Saturday, March 15, 2014

Google Maps Android update brings back proper location saving

I understand. I really do. You wanted to simply the user interface, and that means removing features. You were able to keep the core functionality and deliver a beautiful, simple app. The features that weren't implemented in the redesign were probably only used by 1% of the install base, which of course means they were used by 99% of our readers.

What made absolutely no sense, though, was the removal of the ability to "star" (save) any place, regardless of whether or not there is a street address associated with that location.

Think about it for a second. What is a map?

In it's simplest, a map is a two dimensional coordinate system that is mathematically transformed to project the round earth on something flat, which requires indexing, not by something inane like street address, but by the actual geographic coordinate system, like latitude and longitude or UTM. Street address are like a virtual, guest OS layered on top on the host system, and only being able to save locations with street addresses is like having to start a virtual install of Windows 3.1 to change the screensaver settings on your shiny new macbook air.

Needless to say, this annoyed me. But no more!

Yay! I can now star random places again!

Just in case anyone from the Google Maps team happens to be reading this πŸ˜‰, allow me to add just a few more of my suggestions on how to improve both the desktop and mobile versions.

  1. For desktop, add a quick way to switch between lite mode and full 3D because the later does not display satellite imagery, at all zoom levels, on the same modified mercator projection upon which the street and terrain data are projected. The full 3D "Earth" view as seen from space with the fluffy little clouds is cute and all but totally useless because it removes the ability to see large areas of the Earth's surface at the same time. And once you do zoom out far enough, this annoying cloud layer appears obscuring what you wanted to see in the first place.

  2. For mobile, separate language and locale already. Search results are different depending on your system language. Fortunately there is this workaround.

  3. Display user maps in the actual maps app.

  4. Add a "home" button. when you are several layers deep in menus, the only way to get back to the actual map (that I can find) is to mash the back button or icon.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

JAL inflight wifi is a much better value than ANA

Japan Airlines inflight wifi service, JAL Sky Wifi, is so much of a better value than All Nippon Airways' ANA Wifi Service, that there is simply no comparison. For $21.95US ($19.75 if you pay with a JAL credit card), you can have unlimited internet for 24 hours.

ANA charges slightly more, $24US, for which you get 20MB.

Yes, 20 whole Megabytes. That's all. Once you use that up, you can buy more. What a joke. The only way ANA would be a better value is if you just needed to urgently check an email. You could buy the 5MB plan and hope there are not automatically downloaded attachments. The routes on which ANA Wifi Service is available is also not set. There are a total of only 3 planes that are equipped.

ANA Wifi Service

  • Provider: on air
  • Routes: Not fixed; available only on three planes: two 777-300ER and one 767-300ER; You cannot confirm whether service is available before boarding.
  • Price: 5MB $6; 10MB $12; 20MB $24.

JAL Sky Wifi

  • Provider: T-Mobile
  • Routes: New York (JL005/006), Chicago, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Jakarta, London Paris (JL045/046)
  • Price: 1 hour $11.95 ($10.75); 24 hours $21.95 ($19.75)