News Roundup - Google Map Search and Obliques, Free Natural Earth Data, and Malware Bailouts

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 made a lot of waves this month. As James Fee and others pointed out, you can now do (very) basic geoprocessing and searches on your Google My Map data. If you have some data stored in My Maps, you can now perform bounding box and radius searches on it via the Google Maps Data API, in addition to attribute searches. This is a big deal. Being able to do bounding box overlays and radius searches pushes a lot of work off of your server and onto Google and begins to further blurs the lines between Google Maps mashups and self-hosted software solutions. In addition, Google Fusion Tables has been integrated with the Google Maps API and Google Visualization API, so you can make map mashups with data that changes in real time, and you can change the data in real time through code via the Fusion Tables API. That’s a big deal too. And in the final big deal Google pulled off this month, Google Maps is getting oblique photography. Coverage is pretty limited right now, but that should grow over time. This is the one thing that Bing had over Google Maps. The obliques are quite a bit more functional as well - you can zoom closer, and it seems to be a seamless tile set rather than Bing’s hodge-podge of images (though that’s really a Pictometry problem).

In other Google news:

  • Google Gears is being phased out, in favor of the offline support and geolocation features in HTML5.

  • Google created a free public DNS service. It’s very fast, but unless your service provider is particularly lax about their DNS servers (and a lot are), the difference will be slight.

Free Geography Tools turned me on to Natural Earth, a “public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales”, covering a wide variety of features. It was formerly only raster data, but now there’s a ton of vector data as well (available as shape files). If you some solid base data for a project, you should check it out. Here’s a sample map from the site with both raster and vector images.

The map of the month goes to Online Education for their Incarceration in the United States map and graphic. Make fun of our health care system all you want world - nobody locks up people like we do!

And finally, in the we-need-a-bailout-too department, Germany is funding a Windows malware cleanup help line for its citizens. Via Ars Technica, the exact amount of funding for the program hasn’t been disclosed, although 40 full time employees will be operating the phones and trying to fix problems. Critics argue that tax payer money is being used to subsidize the support of shoddily written software and that it discourages people from moving to more secure solutions, while Microsoft supports the move.

“Microsoft has one of the most advanced security frameworks in the industry, and many companies are adopting our technologies and processes,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars. “Because no single company can win the battle against cybercriminals, we encourage and participate in partnerships across the IT industry, society and governments. Given this, we welcome any engagement of German authorities to effectively support their citizens in regards of computer security.”

Apparently Linux malware removal isn’t supported. Wonder why.