Farewell Ovi Maps, Hello Nokia Maps (On iOS And Android Too)

In May of this year, Nokia announced the retirement of the Ovi brand and the observant map watchers amongst you may have noticed that pointing your browser of choice at maps.ovi.com now automagically redirects you to the new, shiny maps.nokia.com.

What you may not have noticed is that Nokia maps doesn't just work on your desktop or laptop web browser or on Nokia smartphones, as Electric Pig nicely pointed out, Nokia has invaded the iPhone too. Point your iPhone or iPad at the Nokia Maps for Mobile Web at m.maps.nokia.com and you'll see something like this ...

Farewell Yahoo! Maps API, Hello Nokia Maps API

Yahoo's JavaScript and AJAX API was the first mapping API I ever used and it now seems hard to remember when Yahoo's API offerings were the dominant player, always iterating and innovating. The Yahoo! API set formed and continued to underpin the majority of my online presence. When I wrote about leaving Yahoo! and joining Nokia in May of 2010 I said ...

So whilst I’m going to Nokia, I’ll continue to use my core set of Yahoo! products, tools and APIs … YQL, Placemaker, GeoPlanet, WOEIDs, YUI, Flickr and Delicious. Not because I used to work for Yahoo! but because they’re superb products.

... and I meant every word of it. The Yahoo! APIs were stable, powerful and let create web experiences quickly and easily. But now a year later a lot has changed. I still use Flickr on a pretty much daily basis, but Delicious is no longer a Yahoo! property and I transitioned my other web presence from using YQL for RSS feed aggregation to use SimplePie as YQL was frequently down or just not working. The original core set of Yahoo! APIs I use in anger is now just down to Flickr and YUI.

WP Biographia In The Real World

It's been almost a month since I released the first version of WP Biographia and in that time, according to the stats on the WordPress plugin page, it's been downloaded 212 times. That's rather gratifying. Several people have also emailed me to tell me that they're using the plugin. That's even more gratifying.

But despite its simplicity, a typical WordPress install is almost infinitely customisable and so is almost never what's supplied in the installation download. People add in plugins, widgets and themes. This blog alone has 18 active plugins and a custom theme. While the plugins, widgets and themes should all play nicely together, sometimes there's strange and unforeseen side effects; here's two that have come to light over the first month of WP Biographia in the real world and not in the safe, sand-boxed environment of my blog.

To Geo Lecture Or To Geo Debate?

Although it's a sweeping generalisation, conferences tend to polarise to one of two extremes. On the one extreme, there's the lecture approach, where the audience sits in quiet appreciation whilst they listen to people on stage talk at them. But there's another sort of conference. Where the emphasis is very much more on debate, on discussion both before, during and after the event, and where views are aired both verbally and online.

lecture (lec-cher), noun, an instructive speech

I've participated in conferences which exemplify both ends of the spectrum and pretty much all points in-between as well and the events I get the most out of most definitely fall into the debate category rather than the lecture category.

debate (dih-beyt), noun, a discussion involving opposing viewpoints

Almost Losing Sight Of The Magic Of (Mobile) Maps

Often maligned and ignored, sometimes science fiction writers are bang on the mark. The cognoscenti of the high brow literary world often dismiss science fiction as being not proper writing or even worthy of the label of literature. But sci-fi authors are often as not as uniquely placed to think about today's technology as they are to extrapolate on tomorrow's.

Recently, Charles Stross, one of my favourite sci-fi authors, gave a keynote at USENIX 2011 on Network Security In The Medium Term, 2061 To 2561. Not the most obvious of keynote titles to talk about maps or magic. But as part of his keynote, which is well worth reading in its entirety, he talked about how far technology has come in just the last 50 years and where it might go before the next 50 ...

WP Biographia Is But A Quarter Of The Way To WP Mappa

In a way, this was all Matt Whatsit's fault; he writes very profane and very funny blog posts and reading his recent The Five Stages Of P****d Wife (which you should read if you haven't already, err, read it) made me laugh, hell, it made me ROFL and LMAO at the same time but it also made me think, though not necessarily about wives or drunkenness ...

Now background reading and general swotting up on a topic is all very well but to really learn how to do something you just have to roll your sleeves up and do it yourself. Though it's probably stretching a comparison too far, you don't learn to drive a car through reading the highway code; you actually get behind the wheel (preferably under supervision) and ... drive. You don't learn about what food tastes good from a recipe book; you ... taste the stuff yourself.

And so it is with writing code and using new and unfamiliar APIs. It was definitely the case with my recent (reacquaintance of, and) foray into JavaScript and the addition of support for Nokia's Ovi Maps API to the Mapstraction project, with the added benefit of having to teach myself how to move from my (by now very dated) knowledge of version and revision control under CVS to git.

"Disk Utility Can't Repair This Disk"

"Quis backup ipsos backups?", as the Roman poet Juvenal didn't say but might have if they had had computers in the first century AD.

Like most geeks I pride myself on being able to maintain the computers I use on a daily basis. Just like real men don't eat quiche and real programmers don't use Pascal, real geeks don't call for professional help or technical support.

But then the day comes when one of your hard drives goes crunk, you go through all the tricks of the trade you know, you exhaust searching for possible solutions on the web and you realise that maybe, just maybe, while it's not time to eat quiche or starting coding in pascal, it's probably time to call for some professional help.

Like a lot of people, I've amassed a not inconsiderable amount of digital media over the years, in the form of apps, songs, movies and photos. Most of these live on my laptop and are religiously backed up with SuperDuper! and with Time Machine to external drives, with one of these drives holding the overspill. This aforementioned external drive had given solid, reliable service over the years but had started to act ... quirkily. Fearing a critical mass of bad sectors I decided now was a good time to backup my backups.

Mapstraction, Maps and Me

It's been a while since my last blog post; my day job at Nokia has been taking up almost all of my time and what little time has been left has been spent with my family. But in between day job and family time there's evenings spent in a hotel room and hours spent on a plane, mainly between London's Heathrow and Berlin's Tegel airports. It's in these periods of time that a combination of my MacBook Pro, running a combo of Apache/MySQL/PHP with MAMP and TextMate has allowed me to rediscover the pleasure of what I used to do for my day job before Yahoo! and before Nokia ... and that's to write code.

What's In A Name? The Internet vs. The Real World

In the real world we own our name. I've got a birth certificate somewhere which confirms who I am and, short of changing it by deed poll, this name will remain with me until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Although there's quite a few Gary Gales out there on the Internet, this one is inextricably me and no-one can take that away from me.

But in the online world we don't so much as own our names, we ... lease them. I've "owned" the vicchi.org domain name continuously since April 2001 but it's not ownership as we understand it in the real world. If I don't renew my domain every so often it'll lapse and someone else, should they wish to, can take it over. This is an arrangement I can live with as it's the way the Internet domain name system works, like it or hate it. I will, at least, get some warning to renew my claim on (temporary) ownership of the domain as there's a financial arrangement at play. I pay some money and, domain grabs notwithstanding, I keep the domain for the duration of the period I've paid for.

The Non Golden Rules of Geo (Redux)

Back when I used to work for Yahoo! I wrote a lot of posts for the Geo Technologies blog; for reasons partially explained in my last post, that blog is now offline, presumed dead. But one post that seems to keep catching people's imagination is the one in which I, somewhat tongue in cheek, codified the Six Non Golden Rules Of Geo. Much to my satisfaction, it keeps getting mentioned, although the full original post is inaccessible, as is the rest of that blog. Nate Kelso reproduced part of it, as did John Goodwin but until earlier today I'd not been able to find the full post.

Step forward the aforementioned John Goodwin who, with a bit of internet detective work, managed to find a mirror of the post. While I much prefer to link to blog posts rather than reproduce them in full, in this case I'm plagiarising myself and making an exception on the ground of inaccessibility, and have mirrored the post in full here. It's worth mentioning that this post was originally written in February of 2009, when I was still working for Yahoo! so it's a little out of date and was originally posted as ...