Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘Google Maps’

The Road to Easy Street is KY-256

Posted by Fred on January 10, 2008

Inspired by this post at Google Blogoscoped, I had some fun with Google Maps.

It’s 1,013 miles from Purgatory to Heaven


…But only 928 miles from Purgatory to Hell:


Astronomers tell us that on average Venus is 75 million miles closer to the sun than Mars is.  But you can drive from Mars to Venus in less than two hours:


Lucifer’s fall covered 1,202 miles from Heaven to Earth:


Finally, do you need to find the road from Poverty to Easy Street? Look in McLean County, Kentucky (you won’t have to travel far)…



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What Should Google Mobile Do Next? Fix the Broken Stuff.

Posted by Fred on December 20, 2007

Judi Sohn at Web Worker Daily wants to know What Should Google Mobile Do Next?

As Google expands their supported platforms and applications in the mobile space, what do you want them to tackle next? Sync for Windows Mobile calendar? Gmail contact syncing? Stand-alone Reader or Docs? More iPhone-friendly browser applications?

To paraphrase the comment I left over there – should Google introduce new mobile products? God no. They should fix the ones they already have, most of which are broken in some way (other than the ones for the JesusPhone):

  • Gmail introduced IMAP support, which in theory should allow you to keep the messaging application on your phone and the web application in sync.  Unfortunately, on Windows Mobile it’s horribly, horribly broken.  HTML messages just show up as message headers with empty message bodies. Google knows it’s broken, they’ve known for over a month, and they haven’t said anything other than “Windows Mobile is not supported.”
  • An alternative would be the Gmail java application, which does a lot of neat things like prefetching messages for speedy access.  Unfortunately, on AT&T the application is unusable, thanks to the crippled java implementation AT&T uses to promote its own service offerings.  This isn’t Google’s fault, but they could easily fix it by either (a) releasing a signed java application, which would get around the security restriction (what Nokia ended up doing to get Widsets to work on the e62) or (b) releasing a native Windows Mobile application (like they did with Maps).  At the very least, Google should acknowledge the issue and explain what the problem is.
  • The new beta of the Maps application has a cool feature called My Location, which uses cell tower location to provide a rough GPS-like functionality for non-GPS phones.  Great if it works, but many handsets just say “location temporarily unavailable.”  The Blackjack and the Q are two primary examples.  Each of these devices does report location to the OS, which some applications are able to use (i.e. PhoneAlarm).  Google apparently doesn’t like the data the phone provides.  Again, this is not entirely Google’s fault, but they could fix it, if they wanted to.
  • The last time I used it, the Google Reader mobile site crashed Pocket IE any time you tried to mark all items as read.  The Q9h comes with Opera Mobile, which seems to work OK.  Opera Mini also works OK, although it suffers from the same problem Gmail does and is unusable on AT&T phones.  Google Reader also doesn’t play nice with Opera Mini – keyboard shortcuts don’t work.

It bears repeating that these problems are not necessarily Google’s fault.  Other mail applications can deal with Gmail’s non-standard IMAP implementation, for example.  But the mobile world is what it is, and if Google is going to play in the mobile space, they should figure out a way to make their applications work properly.

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Google is taking over the mobile world (kinda, if you’re not using WM)

Posted by Fred on December 5, 2007

Scoble says that Google is taking over the mobile world, and wants to know if you are getting sucked in too.  As I said in a previous post, I like Google’s mobile offerings and I use Google’s mobile offerings, but virtually all of them have serious problems under Windows Mobile on my Blackjack.  HTML messages under Gmail IMAP are blank.  Google Reader still crashes the default browser if you try to mark all messages as read.  The My Location feature in Google Maps doesn’t work.  Now I see that not only does it not work, it will never work on the Blackjack, Moto Q or Treo 700W, supposedly because these phones do not “support the APIs (application programming interfaces) Google requires to find cell towers.” Perhaps this is a problem with the hardware, but PhoneAlarm SP reports some sort of location information (Settings >> Profile Extras >> Options >> Location).  Right now, I’m at 10800-10018, but I have no idea what that means.

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Friday Rant: Why Won’t Google Make It’s Applications Work With Windows Mobile?

Posted by Fred on November 30, 2007

Let’s start with a confession.  I’ve bought into the Google ecosystem big-time.  I use Gmail as my primary personal e-mail account.  I use Google Apps for the email on the domain.  I use Google Reader for RSS and Google Maps for directions.  I haven’t yet jumped on board the web apps bandwagon for word processing and spreadsheets, so the added features in Zoho haven’t been enough – on the few occasions I’ve done a spreadsheet or quick document online, it’s been on Google Docs.  Plus Google for search, of course.  With all that said, Google is really starting to bother me.  Specifically, the way that Google’s mobile offerings work with Windows Mobile.  Or rather, the way that they don’t work.  Granted, many of the problems are at least as much the fault of AT&T and/or Microsoft, but Google could make them work better.   So here in no particular order are some glitches in the Google Matrix:

gmail_imap.png1. Gmail via IMAP results in blank message bodies

When Google introduced IMAP for Gmail, it sounded great.  Finally, I could access Gmail on the Blackjack without using the java application.  You could always use POP, but that resulted in mailboxes that were horribly out of sync.  Plus, you lost the benefit of Gmail’s tagging system.  IMAP promised to be better.  And it is.  Via IMAP, I can grab messages on demand or automatically, using the same messaging application I use for Exchange Direct Push.  Not so fast there, fella.  Most, but not all, HTML messages show up with blank message bodies.  WM5 doesn’t do HTML mail, so I didn’t expect the HTML to come through intact, but I should still get the plain text.  Apparently, Gmail’s IMAP implementation isn’t reporting certain optional fieldsGoogle apparently didn’t bother to test IMAP on WM.  WM6 doesn’t seem to be any better, so unless a third-party app like Flexmail can fix it, or Google fixes it, IMAP on the Blackjack is fairly useless except as a glorified Gmail Notifier.  Some have reported success using AT&T’s Xpress Mail, but I have no interest in encouraging AT&T to push its own services.

gmail.png2. The Gmail java application doesn’t work in AT&T’s broken Java

This one is clearly not Google’s fault, but Google could fix it.  AT&T intentionally crippled the Java implementation on the Blackjack, the 8525 and the Tilt (and probably other recent phones like the Moto Q Global and Blackjack II, but I don’t know for sure).  If you try to run an unsigned Java midlet on the Blackjack, it will ask for permission every time it needs to send data to the internet.  This is not part of the J2ME specification, and is not part of the stock midlet manager AT&T uses.  They intentionally crippled it by removing the option to grant permission on a per-session basis.  What does this mean?  It means you have to click OK many, many times before you ever reach the Gmail inbox, and you have to continue to grant permission every time you open or send a message.  That makes the application completely unusable.  The same is true, incidentally, of the Google Maps java application, Opera Mini 4  and anything else that accesses the net.

AT&T did this, they say, for security purposes, but that’s a load of crap.  They did it to avoid cannibalizing the market for their own services.  If you can use the Gmail application, you don’t need Xpress Mail.  If you can use Opera Mini, you won’t be impressed that the Q9 Global includes Opera Mobile.  If you can use Google Maps, maybe you don’t pay $10 a month for AT&T’s GPS service.  There is, however, a workaround.  By installing another midlet manager, such as IBM’s J9 or Esmertec’s Jbed, you can install java midlets that offer per-session permissions.  That shouldn’t be necessary, however, and Google could fix the problem by either (a) offering a signed java application or (b) offering the Gmail application as a native WM application, the way they did with Google Maps.  All is not well in third party midlet manager land, however…

3. The Gmail java midlet crashes Jbed

Among the alternative midlet managers, I like Jbed better, because it renders Opera Mini better than does J9.  Unfortunately, if you try to run Gmail under Jbed, it crashes upon sign-in, and does it every time.  Therefore, my Blackjack now contains three midlet managers, the stock AT&T one that I never use, Jbed for Opera Mini and J9 for Gmail. If Google isn’t going to fix Gmail for all the AT&T customers, they could at least make it work under the workaround.

4. The Google Reader mobile site crashes Pocket IE

Google hasn’t introduced a Google Reader Mobile application, but there is a quite usable mobile site for Reader users.  You can view all items, or view individual subscriptions or individual tags (which most people, including me, use like categories).   So far, so good.  Unfortunately, if you try to use the Mark These Items As Read link, which should mark the nine items on-screen as read, all it does is close Pocket Internet Explorer.  That makes it unusable for me, as I don’t want to open each item individually when I’m reading it on the Blackjack.  Opera Mini works just fine, so this is some sort of PIE issue, but it’s still a pain.  Although there’s probably a work around for this, too, under Jbed Opera Mini won’t respond to keypad number shortcuts, so I can’t push # to mark all items as read.  So even the Reader workaround needs a workaround.

maps.png5. The new Google Maps Find My Location feature doesn’t work

The new version of Google Maps Mobile includes a neat feature that attempts to use cell tower triangulation to provide a rough location for devices without GPS.  Unfortunately, on my AT&T Blackjack, GMM just says my location is currently unavailable.  Lots of other people are reporting the same problem.  I have no idea whether this is a Windows Mobile problem, an AT&T problem or a Google problem, but it appears they didn’t do adequate testing with WM devices.

With the announcement of Android and the Open Handset Initiative, along with the customized Google apps on the iPhone, it’s doubtful Google is going to work too hard fixing these problems.  That’s unfortunate, as I have zero interest in the Apple product, and Android is a long way away.  There’s no good alternative, but Google deserves criticism for the way their products interact with WM.

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