iOS 6 maps are better for applications

I’m very happy to see the new look brought to iOS maps via Apple’s switch to an in-house solution. Much noise has been made about the errors and the lost detail. I think the lost detail is an improvement.

The other night, a friend and I did a side-by-side comparison of my app HistoryPointer on iOS 6 and iOS 5 (bonus points if you can figure out where we were sitting). HistoryPointer displays a bunch of points of interest on a map (further details aren’t especially relevant). On the top is the HistoryPointer running on iOS 6 (with maps from Apple); on the bottom it’s running under iOS 5 (with maps from Google).

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To my eye, the iOS 6 version is much easier to read when you’re looking for the overlaid points of interest.There are fewer labels on the Apple map than on the Google map. The color scheme is less intrusive. There are some problems with label placement on the Apple map: State Route 99, for example, near the right-hand edge, is missing its street name (Aurora Avenue) on the Apple version even though other less important streets are labeled.

I see lots of potential in this move. There’s a control panel to adjust label size on map views. There’s obviously some dynamic label generation and pruning going on. I like the prospect of enhancements to MapKit to allow programmatic control of many of these parameters. Imagine what you could do with API to do these things:

  • adjust the size of (or omit!) certain kinds of labels.
  • control the orientation of the map to maximize the use of the screen space. North doesn’t always have to be up.
  • apply a custom color scheme, so that your overlaid data is easier to read.
  • omit certain kinds of features. Not everyone wants driving directions. There are many applications where the streets, highways, and manmade features are simply clutter.

Think about the possibilities. How would you like your app’s MKMapView to be different? File those radars! I have several of my own in mind.

Open Source GIS short course coming for Seattle

Seattle consultant Karsten Vennemann is presenting a 3 day course on Interoperable Web GIS Solutions with Open Source Software November 19-21.

Karsten has more of a cartographic bent than most GIS specialists out there. I expect this class will go beyond just manipulating the software and help you make beautiful products. If you’ve been curious about the tools available from the open source world, or are tired of paying the ESRI tax, this course looks like a good value.

new Yahoo AIS/ham radio group

PROJECT ARMARAIS is a special interest group of interested people including amateur radio operators who enjoy tracking the wereabouts of ships and other vessels on the Great Lakes.

This is a pretty strong group. Discussions are polite and focused, and the people are knowledgeable and helpful.

If you’re interested in AIS in general, and not focused on one particular piece of software, this is a useful group for you, even if you’re not on the Great Lakes.

noteworthy marine blogs

I’ve found 4 first-class blogs of interest to recreational and professional mariners, especially those in the vicinity of Puget Sound.

Captain Richard Rodriguez follows marine issues (including the current fiasco with the Washington State Ferry System) from Friday Harbor and Anacortes in his blog Bitter End. He is a rescue tug skipper, and certified instructor for USCG Master’s License. He’s very good at finding instructional situations from the news, and has some great videos and photos on the site–great as long as you weren’t involved in the incidents that generated them.

Navagear, written by Aaron Tinling and Tim Flanagan, follows new gadgets, gear, and toys for boats, especially cruising boats. They also do a nice job of picking up on interesting websites for boaters. It was Navagear that pointed me to the Bitter End blog mentioned above.

Patrick’s Sailing Blog does a nice job of keeping up with local Seattle happenings, particularly the local cruising spots, yacht clubs, and marina construction.

Panbo: The Marine Electronics Weblog tracks marine electronics, software, and websites. They are sponsored by several major print magazines, but seem to do a good job of independently finding interesting products anyway. A particular thanks to Panbo for turning up this $40 DVD set with all of the NOAA nav pubs and electronic charts. I just ordered my copy today.

I’ve added all four of these to