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Archive for the 'location marking' Category

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

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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.

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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.

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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.




Petit DF – A Direction Finder

Application Name: Petit DF

Description: Rhumb line and great circle direction finder

Publisher’s website: inda3

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.2.7  /  4-17-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Petit DF (stands for “small direction finder”) shows the direction to a user-selectable destination. And it works, but with quirks.

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Start up the app, and it will show your position plotted as a green dot in what appears to be a Bing Maps interface. The green flag is also your destination, and is set at startup at your current position. The blue dot indicates the current direction magnetic north, red dot magnetic south, and they move as you rotate the device to maintain the correct orientation.

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The map zoom controls are the +/- in the left corners; the “v” at the upper right toggles you between the default satellite view and a street maps view, while the button at lower right makes the map view rotate to match the direction you’re currently facing in. Latitude/longitude are shown at the bottom, along with the nearest geocoded address/location for your destination. Magnetic declination is also shown, which makes it odd that the app doesn’t use those to correct magnetic directions to true directions.

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You can set a destination to get the direction to in several ways. First is to zoom/scroll the map to find your destination, then tap on it. You can pinch to zoom, but that has an annoying tendency to relocate your destination to a spot on the map you touch during the pinch operation, so using the +/- zoom controls is a better choice (scrolling with tap and drag doesn’t have this problem). The direct “rhumb line” direction to the destination is shown in red, and the distance to the destination is shown at top. Surprisingly, the actual compass bearing direction to your destination is not shown; this would be helpful in giving you information you could use with just a simple compass to maintain a heading to that destination.

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There’s also a Search function that lets you enter an address, keywords, or latitude/longitude position; once located, you can save that position in database to load in directly later. For example, entering Mecca as the destination and loading it in would put the green destination flag at Mecca, as above. Pity it doesn’t show the magnetic declination value for the destination, as this would make it a handy reference app for this value.

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To go back to your current position, tap the button at lower right to get the view above. The red line shows the “rhumb line”, the straight line you’d draw on a Mercator projection between your current location and the destination; following this line would get you to the destination, but it wouldn’t be the shortest route across the Earth. The app instructions say that it will draw a pink line to indicate the “great circle” route, the shortest distance between your current location and the destination when traveling on the Earth’s spherical surface. For short distances, the rhumb line and great circle will generally be very close to the same; for long distances, like the US to Mecca, they should diverge dramatically. At first glance, that pink great circle line seems to be entirely missing here. However, if you look closely at the two screenshots above, you’ll see a short pinkish stubs indicating the start, stop, and general direction of the great circle route, but the rest is missing.

 

Other issues: The app appears to be a resource hog; other apps, like my screenshot app, slowed down dramatically when it was active.

Final thoughts: Potentially useful app, but hobbled by the lack of a bearing degrees indicator, use of magnetic rather than true north, and the buggy great circle route line. Could still be useful if you need to determine the direction to multiple points saved in the database from your current location. Hopefully the author will fix these issues in future updates.




GeoCam – Additional Features

Yesterday’s review of the Android app GeoCam  concentrated on its main features, measuring/recording position and orientation info. But it has a few cool additional features as well.

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In the lower right hand corner of the main display are flag and map icons. Tap on the flag …

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… and enter a name for that location; the position is now stored under that name.

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Go to the Geo tab of the Settings section, and tap on the multi-flag icon to get options for your saved “flags”.

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“View on Maps” displays the flag markers in a Google Maps view; you also get this by tapping on the Map icon on the main screen.

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Tap on a flag to get its name.

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The “View List” option lets you see all your saved flags; a long press on any item in the list brings up the option to delete them. The single flag listing in settings has the same function as the Flag icon on the main screen, to give you the option to record your current position.

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Where it gets really cool is that if you point your phone in the general direction of a flag, you’ll see its name and distance on the augmented reality (AR) display (note: you’d normally see the camera view as well, but screenshots can’t capture camera views, so you just see a gray background above).

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Under the “Geo” tab in settings, there’s also a compass icon; tap on that, and get options to measure distance and height. Unlike apps such as Smart Measure, which require that the object you’re measuring be on a plain, level surface at the same elevation as you, GeoCam uses GPS position data to get distance and height by triangulation. For distance, select the option, center the object in your display, and tap the display center. Then shift over sideways as long a distance as you can, center the object again, and tap the center. GeoCam uses the two GPS positions, and the two orientations of the phone when pointing at the object, to estimate the distance from the midpoint of the measurements to the object by triangulation.

The accuracy will depend strongly on how precisely you center the object, how far apart the two measurements are made, how far away the object is, and what your current GPS error is; the app won’t let you make this measurement if GPS error is larger than 10m. At short distances on level surfaces, Smart Measure is much more accurate, but its accuracy decreases rapidly as the object gets further away, and doesn’t work well at all on uneven surfaces. I tried multiple distance measurements with GeoCam, and with care you can get accuracy to within 5% or less of the actual value for objects about 50 meters or further away.

Once you have a distance to an object, you can use GeoCam’s Height function to roughly measure how tall it is from base to top. Select the Height option and enter the distance to the object in meters. You’ll then be prompted to point first to the base of the object and tap the screen, then the top of the object and tap; from the distance and angle info, GeoCam will calculate height. Didn’t try this too many times, and didn’t have good height info for my test objects in any case, but the values were at least within the ballpark of what I would have expected.

The author keeps adding new features, so it will be tough to keep this review up to date. One promised new feature will be the ability to export the flag positions as a KML file for use in Google Earth. But I’d love to see an import option for KML or GPX waypoints, so that you can load them in for use in the augmented reality mode. The ability to add a flag marker with a long press on the Google Maps view could also be useful.

In any case, given the current price (free), this is a must-have app, and the paid version is definitely worth a look as well.




Track The US States You’ve Visited

Application Name: Which States?

Description: Records the US states you’ve visited, and shows them in a Google Maps interface.

Publisher’s website: 1517 digital productions

Cost: Free; “Plus” version with additional features announced

Version/date reviewed: v.1.0  /  11-9-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


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Figure 1: This is a pretty basic app. Check off the American states you’ve visited on the list …

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Figure 2: … then go to the Map tab to view them colored in on a Google Maps view. You can zoom in and scroll the maps to view different areas.

Other issues: None; worked fine.

Final thoughts: Not exactly a high-functionality app as-is, but does what it says it will. You might find it handy for tracking your travels, or showing others where you’ve been. Not clear what additional features the “Pro” version might add.




Easy Android Waypoint Creation And Management With SavePoint

Application Name: SavePoint

Description: GPS waypoint acquisition and management.

Publisher’s website: 3trust

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.1  /  11-7-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2

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


Lots of Android map apps include the ability to save a location as a waypoint, but you often have to wade through multiple app levels to get to it, and keeping them organized by category can be difficult. SavePoint does only one thing, save waypoint positions in user-specified collection tags, but it does it pretty well.

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Figure 1: The installed program comes with a single “Example” collection for storing points; you can add additional collections by tapping on the “Collections” button, then choosing “Add New” from the menu. I’ll add a new collection called “Near My House”

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Figure 2: Tapping on the Get Position control at bottom brings up the form for saving a position. Tapping the other “Get Position” button at lower left in the form starts up the GPS for constant position coordinate acquisition, and in this mode the app will take the GPS position. With GPS acquisition stopped, you can also enter coordinates manually.

Tapping on the dropdown near “Collection” lets you choose the collection in which the point will be stored. Tap “Save”, and the point will be saved after you enter a name for it. In this example, I’ve collected three data points and put them in the “Near my house” collection. Going back to the Collections section, and tapping on the “Near my house” collection listing …

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Figure 3: … I’m given the option to “Edit” the name of the collection, view/edit/map individual points in the collection, or map all the points in the collection …

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Figure 4: … in a Google Maps view. Tapping on a waypoint flag brings up a popup with coordinate/altitude/date/time info for that point

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Figure 5: Tap on the checkbox to the left of the collection name, and you’re given the option to delete it, empty it, or export it into the “savepoint” directory on the memory card. Currently, the only two export options are CSV (comma-separated variable) and SQL; I would prefer a GPX or KML export option. Version 1.1 now has KML and GPX export, in addition to CSV and SQL. Also, the default delimiter for CSV is not a comma, but a semi-colon; you’ll probably want to change that to a comma in the app’s Settings section. Finally, you don’t have a choice in the export filename; it’s always “savepoint” with the date and time appended (plus .csv), stored in the “savepoint” directory.

Other Issues:

None – program never had a glitch or force close.

Final thoughts:

Now that SavePoint offers a GPX/KML export option in addition to CSV/SQL, its strong waypoint organization features make it very handy to have on hand. Recommended.




Drop An Android Parking Anchor With Carrr Matey

Application Name: Carrr Matey

Description: Marks your car’s parking spot, navigates you back to it.

Publisher’s website: Carrr Matey

Cost: Free; ad-supported.

Version/date reviewed: v.1.6.7  /  9-7-10

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.1

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Android market link
Android Market (browser)


There’s a ridiculous number of parking spot apps on the Android market, most of which are pretty plain – mark your spot, and show it on a map. Carrr Matey stands out by adding a bit of fun to the process with a marine/piratical theme.

 

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Figure 1: If you have a GPS fix, your current location will be indicated by a blue dot in a Google Maps view. Took me a while to realize that the crossed swords at the bottom was the “zoom in” button (+), and the single horizontal sword was “zoom out” (-).

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Figure 2: When you’ve parked your car, tap the “Drop Anchor” button to mark your parking position with a ship icon. If you don’t have a good GPS fix, you’ll be told that, and given the option of marking your spot by tapping on the map.

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Figure 3: You’ll also be given the option to set a timer, for when your parking time runs out. After setting your time, and marking your position, make sure you exit the app to turn off the GPS tracking – this will keep the battery from draining. The timer will continue to run in the background even after you exit the ap

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Figure 4: To find your car again, tap the “Find Vessel” button. You’ll have the option of either using the map, or using a compass that points in the direction your car is located, along with the approximate distance. Yards for distance only; bit less than a meter for most of the world

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Figure 5: If your car is parked inside a parking building, you can use the “Harbor” button to bring up a screen that lets you mark its position. You scrawl the letters/numbers by hand; I expected a standard text box, but this is faster, and good enough. You can clear earlier entries from the menu. Tap on the color box to bring up a palette that lets you choose from 9 different colors.

Additional functions:

  • Choose either Google Maps street maps or hybrid maps (road + satellite view)
  • Send someone either your parking location or current location via email
  • Saves your last 5 parking spots in a list; if you drop something at an earlier parking spot, you can find that spot again

Other Issues:

Nothing major. It would be nice to have the option of marking multiple spots at once, but the “last parking spots” list is a reasonable substitute.

Final thoughts:

Does the job, adds some fun, and is good for a laugh when you show it to others. What more do you want? Arrrrrr!