Nathan's Lucubrations; on computers, music and the outdoors

29 03 2014

Sat, 29 Mar 2014

Thank You, Google

In the spirit of "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain this to you" (TL;DR - free software doesn't have "end" users, that's the point), I'd like to thank Google for forcing my hand.

You see, I've been thinking for some time now that I shouldn't be so reliant upon other people's servers, or more importantly, other people's closed source software. To be sure, I have rid my life as much as possible of things I cannot fix, such as Windows and OSX, but I had fallen into relying upon things such as Google Maps to share GPS tracks of my hikes.

It was pretty cool and handy to be able to post my GPS tracks (converted to KMZ in Google Earth) to my web server, and then tell Google Maps to load the link and show the topographical layer, then share a link to that with friends and family. As opposed to a static image that couldn't be explored, or sharing a file that would have to be downloaded and opened in a separate program, this allowed people to click on a link and instantly be able to zoom around and get a feel for where I had traipsed off to.

But then Google decided to "improve" the interface to Maps, and much like the "improvements" they've made to their standard search engine over the years, they have let some features evaporate. I now can't just paste in a simple URL to a KMZ file on another server. I can't even begin to figure out how to get Google Maps to let me reproduce the perfectly good functionality that had existed up until recently. I suspect I have to sign in to some picayune social network to accomplish the same thing now.

No thanks. I've been researching alternatives for quite some time now, and while it is not quite as slick as Google Maps, at least it does what I want, and I have control over what features do and do not exist in the product.

So while I had been thinking about doing this for a while, I'd like to thank Google for helping to make my choice clear, and helping me to remove one more piece of closed source software (Google Maps) from my life. Thank you Google!

EDIT: So, trying this again, it appears to be working now (2014-03-29). Not sure why, but it still stands that I'd like to have a photo gallery of my own, with a slideshow feature and be able to display a track overlaid on a topo map with links to photos geolocated on the map. Open source and open data required, plus I'd prefer something lightweight and not written in PHP, so phpMyGPX, while nice, doesn't quite fit my needs. I'm currently looking to Python and the multitudinous libraries thereof (mapnik, Kartograph, and gpxpy are just a small sampling). There's also some really interesting things going on at OctoMap, which just so happens to overlap with the current direction of the project at my day job, not to mention that it brings me back closer to the work at ROS that I had leveraged for another project at work and also had to do with mapping. Fun times!

posted at: 13:12 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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