blankblank blank


Archive for the 'local data' Category

Geotagged Audio Stories And Tours With Broadcastr

Application Name: Broadcastr

Description: Geotagged audio file creator

Publisher’s website: Broadcastr

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  4-25-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

bc_qr

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


Broadcastr is a social website that lets you create, share and view audio files tagged to geographic locations; it’s free to browse, but free registration is required to create your own audio files. The iPhone app has been out for a while, and an Android app has just come out.

bc_1

The website lets you search by keyword, by categories, or by featured sources (UNICEF here).

BC-2

 

Search results are plotted in a Google Maps interface; clicking on a blue icon brings up the story in an in-browser player.

bc_3

In the Android app, the GPS will fire up to get your current location, and then the view will zoom out until the closest available geotagged audio story appears, also marked with a blue dot.

bc_4

Tap on the blue dot, and a pop-up will show you the title of this audio note.

bc_5

Another tap will bring up even more info; tapping on the Play icon will play the associated audio file.

bc_6

Zoom out in the Google Maps view to see more distant audio files.

bc_list

 

The Menu button brings up more options, like a list view of all audio files currently visible in the map view …

bc_record

… and the option to record your own note/story, pin it to a geolocation, and have it viewable at the Broadcastr site.

Other issues: Not sure how practical creating audio stories will be on Android, as they’re likely to include distracting noise and ambient sounds. Viewing local notes is easy now, as there aren’t a huge number yet, but I wonder how that will scale as the number of available stories for an area increases.

Final thoughts: Great app for creating audio tours, and personal stories about locations; I hope to use it to create interpretive tours for a number of local trails.




Local Points Of Interest In Wikipedia

Application Name: Wikipedia Places Free

Description: Lists Wikipedia entries near your current location.

Publisher’s website: 2-3

Cost: Free ad supported version; $2 paid version removes ads.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.11  /  4-1-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


wpf_1

Straightforward app – gets you GPS location, and lists any nearby locations geotagged in Wikipedia. Tap on a list item …

wpf_2

 

… and go to the mobile browser view of that page; your phone’s Back button will take you back to the app.

wpf_3

Clicking on the “map icon” next to a listing brings you to a map view of that location; you can select any supported and installed  app (Google Maps here, but works with Bing, Mapquest, Locus, etc.). It’s accurate, but some kind of more-visible placemark would be useful.

Other issues: Lots of nags to upgrade to the ad-free version, but if you use it enough to be bothered by those, you really should upgrade.

Final thoughts: Other apps show Wikipedia locations as small icons on a map, that can be hard to tap accurately; this list approach definitely has advantages.




Handy Reference Guide To California State Parks

Application Name: CalParks

Description: Travel and info guide for the California State Parks system

Publisher’s website: California State Parks Foundation

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  3-31-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

cp_qr

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


If you’re vacationing or exploring in California, this is a nice little reference guide to the extensive California State Park system.

cp_2

Starting up the app also starts up your GPS receiver to get a location; you can then get a list of parks sorted by distance from you (which I find the handiest), or also by park name.

cp_3

Tapping on the Map button at upper right brings up the map view, with the state park locations flagged. Tapping on the icon at upper left shows your current position on the map.

cp_4

Tapping on the arrows at lower left brings up pop-up windows for every park in alphabetical order. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an option to bring up pop-ups based on distance from you, which would be more useful.

cp_5

Tapping on the pop-up, or on the park name in a list, brings up a page with more info. A lot more; there’s about 10 pages of info that you can scroll through for this park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Included is info about wildlife, vegetation, history, trails and more; there’s also a direct link for making campground reservations.

cp_7

Tapping the Explore This Park bar brings up a list of general guides and trips for various trails and excursions at the park.

cp_9

The guides/trips include photos of trail highlights, information, the option to get driving directions, downloading information for use when you’re offline, and …

cp_10

A map of the trail, with tappable pushpins that show the photographs corresponding to that point. If you’re hiking the trail and have GPS enabled, you can view your location on the trail as well.

Other issues: I’m quite familiar with this park, so I know that the list of available trips/trails isn’t complete. The trips seem to be taken from the EveryTrail.Com website (the developers of the app for the Cal State Parks Foundation), and they have many more trips listed; hopefully, some of these will be added eventually.

Final thoughts: Almost a model for what this kind of app should be; I hope EveryTrail gets the chance to make similar apps for other states. If you live in California, or are planning an outdoors-oriented trip there, this is a must-have app.




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

mt_qr

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.

mt_1

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.

mt_2

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.

mt_3

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.

mt_4

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 …

mt_5

You’ll bring up multiple options for additional data.

mt_6

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.

mt_track

 

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.

mt_settings

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.

mt_ports

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.




Find Your "Tunnel Destination" With Dig Planet!

Application Name: Dig The Planet

Description: Shows where you’d come out on the Earth if you started digging a hole in the direction you’re pointing your phone.

Publisher’s website: Eagle Keeper Programming

Cost: Free ad-supported version; $1.36 paid ad-free version

Version/date reviewed: v. 0.2RC1 /  12-19-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

dtp_qr

Android market link
Android Market link (browser)


Not too long ago, I reviewed the AntipodalPoint app for Android, which locates the spot on the Earth exactly opposite your current location, or another location of your choice. The Dig The Planet app is a similar idea, but more general: point your phone down in any direction, not just straight down, and find out where you’d come out if you dug a tunnel in that direction until you came out the other side.

dtp1

Figure 1: Point your phone down in any direction, and the app shows the tilt and heading of your phone, as well as the geographical coordinates where you will emerge. If you point the phone up, the app will flip the direction around 180 degrees so that it is actually going down. The section at top is part of the “game” aspect of the app, where you score “stars” by coming out near the location of a number of world cities. Once you’re pointing in the desired location, press the “Dig Here! button …

dtp2

Figure 2: … and get the location where you’d come out if you dug a tunnel at your chosen tilt and heading angles displayed on a static map (not scrollable or zoomable; no choice of map type). If there are any Panoramio photos geotagged near the location you come out, they will show up in a slide viewer below the map

Other issues: Yeah, I’ve got a few quibbles with the app:

  • Be prepared to turn down the media volume on your phone; the app plays a really annoying background jingle in a continuous loop
  • Pointing towards the location of a city to score points is virtually impossible at the default accuracy settings. The help file implies that there’s a way to adjust that accuracy setting to be more forgiving, but damned if I could find the settings section.
  • On my Droid X, the GPS remains turned on even after you exit the app; the only way to shut it off permanently is to reboot the phone by turning it off and on, or by uninstalling the app. And having the GPS on can drain the battery very quickly. Toggling the GPS off will disable it momentarily, but it will spring back on again if you re-enable GPS.

Final thoughts: Great idea, and can be a fun learning tool and Android demo app, especially for kids. But it needs to fix the GPS “always on” problem, there needs to be a settings section to adjust the accuracy settings for the “game”, and most of all it needs an option to turn off the really annoying background music.




Identify The Peaks In Your Area – Old School

Application Name: Peak.AR (older version)

Description: Maps peaks close to you, and identifies them in an augmented reality view.

Publisher’s website: Peak.Ar

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.04  /  12-5-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

Old version no longer available on Android Market, but you can download the .apk file for the old version from the Peak.Ar FAQ page, and install it directly on your phone. Just don’t update it unless you really want the new version (and I don’t think you do).


This is going to be a bit odd – I’ll be reviewing the same app twice over the next few days. Today’s review is of the older version of Peak.AR, which is no longer on the Android Market, but the .apk program file for this older version. can be downloaded and installed directly on most Android phones as long as you have Unknown sources enabled in the Applications setting for your phone. Why review two versions? Because I really like the old one, and have some reservations about the new one.

peak1.1

Figure 1: Start up the Peak.AR app, and it gets your GPS location, loads in a database of local peaks, and plots those peaks in a Google Maps interface that you can scroll through; the compass at upper left points towards true north.

peak1.2

Figure 2: Tap on a peak in the map view, and get an info page with the name, location, height and distance.

peak1.3

Figure 3: The real magic happens when you hold the phone horizontally; the locations of peaks are plotted in an augmented reality (AR) camera view, so you can line up the peaks with the actual view (which the screen capture can’t show). The slider at the bottom lets you set the distance range for viewing peaks. The radar at lower left shows the direction you’re pointing in, and the number of peaks within the distance range you’ve set. The app only shows a maximum of 10 peaks in the view to keep the app from slowing down too much, and filters out shorter/less-visible peaks from the AR view to keep within that limit of 10. Tap on a peak in the AR view, and you’ll get an info page like the one in Figure 2.

peak.ar.1.3

Figure 4: Here’s a screen shot from the web app page, with the camera view visible, to give you a feeling for how it actually looks.

Other issues: Earlier versions used magnetic north instead of true north, which could result in a considerable misalignment of the labeled peak with the true peak in the augmented reality view. The final release of the older version seems to have fixed that.

Final thoughts:

This older version of Peak.AR is two tons of awesome in a one-ton bag; a must-have app for showing off what your Android phone can do. Oh yeah, there’s also an iPhone version available.




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

georeader_qr

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.

gr1

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.

gr2

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.

gr3

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.

gr4

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

gr5

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.

gr6

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

hdmb_qr

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.

hdmb1

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.

hdmb2

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.

hdmb3

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.

hmdb4

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.




Living in the sun (formerly ZP Compass): Local Sun/Moon Info For Android

Application Name: Living in the sun – Sundial Moondial

Description: Compass with indicators that show direction/altitude of sun/moon; moon phase calendar; twilight time tables.

Publisher’s website: AppZeroPoint

Cost: Free version (ad-supported); $3 Pro version removes ads, adds additional features

Version/date reviewed: v.1.5.4  /  10-31-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


The Living in the sun app offers a standard compass with direction, but also additional astronomical information for your current location.

zpc1

Figure 1: Probably the most interesting view in Living in the sun is the actual compass view. The number at top shows your current bearing direction (which way your phone is pointed). The red arrow always points in the direction of north. The gold arrow shows you the direction of the sun, with the sun’s image showing approximately the altitude; you also have numerical direction/altitude data for the sun at the bottom. The gray arrow shows the moon’s direction; the missing moon image indicates that it’s below the horizon at this time. The numerical moon data at the bottom reflects this with the negative value for altitude. You can turn any of these indicators on/off in the Settings section; in this image, I have the magnetic north arrow turned off.

zpc2

Figure 2: A calendrical display shows the phases of the moon. Tapping on any of the dates, or selecting the “Twilight” display option …

zpc3

Figure 3: … brings up a table with times for sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, and various kinds of twilight times (usually defined by a certain distance of the sun below the horizon).

In addition to removing the adds, the paid version offers a few extra features:

  • A map of twilight area
  • A map of the sun and moon across the sky at various times during the day

Issues: Program worked fine – no crashes. I do wish it gave you the option of selecting any location; it only gives data for your current location. The GPS is on continuously in compass mode, which can drain your battery if you forget to turn it off.

Final thoughts: There are better compass apps around, but if you need the astronomical data (sun/moon/twilight), this free app offers a nice combination of features.




Android Antipodal App

Application Name: AntipodalPoint Pro

Description: Find the point on the globe exactly opposite from a specified one.

Publisher’s website: efauske

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.0  /  10-31-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

app_qr

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


The “Antipodes” is the point on the Earth exactly opposite another specified point. The AntipodalPoint Pro app lets you specify a point on the globe, and find the point exactly opposite.

app1

Figure 1: By default, the app fires up the GPS and places an upright Android icon at your current location. You can then either scroll the map with a tap-and-drag, or use the “Antipodal Point” control on the menu, to scroll you to the antipodes of your current location …

app2

Figure 2: … signified by an upside-down Android icon.

app3

Figure 3: You can also tap anywhere on the map to set a location …

app4

Figure 4: … and have its antipodes location be marked automatically.

Other Issues: Leaves the GPS continuously enabled, even though there’s no control to bring you back to your current location. So if you don’t exit the app, it can drain your battery.

Final thoughts: Bit of a one-trick pony, and most land locations you select will boringly have ocean at the antipodes; not surprising, since about 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. But it’s free, and might be fun to play with for a few minutes. Also potentially useful as an educational geography tool, especially for disproving that old myth that digging a hole in the US through the center of the earth will put you in China.