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Archive for the 'history' Category

Local Points Of Interest With The Georeader App

Application Name: Georeader

Description: Identifies nearby points of interest in the Georeader database, and reads out descriptions of them.

Publisher’s website: Georeader

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1  /  12-2-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Yesterday, I reviewed the Historical Marker Database app, which is basically just a front end to an online database website. I liked the data at the website, but would have preferred an app tailored to Android that presented the data in a mobile-friendly  way. In a sense, Georeader has the opposite problem. The interface is far closer to what I’d like to see, but the database relies on user contributions, and right now it’s a bit thin.

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Figure 1: After starting up the app, and logging in to the database (requires free registration), a GPS position will be acquired, and your position plotted on the map. In travel mode, the idea is that you click on the Start Trip button, and as you get closer to landmarks in the database, information about them will pop up on screen, and be read out loud to you if you wish.

The first problem is with the map display. If you want a closer view, you should zoom in before pressing the Start Trip button, as the zoom level will be frozen and unchangeable after that’s pressed. That really needs to be changed.

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Figure 2: After pressing Start Trip, you’ll get the message that it’s searching for a “talking point”, a place of interest in the database. However, there’s no way to show the location of the next talking point, or set a distance threshold for showing a talking point. I had some talking points pop up when I was over half-a-mile away, others when I was just a hundred feet away.

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Figure 3: If you’re not in trip mode, you can scroll the map to an area, and have the local “talking points” be indicated by blue icons. There’s usually a 5-10 second delay after you scroll to a spot before the icons pop up, so be patient. It seems like a lot of points here, but most of these are just spots taken from the National Register of Historic Places database; the only text read out loud to you is the name.

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Figure 4: Tap on a bubble, and you’ll get the name and an indication that you can get more info.

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Figure 5: But for all the National Register locations, the only info you get is the name and distance. There’s a link to the National Register website, but that only takes you to the front page, not a page with more info on the site.

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Figure 6: Georeader wants to be a socially-built database, and there’s a function in the app that lets you add a “talking point” to the database, with a picture and text. You can choose to make this public, available only to your friends, or private just to you. You can also add and manage “talking points” from the website itself.

Other issues: None.

Final thoughts:

Georeader suffers from a problem common to many start-up social sites. Until there’s a lot of “talking points” available, there’s not going to be a lot of people interested in joining and adding their own “points”. But you won’t get more points added until more people start participating. If they could figure out a way to add the data from the National Historical Marker Database to their own data, this would instantly make the app far more useful. As is, unless you’re motivated to start adding your own “talking points” to the database, there’s not enough here yet to make it worthwhile. You might check back in a few months to see if that situation has changed.




Historical Marker Database App

Application Name: Historical Marker Database

Description: Finds closest historical marker to your current location, brings up webpage.

Publisher’s website: Historical Marker Database

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  12-1-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


When I first saw this app, I was pretty excited. I’d reviewed the main website before and really liked it, and imagined that this app could bring additional utility to the info on the website. If I had actually read the app description, though, my disappointment would have been a bit tempered; this app is really only a location-aware front-end to the website.

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Figure 1: Start up the app, and it will launch the GPS to determine your location. If your GPS isn’t enabled, you might get a program crash message (I did). If you get an approximate location (from cell towers), and that’s close enough, click on “Go Now” to enter that location.

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Figure 2: The web page for the nearest marker will open up automatically, with a photo and full text if available. This isn’t a completely comprehensive database, though, as it’s a volunteer effort. If you know of a marker that’s not in the database, consider submitting it to the site so that it can be added to the database for others to view.

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Figure 3: A map link on the marker page will take you to a browser Google Maps view, with that marker highlighted with a balloon, and additional markers in the area mapped.

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Figure 4: If you zoom into the browser map view, and can close the original balloon, tapping on another marker will bring up its balloon. Tapping on the link will open up that marker’s web page. Be prepared to be frustrated; the web map is very unresponsive.

Other issues: None.

Final thoughts:

I had really hoped that this would be a full Android app, taking advantage of all its features. I imagined an app that could provide you with a list of all the nearby markers, as well as plotting them in a native Android view. Even cooler would be the option to read the marker text to you, useful for those occasions when you don’t have time to stop at a marker, but would still like to know what it said. But it is what it is, a browser front-end only. Still, the database is cool enough to make this a useful app for history enthusiasts.