Monday, March 28, 2011

Window on the World

I'm certain I've mentioned this before, but my early fascination with political maps stemmed from an unquenchable curiosity about far away lands.  My early thoughts taught me many things.
I imagined that most of Africa looked like this:

I was certain all of Russia looked like this:

I was confident Brazil looked like this:

Although I think that was because of the song my dad sang "Way down among Brazilians Coffee beans grow by the billions".  Interestingly enough, I thought the word was "Brazilia".  There was also a time where I thought the word was "Vermilion", as in, Ohio.  

And due to a presentation in 4th grade, I learned that China, for the most part, looked like this:

This was my "Window on the World" version 0.5

Version 1.0 of the Window on the World, Google Earth, wouldn't come for another 15 years.

I must give credit where credit is due.  My dad was the one who coined (at least in my mind) the Window on the World concept.  He first mentioned it in this 15 year gap.  The original idea was live video feeds from all over the world which could be viewed like channels. While it has been implemented in several ways, I can't think of a good, inclusive site, app or anything that does what he described.

Google Earth was so great because it made it possible to actually see these places, through a shiny new digital lens.  Perhaps not the Window on the World my dad described but something that allowed me to replace my imaginary or outdated images with real imagery.  With the addition of the Control+alt+a flight simulator, I could fly anywhere in the world in an SR22 prop place.  That would be version 1.0.1

Street view brought us up to Window on the World version 2.0. Truth be told, what pushed me over the early-adopter-versus-buyers-remorse teeter-totter on the iPad was the ability to zoom around the street view images of far away lands (read select European cities).  Straight out of the ad to my local apple store, I'm pretty sure the first place I looked at was the Eiffel Tower - that doesn't make sense for me though, I must have seen the commercial too many times.  It's a good thing the iPad 2 commercials don't include some minor advancement in streetview functionality or I probably would have been waiting in line on March 11th.  My reality is becoming Apple commercials.  Also of note, I've looked up Apple's stock symbol (AAPL) so many times that it takes me a couple seconds to remember how to actually spell apple...the Newtonian spelling.  

With the iPad (version 1.0 for those who pay attention to such trivial things), I'm left with a good streetview portal that forces me to put up with this screen more often than I'd like.
Saved Photos-126

For any iPad Google map users out there, you probably find the above image hilarious, and you should.  For those that don't, well, go get an iPad...or an iPad2.

The version upgrade to 2.0 made the earth more accessible than every before...well, half of it (the map below shows the coverage area). That is still an issue (another being that I told myself I wouldn't use parenthetical humor or sarcasm more than twice in this post).  Perhaps this is more like Window on the World 2.0 beta. Or version 1.9, the one that everyone is scared to download to their phone.

That brings us to the topic of today's post, something you've probably been wondering about since you started reading!  After feeling guilty (guilty isn't the right word but I can't think of anything better) about my mildly scathing review of National Geographic's World Atlas update, I think it's important I throw out an iPad app for you to enjoy, or at least one you can enjoy vicariously through your techy counterparts.  

Say hello to Geo Photo Explorer.
Saved Photos-127

What this app can do dwarfs the fact that it is one of the most unintuitive things I've used on the iPad.  That, of course, can be remedied through practice.  I'm willing to take time and learn with an app that truly merges photography and geography. A few more minutes went a long way this evening.

The fact is, this app is not a new concept but a fantastic implementation.  Panoramio is a great website to go to and they actually have an iPhone app, but the fact that they DON'T have an iPad app tells you that it is much more about user contributions than searching the database.  While the ability to contribute is great, my focus is the window on the world version 3.0.

This app adds the flickr library to geo searches.  Its fluid, responsive, and not very buggy.  They really tried to Apple-up the concept and even have cover flow functionality to look through selected pictures.  While many have tried, no one, including this app has been able to really replicate the cover flow motion of the iPhone.

Being able to search the globe, and this quite literally is the ENTIRE globe, for pictures from other geo explorers is something that gets me excited about the next version of my Window on the World, whatever it may be.

Monday, March 21, 2011

World Atlas iPad App Video Review

Last June I wrote a post defending National Geographic's World Atlas app for iPad and iPhone. The reviews in the app store were abysmal, climbing to a high of three and a half stars (a number that wouldn't even impress Ed McMahon).

After nearly a year, the wait is over, World Atlas 2.0 is here. Too bad they didn't listen to any of our concerns, instead, opting for improvements that do little to improve its functionality. But, in the words of Levar Burton, you don't have to take MY word for it...actually you do, see my video review below.

Well National Geographic, thanks for trying...I guess.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Corktown and My Tracks

You know how I love Google. Google and Apple. While I was disappointed in some respects when I switched from an iPhone to an EVO 4G running Android, the Google "My Tracks" app has been a great tool. I immediately thought of recording runs when my coworker introduced me to the app. This past Sunday was the Corktown 5k run in Detroit- a perfect opportunity. I used the "My Tracks" app to record the low-key run. Despite being a battery hog, the likes of which I’ve never seen, I managed to record the whole run on as little as 25 % of my battery (note the sarcasm). Corktown is a fascinating neighborhood with a rich history- so check out the link. Its roots make for a perfect celebration of St. Patrick’s Day while the Corktown run and parade provide a great opportunity for EVERYONE to pretend they are Irish, if only for a day.

I uploaded the recorded run track from my phone and emailed it to myself as a kml file with a few quick commands. As I reviewed the track for accuracy, or at least consistency of the altitude, I was amazed at how closely the hills matched up, especially since this is only dealing with about ten feet of variation.

While I foolishly allowed myself to think this was a sign my phone's GPS was amazingly accurate, I quickly figured out it was, in fact, just another clever use of other Google data, the terrain model data from Google Earth.

Notice the terrain map of the out-n-back race format is almost a mirror image. My GPS might not be state of the art, but the Google terrain data fills in with a great dataset that will suffice for almost any project!

Corktown Run

It's just another example of how easy Google is making things for us by making their products interact seamlessly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rebuttal: Oil Consumption by Country

My post last week on oil production by country was a bit of an eye opener for me regarding perception. I had always thought of OPEC as a block of countries who had a near monopoly on the global oil market. The big surprise from last week was how much oil the US produces. Rather than revealing another misconception, the map this week, confirms the perception (I guess that means we can call it reality) of the US as the oil pig.

How can a country that produces as much oil as any other country be so dependent on others to fulfill its energy lust? By consuming near 19 million barrels per day. Yes "million", and "diem".

I'll now casually evade discussion of current ecogeopolitics by instead focusing on some map commentary.

I was pretty pleased with my map last week. The color scheme worked and a quick wiz-bang in Photoshop created one of my better looking nerd project maps. Additionally, I've found I really like world maps that don't color borders. This isn't a "we are the world moment" or have anything to do with "breaking down the walls between us" (a quote from the Olympic opening ceremony song in Seoul, 1988), I just like how they look. For today's map I eliminated borders and instead included data for all countries. I stuck with a reddish theme, the darkest of which shows those countries that consume the most oil per day. I only used...I think it was eight colors, but note (full data on countries consuming more than 100k barrels per day listed below the map) the US uses more than twice as much as the next most glutinous consumer, China.

Oil Consumption by Country crop

Remember, clicking on a map will always take you to a larger, higher resolution version.

Here is the list of countries by rank of oil consumption
1 United States 18,690,000
2 European Union 13,630,000
3 China 8,200,000
4 Japan 4,363,000
5 India 2,980,000
6 Russia 2,740,000
7 Brazil 2,460,000
8 Germany 2,437,000
9 Saudi Arabia 2,430,000
10 Korea, South 2,185,000
11 Canada 2,151,000
12 Mexico 2,078,000
13 France 1,875,000
14 Iran 1,809,000
15 United Kingdom 1,669,000
16 Italy 1,537,000
17 Spain 1,482,000
18 Indonesia 1,115,000
19 Australia 946,300
20 Singapore 927,000
21 Netherlands 922,800
22 Taiwan 834,000
23 Venezuela 740,000
24 Iraq 687,000
25 Egypt 683,000
26 Argentina 622,000
27 Belgium 608,200
28 Turkey 579,500
29 South Africa 579,000
30 Poland 545,400
31 Malaysia 536,000
32 United Arab Emirates 435,000
33 Greece 414,400
34 Pakistan 373,000
35 Hong Kong 359,000
36 Thailand 356,000
37 Ukraine 348,000
38 Sweden 328,100
39 Algeria 325,000
40 Kuwait 320,000
41 Vietnam 311,400
42 Philippines 307,200
43 Colombia 288,000
44 Libya 280,000
45 Nigeria 280,000
46 Switzerland 280,000
47 Chile 277,000
48 Portugal 272,200
49 Syria 252,000
50 Austria 247,700
51 Kazakhstan 241,000
52 Israel 231,000
53 Romania 214,000
54 Czech Republic 207,600
55 Finland 206,200
56 Norway 204,100
57 Morocco 187,000
58 Ecuador 181,000
59 Belarus 173,000
60 Cuba 169,000
61 Denmark 166,500
62 Puerto Rico 164,100
63 Ireland 160,900
64 Peru 157,000
65 Yemen 155,000
66 New Zealand 154,100
67 Uzbekistan 145,000
68 Qatar 142,000
69 Hungary 137,300
70 Azerbaijan 136,000
71 Bulgaria 125,000
72 Turkmenistan 120,000
73 Dominican Republic 118,000
74 Jordan 108,000
75 Croatia 106,000