Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Google moment: St. Jean Baptiste Day, Lachine canal, Picasa, map photo, Google Earth ...

Update 9/2/07: Alas for my enthusiasm, Google's Picasa image integration with both Google Maps and Google Earth doesn't work the way I'd thought it did. I'm not sure how it's supposed to work, I can't find any documentation. The one thing I see is that all images are not routinely available to the public even when the appropriate layers are enabled. As of 9/07 image display in Google Maps seems to barely work at all.

Forget the feeble iPhone 1.0*, Google's latest delivery is much more interesting.

Picasa web album has "map integration". It's a bit shaky in parts, and it would work better with a 32" display, but it's already pretty stunning. You can assign a public album or an individual public image to a Google Maps location through one of two methods. The snazziest method is dragging and dropping from an image palette onto a hybrid map view, but to make that one work smoothly you need either dual monitors with two views of the album or meaningful image labels.

A few minutes after you assign images to locations, the knowledge propagates to Google Earth. A KML link appears to the right of the album, and now you can click there to see the newly added images appear in the context of Google Earth [1]. Visitors to your album can presumably also see the images in the context of Google Earth or use the "map view" of the album.

Google introduced this new feature within the past few days, and coincidentally I had a perfect test album. This is unusual, since my photo albums are almost entirely private (kid pics). In this case a visit to my parents in Montreal fell on Quebec's national/provincial holiday/party -- St. Jean Baptiste day. I couldn't resist the opportunity to skate from their home in the west end (last refuge of the last of the old anglos) to vieux montreal, along Montreal's fabulous Lachine Canal linear park and extended bike/skate trail. As I skated beside the old canal I snapped pictures from my pocket Canon, sometimes while gliding. Artistic they aren't, but they are naturally geocentric. It was relatively easy to place them, and perhaps they'll be of interest to virtual tourists. (Incidentally, one of the most remarkable novelties for an ex-Montrealer of a certain age is that almost nobody was smoking. Incroyable.)

Obviously we want a GPS in our cameras so the photo/location relationships are built automatically. In the meantime, this is an easy way for interested persons to contribute to the development of Skynet's Google's world domination [2]. Having gone through this exercise once I'll know next time to take some pictures of stores, public monuments, and street signs, allowing much faster drag and drop geo-location.

Thanks Google, you're helping me get over my iPhone sorrows*.

* No cut and paste. Can't use MP3 as ring tone (even my despised RAZR allows that!). No search anywhere save within a web page. No external keyboard. No tasks...

[1] In OS X clicking may create a desktop shortcut which will launch Google Earth or it may launch Google Earth. It depends on your browser and security settings.
[2] I'm ready for the Google phone now ... I bet it will have search ...

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