Google Maps Navigation Review

Google recently released free turn-by-turn navigation for Android 1.6 and higher. I figured the trip up to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving was a good time to give it a good test run.

Visually, the application is among the highest in quality (Not surprising). Upon first look, it’s nearly indistinguishable from standalone GPS devices.

Screenshot by Google

Overall use was easy. Just enter your destination, hit navigate and you’re ready to go. There are also layers you can add for satellite imagery and points of interest among others. GPS tracking was speedy with very little delay between the marker and my actual position.

I chose to test this on a route I know very well. Springfield to KC is a trip I have made far too many times that I know it almost perfectly. At a few points, it wanted me to take roads that I would not normally take, nor understood why it would be advantageous to take them. Looking at desktop Google Maps afterwards makes me think that the mobile version will choose a route that has the least distance, not necessarily the fastest route. However, this was better than the experience I had with Telenav, which had me take gravel roads instead of more accessible and faster state routes/highways.

A couple times, the application freaked out, for lack of better term, once for Google’s map not being quite up to date. The other time was more cryptic as to why it happened. It just started “rerouting” for no apparent reason and continued that for a couple miles.

Power consumption was also a welcome relief from Telenav. Using Telenav, I had to shut off the application because it would drain my battery while plugged into the car charger. I was pleasantly surprised that Google Nav continued to charge my phone and stayed at full charge the rest of the way.

One thing that needs to be added is a nighttime display function. Using the app at night was slightly distracting with my eyes having to adjust to the brightness looking from road to my phone.

Google Navigation is a welcome update to the Maps application. It is obviously not perfect yet, but even with hiccups I had, it is by far the best GPS navigation I have used for Android. The real trick is driving smart and not following the route blindly, no matter what GPS device you have.

Oh, the People We Meet

As you may have noticed, it has been several months since I’ve had a new post. I wanted to break the unintentional hiatus to share a story with you:

I happened to be working yesterday when a man walked in and asked if we had security cameras in the store. He gives no immediate explanation as to why, so I have no idea what to say. I wait to let my manager be the one who tells him no. He then asks whether there are any cameras in the parking lot and, again, the answer is no.

He finally tells us that he was in the store a few weeks earlier, didn’t buy anything, and needed to prove that he was there. We tell him sorry and he leaves.

And I’m left wondering why this guy has to prove where he was on that particular day…

Fun With Numbers

I am a fan of the website Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. They are not the most frequent to update, but more often than not, those new posts are interesting. I always look forward, however, to their monthly “Linkdumps.” One of these caught my eye this month and I wanted to share it. They linked to a couple of Wikipedia articles about two numbers specifically: 6174 and 1729.

6174
This one is really cool. First, you take any four-digit number that contains at least two different digits (ex. NOT 3333). Next, you make two separate numbers from the digits: one in ascending order, the other in descending (being sure to add buffer zeros if needed). Subtract the smaller number from the larger and repeat with that new number. The cool part is that, in at most seven steps, the number will always converge to 6174. And 6174 continues to repeat itself.

So, an example for you all. We’ll start with the number 7439:
9743 – 3479 = 6264
6642 – 2466 = 4176
7641 – 1467 = 6174!!

The number 495 does the same thing with three-digit numbers.

1729
1729 is interesting because it is the smallest number that can be expressed by adding two positive cubes in two different ways.
1729 = 13 + 123 = 93 + 103
That’s amazing to me considering I’m always taught in my computer science classes about how fast cubes grow.

They also linked to an article about a theory that all numbers are interesting. It’s worth a quick glance, but they prove it by contradiction. If you have a set of numbers said to be “uninteresting,” the fact that there will be a smallest number in that set makes it unique compared to the other numbers and therefore interesting.

And that’s why numbers aren’t trivial, surely among other reasons.

Enough with the Bing Commercials Already!

I have a big problem with these new Microsoft Bing TV ads. They are inaccurate for any sane person who happens to be searching the web. In case you haven’t seen them, or just need a refresher, the three I’m talking about are here, here, and here.

Now that you’ve seen them, a few results I found from searching to see if their wild tangents are true (I used Google for all of these searches):

  • Searching “breakfast” resulted in NO mentions of the Breakfast Club through 10 pages.
  • Searching “back pain” resulted in NO pages about “back packing,” “back to school,” or Bach through 10 pages (If you’re getting results about Bach from back pain, you’re doing something seriously wrong.).
  • You CANNOT get results for “bird of paradise” from “two tickets to paradise” through, you guessed it, 10 pages (Are you seeing a trend here? My feeling is that if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the first 10 pages, you’re not searching well enough).
  • NO mention of “cell wall” from searching “cell phone.”
  • Searching “tickets to hawaii” will get NO results for “hawaii five-o” through 10.
  • I could go on, but I don’t think I need to.

    If you’re wanting to compare LCD and Plasma TVs, you don’t just search for “plasma.” Are people really this dumb?! Do people expect to get reasonable results from vague searches?

    I have to be honest when I say I don’t know how fully well Bing works because I’ve only dabbled in a couple searches. I’m sure that it is a very capable search engine. And it never hurts to have an alternative, if for nothing else than the chance at different results.

    Bottom Line: Don’t try to tell the world that Bing is the perfect search engine when others give perfectly relevant results if you actually know what you’re looking for.

    Star Trek Review

    I saw Star Trek for the second time over the past weekend and I wanted to write up a review of it. I wrote in a earlier post about my preference of Star Wars over Star Trek. Nevertheless, I am still very much interested in Star Trek and was very excited about seeing this movie. And for me, as a whole, it did not disappoint.

    The Story
    I came in knowing that this was going to be a “reboot” of the original story, but I didn’t know to what extent. I don’t want to give away too much just in case there may be some reading who have not seen the movie yet, but I will say that the writers decided to used the proven sci-fi storyline that includes time travel and an alternate reality from said time travel. I think that most people will agree that the best and/or most memorable episodes of the various Star Trek series are those that include such storylines. Because of this, the story is significantly different from the original and I am thankful. If this film was a direct retelling of the original, it would forever have the stigma of being compared to the past which would detract from it’s own merit. While the story may not be the same, all the major players are there. Even the most diehard of Star Trek fans should be content with the differences in the characters’ backstories because they are not the same people on account of the alternate reality.

    Cinematography
    Visually, the film was stunning. The CG was impressive. The redesign of the Enterprise was both an homage to the original while also getting a modern overhaul. The interior of the Enterprise was much brighter than previous instances of the ship, while Nero’s (the bad guy) ship was dark as you might expect, bringing the classic good vs. evil imagery into play.

    My only real complaint was with the, what I would consider unnecessary, overuse of lens flare. It felt like almost every scene contained some flare and at some points washed out most of the frame. I’m okay with some lens flare, but it felt like there were times when it didn’t seem to make sense why there should be flare at all.

    Music / Sound
    I almost always prefer an original score for a movie as opposed to sampling popular music. Michael Giacchino did great work creating some very strong themes. My favourite would have to be Enterprise’s theme called “Enterprising Young Men.”

    They included many of the same or similar sound effects for the ship, which was enjoyable. One significant difference is the sound when heading into warp which blows you away, wishing they warped in every scene.

    I appreciated the couple scenes that actually gave the contrast of entering a space vacuum. Not many films portray the silence of space and I thought it was a nice touch.

    Casting
    I thought the actors did a great job with their characters. I don’t think many actors today would be able to play Spock as well as Zachary Quinto. Chris Pine brings a style of toughness and arrogance that suits Kirk’s backstory well. I haven’t seen a lot of the Original Series episodes, but John Cho was a very cool Sulu compared to the Sulu I recall.

    Karl Urban’s portrayal of Bones McCoy brought a little too much of DeForest Kelley’s and was slightly distracting a few times. Not a deal breaker, but it reminded me of the Producers remake where it felt like Matthew Broderick was trying to be Gene Wilder’s character and not his own.

    Other
    I’ve already given my most important thoughts, but I also wanted to add this tidbit. I thought the transport shuttles looked quite similar to the ATR-6 assault transport from the Star Wars Universe. Have a look:

    Star Trek Transport

    Star Trek Transport

    Star Wars Assault Transport

    Star Wars Assault Transport


    It just made me smile.

    Verdict
    Just to let you know, I don’t believe in the “stars” rating system. That comes from the fact that my mom thinks every movie with a three or four star rating is guaranteed to be good. I will say that I think this is a great action film that has a well thought out story. I think that Star Trek fan and newcomer will both be able find this movie enjoyable.

    Technology’s Place in our Lives

    Our beloved electronics, where would we be without them? I’ll be the first to tell you that I would go crazy if I didn’t have all of my gadgets around me at all times. That doesn’t mean that I cannot go without them for periods of time. This had been known to happen, but if I had to live the rest of my life without my phone, computer, tv, or various other electronics, I don’t know what I would do.

    I recall the big ice storm a couple years ago here in Springfield, MO. I was one of the lucky ones that did not lose power at all, but I went ten days without television or internet access. I watched about a third of my movies, read, listened to music, and even worked on this really cool Puzz 3D Millenium Falcon puzzle. Even so, I was bored out of my mind for most of that time. Has technology really destroyed our ability to entertain ourselves?

    Now, I can’t badmouth technology too much, considering I am basing my entire college career in the field of computer science. I don’t want to give up my gadgets, but I do think that they can negatively impact our lives at times.


    My first example has to do with cell phones. Most people, including myself, take their cell phones with them everywhere. That doesn’t mean it should or has to be answered in all situations. All too often people don’t know proper etiquette of where and when to answer the phone, disturbing everyone around them (e.g., store check-out lines and and movie theatres).

    On a side note with phones, if any of you have experienced phantom rings, you know how annoying they can be. For those who don’t know what a phantom ring is, it is when you think you hear your phone ring or hear/feel your phone vibrate when it actually doesn’t. It hasn’t happened much to me since I switched to the T-mobile G1, but when I had my Blackberry, it would happen at least once a day. It became very distracting.


    My second example deals with print media. We all know that online news has been taking the front seat to the newspaper and I have to say that this makes me sad. I know that it is inevitable, but I am not looking forward to the day that the only way I can get my news is from the internet. I like newspapers for one main reason: format. I like being able to look at full articles all at once. The stories are easy to find and you know you are getting that day’s news. When looking online, the date of the stories are almost never labelled on the front page and you can’t get a snippet of the story without clicking to read the full story. When I read the newspaper, I first scan the headlines to see if the story is one I want to read and even if I don’t want to read the whole story, I usually like to scan the first couple paragraphs to get the main points. So, for intsant, breaking or non-traditional(i.e., from blogs)  news, the internet is a modern wonder. But I would much rather read a newspaper everyday.

    And what happens when you lose your internet connection when that’s the only source? No news. Period.

    Along the same line, Amazon’s Kindle is an amazing piece of technology, but I don’t want to use it as my primary source for reading. I like the feel of a book in my hands. On top of that, I spend so much time in front a computer screen, I don’t think it would be healthy for my eyes to look at another screen for an extended period of time.


    We can’t deny that technology and electronics have become cornerstones in our lives that are not going away, but we can’t solely rely on them. Think of the episode of South Park from this season where the entire world goes insane because the internet is down. We must have other ways in which we can entertain ourselves so that we do not become dependent. Those are just a couple examples, but nevertheless, if someone tries to take away all of my gadgets, I’ll have to quote Charlton Heston when I say, “from my cold, dead hands.”

    Pictures from the Rail Yard

    I took the time to head out to the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge a couple weeks ago. I first found out about the bridge a couple of years ago, but only now took the time to go see it for myself. And seeing as it crossed several lines of active railroad tracks, I figured it was the perfect place to take some pictures.

    foot bridge

    Jefferson Avenue Footbridge

    frame

    Using the bridge as a frame

    train engine heat distortion

    I love the look of heat distortion coming from the engines.

    I never knew how truly loud train engines actually are until I was standing five feet above them.

    middle of tracks

    View from the middle of the tracks

    This was the part where I was trespassing. If they didn’t want people to trespass at a place as cool as a rail yard, they would have put up a fence.

    rail car with lens flare

    Next to a rail car

    rusted rail car

    Rusted rail car of years past

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