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Archive for the 'KML' Category

Maverick: A Basic GPS Map Application

Application Name: Maverick

Description: Basic GPS mapp app

Publisher’s website: Code Section

Cost: Free lite version limited to 5 waypoints and one track;$5.95 Pro version removes those limitations.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.6.1  /  7-5-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.3

mav_qr

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


It’s nice to have GPS map apps with lots of features and capabilities, but these massive feature sets can sometimes make these apps harder to learn and use. Maverick has a somewhat more limited feature set compared to other GPS map apps, but its streamlined feature set makes it very fast, and easy to use.

mav_1

Default view when you start up is your current position, displayed in a Google Maps interface. Other map options include Google Satellite/Hybrid/Terrain, Bing Maps/Satellite/Hybrid, Wikimapia and Nokia/Ovi maps, accessible with the “Maps” button at upper left; you can also convert your own maps into a compatible format with the paid mapc2mapc utility. Online maps are cached for viewing when you’re out of network range. The zoom buttons (and zoom level) are conveniently located at the upper right, and are an improvement over the default zoom buttons for Google Maps.

The blue triangle represents the field of view ahead of you, as determined by the compass on your GPS. Unfortunately, this uses magnetic direction instead of true direction, so it can be a bit off (11 degrees for my location); I wish app writers would always use Google’s built-in function for correcting for magnetic declination.

If you scroll the map by dragging, a blue arrow will show up at left (visible above); tapping on that will bring you back to your current GPS location. This is a nice implementation of this feature.

Tapping on the icons below brings up a number of additional screen options.

mav_search

The Binoculars icon brings up a search screen.

mav_waypoint

The green flag icon puts a waypoint at the center of the screen; it also changes into a pencil icon, which you tap to bring up the waypoint editing screen above. Waypoints are saved in KML format, and can be exported for use in Google Earth and other apps.

The “yellow” checkered icon turns GPS on and off, while the icon at lower right turn GPS track recording on and off; you can also turn on track management using the Menu button. The button at lower left toggles between Map mode (the default) and access to three alternate data screens:

mav_compass

 

Compass view shows the direction your phone is pointing in; if you have a waypoint set as a destination (as above), it also shows you the direction to travel in to reach that waypoint, and the distance to that waypoint.

Mav_time

The time/track data screen lets you start recording a track, and the total time/distance/average speed along that track. If you have an account at GPSies.com, you can upload the track there.

mav_info

The final screen is a GPS info screen. Tapping on any of the data screens lets you choose between twenty different datasets for that screen (e.g. UTM coordinates, sunset, ETT, etc.), offering more flexibility in data display than other similar apps.

Final thoughts: Nice, clean, fast, simple GPS mapping app. The free version is definitely worth a look. However, I think the paid version is a bit overpriced at $5.95; apps like Locus and OruxMaps offer larger feature sets at a similar or lower price.




Google Earth For Android

Application Name: Google Earth

Description: 3D landscape views of local terrain with an aerial imagery overlay; GPS-enabled.

Publisher’s website: Google Earth For Mobile

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0.1  /  5-4-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Note: This review only looks at Google Earth on an Android phone; additional functionality is available on some Android tablets, including 3D buildings.

Google Earth for Android is a stripped-down version of its desktop cousin, which lets you view the Earth in a three-dimensional view, with satellite imagery draped over terrain. It’s pretty amazing that it works at all on small, limited devices like Android smartphones, much less preserving as much of the functionality as it does. Unfortunately, it’s still missing some useful functions found in the desktop version, which limits its overall utility.

ge_mylocation

The first time you start up the app, and choose My Location from the menu, the app will zoom in to an overhead view of your current location, marked with a blue-ball icon; location is determined either by GPS, nearby WiFi network, or cell tower triangulation.

Unlike the desktop version, there are no onscreen controls to change your point of view; it’s all done by touchscreen, and isn’t exactly intuitive.

  • Tap and drag with one finger to move the map in one direction (pan).
  • Use two-finger pinch to zoom in/out
  • Double-tap to zoom in on a point
  • Twist two fingers on the screen to rotate the view
  • Drag two fingers simultaneously on the screen to tilt the view for the full 3D effect.

ge_3d

 

To restore the view to overhead, north at top, tap on the compass rose in the upper right corner.

Google Earth caches data so that you can still use it if you go offline temporarily. You can set the cache size in the Settings section to Small/Medium/Large, but there’s no clue as to how much space each of these options uses. And if you’re on a limited data plan, watch out, especially if you’re using the app in a car – you can easily download many megabytes of data in a short period of time.

look_ge

 

Tapping on the eyeball icon at lower left toggles you between the default panning view and “Look around” mode (indicated by the green marker). In the latter, the view is controlled by moving the phone, using the compass and accelerometer to determine which direction you’re pointing the phone. Very cool to look at, but on a phone, the screen is too small to let you make out significant details, and trying to use zoom functionality for a closer look can be an exercise in frustration – it’s difficult to zoom in on exactly the point you’re interested in.

ge_layers

There’s a limited subset of data layers available, most of which are more easily usable in the Android Google Maps app (Panoramio being the one notable exception).

business_ge

You sometimes need to zoom in quite close on an area to see all the data points in the layer; not surprising, since in an urban area they’d completely cover the aerial imagery. However, none of the data points are labeled on the map; you have to tap on one to bring up an info page for it.

There are several incredibly useful functions on the desktop version that are still missing in the Android app:

  • No measurement tools for distance or area.
  • Fewer data layers.
  • Worst of all, you can’t add your own data to the map in KML/KMZ format, at all. Odd, since you can do so in the Google Maps app (subject of an upcoming post here).

Other issues: App does crash on a regular basis, but does so fairly gracefully; you will get an error message with a force-close option.

Final thoughts: Don’t get me wrong, Google Earth is a cool free app, fun to play with, and a great demo to show off your phone’s capabilities. But I don’t find the 3D terrain view compelling enough under normal use to make me switch over from the Google Maps app, which has far more features and options. If the option to view your own KML/KMZ data is added to the app, then it will become far more useful.




Export Point Locations In AutoCAD DXF Format

Application Name: Droid 2 CAD

Description: Capture points, export them as AutoCAD DXF points, KML files

Publisher’s website: QubeCAD

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0  /  4-25-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

ac_qr

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


Droid 2 CAD captures point locations, and lets you export them to an AutoCAD DXF file, KML file, or CSV file.

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Bare-bone startup interface; icons at upper right are for recording points (left) and exporting points (right).

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Tapping the record points icon brings up the point data screen, and also fires up the GPS. You can enter title/description data here.

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To enter your current location/altitude, press the Get Location button, and the data will automatically be entered. There is no way to cancel a point entry; if you hit the back key without entering a location, a point will be created with no location information.

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Points are listed as created, but there’s no way to edit/delete points after they’re created, except to delete all points.

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From the menu, the Map View option plots the points in a Google Maps view.

snap20110426_145208

 

You have the option to export all points in KML (Google Earth format), DXF formats and CSV. For the latter three, only the first point position is recorded; positions of subsequent points are recorded relative to the first point (i.e. displacement in meters or feet). I’m guessing this is useful for CAD applications, but I wish there was an option for absolute positions for all the points as well.

snap20110426_145222

File export isn’t done to a local directory, but is instead sent to any number of options, including Dropbox (if installed on your Android) and Email. I prefer this approach to local saving, since then you don’t have to figure out how to get the files off your Android.

Other issues: Always use the menu’s Quit option to exit, otherwise the GPS may not be turned off, which can drain your battery.

Final thoughts: Potentially useful for CAD users, but for general location recording, and export in KML/GPX format, there are many better options.




Locus, A GPS Mapping Application – Part III: Tracks, Waypoints And Miscellaneous

The final part of my review of the Locus map app for Android; here are links to Part I: Interface, and Part II: Maps.

The first thing you need to know about waypoints in Locus is that the program insists you assign them into named Categories; especially noticeable the first time you try to create one. I resented this initially, but have since decided that requiring this kind of categorization/organization is a really good idea. Waypoints can be added using the Points manager, normally accessible in the right toolbar.

waypoint_mgr

After choosing a Category, you get the waypoint list for that category, along with additional options at the bottom. From left to right, they are:

  • “+” – Create a new waypoint. You’ll be given the choice of your current location, the current map center, an address, coordinates, or (if you have the optional Locus Contacts free plugin), one of the contacts in your address book. Tip: If you want to use map center, you should turn off the “center map on GPS location” button (left button on bottom toolbar), otherwise the map can pop back to your current location. Then scroll to the location you want to place the waypoint, and bring up the Points manager.
  • Check mark – Selects/deselects all waypoints. Checked waypoints are visible on the map, unchecked waypoints aren’t. You can also turn on/off individual waypoint display by tapping directly on the checkbox.
  • Arrowed circle – Refreshes the list
  • Boxes with down arrow – Sorts the waypoint list by name or distance from your current location
  • “Grouped” boxes – Lets you filter waypoints by icon
  • Trash can – Deletes selected waypoints

waypoint_options

Tapping on a waypoint brings up more options:

  • Plot it on a map
  • Navigate to it
  • Edit/delete it
  • Send it to a navigation app (like Google’s Navigation); bring up the Google Street View if available; share it with compatible app; load it into either Locus’s built-in compass, or a compatible third-party app like GPS Status.

waypoint

When you add a waypoint with the “+” control, you’re only given the option to name it (default is coordinates). But once recorded, you can go back and assign additional info to the waypoint, including standard stuff like a description and custom icon; plus,  non-standard stuff like taking a photo at that location and assigning it to the waypoint, or reverse-geocoding the nearest address based on the waypoint’s coordinates. Not sure how well the Photo feature works – on at least one occasion, a photo seemed to become “disassociated” with its waypoint (may have just been a random glitch). Reverse geocoding, on the other hand, worked perfectly, though this will require an active data connection. You’ll get the same screen when you edit an existing waypoint.

 

icons

There’s a reasonably healthy default choice of icon graphics, but the app author describes a simple process by which you can use your own icon graphics for waypoints.

ar

Finally, the author has recently added an augmented reality (AR) plugin that will superimpose a waypoints name/icon and “radar screen” on your Android unit’s camera view. My screenshot utility doesn’t capture the camera view, but just imagine a real-world view substituted for the white above. The radar screen shows the waypoint, but it’s so small and indistinct that it’s difficult to pick out. The Free version limits you to one minute of AR view; the $5.50 Pro version makes this unlimited.

track_tb

For tracks, you have two options: either record your current movements as a track, or draw a track on the map screen. Both options are accessible from the right toolbar. If you choose to record your movements as a track, you’ll get a new toolbar at the bottom that lets you Start/Pause/Stop track recording …

track_info

 

or pull up an info window with current track statistics.

data_manager

By default, tracks are saved with the current date and time, and there’s no way to change that immediately. However, if you go to the Data manager above (accessible from the top toolbar), you’ll be given the option to manage/edit your tracks. This Data manager also lets you create/edit/delete categories, gives you direct access to the Point manager for handling waypoints, and lets you Import/Export data in GPX or KML format. If you choose Tracks …

track_list

You’ll get a list of all the tracks stored in the app. Unlike waypoints, tracks aren’t assigned to a mandatory user-definable category, but are instead assigned a Locus-specific category that you can change. The controls at the bottom are the same as for waypoints, except for the missing “Add” option, not relevant here. Checking/unchecking a track determines whether it’s visible or not on the map display. Tapping on a track name brings up options to show a stats screen, export it directly as a GPX or KML file, show it on the map, delete it, or edit it …

edit_track

 

One of the biggest advantages of Locus over OruxMaps is the customizability of waypoint icons and track colors. OruxMaps only has one waypoint icon, and while you can adjust the overall track color and width, you can’t specify different colors/widths for different tracks. Locus starts out with more waypoint icons, lets you add your own …

track_pic

and also lets you specify different colors and widths for individual tracks, making them easier to identify on-screen.

draw_track

The right toolbar also has an “Add track” button that lets you draw a track on screen, and then save it. Pressing this button brings up another toolbar to help with this function. The “+” button adds a track point at the current center map position, and the “-“ button removes the last track point added; the green check finishes the process and saves the track, while the red “x” aborts it. The center button, with the “right turn” logo, is interesting. If you specify two points on a track, the start and stop, then press this button …

route_options

… you’ll be given the option to automatically generate a routed track between those two points, for various forms of transportation. When you choose the desired transport …

routed

You’ll see the route plotted, along with the direct-line connecting the start/stop; saving the track will only save the routed track, not the direct line.

Other issues: Apart from an occasionally-stubborn Bluetooth GPS connection, which could be resolved (see Part I), didn’t have any serious problems with the app.

Final thoughts: There’s no question that Locus is an outstanding Android map app. It works as it should, the interface is clean, map selection is good, and feature set is solid. In some aspects, like track/waypoint management, it’s vastly superior to OruxMaps; on the flip side, OruxMaps has a more customizable interface, and it’s easier to add additional online map sources to it. The one feature where OruxMaps is clearly superior to Locus is in your ability to add your own digital map imagery for viewing in OruxMaps; this is a feature I need all the time, and one not currently well-supported in Locus. Fortunately, with free/cheap versions of both apps, I don’t have to choose; I can see myself switching back and forth between the different apps on a regular basis, depending on what my current needs are. You’d be crazy not to have at least the free version of Locus on your Android unit (OruxMaps, too), and probably ultimately coughing up the $5.50 Pro registration fee to get rid of the ads.




Locus, A GPS Mapping Application – Part II: Maps

Continuing on with my review of the Locus GPS mapping app for Android (Part I on the interface is here), today is map day. Locus has a strong selection of standard online map sources, roughly 30 vs. roughly about 20 for OruxMaps. Some are worldwide, others regional. These mapsets currently include:

  • Google Maps: Road, Aerial, Hybrid, Terrain, Korea
  • OpenStreetMap” Classic, Cycle, Transport, Osmarender, OpenPiste
  • OVI-Nokia map:Classic, Satellite, Terrain (Locus is the only app I’ve seen so far with these useful mapsets)
  • Yahoo: Classic, Satellite
  • Bing: Road, Hybrid, London A-Z, OS Maps
  • OSM-regional: UMP-pcPL, Hike&Bike
  • Freemap (Slovakia): Car, Turistic, Cyclo, Aerial
  • Yandex (East Europe): Classic, Satellite
  • Eniro (North Europe): Classic, Aerial, Nautical, Hybrid
  • MyTopo (USA): 1:24K topographic maps
  • Outdoor Active (Germany, Austria, South Tyrol)
  • Statkaart (Norway): Topo, Raster
  • Maps+ (Switzerland): Topography, Terrain
  • NearMap (Australia): PhotoMap, StreetMap, Terrain

 

While there is a reasonable amount of overlap in mapsets between the two, each one also has unique mapsets as well. For US users, the big difference is that Locus comes with the MyTopo USGS 1:24K topographic mapset built in, while OruxMaps doesn’t. You can add Terraserver topo maps to OruxMaps (more on this in a bit), but the MyTopo set is of higher quality, and some areas are more up-to-date.

 

The list of available online maps can be brought up with the map manager button, in the upper right of the main map screen. You’ll get a list of available online mapsets:

locus_mm_0

Mapsets are organized into groups by source, a better system than OruxMaps’ sequential list of all maps. If you tap on a source name, like Google …

locusmaps_2

 

… you’ll get a subset listing of all the available maps from that source. Tap on the map type to go back to the map view, and load that selected mapset. The listing scrolls horizontally, so if you can’t see the desired mapset, tap and drag the listing left or right to access it.

First time I tried using Locus in the field, I was shocked at how many mapsets I was unable to download, despite having a good cellular connection. Then I explored the Settings section; under the Map subsection of Settings, you’ll find  a setting called “Offline mode”. If this is checked, which appears to be the default, maps can only be downloaded to your unit when you have a WiFi Internet connection. This protects you from being surprised with massive data overage charges from your cellular provider if you don’t have an unlimited data plan; my plan is unlimited, so I left this unchecked, and all mapsets now downloaded properly.

As online maps are downloaded, either from a WiFi or cellular connection, they are automatically cached so that you don’t have to repeatedly download them. I presume the size of the cache is limited, and that older maps are deleted automatically, but I wasn’t able to find out this info. For longer-term storage of mapsets, and avoiding large data downloads over cellular connections, Locus lets you create mapsets from download data, and then load them as needed into the app.

select_option

To access this function, go to the “Download map” tab in the map manager. You’ll have several options for selecting the area you want maps for:

  • This screen – Downloads maps for the area currently visible in the main map screen. You’ll want to zoom in/out first to your desired area.

select_area

  • Select area – Choose a subset of the current map area by clicking and dragging; press on the green check button at the bottom to approve the selection, or the red x button to clear it and select a different area. You can zoom in/out in this view, but if you haven’t already selected the desired general area first, new map data will not be loaded in as you zoom in/out.
  • By state – Downloaded predefined areas. By “state”, this means “country”, not “US state” or other subregions. Fine for smaller countries at lower zoom levels, not great for larger countries.

map_points

 

  • By path – This is pretty slick. Select this option, and get the map screen, with a new toolbar near the bottom. Click the “+” sign to add a point at the center of the screen, then drag the map to the next location and add another point. Locus will define an area around that point for which it will download maps, and show that as a purple overlay. You can set the width of the area with the slider at the top, and also tap-and-drag points to adjust them. The “-“ sign removes the last point, while the red x deletes all points. When done, tap the green check box. Be sure to disable the button at the lower-right, as otherwise the map will keep popping back to your current GPS location.
  • Select POIs – If you have a set of waypoints loaded into a category (more on this in the next post), Locus can use those to define an area for maps to be downloaded for. Nice, but I wish there were a comparable option for tracks as well, similar to the “By path” option, but loadable from a GPX file.

zoom_levels

Once you’ve made any of your area selections, you’ll get a screen with the available zoom levels for that map; you need to choose at least one. You can choose more, but it will make the map filesize larger; maximum allowable filesize is 2 GB. The total map size and tile count is shown at top right, and you’ll also see a preview of the highest zoom level maps at right. Label the mapset file using the text box at the top.

change_type

Tapping “Change type” to choose the type/location for the downloaded map files. You can either put the map tiles into the standard online map cache, create a new separate mapset, or add maps to a pre-existing mapset of the same type. I usually use “Separate map”, since I think it will minimize complications, but that’s just a guess on my part. Once you’ve selected a map type, you go back to the zoom level screen; tapping OK starts the download process. This is usually best done with a WiFi connection, as that will be much faster, and won’t count against any cellular data quotas.

user_maps

 

Once complete, the new mapset will appear in a listing under the “User maps” tab; just tap on the mapset you want to select it. Generally, these maps work fine, but I sometimes noticed when scrolling the map that tiles would appear and then disappear for no discernible reason. However, when using the maps in general GPS navigation mode, this didn’t seem to be a problem.

As with OruxMaps, you can also create mapset files from online map sources with the free Mobile Atlas Creator software, setting Big Planet / RMaps SQLite as the output format; the app author has more info here.

So far, Locus is superior to OruxMaps in handling online/offline maps. But it falls short in two major areas:

– Adding new online map sources is more complicated in Locus than OruxMaps (although neither is easy). There’s a post at the Locus forum on the process, but I couldn’t find any actual working examples. In contrast, OruxMaps offers a sample wms_services.xml file to get you started, which adds Terraserver US topographic maps to the list of available maps, and the OruxMaps forum has more working examples.

– OruxMaps has a stand-alone desktop application that can convert georeferenced raster image files, like GeoTiffs and OziExplorer map files, into an OruxMaps-compatible mapset. There is no general tool like that for Locus; there’s a mention in the forum of an old utility that can convert OziExplorer map files, but the format it creates may be deprecated soon in Locus. And it doesn’t look like the utility program mapc2mapc currently creates Locus-compatible map files, either. So there isn’t currently a good way to get your own maps into a Locus-compatible format, and that’s a big drawback for me.

Coming up in part III – tracks and waypoints in Locus.