsoft has big plans for more data and goodies for Live Local and that’s good. One good one to note: Virtual Earth will in time become the core mapping technology that will power Live Local, MapPoint Web Service and the company’s consumer mapping products.

by Adena Schutzberg on 12/08 at 06:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

ABC News reports on a new take on the geography of breast cancer. “Deborah Winn, a scientist with the National Institutes of Health, states in the December issue of the journal Nature Reviews Cancer that the most likely reason that women in certain communities — such as Long Island or San Francisco — have increased breast cancer risk is that those areas are populated by wealthy women.” That wealth equates with waiting longer to have children and use of replacement hormone therapy. But of course its complicated since other lifestyle factors also enter into the picture. Tulane University environmental health professor Charles Miller suggest that Long Island may also have a higher proportion of Jewish women. He “would expect that a GIS plot (map) of the population density of Jewish women might correspond well to the patterns of excess breast cancer incidence shown in the national map.” Sorry no maps are offered with the story.

by Adena Schutzberg on 12/08 at 06:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

This caption accompanied a photo of Jim Reed, a GIS user in Jasper Oregon from the Register-Guard: “From a loft in his Jasper home, Jim Reed uses his four computers and the process of geographic information systems, or GIS, to make maps. One of his first commercial projects was a map detailing the running trails in the Eugene-Springfield area.” I suppose GIS is a process, though I’d not heard it referred to quite that way.

by Adena Schutzberg on 12/08 at 06:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Update 12/8: While the developer toolkit for DWF is available, the source code for the plug-in is not open source.

After seeing the HTML (AJAX) client of “MapServer Enterprise” many times during the week, I finally asked to see the DWF plug-in version. They are as promised identical. Ok, there is one big difference: the HTML one has the blue scale/navigation tool (the blue exclamation point) and the plug-in version does not. However, you can hide the tool in the AJAX version by pushing it “off screen” if you like. (Apparently, many people like to do that since they find it ugly!)

I was not clear on is the status of the clients. They are “somewhat” open source. The core HTML viewer code is available but the DWF plug-in is not open source. (A developer toolkit is available.) Nor is the MapServer Enterprise Studio product which allows for the easy configuration of them. It basically “builds up” the XML that is fed into these apps to create the online page the user sees. In fact, I saw a demo of literally the same XML fed into each. They looked identical, save the blue exclamation point.

Why would a developer chose one over the other? DWF may be quicker with refreshes since the data is local, but has no extra functionality. It might be best used inside a company, where the download of a plug-in is no big deal. The HTML version requires no download and may be best used for consumer/citizen websites.

Both will in time be able to offer DWF files that can be taken into the field, though for now the HTML one does not have that functionality.

by Adena Schutzberg on 12/07 at 08:52 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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