News Roundup - Google, Google, and More Google

What follows is notable news and happenings that I want to purge from my bookmarks folder. It will be a combination of things you already know spiced with things you probably won’t care about. I apologize in advance.

Google went absolutely nuts this month. Every time I tried to blog about something they were up to my RSS reader would be assaulted with 5 more things they were up to. Here’s a recap:


  • As reported by every blogger with a pulse, Google dropped Tele Atlas in the US and is now using its own street data. If you head to Google Maps in the US you’ll find the Tele Atlas moniker has vanished. With Google’s resources and at the rates data companies charge, this was only a matter of time, though I’m a bit surprised they didn’t just go with OSM. They added a link in Google Maps to report problems with the data, which is a nice way of saying they’re crowdsourcing some of it. Without the benefit of getting the data itself I don’t know if they will have OSM-type success with that. In general, map quality looks better than before in places where the Street View cars have been through, and less than before in other areas. Responses ranged from yipee to a gnashing of teeth. Google can really shake up a market, and they are certainly doing so here. One of the first effects of this is:

  • Google’s Android 2.0 will feature GPS navigation with turn by turn directions. The reason why they didn’t have it before is because of the premium data providers charge for that functionality. Problem solved. Another market shake up.

  • Google also added a host of new data to their maps, like parks and trails, but the big oddity was parcel boundaries in some areas. I’m not sure what that’s all about. Maybe it’s just for more accurate geocoding as some have suggested, but maybe it’s related to -

  • Google’s new real estate search, which searches for rentals, normal sales, and foreclosures. Head to Google Maps, hit the More button, and turn on Real Estate. In a relatively small town in North Carolina, it was a surprisingly accurate result.

  • And finally, Google released Building Maker, a simple 3D modeling tools for adding buildings to Google Earth. Make your model by outlining your building and fixing the outline from a couple of camera angles. Submit your building for review and it’ll make its way into Google Earth. Again with the crowdsourcing, but with the 3D “cool” factor it may work better in this case. It’s a browser based tool, but no Linux support yet.


Google certainly has been busy, and they’ve changed the marketplace in a very short span of time. We’ll have to wait and see how everything settles.

In the ongoing Santa Clara, CA data debacle, the County had to pay a whopping half a million dollars after it lost their court case. As a refresher, Santa Clara wanted to charge folks $250k for a copy of their parcel layer and make them sign a NDA, and when they got slapped over that they claimed their data was copyrighted, proprietary, and would risk national security if released. Let that be a warning to public servants everywhere that asserting ownership rights over public records carries consequences.

The FOSS4G WMS Shootout took place, and although it was close, MapServer eeked out a win in most categories. Of course everyone wins that competition - each shootout helps the software get better. Here’s the slideshow:

View more presentations from Jeff McKenna.


The map of the month goes to Military Spending Worldwide, created with data from the CIA World Factbook. If you’re on a netbook be prepared for a lot of scrolling. For every dollar spent on the military on Earth, the US spends 48 cents of it. I figured it would be a big number, but holy cow.