Thursday, November 29, 2007

Google Maps for Mobile now gets the location even without GPS


Guys at Google continuously crank new features to their Google Maps Mobile -application. Now they're added acquiring the phone's location without GPS.

The blog posting does not say much how exactly the location information is resolved. Is it calculated on the google's servers, using the CellID and possibly other data sent by the GMM application? Or does the application figure it out by itself.

I bet the first option is the correct answer. On that case I wonder has Google harvested the cellid location data already for some time with the existing gmm applications out there, and therefore figured out the locations of most of the cell towers? The video on the blog post says that "the service gets better the more you use it", it might refer to data collection of some sort.

Interesting development nevertheless.

If you are using gmm a lot, make sure your data plan is either unlimited or the flat rate quota is put high enough - the maps eat the megabytes pretty fast.

Update: One analysis is saying that gmm is really using the CellID data sent by the existing users with gps and data sharing enabled. The location data is then only valid if someone has used gmm before on that area with GPS, or if Google has preloaded some information on its systems. There has been many projects of getting CellID data around the world, so I would assume that the results of those initiatives have been feed also in to the system. In most of the projects the databases have been public (?)

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Google Maps Mobile now to Symbian and with GPS

Google Maps Mobile got its first public native Symbian application yesterday. I do not yet have decided whether I do like the new one better over the old J2ME one. The native version is sure faster and more slick, but it does not (seem) to have all the functionality in. GPS support is of course very long awaited and useful addition.

What I would like to see is the integration of the locations and maps stored in the online service (My Maps) with the mobile version. This would allow storing the important locations conveniently with the browser and just have access to them when needed. Also placemarking on the go, with some kind of annotation would be very useful. I have no doubts that these features are on the Googles list too..

Note: If one's wondering why not just use Nokia Maps - the reason is that these tools are for different use cases. I use Google Maps for quick check for the neibourghood or the street names. The satellite imagery feature of the GMM is naturally also a good for showing off what can be done with the mobiles and Internet. Nokia Maps is then for a bit more serious stuff: It has more solid searching funciton and POI database. The navigation feature is also very useful to have. Nokia Maps starts up much slower so it is not really for quick checks.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

One way to get your TV shows to your S60 mobile for viewing

I commute daily via either bus or train & underground. The one-way trip is 40+ minutes door to door. Sometimes I read or listen to podcasts or audio books. Once in a while I watch a TV show from my mobile or Nokia 770 tablet.

I have moved just lately to following tool chain to get the shows to my mobile is eyetv, iTunes, MyTunesRSS and S60 podcasting. It is not by all means perfect but it is definitely usable.

1) Recording the TV shows
On my iMac I am using Miglia TVMini for watching and recording . I bought the stick when the Elgato eyetv (http://www.elgato.com/) was still bundled with it. I just love the eyetv software. I haven't seen a match of the similar software in the Windows world.

So, I record the TV-shows as usual from the terrestial DVB. We use the iMac as primary TV at home as the pvr functionality is just so convenient. This might change when we buy a proper set-top-box to the living room - this move would free the mac for use as a computer ;)

2) Converting the files suitable to format suitable for the S60 phone

In this easy-as-possible route, I use eyetvs built in "convert to iPod" functionality. To make it happen automatically I tick the "convert to iPod" checkbox for the scheduled shows I want to view from the mobile. I found that though the "Fastest MP4" option produces files which are viewable on the phone. The E61i cannot handle the H.264 which would produce much smaller files. There is an interactive way to export files from eyetv with more suitable parameters but you cannot make that automatic.

eyetv_export_choises.png
Default (iPod) export options of eyetv

I have not yet checked whether the default option that uses H.264 codec produces files that are viewable in N-series models. The E61i does not have the codec nor the horsepower to do view them.

3) Making the files available

In this stage I used to transfer the files via USB cable which is reasonably fast but requires manual steps and time with the computer: Not usually doable in a busy morning with a little girl living in the house. I wanted to have the phone update the shows wirelessly in automatic fashion during the night.

As I use the S60 podcasting application daily I thought to give it a try also with the videos. E61i has WLAN and is therefore able to contact our home network. The missing link was a server software to produce RSS feeds with the video files as enclosures.

MyTunesRSS
MyTunesRSS generated page

After some googling MyTunesRSS (http://www.codewave.de/products/mytunesrss/) seemed suitable for the job. The ease of installation was also reason to try it first. The software is intended for interactive browsing and streaming for your iTunes library, especially PSP in mind. PSP browser seems to support RSS nicely to make it work. When trying out the software and browsing the generated pages, I found out that the generated RSS link is static per iTunes folder, and can be therefore reused. As the generated pages require login and password, having the RSS feed to change its address would render the software unusable for me. The link is very long so copy&pasting and e-mailing was only practical way to get it to the phone.

4) Getting the files to the phone

The S60 podcasting application (http://www.nokia.com/podcasting) was able to use the RSS feed without problems. Setting the app to use the home WLAN and updating the feeds resulted the shows and their sizes to show on the screen exactly the same way as audio podcasts.

TV programs from iTunes
S60 podcasting view to the served videos

Downloading the shows is slow business. I haven't investigated this further whether it is due to the S60 application, MyTunesRSS, WLAN encryption or the WLAN throughput in the phone in general. The download speeds are around 70-80kb/s, which adds up to really long download times - over an hour per 500M episode.

Despite long download times I prefer this approach over the USB cable. If I just remember initiate the downlaods in the evening the mobile is "topped up" in the morning.

5) Things to improve

- Make the files smaller than the eyetv default (e.g. using applescript and external utilities)
- Better alternative to MyTunesRSS (easier RSS feed link(s))
- Enhance the transfer speed
- The S60 podcasting application has some bugs & annoyances.
- Get a bit more suitable phone, e.g. N95 8GB, which is faster and could handle also the H.264.

Update 20071005: Tried the system with N95. The WLAN download rates were considerably better being between 300-600kB/s. With those speeds rather quick covert+download cycles could be possible.

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