Archive for June, 2008

Technocentric Thinking

Posted in Social, Technology on June 28th, 2008 at 17:34:52

Chad writes:

I know their “motto” is “Don’t Be Evil” .. but I think it should be “Don’t Be Smart” instead.. this is some dumb thinking from Google. Trust me.. I know better than Google on how I want to download and install my software.

This is just the latest in a whole lot of similar statements I’ve seen from many people across the web in a variety of situations talking about how “I know how to manage my machine”, with the underlying meaning being something like “You should act as if people who are working with your software know how to work their computers.”

When I put it that way, does it really sound right? Is there anyone who thinks that the *majority* of users of Google Earth actually know how to run their machines? Is there anyone who thinks that it makes sense for Google to build and QA two different install mechanisms — one for technical users who know what they’re doing, and one for those who don’t?

Very few companies the size of Google do anything on a whim. I expect that some thought went into the development of the Google Earth downloader. The fact that the thinking is not centered around technically competent users is just evidence that Google doesn’t need to target the early adopters; it’s not a sign that what they are doing is ‘Bad’ or ‘Stupid’.

Technical users are few and far between in the mass market. Google Earth is targeted towards the mass market. Just like all software that is targeted towards a mass market, there is nothing ’stupid’ about removing tools that the majority of users don’t need or care about: By doing so, you limit the number of people who are going to end up confused by your tool, and that’s not a bad thing when you care about the majority of people instead of a technical elite.

Printing Maps; Twin Mountain DRG

Posted in Locality and Space on June 28th, 2008 at 09:11:27

So, I’m going camping this week. While camping, I plan to be hiking the White Mountains relatively extensively, from my home base at Lafayette Campground in Franconia Notch.

One of the best part of planning hiking trips is maps. I love maps. I love looking at them, finding things, exploring things. I love having them handy to reference, I love browsing around them.

However, when you’re on a trail, looking at maps on a computer doesn’t work particularly well. As a result, I’m trying to print maps, and finding that it’s a somewhat difficult proposition.

I have DRGs from the libremaps project: These are great. I’m looking at o44071b5, o44071b6, and o44071a6, all downloaded from the Libre Map Project. Unfortunately, I then went to go open c6, only to find that… it’s not available. Argh! I know that it exists: I can check the features that should be on it in the Terraserver DRG WMS, but no Twin Mountain quad.

Oh well. Not a huge deal, just annoying; I’ve got other maps that cover the area. Now the problem is that I can’t figure out how to take a tiff like these and print them over multiple pages on a home printer. Anyone got any tips or tricks on that? Printing on one page is somewhat useful, but not nearly as much as I’d like; I also don’t want to spend all day cropping and fighting with tools. If I have to do that, I’ll just survive with what I’ve got.

I’m going to go out to the local map store and see if they have a nice Atlas for the Whites; if so, I’ll take it. It’s worth it to have a little bit of extra knowledge about a place — and who can’t use more maps?

DjangoGraphviz: Visualizing Django Models

Posted in Django, Software on June 25th, 2008 at 16:47:38

Earlier today, a coworker was trying to work out a diagram for the models in the Django app that I’ve been working on internally, to visualize the relationships between them. I did a quick Google, and found a reference to DjangoGraphviz, a super-handy little chunk of code.

DjangoGraphviz did exactly what I needed it to, with no problems at all. (My only complaint is that it requires the DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE to be defined in order to get the –help output, somewhat unintuitive.) The software quickly generated a .dot file which I was able to turn into a lovely PDF, and print. I’ve now got a copy on the desk of each of the developers using the codebase, and I think it’ll prove a lovely piece of reference.

So, if you want a quick visualization of your Django models, and you can install graphviz, I highly recommend DjangoGraphviz to do it.

(Note that the wiki page itself recommends a couple other things more ‘built in’ to Django, which are new to me: I didn’t try these, I just stuck with DjangoGraphviz, which did what I wanted.)

GeoJSON 1.0 Release

Posted in Locality and Space on June 16th, 2008 at 13:01:30

From the GeoJSON mailing list:

The GeoJSON Authors are proud to announce the finalization of the GeoJSON 1.0 Specification.

Representing more than a year’s worth of community discussion and development, the GeoJSON specification describes an easy to use, extensible format for transferring geographic data over the web. With support in more than 20 different applications, GeoJSON is already quickly becoming a de facto standard for transferring geographic data in a JSON format. The finalization of the spec represents the final step in formalizing the GeoJSON format for encoding this data.

More information on GeoJSON can be found at http://geojson.org/ , or from the GeoJSON mailing list at http://lists.geojson.org/listinfo.cgi/geojson-geojson.org .