The iPhone is Still Not Quite There

I’m begrudged to admit it, but Vasken is right in his claim that his Blackberry is better than the iPhone… For now at least. Having had the chance to play a little with Casey’s iPhone, I must say that the interface is wonderful. It is slick, intuitive and easy to use, but the device itself is lacking in some of the functionality that I would consider basic in a $600 phone.

Apple proudly boasts that the phone can play You Tube videos, but unfortunately you have to use a special player to do so. You can’t simply use your web browser to play them, which is a shame because it would be much more usable if you could. In fact, the Safari browser that comes with the iPhone does not support Flash media of any kind which certainly limits the user’s browsing experience.

The largest problem for me, however, is the lack of user enabled GPS. The phone has a GPS in it, but it is totally unavailable to applications running on the device. Again, Apple talks a lot about how wonderfully integrated the iPhone is with Google Maps, but its usefulness is greatly diminished because the device can’t tell Google Maps where it is. For me, the biggest advantage to having an enabled GPS would be for GeoBlogging, but just imagine how well it could work as a navigation tool if GPS was properly integrated. It would totally replace need for TomTom and other in-car navigational aids.

I think the iPhone is a good product, and I do believe that it will become the best phone / PDA / iPod / GPS on the market, but it is just not quite there yet. The product feels slightly immature to me, so I may wait for a few revisions before I pony up the $600 to buy one.

Geo Dive Blogging 101

My recent posts and dive log entries about my trip to the Socorro Islands have gotten a lot of people asking about how I create the map with post excerpts on this website. I’ve been slow about writing it up because quite frankly the process has been changing over the past week or so. I started doing this as a way of logging my dives, which I have not done since I was a teenager. When people ask how many dives I have, I honestly have to answer that I don’t know because I stopped logging just after dive number 200. Since dive log book had no real value to me, I found no reason to continue using them. Lately, however, I began asking myself how I might log my dives in a way that could be valuable to both me, and others as well.

I had a few requirements.

  • First, I wanted to use this blog as my dive log book.
  • Secondly, I wanted to record and display the GPS coordinates of the dive site. I also wanted to leverage the Google Maps API to display these sites on a map.
  • Finally, I wanted to record and display the information that I believe is important about the dive. For instance, I don’t care to record the water temperature and whether or not I wore a hood, but I did want to record and display information about gas choice, max depth and bottom time. I also wanted to record and present information about deco schedule.

The first phase, and the only one that I have completed thus far is to record and present GPS information about the dive site. When I first implemented this, a total of three WordPress plugins were required. “Geo Mashup” was used to create the map page with the post excerpts, “Geo” was used to enter the GPS coordinates into the “wp_postmeta” table, and “bsuite-geocode” was used to search the post text for links to Google Maps, strip out the GPS coordinates and enter them into “wp_postmets” if they exist. It also created a “Location” link to the post excerpt on the map page.

This was all before the final release of Geo Mashup 1.0, however. This is now the ONLY plugin that is required to create the map with post excerpts. In fact, running either “Geo” or “bsuite-geocode” will prevent “Geo Mashup” from working correctly after version 1.0.

Version 1.0.1 of the Geo Mashup plugin creates a nice little Google Map in your “Edit Post” or “Write Post” window that can easily be used to enter GPS data about the post. The only downside is that there is no way to display a link to the map from your post without adding the following code to the loop in your theme:

< ?php GeoMashup::show_on_map_link('link_text') ?>

Sadly, the “bsuite” plugin I use to create the “Tags” and “Related” stories section at the end of my posts takes over the bottom of the post entirely, meaning that map link would need to go below that. Since I think the “Related” section ends the post nicely, I have not incorporated this code into my theme yet. I have brought this up with Casey, who says he will allow the user to control where the bsuite functions display in the next version, which is soon to come out.

Clearly I still have some work to do with respect to displaying dive information and deco graphs, but that should be coming soon. Hopefully I will be able to release a DiveLog WordPress plugin once I get it all hammered out. Stay tuned.

Google Analytics is Cool

So after being frustrated yesterday by not having any pretty Google Analytics reports to look at, they finally crunched up some data for me, and this morning I was able to start kicking the tires.

First assessment… WOW! They generate a report for just about anything you could possibly what to know, including things like what major ISP’s your viewers are coming from. My personal favorite is the Geo Map Overlay which uses Google Maps to show what parts of the world your traffic is originating from. I was really surprised to see how many international visitors found their way here. Maybe it’s because I, like the rest of the world, think our President is an uneducated Neanderthal.

Additionally cool is the idea that Google Analytics is a sucker punch to Microsoft. Hey, I love anything that hurts Microsoft. They don’t suck as much as our President, but they’re sure as hell trying.

Some analysts saw the timing of Google’s latest announcement as significant: It came on the heels of a Microsoft (MSFT) manifesto that Web and ad-subsidized services were the future (see BW Online, 11/10/05, “Microsoft: Ozzie’s Online Charge”). “It’s a bit of a slap of the face to Microsoft, reminding them, ‘We’re in this game,’” says Marc Strohlein, vice-president and lead analyst at Outsell, a market research firm.

For my part, my only complaint is that they don’t update update the data often enough, and they seem to have some gaps in the data they’ve collected. For instance, this morning, they thought I had had 400 visits, when in reality I had 1136 just yesterday according to bstat. They have been up and down because of high load over the past few days though, so the discrepancy is understandable. Apparently they have had a whole lot of people signing up since they went public.

Of course, the data will become much more useful over the long term, so it will be interesting to see how people are using the site, and what they like and don’t like.

Yes Al, I already know you hate the political rants.