Category Archives: Technology

Combining Google Maps and Google Ditu

Ditu (地圖, 地图) means map in Chinese. China has long been missing from the global Google Maps. Zooming into the China border, only patches of grey blocks are shown, occasionally with blue lines here and there indicating rivers and lakes, and worst of all, maps are just unavailable after you have drilled down deep enough.

Usually this doesn’t pose any problems as Google China serves China maps (and only China maps) at Google 地图, which provides all the functionalities of the global Google Maps website, sans satellite images. This is annoying nevertheless, it’d be the best if users can see maps of China seamlessly when they’re viewing maps.google.com, without jumping out from maps.google.com and then type in another URL just to view some data that’s still backwardly regarded by the Chinese authority as confidential and sensitive.

“Hybrid” mode for China maps is another feature that would be handy to Chinese users. Satellites images are already available but just not being shown on ditu.google.com. Since hybrid mode requires a special layer of map tiles, specially they have a transparent background so that the satellite images can show through underneath the maps, without post-processing map data provided by Mapabc this is not achievable. By Google’s terms of usage of the map data, processing the maps and then re-distribute is not legal. We can only use some freely redistributable map data such as from www.openstreetmap.org.

Hooking up maps.google.com with maps from Google China is not difficult, actually that’s much easier than I thought because Google Maps API already have the mechanism to add a new map type for showing custom map data. My proof-of-concept is shown below, press the “Ditu” button at the top right hand corner and you’ll see maps delivered from ditu.google.com.



Ideally, this “mashup” should best be implemented using the new Google Mapplets, this will give users the best user experience as they only need to add a mapplet and then Google China maps will be embedded to the map window automatically, users are not required to go to this page. But since Google Mapplets doesn’t support adding new map types due to security concerns, this currently is not an option. Frankly, I don’t see there’s any security concerns by supporting new map types.

Don’t be surprised if you notice that the satellite images do not align with the Google China maps, because Google China intentionally shifted the latter to please the Chinese authority. Did it say that the maps are regarded as national security?

Samsonite introduces “the NaN collection” luggages

Samsonite, the world’s renowned brand name for luggages and travel bags, has made a step further to attract geeks, hackers, and the like by introducing the NaN collection luggages, which is now generally perceived by business insiders to be the next bold move of Samsonite since their launch of the Black Label and Samsonite by Starck series, both of which are very successful and have once again made Samsonite to be one of the most fashionable luggage manufacturers in the world.

NaN, which means Not a Number, is a value or symbol used by the internal of computers to indicate the result of an operation on invalid input operands, such as the calculation of the square root of a negative number. The reason why Samsonite picks this obscure acronym for their latest edition of luggages is still unknown, and we are also unable to find any data or financial figures on their website to support their decision for such a niche market. Our informal phone survey shows that most geeks will prefer this or this rather than a clumsy luggage that will never have enough compartments to hold all of their gadgets anyway.


samsonite_nan_collection_cropped.png

iPhone so sexy

10 days have already past since 2007, and Apple, Inc today gives me an idea for my new year resolution, to get an iPhone this year.

Am I too materialistic? No, I just love good design and appreciate their attention to details. Take a look at their demos and you’ll also wonder why traditional mobile phone company can’t make a phone that’s as easy to use as Apple’s. Be creative.

QR code WordPress plugin

I used to show QR codes in my old theme (not in the current theme as they don’t blend very well) and my friends think that’s intriguing, so I had been working on releasing a WordPress plugin to do that for quite some time. It’s not difficult because WordPress documentation is quite clear, and I’ve finally brushed up the code and released it under an open source license. If you want to get your hands dirty to embed some wierd codes in your blog to scare your visitors away, or you want to show off your technical savviness, you have come to the right place. Go to this page for downloads and instructions.

Related article:
http://blog.anthonywong.net/2006/01/18/qr-code-for-blog-entries/