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Archive for the 'data' Category

Geographic Data Recording On Android With Memento

Application Name: Memento

Description: Database app with custom form design, GPS geolocation input

Publisher’s website: Memento

Cost: Free ad-supported version; $9.95 Pro version removes ads, removes limits on number of databases that can be synced with Google Docs

Version/date reviewed: v.1.8.3  /  4-24-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


Memento is generally regarded as the best consumer-level database app for Android. You can select from 11 standard data templates (Tasks, CDs, DVDs, Purchases, etc.), browse an online catalog where others have shared their templates, or create your own Custom data template, choosing from 19 different data types:

  • Text
  • Integer
  • Real number
  • Boolean
  • Calculation
  • Date
  • Time
  • Date/Time
  • Contact
  • Image
  • String values
  • Multiselect values
  • Audio
  • Currency
  • Rating
  • Hyperlink
  • Barcode
  • Link to entry
  • Link to file
  • Password
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Google Maps coordinates

Of particular interest here is the last one; you can save geographic coordinate data using a Google Maps interface in conjunction with GPS.

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Here, I’ve created a simple database, with a text field and location field.

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Tapping the Location field brings up a Google Maps view, and fires up the GPS; your current location will be marked by the blue dot.

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Ideally, the default would be for your current location to be the desired location for recording. However, Memento requires you to select a location by tapping on the map view; the selected location is marked with a pushpin icon. Accurate placement requires you to zoom in to the maximum zoom level, and even then it may take you some practice to get it right. You can also zoom out to a different location, and position the pushpin there.

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Clicking on OK enters that location in to the appropriate field; clicking on Create saves the record.

Databases can be exported in CSV format, although some data types like images cannot be exported to this format; you can also import data in CSV format to a data template, if you follow the directions to make sure the data fields in the CSV match the data fields in the template correctly.

Even more usefully, you can sync your database automatically to a Google Docs spreadsheet. Syncing is done manually, so that you can record data while offline, then sync it up later with Google Docs. Syncing works both ways, so you can add data in Google Docs, and have it synced to your Android unit. Once in Google Docs, you can analyze the data, manipulate it, and export it in a variety of formats (e.g. CSV, XLS). It’s usually best to do this on a copy of the data, as modifying the original spreadsheet may result in sync problems later on.

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One quirk of the geographic coordinate recording is that the latitude and longitude are combined into a single entry, separated by a colon, as seen above in a screen capture from Google Docs. However, it’s pretty easy to convert that into split Latitude/Longitude columns:

1. Make a copy of the synced spreadsheet to avoid sync issues later on.

2. In the copy, create a new C column, and label it Latitude.

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3. Use the Split command to split the data in the B column (Location) into two separate data fields. You need to specify the spreadsheet location you want to modify (B2 here), and the delimiter (a colon), so you would enter =Split(B2,”:”) into the C2 column. Hitting the Enter key will now split the B column data into two data entries, the first half going into the C column, the second going into a new D column:

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4. You can now copy and paste the C2 data into all the other rows in the C column, and have all that data split as well; the D column is the Longitude, so you can label it as such:

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If you export this modified spreadsheet as a CSV or XLS file, some mapping/GIS programs can open it directly. Otherwise, you can use a program like MapWindow to convert the CSV file into a GIS-friendly shapefile format, or a program like DNRGarmin to convert it to a GPS-friendly GPX format.

Other issues: The free version limits the number of databases you can sync with Google Docs, but I couldn’t find out anywhere what that limit was. The in-app help is terrific, maybe the best I’ve seen, and it’s available even when you’re offline.

Final thoughts: The free version is a no-brainer must-have; this is the best basic database app for Android, especially with the geographic capabilities and Google Docs sync. If you need to sync lots of databases to Google Docs, the Pro version is expensive (for an Android app), but may be worth it.




Monitor Critical Natural Events And Warnings With Disaster Alert

Application Name: Disaster Alert

Description: Plots current global disasters and warnings, brings up links for more info.

Publisher’s website: Pacific Disaster Center

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1  /  3-28-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


The Pacific Disaster Center’s Disaster Alert app plots the position of current natural/manmade disasters and conditions of concern for the entire world. Events plotted include:

  • Hurricane/Tropical Cyclone (global)
  • Drought (global)
  • Earthquake (global)
  • Flood (global)
  • National Weather Service High Surf (for Hawaii)
  • National Weather Service High Wind (for Hawaii)
  • National Weather Service Flood (for Hawaii)
  • Manmade (global)
  • Marine (global)
  • Storm (global)
  • Tsunami (global)
  • Volcano (global)
  • Nuclear disasters (like the current Japanese power plant situation)

With wildfires coming soon.

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Initial view is of the Western Hemisphere, with locations of concern plotted with icons. Pressing the icon at lower left zooms out to worldwide view …

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This is a standard Google Maps view, so +/- controls will appear if you tap on the screen; you can also pinch to zoom if supported on your phone. The other icon at the bottom right brings up a control to switch between Google Maps’ aerial hybrid view, and the standard road map view.

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Once zoomed in, I thought that a tap or long-press would bring up more info – no dice. Finally tried a double-tap, and that brought up a pop-up info box for that icon. But sometimes a single tap will work, and a double-tap won’t; the program seems to be very sensitive to how and where you tap.

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The info box contains basic info; tap anywhere else on the screen to get rid of it (don’t press the Back button, as this just zooms the map out to full world extent). Clicking on the blue arrow at right takes you to web page with more info …

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… usually an official government source (here, the Smithsonian Global Volcanic Activity Report), but it varies.

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From the menu, you can also bring up a list of all current disasters/warnings, with links to more info. A Time Zone setting lets you configure the alerts to show both your local time, and Universal Time (UTC, aka Greenwich Mean Time).

Other issues: The app was incredibly slow and responsive the first time I started it, but speeded up subsequently; I’m guessing it had to do some kind of initialization. You cannot exit the program with the Back button on the phone; you have to use the Exit option from the menu, or the Home key.

Final thoughts: Handy tool for keeping track of the world’s state, despite some minor quirks.




Map Ship Information With MarineTraffic

Application Name: MarineTraffic.Com

Description: View marine ship traffic anywhere in the world; monitor ships; get port information.

Publisher’s website: MarineTrafic

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.0.9.3  /  3-8-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


If you live by the water, and want to know what ship is passing by, or if you’re just generally interested in matters nautical, MarineTraffic for Android is a must-have app.

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The app starts out with a default view of marine traffic in the Eastern Mediterranean, and not much else on-screen to let you know what to do next. Triangles mark ships in motion, with the “pointy” end showing which way it’s going. Large diamonds indicate anchored/moored ships, while small ones show navigation aids. The colors indicate what kind of ship/craft it is (more on this later). It’s a standard Google Maps interface, so you can pinch to zoom, and pan to different areas.

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Zoom out far enough, and you’ll find the grid areas where there’s information for ships; notice it includes Great Lakes and Mississippi River traffic information as well.

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Tap on a green grid square, and you’ll be zoomed in closer to that area. You can then zoom in closer to any desired area for more information.

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Here’s the entry to New York City’s harbor area; most of the markers are large diamonds, indicating anchored/moored ships. If you tap on the blue moving marker near the bottom …

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You’ll bring up multiple options for additional data.

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Vessel’s Details brings up full information about the vessel, including size/weight, current speed/position/course, and its schedule. If photos are available, you can view those (also available from the Show Photos option), but you can also upload a picture of your own.

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Select Show Track, and see where the ship has been recently; based on the track above, and the schedule in the Details section, I’m guessing this is a sightseeing cruise boat.  Choosing Add To My Fleet “bookmarks” the vessel so that you can find it again.

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From the app’s menu, choose Options to get a listing of vessel types and their color codes. You can choose not to show specific types by unchecking the box; additional options include displaying vessel names on the map, and switching to an aerial image instead of a map.

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The Ports menu lets you select a world port for more information. Click on the “globe” icon to go to the map view centered on that port; click on the “magnifier” to get details about the port, and recent/upcoming arrivals and departures.

Additional options on the Menu:

  • Vessels – Search for a vessel by name, then find it on the map
  • Near Me – Fires up your GPS, and shows you the view near your location. If you’re outside of a marine area, you’ll just get a black screen.
  • More – Fast access to your My Fleet bookmarks, About the app, and a quick zoom out to a World Map view.
  • Areas – General marine areas by name (e.g. Baltic Sea, Japan, Ligurian Sea, etc.). Tap on a name, and go to that area in the map view; select a green grid square to zoom in closer.

Other issues: None; no problems.

Final thoughts: Pretty much a model of what this kind of data app should be like. Obviously only for those interested in maritime traffic, but if you are, a must-have.

PS There’s an iPhone version as well, and a general mobile website; the main website is also worth a look if you’re at a computer.

HT to Goya Bauwens for alerting me to the app.




FIPS Code Lookup With FIPSit

Application Name: FIPSit

Description: Lets you look up the FIPS code for a state/county, or reverse lookup if you have the code numbers.

Publisher’s website: Basement Dwelling Geek

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.5  /  2-21-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)


US Government FIPS code numbers (Federal Information Processing Standards) have been commonly used to tag geographic data with a unique ID number for a particular state, and also county within that state; US Census data in particular has been using the FIPS code to identify geographic areas, and it’s also known as the “Census Code”. While they’re being deprecated in favor of other code systems, you can still find them used in older GIS datasets. FIPSit offers a handy reference tool for looking up the FIPS code for a state/county, and also a reverse lookup if you have a code number and want the state/county it refers to.

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Type in the state name (full, or standard abbreviation), and get the two-digit FIPS code.

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Type in at least three letters into the county name box, and you’ll get all matching counties for those three letters; as you type in more letters, non-matching entries drop out.

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Type in the state code into the top box, and get a list of all the counties in that state, with their FIPS codes.

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Type in the full county code number at top, and get the specific county.

Other issues: Be nice to have older FIPS code lookups for populated places, but those were already being deprecated in favor of the GNIS code system a few years ago.

Final thoughts: It’s a bit specialized, but if you deal with FIPS codes on a regular basis, it’s a convenient and easy-to-use reference tool.