Location information in Google Maps for mobile — without GPS

Google has just released a new version of Google Maps for mobile today.  This version includes a new feature called “My Location”.  By using cell tower triangulation, it can pinpoint your location to within a few hundred meters.  It’s not as accurate as GPS, but it’s pretty darn good.

In addition, it can assist with your location if you already have GPS.  It will typically kick in more quickly than GPS and works better indoors.

For more information, visit the Google LatLong Blog or the Google Mobile Blog.

Sandio 3D Mouse

Sandio 3D O2 MouseI’ve had the opportunity to play with the Sandio 3D O2 mouse for a few days and I thought I’d share my impressions of it with you.  Before I saw the mouse, I was expecting something similar to the SpaceNavigator, but it’s not very similar at all.

To start with (and I think this is its best feature), this functions as a normal mouse, suitable for e-mail, browsing, gaming, etc.  The SpaceNavigator, of course, is a completely separate device.  This is a pretty big deal.  I don’t usually bring my SpaceNavigator with me when I travel (it’s certainly small enough to bring – I’m just lazy), but I always bring my mouse.  Having both in one device is great.

This mouse has the normal two buttons + a scroll wheel.  Above the scroll wheel is an analog joystick, similar to those found on game pads (Xbox, PS3, etc).  On the right and left side of the mouse are two more analog sticks, and a couple more buttons.  Those analog sticks are what you use to fly around in your 3D worlds.

This mouse is billed as a “gaming mouse” and I can’t really comment on that aspect of it.  My main use for it would be in Google Earth and Virtual Earth, so that’s what I tried.

Once inside of Google Earth, I have to say I was a bit disappointed.  Part of that can be attributed to the learning curve on any new device, but it was a slow process to learn.  I found the SpaceNavigator to be much more intuitive.   Beyond that, there were two problems that were much more serious:

  • It doesn’t support simultaneous movements. For example, if I was panning across the map and wanted to dive, I had to choose one or the other.  I really don’t understand why I couldn’t pan and dive, but I tried repeatedly without success.  Compare this to the SpaceNavigator where you can make four individual movements at a time (pan while diving while rotating while lowering the view, etc).  For an example of that, check out this entry in the Google Earth Blog where Frank flies around Denver looking at the 3D buildings.
  • The analog sticks on the device aren’t truly analog – they’re digital (as in 0/1).  They have an audible “click” when pointing in any direction.  You either go or you don’t — there is no in-between.  Again, compare this to the SpaceNavigator where you can vary the amount of pressure which then varies the speed of your movement.

I really wanted to like this mouse.  It looks awesome, with a big footprint, great colors and cool glowing lights on it.  However, I just can’t bring myself to like it that much.  It will probably become my travel mouse, with my generic Microsoft Mouse / SpaceNavigator keeping permanent residence on my desk.

If you’re a gamer and you’ve tried this mouse, please post in the comments and let us know what you thought of it.

New “Terrain” mode in Google Maps

Google Maps Terrain modeGoogle Maps has just added a very nice new feature – terrain view.   This isn’t satellite images, but rather it is map-ish terrain views.  It’s very pleasing to the eye.

To make room for this new feature, the “hybrid” button has been removed and you now are given a “Show labels” checkbox when viewing in Satellite mode.

For more information, check out the official post on the Google LatLong blog.

Massive update to Virtual Earth imagery

It’s been more than a month since their last update, but Microsoft has just put out an insane update that measures more than 33TB!

They’ve updated:

  • 3Di/Boulder hi-res Orthos/Aerial Imagery in various places in North America (and in Saitama, Japan)
  • Obliques/Bird’s Eye for 36 locations in the US and 49 locations in Europe.
  • GloveXplorer Orthos for 13 locations in the US.
  • GeoEye Orthos for three locations in Mexico,  nine locations in Central/South America, five locations in Europe, five locations in the Middle East, 19 locations in Australia, four locations in Asia, five locations in Africa and 34 “world-wide tropical destinations”.
  • The state of Nevada had a statewide imagery update.
  • Getmapping UK Orthos in Scotland and England/Wales

You can see the detailed list in their blog, or just go explore it yourself.

Fix address locations in Google Maps

Google has just added a feature that allows you to move the marker for your address to better show exactly where you home (or business) is located.

To do it, just search for your address in Google Maps, click “edit” and then “move marker” and drag the marker to the proper location

This only works in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand for now, but it’s presumed that it’ll be available in other locations eventually.  It also requires a Google account, probably so they can keep mischief to a minimum.

Finally – a real sky when you’re in Google Earth

For a while now, people have been trying to come up with a good way to be able to see the sky in Google Earth — not the night sky, but the clouds. Over the Google Earth Blog, some interesting workarounds have been used, but they weren’t ideal.

However, with the new weather layer, it’s automatic! Just turn on the “clouds” layer, fly down low, and you’ve got a great looking horizon!

Here is a view from downtown Detroit, with and without the clouds turned on:

Detroit in Google Earth - no clouds Detroit in Google Earth - with clouds

It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly an improvement.

All of this weather stuff is great, but it’ll really make the weather overlays on Google Earth Hacks much less useful. :)

New weather layer in Google Earth

Google Earth Weather LayerIt’s about time!  Google has finally added a weather layer to Google Earth.  The layer consists of three sub-layers:

  • Clouds
  • Radar
  • Conditions and Forecasts

Complete details can be found in a nice write-up in the Google Earth Blog.

Google Earth will run on Android, Google’s mobile platform

As reported in the New York Times (and detailed on Ogle Earth), the new Google mobile platform will run Google Earth!

Stefan seems to cover the big questions that result from the article:

- Is it just on a phone, or on a larger device?
- Is it possible that the reporter is confusing Google Earth and Google Maps?

Stefan answers the questions rather well.

A minor update to the Planets Layer

The Google Earth Blog points us to a minor update with the Planets Layer in Sky Mode.

From GEB: “These layers use the time slider to show you the positions of the moon and planets in the night sky. The only problem is that the layers only included three months worth of prediction. So, on October 22 they no longer showed future data.

Oops. :)