Grasshoppermind

Serving up snippets of grub for the mind wallaby

August 8, 2006

Geotract.Com looks promising

No time to check this out in detail yet, but the blurb is interesting…

geoTract.com provides a central commonplace to share experiences and interests in the form of maps mashed with chatting, blogs, friends lists, favorites lists, and general locations. On geoTract users have the ability to open their opinions on restaurants they have visited, post photos of their friends at the club they went to last weekend, or even provide a reference to their favorite nature trails or hikes they have at their favorite camp ground. These experiences are then plotted on gMaps a Google API that allows the placement of markers based on coordinate systems generated by the API. Once a marker has been placed, or as we call it a “Tract” created, users can then share that information with the world, or maybe just their friends and relatives. They can write about their experiences within that geoTract Blog, and post pictures that correlate with that particular area or experience.

Slightly different tack but similar to Plazes maybe?

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by . Category:geo*

July 8, 2006

Using a GPS: From Theory to Practice

Readers of this blog will understand my interest in all things “geo”. Until recently this has mainly been theoretical and an interesting personal journey of understanding. Well theory will get you through the winter months, but practice is required when the sun is shining.

So after bolting my GPS unit (Magellan 320) to my bike I started recording tracks for the Openstreetmap project. This led me to a greater understanding of tracklogs, the mad amount of proprietary data formats used by GPS manufacturers. The hoped for standardisation, GPX. The amazing conversion utilities, GPSBabel and GPSVisualizer. And as an added bonus the creation of KML files for use in Google Earth. So after all that I think that I now understand tracklogs.

OK but that still leaves navigation.

So there’s a sport called geocaching, which involves navigating from one clue (or geocache) to another. If you liked treasure hunts when you were a child, you’ll love this. After initial hiccups, like using the wrong map datum,
I’ve learned to use landmarks, bearings, routes, and goto’s. Plus I’ve learned a little basic encryption along the way. I think there’s still a lot to learn about navigation, but now I know enough to get by.

by . Category:geo*

June 21, 2006

Isle Of Man: Street Level Mapping at Last

A quick look at my blogmap (on the right hand sidebar) revealed that my location is somewhere in the sea, oops. It never used to look like that, so what changed?

It seems that Chandu Thota (the creator of Blogmap) has updated it again. Well actually the company he works for, Microsoft, have made a huge improvement in their mapping data for the rest of the world. This means that for the first time we in the Isle of Man have access to street level mapping.

It’s impressive stuff, and compared to the tracklogs I have been creating for the OpenStreetMap Isle Of Man project, it’s accurate enough for most purposes.

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May 31, 2006

Are We due Another SPLOG Explosion?

First there was Blog and Ping. What was initially a legitimate method for informing blog indexes (such as Technorati) of new content, was rapidly morphed into an automated and dubious technique used by some internet marketers to drive their websites up the Search Engine page rankings. And this worked (for a while) until Google et al. caught up and altered their ranking algorithms.

Blackhat search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques often involve the creation of huge blog farms of autogenerated pseudo content all linking back and forth to each other. These useless (to the reader anyway) blogs have become known as Splogs= Spam+Blogs.

Another technique which will be recognised by anyone who has run a genuine blog for any time are Spam Comments - again designed to create backlinks from authoritative page ranked sites to the website that was being SEO’ed. Indiscriminate use of specifically written comment spamming programs has resulted in this widespread nuisance - which because most people now use REL=NOFOLLOW for their comments - no longer provides any benefits to the users of this technique.

Now we are beginning to see exploitation of Web2.0 tagging in the drive for higher search engine rankings. Automated Tag and Ping programs have been developed and released(and no I’m not going to link to them). Now we will see the automated poisoning of tagging which will reduce its effectiveness and lead to greater amounts of Splog in our feed readers.

Will we see a new round of Splogs using this method? I believe that we will, because the short term gains will appeal to the ‘get rich quick’ mindset that makes up one segment of the Internet Marketing community.

Ultimately another round of countermeasures will be produced which will reduce Tag and Ping effectiveness… and so the cycle will continue.

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by . Category:Marketing, Commentary

Geolocation: Display where your website visitors are from

Using this little utility from clustrmap you can add a small image to your website that shows where your visitors are from. I’ve only added it to this particular post for now, but it’s easy to add to the main page of your website.

Registration is free (for low bandwidth users) and of course in best Web2.0 fashion it’s a beta.

How does this work? well the people who created it don’t give a lot of clues on their website, but my best guess is that they look up the location of the IP Address of each visitor to your site using a technique known as geolocation .

Locations of visitors to this page

Found via Trendhunter Magazine

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by . Category:geo*

May 17, 2006

The BCS start a Geospatial Specialist Group

The British Computer Society just announced the creation of a Specialist Group for all things Geospatial.

The increasing ability to integrate geospatial technology into a wide range of IT systems, and the increasing visibility of it to business and the public, makes this an appropriate time to form a specialist group within BCS so that members may be well informed and understand the issues and best practices associated with the technology.

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by . Category:geo*

May 4, 2006

Free Postcodes

It has often irritated me to see the contrast between the American and British approaches to geographical data. So much American data is free. So much British data is very expensive and it’s usage severely restricted by license in some way. So it’s great to see resources like Openstreetmap and Freethepostcode taking a grassroots approach to addressing the issue.

Openstreetmap is enlisting the help of enthusiasts armed with a handheld GPS to create an opensource, freely available, streetmap of the entire world.

This may take some time.

Especially as their homebrewed server rack oftens creaks under the strain and this makes editing a somewhat frustrating affair. But this is the early adopter zone and these issues tend to go with the territory (pun intended) .

Dan Karran and I have launched our own attempt to map the Isle of Man and to get the data onto Openstreetmap, so any Isle of Man readers who would like to assist, please get in touch.

Every UK reader with a GPS should visit Freethepostcode at least once and put in your Postcode and your Latitude and Longitude coordinates. Do your bit to create a free UK postcode coordinate list.

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April 22, 2006

Recording Your Life

New scientist has this old article about MyLifeBits, a piece of software designed so that you can record your life. You can store conversations, emails, video, etc. A google style indexing system gives you the ability to search back through your life archive.

Since 2002 when the article was written, we have much cheaper storage, mini video cameras, HSDPA and locative based technologies that are enabling a greater degree of granularity for recording than ever before. Allowing indexing by date, time, location, people. The security and privacy concerns are also greatly elevated by this type of application.

You can find out more about the project at Microsoft’s Project Page for MyLifeBits

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by . Category:tech, Commentary

April 21, 2006

And Now… Geo Carpet

via Techkwondo, who points out this amazing art installation by Seyed Alavi

Flying Carpet

This must be quite alarming to walk on! Imagine the effect of too many Gin &Tonic’s plus Jetlag, then you get to walk over this. Stunning.

by . Category:geo*

April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

Easter Bunnies

Got this in my email the other day, nice one.

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April 5, 2006

Cameras Plus GPS

Elsewhere in this blog I commented on the 3 Megapixel Ricoh GPS enabled digital camera . Now via The Maproom Blog we find this example of a GPS with a Camera. Whatever will they think of next? As I’ve wished for before, a GPS enabled video camera would be nice. Apparently according to commenter Rimma on this blog, NEC have filed and been granted a patent for this. I too cannot wait for this. I can now imagine video-enabled tracks on Google Earth!

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by . Category:geo*

April 4, 2006

Album Review: Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics

My brother sent me this email about a freshly released Flaming Lips album called At War With The Mystics.
At War With the Mystics [Affiliate Link]

I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing his review with you…

Flaming Lips

Click on the Music Tab, then At War with the Mystics and listen to a few tracks.

Go for track POMPEII AM GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG or THE W.A.N.D. (THE WILL ALWAYS NEGATES DEFEAT) or THE YEAH YEAH YEAH SONG (WITH ALL YOUR POWER) and read the info behind the songs. My kind of guy.

Depending on the track you can (in my humble opinion) here influences of Beatles (tune building), Pink Floyd (sweeping scope), Zappa (organised chaos) and maybe even Gong thrown in for good measure.

Album was out yesterday, I already own it. Anyone who can describe a song thus deserves my money:

I was playing electric guitar, Michael was on fuzzwah bass and Steven was on the drumkit and we stumbled upon this druggy prog-rock riff and stuttery, funky beat. It was like Black Sabbath getting mashed up with Sly and the Family Stone or Stevie Wonder, and it sent us off in a wonderful new direction.

The low-res internet versions don'’t really do the songs justice, but gives you a glimpse into their odd musical world.

I know music is subjective. I can’t help preaching when it’s this good…Sorry.

Eddie

Maybe not entirely my cup of tea, but what do you think?

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by . Category:Distractions

April 3, 2006

Isle of Man: Now officially recognised as a separate country

As of 29th March 2006, the Isle of Man is to be listed in the ISO 3166 countries list as a country separate from the United Kingdom. I would love to think that this was anything to do with my contacting Microsoft to get them to add Isle of Man to their website address forms. The truth is that due to concerted efforts from government representatives of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man over a period of five or more years, the ISO have agreed to make the appropriate changes to the countries list known as ISO3166-1. As many websites utilise this database for their pull down list of countries it seems that the Isle of Man will begin to be listed as soon as they refresh their databases.

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by . Category:Marketing, Commentary

March 23, 2006

Miss Isle of Man #2

I have just received an update from my contact at Microsoft, who says that it’s likely that the Isle of Man will be added first as a County of the United Kingdom. Whilst technically this is inaccurate, it’s closer to our goal of being able to fill in address information on Microsoft sites accurately. Later they hope to be able to make changes to their systems to allow the Isle of Man to be entered as a separate country, although this will take a lot longer as there are a lot of sites and databases that will need to be changed. I’m impressed with how Microsoft have responded to this request so far, I’ll post again on this subject when we see the changes happen.

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by . Category:Marketing, Commentary

March 8, 2006

Still Missing in Action

Oh Well, one week has already gone by since I emailed Microsoft, and there’s been no response. Not good so far. Microsoft’s SPAM filter probably ate it.

I’m trying to contact anyone in Microsoft who can help me to get the Isle of Man set up as a country on their website forms. Email addresses, telephone numbers, etc. all gratefully accepted.

UPDATE: I followed up my email with a phone call, (Microsoft don’t give out direct numbers, so I went via the switchboard) and I actually got through to a person, not their voicemail. They are investigating who within Microsoft can deal with this.

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by . Category:Marketing, Commentary

March 2, 2006

Miss Isle of Man

Today I came across a problem that people in the United Kingdom, or United States, or any large country for that matter would never come across.

I could not select my country, the Isle of Man when filling in a web form.

Now actually this is not unusual as there are very few websites that recognise the Isle of Man as a separate country. But on Microsoft’s site, and in particular on their Mystery Solved Licencing promotion the problem was exacerbated because I had to choose a county as part of my address. This effectively forced me to put in an inaccurate address - not good for me, or for their marketing database.

So I decided to see how agile a company the size of Microsoft could be, in answering and hopefully soving this problem.

So, today 2nd March 2006.
Found a phone number from their website (0870 60 10 100) and called their switchboard.
Very helpful, gave me another number which I rang. After a five minute delay I got through to someone who gave me the email address of the “person who deals with that promotion”. So far so good. So I sent an email explaining the situation and now we wait and see what happens next!

Let’s see how this goes over the next few days/weeks…

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by . Category:Marketing, Commentary

February 8, 2006

HSDPA Update

Back in November 2005 Manx Telecom announced their plans to rollout one of the first HSDPA networks in the world. Those of you who read this blog will be aware of my interest in all things geo and map based. So naturally I was interested in being able to be online at broadband speeds anywhere I went. I went to a demonstration of the technology last week and although it doesn’t work too well within steel framed buildings (faraday cage effect?) the performance outdoors is superb.

BUT

according to one of the slides I saw at the presentation, the coverage and speeds available away from urban areas fade away to nothing. So the idea of being on-line at the top of a mountain, broadcasting geolocated live video feed straight to the net is a little way off yet.

However the target market for this type of technology is largely urban based, so I can forsee developers making use of the extra bandwidth to get very creative with their video/map based mashups.

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by . Category:tech, geo*

February 2, 2006

Wordpress 2.0.1 release

I just heard about the latest release of the Wordpress 2.0.1 blogging platform.
I moved to Wordpress a while back because it is so simple to maintain and I love the way the plug-ins just drop in. I’m especially fond of Spam Karma2 which I use to deal with the Comment SPAM I started getting soon after I was up and running. There’s also a new release of Spam Karma2 available so I’ll have to spend an evening some time soon getting this up and running. From what I’ve heard so far it’s a pain free experience.

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by . Category:tech

January 25, 2006

Video Camera Plus GPS

We have seen a couple of examples now of Digital Cameras with built in GPS. These cameras store the location that the picture was taken within the picture metadata itself.

But how about Video Cameras with this capability? The ability to track location on a frame by frame basis might also be very useful. Does anyone know of an example?

by . Category:geo*Digg this story 

January 23, 2006

My new Dell Laptop

This morning I found out the reason for the two week delay. Dell cancelled my order. Just like that, with no email to let me know why. So I spent the obligatory 30 minutes playing call centre tag and got the order back on track. Next time I’ll record the tag game and make a podcast out of it. It shouldn’t take five phonecalls to find out what the problem was.

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by . Category:Commentary

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