Remember that old maxim that says we use only about 10 percent of our brain’s capacity? It’s been proven as hokum by modern neuroscience, but we think we can safely apply the same basic analogy to Google: The vast, vast, vast majority of computer users—even those practiced in hardcore nerdery—are almost certainly using a pitiful fraction of all the applications and features intrinsic to Google’s ever-expanding matrix of software code.
Sure, a Maximum PC reader may be well-versed in Google’s advanced search operators (Google allintext: “advanced search operators” if you missed that chapter), but we’re willing to wager that even the most curious among you haven’t taken the time to play with more than a few Google applications, let alone explore all their advanced features. Indeed, Google HQ is a fan-friggin’-amazing hotbed of R&D, but its developers are relatively quiet about the tools they’ve released. And that’s a shame, because Google’s constant innovation should get more press.
To address your inevitable Google knowledge deficit, we commissioned Gina Trapani to share her favorite tips. Gina launched Lifehacker.com, writes about Google for a bazillion media outlets, co-hosts the “This Week In Google” netcast, and pretty much makes it her job to know as much as possible about Google’s sundry apps and features.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, there are some 57 million Americans who ride a bike, all of which will now be able to map their daily commute, check out side trails, or any other biking activities without getting lost. Why is that? Google this morning announced it has added biking directions in the U.S. to Google Maps.
And not just a handful of trails in select cities, either, but a whole new biking layer that differentiates between bike trails, bike lanes, and bike friendly roads. By partnering with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Google said it was able to provide information on bike trails in more than 150 cities, including thousands of miles of trails.
"The demand for trail maps and information has never been higher, especially as more people recognize biking as a viable, inexpensive, and healthy alternative to driving," says Rails-to-Trails President Keith Laughlin. "Sharing our trail data is an exceptional way to introduce the world to what 150,000 RTC members and supports already know -- biking is the ideal way to ge where you're going. The addition of biking directions to Google Maps makes life easier for bikers, whether they are commuting to work or biking for fun, and it can introduce our network of trails to a whole new audience of cyclists-to-be."
If you want to try it out for yourself, hit up http://maps.google.com/biking. You can access the biking layer via the "More..." drop down menu, which will then display an overlay of the different biking areas. Dark green indicates a biking-only trail, light green means is a dedicated bike lane along a road, while a dotted green line means it's not an official bike lane or trail, but is probably suitable for biking based on terrain, traffic, and intersections.
Google Maps is great—it’s got tons of convenient, frequently updated information about pretty much everywhere in the world. There’s just one problem: It’s stuck on the internet. Or at least it was, because now, with Google Map Buddy, you can print Google Maps out at any size, whether you want to put together your own old-fashioned roadmap or make a giant geographical mural for you wall.
In addition, you can use Google Map Buddy to create large, continuous digital images from Google Maps, which make excellent desktop wallpapers. We'll show you how to do both in our Google Map Buddy how-to.
Let’s just assume that you prefer not to trust the big G with your data. Where are you supposed to go for your online mapping needs? As it turns out, Bing Maps is a perfectly acceptable alternative. With the most recent update, it’s gotten potentially even more useful thanks to the addition of about 6.7 million square kilometers of aerial imagery.
We’ve always had a fondness for Bing’s visual style, which is frankly more polished than Google Maps. It is a bit slower than Google, but that’s just a small tradeoff. The aerial and bird’s eye views are some of the coolest features, and we expect they’ve been helped by the addition of all that image data. The vast majority of the new data is for the aerial view (a top down angle). There’s much less for the bird’s eye view (an oblique angle). It’s good to see Microsoft continuing to invest in their Bing Maps, but is anyone really using it over Google? If you prefer Bing Maps, let us know why in the comments.
Listen up, Windows 7 aficionados: This one's for you. You've no doubt noticed your operating system's lack of location-based functionality. Unlike Apple's competing OSX, which can triangulate your system's position based on the geographical locations of nearby WiFi hotspots, you can't really... well. You can't do any of that on Microsoft's platform. While you might not need to know exactly where your desktop is (hint: your dwelling), it would sure be nice to have this feature for a more mobile system.
And that's not even in the, "I'm lost in the wilderness and I see a bear help" sense. Wouldn't it be great to automatically have the weather displayed for your current location on your Windows sidebar? If you use Twitter (and yes, readers, I realize you hate Twitter), you could just as easily pull up a listing of messages centered around your particular location: "I just ate a great meal here," or "@bear2 There is a silly human wandering around here; I will eat him," et cetera.
Well, Microsoft hasn't come to your rescue on this one--a third-party developer has created an free application that allows you tap into the wonders of geolocation all by your lonesome. Go fetch your laptop from the other room, then click the jump!
Microsoft's Bing Maps Silverlight version is growing up fast, so much so that Microsoft is taking it out of beta, the Redmond outfit announced this week.
Not everyone will see the changes right away, and instead, Microsoft is planning a slow rollout. Within a few weeks, everyone in the U.S. should see the Silverlight maps by default. In the meantime, the AJAX site will still work, and users will be able to toggle between the two versions.
This is a pretty big step for Bing, one which some would argue puts the search decision engine ahead of Google in the maps arena. Because it's powered by Silverlight, it's a more robust experience than Google Maps, allowing users to seamlessly switch between maps, satellite images, and detailed aerial photos. But is it a Google Maps killer?
Not quite. Google Maps still has some features that Bing doesn't, like better local searches with Place Pages. And while Silverlight is what gives Bing Maps an edge, it also means installing a plug-in that you might not have otherwise wanted.
Google and Audi have teamed up to "take Google services in a car to the next level," the search giant said in an official blog post earlier this week. What they're talking about is integrating Google Earth into the newly unveiled Audi A8.
The Audi A8 becomes the first car manufacturer to bring Google Earth right into the vehicle, which will be combined with a handful of Google services. Drivers will have access to 3D satellite imagery, terrain information, and a bunch of other geo information based on the current location.
But that's not all. Google Maps and local search will be linked to the driver's desktop, so an Audi A8 owner will be able to send business listings direct from Google Maps to their car, or search for an address on their home or work PC and have that info ready when its time roll out in the Audi A8.
"Our mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful is paid into by the efforts of Google's automotive team -- they always are trying to find new ways to make relevant information accessible and useful -- now also in your car."
Microsoft is giving Bing Maps a much needed refresh in an attempt to compete with Google’s dominant product. The new beta utilizes Microsoft’s own Silverlight multimedia plugin to provide smoother zooming and redraws. It also allows some very nice looking 3D building maps. It certainly does feel like a very polished experience, in contrast to Google’s more utilitarian aesthetic.
Microsoft is also working on a new Application Gallery framework for Bing Maps. These will mostly take the form of data overlays on the maps. One of the first available is a Twitter layer that shows nearby tweets. This is an interesting use of the twitter data fire hose that Bing now has access to. A similar app called Local Lens shows the locations of local blogs based on contextual clues in the posts.
Will the enhancements help make Bing more visible? While it is an interesting interface, the future is still murky in the shadow of Google. This much is certain though: Microsoft is prepared to work hard to take a piece of the search market they feel they disserve.Check out the beta here.
Any old GPS will save you time, but if you’re like me and are still clinging to an older model that doesn’t have real-time traffic data, you could be missing out. According to a new study conducted by NuStats, drivers who use real-time traffic enabled GPS’s save approximately four days per year in travel time vs. those who use nothing at all. The savings work out to an average of 18 percent per trip, and also yielded a CO2 savings of nearly 21 percent.
Participants in the study were broken down into three categories, drivers with no electronic navigation assistance, drivers with a GPS, and drivers who were using real-time traffic enabled devices. The survey participants made more than 2,100 individual trips, across approximately 20,000 kilometers of road.
These results sound great on paper, but it’s worth noting that even though the study itself was conducted by NuStats, the project was funded by NAVTEQ, a leading provider of real-time traffic data for GPS manufacturers such as Garmin. Does this shoot holes in the credibility of the study? Let us know what you think.
Ever wanted to open up a can of spray paint and write kick ass all over the front doors of the Maximum PC HQ? Well, now you can have your chance. A new tech demo has been released by a company called Earthmine who primarily specializes in geomapping, but decided it might be interesting to show case the early version of their new street-view technology in an interactive demonstration.
Users have the ability to select from the buildings it has indexed, and using paintbrushes, rollers, and other instruments of artistic destruction, create virtual urban art. The usefulness of this application is somewhat limited, but it does help to showcase the underlying technology, which will allow them to create full 3D maps of cities rather than just pasting together panoramic views. This will make browsing much more seamless. It certainly appears to be a pretty compelling offering when compared to the choppiness of Google Street View.
In addition to the web interface, a mobile edition is also being developed that will allow users to hold up their phones in real life, to view how buildings have been tagged in the Wild Style version of their neighborhood. The first version is expected to hit iPhones later in the summer when the new geolocation API’s are released. Want to learn more about Wild Style City? View the You Tube demonstration.