Boulder better prepared for zombies than Oakland

I’m planning a move from Oakland, CA back to Boulder, CO. Clearly, one factor in this project is: how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, wherever I am.

I checked out Map of the Dead — a great map mashup that helps you find the closest zombie survival supplies. Just enter your address to find the locations of the closest gun store, liquor store, grocery or convenience store, hardware store, outdoor store, gas station, doctor, pharmacy, military, police, radio tower, harbor, or airport.

They also list the locations of places you’d probably want to avoid during a zombie outbreak: Hospitals and shopping malls (zombies LOVE those places), cemeteries (obviously) and campgrounds (not really defensible).

I checked out the Temescal neighborhood in north Oakland, where I currently live. Here’s what I’ve got to work with, considering running distance — and it’s not looking good. I’m pretty close to several major hospitals, which tend to be ground zero in an outbreak. And not too much in the way of nearby supply locations. And, believe it or not, no nearby gun shops.

My north Oakland neighborhood: Not looking good in case of zombies. (Click to enlarge)

In contrast, downtown Boulder, Colorado seems a smarter bet for waiting out the zombocalypse. Within a few blocks there are several outdoor shops (which is probably also the best place to get survivalist food, water filters, etc.), grocery and liquor stores (if I’m facing zombies, I will need a large supply of good tequila), AND a gun store!

Downtown Boulder, Colorado. Better bet for surviving the zombocalypse. (Click to enlarge)

Also, the closest hospital is over a mile away from downtown Boulder — not even shown on this map. That’s a bonus.

The mobile version of this website isn’t bad, but could stand some further optimization. In fact, this is one of those cases when an app really would be a better option. You’d want to cache this information offline, for when the internet and cell networks go down following mass chaos. And maybe build in an option to use the phone’s antenna as a walkie-talkie, or to listen to radio broadcasts. And, of course, get the latest CDC updates on the status of vaccine development and deployment.

Plus an app could store a library of tutorial videos showing key zombie survival skills, like this:

Why won’t Google let me reorder locations on my custom map?

UPDATE 9/15: There is a workaround. Basically, as long as you leave the top item on the list in place, you can reorder other items and the map will save and retain that order. So just consider the top item on your list a placeholder, and list the “real” items in the order you want below that. Kinda clunky, but I’ve tested it and it does work.

Recently Google maps changed something, I don’t know what, and it’s broken a feature I use a lot. Very annoying.

I keep a custom google map where I mark the locations I need to be for upcoming appointments and events. I list them in date order. This has worked great for me, with all the running around I do, for the last year — especially via mobile.

BUT… Sometime in the last couple of weeks, Google maps stopped respecting the order I specify for places on my map. It’ll let me reorder locations in my map, and save them — but that order only last the session. When I reload the map, all my newer locations are back down on the bottom of the list!

There’s a Google Maps Forum thread on this, but so far no help.

Does anyone know how to fix this problem or get around it?

It’s even more annoying because Google Maps’ “starred places” function doesn’t let me add notes, or specify a custom order. So that’s not really a solution for me.

Free Kindles, local mobile news, and pissed off fanboys: My recent CNN.com Tech mobile stories

It’s been a very busy month and a half for me. I spent a week in Los Angeles as a featured presenter for the Mobile News Week at the journalism school there, and now I’m finishing preparations to travel to two other journalism schools next week for the Knight Digital Media Center’s Mobile Symposium. So I haven’t been letting Contentious.com readers know what I’ve been writing elsewhere.

But I’ve been logging a lot of cool mobile stuff for CNN.com Tech. So here’s a quick list of what I’ve been covering there…

Continue reading

Mobile users team up to map wireless network coverage, quality

If you’re shopping for a wireless carrier, one of your first questions is (or should be): Which carriers offer the best coverage in the locations where you spend most of your time?

You could try to figure that out by looking at the coverage maps the carriers all provide, but take that information with a big grain of salt. Those maps often overstate the reach, strength, and quality of their coverage, and they don’t give detail down to the block level.

On CNN.com Tech today, I wrote about two projects where mobile users are creating their own maps of carrier coverage:

Crowdsourced maps help mobile users compare network reliability

These efforts are handled via iPhone and Android apps — which means that BlackBerry, Palm, and feature phone users can’t participate in making these maps. But the maps (which you can view on Open Signal Maps and RootMetrics) are potentially useful to anyone.

…Well, at least, to anyone in a major metro area, so far. There’s sparse reporting from other regions, but the more people who use these apps, the better these maps will get.

I really like these projects, not least because they’re an important way to hold wireless carriers accountable for delivering the speed and coverage they advertise. They’re also useful if you want to figure out whether your carrier is throttling your data.

US Census upgrades American FactFinder tool, new data coming soon | Knight Digital Media Center

For journalists and others who use Census data, the American FactFinder is a key research tool. It just got a pretty major upgrade — although the 2010 data isn’t included yet. Apparently that will happen “in the coming months.

I wrote more about this for the Knight Digital Media Center at USC site: US Census upgrades American FactFinder tool, new data coming soon | Knight Digital Media Center.

Everyblock’s New Geocoding Fixes

Tech Cocktail Conference - 08.jpg
Adrian Holovaty. (Image by Additive Theory via Flickr)

Recently I wrote about how a Los Angeles Police Dept. geocoding data glitch yielded inaccurate crime maps at LAPDcrimemaps.org and the database-powered network of hyperlocal sites, Everyblock.

On Apr. 8, Everyblock founder Adrian Holovaty blogged about the two ways his company is addressing the problem of inaccurate geodata.

  1. Latitude/longitude crosschecking. “From now on, rather than relying blindly on our data sources’ longitude/latitude points, we cross-check those points with our own geocoding of the address provided. If the LAPD’s geocoding for a particular crime is significantly off from our own geocoder’s results, then we won’t geocode that crime at all, and we publish a note on the crime page that explains why a map isn’t available. (If you’re curious, we’re using 375 meters as our threshold. That is, if our own geocoder comes up with a point more than 375 meters away from the point that LAPD provides, then we won’t place the crime on a map, or on block/neighborhood pages.)
  2. Surfacing ungeocoded data. “Starting today, wherever we have aggregate charts by neighborhood, ZIP or other boundary, we include the number, and percentage, of records that couldn’t be geocoded. Each location chart has a new “Unknown” row that provides these figures. Note that technically this figure includes more than nongeocodable records — it also includes any records that were successfully geocoded but don’t lie in any neighborhood. For example, in our Philadelphia crime section, you can see that one percent of crime reports in the last 30 days are in an ‘unknown’ neighborhood; this means those 35 records either couldn’t be geocoded or lie outside any of the Philadelphia neighborhood boundaries that we’ve compiled.”

These strategies could — and probably should — be employed by any organization publishing online maps that rely on government or third-party geodata.

Holovaty’s post also includes a great plain-language explanation of what geodata really is and how it works in practical terms. This is the kind of information that constitutes journalism 101 in the online age.

(NOTE: I originally published this post in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Los Angeles Police Geocoding Error Skews Crime Maps

LAPDcrimemaps.org has some recently revealed geodata flaws.

LAPDcrimemaps.org has some recently revealed geodata flaws.

Crime maps are one of the most popular and (in urban areas) ubiquitous types of geo-enabled local news — and they’re a staple of the Knight News Challenge-funded project Everyblock. This data comes from local police departments — but how reliable is it?

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported a problem with the Los Angeles Police Department’s online crime map, launched three years ago…

LAPDcrimemaps.org is offered to the public as a way to track crimes near specific addresses in the city of Los Angeles. Most of the time that process worked fine. But when it failed, crimes were often shown miles from where they actually occurred.

“Unable to parse the intersection of Paloma Street and Adams Boulevard, for instance, the computer used a default point for Los Angeles, roughly 1st and Spring streets. Mistakes could have the effect of masking real crime spikes as well as creating false ones.”

Apparently the LAPD wast not aware of the error until alerted by the Times…

Continue reading

Google Earth and News: Make Your Own Street Views (and More)

A render of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado...
The Flatirons of Boulder, CO, as rendered by Google Earth. (Image via Wikipedia)

Recently Frank Taylor blogged about a cool Google Earth trick that could be an intriguing visual online news tool: homemade street views.

The example he cites is from Taiwan, where developer Steven Ho lives. Taylor wrote:

“[Ho] has been waiting for signs Google would bring Street View to Taiwan, but finally couldn’t wait any longer. So, he spent a few days making his own Street View panoramas for National Taiwan University campus. It turns out March is the month when the Indian azalea bloom, so he decided to take his street view photos along the famous Royal Palm boulevard. Steven took the time to not only take 150 panoramas, but also process his KML [Keyhole markup language, which is to Google Earth what HTML is to Web browsers] so it looks and acts just like Google Earth’s Street View imagery. He also added in some 3D buildings for the campus and the palm trees.”

The result is impressive. If you have Google Earth installed (and I recommend upgrading to Google Earth 5.0, which was released in February), then download Ho’s Taiwan street view and open that file in Google Earth. After it zooms in on Taiwan, click on any of the camera icons to start your visual wandering of the campus.

If you don’t have Google Earth, here’s a video screencast of what the experience looks like:

This made me think: What if a news organization offered this kind of immersive experience related to a news story or ongoing topic?…

Continue reading

Google: Could I import my custom maps to my iPhone, please?

Google Maps on Apple iPhone
Image by niallkennedy via Flickr

This week I’m headed to the Bay Area for an extended visit. I have lots of friends there and there are plenty of cool things to do there. I’ve started mapping all this stuff on a private Google Map — where I’ll be staying, nearby public transit stops, gyms, massage clinics, coffeehouses, music venues, grocery stores, etc. I just assumed that since there’s a pretty good Google Maps app on my iPhone, I’d be able to import all that data easily. Right?

Wrong!

Right now, the closest I can get is to e-mail the link from my private Bay Area map to my iPhone. When I click that link in my iPhone e-mail, the map opens — in the phone’s Safari web browser, not in the Google Maps app. Which makes it much harder to use and far less useful on the go.

I’ve posted a query about this in the Google Maps forum. But so far, I haven’t found a solution.

Does anyone know any tricks for this? Is this something that an iPhone app could be written to support?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]